In May 2022, the Washington Post reported that White House officials were exploring the promised cancellation of $10,000 in student debt per borrower, but limiting efforts to people who earned less than $150,000 last year.
Opponents to this proposal can be found across the political spectrum.
Jonathan Pacheco Bell, an urban planner and adjunct professor at Cal Poly Pomona and Pitzer College, said he appreciates that Biden has not forgotten his campaign promise, but $10,000 is insufficient.
“It’s a way to split the difference so that you make some people happy and some people mad, but you’re not going to piss off the other side of the aisle, because you didn’t wipe away all the debt. It’s a very comfortable and extremely safe position,” he said.
Some of his students have taken on tens of thousands of dollars in debt, he added. “Meanwhile, the U.S. seems to be endlessly funding wars and other priorities with almost no hesitation, but it hesitates to invest in its own workforce.”
I’m celebrating the graduates in my Senior Projects class at Cal Poly Pomona Department of Urban & Regional Planning! Today we big up this researcher:
Will ADU Resources Expedite Implementation?
By: Victor Rosales
Abstract: In the City of La Habra, California, there was not enough Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) being built to address the housing crisis. One of the main obstacles was a lack of ADU resources and materials available to the public. While the city’s municipal code is accessible for public review, a large portion of the community does not understand how to interpret zoning codes or how codes apply to individual projects.
With this understanding of the problem, I worked with city staff on creating supplemental ADU materials, with the intended goal of increasing the amount of ADUs built within city limits. In 2021, the city’s Senior Building Official created an ADU Summary handout with basic outlines of development standards and simple graphic aides. This newly introduced resource, along with the assistance and communication from staff to the community, resulted in an upsurge in ADU plan check submittals and new construction. City staff tracked the progression of these newly built ADUs though paid plan checks, Certificate of Occupancy, surveys, and California Department of Housing credit logs. The data showed an increased number of ADUs constructed in the last 6 months of 2021, which correlated with the timing of the implementation of the ADU Summary. By providing supplemental materials for ADUs, the City of La Habra was able to increase the amount of ADUs built in their community in 2021. Additionally, staff revised and enhanced these readily available resources to support ADU development. As a result, the amount of plan check submissions has nearly tripled in the first six months of 2022.
Upon studying the City of La Habra’s approach to ADUs, I offer several policy recommendations for resources and information that support expediting ADU implementation in cities.
I’m celebrating the graduates in my Senior Projects class at Cal Poly Pomona Department of Urban & Regional Planning! Today we big up this team:
Wildfire Mitigation & Resilience Strategies: Best Planning Practices across Local Jurisdictions in Southern California
By: Stacy Lee & Eric Ji
Abstract: Increasing forecasts of prolonged and more severe fire seasons can be attributed to several factors: urban density growth; fire suppression and fuel buildup; and climate change. Many of these issues are amplified in Southern California, especially in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). Land-use policies must begin to proactively strategize around the immutable outbreaks of future wildfires as expanding boundaries of development and very high fire severity zones cross onto each other.
This qualitative research empirically analyzes the survey response consisting of a list of 19 planning strategies for wildfire mitigation on a Likert scale on compatibility, feasibility, and necessity of each local jurisdiction across four counties. The Counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino with areas of very high fire severity zones identified by CAL FIRE were contacted with the survey request. The 18 responding jurisdiction responses scored each strategy to display the compatibility, feasibility, and necessity on a scale from 0 to 4, and cross analyzed by any implemented strategies in the corresponding jurisdictions or alternative policies in lieu of the strategies presented in the survey.
These findings are used to develop a scale of adoptable strategies based on the context of each jurisdiction as well as possible alternatives and narratives to adopting feasible strategies.
I’m celebrating the graduates in my Senior Projects class at Cal Poly Pomona Department of Urban & Regional Planning! Today we big up this team:
Youth Homelessness in Eastern Riverside County: A Mental Health Approach Towards Achieving Social Integration
By: Thuy Le Xuan Cao & Alejandro De Loera
Abstract: Youth homelessness is an ongoing crisis. Transitional-aged youth need support when exiting institutional systems. Without access to stable living environments, youth are exposed to trauma. Without coping strategies for stress, they’re vulnerable to chronic or cyclical homelessness. Hostile environments and poor living conditions create struggles for street survival. To combat this crisis, youth-centered housing and transitional programs target their unique needs. Youth mental healthcare influences this development as preexisting conditions including housing insecurity, mental health issues, substance use and family dysfunction have psychosocial consequences exacerbating barriers to housing stability. This project examines access to services for wellness and removal of hidden access barriers so unhoused youth can integrate into society.
Youth homelessness is prevalent in rural and nonrural areas and correlates to mental health issues magnified by rural conditions. Supportive services must be tailored to rural homeless youth needs. Beyond skill building, homeless youth require tailored interventions including non-housing case management, mentorship, counseling and mental health treatment. The creation of safe communal spaces promotes social cohesion where youth may interact and gain social capital from peer mentorship. Notably, planning itself creates a barrier to collective action due to formalities required for programs to exist legally.
We’ve created recommendations for 3 stages of intervention: Primary interventions include successful outreach focusing on preventative services for at-risk youth. Secondary programming offers local and short-term supportive programs with flexible hours for youth in crisis. Tertiary support prioritizes community partnerships to offer continuous, long-term services where homelessness occurs. *Abbreviated from original
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.
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.
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.
My position hasn’t changed from June 19, 2017, when Pasadena City Council voted againsta 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Decades ago the @latimes uncritically accepted L.A. City’s “South LA” rebranding. Recall that L.A. City’s elected officials wanted to sanitize images of “unrest” that they claimed were associated with “South Central.” So they dropped “Central”… brilliant 🙄. The L.A. Times went along with it wholesale.
We hadn’t seen “South Central L.A.” in an L.A. Times headline for many years until Angel Jennings’s Nov. 22nd story on #TheReef. While it’s in reference to the Historic South-Central district within L.A. City, seeing the historically proper place name was still exciting for many South Central Los Angeles advocates. It was one long overdue step away from revisionist history.
Remember that this geography is still, and will always be, South Central Los Angeles. The “South LA” rebranding was City of LA’s attempt at revisionist history after the 1992 Uprising (much like the City’s embarrassing 2014 “SOLA” proposal that’s thankfully fizzled).
Invest in place erasure and hope the world forgets: that went nowhere. Stakeholders young and older still call it South Central LA. History matters.
And, for the record, none of the City’s revisionism ever applied in the unincorporated communities: Florence-Firestone, Willowbrook, East Rancho Dominguez, West Rancho Dominguez, West Athens, and Lennox.