City Council to Hear Report on Next Possible Steps for YWCA Building

Published : Friday, April 5, 2019 | 4:37 AM

Collage shows images related to the history of Pasadena’s architecturally-significant Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building.

The Pasadena City Council will take up the future of the historic Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building across from City Hall on April 8.

The Council will hear a consultant’s financial analysis of the various proposals that have been made for the location, according to Mayor Terry Tornek.

The report, he said, will address the gamut of ideas including a hotel, a city office building, a private office building, and market-rate housing.

The report will also consider using the structure for “supportive” or homeless housing, an idea proposed by the Mayor at a City Council meeting in December.

“I’m looking for an alternative that I think the public can rally around and is financially feasible,” Tornek said in an April 4 interview. “And I believe that permanent supportive housing meets both of those critical criteria so that we can get on with it and get that building renovated.”

The YWCA property sits right in front of City Hall, but it faces North Marengo Avenue between Union and Holly Streets. Directly to its north across the street stands the old YMCA building, now called Centennial Place, a permanent supportive housing facility operated by Union Station Homeless Services.

Were the Mayor’s plan to become reality, it could truly be said Pasadena was finally “facing” up to its homeless problem.

Advocates for the proposal such as the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group, Faith Partnership to End Homelessness and a trove of local clergymen and clergywomen, have prepared and signed an open letter to the City Council.

The open letter states that using the building for supportive housing makes sense and that there are funding sources available at every level of government.

Such a project, they contended, would restore the facility to its original purpose as a home for those in need.

The advocates noted that, according to 2018 figures, there are 677 homeless people in Pasadena, 462 of whom are living on the street. At the time, 104 of them were in families; 70 percent were men.

Others are less supportive.

Downtown Pasadena activist Jonathan Edewards said he personally thinks the building is not the right choice for homeless housing.

Pasadena Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paul Little pointed to the cost to the City of restoring the building.

“The city has spent millions on it and it will take millions more to make it usable,” he said.

The building’s creator, Julia Morgan, was California’s first woman architect, and one of note at that. Among her credits is a significant contribution to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.

The approximately 40,570-square-foot YWCA building constructed was completed in 1922, and purchased by the City through eminent domain in 2012. A project to put a Kimpton Hotel in the structure was rejected by the City Council and a fourth task force was established in 2017.

The Pasadena Civic Center Task Force’s final report on the YWCA building and adjacent area offered no specific design ideas, rather laid out principles and guidelines for the selection of a purpose and project.

“The city’s been going around in circles on this since 2012,” said the Mayor. “My feeling is that we need to really get on with it and make a determination that is achievable in a short period of time or I’m afraid we’re going to lose this national monument. It’s literally falling apart.”

The city council will hear a second consultant’s report on the question of appropriate setbacks for buildings proposed on City Center sites.

The meeting Monday will take place at City Hall Council Chambers, 100 North Garfield Avenue, Room S249. Start time is 6:30 p.m.