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Planning Commission to Receive Zoning Code Amendment That Would Allow Housing on Church Property

Published on Tuesday, January 25, 2022 | 6:00 am
 

The Planning Commission will receive an information item on a zoning code amendment that would allow affordable housing to be built on church property.

City staff has been exploring the establishment of regulations that would allow affordable housing as a permitted and/or conditionally-permitted use on sites owned by institutions in zones that do not currently allow housing, or which allow housing only as an accessory use, and recommends allowing housing in other zones, provided that such housing includes on-site affordable units.

In the early part of the last century, monolithic churches were built with huge parking lots to accommodate large congregations. But now, many of those churches are struggling to fill the pews, which has resulted in less money going into church coffers.

Bloomberg News reported in 2020 about a third of U.S. congregations surveyed between 2018 and 2019 said they have no savings.

Making matters worse, church donations plummeted during the pandemic.

According to the Barna Group, an evangelical research firm, as many as one in five churches in the U.S. could close over the next 18 months.

Locally, developers can already build on church property in some zones, provided they go through the city process.

Some local residents have been calling for the zoning code amendment for more than a year and want it set up so developers can bypass steps in the city’s process, including public hearings where local neighbors would be able to express support and opposition to the project.

“Please consider the proposal to rezone church land “by right” for affordable housing in Pasadena,” wrote Christi Franklin, in correspondence to the commission. “I support this rezoning proposal and we need rezoning of church land for ‘by right’ affordable housing because it will put affordable housing throughout the city. Affordable housing developments need to have 40-50 units to be financially feasible. Most church land in Pasadena is not zoned to accommodate that density, so rezoning needs to happen. And it needs to be ‘by right’ so that we can get affordable housing into all parts of the city and not perpetuate racist and classist exclusionary zoning.”

In Pasadena, a “by right” project would still be subject to design review, but would not require review by a hearing officer or planning commission for a CUP or other discretionary entitlement.

Pasadena’s existing regulations provide inclusionary housing requirements that require proposed residential developments to include on-site or off-site affordable housing units, or to provide land donations or pay in-lieu fees, as part of an overall strategy to ensure that the addition of affordable housing units is in proportion with the overall increase in new housing units.

Projects that include for-sale units must specify a minimum of 20 percent of the total number of units to be sold to very low, low, or moderate income households. Projects with rental units must dedicate a minimum of five percent of units for very-low income households, five percent to very-low or low income households, and 10 percent of units to very-low, low, or moderate income households.

However, by-right developments can be a problem.

In nearby Altadena, which is part of unincorporated LA County, residents expressed concerns about a five-story affordable housing by right project at 2439-2445 Lincoln Ave., just north of the Pasadena border.

According to residents there, the project would negatively affect the health and welfare of the community and is inconsistent with the height and density portion of the Altadena Community Standards District (CSD).

Although supporters are demanding by-right housing to avoid “racist and classist exclusionary zoning,” many of the critics of the project in Altadena were Black residents that have lived in the area for decades.

In the petition, local residents also claimed there is insufficient parking. With about 30 spaces located at grade, and no underground parking for the 96 to 120 residents and staff, there will be additional traffic and congestion in the area, according to the petition.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger spoke to the developers who agreed to reduce the project from five stories to four stories. However, if they had refused, there would have been little to no recourse stopping the developers.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday. To view the meeting, visit: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86287573244

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