Monday, November 16, 2009

Pasadena Holds General Plan Public Meetings. The Big Topic?

Overdevelopment, of course. What other topic could there be in Pasadena right now? Yogurt shops?

So the idea is that there is a lot of unhappiness amongst Pasadena residents these days because of the apparently unchecked development that has gone on for the last decade or so. Development that has turned entire neighborhoods of this quaint old city into something closely resembling Anaheim. To the horror of many residents.

So how best to re-channel all that energy and anger to the city's benefit? For Pasadena's City Council, that answer would be to invite the public out to share some opinions on the new General Plan they're working on. After all, wasn't it the previous General Plan that led to this mess in the first place?

Here is how City Councilmember Terry Tornek wiffled it out there for a Pasadena Star News op-ed piece:

"How could the city approve all these new projects?" "What were they thinking?" ... I heard these questions repeatedly during my campaign for Pasadena City Council last spring. I heard complaints about traffic, new developments and poor design ... The short answer is new development was largely consistent with the General Plan as last modified in 1994. During that process, thousands of citizens said that they wanted new development concentrated in downtown areas and near Gold Line stations.

I'm not certain how "thousands of citizens" back in 1994 could have demanded "new development concentrated" near Metro light rail stations since, according to Wikipedia, the Gold Line didn't open until 2003, nine years later. Maybe those thousands of eager citizens were just thinking ahead? Way ahead? How could they really have known?

But Terry does have a solution. And that would be citizen input at the Pasadena General Plan meetings.

Now the General Plan is being updated again and we need to hear from a broad cross-section of the community. If your voice is not heard, your opinions cannot help guide the update. If you don't like what you see in Pasadena, get involved and let us know what you think. It is time to put up or shut up.

In other words, unless a whole lot of people show up at these meetings to express their anger at what has become of their town, the City Council could very well end up approving a General Plan that would enable the city's current Anaheim motif to begin accommodating density similar to, say, Hong Kong? Put up or shut up indeed.

Now apparently General Plan meetings with the public have been held since Terry aired his concerns, and the prognosis for the big development crowd has not been all that positive. Pasadena Star News reporter Dan Abendschein, in an article he calls Pasadena residents give two cents on general plan, let this slip:

Pasadena has been holding public meetings over the last few months to gauge residents' concerns. Topping the list were overdevelopment, overpopulation, a shortage of parks and accessible open space, high density and traffic ... The next step is for a city council-appointed committee to take those concerns and integrate them into an updated draft, which will happen sometime in spring 2010. Forming a plan than can help address all the concerns expressed by residents can be challenging. For example, concentrating housing in an area that also has shops and restaurants - such as central Pasadena - can help reduce car use because it encourages people to walk ... But based on how people are responding to the idea of high-density zones, trying to reduce traffic that way might be a tough sell, said Julianna Delgado, a professor of urban planning at Cal Poly Pomona who is serving on the general plan committee ... "It's up to the people, and the current climate would seem to be against increasing density," said Delgado.

Now what Dan is alluding to here is the redevelopment formula put out by Sacramento through SB 375, and which is why we'll be seeing vastly increased RHNA numbers once all this filters down through various government agencies like the ARB and SCAG. The assumption being that if you build high-density development the people moving in will somehow voluntarily give up their greenhouse gas producing automobiles and start taking public transportation, bicycles, or even walking. A theory many critics are calling magical thinking that has more to do with the business agendas of developers and realtors than actually saving the world.

And to his credit, Dan Abendschein does supply some insight - albeit cautiously - that helps us to further question this magical thinking.

Reducing traffic has been a challenge for the city over the years. A city surveyed (sic) showed that despite increases in walking and biking to work from 1990 to 2008, the overall number of people driving to work in cars by themselves has increased.

In other words, it ain't working so good. Just because somebody moves into a downtown apartment complex does not mean he's going to voluntarily surrender his car and start taking the bus. Which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone beyond the planner elite and the big development corporations that employ them. And apparently what the good people of Pasadena are now telling their City Council is the madness must stop.

