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City Eyes Updating Adopted Specific Plans to be Consistent With Assembly Bill 2334

Published on Friday, January 27, 2023 | 6:32 am

The Planning and Community Development Department is planning to update Specific Plans that have already been adopted by the City to comply with Assembly Bill (AB) 2334, which updated the State Density Bonus Law (SDBL) to modify the definition of the base density that applies to housing projects.

AB 2334 promotes the expansion of affordable housing units by expanding the enhanced density bonus for 100 percent affordable housing developments in location efficient areas.

Previous SDBL states that the “maximum allowable residential density includes both the maximum density shown in the general plan and the zoning code but that general plan density applies if the zoning code density is inconsistent with general plan density.”

AB2334 amended the definition to state “if a range of density is permitted, then base density means the maximum number of units allowed by the specific zoning range, specific plan, or land use element of the general plan applicable to the project.” 

AB2334 was adopted in September 2022 and went into effect on January 1, 2023. 

The changes brought by the new law should “compel the city to revise its approach and allow the base density for any density bonus project to be the greatest maximum density identified for the site in the Zoning Code, Specific Plan or Land Use Element,” according to the Planning and Community Development Department’s report. 

Principal Planner David Sanchez said the city staff’s next steps are to “continue the Specific Plan Update Process that prioritizes building form and the pedestrian environment and to immediately develop objective design standards that can be folded into Specific Plans and Zoning Code.”

Planning and Community Development Acting Director Jennifer Paige said updating the adopted Specific Plans to include the objective design standards will be done at once. 

“We’ll do it all at one time….we’ll just fold them into the plans that were already adopted.” 

The City has so far adopted three specific plans, as per Paige. On Feb. 22, Paige said the staff will bring the Central District Specific Plan to the Planning Commission for consideration.

The city is also yet to adopt the North Lake, Lamanda Park, East Pasadena and Fair Oaks/Orange Grove Specific Plans. 

At a City Council meeting last December 5, Mayor Victor Gordo and other members of the City Council expressed disappointment over the passage of AB 2334.

“It’s hard to go back to the public and say we spent millions of your dollars on general plans and specific plans that now mean nothing,” Vice Mayor Felicia Williams said at the meeting.

“This is another one of Sacramento’s half baked ideas being imposed upon us,” said Mayor Gordo. “At some point, people who represent us in Sacramento have to understand that the burden on us here locally is very real. They keep piling on in Sacramento and we’re quickly losing control of being able to plan for our own city. We might as well have the Planning Department outsourced to Sacramento. It’s not fair, it’s not sound decision making in my view.”

“This cookie cutter approach to planning in the State of California is not good for the environment, is not good for our city and does not belong to the hands of people that don’t know our communities. I’m disappointed that our own representatives wouldn’t take a stand to protect Pasadena’s local control and ability to plan for our own neighborhoods and our own city and our residence,” added Gordo. 

Despite his opposition to the new law, Gordo said expressing the intent to comply with the law is important so the city will not be “targeted further by state regulators.” 

At the said meeting, the City Council directed staff to work with the Planning Commission in implementing the new law.

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