Thursday, April 26, 2018

Become a Champion for Housing Homeless Seniors in Pasadena in Five Minutes or Less

We have a golden opportunity to house most of the homeless seniors in Pasadena on city-owned land that was purchased for affordable housing 15 years ago, and is now finally being considered for possible use as a site to house homeless seniors. This was the recommendation of the Housing Department since permanent supportive housing for the homeless is needed and fundable, but some members of the City Council are proposing that the property be sold for commercial development, thereby forfeiting a million dollars in HUD funding. We feel that "mixed use" of this property--commercial development plus permanent supportive housing--is a "win-win" for the City. If you agree, please join our campaign by taking action. It takes less than 5 minutes to write a letter but it can make a real difference. 

1) Write the city council using the template provided below and attached. Pick ONE talking point and either cut and paste it or use your own words. Also ask some of your friends to do likewise. It takes only a couple of minutes to send this kind of email and it's very important at this juncture to let our city council members know how you feel. Send your letter to, Please cc me at so we can track how many letters have been sent. Thanks!

2) Meet with your Councilmember. Call me (626-375-1423) or email me about setting up an appointment. Please let me know who your Councilmember is and when you can meet.

3) Canvas the neighborhood, collecting signatures. Let me know when you're available.

4) Come to City Council meeting to speak when this comes up for a vote. Invite your friends and neighbors.

Sample email to the Pasadena City Council
Dear Honorable Mayor and City Councilmembers,
I want to commend Vice Mayor John Kennedy for bringing to the attention of the City Council the South Heritage Square Property, which is a designated “affordable housing asset.” I also want to thank William Huang for his study showing that most needed and most easily fundable use of this property is for permanent supportive housing for homeless seniors
I support mixed use of this property, using the first floor for commercial development, and the top two floors for supportive housing for homeless seniors.
[Say something about yourself, for example: “I am a retired school teacher who lives in Councilmember Gordo’s district, or who attends church or works in Pasadena.”]
Choose one of the following talking points and either cut and paste it or express it in your own words. Send your email to


