Pasadena City Council Moving Ahead With Zoning Amendment to Transform Motels into Housing for Homeless

Published : Monday, October 1, 2018 | 5:12 AM


[Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected since originally published to accurately describe the amendment to be considered tonight. Orginally, this story described the Planning Commission version as up for the vote tonight. Actually, the version being considered is the City staff recommendation, which differs from the Commission’s recommendation.] 


[Updated]   Having secured the approval of the Pasadena Planning Commission, a proposed zoning code amendment to fast-track the process of transitioning motels and hotels into affordable housing is scheduled to be introduced before the City Council on Monday.

The proposed change is intended to help curb Pasadena’s homeless crisis by making it easier and cheaper for property owners to quickly turn their existing buildings with 80 or fewer rooms into low-cost permanent housing with services such as substance abuse counseling.

Councilmembers are slated to host a public hearing on the issue

At tonight’s meeting, Councilmembers are slated to host a public hearing on proposal, consider adopting the Zoning Code Amendment, vote on a proposed ordinance officially enacting the Amendmentment’s inclusion into the Pasadena Municipal Code, and conduct a First Reading of the new Ordinance.

First readings are more often than not conducted at later Council meetings after the passage of ordinances, but not in this case.

“While a variety of efforts are underway to address these issues from the state, county and local levels, permanent supportive housing, in which housing is provided alongside a variety of on-site supportive services, has emerged as one of the best ways to permanently address homelessness,” according to a staff report on the proposal.

But some, like Pasadena resident Felicia Williams, have concerns.

Williams sits on the Planning Commission but said she spoke to Pasadena Now as a private citizen.

“Pasadena is a caring city and we all support homeless housing. But there’s a proper way to do it,” she said. “This way [as proposed on Monday’s Council Agenda] could create a lot of problems for the city because we are rushing things through rather than really being thoughtful and strategic.”

The issue of homeless housing should be addressed through the city’s general plan and specific plan, not by going around them, Williams said.

There could be a significant economic impact from converting motels and hotels into housing, she added. And the plan has the potential to dramatically alter neighborhoods without input from local residents.

“The concern here is that when you rush public policy, you’ll end up with unintended consequences,” Williams said. “If you look at the City of Los Angeles that passed the same ordinance in May, they are being sued by two community groups. I don’t think it’s right to put the City at risk of a lawsuit. Why don’t we just go through the process and do it properly?”

The Los Angeles lawsuits, both filed by residents’ groups in Venice, claim the city failed to fully consider the environmental impacts of the legislation, the L.A. Times reported.

Williams said there are better routes to take.

“Other cities did a homelessness plan and incorporated it into their general plan, and they received funds under Measure H to do that. Pasadena has not done that and I believe it puts us at risk,” she said.

“It really worries me that this is going so fast and the public is not involved,” she added.

Speed is a major advantage of the proposal, Pasadena Director of Housing Bill said. It allows new low-cost, supportive housing to be created far faster than building from scratch.

“Many jurisdictions are implementing strategies to convert existing hotels and motels to permanent supportive housing because it is one of the fastest ways to bring this type of housing online with relatively reduced cost and time as compared to brand new development,” according to the City staff report.

City staff is recommending that all proposed projects be reviewed as “discretionary” so that potential impacts may be analyzed on a case by case, site by site basis.

Those that meet the requirement such as having on-site services and having all rooms dedicated to low-cost housing would be able to be approved on an administrative basis. Projects not meeting the requirements would be subject to discretionary review by city officials.

The public hearing on converting motels and hotels into affordable housing will be the second of two public hearing scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. during tonight’s City Council meeting, to be held in the Council Chamber at Pasadena City Hall, 100 North Garfield Avenue.