New State Laws Will Begin to Affect Pasadena’s Local ‘Character’

William Huang, Director of City Housing and Career Services, Sue Mossman, Executive Director Pasadena Heritage, and David Reyes, City Planning and Community Development.Mayor of Pasadena Terry Tornek sits with the West Pasadena Residents? ?Association 56th Annual Meeting panel.Blair High School JROTC Color Guard for the Pledge of Allegiance.Kenyon Harbison presents the Service AwardsDavid Reyes, Director of City Planning and Community Development Guests participate in the Housing and the Character of Our Community discussion. William Huang, Director of City Housing and Career Services, Sue Mossman, Executive Director Pasadena Heritage, and David Reyes, City Planning and Community Development.Pasadena Museum and History exhibit the Channing home from 1887.No 710 Freeway FightersGuests browse during the West Pasadena Residents Association 56th Annual exhibitors at Westridge School.

By EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor | Photography by JAMES CARBONE

4:54 am | May 3, 2018

A raft of new state laws aimed at increasing housing stock in California could have a lasting effect on the character of Pasadena neighborhoods, was the panel consensus at Wednesday evening’s 56th annual meeting of the West Pasadena Residents Association (WPRA) at Westridge School.

The meeting and panel discussion, “Housing and the Character of Our Community,” was hosted and moderated by outgoing WPRA President Kenyon Harbison and board member Mic Hansen. The panel featured David Reyes, director of City Planning and Community Development; William Huang, director, City Housing and Career Services; and Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage.

“The effect of the new State laws is larger than we anticipated,” Reyes told the group. “We are behind. If we don’t create new housing, the State will impose more rules.”

Mossman agreed, saying “We have worked hard to create more affordable housing in this city, and we should get credit. We should have more local control.”

The new state laws call for more housing, although not necessarily affordable housing, said Huang, who noted that the City’s inclusionary housing ordinance has helped in creating more affordable housing.

Among the numerous new state laws that have gone into effect this year are SB 2, which adds fees to real estate transaction documents to provide funding for affordable housing; SB 35, which streamlines the approval process for multi-family residential infill developments in cities with low affordable housing numbers; and SB 166, which strengthens the law mandating a current supply of sites for residents at all income levels, essentially forcing cities to plan for more housing.

Other laws, such as AB 72, penalize cities which do not comply with State housing laws or do not make efforts to develop more housing.

According to Reyes, the laws have a substantial effect on local housing control as long as the economy is strong and prices are up, but he also noted that the current “up” cycle of housing and development “won’t last forever.”

“In two years,” he said, “we’ll see a slowdown.”

Huang said that a city like Pasadena, which has worked to create more affordable housing and has a strong inclusionary zoning ordinance, will receive some “differentiation” and exemptions in some cases.

Pasadena’s inclusionary zoning ordinance requires that developers who are building multi-family housing with ten or more units need to set aside 15 percent of the units for affordable housing or pay a substantial fee.

According to Huang, the City has built “40 to 60 new affordable housing units a year during this recent upcycle,” and since 2006, 540 affordable housing units have been built, while $20 million in “in lieu” fees have been collected.

And, to the constant question, “Why is there so much development in Pasadena?” Reyes answered, “The number of permits and fees are increasing, and developers know they can profit. The economy has been on the uprise, as well. State laws and the market have affected this situation the most.”

Meanwhile, the legalization and regulation of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) which drew much attention and packed City Council meetings often over the past year, will actually have only a small effect on housing numbers, both Huang and Reyes agreed.

“ADUs are not the answer to the housing problem,” said Reyes. “They won’t be the main source of our new housing supply.”

“For one thing, they are very expensive to build,” said Huang. He also observed that regulating ADUs and bringing them up to code will improve the safety of neighborhoods.

Added Huang, “A small number of them could still be a meaningful number.”

Reyes also pointed out two major indicators to be aware of in the local development dynamic— changes in the retail market and in commercial office space.

“Not everything can be a restaurant,” he said. “We need to increase the number of brick and mortar retail spaces.”

“We’re seeing more housing, but less office space,” he added.

Sue Mossman, while mostly upbeat in her overall assessments, lamented that an increase in ADUs city-wide might increase what she called “constant nibbling at the edges” of preservation.

“We are seeing a gradual erosion of our neighborhoods,” she said, “but I will still keep the faith.”

Before the meeting, the WPRA named its new officers for the coming term — Dan Beal, president; Avram Gold, vice-president; Justin Chapman, secretary, and Blaine Cavena, treasurer.