New Parks and the Misuse of Residential Impact Fees
A Response to Redistricting Action:
Council called on to demonstrate the support they offered during the redistricting process by acting to create Downtown parks, implement pedestrian & bike infrastructure.
Video: Council should Lead towards Further Progress
Part 2, with response from Steve Madison (6) & Terry Tornek (7)
Letter to the council – April 27, 2012
The “One Downtown District” that the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association (DPNA) proposed (which the Task Force did not adequately consider and which the council declined to revisit) would ensure that the walkable, urban, mixed-use lifestyle enjoyed by Downtown residents would be represented by a councilmember who would have a daily experience of that lifestyle and therefore a visceral understanding of the different needs and desires of Downtown residents, and whose constituency would be solidly supportive of that lifestyle.
The DPNA continues to believe that a dedicated representative advocating on behalf of the specific interests, needs, and lifestyle of a walkable community—a community that is a direct result of the city’s 1994 General Plan—is necessary.
Although the council disagreed and indicated it believes that current representation is adequate, the DPNA does appreciate the verbal support for Downtown Pasadena as articulated by the council during the April 22nd Redistricting Hearing. In particular, Mayor Bogaard expressed the DPNA point of view precisely and forcefully, when he said that the city, in its 1994 General Plan, intentionally sought to create “a dynamic and lively opportunity to choose an urban lifestyle that de-emphasizes the use of an automobile, and that emphasizes the use of Transit, and Bicycles, and Feet—walking in the city,” and that the DPNA is the welcome manifestation of that vision becoming reality. Vice Mayor McAustin spoke of a “residential population that has found a voice,” and Chris Holden affirmed that despite where the lines are drawn, “You are a neighborhood,” and that the council “will continue to grow the area as best we can, to provide the services, the parks, and the additional parking” that is needed.
In response to our “One-Downtown” district proposal, however, Council and Task Force Members stated that Downtown Pasadena is best served by four representatives, that the 4-way split is an advantage. This letter is to suggest that historically our interests have not been at the forefront of the City’s priorities and need to be better considered and championed in the future.
You have told us that the Central District actually gains from having four Council Members. We would now like the Council to translate that into tangible benefits for the Central District.
TANGIBLE ACTION NEEDED FOR DOWNTOWN PASADENA—A SAMPLE:
- A Fair Share for the Central District of the Residential Impact Fees (RIF’s) from the Central District for Parks
BACKGROUND – #1 Residential Impact Fees
Urban residents are dependent on well-designed and well-maintained public parks properly located within walking distance of their homes, because Downtown residents lack private green space that is typically associated with single-family homes. The residential population in the Central District has grown to nearly 20,000 (U. S. Census), and additional parks are needed to serve this population, as well as the many visitors to downtown Pasadena. The only major parks in the Central District are Central and Memorial Parks in the Old Pasadena area. The lack of parks is disadvantage to all residents, but is especially disadvantageous to young families who have greater need, and to seniors with less mobility and accessibility choices.
Chapter 4.17 of the Municipal Code established “Residential Impact Fees” in order to provide new parks to new, additional residents. Since 2007, Central District residents have therefore contributed millions of dollars to the City in Residential Impact Fees, which are charged to developers and then passed on in the final purchase price of residential units, and in rents and leases paid on a monthly basis. These fees amount to $14,588 to $27,003 per unit, depending upon number of bedrooms.
According the Residential Impact Fee Ordinance, the park and recreation facilities for which the fees are charged must be consistent with General Plan. As General Plan Guiding Principle #4 states: “Pasadena will be promoted as a healthy family community. Safe, well-designed, accessible, and human-scale residential and commercial areas will be provided where people of all ages can live, work, and play, including neighborhood parks, urban open spaces, and the equitable distribution of public and private recreation facilities.” City Manager Michael Beck reinforced this when he recently stated: “City Council’s priority is to deliver park space in this park-starved portion of the City is affirmed in the City Council’s General Plan and Central District Specific Plan. The Goal of those plans is to make the Central District a livable and walkable area. Critical to that goal is the provision of neighborhood amenities, of which park space is of the uttermost importance in this area that has seen significant residential development and expects to experience more.”
