March League Day

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Double-Header League Day!

March 6, 2014
Women’s City Club

The Evolving Face of Libraries

Have you ever wondered if libraries have outlived their usefulness? Are they just community dinosaurs that we hang onto out of habit?

Celebrating its 130th year, two years older than the city of Pasadena, Pasadena Public Library and its nine branches continually adapt to meet the needs of its users while staying true to its mission: to be an information center for the Pasadena community in order to preserve and encourage the free expression of ideas essential to an informed citizenry.

Jan Sanders, Director of Pasadena Public Libraries, shared with us the many services that the library provides to users: health workers, flu shots, tax assistance, social workers, and legal assistance. Collaborating with 152 organizations enables many of these services. Of course, the traditional services: providing books, e-books, books in other languages, periodicals, computers, DVDs, CDs, and research assistance are always available. Director Sanders also spoke of the challenges facing the library. While the parcel tax passed by Pasadenans enables each Pasadena Library to remain open many hours six to seven days per week, state funding was reduced to zero from $0.53 per capita for 2013 and 2014, constraining programs, services, and purchases.

She encouraged us to follow SB 1455, a $350 million major construction bond for libraries throughout the state. Continuing to meet the needs of the community, several areas of the historically significant main library will be repurposed. Teens will have a large area as will patrons needing multi purpose meeting space. Broadband will expand to additional branches and will enable them to connect with higher education institutions in California. Honoring reading, in February, 2014, the library presented twenty-four authors for the public to meet, and in March, it will sponsor “One City, One Story.” The library is continually looking for the needs of the community and endeavoring to meet those needs and preferences.

Many of us signed the petition for the Declaration for the Right to Public Libraries made up of ten points. Libraries 1) Empower the Individual, 2) Support Literacy and Lifelong Learning, 3) Strengthen Families, 4) Are the Great Equalizer, 5) Build Communities, 6) Protect Our Right to Know, 7) Strengthen Our Nation, 8) Advance Research and Scholarship, 9) Help Us to Better Understand Each Other, and 10) Preserve Our Nation’s Cultural Heritage.

Why Pasadena Needs a Housing Commission

Pasadena—like most communities in Southern California—just approved its Housing Element, a State mandated component of municipal General Plans. Pasadena’s commissions are a prominent mechanism by which the City achieves its General Plan’s seventh guiding principle, which states: “Community participation will be a permanent part of achieving a greater city.” The establishment of a housing commission is necessary because the city did away with its Community Development Commission. As a result, Pasadena currently has no citizen advisory body to the City Council that deals with citywide housing policies.
The March League Day’s presentation will be devoted to a short recap on how commissions function within Pasadena, the conditions that dictate the need for a housing commission, how the commission would be configured and its proposed responsibilities, as well as why a commission is the preferable option to achieve equitable housing solutions in the city. Part of the session will be devoted to equipping members on how to advocate for a housing commission.

The second presentation at the March League Day related to the creation of an Affordable Housing Commission for Pasadena, a move which the League supports. The presenter, Michelle White of Affordable Housing Services, emphasized that there are 23,000 low-income households in Pasadena in need of affordable housing. Advocates were able to preserve the city’s existing inventory of affordable housing in the Pasadena’s recently adopted Housing Element.
Advocates are now pressing for the creation of an Affordable Housing Commission to ensure that the city’s Housing Element and other plans are implemented. The Commission, if approved by the Pasadena City Council, will also make recommendations regarding housing legislation; outreach to racial, ethnic, and language minority households; and encourage other jurisdictions in the region to become more affordable housing friendly. The proposed Commission would consist of nine members, all of whom would have to have a demonstrated commitment to affordable housing.

The City Council considered the creation of a commission, a body which at least other cities of comparable size to Pasadena have established, and remanded the issue to the Economic, Development and Technology (EDTech) Committee. EDTech meets the first Monday of each month in the S235/S236 room of City Hall at 4:15 p.m. The matter has not yet been agendized for action. After EDTech considers the matter, it will make a recommendation to City Council.

After the presentation, members drafted support letters to the Pasadena EDTech Committee and City Council. Members who were not in attendance but live, work, or worship in Pasadena are also asked to write letters in support of a Housing Commission.Completed letters should be mailed or e-mailed to Michelle White at 1516 Navarro Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103 or affhsgservices@sbcglobal.net. She will deliver the letters to the EDTech and City Council when the issue is agendized.

Proposed Funding for Affordable Housing:
Attention was also drawn to State Senate Bill 391, which proposes to apply a $75 fee to certain real estate transactions. The fee is expected to produce $500 million annually that will be used to leverage 2.78 billion affordable housing dollars, while producing 10,000 units of housing and 29,000 jobs statewide. Assembly Member Chris Holden, who represents the greater Pasadena area, has not committed to supporting the bill. Members were asked to urge him to support the bill, especially since Holden serves on the Appropriations Committee, where the bill is presently stalled. Holden can be reached at 600 Rosemead Ave, Pasadena, CA 91107, (626) 351-1917.