City alters ordinance regarding renters

17 Jul

After over a year of meetings with city staff and elected officials, our Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group successfully strengthened our local protection ordinance. Thanks especially to Darrell Cozen, who has played a calming, persistent, and passionate role in our group.

City alters ordinance regarding renters

“Pasadena’s City Council fixed a loophole in the city’s Tenant Protection Ordinance this week and expanded the number of renters who qualify, but the ordinance still does not offer protections to most of the tenants in the city.

Roughly one-half of Pasadena’s residents rent their homes, but only 91 tenants have benefitted from the Tenant Protection Ordinance in the last 13 years…..”

Castle Green in Pasadena.


A long road home

14 Jul

My friend Brad Fieldhouse is audacious. He challenged the Santa Ana city council with his God-sized belief that the city can do more.  I was astounded when I visited this huge operation Brad helped set up in the bus terminal. Today Hope & Housing is transforming the lives of homeless.

Donna Gallup , the Executive Director of American Family Housing, the affordable housing developer that built permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless from shipping container, will begin teaching  in Azusa Pacific University’s social  work department this  month.

Long Road Home

“For Kenneth Salazar, the past came back as a series of scenes in a fractured chronology.

Life after the Army had been one of dead-end jobs and episodes of sleeping in cars, each coming to an end when the vehicle was impounded.

“I woke up in a motor vehicle in other people’s driveway wondering, ‘What in the hell am I doing here?’ ” Salazar said.

Most recently, he was sleeping in a park when an outreach worker got him to go to the Courtyard, a shelter that opened last year in the former Santa Ana bus terminal. There he slept on a mat.

That turned out to be a steppingstone out of his past. For the first time since his discharge, Salazar, 60, now has a permanent home that cannot be impounded…..”

You’ll need a $1,152 raise to make the rent

14 Jul

You’ll need a $1,152 raise

“Renters in the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan area would need an annual raise of $1,152 to keep up with expected rent increases in the next year, a study by real estate website Zillow says. The L.A./O.C. area came in second highest in the nation, after No. 1 Seattle at $1,248. That compares with $168 for the U.S. as a whole. In Seattle, L.A./O.C. and Boston, renters need their incomes to be at least $1,000 higher next year to have the same amount of money left over after paying the rent, according to the analysis…..”  -Marilyn  Kalfus

What are the impacts and benefits of Granny Flats?

10 Jul

Our Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group did a comparative analysis of two neighborhoods, one with only three  back houses, and  one with fifty and we found no significant difference in property values, traffic, parking, the visual impact or character of the neighborhood. See our study here: ADU Comparative Study

Aiding and clamping down on the homeless: A law suit is transforming Pomona

10 Jul

It took a law suit by public council to move this city toward more compassion for its homeless population. My friend Will Watts, who was a lawyer with public council played a key role. As a Christian I use to think  lawsuits would be unacceptable. However when it comes to housing  and  the  lack  of  accountability  by our cities to meaningfully address the homeless crisis I have seen how law suits are not only necessary but also transforming. I am proud of you Will.

Aiding-and clamping down on-the homeless

“The band shell at Pomona’s Ganesha Park is a cozy spot where an acting troupe might perform Shakespeare on a summer night.  But on a brisk January morning, four tents held center stage — nestled around a rusted 55-gallon drum still warm from a bonfire the night before. By mid-morning, people stirred and tents came down. A young woman growled at the outreach worker who ventured near. The scene reflected one day’s uneasy equilibrium in the homelessness drama roiling the eastern Los Angeles County city of 150,000. While the city and county of Los Angeles attempt to conquer the problem with billions of dollars in new taxes for thousands of permanent supportive housing units, Pomona has taken a different tack……”

In the darkest corners of LA an Angel visits those close to death

10 Jul

I am moved to tears when I read this article about Anthony Ruffin, who found his calling among the homeless. I love Housing Works, a non-profit with a mission like that of Mother Teresa, yet here on the streets of LA loving homeless individuals most at risk of dying. Thank you Mollie for believing in Anthony. May God raise up “Anthony’s” across our nation , men who are emotionally engaged ,fully present, and committed to an ongoing presence being with the poor.

Angel in the Night 

“Mollie Lowery believed in Anthony Ruffin, and was convinced he would continue the work to which she had devoted her life. Before Lowery died last summer, the homeless outreach pioneer told me her protege had a story, but I’d have to get it from Ruffin himself.

I’d known the 48-year-old Ruffin as a tireless case manager for my friend Nathaniel Ayers. Aside from Lowery, I’ve never met anyone more dedicated to helping people with severe mental and physical illness. The work can be challenging, depressing and frustrating, because those with acute mental disorders often refuse assistance, and sometimes turn against the very people trying to help them.

