Video: DPNA asks City Council to reconsider district boundaries
4-way split of Downtown Pasadena under-serves Downtown residents
Video of the DPNA’s request + response from the Mayor and Councilmembers
The DPNA submitted a letter to the council, and attended the April 2nd City Council Meeting. Here is what happened: (the letter was submitted prior to the meeting but is at the bottom of this post).
District 4 – Gene Masuda’s remarks did not mention Downtown Pasadena. Masuda spoke at length in opposition to the Task Force’s plan and ultimately was the only dissenting vote, for the reason that the plan removes residents from his district in order to fulfill the Colorado Blvd objective.
Letter to the City Council:
The Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association (DPNA) opposes the current City Council District Boundaries and the proposed changes known as the “Nelson Alley” Plan, and asserts that the Redistricting Task Force (Task Force) failed to perform its duty to thoroughly re-examine the current map and give serious consideration to alternatives that proposed solutions to the flaws that exist in the current map.
In short, the Task Force had a bias towards minimal change and did not adequately respond to community input. The following points evidence this finding:
1. Before the redistricting process began, the Task Force Chair Bill Crowfoot was quoted by the Pasadena Star News as saying that “the process will be more about tweaking lines than making massive shifts,” evidencing a personal bias to affirm that the previous plan would remain intact. Rather than state that the redistricting task force would make findings based on new material collected during the 10 years since the previous redistricting in 2002, it was evident that the process was predetermined.
2. The Task Force did not consider:
- The flaws and inequities that exist in the current map (if any)
- Non-demographic changes that have occurred in the city since 2002 such as
- Geographic change resulting from the opening of the Gold Line in 2003,
- Economic change resulting from the flight of auto dealerships and increased business competition from Glendale, Arcadia, and Downtown Los Angeles.
- Land Use changes that resulted over time from the 1994 General Plan.
Instead, a non-resident consultant firm, National Demographics Corp (NDC), proposed a variety of different plans with varying degrees of change, all of which were arbitrary, and none of which were based on the realities of changes within the city. Given no reason to support change, the Redistricting Task Force defaulted to minimal change.
To date, no examination of the existing plan has been made to determine its integrity or flaws, and the Redistricting Task Force has proceeded under the unquestioned assumption that it and similar plans are representative of all areas in the City of Pasadena
3. The DPNA asserts that the current plan, and plans similar to it, are fundamentally flawed: they under-represent Downtown Pasadena. Downtown Residents have unique characteristics and are therefore a very different community of interest. The current 4-way split of Downtown Pasadena underserves our area. Therefore, the DPNA has proposed a “One-Downtown District” plan and in the process asserted specific facts and characteristics particular to downtown residents to support that plan, and has listed grievances: specific instances of under-representation.
Yet, the plan proposed by DPNA was dismissed out-of-hand, without serious examination, as “premature” by members of the Redistricting Task Force.
- The DPNA’s “One-Downtown District” plan, which was developed and submitted using NDC’s software (www.onlineredistricting.com), was not printed out and distributed to the Task Force in the same or equivalent format by NDC.
- No detailed analysis of the plan was made or provided by the Task Force nor did the Task Force instruct the consultant (NDC) to offer an opinion or analysis.
- No alternatives were discussed which might fulfill similar objectives as the “One-Downtown District” plan.
- When challenged by the DPNA to respond to the facts, characteristics, and grievances, Task Force Vice-Chair Richard McDonald incorrectly characterized the DPNA map as creating “7 white–majority districts” (which is not only untrue, but impossible), thereby proving that the proposed map was never examined in detail, or seriously considered.
4. To date, the DPNA does not remain confident that a serious consideration or investigation has been made of its listed facts, characteristics and grievances. Those facts are as follows:
- The 1994 General Plan targeted growth towards Downtown Pasadena, resulting change over a long period of time, much of it since 2002.
- According to the 2011 census, approximately 19,000 people, or 1/7 of the city’s population, live in Downtown Pasadena.
- Downtown Pasadena contains the highest density and largest diversity of mixed-use than any other area of the City.
- The ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic characteristics of Downtown residents are more diverse and less homogenous than in any other part of the City.
- 2,895+ residential units were built in Downtown Pasadena since the last redistricting occurred in 2002.
- The Gold Line was finished in 2003, and therefore the 2002 redistricting effort did not take into consideration the changes to neighborhoods that occurred as a result.
