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District 3 Candidate Jones Talks Affordable Housing, Traffic and Public Safety

Published on Wednesday, September 14, 2022 | 6:52 am

Pasadena Now sent questions to the applicants seeking the District 3 seat last week. Below are the answers provided by Commissioner Justin Jones. 

Jones, Lucious Smith and Brandon Lamar have qualified for the seat left vacant by the death of John Kennedy in July.

The City Council is scheduled to fill the vacancy on Sept. 29.

Jones chairs the Environmental Advisory Commission. The commission advises the City Council and makes policy recommendations in support of the goals and objectives of the City’s Environmental Charter and monitors and guides the Green City Action Plan.

Pasadena Now: What is the biggest issue facing District 3?

Justin Jones: From my conversations with District 3 residents, the most pressing issue is quality of life, which includes: affordable housing, public safety, employment/small business opportunities, and traffic safety. In addition to making rent more affordable, I have consistently pushed for ways to increase home ownership for our community, so we can build equity and create generational wealth to address the first issue, but I am not naïve to the fact that you cannot save for a down payment to purchase a home, if you’re spending all your money on housing – which is affecting the missing middle. To offer some relief, we must continue to find opportunities to stabilize rent. One example is entering into public benefit agreements to tie rent to income. This will help residents decrease spending on rent and, hopefully, increase savings for a rainy-day fund and a home ownership down payment – which could be used to purchase an affordable unit. Another solution could be the reuse of existing facilities and vacant buildings converted into workforce housing. Ideally, we’d want to train local, hire local, house local, which in return will decrease our carbon footprint and improve quality of life.  We also have a great opportunity to continue to partner with neighboring cities through SB 1177 to help create more affordable units, permanent supportive housing, and senior housing throughout the region.

What is the biggest issue facing the City of Pasadena as a whole?

The issues in District 3 of affordable housing, public safety, employment/small business opportunities, and traffic safety are also affecting citizens citywide. I would also add the environment and climate crisis to this list –  clean and available water supplies are critical. This drought continues to stress our imported (65%) and local (35%) water supply. Curtailments from the State Water Project and Colorado River; along with the historic low groundwater levels at the Raymond Basin, requires us to continue working towards actions to ensure a reliable water supply for all of Pasadena. My career as a Civil Engineer is unique for the Council and will allow me to meaningfully address these issues. We must continue to encourage and practice strong conservation efforts; repair/replace water infrastructure; work on our rate structure; focus efforts to recharge the Raymond Basin and initiate and complete stormwater capture projects. Also, there are potential opportunities to develop recycled water supplies.

How do you close the gap between City Hall and those who feel left behind?

I believe you must meet people where they are at and be more community driven. The transition to digital outreach has been great but has also presented challenges for those with limited access. Improving access to broadband, as well as providing multiple ways for the public to engage in their preferred language and platform are critical. Growing up in Pasadena and being from a family with a long history in the District and community, I have strong relationships with individuals and groups working on quality-of-life issues in the City. To expand my reach beyond these relationships, I plan to have in-person/hybrid town hall meetings, a monthly newsletter, social media, and pop-up meetings in parks, coffee places, and sidewalks.

What more can residents and City Officials do to resolve homelessness?

Homelessness is caused by a variety of life events that could happen to anyone of us such as: lack of affordable housing; LGBTQIA2S+ excluded from their families; people struggling with mental health or substance abuse; victims of domestic violence; single adults; children aged out the foster care system; recently incarcerated people; and other wide-ranging reasons. Pasadena can help alleviate this regional problem by continuing to collaborate with the San Gabriel Valley cities to prevent homelessness through housing subsidies, further expanding case management through continued partnerships with Union Station, Friends indeed and other organizations, and create affordable housing. Locally, we can continue to negotiate the purchase of motels to convert into permanent supportive housing. We can also implement programs like Family Promise work with churches to provide temporary housing for families. 

What things would you like to see in the next police chief of Pasadena? Do you think that City Manager Márquez should pick an outsider to fill the position?

The next police chief should be the most qualified person in the applicant pool who is a forward-thinking community leader, respects civilian oversight, transparency, and accountability; and is someone capable of collaborating with a diverse constituency while maintaining a motivated workforce. I am confident there is someone externally or internally who can fill this position.

Can you give me an example of a problem/s that the City Council has failed to address? What do you think are some issues that have never come up at council meetings but must be addressed with serious consideration and urgency?

The City Council has done a great job in responding to climate change, through developing ordinances that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and responding to the new state regulations; but I do believe there is a sense of urgency in creating a clear path towards 100% renewable energy. The issue is the sourcing of the energy and creating storage. Also, with the recent gas power vehicle ban in California, starting in 2035, not only do we need to ensure there is enough power and infrastructure to charge these vehicles, but that no one is unintentionally left behind; meaning we will have to focus on our multi-modal planning efforts.

If you become the new Councilmember for District 3, what will you focus on? What will be your advocacies?

The job of a Councilmember is representing their constituency in making decisions on a variety of topics, concerns, and issues for all of Pasadena. If I am appointed to represent District 3 on the City Council, I will develop an advisory committee – composed of residents, neighborhood association leaders, and other interested community members – to ensure no stone is left unturned in my representation of them. As of now, I intend to focus on creating more affordable housing opportunities, responding to our water crisis, ensuring the public concerns with the Sunset Complex project are addressed, advancing the next steps in the seismic repair of the central library, improving traffic safety, and supporting the Playhouse Village with their vision and priorities.

Do you have plans of seeking the seat in the next election?

I would be honored to receive the support of the City Council for the District 3 appointment, so that is my focus right now. My plans to seek the seat will depend on many factors, and we have seen how so many things can change in just 2 years.  No matter what happens with this appointment, I will remain engaged and continue to serve in any capacity that elevates the quality of life for all Pasadena residents. 

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