But Ruffin keeps going back to the darkest corners of the city, undeterred, as if the next visit could bring a breakthrough. As if Lowery’s dictum — “whatever it takes, for as long as it takes” — is a call to duty……”


Eviction: a 2017 Pulitzer Prize winner is a must read, unveiling a tragic commentary on housing in the US

10 Jul

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, is a page turner that kept me awake at night as the characters came alive and reminded me of individuals I have worked with here in Pasadena! It also provides an excellent text for my Housing Justice course in the MA Social Work at Azusa Pacific University. Matthew Desmond asked me to write up a faith based study guide for this amazing book. I felt so honored. But time didn’t allow me to finish it within his time frame. I love how Desmond moved into the “hood” much like Jesus, and ‘dwelt among”  those most in need. This reads like a novel because he recorded conversations that helped us understand the pain and suffering of eviction in America. Using an ethnographic research and methodology he teaches at Harvard University. In addition he provided a statistical analysis enabling us to see the scope of eviction as well as rays of hope in how we can overcome this housing injustice.

Author: Pain of Eviction Affects Everyone


At the height of the recession, doctoral candidate Matthew Desmond moved into a mainly white trailer park on the edge of Milwaukee. The following year, he moved into a rooming house on the north side of town in a primarily African American neighborhood.
Like a fly on the wall, Desmond documented a rising tide of evictions, showing how losing one’s home impacts families, landlords and neighborhoods.

The book that emerged, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

In an interview with the Southern California News Group, Desmond described the toll evictions take on the communities in which they occur.

The Prophets held cities accountable to care for the most vulnerable–so should we: Let’s strengthen our State Housing Element Law by passing SB 35!

4 Jul

Liam Dillan did a great job describing the struggle for affordable housing and its consequences in this article in today’s LA Times. Thank you! While I agree with him that many cities have not implement the goals in their housing element, evidence shows that some cities have done so. I believe this process provides an essential first step.

He also suggest that California’s Housing Element was created to require that the housing planned for be built, but in reality, the law never went that far. It didn’t require that goals for housing for all income levels be built, but that they simply be  planned for. SB 35 is a great step toward moving our cities closer to requiring that the housing gets built, similar to state policy in Massachusetts and court rulings in New Jersey.

Every 5-8 years, over the past two decades, I have poured though every page of Pasadena’s thick Housing Element, which details plans for housing students, homeless, disabled, special needs, low and high income.  Since this this law requires community engagement, City Planners called to meet with me. I offered fifteen suggestions– with an amazing response, “Jill, these are great ideas! I never learned any of these in planning school”. So we added in the Housing Element affordable housing education for the Planning Staff.  Because of required public engagement, I asked the city to add two more public outreach events at churches, especially since the only one they planned was woefully attended with only four present. Once we caused the city to listen to more public input, in lower income areas of the city that typically don’t get to weigh in, the Planning staff strengthened the Element–to a point!  When it was finally sent to the state for approval, we realized there was still a lack of accountability so we called the State Department of Housing and asked them not to approved it. So they sent it back. We asked the Planning Department to replace the vague “ongoing” with specific dates and deadlines. Studies that were to be done 15 years ago on things like Granny Flats just kept being rolled over into the next 5-8 year planning period and would never make their way into City Council agendas. This effort has pushed our city to be more accountable. I take courage from Old Testament prophets who minced no words calling kings to account  for neglecting land use laws.

“For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Enough, you princes of Israel! Stop your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Quit robbing and cheating my people out of their land. Stop expelling them from their homes, says the Sovereign Lord.”–Ezekiel 45:9-10

I’d like to think that our Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Groups’s due diligence has something to do with why Pasadena won an award as the best Housing Element in the state in 2014. But as this article says, a great planning document that sits on a shelf and is not implemented makes no sense. So we are now pushing for a Housing Commission in our city that would ensure more accountability.

When you read this article, consider, with the zeal of a prophet, how you could support more accountability.  Let’s thank the authors listed in the bill I have included below this article. and write your own elected officials to to support it.


California lawmakers have tried for 50 years to fix the state’s housing crisis. Here’s why they’ve failed

After an hour of debate, Herb Perez had had enough.

Perez, a councilman in the Bay Area suburb of Foster City, was tired of planning for the construction of new homes to comply with a 50-year-old state law designed to help all Californians live affordably.