- The percentage of Asians increased since the last redistricting effort; Asians are spread throughout the city, but their highest concentrations are within Downtown Pasadena.
- None of the current Council members live within Downtown Pasadena.
- There is a precedent for significant redistricting change: in 1992, District 5 was created to respond to changing demographics.
- Downtown residents are active in their civic duty and are eager to participate in shaping its future.
- As a result of the poorly-reasoned and arbitrary objective that each district should contain a portion of Colorado Blvd, Districts 1, 3, and 5 are non-compact and un-intuitive, and Downtown Pasadena is split into 4 separate council districts, to its detriment.
- District 1’s piece of Colorado Boulevard consists of only one block, and District 5’s piece of Colorado Boulevard consists of only 3 blocks. These short lengths are not particularly meaningful and demonstrate the arbitrary nature of the Colorado Blvd objective.
- District 3 is non-compact (i.e., its boundaries sprawl in a manner which does not make sense geographically). The portion of Downtown Pasadena located in District 3 is not adjacent to the core of District 3 in Northwest Pasadena. The residents of the Downtown portion of District 3 have much more in common with the Downtown residents of District 6 than they do with the residents in the remaining portion of District 3, a non-adjacent portion of Northwest Pasadena that is separated from Downtown by District 5
- Residents of the Downtown portion of District 6 have much more in common with the Downtown residents of District 3 than they do with the remaining portion of District 6, Linda Vista/Annandale and West Pasadena. As outlined in the following point, Downtown Pasadena is an extremely different neighborhood with entirely different characteristics than Linda Vista/Annandale and West Pasadena
5. Residents of Downtown Pasadena are different from other Pasadena residents in important ways. The difference between Downtown and suburban neighborhoods is far greater than the differences between suburban neighborhoods to each other. Characteristics specific to Downtown Pasadenans include the following:
- Downtown Pasadenans continue to thrive on the growth of mixed-use planning and neighborhood vitality and, more than ever, they are less likely to be auto dependant. As a result they generate less Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMTs) than residents in other parts of Pasadena. The benefits include:
- More people are walking, biking, using public transit and other multi-modal/alternative forms of transportation in Downtown Pasadena than any other area of the City
- Downtown Pasadenans own fewer cars per household, keeping its streets less crowded than people who live in other parts of the city.
- The City’s 2012 Downtown survey shows that 49% of the Central District population do not drive a car alone to get to work
- More pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks reinforces a sense of a safe neighborhood for visitors (as well as Pasadena residents).
- Downtown Pasadenans own businesses, work in shops and teach in our schools and universities making Pasadena a city of great commerce and learning
- Many Downtown Pasadenans are young professionals who are the key to shaping the future of Pasadena as innovators in information technology, the arts, and health industries. Services and amenities that keep Downtown Pasadena lifestyle attractive are a benefit to the entire city.
- Urban centers are also an attraction to non-retiring seniors
- Downtown Pasadenans are much more likely to live in multi-family dwellings (and some mixed-use, multi-family dwellings as well).
- Downtown Pasadenans have smaller household sizes. Many dwelling units are also smaller and therefore denser providing more efficient use of resources and decreased carbon footprint impacts on the natural environment. The long term impact on the need for city services are significantly decreased: there is less use of city services such as schools or more efficient use of utilities.
- Given the complex design and building systems incorporated into mixed-use and/or multi-family buildings (vs. single-family) Downtown Pasadena’s multi-family dwellings have shown a propensity for significant construction defect problems.
- Downtown Pasadenans have a strong need for the continued growth of urban, or semi-urban lifestyle that intertwines work, education, entertainment and other social, civic and cultural activities.
- While Downtown Pasadenans enjoy the private space of their homes, however, public space, which is contingent on pedestrian activity, is much more important to Downtown residents.
- Because Downtown Pasadenans lack private green space, the need for quality public parks is very high.
- In commercial terms, Downtown Pasadenans are considered a ‘captured audience’ given their tendency to shop within short distance of their homes. Downtown Residents spend 10 times (daily) what the average office worker spends in the Central District – making a substantial contribution to the City’s revenue base (fully 25%).
