Embedded Planning in MIT master’s thesis on ADUs in Los Angeles

Embedded Planning in Hannah Diaz MCP thesis Recommendations, MIT 2019
Embedded Planning in Hannah Diaz’s MCP thesis Recommendations, MIT 2019

EmbeddedPlanning has spread into urban planning student projects. One among many examples is Hannah Diaz’s MIT master’s thesis on Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) pilot programs in Los Angeles, titled “Bidding AD(ie)U to Homelessness?”

Originally from California, Hannah wanted to write a thesis addressing the highly personal issue of homelessness back home. Affordable ADUs are part of the solution. Hannah interviewed me and several L.A. planning colleagues for this project. I shared my street-level experience with regulation and legalization of informal ADUs. I was honored to see Embedded Planning mentioned in Hannah’s Recommendations, as it implores planners to understand planning’s technocratic work from a “human perspective and weigh the effects of regulations on real, familiar lives.”

YES!

Congratulations Hannah Diaz on completing your Master in City Planning at MIT Urban Planning #MITDUSP! Onward to professional praxis 🙌

 

Medina Family ADU talk returns to UC Irvine Urban Planning

Medina Family ADU talk at UCI, May 31, 2019

TODAY—I’m at @ucimurp delivering the Medina Family ADU Story in Prof. Lynda Hikichi’s class UPPP 275: Site Development. This is the 9th rendition of this public talk and the 2nd time UCI Urban Planning & Public Policy hosts it, thank you! If you’re on campus or nearby, come through: Room 3240 in the SBSG-Social & Behavioral Sciences Gateway building, 11:30am—12:30pm.

ABSTRACT: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Through storytelling, reflection and #EmbeddedPlanning praxis, presenter Jonathan Pacheco Bell @c1typlann3r, a zoning enforcement planner in South Central #LosAngeles, presents the story of the Medina Family from the #SouthCentralLA community of @FlorenceFirestone, who built an informal backyard Accessory Dwelling Unit #ADU for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered inspection and eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. Jonathan himself ordered its removal. Attendees will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, and Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. To help himself cope emotionally and to spotlight this family’s housing struggle, Jonathan has turned the experience into a speaking tour offering takeaways for planning policy, practice, and pedagogy. Jonathan will explain the @EmbeddedPlanning approach at the story’s core. This talk will inspire emerging planners to adapt and respond to the problem of housing insecurity with empathetic, activist, street-level planning #praxis.

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at Stanford Engineering

Stanford SUS
We brought the Medina Family ADU Story to Stanford Engineering on November 15, 2018. The Medina Family experience happens across all spaces, places, geographies, and jurisdictions. We need new audiences and new advocates. Photo courtesy of Derek Ouyang at Stanford SUS.

If you’ve been to my Medina Family ADU Story, or plan to attend an upcoming talk, you’ll see I get choked up. Happens every time. I don’t even try to suppress it anymore. This was a harrowing experience for the Medinas, and for me. My #EmbeddedPlanning praxis rejects the technocratic detachment of Rational Planning orthodoxy. When we shed tears, those tears are earned.

For the Medinas, removing the backyard dwelling built to generate income after the passing of their head of household worsened the stress that started it all. Ordering the removal after knowing the Medinas’ story made me question strict enforcement of #InformalHousing. The dwelling was not substandard—it was simply out of zoning compliance. All of this predated California’s relaxed State ADU Laws, so the only option was to demolish it. This was in 2016. After 10 years on the job, I’d finally realized that “Penalties or Demolition” was a false dilemma fallacy in #ADU enforcement. We’re trying to change this outcome for other folx.

The ending part is emotional for me. I conclude with slides featuring each member of the Medina Fam. I wanted audience members to understand the impact of rigid zoning on real people. I wanted to evoke an emotional response. And every time it works . . . on ME.

The final slide is of little Janelle. Janelle represents the future of #LosAngeles.

This effort is for her.

