City Committee Likely to Approve Asking State for Renewal of Arlington Garden Lease

Published : Monday, October 1, 2018 | 5:43 AM

The plot of land which has become Arlington Garden was transformed from an empty, dry and dusty lot (at top), into a lush public garden (below).

On Tuesday, a City committee will consider whether Pasadena should ask the state of California for a lease extension on a plot of land which nearby residents have turned into one of the most verdant and beautiful public spaces in the city.

The current lease with Caltrans for Arlington Garden at 275 Arlington Drive in Pasadena was executed in 2003 and extended for 10 years since 2008. It is set to expire on December 14.

Charles Peretz, Parks and Natural Resources Administrator at the City’s Department of Public Works, is asking the City’s Recreation and Parks Commission to support a recommendation for the extension of the lease, and for the City Manager to be authorized to negotiate with Caltrans regarding the extension for an additional three years at a cost of $100 per year.

The Commission will deliberate on the issue, and will likely approve the recommendation, during its meeting Tuesday.

Arlington Garden supporters shown gathered in 2007 for a weeding and raking session. Co-founders Betty McKenney (front left, in red shorts) and Charles "Kicker" McKenney (in back, third from right) spearheaded the project and were nicknamed the "constant gardeners."

On September 17, Betty McKenney, one of the so-called “constant gardeners” who spearheaded the creation of Arlington Garden and maintained it for years, passed away. She and her husband Charles, known as “Kicker,” who died in 2015, are credited with being the inspirational driving forces behind the Garden.

A service for Betty will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 4, at the Holy Family Church in South Pasadena, followed by a reception will follow at 5:15 a.m. in the Garden.

Over the years, the Garden has grown from a piece of vacant lot to a three-acre public garden maintained by community volunteers. It was developed through a collaboration Arlington Garden in Pasadena, a non-profit 501(c)3 corporation, the City of Pasadena, the Department of Public Works, and Pasadena Water and Power.

Members of the Pasadena Beautiful Foundation and the Mediterranean Garden Society, and volunteers from local garden clubs, businesses, nurseries, and neighbors and friends, continue to work several times a week to keep the Garden the way it has been since 2005, when Betty and Charles McKenney and designer Mayita Dinos began the first of many plantings.

Their goal was to create a public, water-wise garden that celebrates Southern California’s Mediterranean climate. The Garden demonstrates how beautiful and practical a well-planned, water-conserving and climate-appropriate garden can be.

In 2010, during the fifth anniversary of Arling Garden, City Councilmember Steve Madison acknowledged the founders’ and Dinos’ role in creating the amazing public space in Pasadena.

“This is a paradigm of a public private partnership where we have land owned by Caltrans, leased by the city of Pasadena, and then with some public money from the city and a lot of private work in contributions we have this marvelous space for the benefit of all of us,” Madison said. “And I’m as proud of this as anything on the 12 years I’ve been on the City Council.”

Now, Arlington Garden is not only friendly to people and pets but also exists as a refuge for Pasadena’s native fauna. Birds, bees and butterflies are particularly abundant and can be seen throughout the year.

The Garden has various native and drought-tolerant trees and shrubs that have been developed into themed outdoor “rooms” which consist of a formal Mediterranean olive tree allee, a succulent desert garden, a wildflower meadow, an oak grove, a seasonal arroyo wash, a citrus grove and a vernal pool. Solar power runs the low-flow Netafim irrigation system and a water fountain, and other improvements include the use of recycled concrete to construct garden walls and steps, and the extensive use of mulch to mitigate weeds.

The Public Works Department says the City remits $21,000 annually for landscape maintenance services at the Garden and pays directly for costs associated with trash disposal and water.

The total annual cost, estimated to be around $30,000, is included in the budget for the Department’s Parks and Natural Division.

Tuesday’s meeting of the Recreation and Parks Commission begins at 6 p.m. at City Yards-Second Floor, 233 West Mountain Street in Pasadena.

To learn more about Arlington Garden, visit

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