These fees were instituted to address additional demand from new residents (hence the name “residential impact”); those new residents are Downtown residents—residents of the Central District and in the DPNA. The funds mostly COME from the Central District; therefore, they should mostly GO to the Central District.
If these funds had been applied as the spirit of the fee intended, the $2 million in Residential Impact Fees from new development in the Central District [such as the DeLacey Friends Paper Condominiums, Prado, Orange Place Paseo, Westgate projects and others] would have been used to support the creation of parks within in the Central District. Instead, these funds were applied to the purchase of parkland in Annandale Canyon on the other side of the Arroyo, in a location not walkable from the Central District and even difficult to access by automobile, thereby benefiting very few citizens of the City of Pasadena. While the DPNA believes that the purchase of open space is a general benefit the City as a whole, we also believe that the first priority for these particular funds should be the ‘park-starved’ Central District where a greater number of citizens can enjoy them.
Because funds were no longer available from the Residential Impact Fees, “Park Now” proponents of the Playhouse District park proposed at Union & El Molino had to seek funding elsewhere. This serves as an example of how residents of Downtown Pasadena did not in the past benefit from having four city council members represent its interests, as the council failed to preserve those funds for new parkland within Central District boundaries. Sadly, the City of Pasadena did not win the competitive Prop 84 Grant from the State of California. All of the Downtown community’s hard work on the proposed “Playhouse Park” is now left without apparent funding.
RECOMMENDATIONS – #1 Residential Impact Fees
A. AMEND TITLE 4 - REVENUE AND FINANCE, CHAPTER 4.17 AS FOLLOWS:
- a. 4.17.040: Add to the “Park and recreational facilities classifications” a category that would allow “small neighborhood parks” or “pocket parks” or “infill parks” of less than one (1) acre.
- b. 4.17.060: Amend to require that at least 50% of the fees generated within the Central District be set aside for acquisition and improvement thereof of new parkland in the Central District, which boundaries are described in the 2004 Central District Specific Plan.
B. EARMARK FUTURE RESIDENTIAL IMPACT FEES FROM THE CENTRAL DISTRICT AS DEFINED BY THE CENTRAL DISTRICT SPECIFIC PLAN TO FUND PARKS IN THE CENTRAL DISTRICT.
- The Union Village project (in the pipeline) is likely to generate about $1,300,000 in Residential Impact Fees. These fees are split 90%/10% (10% going to the Arroyo) – which still leaves a potential of over $1.1 MM available from this project alone. The community-designed El Molino Park has a budget of $4,284,637; fees from Union Village should be applied towards this park to the fullest extent.
- Fees from later stages of the Westgate project, if still available, should be applied to a new pocket park in the Central District.
- Other pocket park sites include the Lake District, perhaps mid-block between Hudson & Oak Knoll or Green & Cordova, has real potential to create synergy between the local business district, local restaurants and the many residents.
- The public parking lot on Madison Ave, behind the future Urth Café, has a real potential to create a real synergy between café patrons, culinary students, theatre-goers, and other visitors. The creation of great Public Spaces—destinations for pedestrians—should be a top priority for the council.
- Implementation of the Central Park Master Plan shall also be made a priority.
2. ALLOW “TRAFFIC REDUCTION AND TRANSPORTATION IMPROVEMENT FEES” TO FUND PEDESTRIAN AND BICYCLE IMPROVEMENTS
BACKGROUND – #2 Traffic Reduction and Transportation Improvement Fees
Guiding Principle #5 of the General Plan states; “Pasadena will be a city where people can circulate without cars. Specific plans in targeted development areas will emphasize mixed uses, pedestrian activity and transit; public and private transit will be made more available; neighborhood centers and urban villages will be promoted to reduce the need for auto use.” As an implementation ordinance, the intent of Municipal Code Chapter 4.19 “Traffic Reduction and Transportation Improvement Fee” is to mitigate the traffic impacts of new industrial, office, retail, and residential development, and to fund transportation improvements. As the ordinance is currently written, any fees generated must go to a list of seventeen (17) named “List of improvements” including buses, bus stops, vans, transit maintenance yards, automobile intersections, street extensions, ITS master plans, and safety/mobility enhancements. The list of types of eligible improvements does not include pedestrian and bicycle improvements as traffic mitigation and/or transportation improvements. It is currently prohibited to spend these funds on pedestrian or bicycle infrastructure, and that is a problem. Basically, this latter ordinance does not fully reflect or implement the City’s vision as a “walkable city” as described in the General Plan.