Everyone knows, Perez told the crowd at a 2015 City Council meeting, that the law is a failure. It requires cities and counties to develop plans every eight years for new home building in their communities. After more than a year of work and spending nearly $50,000, Foster City had an 87-page housing plan that proposed hundreds of new homes, mapped where they would go and detailed the many ways the city could help make the construction happen. But a crucial element was missing: Foster City was never going to approve all the building called for in the voluminous proposal, Perez said.

“What I’m seeing here is an elaborate shell game,” Perez said. “Because we’re kind of lying. It’s the only word I can come up with. We have no intention of actually building the units.”

“We’re kind of lying”: Foster City city councilman says his city won’t approve the homebuilding it’s planning forPerez’s prediction came true. Despite soaring demand for housing in the Bay Area, the city hasn’t approved any new development projects in more than five years.

Foster City’s experience is shared by governments across California: The law requires cities and counties to produce prodigious reports to plan for housing — but it doesn’t hold them accountable for any resulting home building.

The law, passed in 1967, is the state’s primary tool to encourage housing development and address a statewide shortage of homes that drives California’s affordability problems.

Now, a bill from Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would, for the first time, force cities and counties that have fallen behind on their housing goals to take steps to eliminate some of the hurdles they put in front of development, such as multiple planning reviews for individual projects. Wiener’s legislation passed the state Senate this month and is awaiting a vote in the Assembly as part of a package of bills aimed at addressing the state’s housing problems.

“The system is so broken,” Wiener said. “It gives the public a false sense that a step has been taken toward having more housing when in fact it’s just an illusion.”

One of the main criticisms of the law is that it hasn’t spurred enough new home building. Fewer than half of the 1.5 million new homes the law said developers would need to build over eight years leading up to 2014 — the law’s most recent reporting period — were built.

In addition, state officials don’t know if cities and counties have met their housing goals. Local governments are supposed to give the state information on home building each year, but many don’t. As a result, there is no reliable measure of how many houses are being built in California for low-, middle- and upper-income residents.

State lawmakers have known about the law’s weaknesses for decades but haven’t fixed them. They have added dozens of new planning requirements to the process but have not provided any incentive, such as a greater share of tax dollars, for local governments to meet their housing goals.

“The law has been completely ineffective at addressing the issue of housing affordability,” said Paavo Monkkonen, an associate professor of urban planning at UCLA. “If anything, it’s a waste of people’s time.”

Prison beds and student dormitories count as low-income housing?

California’s housing affordability troubles have contributed to the state’s poverty rate, which is the highest in the nation. It also has burdened millions with high rents and, according to a recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute, created a more than $100-billion annual drag on the state economy by lowering disposable incomes and limiting construction jobs.

Ben Metcalf, the state’s top housing official, has said the affordability problems are as bad as they’ve ever been in California’s history. And the state is expected to add an additional 6.5 million people over the next two decades.

The primary driver of the affordability problem is a lack of home building. Developers in California need to roughly double the 100,000 homes they build each year to stabilize housing costs, according to the McKinsey studyand reports from the state Department of Housing and Community Development and nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

More than two-thirds of California’s coastal communities have adopted measures — such as caps on population or housing growth, or building height limits — aimed at limiting residential development, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. A UC Berkeley study of California’s local land-use regulations found that every growth-control policy a city puts in place raises housing costs by as much as 5% there.

The housing supply law, known formally as the “housing element,” is supposed to help knock down local barriers to development by requiring cities to plan for new housing that would accommodate children born in California and people expected to relocate to the state. Over an eight-year period, state officials send estimates of housing needed to meet projected population growth to 19 regional agencies, including the Southern California Assn. of Governments in the Los Angeles area.

These agencies outline how many new homes are needed across four income levels: very low, low, moderate and above-moderate. So, in theory, all cities and counties would receive their fair share of growth. Local governments must show they’ve zoned enough land for the new housing — and the state must sign off on those plans. But the state doesn’t hold cities accountable for the goals they set, and the plans are often ignored.

Even so, city and county officials resent the law, arguing it unfairly takes away their power over development in their communities. To avoid complying, local governments have over the years asked state lawmakers to, among other things, count prison beds and student dormitories as low-income housing and allow cities that place foster children in their communities to reduce the number of low-income homes they need to plan for.

In one case, La Habra Heights, in Los Angeles County, asked that it be exempted from the law because the city was too hilly for apartment complexes.

‘People want to be with people who are like them’

At the base of the San Gabriel Mountains, the affluent bedroom community of La Cañada Flintridge has few apartment or condominium complexes — and many of the city’s 20,000 residents and public officials want to keep it that way.

