Talking Points for Affordable Housing at the Civic Center

30 Sep


On October 5, at 2 pm, the Pasadena City Council will be considering whether to use vacant, city-owned land next to City Hall for affordable housing or sell it to the highest bidder. See agenda: http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2020%20Agendas/Oct_05_20/agenda%20COVID.asp

The City Council solicited proposals for affordable housing on this site, and three excellent proposals were submitted. See https://www.pasadenanow.com/main/developers-lay-out-plans-for-historic-ywca-building/

Last year the City Council agreed to prioritize affordable housing on this site and subjected this site to the state Surplus Land law, but now they must formally declare this site surplus land so they can consider proposals for affordable housing that were submitted in response to the City’s request for proposals (RFP). If they don’t declare it surplus land, then it must be sold to the highest bidder.

Below some 200-word talking points for you to consider. Please choose one that speaks to you and feel free to express it in your own words. Please follow one of the following procedures to submit commits.

Members of the public may submit comments of any length up to two hours prior to the start of the meeting, at the following email address:  
correspondence@cityofpasadena.net
. These comments will become part of the public record and will be read by City Council members, but not read aloud during the public meeting.

During the meeting, members of the public may submit up to 200 words regarding items on the agenda, at the following webpage:
www.cityofpasadena.net/city-clerk/public-comment
. You can choose to have your comments read aloud.

Start each of your talking points by stating your name, district, and something about yourself. How long you have lived here, religious affiliation, occupation, etc.

#1:  I am writing in support of the Planning Department staff recommendation that the Ramona property be declared surplus land, exempt from CEQUA, so it can be used for affordable housing. As you know, the Surplus Land Act requires local agencies—such as cities and transit agencies—to prioritize affordable housing on such land.  As the Planning Department Staff noted, using this site for affordable housing is consistent with the General Plan. The City Council already issued an RFP prioritizing affordable housing on this site, for which there is an urgent need. Developers have presented excellent proposals for affordable and supportive housing. I urge you to take the steps necessary so that these proposals can be considered and approved, and construction of much needed affordable housing can begin.

#2: I urge you to declare the Ramona site to be surplus land so you finalize approving this site for much needed affordable housing. During this election cycle both candidates for mayor and all the other candidates for office affirmed that they support affordable housing. You have an opportunity to show that you meant what you said. As a Christian, I feel we have an obligation to house the poor, just as the early Christians did in Acts 4. Jesus tells us that communities will be judged on how they treat the marginalized. “As you did for the least of these, you did it for me” (Matt 25:40). Let’s set a shining example for other cities by housing our low-income residents in our City’s heart, the Civic Center.

#3: I am writing to urge you to approve declaring the Ramona site surplus land so that you can consider the excellent proposals that have been submitted by outstanding affordable housing developers. I am very impressed with the three proposals presented during the recent Planning Department’s public meeting. Abode, Bridge and National Core all have proven track records in our city. Because of the City’s RFP, they have expended considerable time and effort to come up with worthy proposals.  Because of the urgent need, I’d like to see affordable family housing along with a component of supportive housing on this site.  I also like the idea of a public courtyard that will attract visitors, as does the courtyard of the City Hall. These elements will help to vitalize and activate the Civic Center. The center of our city near City Hall has been idle and empty far too long. Let’s help our city to have a brighter future by completing our Civic Center with a project we can all be proud of.

#4: I am writing to encourage you to approve declaring the Ramona site surplus land because it makes good economic sense to build affordable housing on this site. The City’s RFP states that the project should “serve as a catalyst for continued economic growth and provide economic benefits” (p. 5).As you know, affordable housing is an economic stimulus since it is required to have 20 percent local hires, 20 percent local contractors and 20 percent local materials. This will bring millions of dollars to the Pasadena economy at a time when such an influx of funds is urgently needed. Financial considerations are not only or main reason to use this site for affordable housing, however. The need for such housing, especially for families, is critical. Homeless people who currently sleep on and around this vacant property desperately need housing. As a person of faith, I believe we have a moral imperative as well as financial incentive to use this site for affordable and supportive housing. The prophet Zechariah tell us that the LORD Almighty calls us to  “administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another”  7:9 (NIV)

#5: I’m writing to urge you to approve declaring the Ramona site surplus land and using it for affordable housing because we need to do all we can to address the housing crisis in our city. I know that the City Council feels that the RHNA numbers are unrealistically high, but there is no disputing the fact that the need for affordable housing in our city is huge and growing. Over 23,000 people are on the waiting list for Section 8 housing in this City. The last Housing Element indicates that 36% of Pasadenans are low or very low income. 79% of the 16, 730 lower income renters pay more than 30% of their income on rent. Many families are forced to double up, which can create problems for their children. Having 90-100 affordable unit to the Civic Center won’t solve this enormous problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

#6 : I’ m writing to urge you to approve declaring the Ramona site surplus land and using it for affordable because it’s a matter of justice. We need to use public land for public good.  We need to provide affordable housing to low-income worker who are risking their lives during this pandemic to provide essential services. They are waiters, grocery store workers, and nurses. They serve our city well but most can’t afford to live here.  As a person of faith, I take to heart what it says in Proverbs 31: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

#7: I am writing you to take prompt action in approving affordable housing in the Civic Center because the need is great and growing because of the pandemic and the economic downturn. It is important to take deliberate action, but taking ten years to approve a YMCA project has caused unanticipated problems. We need to move forward expeditiously during this crisis. A Columbia study estimates that the homeless population could increase by 45% in the next year. Evictions are expected to increase. By approving affordable housing in our Civic Center, we are showing that we are at heart a compassionate city.

#8 I want to thank the City Council for prioritizing affordable housing on the Ramona site. You acted wisely and in the best interests of our City. Now it is time to take the next step and approve declaring the Romona site surplus land so it can actually be used for affordable housing. As a person of faith, I believe that housing those who are low income and homeless not only benefits our city, it is also a blessing. We know from experience that affordable housing transforms lives. People like Dorothy Edwards, Shawn Morrissey, and Cynthia Kirby all lived for many years on the streets of our city. Thanks to supportive housing, they have now become useful and important members of our community. They are now “paying forward” the blessing that they received by helping others. The words of Psalm 41 seem relevant to our challenging times: “Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the LORD delivers them in times of trouble.”


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One Response to “Talking Points for Affordable Housing at the Civic Center”

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  1. Let the Pasadena City Council know that you support affordable housing at the Civic Center and on church land | Making Housing and Community Happen - October 2, 2020

    […] ← Talking Points for Affordable Housing at the Civic Center […]

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