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Rotary Club Luncheon

Mayor Bill Bogaard
June 13, 2007

The Pasadena Rotary Club invited Mayor Bogaard to address its weekly luncheon to report on the City’s experience this decade with growth and development, with particular emphasis on traffic and housing issues. The Mayor considers the Rotary Club to be “one of the most important forums in the City of Pasadena.” His remarks on that occasion follow:


What I’d like to present today is a mid-decade perspective on planning and development in the City of Pasadena: what happened so far, where we are at the moment, what problems we have, and what solutions might be available. I hope my remarks turn out to be interesting.

For me, the starting point is a General Plan that the City adopted in 1994. It was the product of extensive public meetings. During this period, Pasadena lived up to its reputation as a City that welcomes public participation in building the future of the City.

Some of you will remember that what happened in 1994 did not come out of the blue, but was the outcome of controversy and debate that began in the early 1980’s. The question was: what kind of city do we want Pasadena to be? In those years, concepts like historic preservation, urban design and managed growth were emerging into the public conversation for the first time and they were not well understood, in fact, they were not well received.

But there was, in the wake of the completion of the Plaza Pasadena in 1980, a strong debate about development in the City. That led to forums and hearings, even to litigation and citizen initiatives, over the next 10 years. As an outcome of that, the community proceeded in the early 1990’s to develop the 1994 General Plan—I wasn’t active in the City at the time, and so when I speak positively about the 1994 plan, it isn’t by way of taking any credit. I give credit to those who worked hard on it at that time.

Some will remember the vision statement from the General Plan. Among other things, it says, “Pasadena will be promoted as a cultural, scientific, corporate, entertainment, and education center for the region.” Further, “Growth in the City will be targeted to serve community needs and to enhance the quality of life. Higher density development will be directed away from our neighborhoods and into our downtown and along major transit corridors.” The plan calls for Pasadena to be a City where people can circulate without cars, and also asks that change be harmonized with Pasadena’s historic character and environment.

Not too much happened after that during the 1990’s. The economic times weren’t right, money was expensive, little real estate development was taking place. But this decade has seen a high level of new investment in the City, as well as other positive trends and developments.

For example, with the opening in the fall of 2001 of Paseo Colorado, other new retail investment occurred in Old Pasadena, in the Playhouse District, on South Lake, and in east Pasadena. Pasadena’s retail base turns out to be considerably larger than the retail base of Glendale, according to a report that appears in the current issue of Tri-Cities Magazine. I was surprised because Glendale is a much larger city than Pasadena. Pasadena’s population is about 145,000, Glendale is reporting 210,000.

In the area of office development, we’ve seen the completion of the Western Asset Plaza at Los Robles and Colorado, and IndyMac Plaza at Lake and Walnut, and there’s another office project coming on the former site of the Biggar’s furniture store. Pasadena turns out to have an historically low vacancy factor in office buildings at about 4%. That compares with Glendale’s current vacancy factor in terms of office space in the range of 12%.

Other parts of the community appear to have fared well. Our economy, our traditional profit-based economy, is extremely diverse, including financial services of all kinds, medical services, construction management and engineering, and high tech companies. The economy is strengthened by the stable and ongoing activities of major institutions like Caltech and Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Huntington Library (which I always claim is in Pasadena), and other organizations. The colleges and the universities that are part of Pasadena provide employment and retail sales, give us a stable economic base, and other valuable benefits.

Over the last 10 years there has been a lot of re-investment in our single-family neighborhoods, improving an aging housing stock and in many cases adding square footage. The value of homes in Pasadena increased beyond the average appreciation in Los Angeles County.
On the part of the City, I tally that we’ve invested almost $500 million in new infrastructure. One hundred million was invested in power generation equipment; over $100 million in City Hall, a project which is now near completion; there is a major project underway at the Conference Center; and we’ve invested $15 million at the Rose Bowl for new locker rooms.

So where are we today? I mentioned some of the points that I was going to mention: the 4% vacancy factor in office buildings which makes us very much in need of new office facilities, a strong retail base and continuing construction of housing. I would say that over 3,600 new units have been built in the City this decade, most of them in the Central Business District, and that compares with only a total of 1,100 units built during the entire decade of the 1990’s.

With this activity I can assure you that there is a good deal of political unease about the changes taking place; about the appearance of the new mixed-use buildings in the Central Business District; about the traffic that is impacting on all of us, at least in the Central Business District; and the question then is how we should deal with these issues of growth and prosperity in the City.

One of the issues is housing, particularly affordable housing, because Pasadena has always enjoyed and celebrated its diverse population. We have ethnic diversity and economic diversity, and I believe that such diversity contributes to the character and vitality of the City.

