Pasadena church wants to build affordable housing – but it may take time – Pasadena Star News
“Take care of your neighbor” is a tenet of religions around the world, and this is exactly what many churches in Pasadena are attempting to do by building affordable housing on their own sacred grounds.
As a community-oriented church located in the North Central neighborhood, Pastor Othella Medlock of New Life Holiness Church said his congregation was mostly made up of single mothers or working class people whose families were part of the community. the church for generations. In its heyday, locals could tune into New Life’s weekly radio ministry on Sunday mornings after finding a meal at its food bank.
“We used to go on the Black History Parade and had a carnival on the property every year,” Medlock said. “But over time the membership has dropped dramatically, mainly because people cannot afford to live in Pasadena.”
Fortunately, her father had the foresight decades ago to purchase four plots of land where she hopes to soon build affordable housing and senior housing for her congregation and the surrounding community.
“They are in negotiations with a development partner and they have their plan,” said Philip Burns, who works with The Arroyo Group to support congregations in Southern California who want to build affordable and achievable housing.
In total, nearly 50 churches in Southern California have expressed interest in building housing on their land, he added. “Unfortunately, the block is zoning.”
Like many religious institutions in Pasadena, New Life Holiness Church is strictly zoned for commercial purposes, so no residential development is permitted on site.
Under current city laws, a church can house temporary shelters in its parking lots, but rent and other charges cannot be billed, and people can only stay for a maximum of 60 days.
California lawmakers attempted to fix the problem last year through Senate Bill 899, which sought to allow religious institutions to build 100% affordable housing projects through a process that would not require approval. planning commission or city council, but it was never signed. law.
However, residents trust Pasadena City Council members to make the change. After all, the council considered easing zoning restrictions in October after pastors and members of the surrounding religious community met with city leaders.
City Councilor Andy Wilson took the case to council after it was reviewed by the Planning Commission twice that summer. He called for a new law to allow homes on church property, but staff decided to incorporate such changes into the city’s master plan for future residential development, called the housing component of the plan. general.
Wilson said this week he still believes allowing homes on plots owned by religious organizations would be a victory in every way.
Pasadena will be filing a new housing item with the state this fall, so hopefully the change is “imminent,” Wilson said. The proposal makes sense for a city with a mandate to build 9,409 units of new residential units by 2029 to meet its regional housing needs assessment.
“I was hoping something would happen faster, but that hasn’t been shared with the board yet. Some of us were disappointed and wondered why we are consolidating things if it looks like it could go faster on its own. But, we’re a few months away from having to drop off a housing item, so at this point I’m looking forward to seeing the details on how we can bring this option to life.
In its current form, the Housing Component Project lists “creating standards and a review process for the creation of housing in religious institutions” as an objective. But the timeline for getting there is by 2025.
Burns believed the council was on the verge of creating an ordinance last year, so he was surprised to see that the timeline had been pushed back to 2025.
“We have developed on land owned by the city, which is great, but there is not a lot of it, and the congregations are already social service institutions in the community that have additional space,” Burns said. “So it’s the opportunity that makes the most sense.”
Burns said New Life Holiness Church’s development partner likely won’t wait for rule changes if the process doesn’t end soon.
This makes Medlock fear that the church will have to start the whole process over from scratch if a decision is not made quickly.
“It doesn’t make sense that we are willing, as Christians, to give and share this land that we have with the community, but we cannot,” she said. “We believe that if we are allowed to do so, then we will fulfill the mission given to us by the Higher Power – which we serve while serving the community at the same time. “