In a letter released on Tuesday, California Attorney General Rob Bonta claims Pasadena violated the law with an urgency ordinance passed in December that prohibits the application of Senate Bill 9 to any parts of the city designated as a “landmark district.”
Bonta said the City should repeal and/or amend the ordinance within 30 days.
SB 9 requires that local agencies must ministerially approve certain subdivisions of one single-family residential lot into two without discretionary review, and requires a local agency to ministerially approve a proposed two-unit development project on a lot in a single-family residential zone without discretionary review.
Critics of SB 9 claim the bill will lead to the destruction of single-family housing and that it will have a negative on impact Black and Brown communities..
More than 200 California cities have opposed the bill.
Supporters of SB 9 say it will help solve the state’s growing housing crisis.
“It has come to our attention that the City of Pasadena has adopted an urgency ordinance designed to circumvent Senate Bill 9,” Bonta’s letter reads. “Specifically, on December 6, 2021, the City adopted Urgency Ordinance No. 7384, which broadly prohibits the application of SB 9 to a landmark district.
Although created as an urgency ordinance the ordinance does not satisfy the legal requirements for urgency ordinances under the government code because it fails to identify a significant, quantifiable, direct unavoidable impact, based on objective, identified written public health or safety standards, policies, or conditions.”
The letter also claims that the ordinance prohibits the development of SB 9 in landmark districts, but claims that SB 9 does not exempt landmark districts, it exempts only landmarks, historic properties, or historic districts.”
Bonta’s letter is addressed to Mayor Victor Gordo, who acknowledged it in a statement Tuesday.
“Today we received a letter from Attorney General Bonta regarding the City of Pasadena’s implementation of SB-9 without any prior conversation regarding the substance of our regulations and how they comply with the law,” said Gordo.
“The City of Pasadena’s efforts regarding housing policy and production have been progressive and responsive to the housing crisis and we remain committed to doing our part to help address the state’s housing issues. The Attorney General’s letter recognized Pasadena’s good faith effort to always comply with the letter and the intent of SB-9.
Our interpretation of SB-9 appears to differ from that of the Attorney General’s regarding historic and landmark districts. We will review the Attorney General’s letter and the statute further and promptly provide a written response.”
In the letter, Attorney General Bonta warns Pasadena that its effort to sidestep SB 9 and restrict housing production violates the law.
“Pasadena’s urgency ordinance undermines SB 9 and denies residents the opportunity to create sorely needed additional housing, under the guise of protecting ‘landmark districts.’ This is disappointing and, more importantly, violates state law,” Bonta said. “Right now, California is facing a housing crisis of epic proportions, and it’s going to take all of us, doing our part, to alleviate its worst effects. At the California Department of Justice, we’re in this fight for the long haul. I urge cities to take seriously their obligations under state housing laws. If you don’t, we will hold you accountable.”
On Aug. 21, the city submitted its own letter opposing the bill.
“Pasadena is acutely aware of the statewide housing crisis, and acknowledges that significant steps must be taken to address housing affordability. However, the provisions of SB 9 are likely to undermine the many efforts that Pasadena and other like-minded progressive cities have undertaken in recent years to increase housing supply near transit as part of a more holistic community planning strategy, while maintaining the unique character of our established neighborhoods.”
The letter also noted that the legislation was “being undertaken without serious study or consideration of the potential impacts related to traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and other environmental factors.”
In the letter, the city did not seek to undermine the entirety of SB 9 and its goals, but rather requested that the Legislature “consider accommodations or exemptions for good actors like Pasadena that would allow us to achieve the same worthy goals of this bill in a manner that is rooted in community participation and thoughtful planning principles.”
“The interim ordinance protects, within the bounds allowed by Senate Bill 9, the erosion by the State Legislature of the City of Pasadena’s many efforts in recent years to increase housing supply as part of a more holistic community planning strategy, while maintaining the unique character of its established neighborhoods,” according to a fact sheet contained in Monday’s agenda.