From Brain Drain to Brain Gain -- How It's Done

Mayor Bill Bogaard
Urban Land Institute – New Orleans
May 14, 2004

Mayor Bogaard is a member of the Urban Land Institute, an international trade association of real estate professionals, finance specialists, government officials, and other involved with the development of real estate and communities. He spoke at ULI’s Spring Conference 2004 about Pasadena’s success this decade in attracting and retaining technology-based businesses and organizations.

I am delighted to be a part of this panel discussion on “Brain Drain to Brain Gain—How It’s Done”, addressing ways in which cities prosper from the presence in the community of highly trained, creative individuals. ULI has identified Pasadena as a “brain gain” city, and my intention in the next few moments is to attempt to justify such a positive description.

In his presentation at this conference, Dr. Richard Florida, author of “The Rise of the Creative Class” made a convincing case that cities with a concentration of creative persons and creative activities succeed and will prosper in the future, even more than cities that seek to strengthen their communities by attracting corporate headquarters and promoting corporate jobs. My hope is that Pasadena is a helpful case study in this discussion, and I offer our experience as evidence relevant to Dr. Florida’s theory.

First, a few words about Pasadena. It is a city of about 140,000 people, 120 years old, with a great diverse population, diverse in ethnic and economic terms. One-third of the population are persons of Latino heritage, a percentage that has doubled over the last 20 years; about 12% are African American, down from 18% in the same period; about 8 or 10% are Asian Americans, a percentage that has crept up over 20 years, and the balance of Pasadena residents are classified as Caucasian, including 8,000 Armenians, 3,000 Muslim Americans, and others from various European backgrounds.

Geographically, the city has about 20 square miles, five miles by four miles, located 10 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, and it sits in an urban setting surrounded by other communities. Nearby cities include Arcadia, San Marino, South Pasadena, and La Canada-Flintridge. By far, our City is more diverse economically and ethnically than any of the nearby cities.

Let me report on recent developments in Pasadena. To the extent a Mayor can speak accurately, these are facts, and they give a little bit of an idea of what’s taking place. Then perhaps we can all speculate how this combination of positive events is coming about.

A year ago, a new light rail system opened, a 14 mile system from downtown Los Angeles to the eastern boundary of Pasadena, and in connection with that, the City has experienced a very significant amount of new investment in our downtown, primarily residential investment, along the corridor of the light rail system. Already in this decade, developers have built twice as many homes in Pasadena as were built in all of the 1990’s.

A couple of major office buildings have been completed, along with three major retail centers, two downtown and one in east Pasadena. One of the downtown centers is on South Lake Avenue, our traditional elegant shopping area which had fallen on hard times, and this area is doing a lot better, and then one on Colorado Boulevard—our main east-west street—near our City Hall, the Paseo Colorado. All three of these centers are doing well.

In the arts and culture area, we have witnessed new organizations getting started. The Pasadena Museum of California Art specializes in California art from 1850 forward, “plein aire” style, the product of a local couple who have been successful in their professional careers, who decided to give back to the community. This museum is planned to transition to a normal 501(c)(3) museum with public support over the next three years.

There is a new cultural program in one of our downtown parks—50 free concerts during the summer, Wednesday through Sunday night, starting the first of July. The Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts, the product of a family foundation grant made to Pasadena by Mortimer Levitt, the founder of the chain of stores called Custom Shirts.

We have a new organization called the Pasadena Jazz Institute, the dream of its 35 year old founder, a Jazz drummer who believes that the Pasadena area has the resources and the interest to support a long season of jazz each year. It’s in its fourth year and doing very well. The Institute has presented events at the Norton Simon Museum, the Civic Auditorium, and at venues on our major campuses.

