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Planning Commission Members Want Moratorium on Planned Developments in the City

Published on Friday, July 30, 2021 | 6:02 am

A majority of the members of the Planning Commission want the City Council to issue a moratorium on planned developments (PDs) in the city amid issues they say have arisen from ongoing inconsistencies between the city’s general plan and specific plans, and zoning code text, among others.

During a Planning Commission discussion Wednesday on the potential policy and process changes for PDs, Commissioner Julianna Delgado pointed out that the PDs could be suspended until inconsistencies and discrepancies are addressed.

In a past meeting, the Planning Commission raised concerns regarding PDs and the ability for projects approved with a PD to deviate from zoning code requirements.

The PDs presented before the commission are grouped into PD zoning districts that are intended for sites where an applicant proposes, and the city desires to achieve a particular mix of uses, appearance or land use compatibility. The rezoning of a site to the PD District requires simultaneous approval of a PD Plan.

More specifically, a PD District is established to set up a procedure for the development of large parcels of land, from a minimum of two acres, in order to eliminate delays that would possibly result from application of land use regulations and administrative procedures.

“They have been a great tool but of late we have an inconsistency with the general plan,” Delgado said.

“I would like to see that we look at suspending more PDs going forward until we’ve finished the specific plan process and amend the general plan or otherwise amend general plan policies and the zoning code. That would eliminate inconsistency,” she said.

Commissioner Andrea Rawlings agreed with the former, saying suspending PDs will prevent “unfortunate” outcomes.

“I actually agree with Commissioner Delgado as far as putting a moratorium on PDs until we can coordinate with specific plans and general plans,” Rawling said.

“I actually do believe the developers of these projects should be giving more attention to public amenities and public outreach. I would agree with that even with the moratorium,” she added.

Commissioner Mic Hansen, agreeing with the two other commissioners, remarked that PDs may have been a useful planning tool, but only in the past.

“When Pasadena was a less built-out city, PDs may have been a useful planning tool, but now, ours is a fairly thoroughly built-up city. There seems to be a scant reason for PDs,” said Hansen. “I’m at a loss to understand the usefulness to the community of PDs.”

Hansen said allowing PDs can potentially cause displacement. She also added that with PDs, it is no longer the city that dictates the “footprint” but the developers.

“Moratorium is a good idea, but I agree with Commissioner [David] Coher that we also have to fix the underlying issues with our general plan,” Hansen said.

Commissioner Jason Lyon said there must be a stringent community benefit component to any PD.

Before ending the meeting, the commission took a straw poll and approved meeting in the future with the staff from the Department of Planning and Community Development so it could discuss proposals and formalize its recommendation on the moratorium on PDs, which it plans to submit to the City Council for a decision.

The Planning Department has listed a total of 35 approved PDs throughout Pasadena as of June 14. There are another five in the pipeline.

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