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Pasadena Cements Landmark District Exemptions from SB 9

Published on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 6:46 pm
Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo

One day after the City Council amended its municipal code, incorporating and cementing the existing protections and exemptions of its historic Landmark Districts from SB 9, Mayor Victor Gordo released a statement.

According to Gordo, Pasadena continues to be in full compliance with state law, as it leads efforts to construct and retain affordable housing while ensuring that historic and architectural assets are protected.

“The clarifications to our Municipal Code cement existing protections of our Landmark Districts and neighborhoods, as we strike the delicate balance of addressing housing affordability and the protection of Landmark neighborhoods,” Gordo said.

“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.

The city’s December urgency ordinance prohibited the application of SB 9 to any parts of the city designated as a “landmark district.”

On March 15, state Attorney General Rob Bonta sent the City a letter claiming that the City’s urgency ordinance exempting Landmark districts from SB 9 violated state law.

The City strongly disagreed with the Attorney General’s interpretation as unsupported by either the text of the law, or its legislative history, according to Gordo.

The amendments passed on Monday replace the interim urgency ordinance with a new ordinance.

The city immediately held the first reading of the ordinance after the vote.

According to the city staff report, ”the development of multiple primary residences is not permitted within historic districts, which include Landmark districts.”

Pasadena currently has 23 designated landmark districts as well as 20 historic districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The City Council received 20 letters in support of the ordinance and one letter in opposition, according to city staff.

“We support the zoning code amendment that would exempt National Register historic districts and local landmark districts from the provisions of SB 9, as allowed by the law,” Andrew Salimian of Pasadena Heritage said. “Pasadena Heritage worked hard to be sure historic homes and neighborhoods would not be negatively impacted by SB 9 and opposed an earlier version of the bill (Senate Bill 50) that did not exclude Pasadena’s landmark districts. Ultimately, the legislature passed this bill with the intent that local districts would be exempt.”

“it is important to keep the integrity of historic resources including Pasadena’s landmark districts and historic districts because this is the perfect way to teach the architectural design of the past,” Annette Yasin, Pasadena resident said. “Please continue your fight to preserve the exempt status of Pasadena’s landmark and historic districts as you have interpreted SB 9.”

The proposed Zoning Code Text Amendment would codify the standards adopted under the urgency ordinance by the adoption of a new regular ordinance and the City Council would conduct the first reading of the new ordinance at the City Council meeting.

The emergency ordinance was set to expire in December.

The Planning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend the zoning code amendments last month.

At Monday’s meeting, members of the City Council lauded Gordo for defending the city’s stance on the issue.

“I would like to recognize the leadership of our Mayor on this issue. It was important and we as a council appreciate the leadership that you showed on this issue,” Councilmember Kennedy said.

“We continue to work in good faith to meet the needs of housing,” said Vice-Mayor Andy Wilson. “Your leadership has been critical and I’m glad we’re holding the course.”

“It is unfortunate the appointed Attorney General of California attempted to politicize this issue,” Gordo said. “Californians deserve better. The bottom line is this. Pasadena made it with the original action that landmark districts and neighborhoods were exempt from SB9 and they remain exempt today.”

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