According to Tuesday’s state attorney general, Pasadena is breaking a new California law to improve affordable housing.
After denser housing advocates claimed that more than a dozen California communities had been trying to adopt restrictions in a hurry before Jan. 1, the second such action by Attorney General Rob Bonta. As the law was being reviewed in the Legislature last January, more than 150 cities opposed it.
The law allows homeowners to construct up to four units of residential housing on a single-family property. Bonta stated that this measure is necessary to address the state’s most populous housing and homelessness issues by increasing affordability and supply.
Bonta advised cities to “take seriously” their obligations under state housing laws or “we’ll hold you responsible.” Bonta’s staff stated that his office is looking at similar ordinances in other places.
Bonta, a Democrat created a new ” Housing Strike Force” within the state Department of Justice in November to investigate violations.
Pasadena, California’s largest city, adopted an ordinance less than a month before state law went into effect. This allows officials, among other restrictions, to exempt areas from the state law by declaring them “landmark district”
Bonta stated that there is no exemption from the law.
Bonta stated in a statement that the ordinance “undermines HTML9 and denies residents access to sorely needed additional housing under the guise protecting ‘landmark district’.” This is disappointing, and more importantly, it violates state law.
Pasadena’s mayor and city attorney, as well as its director for planning and community development, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Bonta issued a similar warning last month to Woodside , a wealthy Silicon Valley community. It had declared that the entire area was habitat for endangered cougars and exempted it from the notice. Several hours later, officials from the town said that they would still accept applications to increase housing.
Bonta informed Pasadena officials there was no exemption for “landmark district” under the state housing law. However, individual properties may be exempted if they are part a landmark, historic property, or historic district.
Bonta, however, stated in a letter to Pasadena officials the fact that these designations can’t be arbitrarily made and must be supported with substantial evidence.
He argued that Pasadena’s criteria are much more narrow and not linked to historical resources. Therefore, they could potentially include large areas of the city.
Bonta stated that city leaders made a mistake by adopting the restrictions “urgency ordinance”. Bonta stated that there was no evidence the state law would cause significant harm to public safety or health, nor the necessary “substantial evidence” of an unavoidable, quantifiable, and substantial impact.
Pasadena was asked to amend or repeal its ordinance in order to conform to the new state law. He did not say what would happen if it didn’t.
Toni Atkins, Senate President Pro Tem, praised Bonta for her efforts to counter what she called “interesting ways to really work against supportive Housing.”
She said that these efforts “really inhibit and undermine our ability” to provide housing for Californians during a forum hosted at the Sacramento Press Club. She stated that the goal was to “add gentle density while maintaining the quality of a neighbourhood.”