Learn about Pasadena's emergency ordinance on SB 9.
The City of Pasadena in Los Angeles County is a very desirable place to live, due to its close proximity to L.A., suburban feel, and annual Rose Bowl football game. Like many cities in California, Pasadena recently adopted an urgency ordinance on Senate Bill 9. SB 9 is a groundbreaking new law that enables homeowners to subdivide their single-family property and build additional residential units on each lot. While many housing advocates support SB 9, some homeowners and local governments see it as a threat to single family neighborhoods and an overstep on the part of state government.
Pasadena's Interim Emergency Ordinance on SB 9
On December 13th 2021, Pasadena City Council approved an interim emergency ordinance on SB 9. The ordinance was extended in January 2022, and a permanent ordinance will eventually be adopted.
While adoption of SB 9 is compulsory throughout California, cities are able to impose specific design and development requirements via local ordinance. These standards must be objective, as SB 9 projects necessitate ministerial approval without assessment from a review board. This allows municipalities a certain amount of control over the developments, provided the local guidelines do not directly conflict with the state law.
For more information, visit Homestead's SB 9 City Guide for Pasadena! You can also compare grades between different cities in Los Angeles County and read SB 9 news articles about the city.
Congruent with state law
Senate Bill 9 includes several guidelines that cities may choose to include. Pasadena elected to adopt the following recommendations in their emergency ordinance:
- One off-street parking spot is required per unit. Exceptions must be made for properties within a half-mile walk of a major transit stop. According to state law, exceptions are also required for properties within one block of a car share vehicle.
- Minimum 4' side and rear setbacks. This requirement does not apply to new units constructed in the same location and to the same dimensions as an existing housing structure. Front setbacks are determined by applicable zoning code.
- Floor area and height determined by zoning code. Although Pasadena considered limiting SB 9 units to 800 square feet and 1 story (as many restrictive ordinances have), the city decided instead to allow SB 9 units the same size and height guidelines as other development within the residential zone.
In addition to these optional requirements, there are a number of provisions in the state law that are mandatory. For instance, the state law includes a prohibition of short-term rentals, as all rental periods must be a minimum of 30 days. For a full understanding of the state law's requirements, read our Guide to Senate Bill 9.
Different from state law
Pasadena chose to include some provisions that effectively complicate, limit, or otherwise discourage development. These include:
- Excessive landscaping requirements. Among other requirements, the ordinance dictates that each lot must have a garden of specific proportions, visible from the street.
- Exclusion of landmark districts. CA Attorney General Bonta issued a warning to Pasadena that their "landmark district" SB 9 exemption is in violation of the state law, which allows cities to prohibit development on registered landmark and historic properties, as well as homes within a registered historic district. It is likely that Pasadena will need to alter its ordinance to remove the limitations on liberally applied "landmark districts."
- ADUs and JADUs prohibited for projects that include a lot splits AND two-unit development. Although the state law allows (ADUs) and junior accessory dwelling units (JADUs) in conjunction with lot splits and duplex development, it gives cities the option to prevent this development combination.
Pasadena and SB 9: Past, Present, and Future
Pasadena is one of several cities around the state that has expressed hesitation or opposition regarding the new SB 9 law. In September 2021, the Mayor of Pasadena signed a letter urging Governor Newsom to veto SB 9. Many City Councilmembers expressed their distaste for the proposed bill long before the California State Assembly passed it into law.
Because many Pasadena city officials have opposed SB 9 since its inception, it's not surprising that they've chosen to mitigate the effects of the bill with a strict local ordinance.
Again, the above standards are part of a temporary city ordinance regarding SB 9, and the permanent ordinance may differ. However, it is likely that many of the provisions will make their way into Pasadena's permanent implementation guidelines. Pasadena has disregarded AG Bonta's warning and amended their municipal code to reflect the emergency ordinance. The city plans to pass a permanent ordinance in late spring or early summer of this year.
As the Attorney General has warned, there is certainly a possibility of legal battles ahead for Pasadena and other cities that choose to place more restrictive requirements on SB 9 developments. With home prices continuing to rise throughout California, every city and county has a responsibility to help reduce the affordable housing crisis. If they choose to embrace it, Senate Bill 9 can help Pasadena do its part.