Four years ago, city leaders wrote a plan to make room for multifamily housing in several sections of the city. But, to discourage developers, they chose areas already occupied by single-family homes and, in one case, a big-box retailer. As a result, developers would have needed to buy up the homes one by one or, in the case of the retailer, purchase the commercial real estate and force the store out. In devising the plan, city officials assured concerned residents that it would be prohibitively expensive for developers.

“Everybody on this dais and that’s here is on the same page,” Planning Commission Chairman Rick Gunter told the audience at a November 2013 hearing on the housing plan. “We like living here. We like the way it is now.”

Herand Der Sarkissian, a former La Cañada Flintridge planning commissioner who approved the city’s housing plan, said in an interview it didn’t make sense for the state to try to force low-income housing into La Cañada Flintridge because the city’s high land costs made it fiscally irresponsible. He added that any state efforts to integrate housing of all income levels into wealthy communities are doomed.

“People like people of their own tribe,” Der Sarkissian said. “I think the attempt to change it is ludicrous. Be it black, be it white. People want to be with people who are like them. To force people through legislation to change in that way is impractical.”

None of the multifamily housing called for in the La Cañada Flintridge housing plan has been built.

In Redondo Beach, officials told the state in 2014 they would work toward the city’s housing goal by supporting a proposed commercial and residential development with 180 apartments — nine of them reserved for very poor families — to replace a run-down strip mall and parking lot along the Pacific Coast Highway. The city zoned the land for that amount of housing.


La Cañada Flintridge and Redondo Beach did not report housing construction data to the state from 2006 to ‘14. Some new homes were built in both cities, according to permit information, but far fewer than were outlined in the cities’ plans over that period.

These and similar examples across California show that the housing law is a “complete farce,” Wiener said. His legislation would do away with some planning reviews that are often levied on projects in cities that haven’t kept pace with their housing goals.

“Many local communities basically run a scam where they spend all sorts of time — lots of public hearings, lots of public discussion — and then it’s over and you have this collection of paper sitting on a shelf,” Wiener said. “It doesn’t result in any additional housing.”

‘With this living situation, I can’t even think of having children right now’

Sandwiched between wealthier communities to the north and south and more industrial areas to the east, the coastal Los Angeles County city of Torrance has swaths of single-family neighborhoods and lots of land for commercial and industrial business.

“A city should be allowed to say we’re full”: Torrance city councilman argues against new homebuilding

“At some point, a city should be allowed to say we’re full,” Bill Sutherland, then a Torrance city councilman, grumbled before voting for the city’s most recent housing plan in 2013. “I think we are actually at that point.”

Torrance’s growth has slowed. Less than half of 1,828 houses called for in the city’s previous housing plan were built, according to construction permit data.

The lack of home building has had consequences.

Nearly 40% of Torrance’s 147,000 residents now pay more than 30% of their incomes on housing, according to federal data. In 2014, Toyota Motor Corp. decided to relocate its North American headquarters — and 3,000 jobs — from Torrance to Plano, Texas, citing as one factor the Lone Star State’s lower cost of living.

High costs have left housing in Torrance out of reach for Azucena Gutierrez and other workers in the city.

Every weekday, Gutierrez goes into Torrance homes to teach prenatal and infant care to new and expectant parents. Gutierrez, 38, earns less than $15 an hour.

She lives in Los Angeles’ Boyle Heights neighborhood, crowding into a two-bedroom apartment with her husband, who is a substitute teacher, their 14-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. Steep housing costs have forced Gutierrez’s older sister to move in with them too.

Gutierrez would like to live near her job and for her children to attend Torrance’s better rated schools. But the $1,600-a-month rent she saw advertised for a one-bedroom apartment in Torrance was more than the $1,500 she pays now for more room across town.

Azucena Gutierrez, 38, leaves her home before sunrise in Boyle Heights and heads to her job in Torrance. Gutierrez lives with her husband, children and sister and pays $1,500 a month for her two-bedroom apartment. A one-bedroom in Torrance would cost her $1,600 per month. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

“I waste a lot of time in traffic,” Gutierrez said. “Time, I can’t get it back. I’m spending close to two hours driving every day. That’s 10 hours [a week] I could be spending with my family.”

Gutierrez’s colleagues share her struggles. Georgina Romero, 28, makes $13.50 an hour teaching toddlers and pays $600 a month to live with her boyfriend, mother, two younger siblings and her sister’s boyfriend in a three-bedroom house in Watts.

She moved there in March to help her mother with her housing costs. Before that, Romero paid $300 a month to live with her boyfriend in a 400-square-foot garage behind his parents’ house in Lawndale.

