After two years of discussion, South Pasadena appears poised to adopt a requirement for affordable units in new residential developments.
By William J. Kelly
South Pasadena’s Planning Commission is set to take up drafting an ordinance with city staff at its meeting next Tuesday, Dec. 15. In a memo to the commission, City Planning Director Joanna Hankamer said her goal is to have the panel recommend an ordinance in January that could be adopted by the City Council before winter is over.
Affordable housing requirements, generally known as inclusionary housing ordinances, typically require new development projects to have a certain percentage of affordable units, including both low- and moderate-income units and sometimes units dedicated to seniors on fixed incomes. Several California cities, including Pasadena, already have such ordinances on the books.
Upscale developments and lack of affordable housing
In South Pasadena, the push for an affordable housing requirement comes as several recently approved upscale projects that will lack affordable units are now under construction or soon will break ground. It also comes in response to recently passed state laws requiring cities to do more to see that affordable housing is built.
One of the upscale developments that’s bereft of affordable units is the 38-unit Mission Bell project being built on Mission Street by South Pasadena billionaires Andrew and Peggy Cherng, who founded Panda Express. Its lack of affordable apartments became a lightning rod for housing-rights activists in the city. Adoption of an inclusionary ordinance would place new affordable housing requirements on such future projects.
Structure of the ordinance
Hankamer says the upcoming ordinance could provide developers with numerous routes to compliance. These could include:
- Meeting certain percentage requirements for inclusion of affordable units in projects;
- Paying in-lieu fees the city would accumulate in a trust fund dedicated to financing affordable housing;
- Developing affordable units in other locations; and
- Allowing exceptions to design standards, including height limits, parking space requirements, and setback standards.
Support for inclusionary ordinance; ADUs
Hankamer notes that in a series of meetings held on affordable housing in 2019 South Pasadena residents generally voiced support for developing an inclusionary ordinance to boost the number of affordable units in the community. She did add, though, that they also raised concerns about the impacts on parking and the specifics of the ordinance.
Residents also backed making it easier for single-family homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, commonly known as granny flats, in their backyards. The City Council adopted an ordinance to facilitate more of those units in 2019.
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