The City has welcomed significant new development of businesses based on technology—ideas spun out of California Institute of Technology and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other academic institutions are now being transformed into new enterprises in a way that is hasn’t been true before. We have a new organization called Entretec—it’s a specialized, chamber of commerce-type organization that provides start-up and ongoing support to technology-based new companies. We have a new non-profit called Pasadena Bioscience Center which provides training for laboratory personnel to do research and to do testing in laboratories of biotech companies in a way that academic institutions do not provide. That organization, Pasadena Bioscience Center, is in the process of opening an incubator laboratory.

We’ve also made significant investment in our municipal electric system—$90 million for two new gas turbines that will allow reduced operating and maintenance costs as well as reducing pollution by over 90%. So it’s a huge step forward in terms of economics, adequate energy supply in the future, and environmental embracement. At the same time, we’re spending about $92 million to repair City Hall seismically and in regard to its systems—heating, venting and air conditioning.

Those are highlights. In the arts and culture area, one other—in the last three years we’ve had a free night—on a Friday night, the City has cooperated with six, with eight the next year, and now 12 of our cultural institutions to provide tram service, and we’re saying to the region—come to Pasadena—see the Norton Simon, see the Huntington Library, see Art Center College of Design—and do so on a free tram, with free admission to these facilities.

So obviously, Pasadena appears to be on a roll. The facts that I just shared with you are either causes or effects, and I don’t know which. But before closing, let me speculate about where the vitality is coming from.

I can say that Pasadena has a long history of great institutions and great leaders. We have Caltech, JPL, Art Center College of Design, the Huntington Library, the Norton Simon Museum, Pacific Oaks College, and the Pacific Asia Museum. Pasadena has a diversified economy. We have an historic district—Pasadena’s first downtown—that has developed over the last 25 years into an extremely popular “place” for all of southern California. It represents a major commitment to historic preservation.

Twenty five years ago, for any building that was 25 years old, the developer assumed that it could be knocked down. But there started to be tough community battles about the loss of those buildings, and today, any building 25 years or older, even if its falling down and has no historic significance or architectural distinction, has a good chance of being saved. Developers rarely say the word, “demolish”!

Pasadena has strong neighborhoods which have undergone reinvestment over the last years. People are buying homes and fixing them. A year ago we had three historic districts which have special rules for design and preservation, and today there are six, with two or three more in the pipeline. So the use of historic districts to provide special protection within the neighborhoods is growing stronger.

If there is a key to what’s going on in Pasadena, I would say that it is the arrival in recent years of new leadership. David Baltimore is President of Caltech, and he committed to “technology transfer”, building a technology-based business sector, and to a close working relationship with the City, the “town and gown” philosophy.

Art Center College of Design brought in Richard Koshalek, who has been tremendously energetic in expanding Art Center. Art Center has expanded on traditional areas of design and is teaching how to change the world—how to bring the discipline of design to the solution of embedded problems of everyday living, for example in South Africa where communities need infrastructure and houses and new ways to solve their problems.

Steven Koblik came to the Huntington Library, and he said, “I want to make this institution known to persons on the street.” He’s reaching out to schools, high schools and grade schools, to teachers and others, in a way that the Huntington has not previously done—bringing them in, taking displays out to other cultural institutions and to the young people of the region to share the tremendous resources of the Huntington.

Charles Elachi was named to head Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the world has seen him interviewed time and again this spring about the successful NASA mission to Mars.

Joan Marshall, who holds a degree in art history and an MBA, has become the CEO of the Pacific Asia Museum. She brings a disciplined vision to that institution which is recognized throughout the Pacific Rim.

Wendy Freedman heads Carnegie Observatories, a 100 year old institution—not many people know this important institution, even in the City of Pasadena—but it has played a major role with Caltech in exploring the universe and doing studies in space.

So, as I suggested, if there’s a key to what’s going on in the City, it’s new leaders who are saying that they want to reach out, expand the influence of their institutions in constructive ways to serve the community. I think that these factors are important in contributing to a creative, vibrant and exciting atmosphere in Pasadena.

Thank you, I look forward to the questions that I’m certain will follow after the other presenters speak.  

Posted: 5/14/2004 09:05:00 AM
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