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City Council Approves Draft Housing Element

Published on Tuesday, August 3, 2021 | 6:05 am

Residents rallied before Monday’s City Council meeting demanding elected officials add 25 demands to the City’s housing element.

But the attempt did not hit the mark on Monday as the City Council voted to authorize Planning Director David Reyes to submit the draft 2021-2029 Housing Element to the California Housing and Community Development Department (HCD).

The demands of the activists did not receive much discussion by the City Council during deliberations.

One of the demands calls for an overlay zone allowing religious institutions to build affordable housing.

Planning Director David Reyes said again on Monday that many churches can build housing on church property without a change to the zoning code.

Councilmember Felicia Williams called for a “clean up” to the zoning code that would be more inclusive to all nonprofits, but stops short of an overlay that would allow all churches to build housing by right.

Staff will study the issue.

Williams expressed concerns about an ordinance that would only serve religious institutions.

“It discriminates against other nonprofits. At the Planning Commission this was a very big issue. I am reluctant to pass a plan that discriminates,” Williams said.

The state-mandated element of the city’s General Plan must be updated every four to eight years to address the current and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community.

“There is not going to be a silver bullet, nor in this document cemented in place. We are going to have to keep exploring opportunities for affordable housing,” said Mayor Victor Gordo.

For the upcoming planning period, the city’s total Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) is 9,429 new housing units, which includes 2,747 very low-income, 1,662 low-income, 1,565 moderate-income, and 3,455 above moderate-income units.

The city is only required to show it can meet the number, but is not mandated to build it.

The update includes the assessment of the city’s share of housing needs, identification of constraints and housing resources, an inventory and analysis of sites, and a housing plan with goals, policies, and programs,” according to a city staff report.

The City Council is required to adopt the updated 2021-2029 housing element by Oct. 15.

The city conducted an outreach program that included two community workshops, three Planning Commission meetings, four Housing Task Force Meetings, a community survey, a dedicated website, social media posts, and email updates.

Some local residents called for several items to be included into the draft elements, but none of them were seriously considered on Monday.

Residents called for 25 additional items to be included, but those items were not considered on Monday.

“A number of these recommendations are consistent with the comments received by both the Planning Commission and the Housing Task Force,” according to a city staff report. “However, several other recommendations are public policy matters or initiatives that may be suitable for consideration, but do not belong in the housing element as they have little or no connection to actually creating new housing units.”

The plan covers five sections:

  • Housing Needs. This includes an analysis of demographic, economic, social, and housing characteristics of Pasadena residents and an assessment of current and future housing needs in the community arising due to population and employment growth and change.

  • Housing Constraints. This includes an analysis of potential governmental constraints that affect the development, maintenance, and improvement of housing for all income groups and people with disabilities, commensurate with the city’s identified housing needs.

  • Housing Resources. This includes an inventory of resources available to address the city’s housing needs, including available land to accommodate new housing, financial resources to support program efforts, and administrative capacity to manage housing programs.

  • Program Accomplishments/Evaluation. This includes an evaluation of current housing programs and accomplishments in addressing the housing needs identified in the 2014-2021 Housing Element.

  • Housing Plan. This includes a series of goals, policies, and scheduled programs to further the development, improvement, and preservation of housing.

After a Planning Commission study session on the housing element, the commission expressed the need to strengthen the language of housing programs to demonstrate more commitment from the city to address housing challenges.

The commission also highlighted the importance of shortening timelines and prioritizing programs in order to efficiently use available resources. The commissioners agreed with the opening statements but wanted more direct policy and program direction. The housing program also needs to clearly state and highlight specific initiatives regarding affordable housing.

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