Gracias Derek Ouyang, Tyler Pullen, and Stanford Engineering Sustainable Urban Systems.

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at the SF Urban Film Fest

SFUFF-Medina ADU Talk-SPUR
Janelle represents the future of Los Angeles. This effort is for her. Photo courtesy of Amy Thomson at SPUR

People’s lives are at the heart of Planning. Planners: befriend the community, get to know constituents personally, invest your heart into bettering THEIR lives and you’ll always have a righteous mission.

I could not do this series of public talks on #InformalHousing without permission & support of the Medina Family. My regulatory responsibility resulted in the removal of their informal #ADU but ironically brought us closer together. Theirs was a hard first lesson in Planning & Zoning. They knew others endure the same struggle. The Medinas permitted my public talks because they knew sharing their experience would help other residents & Other Planners understand the street realities of informal housing in working-class communities of color. They entrusted me to tell their story. They granted me a righteous mission.

Planners! We must draw inspiration from The People we serve.

The Medina Family—Flora, Josefina, Maria, and Janelle—they inspire me. Janelle represents the future of #LosAngeles. THIS IS FOR HER ♥️

Gracias Fay Darmawi for including us in the 2018 SF Urban Film Fest, SPUR Urbanist for hosting us, & SPUR’s Amy Thomson for photographing this moment.

#EmbeddedPlanning

Public talk on Embedded Planning, Informal Housing, & the Medina Family ADU Story at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology

A Matter of Necessity-Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning-UCI Urban Planning and Public Policy-25Oct2018
“A Matter of Necessity”: Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning at UCI School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning and Public Policy, 25 October 2018

I’m honored to serve as UCI MURP Planning Visions Guest Speaker delivering my public talk, “A Matter of Necessity:” Understanding Informal Housing through Embedded Planning, at UC Irvine School of Social Ecology, Department of Urban Planning & Public Policy, Thursday, Oct 25th, 11:30a-1:00p. The event is made possible through the initiative of 2nd year MURP candidate Irene Aceituno. She will introduce me as speaker, discuss UCI’s Diversity in Planning Fellows program, & emphasize the value of mentorships in planning. The talk is Free & Open To All. RSVP at Eventbrite.

SUMMARY: This presentation puts a human face on California’s housing crisis. Jonathan Pacheco Bell, a zoning enforcement planner in Los Angeles County, will tell the story of the Medina Family from the South Central L.A. community of Florence-Firestone, who built an informal backyard dwelling for extra income after the sudden passing of their head of household. An anonymous complaint triggered an inspection & eventual demolition of the dwelling for code violations. It was Jonathan himself who ordered its removal. Audience members will understand the emotional roller coaster the family endured while embroiled in this regulatory process, & Jonathan’s inner conflict with the outcome. Key takeaways for planning policy, practice & pedagogy will be offered. This talk demonstrates that the rules we enforce can have unintended consequences, especially in working class communities of color.

BIO: Jonathan Pacheco Bell (@c1typlann3r) is a public sector Urban Planner in Los Angeles County with over 12 years of experience in zoning enforcement. He is a fierce advocate for the unincorporated areas of South Central Los Angeles. On any given day you will find him in the unincorporated community of Florence-Firestone partnering with stakeholders to improve quality of life.

A field-based planner, Bell researches, writes, & speaks about informal housing, unorthodox community outreach, and South Central L.A. history from his unique, on the ground perspective. He calls his praxis Embedded Planning.

A product of the California public school system from kindergarten to graduate school, Bell holds an MAUP from UCLA Luskin & an MLIS from SJSU iSchool.

Pasadena’s ADU Ordinance Remains Broken. Here’s How to Fix it.

Pasadena ADU Ordinance Update Community Meeting


I was unable to attend tonight’s ADU ordinance community meeting hosted by Pasadena Planning Department. In lieu of in-person commentary, I emailed this public comment letter to staff.

My position hasn’t changed from June 19, 2017, when Pasadena City Council voted against a comprehensive ADU ordinance update advanced by our housing coalition. 

