Downtown Residents Support Pro-Growth General Plan – B&C

“Economic Vitality” and “Smart Growth” options provide the best quality of life in the decades ahead.

Disagreement about Growth. Pasadena’s General Plan will guide public policy regarding Land Use and Mobility until the year 2035. The city asked residents what was important to them, and they responded. In general, Pasadena residents agree about the qualities that they love, and the problems that exist. However, there is considerable disagreement about the effects and the desirability of recent and future growth in Downtown Pasadena.

Pasadena General Plan Workshop - June 28 at the Community Education Center in East Pasadena

As citizens who live our everyday lives in Downtown Pasadena, members of the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association believe that well–managed growth is desirable, and that Pasadena’s Downtown should be an exciting urban core that welcomes new residents and businesses. We believe that density––i.e. tall buildings that are closely spaced––and the mixing of commercial and residential uses are appropriate and necessary in Downtown Pasadena.

Without continual renewal, decline is inevitable.

Walkability. Pasadena has made great strides in the last 20 years. The Gold Line was built, Old Pasadena was restored to its former glory, economic conditions improved, and new condo and apartment buildings (many with retail shops on the ground floor) were built, bringing an influx of new residents. Many of those new residents were attracted by Pasadena’s walkability––that is, the close proximity of residences and businesses which decreases one’s dependence on a car, and allows one to walk or bike to shops, grocery stores, movie theaters, and other daily destinations.

By definition, walkability requires density; if buildings are too far apart, or if the built environment is unpleasant, walking isn’t an option. Parking lots, empty storefronts, and dilapidated or unkept properties are the enemies of walkability. In addition, walkability depends on the types and quality of businesses within walking distance. Residents of Downtown Pasadena do not walk to each other’s homes, they walk to businesses. If those businesses provide the goods and services that residents desire, and therefore eliminate the need to drive elsewhere, then the quality of life has been maximized. But businesses set up shop based upon demand. More residents can support more and better businesses.

Therefore, the DPNA believes that growth––more residents and more businesses––is desirable. Alternatives B and C provide that growth.

Moreover, the DPNA believes that an anti-growth policy (represented by Alternatives A and D) threatens the existing businesses and quality of life in Downtown Pasadena, because there is competition from neighboring cities, and because a no–growth policy reduces incentive to improve, replace, or even maintain existing buildings.

Competition. Pasadena has historically been a center for business, shopping, arts, and other metropolitan amenities. Residents of the surrounding communities have driven to Pasadena, particularly Downtown Pasadena, to access the goods and services that are unavailable in their own communities. Recently however, Arcadia, Glendale, and even Alhambra have taken note of Pasadena’s success, and have built large mixed-use developments that are undoubtedly drawing shoppers and residents away from Pasadena. Old Pasadena is buzzing, but the Playhouse District has unrealized potential, and South Lake Avenue has many vacancies. Although shopping is not the only important component of a vibrant city, it is is a driver of the other factors that make a city a desirable “destination” community. Pasadena’s status and prestige is being threatened by neighboring cities, and a no–growth policy puts Pasadena at a disadvantage.

Blight. Downtown Pasadena is full of beautiful historic buildings (many of them over six stories), but it also has quite a few non-historic strip malls that are ugly and should be replaced. For example, the Kinko’s/Ortho mattress  building at Lake/Colorado, or the low-slung stucco Pasadena Jewelry Mart at Los Robles/Colorado. (The modern black box office building at 150 E Colorado, across from the AT&T building, is also a major problem, as it kills pedestrian activity between Old Pasadena and the Playhouse District, and should also be redeveloped, even though it is in good condition.) If redevelopment is limited to two stories, rather than four or six stories (which provide more income), then property owners may opt to postpone redevelopment, and they may defer maintenance. Blight is no stranger to Downtown Pasadena, and continued growth is the best way to avoid its return.

