I am writing in response to your letter regarding rezoning religious property for affordable housing. You write about a “lack of oversight” in the proposal for rezoning religious property and compare this to oversight of the police. You are comparing oranges and apples, which is unfair and inappropriate.
There will be oversight of any affordable housing built under this proposal. First, the project will have to conform to developments standards regarding height, density, scale, etc. that the City Council has pre-approved. Then the project will be scrutinized by the Design Commission will to make sure it’s appropriate for the location.
That’s how housing typically is built, Cities provide development standards for each zone of the city so that developers will know in advance what kind of height, units per acre, etc. are permitted. If the city didn’t have predetermined development standards, developers would be reluctant to build anything since they would have no idea what’s allowed.
In addition to conforming to the City’s standards, affordable housing developers have to meet much stricter standards required by funders to obtain needed funding. That’s why affordable housing is typically “green” and of higher quality than many market rate developments. Marv’s Place, a Mediterranean style apartment for homeless families, is an award-winning example.
You bring up the project in Altadena which is an unusual case because Altadena is in an unincorporated part of LA County and therefore subject to County rules regarding zoning and development standards. The Pasadena Town Council adopted a policy that buildings should be no more than three stories, but this policy is not binding on the County. A developer took advantage of the fact that the County allowed affordable housing by right to propose a 5-story project. When the community strongly opposed this project, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger intervened and its height was reduced to 4 stories.
This could not happen in Pasadena because our city has it own development standard and we have local control.
It is also worth noting that this policy would not apply to churches in single family neighborhoods, only in commercial and PS zones. It’s therefore a very modest proposal. The staff recommendation would allow only three additional churches to have affordable housing built on their property, whereas our proposal would allow an additional 7 (out of 136 churches in our city). Without clear, predetermined development standards, none of these churches would have affordable housing built on their property because it would be too risky for developers to seek a variance or CUP for small projects. (We are proposing “by right” for projects smaller than 75 units. Bigger projects would go through a discretionary review process)
We anticipate that our proposal would result in several hundred units of affordable housing at no cost to our city’s General Fund and would bring tens of millions of dollars in investment to our city because it would be funded by state and federal sources. Most importantly, this would meet an urgent need for affordable housing.
Co-founder of Making Housing and Community Happen
Got something to say, email Managing Editor André Coleman, at andrec@pasadenanowmagazine.