Larry Wilson also chimed in here. He's got a column to write three times a week, so chances are good there are few topics of interest that won't be blessed by his opinions. And it seems that he is not all that enamored of the great unwashed getting in the way of a shiny new layer of General Plan sanctioned redevelopment in Pasadena. Can it be he has some important friends in the construction field?

And Larry's defense of even higher density downtown areas? It's good for the waistline. I kid you not.

Pasadena architect and urbanist Lisa Padilla of Cityworks set our minds to rest about the health benefits of doing that, at least. The densest places - Manhattan, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland - have the least obesity. All that walking's good for you.

You know, I'm not certain the really densest places aren't wherever Larry happens to be writing his column at the time.

There is a Pasadena blog that I link to called East Of Allen. And its publisher, Michael Coppess, has some solid insights into how this next wave of development might roll out.

Development Near the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station - This is a big big issue. If or when building resumes, there is likely to be a lot of development within 1/2 mile (generally walking distance) of Sierra Madre Villa Station ... Building, particularly of the scale possible near the Metro station, impacts traffic, which is already tight along Foothill and Rosemead. I'd also like to revisit just how much new development is planned and where it will all go ... I'll admit to some disappointment over the lone "transit oriented" project we've seen so far. As originally planned, the corner of Foothill and Sierra Madre Villa and the old Stuart building was to include a mix of uses, including office, bio-tech uses, and some housing. Somewhere along the way, that plan got jettisoned and the entire area is now primarily devoted to housing.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to get real with you here. Remember the dog and pony shows we here in Sierra Madre were treated to by RBF Consulting and the DIC when the Downtown Specific Plan was first being rolled out? Or that rigamarole with the "Ad Hoc Finance Committee" during the User Utility Tax increase and expansion process? It has been my opinion for a while now that whenever a city government is about to do something it fears is going to be howlingly unpopular, it starts inviting the public out for hearings. With the purpose of getting at least some citizen sanction for what they want to do. It is much more of a public relations exercise than anything else, with the final results having been already determined.

Does anybody here actually think the City of Pasadena is going to chop Gold Line "transit oriented development" out of their General Plan if the citizens who show up at these meetings ask them to? I doubt it. After all, Sacramento already promised that one to their best boys when they passed SB 375. Or that more condo monstrosities will be prevented upon citizen request? C'mon. No way is that kind of money going to be left on the table. The concerned parties just aren't going to let that happen.

Pasadena's new General Plan, when it is finished, will enable redevelopment beyond anything that city has seen already. These General Plan gatherings are designed for one purpose only, and that is to prep and position the voters for that eventuality. The only real mystery left is the identity of the PR consultant that lined up all those dogs and ponies.


  1. It really does seem to be a routine, doesn't it? The art
    of citizen control. How not to let the messier aspects
    of democracy get in the way of getting business done.

  2. Looks as if they need more commissars in high places to keep the masses in line.

  3. The public input will be a farce. Unlike Sierra Madre very few people will actually show up and if they do, their voices will far on deaf ears. Transient housing the new name for housing the homeless is being planned at the old Shakey's site and also a two of the older motels along Colorado in East Pasadena. The nearby neighbors have complained but nothing changed. For those of you who did not know all cities must provide locations for homeless housing to be built as part of their housing element. (That includes you Sierra Madre)And where for god's sake are they planning to put their new RHNA housing. More density in the downtown and anything within a certain distance of the Allen station must be high density.

  4. Thank you for taking the time, sirNovember 16, 2009 at 8:13 AM

    "We will gladly consider your opinion. Now please move along."

  5. We won't see any change, until enough people step up to the plate and take back control of their local governments. As long as the developers and real estate interests are paying for pro development leaders, no change will occur. Once the speculators get the green light for this stuff from government, it's too late. Propagandists like Wilson will eventually show what they are, but when it's too late.
    This reach into local government starts at the state level, and is meant to take over local government. This just the beginning of central planning from the state
    The organizations like SCAG and COG are unrepresentative of any constituency, and are doing the dirty work for the "dirts".