“I would love to have children,” Romero said. “But with this living situation, I can’t even think of having children right now. I don’t feel like I’m stable enough.”

Georgina Romero, 28, used to live with her boyfriend in a garage behind his parents’ home in Lawndale. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)
Romero works at a head start office in Torrance and said she wants children but doesn’t feel stable enough in her living situation. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey said he’s sympathetic to those who can’t afford to live in his city. But, he added, Torrance shouldn’t have to make changes to the character of its neighborhoods to accommodate new housing.

Instead of Torrance, he said, nearby cities should take on the needed growth.

“You won’t have the ZIP Code you want,” Furey said, “but it’s close enough.”

‘No intention of facing up to housing responsibilities’

The state’s housing law faced problems from the start.

In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the law, which had a simple goal: Cities and counties would have to plan “for the housing needs of all economic segments of the community.” But just five months after the first plans were due in July 1969, state officials realized local governments were ignoring the law, with a report warning about “discouraging indications” that a number of communities had “no intention of facing up to housing responsibilities.”

Over the years, legislators passed numerous bills adding detailed rules to local government housing plans. But things only got worse.

Torrance workers struggle to find nearby housing

By 1993, the law’s increased paperwork requirements turned it into “an energy- and money-guzzling bureaucratic maze,” said Timothy Coyle, then-director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, at a legislative oversight hearing that year. He called the law “broken” because it did nothing to encourage cities to permit more homes.

Coyle said in a recent interview that the law “was destined to fail.”

Today, the state lacks basic information on the law’s effectiveness. More than a quarter of California’s 539 cities and counties failed to tell the state how many homes were built within their boundaries over the eight-year period leading up to 2014, according to a Times review of housing department data.

Wiener’s legislation would require all cities and counties to turn in home-building data and remove some of their ability to review and block new development if they fall behind their housing goals.

Gov. Jerry Brown has also said he’d also support tying state financial aid to whether local governments met their housing goals. Still, if the state plans to hold cities and counties accountable for meeting those targets, the targets themselves might require reevaluation.

But developers aren’t building nearly enough homes to affect affordability, the analyst’s office also said. The Bay Area has added half a million more jobs than houses since 2011, and other fast-growing parts of the country — around Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; and Raleigh, N.C. — are building homes at more than twice the rate of the Bay Area.

Perez, the Foster City councilman, believes the state is ignoring the housing law’s problems.

Developers have built more than 500 homes in Foster City since the council approved its housing plan in 2015, a number that already exceeds the new houses called for under the plan through 2023.

But all those new homes came from projects approved before 2012 that home builders are just now putting on the market. And the city has turned away other developers interested in building housing where the city’s plan said they could, Perez said.

Since early 2015, Foster City’s median home value has increased 13% to a record $1.5 million, more than seven times the national average.

Perez believes state politicians should hold cities accountable for approving new housing projects by providing money to local governments that do, and penalizing those that don’t. Otherwise, he said, cities will continue to act as he said Foster City did — signing off on plans to appease state regulators but blocking housing from being built.

“I think the most important part of this is that there’s complicity on the part of the state,” Perez said. “They created this fake thing that they know no one has any intention of doing, and then they say they’ve done something about housing.”

Credits: Additional reporting by Ben Poston. Graphics by Joe Fox. Produced by Andrea Roberson.


SB-35, the Housing Accountability and Affordability Act. State Senator Weiner: “Few, if any jurisdictions meet their housing goals housing goals for low- and moderate-income housing.” [Goals are set every 8 years by the state]. To fix this ” SB35 would put in place an evaluation system: If a city is meeting its regional housing goals to build both market-rate and affordable housing, the law will have no effect. If it isn’t meeting its goals, then SB35 triggers a process so that the housing we all need gets built — specifically, the city’s approval process will become streamlined so that projects that meet zoning requirements are atomically approved, subject to design review and paying construction workers prevailing wage.”

See below for more details on the Bill.

Authors: Senate: Wiener, Atkins, Allen

Assembly Committee on Local Government approves SB 35, which streamlines the creation of critically need housing and ensures that all communities are accountable for meeting our housing needs
June 28, 2017

Sacramento – Today, Senate Bill 35, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to address California’s housing shortage, cleared a key Assembly Committee, an important step as the bill makes its way through the State Assembly after passing the Senate earlier this month.

The Assembly Committee on Local Government approved Senator Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 35 – which will create a streamlined approval process for housing in cities that are not meeting their housing goals required by the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). This streamlining will expedite the construction of critically needed housing. SB 35 was approved by a vote of 7-2, with support from both Democrats and Republicans.

