Economic Vitality IS Quality of Life
Jobs (Economic Vitality) and Transportation (Walkability) are Big Issues at Candidate Forum
The March 5th primary election is fast approaching that will likely decide who will represent District 3 on Pasadena’s City Council. The DPNA hosted a forum earlier in February and gave the candidates an opportunity to introduce themselves to the voters. Since then, Nicholas Benson has withdrawn, and therefore either Ishmael Trone or John J. Kennedy will represent the district.
At the forum, both Kennedy and Trone articulated general support for transportation and development policies that support a walkable Downtown & Northwest Pasadena. They spoke positively of adding bike lanes and transportation solutions that make streets safer and more pleasant for pedestrians.
Both candidates are focused on creating jobs. Rather than seeing “Economic Vitality” as a something that detracts from “Quality of Life,” they understand that economic vitality is a large component of “Quality of Life.”
Economic issues impact people directly in a variety of ways across District 3. The ability to provide food, security, and shelter–the basics–is the obvious fundamental measure of Quality of Life, and one that isn’t a given for everybody.
Once the basics are obtained, however, “Quality of Life” hinges upon “Economic Vitality” in other ways.
In Downtown Pasadena, “Economic Vitality” and “Quality of Life” mean being able to walk to the new Tender Greens or Settebello Pizza or (future) Urth Caffé, for example. Those businesses would not be here if the economic climate that the city’s policies create for them were inhospitable to them. Tender Greens (and every restaurant, shop, and business) depends on a sufficient number of patrons who can afford their products. Those kinds of desirable businesses locate here because they believe the economic demographics will support them, and because they see the area as an attractive and unique place that patrons will prefer to visit, rather than to drive to Arcadia or Glendale and park in a big mall lot.
Conversely, the “Quality of Life” factor of walkability–being able to walk to the conveniences and businesses that one wants to visit–is also–and increasingly, given the rising cost of gas–an economic issue. The cost of maintaining and fueling a private auto consumes a significant portion of income, and since fuel is a fixed cost, is a greater burden upon those with lower incomes. Depending on autos as the sole means of transportation also places a burden on the environment and drains our planet of its limited supply of fossil fuels, which will likely result in future Economic and Quality of Life repercussions.
Our transportation system and the way we design and place buildings (land use) is oriented almost exclusively for a society in which everybody owns and depends upon a car. Therefore, walking, biking, and transit use is less safe, less convenient, and impractical. Those who choose not to own a car, or who struggle to afford one, and who depend on buses experience longer wait times. For them, the wasted time is a quality of life factor with an economic impact.
The availability of affordable housing is also an economic issue that applies across District 3, on both sides of the 210 freeway. Restrictions on building, including limiting heights and lowering density, make housing more expensive.
A factor besides “Economic Vitality” that both Kennedy & Trone spent less time addressing is “Sense of Place” or “Community Character.” Character is related to “Quality of Life” and also to “Economic Vitality,” because Pasadena’s “secret sauce” as a desirable place to live or visit, spend or earn (and thus support economic vitality) is closely tied to our unique identity. Although there are some who believe that “Economic Vitality” and “Community Character” are fundamentally at odds, who resist change and who are content to maintain the auto-centric, low-density, strip-mall environment that predominates, the DPNA adamantly rejects that view. We believe that we can create and sustain a unique sense of place and experience economic vitality.
Downtown Pasadena comprises the majority of the entire city’s economic engine, and therefore the economic success or failure–and thus quality of life–of outlying areas of Pasadena depend on the success of Downtown Pasadena. Neighbors on both sides of the 210 Freeway deserve and desire a walkable community, and the pedestrian and biking connections above and below the 210 Freeway must be strengthened. The project to be built on the Parson’s parking lot along Fair Oaks Ave will be a significant step toward extending the energy and vitality of Old Pasadena northward along Fair Oaks Ave. As surface parking lots are a primary deterrent to pedestrian activity (parking lots are not typically places that people are attracted to or want to spend time in), the addition of new residences, shops, and offices will not only fill a repelling void, but will fill it with life, with people who will add to the energy and vitality that already exists.*
On the Parsons site, the energy and vitality that will be created will flow Northward, and will create opportunities above the 210 Freeway for revitalization and further transformation into a walkable community. A similar situation exists on Los Robles Ave, where the surface parking lots and human activity voids (such as the Kaiser, Fuller, and the 99¢ Store parking lots, and the Arco gas station) create an environment hostile to pedestrians.
Based on the Candidate Forum and their published statements, the DPNA has members that support both candidates and feels confident that it will be able to forge a productive long-term working relationship with both Mr. Trone and Mr. Kennedy, no matter the results of the election.
* It should be noted that pedestrian activity–the vitality of people–is extremely sensitive to good design. Just adding buildings or people where there are parking lots is not sufficient; those buildings must be designed so that they relate to the street and to the surrounding buildings in a manner that encourages pedestrian activity. For this reason, the DPNA also advocates for a Form-Based Zoning code and other tools and policies that foster good design.
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).
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