Pasadena Council Streamlines Unpopular Occupancy Inspection Program

Free from the inspections, staff will now be able to dedicate more resources towards ensuring the safety and maintenance of the city’s multi-family units. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Gus Herrera

Much to the delight of local realtors, the process of buying and selling a home in the City of Pasadena is about to get a little easier. At their latest regular meeting, the City Council voted to streamline Pasadena’s unpopular occupancy inspection program (OIP), eliminating the previously-required city inspections and allowing buyers/sellers to self-certify properties for life and safety violations.

Although some residents and realtors would have liked to have seen the OIP eradicated altogether, there is plenty of optimism behind this move. According to staff’s report, the city is hoping that the streamlined process will eliminate or significantly reduce any delays in real estate transactions, as well as any “redundancies and inefficiencies associated with private and city inspections.”

David Reyes, director of planning and community development, is also confident that the move will benefit the quadrennial inspection program, which ensures the quality and maintenance of the city’s multi-family units. Free from the occupancy inspections, Reyes and his staff will now be able to dedicate more time and resources to “protect residents that don’t have a voice, those who are not selling their homes for a million dollars.”

Additionally, Pasadena will now be joining the majority of cities in Los Angeles County – currently, only 16 of the county’s 88 cities require an inspection at point of sale, per staff’s report.

Under the new process, self-certification for life/safety violations (i.e. unpermitted additions, conversions, new construction, and fire detection/protection equipment) will replace inspections previously carried out by the city’s code compliance department. Both the buyer and seller will be required to affirm that there are no “unpermitted additions or conversions (over 120 square feet)” and that all the necessary fire protection equipment is installed on the property.

If any violations do exist, there are two options: the seller can either correct the violation or the buyer can accept responsibility, in which case he/she must submit a permit application within six months and subsequently complete any respective work within 12 months. The city will then follow up with an inspection within 18 months.

Israel Del Toro, acting code compliance manager, revealed that the city’s goal is to make self-certification a “one-visit transaction.” According to staff’s report, the application will be “available as an over-the-counter transaction in the permit center,” and there will also be a dedicated website where applicants will be able to obtain the necessary forms/information. If approved, the applicant will be given a certificate of completeness, to be included in their escrow documents.

In the case that an applicant is not comfortable undergoing the self-certification process, the city’s code compliance department will still offer optional inspections for a fee (currently $143).

City staff’s recommendation originally required a site plan and floor plan to be submitted with the application, but the idea did not sit well with many around the dais.

“It’s fraught with peril,” described Councilmember Victor Gordo, “the people who are going to take the hit are in the lower-end properties who (sic) are going to have to pay to have that floorplan done.”

This concern was echoed by Laura Olhasso, former three-time mayor of La Cañada Flintridge and director of government affairs for the Pasadena-Foothills Association of Realtors, who described the proposed requirement as “onerous.”

“Sixty percent of homes sold do not have a floor plan done professionally … and nobody has a site plan,” she said, “it’s not necessary to begin with.”

In the end, Councilmember Tyron Hampton scrapped the requirement from his motion, which was ultimately approved. Hampton’s motion also included a requirement that the new program return before the council for review one year after it goes into effect.

Mayor Terry Tornek, who comprised the only vote in opposition, likened the streamlined OIP to “hanging up a sign that Pasadena welcomes bootleg additions.” – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

The only vote in opposition came from Mayor Terry Tornek who argued that the OIP should instead be reformed, as the inspections are discovering several major violations.

“Twenty-eight percent of the 1,800 inspections have yielded major violations … that’s 500 a year … of that, 100 are illegal conversions,” he said, “it’s like hanging up a sign that Pasadena welcomes bootleg additions. I can’t support this.”

In other City Council news, dozens of residents protested the Desiderio Neighborhood Park’s controversial restroom during the public comment portion of the meeting. As a result, Councilmember Steve Madison was able to place the item on a future agenda for design review. The date is yet to be determined.

Council also unanimously approved Pasadena’s newest sister city, Dakar Plateau, Senegal.

August 29, 2018

About Author

Gus Gus Herrera was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pasadena. He attended Flintridge Prep in La Canada for high school and then spent four years on the East Coast at Boston University where he graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy. He first began covering the City of Pasadena for the Pasadena Independent in February 2016.

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