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Guest Opinion | Sarah Oberholtzer: Measure H Makes Pasadena Safer

Published on Tuesday, October 4, 2022 | 9:35 am

This story starts with me growing up in Pasadena. I was blessed with stable housing my whole life, so I obviously fell in love with the city over the years. What’s not to love? It’s safe, it’s diverse, and it’s beautiful. Eventually I left the city to go to college, but when I recently came back, I noticed that there had been some changes. Many of my friends who I had grown up with had been priced out of their homes, the homeless population had increased, and everyone was devastated by the shooting of a young child. This was a different Pasadena than the one I knew and, unfortunately, all of these new realities were connected. 

When communities who have had long roots in a place get broken apart, fewer neighborhoods are made up of people with strong bonds that keep everyone safe. When rent prices rise, more people can’t afford housing and thus become homeless. According to Pasadena’s 2022 homeless count, “housing affordability and availability is the root cause of homelessness.” This means that more people are extremely stressed out – sometimes violently so – because the price of living has stripped them of their basic needs for water, shelter, and food. In fact, Neel Burton, M.D., a prominent psychiatrist from Oxford, describes that we as humans “become anxious or distressed” when our physiological and safety needs are not met.

Lastly, when families are busy making minimum wage, piling on extra jobs, and just trying to make ends meet, young people have to figure out what to do amidst the stress of home, school, and social life. It is no surprise that – as CNBC notes – “U.S. homicide rates from gun violence rose 35% in the first year of the pandemic” when many communities were getting laid off and growing increasingly unable to afford rent. Rent prices that double and triple out of the bounds of the rate of inflation make it more difficult for families to feel stable and healthy. Even more, as the ability for a family to maintain their rent gets harder and harder, that stress trickles into the entire city. Voting YES on H for rent control in Pasadena not only transforms the lives of renters who desperately need protections against big corporate developers, but it also transforms this city. Pasadena becomes safer because more people can breathe easier. It becomes the city that we know and love again.

Sarah Oberholtzer is a filmmaker who grew up in Pasadena and whose mother is an avid reader of Pasadena Now.

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