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Former City Manager Rick Cole Named Special Housing Advisor for Pasadena
By Jorge Casuso
April 7, 2021 -- The Mayor of Pasadena on Monday named former Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole as a special housing advisor to help the San Gabriel Valley City craft its new housing element.
Cole, who abruptly left his post as City Manager last April after proposing sweeping budget cuts during the coronavirus shutdown, will work as a non-paid advisor with a 17-member Housing Task Force.
Mayor Victor Gordo issued a statement after making the appointments saying it was important to receive input from diverse voices outside City Hall.
“While we may not always agree, I strive to always have an open mind and listen to varying opinions on all matters,” Gordo said in a prepared statement.
Cole served 12 years on the Pasadena City Council, including a stint as mayor, before serving as the city manager in Azusa, Ventura and Santa Monica.
Cole -- who believes cities should look for ways to meet the state mandate, instead of resisting -- could have a tough selling his philosophy in Pasadena.
Officials in the City of 141,029 residents have called the State's mandate to plan for 9,409 new housing units unrealistic and unachievable.
The City unsuccessfully appealed its allocation -- which represented a more than 600 percent increase over the previous eight-year cycle -- with the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
"Cities hire consultants who tell them how to write a plan that complies with State regulations," Cole told the Planning Report, an planning trade publication last December.
"Instead, the goal has to be finding community support for building substantial new housing, especially affordable housing, among their residents."
"Our aim shouldn’t be that every city has an approved housing element. It should be that over the next seven years, every city builds its share of the 1.3 million units of housing that we need to serve all income levels in Southern California."
It was the same message Cole delivered one year earlier during a discussion of Santa Monica's housing mandate at a City Council meeting December 10.
Given the "gravity and urgency of the challenge," Cole told the Council, moving forward will take "political will."
At the meeting, the Council began exploring removing caps on development to pave the way for 8,895 new housing units, 6,168 of them affordable ("Santa Monica Takes Initial Step to Dramatically Boost Housing Production," December 13, 2019).
The Council's seeming eagerness to embrace what it viewed as an inevitable mandate angered slow-growth activists and may have contributed to the ouster of three incumbents in last November's election.
Last Tuesday, the three successful challengers opposed a plan to meet the City's quota ("Divided Council Approves Plan to Meet State's Affordable Housing Mandate," April 6, 2021).
The Council's plan -- approved with a 4 to 3 vote -- largely relies on building 100 percent affordable housing projects on City land and in an overlay zone that would allow four-story buildings in most parts of the City.
The Council also directed staff to "explore options to densify areas that historically excluded diverse populations and affordable housing" and pave way way for affordable housing in single-family neighborhoods.
The Council's plan attempts to meet the State mandate without relying on market rate housing required by Santa Monica law to include at least 20 percent affordable units.
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