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City Council Conducts First Reading on Emergency SB9 Ordinance

Published on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 | 6:39 am

The City Council on Monday successfully conducted the first reading on an emergency ordinance pertaining to the construction of multiple dwelling on single-family zoned parcels pursuant to SB 9.

According to the ordinance, 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.

“The intent is to make sure there are no more than four units on any one lot,” said Planning Director David Reyes.

Local residents overwhelmingly supported the emergency ordinance.

There were 43 letters supporting the emergency ordinance and
one letter supporting SB 9.

“I am an advocate for affordable housing in Pasadena, but AB 9 is not about affordable housing,” wrote Rachel Abelson. “It is an opportunity for greedy developers to permanently alter the environmental character of neighborhoods, particularly historic neighborhoods in cities like Pasadena.”

Critics claim that SB 9 will heavily impact Black and Brown communities.

“Please make every effort possible to keep SB 9 from destroying our neighborhoods,” said Brad Hall.

Since it is an emergency ordinance, a threat to health and safety, and welfare had to first be acknowledged.

Councilmembers expressed concerns about aggressive language in the ordinance and worried it could hurt chances to reclaim the 710 stub from the state.

“In my view, this council is about doing justice,” said Councilmember John Kennedy.

Part of the concern surrounded a letter signed by 241 cities, including Pasadena, opposing the letter.

“Housing affordability and homelessness are among the most critical issues facing California cities. Affordably priced homes are out of reach for many people and housing is not being built fast enough to meet the current or projected needs of people living in the state.”

According to that letter, SB 9 as currently drafted does not guarantee the construction of affordable housing nor will it spur additional housing development in a manner that supports local flexibility, decision-making, and community input.

In order to combat SB 9, several neighborhoods are now seeking landmark status, including the Madison Heights Neighborhood Association.

“We began the effort to protect the historic architecture and character that makes Madison Heights so unique several years ago. SB 9 has added some urgency, since starting in four weeks it will allow developers to tear down historic homes, split lots, and put up 4 new units within 4 feet of side/rear property lines,” the group wrote in an email blast to its members.

“To be clear: SB 9 has no affordable housing provision,” the group wrote. but even if it did, a Landmark District is about the importance of preserving history and artistry.

The writers of SB 9 recognized the civic and cultural value in preserving beautiful historic architecture and neighborhoods, and thus included an exemption for Landmark Districts (and other designated historic landmarks).

However, unlike local rules, those neighborhoods will receive no protections unless the process designating them landmarks is complete.

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 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.

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