People walk to and from bus stops, to and from light rail, to and from their parked cars, to and from their residents – so everyone is a pedestrian, including those who ride in cars. The “foot” is the oldest form of transportation for human beings; if you provide the infrastructure to accommodate and favor the pedestrian, more people will get out of their cars and feel more comfortable in an urban area.
Downtown residents enjoy a variety of housing and transportation options, and are looking for better amenities for walking and biking, and access to entertainment within walking distance, on well-designed, pedestrian friendly corridors. Alternative forms of transportation such as walking and biking allow for car independence.
Pasadena already has a foundation of a young, innovative workforce, light-rail, world-famous educational institutions, and a historic core that forms the basis of a truly self-contained neighborhood; however, auto-centric policies and planning which is a remnant of an obsolete unsustainable era is hijacking the City’s vision as described in the General Plan.
RECOMMENDATION: – #2 Traffic Reduction and Transportation Improvement Fees
1. Amend Municipal Code 4.19.060 to add “pedestrian and bicycle improvements” to the list of allowed improvements to mitigate traffic and provide for transportation improvements. This will effectively increase the types of improvements that can best fulfill the spirit and intent of the General Plan Guiding Principle #5: “Pasadena will be a city where people can circulate without cars.”
The above two items, Park Fees and Traffic Fees, are two samples of tangible action that the council can deliver in the coming months. Given the council’s stated support for Downtown Pasadena, and the advantages of being represented by four council members, we look forward to decisive action by the council.
In an increasingly competitive regional and national economic climate, the entire City of Pasadena will greatly benefit from consistent, unified leadership representing its Downtown, which serves as the City’s most visible and diverse driver of economic activity.
To that end, we also look forward to a greater and extended dialogue with the council, and will be requesting meetings with each council member to discuss the above and additional items that will make Downtown Pasadena—and therefore our entire city—a more vibrant, thriving, and pleasant place.
DOWNTOWN PASADENA NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION
Monthly “Third Thursday” Members Meeting to involve election/nomination of 2012-13 Board of Directors
Thursday, May 17th 6:30pm
Monthly reoccurring meeting of the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association.
Pasadena Presbyterian Church, 585 E Colorado Blvd Pasadena CA 91101; the Gamble Lounge (the central parlor that faces the courtyard between the older education wing and the new auditorium).
General Plan back on the city’s agenda
Monday, May 14th, Staff to present draft concept map and policies for feedback to the City Council.
Saturday, June 23rd, General Plan Open House #1: Draft Concept Map presentation to the community – PCC 9am.
Tuesday, June 28th, General Plan Open House #2: Draft Concept Map presentation to the community – Senior Center 4pm.
About the DPNA:
The Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association is the voice of the residents of the Central District of Pasadena, California.
We meet monthly on the Third Thursday at 6:30pm in the Gamble Lounge of Pasadena Presbyterian Church at 585 E Colorado Blvd.
The DPNA promotes a walkable urban lifestyle in a city that is vibrant with thriving businesses, excellent arts, good government, and active public spaces.
The DPNA advocates for urban parks, wider sidewalks, pedestrian-biased street design, bike lanes, trees & shrubbery, mixed-use & transit-oriented development, enduring architecture, a streetcar, and other amenities that improve life for residents of an urban city center.
Downtown Pasadena is defined roughly as the 210 freeway (north), Catalina Ave (east), California Blvd (south), and Pasadena Ave (west).
We send out 1-2 emails per month with updates about what we’re doing.