Speak out about affordable action this month!

9 Jul

Monday, August 2, is your last chance to weigh in on Pasadena’s Housing Element, an eight-year plan required by the state to ensure that Pasadena plans for sufficient affordable housing to meet the needs of its residents, especially those who are low-income or unhoused.

Making Housing and Community Happen supports a menu of policies (scroll down to see some of our top choices), but we are focusing primarily on allowing congregations to have affordable housing built on their land. We want to see this agendized and passed as soon as possible. 

Choose one of the talking points below, personalize it, and either send it to Council and City Clerk using the emails below, or speak out during Public Comment.

Use this email to ensure that your comments become part of the public record: correspondence@cityofpasadena.net,

You can also add these emails to make sure that City Council members see your comments: vgordo@cityofpasadena.net, awilson@cityofpasadena.net, jerivas@cityofpasadena.net, gmasuda@cityofpasadena.net, fwilliams@cityofpasadena.net, smadison@cityofpasadena.net, johnjkennedy@cityofpasadena.net, thampton@cityofpasadena.net.

Talking points

Please consider using one of the following talking points when you write to the City Council or speak up. Be sure to preface your remarks by mentioning your name, district (or City Council member) and something about yourself, such as how long you’ve lived in Pasadena, your religious affiliation, or some story about the need for affordable housing that inspires you to speak or write. Remember to keep your remarks to 250 words or 1.5 minutes. It’s also a good idea to thank the Council for the good work they’ve done around affordable housing, but remind that much more needs to be done.

Dear Mayor Gordo and City Council members, 

My name is ________________ and I am a member of _______________________________.  (your church, club, or neighborhood association, etc..) I am speaking on item 11, the Housing Element.

Talking point #1: I want to thank the Council for all you’ve done to create affordable housing in the City, but we clearly have not come close to meeting our RHNA goals or the vision of our City to provide “decent, safe and affordable housing  for every Pasadena resident” As you know, the City is required by the state to plan for nearly 6,000 units of affordable housing over the next eight years. This goal may seem impossibly high, but the need for affordable housing is critical. That’s why I feel that that rezoning religious land for affordable housing is a great idea that has been needlessly delayed and should be put back on the agenda and approved as soon as possible. It should also be in the Housing Element as long this doesn’t delay its implementation. A handful of churches across Pasadena are stepping up to offer their land for affordable housing, but they need the zoning to be changed so they can accomplish their vision. This zoning change will speed up the process of building the housing we need and will make the process considerably less expensive, making affordable housing dollars stretch further.  

Talking point #2: I urge the City Council to incentivize affordable ADUs and Junior ADUs.  This is absolutely necessary if the Council is serious about meeting the goals for ADUs set in the current Housing Element. We need more flexibility on ADUs (such as building a second story ADU unit above a parking garage). The state allows ADUs to be 17 feet high, but Pasadena requires a 12 foot top plate making it impossible to build over a garage. That doesn’t make sense. Perhaps that’s why the new Housing Element calls on the Council to “investigate new and creative approaches to providing housing, such as allowing units to be built on top of….. parking structures” (p. 35). I urge you to not just “investigate” this policy but make it so! Pasadena need to find new and creative ways to make it less costly and less time intensive to develop ADUs. I suggest that you check out  the City of Los Angeles ADU Accelerator Program. ADUs are a proven way to meet our City’s need for more affordable housing!

Talking point # 3: I urge the Council to consider allowing affordable housing to be built in commercially zoned areas. Vacant or underutilized commercially zoned areas are opportunities to build housing in areas where vacant land is hard to come across. I recommend that you check out the  Berkeley Terner Center Report on Residential Redevelopment of Commercially Zoned Land in California. This report shows the value of allowing commercial land to be used for affordable housing. I also recommend that you streamline the approval process for deed-restricted, affordable housing, and permanent supportive housing within 30 days of application. If we are going to meet our RHNA goals of nearly 6,000 units of affordable housing in the next 8 years, we need to make it easier for affordable housing developers to do their job.

Talking point # 4:  We have a superabundance of luxury apartments in Pasadena, far more than we need, and many of these units are vacant. That’s why we need to consider a vacancy tax to incentivize landlords to either rent up or lower the cost of rent to make their vacant properties more affordable. A vacant property  tax  or VPT was passed by the City of Oakland in 2018. The Oakland VPT establishes an annual tax of $3,000 to $6,000 on vacant property. The City of Oakland VPT covers both residential and nonresidential property types. I urge Pasadena to consider a similar tax or fee for our city. The fees from vacant properties could be used to help subsidize affordable housing.

Talking point #5:  I urge you to consider an affordable housing impact fee, just as we have an impact fee to fund parks. We need a dedicated source of funding for affordable housing, and not just rely on in lieu fees. Our city is building far more luxury apartments than we need, and the cost of rents keep rising as a result. An impact fee is a development fee whose purpose is to offset the impact of new development on the need for affordable housing. The fees would be collected and dedicated towards affordable housing. Studies show that these fees can be effective (See the  Berkeley Terner Center Report on Residential Impact Fees. Grand Nexus Study on Impact Fees in San Mateo County.) If we are to reach out City’s RHNA goals, we need to consider new sources of funding for affordable housing and not rely on the status quo, which hasn’t worked.

Talking point # 6:  We need to ensure that affordable housing is kept permanently affordable. Preserving affordable housing is a lot cheaper than building it. Unfortunately, affordable housing covenants have a date of expiration, typically around 50 years. Community land trusts keep housing affordable in perpetuity. They are a great model, especially for affordable homeownership. Homeowners own their homes, but the land is owned by the trust. People buy homes below market rate and are required by the Trust to sell them below market rate. Making Housing and Community Happen is in the process of starting a Community Land Trust in the San Gabriel Valley. We’d like the City of Pasadena to participate in this CLT once it’s off the ground. Community Land Trusts have a racial justice component. They were started in the 1960s by African American farmers and today there are over 300 CLTs throughout the United States in large cities as well as rural areas. We need a CLT in our region and our city’s support could help expedite this process.



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