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We Get Letters: Data on Religious Land Issue

Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 | 1:18 pm

Dear Mayor Gordo and City Councilmembers,

Vice Mayor Andy Wilson requested that we provide some hard data regarding the difference between what the Housing Department proposes, and what we propose, regarding rezoning religious land (Item #18 on the agenda). Please note that our proposal simply increases the units per acre from 32 to 36 and asks that the development standards for projects in commercial and PS zones be no more restrictive than those of an RM32 zone.

Phil Burns (principal of the Aroyo Group), Blair Miller (city planner for the City of LA) and Max Ogden (Caltech) identified all the churches in commercial and PS zones that could have 50-unit projects on their property—the minimum size for a project to be competitive and obtain tax credit and other funding. Their analysis considers both zoning capacity and actual available space to build. “Space to build” was calculated as parking lots + any older, non-historic, non-sanctuary buildings.

Please note that only a few of these churches have indicated interest in having affordable housing built on their property. This analysis just indicates the potential for development if they are interested in providing affordable housing. Here’s the bottom line:

The current staff recommendation of 32 du/ac with development standards based on adjacent zone would allow only 3 additional churches to have affordable housing built on their property. None of these churches have indicated interest in having affordable housing on their property.

Our recommendations (36 du/ac and development standards for RM32 zones) would add 7 more potential sites. Several of these churches have indicated interest in having affordable housing built on their property.

We’re especially concerned that New Life Holiness, an African American church on N. Fair Oaks, be included in this zoning amendment since they have been ready to move forward with a project since early 2020. Their project would be around 50 units–the minimum to be competitive for tax credit and other funding. It has been suggested that this church could ask for a variance or CUP, but, in reality, neither the variance nor the CUP would be able to increase the number of units, a variance can only tweak the development standards not the density. Additionally, the affordable housing development community has already indicated to us that they are not willing to take on the cost and the risk of a discretionary approval in Pasadena for such a relatively small project. So, the only way for this church to be able to have affordable housing on their property would be to increase the units per acre to 36.


These are congregations that have capacity for 50 units, including maximum density bonus:

Existing Zoning & Space to Build (without zoning amendment) – 6 (only two of these have expressed any interest)

St. Andrew’s (Parking address: 140 Chestnut St.)
Scottish Rite Cathedral (150 N. Madison Ave.)
Christian Science Church (80 S. Oakland Ave.)
First Baptist (Parking address: 150 E. Holly St.)
All Saints Parking (Parking address: 200 N. Euclid St.)
Knox Presbyterian (225 S. Hill Ave.)

Added by Staff Proposal – 3: (only one has expressed interest)

Lake Ave Church (434 Maple Way)
Church of Latter Day Saints (770 N. Sierra Madre Villa Ave.)
Hill Av Grace Lutheran (73 N. Hill Ave.)

Added by adjusting the development standards to RM-32 adjacent to low-density zones – 4: (only one has expressed interest)

First Lutheran Church (808 N. Los Robles Ave.)
St. Philip (151 S. Hill Ave.)
Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene (3700 E. Sierra Madre Blvd.)
Mission Gathering (789 N. Altadena Dr.)

Added by adjusting the density from 32 to 36 du/ac with development standards that come with 32 du/ac zoning. (Note: all will require reasonable affordable housing concessions to address development standard limitations) – 3: (only one of these has expressed interest)

New Life Holiness Church (2005 N. Fair Oaks Ave.)
Bridge Church (400 W. Claremont St.)
Living Waters Church (835 Hastings Ranch Dr.)

If you support a staff proposal that amends the staff’s proposal to 36 du/a with the development standards for 32 du/a there would be only about 5 churches served by of the ten that have expressed interest. This is a great start. There are some other congregations which also have a theoretical zoning capacity over 50 units, but they are very limited on space as defined above, so it’s doubtful that they could reach 50, even with affordable housing concession permits.

As you can see, our proposal is extremely modest but it could potentially produce several hundred units of affordable housing without encroaching on single family neighborhoods. It would bring millions of dollars of investment in additional to the investment of local materials, local job and local contracts due to Pasadena’s 20/20/20 rule. It would also help us meet our RHNA numbers. But most importantly, it will address an urgent need for more high-quality affordable housing in our city. If this experiment works, it could be expanded to include institutional land or tweaked to include more congregations.

We hope and pray that you will be favorable to making the needed adjustments to the staff proposal. Please send it back to the Planning with the Housing Department to work together on an adjusted proposal that will serve to provide affordable housing for our city.

Please let us know if you have any questions. Thank you!!

Anthony Manousos and Jill Shook for Making Housing and Community Happen

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