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Brandon Lamar is a candidate for Pasadena City Council District 3. He is a community organizer and formerly chaired the City of Pasadena’s Human Relations Commission. Lamar is currently Vice Chair of Pasadena’s Rental Housing Board.
Q – What are some of the initiatives you support that will make businesses in your district more successful?
A – If you look at some parts of our district, they look like they are doing fairly well. If you go down Orange Grove or Fair Oaks, they need some capital improvements, like the city did for the Lincoln corridor and South Lake.
What we have to do is put emphasis on supporting our local small businesses. Some of the things we could do to help promote small businesses is to create micro-loans or micro-grants for these businesses. We also can work to make sure our businesses are compliant before they open their doors.
What do I mean by that? I know that our city has done a great job making sure that local businesses are compliant. But they open and then get caught in lawsuits because they’re not ADA-compliant.
What I want to advocate for is that our city actually creates a process where we not only support our small businesses but also protect our small businesses from people who come from outside our community who legally bind and terrorize our businesses. We have to create a system to protect our businesses, particularly in District 3.
Q – We hear from a lot of candidates about streamlining systems.
A – There’s a dire need for it, and everybody supports it. We need to give as much publicity as we can, as much marketing as we can to the process. There’s always someone who didn’t know and found out too late.
We definitely have to streamline our processes so that things can actually work for everybody. Our common goal should be that individual families, businesses and nonprofits are thriving in our city.
“It breaks my heart when local businesses can’t stay afloat because they don’t have the support to provide new and amazing services to our city.”Brandon Lamar
It breaks my heart when local businesses can’t stay afloat because they don’t have the support to provide new and amazing services to our city.
We have to do a better job of supporting those businesses.
Q – How can Pasadena make housing more affordable for young people and help people who are aging in place?
A – The important thing we have to remember when we are looking at affordable housing is that we have to consider everyone. Everybody’s situation is different.
For example, my parents have a great fixed income. But at the same time, it’s a fixed income. My parents were in a place for 15 years, and one day the landlord says you have 60 days to move. At that time, there were no written protections or anything.
They had to come up with $10-15,000 to find a new place, pay first and last, pack up their things, move their things, and so much more. We see a lot of families that are dealing with the same things.
People are being priced out of Pasadena, being gouged out of Pasadena.
We have to work together in order to make sure that our city is affordable. We cannot say that Pasadena is a diverse city when we don’t support everybody.
When I knock on doors, the biggest issue I hear from homeowners is I want my children to be able to live here. I want my grandchildren to be able to stay locally so that I can see them, so they don’t have to live in another county or another state.
“People are being priced out of Pasadena, being gouged out of Pasadena.”Brandon Lamar
I support rent control. I know that’s a very harsh topic right now. But if we all work together, rent control can work for everybody in the community. It can work not only for our tenants but for our landlords.
The flip side of that is I don’t think that rent control is 100 percent the answer. I think rent control is just a piece of the pie. We have to build more affordable housing units, more multi-use housing, and more working-class housing for people who are working in our communities and building their families.
I also believe in home buying. I think we have to create more opportunities for home ownership, like down payment grants. That’s how we continue to build our middle class in Pasadena.
We have started looking at re-envisioning what housing looks like in Pasadena and how people are being housed. We have businesses that are long gone, and their buildings are sitting dormant. I think that’s a great opportunity for us as a city to do some rezoning so we can build more affordable housing.
As vice-chair of the Rental Housing Board, I advocate heavily for small mom-and-pop landlords. We have to create some type of program within our city to be able to support mom-and-pop landlords, like being able to help fix their roofs or their plumbing or other capital improvements so that they don’t have to skyrocket their rents.
“We have to stop pointing fingers, right?”Brandon Lamar
We have to use our MASH program or the people who graduate from the Flintridge apprenticeship program and create something that can really support our landlords. Perhaps supplying workers or materials is the partnership. We have to look at the landlords and the tenants as a partnership within our city.
We have to stop being so isolated as a city, and as a community and look at how we can work together to make things work for everybody.
We have to stop pointing fingers, right? At the end of the day, we bring our heads and our minds together to make sure that the people in our community are thriving.