Alternative C "Smart Growth" targets high-density development near Downtown Gold Line stations (red bubbles) and creates walkable "mini-villages" with mixed-use development (purple bubbles) along Washington Blvd, and at the Fillmore, Allen, and Madre stations. A series of parks called the "Emerald Necklace" runs through East Pasadena, to be located under the utility lines.

Continual Renewal. In general, although there is much unrealized potential and room for improvement, we still love Pasadena as it is, and if it were to be somehow frozen in time and protected from decline, that would not be such a bad thing. As it is, Pasadena is a success. However, it is impossible to freeze a city without killing it. Without continual renewal, decline is inevitable.

Pasadena’s continued success, therefore, depends on continuing, not stopping, the growth of the last 20 years in order to maintain its position as a regional Metropolitan City Center.

Other Concerns

Besides walkability and urban vitality, the DPNA believes that options B “Economic Vitality” and C “Smart Growth” best support the other concerns that Pasadena residents identified.

On a citywide basis, Alternative C "Smart Growth" Results in: 1. The most housing. 2. The greatest population increase. 3. The most Net Revenue to the City General Fund. 4. The best environment results. 5. The second best travel times.

Traffic Congestion. Traffic, the scourge of Greater Los Angeles, was often cited as a frustration during the General Plan outreach effort. Although some have blamed an increase in traffic on new residential development downtown, statistics show that Downtown residents are more likely to walk, bike, and use public transit, and therefore they generate less traffic then suburban dwellers. Ultimately, traffic congestion is a regional issue–conditions in Santa Monica and Burbank affect conditions in Pasadena–and the regional solution lies in providing alternatives to driving, and in decreasing the overall miles traveled. We all need to work, shop, and conduct our daily activities closer to home. Alternative C “Smart Growth” in particular achieves this goal, which is demonstrated in the statistics showing the number of “Residents Near a Gold Line Station” and the “Vehicle Miles Traveled.” Alternative C also has the second best result in terms of “Travel Time in PM Peak Hour,” which is suprisingly better than might be expected given the large increases in population, housing, and net revenues of Alternative C.

Affordable Housing. The most efficient way to make housing affordable for all is to increase the supply of housing. The more housing units that are available for sale, the lower the price. Increasing density and locating housing in lower-demand neighborhoods will also improve affordability.

Although Alternative C offers the best result city-wide, in the Central District, it is Alternative B "Economic Vitality" that provides: 1. More Housing 2. Less Vehicle Miles Traveled 3. Better Environmental Results

Historic Architecture and Preservation. Our ability to protect the city’s historic resources is not predicated on blocking future development. Preserving Pasadena’s beautiful old buildings and encouraging new landmark buildings are two separate objectives that can comfortably co-exist, but a “no growth” stance severely undermines the future viability of Pasadena.

Sustainability. Density, walkability, and decreased driving leads to lower emissions of greenhouse gases. In addition, the world supply of oil and other fossils fuels is running dry. As gas prices continue to rise, and as water continues to be rationed, the suburban model that constitutes much of Southern California will no longer be practical, and consumers will desire dense, urban, human-sized communities that require less energy for transportation. Pasadena is just such a place, and downtown Pasadena under alternatives B and C is particularly well suited and optimized for human happiness that is independent of the automobile.

Inclusiveness. Some have objected that the sustainability statistics show results on a per capita basis, and have suggested the no-growth alternative as a way of shoving population growth off onto other cities, and thereby limiting increases in greenhouse gases and traffic. This “Country Club” attitude is not only selfish, but it risks the loss of State and Federal funding which is tied to such measures. It’s not a viable option.

Bottom line: Pasadena is best served with a mix of “Smart Growth” solutions (B and C) that protect our unique cultural legacy, ensure healthy economic vitality, and promote walkability and sustainability.

Based on online voting, a single plan will be developed and presented to the city council. Please complete the online survey to register your support for a pro-growth General Plan.  The online survey is available at http://www.cityofpasadena.net/generalplan/ and is open until July 8thSURVEY EXTENDED UNTIL WEDNESDAY, JULY 13th.

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