WISPPA, a community group providing a forum for South Pasadena residents to discuss city issues and city council, met for an annual meeting with state Sen. Anthony Portantino at the South Pasadena Senior Center on Nov. 5.
During the meeting, the community group voted for a slight name change from Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Activism to Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Advocacy. Following the name change decision, the existing WISPPA executive board was reelected. The agenda also called for membership renewals, which WISPPA expects to be 80 in 2023.
“What we do is provide a forum for residents and city staff so they could ask questions and have a line of communication with those individuals. We provide access so residents can speak directly to city staff about concerns,” WISPPA president Mary Urquhart said.
The next WISPPA meeting is expected to be in January, however, a specific day and whether the meeting will be in-person or online has not been decided on by the executive board. More information on WISPPA and upcoming community forums can be found on group’s website, wisppa.org.
WISPPA does not take a stance on issues concerning the community, Urquhart explained. Rather, the forums are meant to be informative and seek to address timely community issues and concerns.
Topics for upcoming community forums were suggested by members and among the initial topics, housing in South Pasadena, particularly dealing with the city’s housing element draft, was the foremost inquired about and referenced by WISPPA members.
Since 2020, the city has been working on an updated housing element draft for the period of October 2021-29 and has yet to present an acceptable housing plan to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for approval.
The housing element should plan for a city’s existing and projected housing needs for residents of all incomes, in compliance with state housing laws and criteria identified by the Southern California Association of Governments, a state-recognized joint authority made up of city and county representatives.
According to SCAG’s regional housing needs assessment, 2,067 units need to be identified in the city’s housing element for feasible development and retention within the eight-year period, regardless of whether the housing is actually built.
After failing to produce, then adopt, an acceptable housing element by the HCD deadline of October 2021, nonprofit Californians for Homeownership filed a lawsuit against the city “for being far behind their peers in the housing element process, having demonstrated a hostility toward adequate housing planning or both,” according to the nonprofit’s website.
A settlement was reached between CFH and the city in August 2022, underscoring a fourth draft housing element deadline in December 2023, with a final deadline of May 2023 in the case of another HCD rejection. The settlement, among other requests, also asks the city to seek voter approval to repeal the 45-foot height limit constraining residential or mixed-use development projects by December 2024.
There are currently 118 other cities within SCAG’s purview that are also not compliant with state housing element requirements, according to HCD housing element data. Within Los Angeles county, only 35 out of 89 cities have met HCD’s housing element compliance, which leaves 54 cities still without an acceptable housing element plan.
Councilmember Diana Mahmud attended the WISPPA meeting and commented on the city’s housing element situation.
Madmud mentioned the city’s previous housing element update from 2014 to 2021, which previously called for the development of 63 housing units within the planning period compared to the current housing element criteria calling for 2,067 units.
“HCD has been very inconsistent … HCD is making us go back to every single site that we have identified as a potential housing site and they can do that because were a small city. HCD previously has accepted the housing elements, months ago, for Los Angeles city and county. You can bet your bottom dollar that L.A. city or county was required to jump through the same hoops that we are,” she said.
In response, Portantino said he believes that cities should be incentivized for developing more housing and rewarded to keep the cycle of housing development going.
“To me it’s about delivering housing at the end of the day so we should have policies that encourage housing in a doable way. It’s a fascinating conversation,” he said.
Portantino followed the nearly 20-minute discourse on the housing element by updating the community advocacy group on bills he recently passed. The bills the senator referenced ranged from mental health awareness, active transportation safety, arts and entertainment venue funding, investigations into credible violent threats and safe gun storage. Bills named were SB 906, SB 1327, SB 1116 and SB 932.