Union Street Project Jumps to 59 Condos From Original 36, Fueled Largely by Density Bonuses

Published : Wednesday, September 4, 2019 | 5:09 AM

Conceptual rendering of mixed-use project proposed for 254 East Union Street as of March 2015. Source Withee Malcolm Architects, LLP

Developers of a 64,441 square foot six-story mixed-use project with 59 residential units, including five which are very-low-income units, will go before Pasadena’s hearing officer on Wednesday.

But it is not known if the project has to comply with recent revisions to the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance that force developers to include more affordable housing units.

New changes to the inclusionary housing ordinance require developers to set aside 20 percent of the units for affordable housing.

Documents on the Union Street Condominiums project on the city’s website date back to 2015 before changes to the ordinance were approved.

The building would be built at the site of a current parking lot at 254 Union Street, near the historic Julia Morgan, building which formally housed Pasadena’s YWCA.

The maximum units allowed without the density bonus in the area is currently 44 units.

The project also would require concession allowing for increases to the maximum floor ratio, increases to the maximum height which is 60 feet to 75 feet. A variance is being requested that would allow the project to deviate from the normal required 50-foot depth for the ground floor commercial use.

One tree will also be removed as part of the project.

The project has been approved by Pasadena’s Design Commission.

The project, being developed by Los Angeles based Union Partners LLC, originally started off as a 36 unit project, with underground parking, but the developers received a 35-percent density bonus due to the commitment to build low-income units.

Under state law, density bonuses allow developers up to a 35 percent increase in project density depending on the amount of affordable housing provided.

According to a 2017 document issued by the Housing Department, a family of four with an annual income under $45,000 would qualify for the low-income units.

It is not known if developers will be required to increase the number of affordable units based on changes made to the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance approved by the Pasadena City Council last month.

The original ordinance applied to developments of 10 units or more and called for developers to set aside 15 percent of the proposed units as affordable for very low- and moderate-income people. Developers not wanting to set aside units can still pay an in-lieu fee which goes into the city’s own housing fund. Builders can also donate land worth the value of the fee.

The changes were made to help increase the number of affordable housing units locally as housing prices continue to spike.

The new changes recommended by the Planning Department eliminate trade-downs that allow developers to build fewer affordable units by equating one very low-income unit to 1.5 low-income units, or two moderate-income units.

In-lieu fees that allow developers to avoid meeting the minimums on low-income and moderate-housing were also raised by the City Council. The new fees will be established at a later date.

Currently it cost developers $50,000 to opt-out of building low-income units.

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