6. Under-Representation of Downtown Pasadena includes but is not limited to the following:
- New development projects in Downtown Pasadena were assessed park fees (the “Residential Impact Fee”) that in turn were paid by Downtown Pasadenans; however, no new parks were created in Downtown Pasadena. Instead these funds were:
- Spent to create parks outside of Downtown Pasadena near areas that already had plenty of open space (by nature of their single-family zoning)
- Not accessible to Downtown pedestrians
- Without sufficient parking or public transit to accommodate Downtown Pasadenans.
- The “Park Now” movement to create a park in Downtown Pasadena was a grassroots effort (that was not Council-led). It lacked enthusiastic championing (a level of commitment greater than mere support) by any councilperson, including the councilperson that represented District 3.
- The state grant that would fund the park took into consideration community involvement and participation; therefore, turnout at the community design meetings were key to its success.
- However, the Councilmember from District 3 did not attend, publicize, or otherwise aid efforts to increase attendance. Instead, a conflicting meeting was scheduled on May 19, 2011 which decreased attendance at the “Park Now” meeting.
- Councilmembers from District 6, 5, or 7 also did not attend, publicize, or otherwise aid efforts to increase attendance at any of the “Park Now” meetings, despite the fact that a significant portion of District 6, 5, and 7 residents live within walking distance of the proposed park site.
- Council members remain in favor of a ‘Downtown Streetcar’ but again none are available to champion the project or its study.
- Unlike concerns of single-family neighborhoods, Downtown Pasadenans require better pedestrian-friendly street development (for example, pedestrian-biased street crossings, better sidewalk care, more benches, better lighting, etc.). Downtown Pasadenans do not feel that this is enough of a concern of the current council, and insufficient action has been taken by the council.
- The city’s core “Guiding Principles” reveal a bias against Downtown Pasadenans, or better stated, a failure to recognize that downtown residents exist. The language of Guiding Principle #1 implicitly states that the city belongs to the people who live outside of Downtown Pasadena by distinguishing “our neighborhoods” as different and distinct from Downtown Pasadena.
- Downtown Pasadenans are consistently under-represented or un-represented on council-appointed commissions and committees
- The General Plan Update Advisory Committee, with 18 members, should have a minimum of 3 Downtown residents. It has only one.
- The redistricting task force itself should have at least one Downtown resident. It has none.
- The Council Member of District 6 remained unresponsive regarding safety and security issues of Central Park until dangerous criminal issues could no longer be ignored by residents and businesses and the Old Pasadena Management District (OPMD).
7. Task Force reaffirmed the “Colorado Boulevard Objective,” a preference to orient all maps so that each district contains a piece of Colorado Blvd, with the reasoning that each district should contain a portion of a business district. (Others have speculated that the Rose Parade or Route 66 is the reason; it’s unclear.) However:
- Colorado Boulevard is no longer overwhelmingly commercial; it is now also substantially residential.
- Business districts exist elsewhere in the city.
- Whatever justification for the Colorado Boulevard Objective, it is weak, and should not be a barrier to change, given the stated flaws and inequities that have resulted from its implementation.
In response to the above facts, characteristics, and instances of of under-representation, the Task Force merely stated that the DPNA’s “One-Downtown Plan” is “premature” because no mention of a downtown was made during the previous redistricting effort 10 years ago in 2002. However:
- No law, Federal or otherwise, establishes a minimum time frame for a district to have been ‘considered’, and more importantly, no resident should have to suffer the injustice until a remedy is no longer considered “premature”.
- Pasadena has changed significantly in the past 10 years as a response to the 1994 General Plan (the effects of which had a long tail), the addition of the Gold Line Rapid Transit system in 2003, and numerous economic, ethnic, and social-economic changes (all of which were unexamined by the Task Force).
Therefore the Task Force should not reject the DPNA Downtown Plan as “premature”.
In conclusion, since the Redistricting Task Force has failed in its duty to examine facts, characteristics, and grievances, it is now the City Council’s duty to either:
- Provide findings and develop a plan that responds to the facts, characteristics, and grievances. OR
- Reappoint a new task force with instructions to make those findings and develop a map that responds to the facts, characteristics, and grievances.
Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association
Next DPNA “Third Thursday” Meeting: April 19th, 6:30pm
We will be discussing next steps. Also on the agenda will be election/nomination of a new board of directors, a bike lane/bike sharing program proposal, and more.
Same time & place each month on the “Third Thursday”: Pasadena Presbyterian Church – the Gamble Lounge, 6:30pm.
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.