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City Council Adopts Zoning Code Amendments Protecting Landmark Districts

Published on Monday, May 9, 2022 | 8:43 pm

The city is moving forward in its efforts to protect landmark districts from SB 9.

On Monday, the City Council unanimously passed a zoning code amendment prohibiting the application of SB 9 within the city’s landmark districts.

Councilmembers Steve Madison and Felicia Williams were absent from Monday’s meeting.

The amendments replace an interim urgency ordinance opposed by the state Attorney General Rob Bonta with a new ordinance.

The city immediately held the first reading of the ordinance after the vote.

“Today the council continues to exempt Landmark and historic districts in compliance with SB 9,” said Mayor Victor Gordo.

SB 9, also known as the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 and took effect in January.

SB9 requires that a local jurisdiction allow ministerial approval of up to two units per lot in single-family zones and/or allow the subdivision of a single-family residentially zoned parcel into two approximately-equal sized parcels, each of which may contain two dwelling units.

The law included a provision allowing local jurisdictions to establish development regulations limiting the development of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in conjunction with an urban lot split so that no more than two units of all types could be constructed on each lot, four units total.

On December 13, 2021, the City Council adopted an urgency Ordinance to establish development standards for projects consistent with SB 9, to ensure that the two units per lot limitation would be in effect when the statute became effective on January 1.

According to the city staff report, ”the development of multiple primary residences is not permitted within historic districts, which include Landmark districts.”

On March 15, California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo a “Notice of Violation” saying Pasadena violated SB 9 by adopting the urgency ordinance. According to Bonta, SB 9 does not exempt landmark districts — it exempts only specific landmarks, historic properties, or historic districts.

In the letter, Attorney General Bonta warned Pasadena that its ordinance.

“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.”

Mayor Victor Gordo earlier said he does not agree with Bonta’s reading of SB-9 and that the Attorney General had “simply got it wrong.”

Pasadena currently has 23 designated landmark districts as well as 20 historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The City Council received 20 letters in support of the ordinance and one letter in opposition, according to city staff. 

“We support the zoning code amendment that would exempt National Register historic districts and local landmark districts from the provisions of SB 9, as allowed by the law,” Andrew Salimian of Pasadena Heritage said. “Pasadena Heritage worked hard to be sure historic homes and neighborhoods would not be negatively impacted by SB 9 and opposed an earlier version of the bill (Senate Bill 50) that did not exclude Pasadena’s landmark districts. Ultimately, the legislature passed this bill with the intent that local districts would be exempt.” 

“it is important to keep the integrity of historic resources including Pasadena’s landmark districts and historic districts because this is the perfect way to teach the architectural design of the past,” Annette Yasin, Pasadena resident said. “Please continue your fight to preserve the exempt status of Pasadena’s landmark and historic districts as you have interpreted SB 9.” 

The proposed Zoning Code Text Amendment would codify the standards adopted under urgency ordinance by adoption of a new regular ordinance and the City Council would conduct the first reading of the new ordinance at the City Council meeting.

The emergency ordinance was set to expire in December.

The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend the zoning code amendments last month.

At Monday’s meeting, members of the City Council lauded Gordo for defending the city’s stance on the issue. 

“I would like to recognize the leadership of our Mayor on this issue. It was important and we as a council appreciate the leadership that you showed on this issue,” Councilmember Kennedy said. 

“We continue to work in good faith to meet the needs of housing,” said Vice-Mayor Andy Wilson. “Your leadership has been critical and I’m glad we’re holding the course.”

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