  6. Good Morning Tattlers!

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  7. I wonder if these public hearings are just a way of keeping up appareances. Since under AB 32 and SB 375 local city governments really don't have that much control over what gets developed and where anymore, the citizens showing up would do just as well addressing the pigeons in any local park. The real decisions are now made in Sacramento, and those guys couldn't care less about what we think.

  8. The people of California must vote out of office, all who were responsible for AB32 and SB375.
    These people are criminals. SCAG,RHNA and COG are criminal organizations.
    Only then will anything "change".

  9. Good morning brave tatt's!

    Well Sir Eric, I have to tell you that that picture looks like De Lacy or De Lancy place. Every year I go to the salvation army to buy used blankets to cover my pet chickens condos and had gone to west covina, no blankets, last year hundreds, so I had to drive to the salvation army in Pasadena, no blankets either, but found suitable sheets, anyway I was taken by the little terraces kind of grecian, and it said open house, so I peered into the door and saw the pseudo strained glass ceiling coverings and walked in a man with an australian accent came up and I said may I see one of the places, he said you have to make an appointment. But it says open house I retorted, you have to make an appointment he snorted. Now I am wearing my diamonds, and my jeans are clean, and I own quite a bit of acreages in CA but this man is making me feel like a bug, so I said well can you tell me how much one costs? He said 900 thousand to 1 million 2,!!!
    I am thinking yep when pigs fly, sustainable? There was a design studio next door that landscaped with beautiful daisies and rhubarb, that might last them a day. Density, must mean gee they are so dense mentality. Fork them.

  10. Sir Eric, you are absolutely right about the PR stunt of it all.
    I remember the RBF show when the main speaker told Sierra Madre that, darn it, the only way our town could be economically prosperous was with four story development. Gee shucks, his expression said, I'm sorry to deliver this message. Then Buchanan rides to battle, saying "Four stories?! No never 4!" and then in a much quieter voice "Maybe 3...."
    What had the overwhelming majority of the citizens who participated in the workshops? We want 2 stories, we like 2 stories.
    What a hustle.

  11. What's in all this development scam for the dirts?
    Oh yeah, payoffs on their investments.
    What's in this for Joe and John?
    Oh yeah, they are paid lobbyists by energy companies.

  12. General Plans must have public input....doesn't mean they listen to what the people say. May as well be talking to a bug.

  13. I'm having trouble imagining thousands of people wanting downtown development and transit housing near Gold Line stations that were 9 years off at the time of this great clamoring. And I read in today's PSN that Terry Tornek has recused himself from voting on some 5 story high thing on Colorado Boulevard because he campaigned against it? Something that made the City Atty decide that it would be a conflict of interest if he voted on it? Very confusing stuff coming out of Pasadena right now.

  14. SM dodged a bullet - so farNovember 16, 2009 at 1:47 PM

    Pasadena is a sad casualty of raBid development.
    As we know well in the Sierra Madre hillsides, once these thugs finish demolishing what was once a nice area, they are gone, gone, gone.

  15. I has an informal conversation with a member of the Pasadena Planning Commission in the mid 90's, while we were helping out in a homeless shelter. The commissioner's commitment to all of that development was based on the need to house the poor. "Where will all the people live? There must be affordable housing for them."
    Because I was new to politics, especially realtordeveloperconstruction dominated politics, I didn't ask if the new housing really was for the poor, or really would be set aside for the poor. I also didn't ask what good it does the poor to ruin the quality of life for one and all, and run out of water.

  16. So what about public participation in Sierra Madre's General Plan update?
    Will it be as pointless?

  17. Anonymous X - and where is that Pasdadena low income housing now? Funny how that message always plays a big role in the run up, but disappears in when all is said and done. But then again, that is old operate justification for development. Now, Sacramento has informed us, condos are going to save the world from global warming.

  18. Jif, I am often a fool, but I think that commissioner was sincere - and a real volunteer of time & money to the shelter, including industrial dishwashing. What eventually happened may have come as a surprise.
    Just like in Sierra Madre, there are people who just don't get how down & dirty the expansion biz is. The concern for the poor is used by them as a way to make a buck.

