ONE Council District for Downtown Pasadena

Downtown Residents Demand to be Better Represented.

A letter to Pasadena’s City Council and the Redistricting Task Force.

To:  Mayor Bill Bogaard, Pasadena City Council: Jackie Robinson, Margaret McAustin, Chris Holden, Gene Masuda, Victor Gordo, Steve Madison, Terry Tornek, and members of the Redistricting Task Force:

The Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association opposes the current City Council District Boundaries, and the proposed revisions adopted by the Redistricting Task Force. Downtown Pasadena is currently split up between 4 different council districts, an arrangement that is harmful to both Downtown residents and Downtown businesses, who have unique characteristics and interests that are underserved by the four-way split. The proposed revisions by the Redistricting Task Force do not correct this split.

What makes life in Downtown Pasadena different? There are several factors that define people who choose to live in mixed-use town-centers versus those who prefer to live in exclusively residential centers and be transported to commercial and cultural centers. The following factors are welcomed as defined values that improve quality of life as follows:

1. Integration of Commercial and Residential Activities: Business and economic activity is integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood in such a way that residents comfortably interact, and develop human-scale relationships with local commercial enterprises. People who live in mixed-use town-centers form a base that is beneficial to the local economy. Commercial establishments see the local population as a ‘captured audience’, who, given their disassociation with car-dependency, becomes a shared welcome between both entities. But the benefits of relationships do not end on the level of commercial/economic exchange. This concept of a ‘captured audience’ moves beyond the status of commercial-retail to one capable of attracting quality employers.

2. Diversity of Social and Economic Status: Social interaction is not limited amongst the elderly, dog- walkers, families, students, homeless, shoppers and office workers (to name a few). Such interactions whether planned or spontaneous, are definitely diverse across socio-economic levels, race and ethnicity, age and family types.

3. Safety in Numbers: Diversity of people creates the opportunity where the urban fabric is occupied throughout many hours of the day. During the early morning and late afternoon, families and the elderly are typical pedestrians, while during the daytime, commercial workers travel the streets. Evenings, including late nights, bring out the greatest diversity of individuals, including many from the suburbs. Therefore, it is active social activities (rather than reactive helicopter police security) that create ongoing public safety.

4. Facile Access to Cultural Activities: The most unique experiential effect of mixed-use town center living occurs for those residents whose fullest sense of ‘home ownership’ extends beyond the front door and into the community: For example, arts and cultural interactions are more often experienced beyond the ‘living room’. These cultural activities can be experienced as isolated and contemplative moments, or amongst groups as interactive social events. The importance of the experiential effect is that it has the added enrichment of unplanned spontaneity at public spaces such as museums, parks, and even streets, and can be free or require admission.

5. Efficient Use of Time: People who move into a mixed-use town-center typically trade-in the time associated with automobile usage to discover the freedoms of a ‘walkable lifestyle’. With everything from shopping, entertainment, work, and education within a 10-20 minute walk, even families with children benefit from an increase in shared activities.

6. Special Requirements to the Built Environment: Many of the ‘quality of life’ items listed above fall outside the domain of the city administration and its politics and under direct control of its citizenry. However, the following items are a very direct consequence of political influence, and therefore, the following changes are requested, not just to improve the quality of life within the Central District, but to keep it competitive with other cities that have learned to copy Pasadena’s renaissance of the 1990’s.

  1. Multi-modal Transportation – Downtown residents are not car dependent, and view walking and cycling as the primary alternative modes of transportation within Downtown Pasadena. Public policy must be changed so that analysis and decision-making are no longer made through the lens of auto-superiority. With a strong residential core it must no longer be assumed that people will traverse and/or arrive in Downtown Pasadena via an automobile and require a parking spot. Instead, resources should be directed towards improving the pedestrian/cycling experience: Sidewalks and bike paths should be busier than our streets.
  2. Parks – Downtown Pasadena has a shortage of parks. Ironically, this is in spite of the fact that Downtown residents have a greater need for parks and green public space, since mixed-use/multi-family housing typically lacks private green space. While Park Funds have been collected from new construction within the Central District, these monies have gone to fund parks outside the District: In essence, residential buyers in the Central District pay a premium through Park Funds for the purchase of their units, but require automobiles to access them outside the district. In the meantime, it does not seem correct that existing parks such as the ‘Central Park’ languish from maintenance, security and a diversity of uses to accommodate a diverse population, or that the creation of new parks also remains ignored.
  3. Construction Defects – Given the extent and pervasive nature of construction defects of buildings within the Central District [new buildings that leak, have cracked foundations, etc due to faulty construction], it is obvious that related building and permitting departments have not kept abreast of the constant evolution and complexity of building systems within mixed-use buildings. The cost and lifestyle inconveniences associated with the construction defects of these building types makes it clear that all associated city departments must re-strategize how best to mitigate these persistent problems, in such a way to keep new property owners welcomed. Also, given that buildings, both during their construction phase and throughout their life, present the greatest environmental impact, the City Administration should begin to put into place a plan that also mitigates these impacts (for example LEED Certification should be considered within the overall strategy of Cap and Trade) to create dense and energy efficient buildings.

Downtown Pasadena residents, therefore, have unique interests and a different lifestyle that deserves appropriate recognition and representation on Pasadena’s City Council.

Downtown Pasadena Residents feel underserved or ignored, as demonstrated by bias in official city documents (i.e. Guiding Principle #1, which insinuates that Downtown Pasadena is not a neighborhood and that the city belongs [the word “our”] only to residents who live outside of Downtown Pasadena), and by the actions of City Council members, including the failure to proportionately appoint Downtown residents to commissions and advisory boards, “kitchen cabinets” etc., and by policy decisions, communications, and general inattentiveness.

The four-way split must be eliminated. Downtown Pasadena must be represented by a single council district. Such an arrangement will improve the representation of Downtown Pasadena on the City Council.

Therefore, the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association urges adoption of the following “One Downtown” district map:

Sincerely yours,
Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association

Endnote: Guiding Principle #1, the wording of which displays a bias against Downtown Pasadena as its own distinct neighborhood: “Growth will be targeted to serve community needs and… will be redirected away from our neighborhoods and into our downtown.”

DPNA’s Third-Thursday Monthly Meeting:

This month’s meeting will be a relaxed social affair, and a chance to debrief. Our normal location is the Gamble Lounge at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, but this Thursday we will meet for dinner at the private room at Abricott, a lovely new restaurant at 238 S. Lake.  Call 626-539-3762 or email for details.