As it stands today, Pasadena’s ADU ordinance remains broken. But we can fix it. The Pasadena City Council must drop its excessively-cautious, comfy-centrist, shortsighted, nostalgic, legally dubious, “I only wanna maintain votes in my SFR zones” mentality, and instead adopt a comprehensive ADU ordinance update that provides a safe and legal pathway for ADUs for working folks. 

Designing Housing Solutions workshop @ #APACA2017

California’s housing crisis is at a breaking point. We need new ideas and strategies — now! Planners, urbanists, policymakers, designers, students: you’re invited to this innovative workshop where we’ll tap into your memories and experiences to design new housing solutions.

Designing Housing Solutions

2017 APA CA Conference Sacramento

Tuesday, Sept 26, 2017

8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/311978272598475

OVERVIEW: The workshop will tap into the diverse experience and expertise of attending planners to collaborate and design comprehensive housing solutions. The facilitated exercise will bring together a diversity of perspectives to explore new housing typologies that expand choice, encourage affordability, and specifically address the risk of informal dwelling units.

ABSTRACT: The lack of affordable housing in California has reached crisis levels. Among the many consequences is the rash of hazardous incidents happening in unpermitted dwellings. As the tragic warehouse fire in Oakland recently illustrated, unpermitted housing happens across the State at various scales. With no sign of housing demand softening, there is an urgent need to investigate housing supply. While Los Angeles’ recent Proposition JJJ creates a de facto inclusionary zoning policy, no blanket approach exists to address the regulatory, cultural, design, and financing issues associated with housing policy.

The Designing Housing Solutions workshop will facilitate two interactive engagement activities where professionals design and prototype new and diverse housing typologies (co-housing, farm worker housing, artist housing, garage conversions, senior housing, ADUs, etc). The workshop creates a safe space for attending planners to nurture ideas, communicate through storytelling and collaborate. Participants will engage through memory, art and play to better understand themselves and the State’s housing assets, needs and challenges.
This input will launch a conversation that will inform future research, as well as generate ideas that address spatial values impacting housing’s urban design, zoning and planning. The workshop will consider how shared ideas can help create more inclusive spaces.

FACILITATORS:
◦ Gunnar Hand, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, LLP

◦ Jonathan P. Bell, County of Los Angeles, Dept. of Regional Planning

◦ James Rojas, Place It! & Latino Urban Forum

◦ Fay Darmawi, Affordable Housing Finance and Consulting

◦ Connie Chung, County of Los Angeles, Dept. of Regional Planning

◦ Cathy E. Creswell, Creswell Consulting

#APACA2017

How to fix Pasadena’s Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance 

ADU ordinance - Pasadena
My opening argument supporting a more equitable ADU ordinance in Pasadena

Read my latest public comment letter to Pasadena City Council on the proposed amendments to the ADU ordinance.

The Council caved to NIMBY pressure and rejected the Pasadena Planning Department’s proposal for a more equitable ordinance.

More to come.

ADU Ordinance Update-Public Comment 19 June 2017-Jonathan P Bell

The invisibility of code enforcement in planning praxis: The case of informal housing in Southern California

FOCUS article.JPG

Pretty cool to be published old school style: in print!

Read the latest from me and Jake Wegmann on #InformalHousing in Los Angeles: “The Invisibility of Code Enforcement in Planning Praxis: The Case of Informal Housing in Southern California,” (2016) FOCUS Journal, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dept of City & Regional Planning

Abstract: More and better engagement with working class neighborhoods and communities of color are urgent imperatives for the planning profession as the United States transitions to a “majority minority” population. Code enforcement personnel are already doing much of this work, normally in a much more collaborative and less heavy-handed manner than the name of their profession would suggest. However, at present the planning profession largely holds code enforcement at arms’ length. Using the example of the informal housing market in Southern California—managed on a daily basis by code enforcement officers, yet largely unaddressed by planners—we draw on survey and interview data and our own professional experiences to make four propositions about code enforcement work. These are that code enforcement work is unusually cumbersome; it is chronically understaffed; its personnel cope by working reactively rather than proactively; and the profession suffers low prestige as a result. We argue that ending the estrangement between code enforcement and planning would offer numerous benefits to the latter, including inculcating cultural competence in planners through “learning by doing” and working at street level, and injecting sorely needed “community data” into efforts to address vexing issues such as housing unaffordability.