So Pasadena continues to address the issue of housing affordability. We don’t come close to meeting what most people see as the need, and there is pressure on persons of lower income to find lower cost housing in other communities. And that in the end is a challenge for the City. There obviously are benefits to having increased values of homes. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be homeowners find our balance sheets much stronger than they would be otherwise.

In the year 2001, the Council adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance, not without some controversy. It requires that projects of 10 residential units or more include, or have a set aside, for affordable units of 15%. That can be met by building the units on-site, building them nearby, or making a cash contribution to a housing fund which now totals about $15 million.

Under this ordinance, a couple of hundred new housing units that are affordable have been constructed or are committed and under construction. But we realize that that really isn’t sufficient to meet our needs, even with the other efforts the City has made in prior years to create affordable housing. Recently the Council has committed itself to an acquisition program to acquire properties that are suitable for use as affordable housing, to seek private sector partners to handle the rehabilitation and the marketing of those houses, whether they are for sale or for rent, and to facilitate the creation of new affordable units.

The policy at City Hall is that the City should not as a general rule be involved in construction. We seek private sector partners to do what they do best, and use our resources to leverage the resources that they bring to bear for the benefit of this kind of housing. We are also working to expand the City’s support for workforce housing, that layer of housing above affordable housing which ranges in cost from roughly $300,000-$400,000. Many people who have good jobs in this community find it difficult to afford homes even at this range. We want to create more affordable and workforce housing and facilitate the job-housing balance by accommodating workers to live in the City

We’re going to try an experiment with co-operative housing. Other communities have had some success with so-called “limited equity co-operative housing”, and there are other programs providing immediate assistance to renters, and to prevent homelessness and other programs that are ongoing, and the City is prepared to use reasonable amounts of resources to pursue those goals.

May I talk a few moments about traffic and transportation.

Once again, the City is working hard on the issues of traffic and transportation. At this time, such efforts are focusing on a couple of very interesting reports. One is a report on traffic reduction strategies. There are 10 or 12 proposals for reducing traffic, otherwise accommodating traffic in a way that limits congestion on the streets of the City.

We also recently received a report from Cal Poly students in the School of Urban Design, a pedestrian mobility study that offers a number of interesting recommendations for increasing the pedestrian friendliness of Pasadena, reducing the need for having a car to go every single place that we go in the City.

Just quickly, a report on the 710 freeway situation: at the present time, Caltrans is developing a request for proposals and the funding to pursue an in-depth feasibility study of an alternative of completing the freeway between the 10 and the City of Pasadena through a deep tunnel 100 or 150 feet below grade. A preliminary feasibility study completed a year ago indicated that this could be workable, then over the next couple of years, a more in-depth analysis with many more boring, much more economic analyses will be done.

The Gold Line situation. Number one, ridership is gradually building. The congestion impact in west Pasadena on Glenarm and California and Del Mar is the subject of very active effort by our staff and the Transportation Advisory Commission, working with the MTA, to adjust the operations of the Line to have less red light stoppage of traffic on those important east-west arterials.

Just as important but more interesting is the potential extension of the light rail to Montclair and ultimately on to Ontario Airport. At the present time, that project is split into two parts: the first from Pasadena and Azusa, and the second from Azusa to Montclair. The present completion date for the first part through to Azusa is the year 2011. As I stand here today, the project isn’t assured, but the various requirements, the environmental studies, ridership projection justification, proper demonstration of the criticality of the project and so on, all those efforts are going forward and I’m optimistic that this dream can be achieved. The second part of the program, through Montclair, is expected around 2014.

The expansion on to Ontario is the subject of a feasibility study that is now underway, and I am hoping that we might pursue in 2008 a feasibility study for a link going from Pasadena to the Bob Hope Airport.

Recently we have approved with the support of the local business community on South Lake the installation of parking meters in the South Lake area, and then returning the revenues from those meters to the neighborhood of both immediate areas to improve the traffic situation.

We’re talking about issuing universal transit passes which are available on all transit resources that come and serve the City. Improving bicycle and pedestrian facilities, setting maximum parking requirements in connection with new construction. We intend the process of discussing and evaluating these steps to be completely open so that people don’t have the feeling, regardless of the outcome of the decision, that they didn’t have a fair chance to think about it and to offer their views.

One of the most interesting of the pedestrian mobility proposals that has been offered and is being studied actively by the staff at the present time is the creation of something that John Wilson dreamed about 25 years ago, and that is a trolley on west Colorado Boulevard. It is being thought about at the moment as traveling from Old Pasadena to Lake Avenue and down to California and back, an L-shaped trolley that would reduce traffic pressure in the area.

So Pasadena has many things going for it, but we do certainly have challenges. It is a pleasure for me to work with the City Manager and a pleasure to work with my colleagues on the Council. We intend to be open to the concerns and to the suggestions coming from the community. I hope you will continue to be active in the process of building a greater Pasadena.

Thank you very much.  

Posted: 6/13/2007 09:15:00 AM