LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To Mayor Gordo and the members of the Pasadena City Council:
By Carl Selkin
I am writing as co-chair of the Social Justice Committee of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center. Our group comprises congregants from a variety of political perspectives, but we take our common inspiration from our founding chairperson, Rabbi Marvin Gross.
Marv’s career with Union Station Homeless Services established an enduring and transformational response to those in need of shelter and community support—quality affordable housing, supportive services, education and employment. Our committee urges the Pasadena City Council to adopt the sensible and responsible proposal of churches within Pasadena to add a significant number of housing units to the limited inventory of appropriate residences for our homeless and at-risk neighbors.
Our synagogue is represented on the Pasadena Housing Department Faith Community Committee. Those of us from the Social Justice Committee of PJTC who serve on the FCC are mystified. Our city on the one hand recognizes the essential role of faith-based organizations in addressing and resolving the obstacles facing the inadequately housed while simultaneously resisting the proposal of many of these congregations to play an important role in actually doing rather than simply advising.
The churches would provide otherwise underutilized land to build high quality, permanently affordable residences, with supportive services already integral to their mission of care. They are seeking to benefit those who need help, not to support themselves. If churches wanted to capitalize on the need for housing, they could sell their land to developers who could build expensive single-family residences or market-rate multi-family projects, much the way some claim that Ambassador College and successors or Fuller Seminary reaped a windfall from their land. This is not the route mapped out by the current proposal.
The limited scope of this proposal– hopefully with the density to make development worthwhile for all those involved, including the creation of sufficient units to make a significant reduction in the need for shelter—is narrowly defined, well-designed and benefits Pasadenans in need, not the churches proposing to take action.
We hope that our council and mayor, city staff and the public, will realize the traditions, history and mission of our religious institutions that justify their tax-exempt status are not jeopardized but supported by this proposal. Of course, PJTC with no available land, has no “skin in this game.” But we do have a commitment to answering the call to justice and dignity.
The Social Justice Committee, Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center
July 7, 2022
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