I appreciate your running a news brief about the homelessness crisis in Pasadena and the grievous decision on the part of the Pasadena City Council to give away to another city over $470,000 slated for homeless housing in Pasadena (“Looming Senior Crisis,” June 21), but I’d like to clarify some points that were unclear in the article.
First, the property known as Heritage Square South was part of a larger parcel that was purchased by the city fourteen years ago with HUD and other funds for affordable housing. () The northern half of the property was developed for affordable senior housing and now houses 70 seniors, but the southern half was left vacant for political reasons. Some councilmembers wanted to sell it to a commercial developer even though that meant forfeiting $ 1.3 million dollars in HUD funding. ()
At the beginning of 2018, Vice Mayor John Kennedy (in whose district the property is located) asked the Housing Department to research nine options for using the property. These options were presented to the City Council on Feb. 5, with housing homeless seniors recommended as the best use of the property. (Obviously, the worst option would be to sell the land to a commercial developer at a huge financial loss.) ()
Even though Pasadena is facing an escalating homelessness crisis, with a 65 percent increase in the number of homeless seniors over the last three years, the Council could not decide whether to sell this affordable housing asset to a commercial developer or let it be used for homeless housing. The Council asked a sub-committee of the City Council called Ed Tech (Economic Development and Technology) to study this issue, make a recommendation and return it to the City Council within three months. Despite the urgent need, Ed Tech has not had a public discussion of this property during the past five months.
During this period, a survey was made of the neighbors near this property and 80 percent want it used for homeless housing. () A growing consensus of religious leaders and homeless service providers have signed petitions and written letters urging the City Council to use Heritage Square South for homeless housing. In many areas of Los Angeles and elsewhere NIMBYs (“Not in my backyard”) are making it hard to get approvals for such land use. But Pasadena is facing the opposite problem. The neighbors overwhelming want this housing on South Heritage Square. ()
The only resistance has come from the City Council, which has not funded a single homeless housing project in three years. According to the 2018 Homeless Count, lack of permanent supportive affordable housing is a major reason why our city’s homeless count has skyrocketed. ()
That’s why many people of faith and of conscience believe that our city is facing not only a homelessness crisis, but a moral crisis. I hope this clarifies why there have been two prayer vigils on this site and why the religious community of our city is urging the City Council to take immediate action to house our homeless seniors. As religious leaders in our city wrote in an open letter on June 6 that appeared in Pasadena Now: “We are fighting desperately to convince the city to designate one location for housing 68 homeless seniors. This is a huge battle, and it really shouldn’t be. In the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, ‘This is no time for neutrality.’ No more commissions, studies, task-forces or empty promises.” ()
Anthony Manousos is a Quaker peace and justice advocate, member of the Pasadena Area Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG), and retired magazine editor and college professor.
[i] “The city acquired the main portion of what is commonly referred to as the “Heritage Square” project site in 2004, and additional parcels in 2007-2008. The J total assembled site (2.75 acres) consisted of Heritage Square South and the parcels to the north upon which the BRIDGE senior housing project was developed. In 2006 the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Heritage Square project which contemplated a mix of residential and commercial uses, with residential being the predominant use. The intention was that affordable senior housing would be the primary use on the northern half of the Heritage Square site, and “commercial uses shall be located in a vertically mixed-use building” on the southern half of the Heritage Square site (“Heritage Square South”). The 2006 RFP process was unsuccessful in bringing forward a feasible project. Ultimately, the city issued an RFP in 2011 to solicit affordable senior housing development proposals for the northern half of the Heritage Square site. The 2011 RFP resulted in the selection of developer BRIDGE Housing and the successful completion of Heritage Square Apartments.” See http://ww2.cityofpasadena.net/councilagendas/2018%20Agendas/Feb_05_18/AR%2012.pdf. See also my blog for more details on this and other matters. My blog has been vetted for accuracy by Bill Huang, director of the Pasadena Housing Department. See https://laquaker.blogspot.com/2018/04/become-champion-for-housing-homeless.html
[iv] https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-25G2T2Y68/ Religious leaders and churches have signed over 400 letters in support of homeless housing for seniors, and two prayers vigil on the property attracted 20 and 60 people, many from the nearby neighborhood. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which comprises most of the African American churches in this area, supports using Heritage Square South for homeless housing. We have gone door to door surveying businesses and neighbors and most were willing to sign petitions of support, which were sent to the City Council.
[vi] http://pasadenanow.com/documents/PasadenaHomelessCount2018.pdf. See p. 9: “Impacts of the Housing Crisis Evident: There was a significant increase (36%) in the number of persons who did not meet HUD’s definition of chronic homelessness, meaning they were not homeless for more than 12 months or did not have a qualifying disability (including substance use or mental illness). For this population, high rents and a shortage of housing caused them to fall into homelessness. In 2016, the housing cost burden for the lowest-income renter households in Pasadena exceeded 100%, meaning their income was not enough to cover rent.”