How to fix Pasadena’s Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance 

ADU ordinance - Pasadena
My opening argument supporting a more equitable ADU ordinance in Pasadena

Read my latest public comment letter to Pasadena City Council on the proposed amendments to the ADU ordinance.

The Council caved to NIMBY pressure and rejected the Pasadena Planning Department’s proposal for a more equitable ordinance.

More to come.

ADU Ordinance Update-Public Comment 19 June 2017-Jonathan P Bell

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The 1992 Los Angeles Uprising began 25 years ago today

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the 1992 Los Angeles Uprising.

I urge everyone to experience the immersive exhibits “No Justice, No Peace: LA 1992” and “Trouble Every Day: LA 1965/1992” at the California African American Museum.

The exhibits took me back to 1992, seeing the smoke plumes and ash from mom’s house in Montebello, thinking NWA had warned us this was coming again.

Today, some things are better in South Central L.A. Our SCLA unincorporated communities are rising through strong partnerships and civic engagement. But far too many structural inequalities throughout South Central remain.

Will history repeat a third time in L.A.?

The invisibility of code enforcement in planning praxis: The case of informal housing in Southern California

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Pretty cool to be published old school style: in print!

Read the latest from me and Jake Wegmann on #InformalHousing in Los Angeles: “The Invisibility of Code Enforcement in Planning Praxis: The Case of Informal Housing in Southern California,” (2016) FOCUS Journal, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dept of City & Regional Planning

Abstract: More and better engagement with working class neighborhoods and communities of color are urgent imperatives for the planning profession as the United States transitions to a “majority minority” population. Code enforcement personnel are already doing much of this work, normally in a much more collaborative and less heavy-handed manner than the name of their profession would suggest. However, at present the planning profession largely holds code enforcement at arms’ length. Using the example of the informal housing market in Southern California—managed on a daily basis by code enforcement officers, yet largely unaddressed by planners—we draw on survey and interview data and our own professional experiences to make four propositions about code enforcement work. These are that code enforcement work is unusually cumbersome; it is chronically understaffed; its personnel cope by working reactively rather than proactively; and the profession suffers low prestige as a result. We argue that ending the estrangement between code enforcement and planning would offer numerous benefits to the latter, including inculcating cultural competence in planners through “learning by doing” and working at street level, and injecting sorely needed “community data” into efforts to address vexing issues such as housing unaffordability.

The Dingbat is Dead. Long Live the Dingbat!

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You know the Dingbat apartment building even if you don’t know its history. Architecture historian Reyner Banham coined the Dingbat phrase in the 1970s. It’s that clunky stucco box with a quirky facade perched precariously above parking spaces. Maligned by some, revered by many, studied ad infinitum: the Dingbat is distinctively “L.A.” 

The newest scholarship on this typology is the delightful Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment as Projection of a Metropolis. This book is a meticulous and exhaustive analysis of one of the most misunderstood building types in Los Angeles. I recommend it highly.

The book’s many essays illuminate the Dingbat’s origins, meaning(s), and (possible) future(s). Pictures are plentiful. Diagrams and photo simulations abound. A newly developed Dingbat taxonomy provides a handy guidebook for spotting them in the environment. And whereas prior studies focus almost exclusively on the Dingbat’s unmistakable facade, Dingbat 2.0 ventures to step inside. Residents share what it’s like to live in this particular form of multifamily housing. This new dimension brings us closer to a “complete comprehension” of the Dingbat.

Dingbat 2.0 is a must-read for urbanists, architects, historians, housing advocates, and everyday Angelenos.

Shout out to Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and DoppelHouse Press for bringing this to life. The book is helping me finish my own ‘little polemic’ on a Dingbat near me.

An Open Letter to the Pasadena City Council Urging a Comprehensive Overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance

Read my “Open Letter to the Pasadena City Council Urging a Comprehensive Overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance,” published on UrbDeZine.

The Pasadena City Council will consider an amended ordinance tomorrow, Monday, Jan 30th at a 7pm public hearing. The amendment does the bare minimum to comply with the state’s relaxed standards for building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in your backyard. While the Pasadena Planning Commission removed some of the problematic standards, many “poison pills,” as I call them, remain in place.

Among the many ridiculous hurdles codified into the ordinance is a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet to build an ADU in a backyard. So unless you’re a wealthy estate owner, no granny flats here. The inequality is real af.

The original Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance was broken from the start. The amended ordinance remains unfair and unfeasible. There’s no date for the “anticipated comprehensive review” of the ordinance as part of Pasadena’s Housing Element Implementation Program. So my call for a comprehensive overhaul of the ADU ordinance remains unfulfilled.

http://losangeles.urbdezine.com/2017/01/29/pasadena-overhaul-second-dwelling-unit-ordinance/

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Latino Informal Housing session featured in APA Latinos & Planning December 2016 newsletter

After many years of ignoring unpermitted housing in the U.S., the planning field is finally coming around. The *unaffordable* housing crisis and rising incidents of fires in unpermitted dwellings pushed this issue into the spotlight. California found the audacity to pass AB 2299 and SB 1069 facilitating construction of safe and legal accessory dwelling units in all local jurisdictions. At long last, even the strictest Second Unit Ordinance laws are getting overhauled.

And over at the American Planning Association, I’m finally seeing a genuine interest in understanding the on the ground realities of informal housing. Not only did APA CA host my group’s Latino informal housing session at the 2016 conference in Pasadena, APA’s Latinos and Planning Division invited us to write a “Conference Spotlight” piece summarizing the session and its outcomes. My resulting article is published in the APA Latinos and Planning December 2016 newsletter. It’ll be of interest to planners, housing advocates, code enforcement inspectors, academics, and others working in the realm of housing and planning.

We’ll continue to elevate the informal housing debate going forward.

Local Press Supports our Demand for ADU Ordinance Overhaul in Pasadena

We’re winning the battle to overhaul the City of Pasadena‘s Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance. Building off our successful lobbying at #Pasadena Planning Commission, we’ve earned support from the local press.

In a 12/21 editorial published in the Pasadena Star News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Editorial Board backed our calls for ADU law reforms. They quoted me, and even used my “poison pill” fighting words.

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