SB 35 will now move to the Assembly Committee on Housing and Community Development for consideration. SB 35 passed the State Senate by a vote of 25-12 earlier this month.

SB 35 is supported by labor groups, including the State Building & Construction Trades Council, environmental groups, including Natural Resources Defense Council, and affordable housing non-profit developers, including the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California and Bridge Housing.

“California’s housing shortage is strangling our state and harming our environment, economy, health, and quality of life,” said Senator Wiener. “Housing is no longer a city-by-city issue – we need regional and statewide solutions to ensure we are creating the housing we so badly need. I want to thank my colleagues in the Assembly who voted today to support this critical bill, which will help us begin to meaningfully address our housing crisis.”

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) is the state-mandated process that sets the number of housing units that must be included, at all affordability levels, in each local jurisdiction’s housing element. Under SB 35, if cities aren’t on track to meet those goals, then approval of projects will be streamlined if they meet a set of objective criteria, including affordability, density, zoning, historic, and environmental standards, and if they meet rigorous standards for construction labor. Prevailing wage is required for 100% affordable housing and small to medium size developments, while a skilled and trained workforce will be employed for large, market-rate developments. The streamlining applies only to the income levels that aren’t being built – so if a city is building sufficient market-rate units but not enough low-income units, the project must consist of at least 50% low-income units to qualify for streamlined approval.

SB 35 also creates a more robust reporting requirement for housing production by requiring all cities report their annual housing production to the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

In addition to the State Building & Construction Trades Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California, SB 35 is supported by, the California Council for Affordable Housing, California Apartment Association, California Association of Realtors, the League of California Community Foundations, Mercy Housing, Bridge Housing, Mission Housing Development Corporation, the Council of Infill Builders, California Asian Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Bay Area Council, County of Napa, the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition, Abundant Housing LA, East Bay Forward, YIMBY Action, and many others.

Editorials in favor of SB 35:

San Francisco Chronicle: Right fix for California’s housing crisis

“Wiener’s bill gives lawmakers another chance to do their jobs and begin to address California’s most pressing problem.”

Sacramento Bee: California Must Confront the Exorbitant Cost of Housing

“Sen. Scott Wiener, a freshman Democrat from San Francisco, is taking up the worthy cause of helping to bring more affordable housing to California’s urban areas, including his own.”

Be a Friend to Granny.. Granny Flats!!

13 Jun


The ADU (Granny Flat) subcommittee of our Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group is made up of city planners, church members, youth who don’t know how they will be able to afford to stay in Pasadena, and more. This is the letter we wrote to the City Council. Please pray that next Monday, June 19, we will be speak with clarity and power, in a way that will move the hearts and minds of our City Councilors. The Planning Commission voted for the property size we asked for–we were stunned and thrilled! But this does not mean that it will happen next Monday since the City Council has the final word. They are not obligated to take the recommendation of their appointed Planning Commissioners. Anthony and Parade House float

To: Pasadena City Council

100 N. Garfield, Pasadena, CA 91101

Date: June 12, 2017

Dear City Council Members

We are writing to ask you to support several of the Planning Commission and staff recommendations in regard to Accessory Dwelling Units—ADUs and for you to strengthen their recommendations in the following ways:

  1. We agree with the Planning Commission vote to adjust the minimum lot size from the staff recommendation of 7,200 to 5,000 since 5,000 is what the majority of comments at the community workshops recommended. Additionally because the majority of the cities chosen by staff to compare to Pasadena allowed ADUs in properties at 5,000 or less. For example. Santa Cruz allows ADUs on properties of 4,500 square feet, Long Beach 4,800, Santa Monica 4,000 and some cities have no minimum lot size at all (Arcadia, Glendale, Monrovia, LA City and County and Burbank). Other comparisons above 5,000 were Beverly Hills at 6,000 and San Jose at 5,445 and South Pasadena at 12,000.
  2. ADUs should be allowed in all Landmark Districts, with or without the units being visible from the street.
  3. Change the staff recommendation of 800 square feet limit on the unit size of the ADU, which is arbitrarily low, and does not accommodate the spatial needs of single occupants, couples, or families residing in accessory residences to be congruent with the state maximum allowance of 1,200 square feet or 50% of the total living are of the primary dwelling. This is what South Pasadena, LA County and Santa Cruz allow.
  4. The staff is recommending that the height limit of 17 feet stay the same. We are recommending that ADUs be allowed above garages by increasing the height to 25 feet. Pasadena allows homeowners to have a second floor in their homes and an ADU over an attached garage. Our recommendation is consistent with this. We are concerned about privacy issues and believe this can be mitigated by having no windows or entrances facing neighbors. Having the option to build an ADU above the garage will preserve off street covered parking and open space on a property. Instead of creating a new impervious surface, building above the garage is often more sensible to the environment.
  5. While we believe in affordable housing, we do not recommend affordability covenants for ADUs. In other situations affordability covenants are appropriate, but not with ADUs. In this case it can be a poison pill to prevent homeowners from wanting to build an ADU.
  6. Just as staff is researching if the residential impact fees of $18,979.88 can be exempted, we too are recommending that ADUs be allowed a waiver, especially  in exchange for an agreement to rent to Section 8 or affordable housing (without an “affordability covenant,” but monitored in some other way.

