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City Amends General Plan for More Housing Density

By Eric Licas
The Review

South Pasadena City Councilmembers amended the General Plan last week to make way for a higher density of homes to be built in certain residential areas, continuing the implementation of the housing element.
Previous construction limits of 14 residential units per acre in areas zoned for medium-density housing and 24 units per acre in high-density sections will go up to 30 units and 45 units per acre, respectively. The affected areas are mostly located along the length of Huntington and Fair Oaks, with pockets on Monterey Road and Hawthorne Street west of Glendon Way.
“This really brings zoning into where I think we were headed in the first place,” Councilman Jon Primuth said ahead of a vote on the matter at the Jan. 17 meeting.
The update makes the General Plan, South Pasadena’s blueprint for future development, more consistent with the housing element. That’s the city’s roadmap for meeting a state-issued directive to account for the addition of more than 2,700 homes by 2029.
South Pasadena first had a deadline of Oct. 15, 2021, to get a housing element approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development. But the first four versions of the document were rejected, leaving the matter unresolved well into 2023.
Last October, Councilmembers approved a fifth draft of the housing element. The latest version has won conditional approval from the HCD, pending updates to relevant zoning laws and documents.
The recent amendment to the General Plan takes South Pasadena one small step closer to meeting the statewide mandate to expand the availability of homes amid an ongoing housing shortage. Additional issues must still be ironed out, including an upcoming referendum to alter or remove existing height limits on residential buildings.
“South Pasadena is mostly built out,” Deputy City Manager Domenica Megerdichian said. “To add density, you really have to think about going up.”
Councilmembers voted 4-0 to approve the General Plan amendment, with Councilwoman Janet Braun abstaining due to absence.

Elsewhere during the meeting, Primuth raised concerns over Mayor Evelyn Zneimer’s choice to become the South Pasadena Library Board of Trustees’ newest member.
While he said he did not oppose the person, Minsun Meeker, for the position, he was concerned over the lack of experience. Primuth pointed out that longtime board member and its current president, Dean Serwin, had also been seeking reappointment.
When asked about her rationale for the choice, Zneimer said she wanted to add “fresh blood” to all of the city’s advisory boards. Primuth responded by asking if it would be possible to add a seat to the library’s board so that Serwin could continue to lend his experience to the body.
City staff was unsure whether such a change was within the City Council’s purview, noting that library boards are subject to some regulation from the California Department of Education. Zneimer added that Braun, Council’s liaison on library matters, was absent at last week’s meeting, and so discussion on the matter was set aside for a future session.

First published in the January 26 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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