San Marino Discusses Alternatives for Affordable Housing

By Vuong, Zen | Pasadena Star-News, August 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

San Marino Discusses Alternatives for Affordable Housing


Vuong, Zen, Pasadena Star-News


SAN MARINO - Residents and planning commissioners Wednesday discussed how to meet state-mandated affordable housing requirements without downgrading their own quality of life.

The average San Marino resident has paid about $1 million for his home, according to American Community Survey 5-year Estimates, so homeowner Bob Reed said it's reasonable that he wants to keep "San Marino a very special town."

"The attractive thing about San Marino is there are strict rules here in terms of building and housing," said Reed, who has lived there for nearly three decades. "I'm not interested in sharing my neighborhood with people that I deem not up to snuff in terms of keeping our property values and everything else up, and I have the right to say that because I've invested a fortune."

City staff must finalize San Marino's Housing Element proposal to meet California's affordable housing obligation, the Regional Housing Needs Allocation.

While San Marino has never met all of the of the Department of Housing and Community Development's statutory housing requirements, continuing this trend could lead to a lawsuit.

"In the event of a lawsuit, the court can make the decision for you," said Veronica Tam, a city planning and housing policy consultant. "What we want is to meet the law with the most palatable choice that your city can meet."

Because San Marino wasn't certified for its 2008-2013 Housing Element, it was is forced to add 15 low-income units to the required two for 2013-2021. Seven of these 17 units are designated for people with extremely low or very low income.

Although the state doesn't mandate that local municipalities develop based on their Housing Element, local city officials must show that there is space and city codes do not prevent low-income residents from moving in.

"Realistically, it's probably never going to happen," said Amanda Merlo, San Marino's planning and building assistant, in an effort to placate Reed, whose strong distaste for affordable housing in San Marino was reflected in the about 10 residents and three planning commissioners in attendance.

"The city of San Marino shouldn't have low-income units to share with low-income people," Chairman Se-Yao Hsu said.

The Housing Element draft said research shows that "it would not be possible for extremely low-income, very-low income, low-income, median-income or moderate income (families) to afford to purchase a house in San Marino."

Incorporated in 1913, San Marino is mostly composed of large, single-family homes and the median household income is about $154,000, according to 2011 U. …

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