Housing is a service. Mom-and-pop landlords who create housing, and who have housing available for our community are a service to our community. We have to understand and help those people who want to provide a service, who really live here, have investment properties here, and their livelihood here. We can do a better job of really supporting them to make sure that their businesses are really thriving.
Q – What solutions would you suggest in order to overcome political polarization in Pasadena?
A – I didn’t really see it firsthand until I ran against the late City Councilman John Kennedy. I didn’t see the hard work that he had to put in, how he had to fight just to get the buildings and affordable housing, how he raised money for the pool and got the city to change the sidewalks in our community, the advocacy he was doing for our elderly families. I didn’t see any of that until I ran against him. I had an exclusive view.
On election night, I called John Kennedy and said, “Congratulations. I look forward to working with you and building community.”
We didn’t terrorize each other. We didn’t bad-mouth each other. We ran on the issues, and I think that’s what the community has to see.
I’m a person who is from here, born and raised here, and I don’t look forward to moving anytime soon. So, we have to work together. John and I really showed the community you can actually run a good race and be focused on the issues.
“We didn’t terrorize each other. We didn’t bad-mouth each other. We ran on the issues, and I think that’s what the community has to see.”Brandon Lamar
They haven’t seen their political leaders, the leaders in the community, the leaders that are making decisions in our community, run good races. At the end of the day, we still have to be neighbors. We still have to be cordial. That’s what we recognized in our race. We ran on the issues.
He had one way of doing things, I had one way of doing things. But at the end of the day, we had a common goal. Once the race was over, he became one of my closest mentors until his passing. That’s a form of passing the torch and making sure there’s a legacy.
Q – What issues are the most important to you?
A – I think all of our issues are important. But I think that there are some things we have to focus on. Number one for me is housing, affordable housing, making sure we have more affordable housing.
Number two is public safety. There is gun violence everywhere. We really have to focus on prevention and intervention methods, and on creating engagement between our law enforcement and our community.
I understand there are traumatic experiences that have happened through the years with our law enforcement. But law enforcement is not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere. So, we have to find a way to work together. And we have to find a way to heal together as well.
A healing mechanism has to happen in our communities. And we have to work together in order to have that. So public safety is very important to me. If people are not safe in their houses, with adequate housing and safe housing, or when they’re out of their houses and around the neighborhoods, then they won’t even focus on things like climate change or the economy.
“I think that we have to create more engagement opportunities for community members so that they can build that trust so the walls and barriers can go down.”Brandon Lamar
We should be putting emphasis on the necessities in their lives. And so that’s why I’m pushing for affordable housing, for public safety, more communication and engagement with our police department, more engagement with bike patrol officers riding through our parks, instead of police officers riding in their cars by our parks.
I think that we have to create more engagement opportunities for community members so that they can build that trust so the walls and barriers can go down.
The last thing I’ll say is about homelessness. Pasadena can really be a champion for the unhoused. I think we can be an example for other communities.
We have about 556 people that are homeless in our community. Out of a population of 145,000, we have about one percent of people who are homeless. We could do something about that one percent. We could put initiatives together like pairing transitional and permanent housing together with supported services, mental health counseling, therapy, financial literacy, and so many more things.
We have to have people on the city council who are not afraid to make hard decisions. As I said before, collaboration is the key. We cannot be isolated in these efforts. I’m a collaboration builder. The force behind every effort that we try to tackle is collaboration.
Q – Lastly, let’s talk about the importance of local news and how it affects your campaign.
A – Local news is important. It’s not just information pieces or opinion pieces, but truth-finding articles about what is happening and what is taking place in our local bodies.
What I find is that so many families are just busy taking care of their lives, working, and providing for their families and children; they can’t really stay on top of what’s happening. So local news provides people with an opportunity to know what is going on around them and where they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity because they are busy.
Regarding Pasadena Now, Pasadena Star-News, or Pasadena Black Pages, I think they all have their own niche. Everybody has their own identity. No one news entity or local agency does everything. That’s important, too, that everybody has their own identity when it comes to local news.