Fees to Build one 900 s.f Granny Flat in Pasadena are $50,000–we say this is exorbitant and wrong.

5 Dec

In Pasadena the city is making it nearly impossible to build a Granny Flat, those cute back houses that are now called ADUs–Accessory Dwelling Units. We’ve had a wonderful ADU committee meeting for the past year researching ways to make this kind of housing more accessible. David went to Pasadena’s Planning Office and asked what it would cost in fees to build an 900 s.f. ADU on his property. See it outlined below. We were shocked and saddened that our city is trying to make it nearly impossible for lower income homeowners, for example, seniors on fixed incomes, to create a tiny home for a caregiver or college student to live for a little extra income.

We are recommending that Pasadena follow the example of Temple City, where the fees for ADUs are $3,000.

If you are in the Pasadena area next Monday, join us at the City Council to help us lower these fees as well as eliminate a a required size. Stay tuned for more info about this!

cost to build adu


Estimated Cost to Build ADU


Stark Contrasts–What I owe to renters as a homeowner in CA

26 Nov

The following article by Steve Lopez (LA Times, 11/26/17) deeply moved me because of my situation as a homeowner, missionary, and housing justice advocate. In 1994, when I purchased my home in Northwest Pasadena, then a predominantly African American neighborhood, I qualified for a loan of only $100,000 because of my limited income as missionary and a part-time ESL teacher. So my parents each gave me $20,000 to help with my down payment for a cute three-bedroom, two-bath bungalow costing what seemed a lot at the time: $143,500.   Today this home is worth over $700,000. We have made some improvements, but most of this increase took place in my sleep, as Steve Lopez says in this article. What I pay for my mortgage is less than what what it costs to rent a room in Pasadena. Is this fair? Is this consistent with God’s intentions for how we are housed? This article provides some important insights to help us answer questions like these.

A study in stark contrasts

California homeowners are seeing another gold rush. What do they owe to neighboring renters who are struggling to catch up?

Lawrence K. Ho Los Angeles Times
“WHEN we collectively decide not to build housing even as our economy grows, we deliver a windfall to people lucky enough to own homes and a punishment to those who rent,” said Michael Manville, a UCLA professor of urban planning. Above, apartments in Koreatown.

I lived in an apartment until I was 8, when my parents scraped together a down payment and bought a modest little house on a cul-de-sac, taking hold of a deed that was our ticket to the kingdom of suburban California royalty.

Housing developments grew out of the dust all around us in eastern Contra Costa County, as working folks took out mortgages on their own sense of pride and belonging.

People extolled the benefits of owning, rather than giving money to the landlord. But in that time, you bought for the sake of inserting yourself into a dream decorated with shaded patios and manicured lawns, and not so much as an investment.

Today, home ownership in California is the best investment any of us will ever make, thanks, in large part, to a scarcity of housing. The pace of construction has not kept up with population growth and demand, so those of us with houses own a staggering amount of equity wealth that grows even as those without homes pay a higher price for survival.

California was always a model of stark contrasts in the realm of haves and have-nots. But as rents rise and wages stagnate, a majority of L.A.-area renters are paying more than onethird of their income on rent while thousands are paying 50% or more, with no end to these trends in sight.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of homeowners in Los Angeles and Orange counties have enjoyed super-low interest rates and seen their equity rise to all-time highs. Roughly one decade after thousands of people lost their homes in the housing crash, 96.4% of Californians with mortgages owe less than their homes are worth…..

In Los Angeles and Orange counties, 533,000 homes are owned free and clear, and the value of them is $402 billion. That works out to about $700,000 in equity for each owner.

Those who hold current mortgages in the two counties have $842 billion in equity wealth, lifting the two-county equity total to $1.2 trillion.

“A lot of moola,” said Frank Nothaft, who compiled the numbers and is chief economist at CoreLogic, which does global real estate market research. Californians with active mortgages, Nothaft said, have more than one-quarter of the nation’s $8.2 trillion in equity.

Well, good for us, right? By clever planning or dumb luck — and it’s mostly the latter in my case — we are modern-day prospectors in another great California gold rush.

The gains are rightfully owned, and people who have worked and paid their bills and built up a nice cushion for their retirement have no reason to apologize.

But the state with the fifth-largest economy in the world has the highest poverty rate — about 20% — when housing prices are factored into the cost of living. So here’s a question: Unless we’re living in a real estate bubble that’s about to burst, which is certainly possible, do those who have prospered owe anything to those who have fallen further behind, including teachers, nurses, laborers and others essential to both our economy and our best definition of community?

