Planning Commission Approves Zone Code Change to Allow Affordable Housing for Multi-Family Homes on Religious Sites – Pasadena Now

The Pasadena Planning Commission on Wednesday voted 7-2 in favor of proposed changes to the city’s zoning code that would allow affordable multi-family housing on the property of religious facilities in zones where housing is not currently permitted.

For the past year, the city has been discussing the use of unused land on church property for residential construction.

In previous public hearings, some members of the planning commission recommended allowing affordable housing not only on church lands but also on lands owned by institutional entities such as schools and nonprofits, but the final proposal voted on by the commission recommended allowing affordable housing only on religious sites as a pilot program.

The amendment allows a maximum of 75 dwelling units “by operation of law,” but requires a minor conditional occupancy permit for projects that exceed the threshold.

By rights projects are subject only to Design Commission review—no hearing officers or planning commissions are required for conditional use permits or other discretionary powers.

At previous meetings, some planning commission members recommended that all projects should be 100 percent affordable, but this was not included in the final proposal.

Instead, the approved proposal stipulates that sales projects must have 80 percent of the total number of units available to middle-income households, at least 50 percent of available units to low-income households, and 30 percent to households with an income of 150 percent of the area median income

Rental unit projects must include at least 80 percent of units available to low-income households.

Commissioners Julianna Delgado and Carol Hunt Hernandez are the two commissioners who voted against the staff’s recommendation. They pushed for a continuation to give staff time to absorb the commissioners’ suggestions and clarify the specific changes that would go into the regulation, but this did not garner majority support.

“The amendment really does not adhere to equal rights protections that guarantee a level playing field, which is the very essence of our democracy. The same statements that we make for this type of use, for a single use, we could make for all institutional uses,” Delgado said.

“I don’t understand why other nonprofit and other institutional uses aren’t included and why we shouldn’t give them the same privilege — and why Pasadena actually prefers one use and doesn’t give others in a similar situation the same opportunity,” Delgado added.

“I support that. I’ve been here all along and it’s been a long time,” said Planning Commission Chairman Steven Olivas. “If we want to extend this to institutions in general, we can come back to that at a later date.”

In the meantime, the personnel proposal has been approved along with several recommendations from the members of the Planning Commission.

Adopted recommendations include the following: housing units added to church sites with historically appropriate or historically designated churches must meet Home Secretary standards; For the low-income housing, a 55-year pledge is required to protect the type of housing if the church dissolves; Accommodation must be owned and operated by a non-profit organization that is independent of the house of worship.

City officials expect the proposal to reach City Council in May.

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