1 Does this project have the support of the community in Vice Mayor John Kennedy's District? During a community meeting in March, 80% of the community supported using this site for affordable housing and 80% opposed using this site only for commercial development. See Kennedy’s survey results:  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. 
2 Why use this property for homeless seniors? Supportive housing for seniors is the best option for this site because it is located on a busy commercial intersection, which is not ideal for families. Furthermore, families need more parking than do seniors and that would reduce the number of individuals who could be served, and also limit mixed use commercial development (restaurants require lots of parking). This site is better suited for seniors because it is close to already existing senior housing, a CVS, grocery stores and restaurants, and medical facilities (easily accessible by bus). Supportive housing for homeless seniors is fundable because of Measure H and other sources. Finally, the need is urgent, with the number of homeless seniors (those over 50 years of age) increasing 65% in three years, from 153 in 2016 to 253 in 2018. (Of these, 174 are unsheltered.)
3 What was the city’s intention for Heritage Square South? The North and South Heritage Square property was originally purchased in different parcels over a period of time by the City with HUD, inclusionary, Redevelopment, and other funding for affordable housing, starting in 2004. For political reasons, it was bifurcated in 2011 with the understanding that Heritage Square North would be used for affordable senior housing, and the southern part primarily for commercial use. When the state ended Redevelopment, however, the City changed its tune. The state wanted the City to sell the property and give them the proceeds, but the City argued that the property was an affordable housing asset and would be used for affordable housing. The state allowed the City to keep the property for this purpose. The City’s intention for this property has shifted over time, but it is currently designated for affordable housing. If it is sold for commercial use, the City must use the proceeds for affordable housing and will forfeit over a million dollars in HUD funding.
4 How can we be sure that those housed in Heritage Square South supportive housing will be from Pasadena? The City can give preference to Pasadena residents and to homeless seniors, of which there are 174 living on the streets of our city. It is likely that the vast majority of those housed will be homeless Pasadena seniors, many of whom will likely be from District 3. Almost all the current residents of Heritage Square North are from Northwest Pasadena. 30% are African American, 25% are Hispanic, 22% are Caucasians, and 18% are Asian.
5 If the property is mixed use, including supportive housing, will it generate local jobs?  The City can require local hires for the supportive housing portion of the project. For Heritage Square North, 20% were local hires, and 60% of materials used were purchased locally.  Supportive housing would provide economic benefits to the local community in ways that commercial development could not guarantee. Heritage Square left $ 6 million in the City because of its policy to provide local contracts and supplies. The beauty of Heritage Square North is not a stigma, but an asset to the community.
6 If the property is developed for commercial use, will it generate local jobs? Unlike city funded projects, such as affordable housing, there is no requirement for commercial developers to hire local contractors. Nor are commercial ventures required to hire local employees. Therefore, commercial development would not necessarily provide any jobs for local residents nor would there be any requirement for material to be purchased locally.
7Does it make sense to have mixed use on corner lots? The corner of Los Robles and Orange Grove has mixed use on a corner lot and that’s true of most corner lots in Old Town. It actually makes more economic sense to have mixed use than to have a one-story commercial property, like the CVS on the corner of Orange Grove and Fair Oaks.
8 Is this area saturated with affordable housing, and does that preclude developing it for homeless seniors?  It is not good policy to oversaturate an area with affordable housing, but exceptions can be made when there are community benefits. For example, when Mr. Gordo wanted to remove an unsightly liquor story from his district, he was able to use inclusionary funds to purchase this site and build affordable homes even though this area was saturated with affordable housing. He crafted a special exception which the Council approved, stating that off-site inclusionary projects can be built when a property is declared blighted and a legal non-conforming use, such as a liquor store.  This exception allowed the Summit Grove property to be built even though there was an oversaturation of affordable housing in its vicinity. This law was recently changed once again (the “and” was changed to “or”) so that the homeownership project on Lincoln and Orange Groove could be built on a property with a gas station.
9 The need for supportive housing for Pasadena’s homeless residents is growing rapidly. The number of unsheltered homeless residents in our City increased 33% in the past year. The number of homeless seniors has increased 65% in the past three years.  Since there is no supportive housing in the city pipeline, this number of homeless residents will undoubtedly increase over the next few years. There is a need to create multiple homeless housing projects, both short- and long-term.  Reducing our homeless population by providing housing will make our community safer and better for business.
10 What are the financial benefits of housing homeless seniors? Homeless seniors are likely to cost society more money in health care than younger and healthier homeless residents. Given the City’s budget crunch, it makes more economic sense to house homeless seniors in facilities with services provided by the County’s Measure H funding than to let them sicken and die on the streets, with various agencies in the City footing enormous medical bills. A Rand showed that housing homeless residents has saved the county $1.20  for every dollar spent on housing and supportive services.[1] According to an Economic Roundtable study, the cost of dealing with a homeless individual in LA County is around $5038 per month, vs $605 per month when they are provided with supportive housing. These costs increase with the age of homeless individuals. Based on this study, we can estimate the cost to Pasadena of having 69 homeless seniors living on the street to be around $4,171,464 per year. Housing them in supportive housing would run around $500,940, a savings of $3,670,524. This would be a huge financial benefit to our City. [2]

[1] “The financial impact of the program [supportive housing] could be dramatic, according to the report, which analyzed the experiences of 890 participants. The cost of services provided to those in the program fell by 60 percent in the year after they found permanent housing (from an average of $38,146 in the year before to $15,358 the next year).That drop is partially offset by the cost of operating the program (participants receive $825 per month housing vouchers and case management services worth about $450 per month). But, even with those costs factored in, the study found a 20 percent decrease in county expenses related to those residents.”
[2] These statistics are taken from the Economic Roundtable website and date back to 2009.

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