To learn Lopez’ answer to this question, see


A study in stark contrasts

Nov 22, 2017 Letter to Pasadena City Council to support Granny Flats

22 Nov

To: Pasadena City Council,  100 N. Garfield Ave.. Pasadena, CA 91109

Nov. 22, 2017

Dear Pasadena City Council Members,

Given that our state is 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. Therefore we recommend the following

  1. We recommend no Minimum lot size requirement to build a detached ADU. While we are thankful that the Planning Commission voted to adjust their recommendation to the City Council from 15,000 to 5,000 square feet property size in their last proposal to the City Council, we are recommending that Pasadena follow the lead of Arcadia, Burbank, Glendale, Monrovia, and LA County (Altadena), all which have no minimum lot size for detached ADUs. No more than 35% of single family home properties in Pasadena can be covered with structure. This alone is a significant deterrent to ADUs. Santa Cruz allows ADUs on properties of 4,500 square feet, Long Beach 4,800, Santa Monica 4,000 and some cities, Beverly Hills 6,000 and San Jose at 5,445.
  2.  ADUs should be allowed in all Landmark Districts, with or without the units being visible from the street.
  3. Increase the present 800 square feet limit on the unit size of the ADU to 1,200 square feet or 50% of the primary home, which is congruent with what the state law allows. This small 800 s.f. size is arbitrarily low, and does not accommodate the spatial needs of families residing in accessory residences. To have a healthy community and thriving school district we need children. 1,200 s. f. or 50% of the total living area of the primary dwelling is what South Pasadena, LA County, Santa Cruz and most cities allow.
  4. 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. The fees for ADUs in Pasadena for a 900 s.f. property are about $50,000, this is excessive and needs to be greatly decreased. (Temple City fees are $3,000). This is a deterrent from incentivizing homeowners to help contribute to California’s shortfall of 1.3 million housing units which is pushing up the cost. Santa Cruz, CA does all they can to incentivize ADUs, including building over garages, free architectural plans, low cost loans and more, but even with all these incentives, typically only 10-12 are built in a year. This low number of added units to Pasadena’s housing stock does not affect traffic or unfounded fears of higher density. These fees should be cut in half if not more.

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 taxpayer’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.
  10. We ask for the city to regulate the construction ADUs, 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.

For all the above reasons, we ask that you support our position.  Thank you for reading our letter and taking serious consideration of our recommendations.


Jill Shook, Chair of the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group


(626) 675-1316


Making Affordable Housing Happen in Pasadena: Our Story, God’s Story and the US/City Story, Nov 18th, register soon

9 Nov

Making Affordable Housing Happen event Sat. Nov. 18thOne day event on how and why to do biblically-based housing justice…

Who this is for?  This is for property owners, landlord, pastors and church leaders, city officials, community developers.  We want to work together to preserve and create new affordable housing options in Pasadena. 

 Where: Pasadena Church, 404 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena, CA  91104

 Date: Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017

 Time: 8:30am registration—event from 9-4:30pm

 Cost: Free, thanks to sponsors (which includes lunch) 


Dr. Jill Shook, Dan Davidson, Pastor of Rose City Church and Chair of Pasadena’s Faith Partnership to End Homeless and Rosebud Coffee (social enterprise employing homeless youth), Bill Huang, City of Pasadena Housing Director, and Andre White,  Affordable Housing Development Professional

 RSVP: Register by Nov. 15th: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/making-housing-happen-in-pasadena-tickets-39132411095

 Sponsors: Epicentre church, Lake Ave Church, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Knox Presbyterian, Pasadena Church, Pasadena Community Christian Fellowship, Rose City Church, Rosebud Coffee, Summit Evangelical

Any questions, call or text 626-675-1316


Next big roadblock for homeless housing

27 Jul

Mexican NIMBY’s (not in my back yard) are preventing  permanent supportive housing for our homeless neighbors. Jesus invited the most vulnerable to be the center of all his parables and teachings. We too need to be hospitable God will reward us. Isn’t it better to  have our homeless neighbors housed rather than on the streets?  We now have the funding with Measure H and Measure HHH. What we lack is the courage to overcome our fears and consider what really matters most- how we love our neighbors.


Homeless housing’s next big roadblock

“A  vacant lot between two venerable Eastside landmarks — Evergreen Cemetery to the west and the El Mercado mall to the east — is the focus of a dispute that portends difficulties for the city’s plans to spur the construction of 1,000 units of housing each year for the chronically homeless. A nonprofit developer has an option to build 49 affordable-housing units on the property, with half of them dedicated to chronically homeless people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill. It’s exactly the kind of project the city intends to support with the $1.2-billion homeless housing bond that voters approved in November. But it’s been stuck for nearly a year in the committee headed by one of the most vocal supporters of that bond, Councilman Jose Huizar…..”

The empty lot at 1st and Lorena streets where a nonprofit developer wants to build homeless housing.

Cities have nothing to fear from granny flats

27 Jul

I thank God for Chase Andre our intern from Fuller Seminary who helped us identify 140 back houses in Pasadena. We plotted these on a map and identified two neighborhoods in our city that are very similar. With the only difference that one neighborhood had over 50 granny flats and the other had only 3. We compared the two neighborhoods in terms of traffic,  parking,  crime, visible character of the neighborhood,  and property values. There was virtually no significant difference between these two neighborhoods. Our hope is that this will allay the fears of  any higher density  that may result  from  accessory dwelling units-those cute back houses that everyone would like to  live  in. I thank God for this article describing this comparative  analysis  that was  published  in our  local star news on July  14th.  Please  pray with us that this article will serve to turn fear into many opportunities to adequately house our community .



Granny Flats

Volunteers built a 500-square-foot accessory dwelling unit on this property in Santa Cruz in 2014. (File photo from Santa Cruz Sentinel)

“Fear of the unknown, fear of change and fear of lowered property values and traffic often stand in the way of constructive solutions to the Southern California housing crisis. One of the solutions, granny flats, known to planners as accessory dwelling units or ADUs, could add needed housing stock and help keep homes affordable for homeowners, with no cost to our cities themselves……”

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

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