Kimpton Hotel threatens Civic Center parkland & trees

Advocacy Alert
Civic Center Parkland & Trees endangered by YWCA/Kimpton Hotel proposal.

Integrity of the Civic Center threatened.
City Council votes on Mon Aug 15th, 7-10pm.

Please attend and speak up!

and/or send an email to

“Alternative 2A”–what staff, with the support of Pasadena Heritage, is urging. It reduces the parkland to a strip of unusable landscaping, removes the Sister City trees, and sticks the REAR END of a 5 or 6-story hotel building into the face of City Hall. (View from Garfield/Union. Click for more renderings.)

Let’s protect our beautiful Civic Center!

Postcard, ca 1930s, with an idealized view of the gardens in the foreground. Our Civic Center is a nationally recognized artifact of the “City Beautiful” movement, which placed grand, monumental civic buildings in a garden setting.

Our Civic Center was intended to have shade and gardens. (Historic photos are courtesy of the Pasadena Public Library through the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration)

The citizens of Pasadena voted in 1923 for the bond measure that purchased the land upon which to build the Civic Center, including the public open spaces that form the garden-like setting of City Hall. Subsequent plans, like a 1925 version of the original plan, cannot replace the plan that the voters approved that was published in the newspaper in 1923 as an exhibit describing what the citizens wanted and were told they were getting.


The Sister City Gardens aren’t “Surplus” land.

“2A” as proposed requires the Council to declare the commercially-zoned parkland as “surplus” land that isn’t needed for any public purpose, so that they can turn it over to a private developer to build the hotel.

Rehabilitation of the YWCA is secondary. The integrity of our Civic Center is the 1st Priority.

We should not sacrifice the integrity of the Civic Center (as “2A” does) to rehabilitate the YWCA. The integrity of the Civic Center depends on the garden setting that the parkland provides, and it depends on not placing the REAR END (!!) of a 5 or 6-story hotel directly facing City Hall!

The YWCA has been vacant for 20 years, and all of the alternatives in the Kimpton proposal do an excellent job of rehabilitating the interior of the old YWCA building, a value of $15-20 million. But at what cost to the integrity of the Civic Center? Is it worth creating another Plaza Pasadena in our Civic Center?


Good News!  We could choose Alternative “2E

We aren’t required to sacrifice the integrity of the Civic Center by demolishing the parkland and the trees.  We aren’t required to place the REAR END (!!) of a 5 or 6-story hotel directly facing City Hall, because we own the land.  We just need to City Council to make the right decision. They have that option–it’s called “Alternative 2E.”
(Naturally, we’re told that a so-called “independent analysis” shows that 2E “doesn’t pencil out.”  See the article by Larry Wilson, below.)

“2E” (on the left) preserves the parkland, trees, and avoids placing the rear end directly in the face of City Hall. vs. “2A” (on the right). (click for larger view. It’s the 2nd slider image



Attend the meeting.

This Monday night, Aug 15th, City Council will vote.  Unless there is a massive outcry, they will likely agree with the powerful voices backing this plan and will declare the parkland across from City Hall as “surplus” and turn it over to a private developer to build a 180-room hotel and rehabilitate the YWCA.

Don’t let that happen! Please attend the meeting, fill out a speaker card, and urge the City Council to instead vote for Alternative “2E (107 rooms), which preserves the parkland and the Sister City Trees, or ask them to start over and ask Pasadena citizens what *they* envision for that land.

Monday, August 15, 2016
7pm to 10pm
(or later)

Pasadena City Hall, 2nd floor.

These meetings typically start late and stretch on for hours (sometimes as late as 1am), so if you can’t arrive at 7pm, it’s still helpful to arrive late.  Check our Facebook page for live updates.

Send an email.

When you send your email, be sure to cc the City Clerk so that it gets put into the record:

Tell them that the *First Priority* is the *Civic Center*. We will not settle for a project that sells off the public parkland. We believe that the YWCA is an important historic resource but is *secondary* to the the Civic Center as a whole, and that we should not sacrifice the integrity of the Civic Center (as “2A” does) to rehabilitate the YWCA.

The integrity of the Civic Center depends on the *garden setting* that the parkland provides, and it depends on not placing the REAR END (!!) of a 5 or 6-story hotel directly facing City Hall!

Let’s preserve *both* the Y and the integrity of the Civic Center!
2E” is a better alternative.

2E preserves the parkland and the Sister City trees, doesn’t put the REAR END of a 5 or 6-story hotel directly in the face of City Hall



Send an email now – click here!

From the Pasadena Star News column by Larry Wilson:

 “I was one of those who, long concerned about the fate of the fabulous Julia Morgan-designed building, which had long been in disrepair since the YW sold it in 1996, thought that the deal sounded like a pretty good one. ….But then skeptical friends started to ask better questions than I had. They first pointed out that the preliminary plans submitted by upscale Kimpton Hotels by no means even suited the definition of a boutique hotel, which typically have between 10 and 100 rooms. The San Francisco-based company was talking about 150 rooms right from the get-go. Nothing boutique about that size. That’s just a hotel.

And then, rather than stick to the footprint of the now taxpayer-owned property after City Hall bought it through eminent domain after the years of disuse, the developer was, as ever, moaning about how the hotel just wasn’t going to pencil out economically unless it got more land on which to build.

Now, look. I have good friends who are developers. Without them, we’d be camping out. But after three decades of covering development issues at Pasadena City Hall, I have never heard a developer say that any deal as originally conceived could ever pencil out without an additional bump: More land, for free. Lower price. Something. Anything. It is such a standard tactic in what they see as the art of the deal that they are programmed to say, “Doesn’t pencil out.” I don’t believe it for a second. …”

Click here for the full article.


Send an email to City Council now – click here!




Myths that you’ll hear about the project:

MYTH #1: The Julia Morgan YWCA building is in urgent danger and if construction doesn’t begin SOON, we’ll lose the historic building forever.   The YWCA has been vacant for 20 years. Certainly, we should rehabilitate it sooner rather than later, but we shouldn’t sacrifice the Civic Center itself to rush a poorly-designed solution, like we did with Plaza Pasadena.  Why not spend a bit more time to get a good project that will last for 100 or more years?[…]

MYTH #6: The City claims that it held 15+ public meetings about the project, and the public has provided lots of input.   Not so. A request for proposal was initially developed by the City Manager, in cooperation with Pasadena Heritage, without the Planning Department’s involvement. Closed door meetings in City Hall were then held to evaluate and select a developer, as well as approve the exclusive right to negotiate.  The public saw a preliminary plan three days before Christmas in 2013 that already included the parkland.  Seven months later, the public found out that a closed-session decision had been made that struck the project in stone and stole the parkland. All the “15+” subsequent public meetings have been exercises in futility. The key decision to ‘throw in the parkland’ and the choice of this developer was made without any public involvement or debate.






Send an email to City Council now – click here!