An Open Letter to the Pasadena City Council Urging a Comprehensive Overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance

Read my “Open Letter to the Pasadena City Council Urging a Comprehensive Overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance,” published on UrbDeZine.

The Pasadena City Council will consider an amended ordinance tomorrow, Monday, Jan 30th at a 7pm public hearing. The amendment does the bare minimum to comply with the state’s relaxed standards for building an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) in your backyard. While the Pasadena Planning Commission removed some of the problematic standards, many “poison pills,” as I call them, remain in place.

Among the many ridiculous hurdles codified into the ordinance is a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet to build an ADU in a backyard. So unless you’re a wealthy estate owner, no granny flats here. The inequality is real af.

The original Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance was broken from the start. The amended ordinance remains unfair and unfeasible. There’s no date for the “anticipated comprehensive review” of the ordinance as part of Pasadena’s Housing Element Implementation Program. So my call for a comprehensive overhaul of the ADU ordinance remains unfulfilled.

http://losangeles.urbdezine.com/2017/01/29/pasadena-overhaul-second-dwelling-unit-ordinance/

adu-ordinance-at-pasadena-city-council

Latino Informal Housing session featured in APA Latinos & Planning December 2016 newsletter

After many years of ignoring unpermitted housing in the U.S., the planning field is finally coming around. The *unaffordable* housing crisis and rising incidents of fires in unpermitted dwellings pushed this issue into the spotlight. California found the audacity to pass AB 2299 and SB 1069 facilitating construction of safe and legal accessory dwelling units in all local jurisdictions. At long last, even the strictest Second Unit Ordinance laws are getting overhauled.

And over at the American Planning Association, I’m finally seeing a genuine interest in understanding the on the ground realities of informal housing. Not only did APA CA host my group’s Latino informal housing session at the 2016 conference in Pasadena, APA’s Latinos and Planning Division invited us to write a “Conference Spotlight” piece summarizing the session and its outcomes. My resulting article is published in the APA Latinos and Planning December 2016 newsletter. It’ll be of interest to planners, housing advocates, code enforcement inspectors, academics, and others working in the realm of housing and planning.

We’ll continue to elevate the informal housing debate going forward.

Local Press Supports our Demand for ADU Ordinance Overhaul in Pasadena

We’re winning the battle to overhaul the City of Pasadena‘s Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance. Building off our successful lobbying at #Pasadena Planning Commission, we’ve earned support from the local press.

In a 12/21 editorial published in the Pasadena Star News and San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Editorial Board backed our calls for ADU law reforms. They quoted me, and even used my “poison pill” fighting words.

pasadena-star-news

 

An Open Letter to the Pasadena Planning Commission Urging a Comprehensive Overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance

screenshot-2016-12-12-21-49-12

On December 14, 2016, the Pasadena Planning Commission will hold a public hearing to consider an amendment to the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance. The update is required to comply with the relaxed standards in AB 2299 and SB 1069.

As proposed, the revised Ordinance achieves only minimum compliance with the new housing laws while leaving in place several “poison pill” criteria that discourage new accessory units. This is unacceptable.

Read my Open Letter to the Pasadena Planning Commission urging an overhaul of the Second Dwelling Unit Ordinance [published at UrbDeZine.com]

http://losangeles.urbdezine.com/2016/12/12/an-open-letter-to-the-pasadena-planning-commission-and-city-planning-staff-demanding-a-comprehensive-update-to-the-second-dwelling-unit-ordinance/