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Pasadena Planning Commission to Consider Adaptive Reuse Zoning Changes

Proposed amendments aim to boost housing production by converting vacant offices

Published on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 | 6:26 am

Pasadena’s Planning Commission on Wednesday will review proposed zoning code amendments that would incentivize the conversion of nonresidential buildings into housing. The public hearing will consider changes to streamline the adaptive reuse process.

The Department of Planning and Community Development is recommending that the commission endorse the amendments for City Council approval. The changes aim to reduce regulatory barriers and accelerate housing production by repurposing underutilized buildings, a memorandum from Planning and Community Development Director Jennifer Paige shows. 

The proposed amendments come as Pasadena grapples with high office vacancy rates, which increased from 11.8% in 2019 to 26.8% in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although rates have since declined to 19.8%, they remain high compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Key incentives in the proposed amendments include allowing higher density limits, increasing floor area ratios by 10% for residential amenities, and waiving additional parking requirements for adaptive reuse projects, the memorandum shows. The changes would also permit height increases of up to 15 feet for appurtenances and amenities.

The amendments would also streamline the design review process for adaptive reuse projects, reducing it to two steps: preliminary consultation and consolidated design review. The Planning director would have authority over these reviews, the memorandum said. 

Other proposed changes include updates to shared parking regulations, tandem parking approvals, and variances for historic resources. These modifications aim to provide greater flexibility for developers while preserving historic structures.

The Planning Department said its recommendations align with Pasadena’s 2021-2029 General Plan Housing Element, specifically Program 6, which calls for incentivizing adaptive reuse of nonresidential buildings. The memorandum mentioned the city’s history of successful adaptive reuse projects, including the conversion of the Raymond Theatre and Santa Fe Depot.

If approved, the amendments would apply citywide to buildings at least five years old, the memo said. The proposed amendments also include specific open space requirements, recommending a minimum of 150 square feet of open space per unit for multifamily and mixed-use adaptive reuse projects. 

Wednesday’s meeting of the Planning Commission begins at 6:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall. 

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