Given that our state in a housing crisis, with 1.3 million units short, thus pushing up the cost many times faster than wages, it is essential that you do all you can to help relieve this shortage. In addition to helping to increase sorely needing housing stock, there are many good reasons to support all of our recommendations:

  1. To create life cycle housing, for aging parents who might otherwise wind up in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes, thus reducing the cost of their care.
  2. To keep affordable housing from being concentrated in one spot and invite economic diversity and be in keeping with historic heritage. Hunt who designed our library, Bachelder and one of the Green and Green brother’s lived in ADUs. Pasadena’s broad streets with the large stately craftsman homes adjacent to more narrow streets with smaller homes, allowed the servants to live close to wealthier residents. This rich heritage of a mixed income community sets a precedent for ADUs.
  3. To house “boomerang” kids or those who wanted to stay close but couldn’t afford local housing.
  4. To provide a potential source of income when the homeowners ready to downsize, especially for seniors on a fixed income. They could live in the granny flat and family members could move into the main house, or rent it out for retirement income.
  5. To allow more money to circulate and stay in the community, through the employment of local contractors and construction workers, as opposed to large developers that are usually from out of town.
  6. To increase the property values and provide more property taxes for the city. This is a better use of underutilized land and infrastructure.
  7. To minimize traffic by allowing people to live closer to family and work. When Cynthia Kurtz was the City Manager, she adamantly opposed to the need for a traffic study in relation to Granny Flats, feeling this was a non-issue and waste of tax payer’s money. The number of people applying for permits to build ADUs in other cities has been minimal.
  8. To prevent a possible fair housing lawsuit due to the disparity between those who want ADUs but don’t have permission to build them due to the unreasonable 15,000 required lot size and those who have large lots, but don’t have the need for them.
  9. To help increase the city’s housing stock without the use of any subsidy. Due to limited federal funds for housing, the city has lost 85% of its budget for affordable housing. ADUs are one important source for helping to solve the housing crisis without spending tax payer’s dollars.


For all the above reasons, we ask that you allow the city to regulate the construction second units under the recommendations we are requesting.  This will help to remediate unpermitted, informal housing that can often be unsafe. Unpermitted housing exists in every jurisdiction, every geography, every demographic, and every socioeconomic stratum: unpermitted dwellings, garage conversions, subdivided houses, and occupied RVs exist across the City of Pasadena. Lack of affordable housing coupled with skyrocketing housing prices are partly due to unworkable zoning laws that stifle efforts to build legal accessory dwellings and therefore directly contribute to the proliferation of illegally built dwellings. It’s a simple calculus: when people need housing, people build housing. And when the zoning code creates barriers, people ignore the code.

Thank you for reading our letter and taking serious consideration of our recommendations.


Elsa Rodriguez, City Planner for Los Angeles, Pasadena resident (District 1, Hampton)

Phil Burns, member of Pasadena Presbyterian and Pasadena Resident (District 6, Madison)

Catalina Gonzales, Day One, Pasadena Resident

Pastor Sylvester Williams, (District 3-Kennedy)

Lorynne Young, member of All Saints, Pasadena Resident (District 3 Kennedy)

Jill Shook, Housing Justice Professor at APU, Pasadena Resident (District 1, Hampton)

Maria Teresa Kowal, Architect, Pasadena Resident (District 1, Hampton

Rebuilding Hope in the Name of Jesus

30 May

I’m thrilled that my mission has punished this on their website:


North Fair Oaks, if you have even heard of it, is an easily dismissed area of Pasadena, California. To an outsider, this neglected neighborhood, where nearly 65,000 cars pass through its main street every day, leaves much to be desired. However, where most would see a neighborhood to cast aside, Missions Door missionary Jill Shook sees an opportunity for God to move mightily.

“North Fair Oaks is a place where people speed past, not noticing how God is at work. We are resurrecting hope in this high-crime, low-income Latino and African American community,” says Jill.

