In a move that is sure to leave some locals scratching their heads, state Attorney General Rob Bonta praised the city for an ordinance that appears to defy an earlier letter he wrote criticizing the city.
In March, Bonta claimed local landmark districts are not exempt from SB 9 and called on Pasadena to repeal an emergency ordinance establishing those local protections.
But on Monday, the city codified that ordinance, in effect, making it permanent code.
According to Bonta, Monday’s ordinance is the result of collaboration between the California Department of Justice’s Housing Strike Force and the City of Pasadena. The Pasadena City Council conducted its first reading of the proposed ordinance last night.
“Our Housing Strike Force is committed to working with local governments as partners to address California’s housing shortage and affordability crisis,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Pasadena’s proposed ordinance, first considered by the City Council last night, is a reflection of our successful collaboration with the City and an important step forward. We appreciate the City for working with us on this issue, and we hope the City Council will move swiftly to approve the ordinance in the days ahead.”
In a statement on Monday night, Mayor Victor Gordo said Bonta targeted the city and stood fast by the city’s position on the law.
“The Attorney General simply got it wrong and unfairly targeted Pasadena. Pasadena was a pioneer in creating affordable housing, and we will continue to prioritize the creation and retention of desperately needed affordable housing—while at the same time continuing our strong protection of the City’s landmark districts and neighborhoods.”
SB 9, also known as the California Housing Opportunity and More Efficiency (HOME) Act, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2021 and took effect in January. Among other things, the bill requires that a local jurisdiction, such as the City of Pasadena, “must ministerially approve” certain subdivisions of one single-family residential lot into two, without discretionary review.
According to Bonta, the city’s urgency ordinance included a broad definition of a “landmark district” untethered to historic resources. Pasadena’s proposed ordinance, if approved in its current form, addresses these concerns by incorporating the higher state and federal standard for “historic districts,” thereby preventing neighborhoods in Pasadena from arbitrarily declaring themselves “landmark districts” and exempting themselves from SB 9 compliance.
The city’s process already contains standards and guidelines that must be met before neighborhoods can be declared landmark or historic districts.
There are 23 landmark districts in Pasadena.