April 13, 2022 - From the April, 2022 issue

Pasadena Mayor Gordo Speaks Out Against SB 9 - What's at Stake!

Last month, appointed California Attorney General Rob Bonta warned the City of Pasadena that efforts to 'restrict' implementation of SB 9 by limiting applicability within 'landmark districts' violates state law. TPR here excerpts Pasadena Mayor Victor Gordo's letter in response, in which he dissects the real-world impacts of SB 9 on Pasadena planning and initiatives undertaken to build more affordable—rather than market-rate— housing. Mayor Gordo highlights the City's commitment to protecting its unique architecture and the character of its neighborhoods as irreplaceable cultural and educational resources. 


"This is not about the City of Pasadena preventing affordable housing, nor is it about a failure to comply with the law. Rather, these criticisms are politically motivated and not supported by the facts." -Victor Gordo

Dear Neighbors and Friends:
 
In recent weeks, the City of Pasadena has been the subject of several news reports, opinion pieces, a widely publicized letter, and even political Twitter postings from the State Attorney General regarding the City’s compliance with California Senate Bill 9 (“SB 9”), which became effective on January 1. Unfortunately, much of what is being reported about Pasadena does not conform to the objective facts. 
 
Pasadena can be proud of its many accomplishments, including its record of creating much needed housing, and as your Mayor, I cannot allow this unfounded criticism to go unanswered. 
 
It long has been obvious that additional affordable housing is needed in California, and our City leadership supports that view. But SB 9's approach is wrongheaded in taking a cookie-cutter approach to this need and treating all cities the same regardless of their particular facts. 
 
SB 9 allows any California land owner to divide an existing single-family parcel into two parcels and then allows the placement of two residential structures on each parcel. That’s right, under SB 9, with limited exceptions, four units are allowed on every single family residential parcel in our city. Can you say, overdevelopment? Furthermore, it does not require any of the new structures to be within the definition of “affordable housing.” So, for no affordable housing, we now will get increased traffic, more demands on our infrastructure, higher property costs, and the destruction of our neighborhoods as we’ve known them. Although the City Council strongly disagreed with this approach, it nonetheless decided in 2021 not to file litigation to block enforcement of SB 9, but instead determined to comply with it. That is exactly what Pasadena has done, and the City is in full compliance with SB 9.
 
Pasadena’s record on affordable housing is one of which all of us on the City Council are proud. We have recently built and retained 3,000 units of affordable housing, 1,000 more are in the works, and 500 are under construction today. We will continue to add new affordable housing stock as time passes and budgets permit. We also respect our historic structures and districts, based on the specific exemptions under SB 9 of historic and landmark districts from the new law.
In 1983, the City of Pasadena adopted an “historic preservation ordinance” and, apparently, unbeknown to those in Sacramento, in partnership with the National Park Service and the State of California, acquired designation as a Certified Local Government (CLG). This certification allows the City to designate neighborhoods with historic value as local landmark districts and to be registered on the National Register of Historic Places when the designated districts are determined to be of national significance. 
 
The idea is to protect Pasadena’s unique architecture, the character of its neighborhoods, and the educational and cultural resources that our unique community holds. The City made a determination that we could not allow the destruction of these important elements of our City. These valued or irreplaceable resources in our City have been—and must continue to be—protected from over-development and, importantly, remain available for study by planners, historians, architects, students, and others around the world.
 
Now, despite leading the way in developing affordable housing and determining to comply with SB 9 while protecting certain unique architecture as SB 9 specifically provides, the City is accused of egregious violations and bad intent. It even has been suggested that we are considering declaring the entirety of Pasadena an historic or landmark district. This simply is not true.
 
This is not about the City of Pasadena preventing affordable housing, nor is it about a failure to comply with the law. Rather, these criticisms are politically motivated and not supported by the facts. I am attaching for your information the City’s formal response to the Attorney General. You will find our response to the Attorney General’s letter is fact based, legally supported, and yes, forceful, because we will not allow Sacramento officials or media opinion makers to attack and mis-define us, as they do not know our City—the Pasadena that we all cherish. (Documents sent to the Attorney General)
 
Going forward, I respectfully encourage our Attorney General to get to know us before taking to Twitter to wrongfully and unfairly tarnish Pasadena’s good name—by now, we should all understand that governance by Twitter is ineffective.
 
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your concerns, questions, or suggestions.
 
Mayor Victor M. Gordo
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© 2022 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.