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Short One Councilmember, Council Decides to Postpone Hearing Church Property Zoning Code Amendments

Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 | 5:48 am
 

The City Council on Monday agreed to bring a zoning code amendment that would allow affordable housing on church property back at a later date.

The City Council did not get to the matter until 8:30 p.m. on Monday and Councilmember John J. Kennedy was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

“I think it’s not fair to the public if we start the issue which I think would be a long discussion. I think we need to hold off as that would allow Mr. Kennedy to participate,” said Mayor Victor Gordo.

In total, 27 people were waiting to speak on the item, City Clerk Mark Jomsky said on Monday.

The item is scheduled to come back on July 11, but could come back in a special meeting.

The amendment allows a maximum of 75 dwelling units “by right,” but requires a Minor Conditional Use Permit for projects that will exceed the threshold.

“By right” projects are only subject to a review by the Design Commission — no hearing officer or Planning Commission hearings are required for a Conditional Use Permit or other discretionary entitlement.

Since last year, the city has been discussing the use of church properties for affordable housing to help the city mitigate an affordable housing crisis that has not only rocked Pasadena but the state.

The Planning Commission voted 7-2 in April to recommend the amendments to the City Council.

According to Planning Commissioner Julianna Delgado, who voted against the project, the amendment has major problems.

“Pasadena needs more affordable housing. As a longtime advocate of housing as a human right, I have pushed for more affordable units citywide on underutilized land. However, I have serious concerns at this time about amending Pasadena’s Zoning Code to create a new Land Use Category, ‘Religious Facility with Affordable Housing,’ given the many issues raised, questionable purpose, inherent inequity as written, disregard for the entire community, and limited possibility to increase significantly housing affordability. Furthermore, in compliance with State law and best professional planning practices, the Staff Report does not disclose or discuss the potentially vast unintended consequences. Thus, as a planning commissioner and design commissioner. I voted against recommending the Amendment for the following reasons,” Delgado wrote in correspondence to the City Council.

According to Delgado, the amendment creates a new land use category —“Religious Facility with Affordable Housing”—that supersedes an existing use with ‘By Right’ zoning, setting a precarious precedent.

Among other things, Delgado states that by-right housing erodes public participation.

“‘By right’ undermines all public participation that has established the underlying zoning, including the 2015 General Plan Land Use Element Update and subsequent Specific Plan Updates now underway,” Delgado wrote. “This disregard for the public process and lack of governmental transparency further erodes the community’s confidence and trust in the City Council and City staff.”

“The City has spent approximately $5 million in public funds on consulting and outreach costs, and the community has volunteered countless hours towards those efforts. ‘By Right’ eliminates the right of the community to weigh in on development issues that concern them. All developers, including affordable housing ones, should abide by the community’s underlying zoning and standards and respect the public engagement process,” Delgado wrote.

Local residents called for the City Council to pass the amendments.

“I am writing to express support for the proposal to rezone religious land in Pasadena for affordable housing,” wrote Lisa Finlay. “Affordable housing is desperately needed in Pasadena.”

In previous public hearings, some members of the Planning Commission recommended allowing affordable housing not just on church property but on property held by institutional facilities, such as schools and nonprofit facilities, but the final proposal that was voted upon by the commission recommended allowing affordable housing only on religious sites as a pilot program.

In previous meetings, some members of the Planning Commission recommended allowing all projects to be 100 percent affordable but this was not incorporated in the final proposal.

Instead, the approved proposal provides that for sale projects are required to dedicate 80 percent of the total number of units for moderate-income households, a minimum of 50 percent of the units available to low-income households and 30 percent available to households earning 150 percent of the area median income.
Projects with rental units will be required to allocate at least 80 percent of units available to low-income households.

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