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Guest Opinion | Dr. Anthony Manousos: To Whom Much is Given, an Alternative Response to SB 9

Published on Wednesday, December 22, 2021 | 12:06 pm

The final City Council meeting of the year ended with many positive developments for affordable housing, including funding for homeless housing and services and approval of enhanced funding for an affordable ADU pilot program. Council member Kennedy, a champion of affordable housing, joyfully announced that a thousand units of housing for low- and very low-income residents of our City are “in the pipeline.” This is very good news indeed, especially for our City’s low-income residents and those sleeping on the streets during this cold wet winter.

There was, however, a discordant note: the call on the part of Redondo Beach’s mayor for Pasadena to join a lawsuit against the state opposing SB 9. I hope that the Council doesn’t become drawn into this futile lawsuit.

It seems ironic that Pasadena officials now wholeheartedly embrace ADUs when for many years they opposed them for many of the same reasons that they now oppose SB 9. It was claimed that ADUs would destroy single family neighborhoods, cause traffic congestion, increase crime, decrease property values, etc. A few years ago, we at Making Housing and Community Happen (MHCH) conducted a study comparing neighborhoods with ADUs and those without ADUs and found no difference when it came to these factors. This didn’t change minds, however. It took a state law to make it possible for homeowners to build ADUs.

Evidence shows that fears about SB 9 are greatly exaggerated, just like fears about ADUs. The Terner study says that SB 9 would enable development of duplexes on only 5.4 % of parcels in the state, and most of these would not be developed because of cost and other factors. [1] The impact on Pasadena would be very limited, just like the impact of ADUs.

SB 9 will not destroy single family neighborhoods, as critics allege. It simply allows for more single-family homes in these neighborhoods.

Far from being a threat, SB could benefit our community. The cost of smaller homes on smaller lots will no doubt be less than the current cost of big homes in big lots, as David Reyes of the Planning Department stated. This will benefit the “missing middle” who are seeking housing they can afford. It could also help middle class families and people of color, most of whom cannot afford million-dollar homes in Pasadena.

The LA Business Institute, along with the LA Times, conducted a poll indicating that “countywide, 55% of voters support Senate Bill 9…. By contrast, 27% were against the law while 18% were undecided… Renters backed the law by more than 3 to 1.”

Some have proposed turning most of Pasadena into historic districts to thwart SB 9, but this is an overreaction that could have harmful consequences. While I love the historic charm of our city and want to see it preserved, many Pasadenans (myself included) are likely to resent having their homes turned into historical sites and lose the right to build a duplex, or even make changes on our homes. Requests for historical status have always come from the “bottom up,” not imposed from “top down.”

Some have proposed requiring that homes built under SB 9 be “affordable.” While we at MHCH support affordable housing, we are concerned that this requirement may be a “poison bill” to make projects economically unfeasible.

We do support the idea of requiring compliance with the state’s requirement that homeowners who split their lots must live in their homes for three years. This will deter predatory investors who are currently buying up homes and converting them to rentals or jacking up prices. The Council should also consider a “flipping fee” and explore others ways to deter this kind of rapacious activity.

I’d like to conclude by saying that as a person of faith, I believe in the Golden Rule: “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” My wife and I are blessed with owning a home here in Pasadena and we want to do everything possible to ensure that others have the same opportunity that we had. We are aware that we have benefited from policies that have inhibited the production of homes and thereby raised prices beyond what most people can afford. The home that my wife bought for $143,500 in 1994 is now worth over $850,00. We did little to earn that equity, other than maintain our home. Jesus says, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). Jesus made it clear that we have a responsibility to use what we’ve been given to benefit others, not just ourselves. If we have been blessed with a home that has increased wildly in value, we have a moral obligation to help others to have an affordable home. I hope we will take this biblical teaching to heart as we consider how to respond SB 9.

Dr. Anthony Manousos is the co-founder of Making Housing and Community Happen

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3 thoughts on “Guest Opinion | Dr. Anthony Manousos: To Whom Much is Given, an Alternative Response to SB 9

  • It absolutely negatively affects neighborhoods! These ADUs results in more cars parked on the street. We often have no parking for guests or even room to put out the trash for collection. SB9 has changed our neighborhoods for the worse.

  • I think the writer of this article is missing the point of those concerned about SB 9. What is the objective of SB 9? If it’s to create more housing units, why not do it in a more sensible fashion? Why increase the density of single family neighborhoods, by allowing duplexes and multiple ADUs on a single family lot? There should be options to allow people to live in a complex with multiple dwelling units (apartments) and options for people to live in a single family Neighborhood. The infrastructure of single family neighborhoods was not built to accommodate duplexes and multiple ADUs on one lot. It’s impossible for single family neighborhoods to accommodate the parking needs of properties that have duplexes and or multiple ADUs (yes, SB9 not only allows a property to build a duplex, but also build an ADU, plus a Jr. ADU). I think some, if not all Pasadnea neighborhoods prohibit overnight parking. Where are all the additional cars going to park? SB9 prevents cities from imposing on site parking requirements for these new ADUs and Duplexes. I think our priority should be on building affordable housing. SB9 will not create affordable units, because these duplexes and ADUs will be more desirable for renters than living in an apartment complex. As such, SB9 it’s just an opportunity to build more market rate housing and let developers and others cash in at the expense of preserving the quality of life of those who choose to live in a single family neighborhood.

    Lastly, how will any city effectively enforce the three year rule for building a duplex? Will a city require the owner/developer to tear it down if the city finds out they moved out before three years or that the owner never really lived on the property at all? I commend Pasadena leaders for doing all that they can to ensure that SB9 does not ruin the neighborhoods of one of the greatest cities in this country. As always, Pasadena has always been the City that other cities look to emulate. I look forward to Pasadena leaders coming up with a solution on their own or in concert with other cities in the State.

  • This call for compassion and common sense in our housing policy would be powerful even without the connection to the Gospel. How much urgent is the call when we remember the words ‘what you do to the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

    NIMBYs will position every manner of bad faith argument and concern troll about the dearth of affordable units (versus 100% of the 0 units they would allow), water consumption (versus the decadent water use of Single Family Zoning density), traffic (to which they oppose active transportation or public transit), etc. It is necessary to challenge these arguments but not change their minds: they do not truly believe in anything except keeping cut-through traffic off their streets.






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