Jill’s ministry experience has opened her eyes to the damaging effects of neglect, disempowerment, and displacement from the high cost of housing. A lack of decent affordable housing in good neighborhoods often results in multiple families squeezed into tiny apartments concentrated in one part of town. This type of living often breeds gangs, homelessness, crime, and soaring school dropout rates.

This was exactly the case with Northwest Pasadena and God was calling Jill to change that. She built a team to start the STARS program (Students and Tutors Achieving Real Success) with Lake Avenue Church, located in a primarily Latino community.

Today, she is focused on North Fair Oaks, in collaboration with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA), the oldest association of African American churches. Talking with people living there, she hears stories about how North Fair Oaks used to be a vibrant community with a thriving business district. There were local grocery stores, restaurants, and a theatre.

But none of that is there now.

A Passion for Social Justice

Jill loves Jesus, and her care for social justice runs deep into the core of her faith. Jill has been involved with Missions Door since 1977 when she served with Campus Ambassadors. After campus ministry, she worked with Food for the Hungry in Mexico.

In 1990, she came back to the United States and found her heart broken for the lower income neighborhoods of Pasadena where the dropout rate was over 50%. She wanted to use the same Christian community development principles she had learned in Mexico and apply them to her own city.

Using the ABCD approach (Asset Based Community Development), she combined the assets of Lake Avenue Church’s congregation of 5,000 highly educated members with its low-income neighbors to create the STARS program —an afterschool program where hundreds of youth at risk of dropping out are now in college and running other STARS programs. STARS continues to transform lives, the neighborhood and the church.

Jill is a connector and is gifted in mobilizing and developing leaders. As a community developer and organizer, her mission is to mobilize churches through biblical advocacy training, focused especially on ending homelessness and lowering the cost of housing.  Inspired by the example of Moses, Esther, the prophets and Jesus, who all spoke to kings on behalf of the most vulnerable, Jill seeks to empower leaders.

This unique calling is transforming Northwest Pasadena and other communities across the US where she has done Housing Justice Workshops. “The kingdom of God is a big part of my theology; trying to understand what it looks like, how we participate in it, and how to bring others into it,” says Jill.

Empowering Local Leaders

Though people reminisced about what North Fair Oaks had once been, they were skeptical about whether the city would actually invest in this neighborhood. Jill realized that hope needed to be resurrected, and the community itself empowered to engage in change. An example of this is the resource and employment fair that the IMA had been running within the area for six years. Progress was slow and local involvement was minimal, so in 2015, Jill decided that something needed to change. Rather than doing the fair for the community, she wanted to do it with the community and by the community in hopes of developing local leadership.

A hundred and fifty residents, churches, and businesses were surveyed about both their concerns and their dreams for the community, and if they wanted to help plan the fair. In 2015, there was an overwhelmingly positive response at the resource fair and, with over 500 in attendance, nearly the entire neighborhood was there. This turnout invoked support from the city of Pasadena, giving the neighborhood’s efforts credibility.

Zechariah 8:4 says, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age.’” This was the vision Jill and others began sharing, and it led her to Janet Randall, who attended a local church and had lived in North Fair Oaks her whole life.

“It was her turf,” as Jill put it. Janet loved the Lord, was interested in seeing change in her neighborhood, and needed a job. She was a quintessential example of the heart of Jill’s ministry.

Because Jill is passionate about empowering communities through local leadership development, she started a ministry project, the North Fair Oaks Initiative, and gave Janet a job working with her. Jill began to teach her how to engage with the city and the local churches, paving a way for change. Janet is thriving in her role as an advocate for her community, and is so excited by the opportunity to mobilize churches around her, and watch transformation happen before her eyes.

“My life is not the same,” says Janet. “I was so bored with my other work. It had no meaning for me. Now I have meaning in my life and I am doing the very thing I was created to do; bringing people together and helping them make a difference in our city.”

God is doing amazing things in North Fair Oaks, using a missionary whose love for Jesus motivates her to serve the poor and work for biblical principles of love and justice. In addition to empowering local leadership, the North Fair Oaks Initiative has partnered with the Complete Streets Coalition, to help fulfill the community’s goals to slow down excessive traffic and make it a safe and beautiful place.

Through Jill’s work in developing advocates, homelessness in Pasadena was reduced by 54% between 2011 and 2016. Her team helped to craft an inclusionary housing ordinance setting aside 15% of all new housing as affordable. And just this past week, the city council responded to a group of pastors and residents presenting their concerns (pictured left) and granted $265,000 to improve pedestrian safety. These victories have planted seeds of hope as people begin to realize that their city can again be the place it once was.

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58:12

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