  19. Well, now they've jettisoned the poor argument, thrown over the "millions
    are moving here" argument, and now its
    the "we must build high density whatever
    to stop greenhouse gases" argument.

    You can only wonder what they'll come
    up with next.

  20. Anon X....

    I used to believe that homeless people were lazy bums that would rather get drunk and stoned and live in a gutter, doorway or bush, than get a job and be a productive member of society. After I grew up and became slightly less judgemental and slightly more compassionate, I began to learn that there are a lot of homeless people that have an education and work experience along with a strong desire to earn an honest living.

    Then I learned that there are entire families that are homeless, however. It is the result of a corrupt economic system and a culture of greed and indifference that has caused this plight. Now the same system that caused this catastrophic situation is going to cynically use homelessness as an excuse to force over-development on unwilling communities.

    I think it is despicable that that those who have profited tremendously by making people homeless are now trying to profit even more by using the catastrophe that they created as a justification for doing even more damage to other peoples' lives.

    If anyone thinks that our elected officials care about the homeless, I've got a bridge I'd like to sell

  21. That's it 2:31. So good people come up with good ideas that would make things better, and these greedy ones figure out how to turn it to their own advantage. Talk about obstructionism.

  22. Sir Eric & Co.

    Here are a couple of web sites you may find interesting, and maybe even a little timely.

    Here's 4 of the largest developers in the state getting together to build several master planned communities, including no less than 23,000 units in just one of them.

    Notice anything familiar about their sales pitch?

  23. Four Questions:

    Where will they get the water for those developments?

    Where will they get the buyers for all those homes?

    How will those developments impact our water reliability?

    How will those developments impact property values in the region?

    Just asking...

  24. The point was to take away the power of local governments to protect the planning integrity of their communities. It's what the BIA and their ilk demanded from Sacramento in exchange for their patronage. And Steinberg and Schwarzenegger delivered. Big time.

    Welcome to Soviet California.

  25. In Sierra Madre, the GP committee will listen to the public's comment. It will not fall on deaf ears. I know the members and they truly care about the future of the city. Unfortunately they are only considered an advisory group. Their biggest battle will be getting their opinions and the residents views pushed by the staff. Their first meeeting is Tuesday night. It won't be televised.

  26. I certainly hope the General Plan Committee here can get us a big victory. There are just so many people who want to do the wrong thing.

  27. Good Information 4:39

    Who are your friends on the General Plan committee? How do you know you can trust them?

  28. Don't forget to shop at Taylor's.

    We need to support our good, local business people.

  29. As opposed to Parking Lot Produce.

  30. 5:23
    Don't know if YOU can trust them, but I can.

  31. it is easy to SAY shop at Taylors, but remember the economy is tough and they are very expensive. I would love to shop there. A gallon of milk is $5.25. Ralphs is 2 gal costs $6.50. Plus, as much as I love the meat, I live on tuna. I support the idea, but I cannot retire. This is not Beverly Hills.

    On another issue, well, somewhat similar. Why is everyone in City Hall sitting doing zero. Many of us have noticed that when we phoned it is always on voice mail. They are not doing anything when anyone walks in. Why is it no one suggests each person takes 2 days off a month and save the city money. Other cities have had to do this to save money. Why doesn't Sierra Madre cut back more?

  32. Hey 6:17, I was wondering why we can't have a hiring freeze, and a salary freeze, and then start the process of downsizing.

  33. First thing we need to do is get City Hall focused on the priorities of the people who pay their salaries. I for one am sick of funding people whose loyalties are not with us.

  34. 6:17

    What does Beverly Hills have to do with shopping at Taylor's? Taylor's prices are competitive, their service is excellent and they support locals.

    It sounds like you're one of those people that rents out a garage in the canyon for living space. Don't try to turn Sierra Madre into a trailer park because that's all you can afford.

  35. Ouch, 1:17.
    Just because someone does not want to spend more than they have to does not mean they are trailer parking it.