Latest Guides


City Looking At Placing Housing on Church Property

Issue has been before Planning Commission twice this summer

Published on Monday, October 5, 2020 | 4:00 am
City staff proposes using 25 trailers received by the city from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for housing. The trailers are seen here in a Rose Bowl parking lot, photographed on Monday, April 6, 2020. (Photo by James Carbone)

City staff is asking the City Council for direction on the potential for using religious institutions to provide housing to people experiencing homelessness. 

“The zoning code identifies religious institutions with temporary homeless shelter as a land-use type that is permitted or conditionally permitted in various zoning districts throughout the city,” according to a city staff report. 

The land-use type is defined as a “religious assembly use” with temporary facilities for the homeless. This land use is also allowed with a conditional use permit (CUP) or a minor CUP in all residential zoning districts, including single-family residential, as well as most zoning districts throughout the city’s specific plan areas, according to a city staff report.

The way forward

Staff is asking the council to provide a framework that the city should move forward on under three primary options. 

Under option one, the council would direct staff to continue processing zoning code amendments on an open-ended basis, and return with recommendations based on input from a virtual community meeting and Planning Commission meeting. 

Under the second option, the council would direct staff to continue processing zoning code amendments with specific direction on which housing strategy to focus on and specific parameters for those amendments. A virtual community meeting and Planning Commission meetings would still occur, and staff would return to the council with recommendations accordingly.

In the last option, the council would direct staff not to continue pursuing any zoning code amendments on these topics at this time. Staff would instead focus on whether any of these strategies can be incorporated into related planning efforts, such as the specific plan update program or the housing element update. 

The council is not limited by the three options and can provide additional direction to staff. 

‘Yes in God’s Backyard’

Recent efforts by California churches and faith-based organizations referred to as “YIGBY” (Yes in God’s Backyard) have prompted discussion on the use of land owned by religious organizations for uses other than worship. 

Many churches are required to set aside substantial portions of their properties for parking. The YIGBY effort seeks to respond to the state’s housing crisis by allowing for the redevelopment of church parking lots into permanent affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income households. 

At a recent meeting, City Council members requested staff to present the status of an amendment to the zoning code that would allow for housing as an ancillary use at local churches. 

The issue came before the Planning Commission twice during summer. 

The commission suggested that any housing proposed on sites owned by religious facilities should consist of affordable housing units only. The commission additionally suggested that this amendment could be addressed through the specific plan update and recommended that should this item return to the commission for consideration, options related to the specific plan update be included for review. 

A recent bill signed into law, Assembly Bill 1851, prohibits local agencies from denying a housing project proposed on property owned by religious institutions solely on the basis of parking and would provide minimum parking standards for such projects.

San Diego and Walnut Creek have passed such zoning code amendments.

“There are currently no proposed projects or pending projects that would be subject to AB 1851 in the city,” according to the report. “However, there are a number of sites identified that could potentially accommodate residential units. The consideration of affordable housing located on property owned by religious institutions would increase the potential capacity for housing options in the city, but does not require such housing to be constructed.”

The city received 50 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers at the start of the pandemic. The Rose Bowl Operating Co. (RBOC) wants to use 25 of the trailers to support various events and activities. 

The city could use the remaining 25 trailers for housing.

“Since the city has title to the trailers, it is possible that should the zoning code be modified to allow ancillary housing on the site of religious institutions, the city could make them available to be used at the city’s discretion,” the report states.

The trailers are equipped with kitchenettes, sitting, and sleeping space.

Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.

Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m.

Make a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *