City Manager Recommends Pasadena Puts the Brakes on Orange Grove Road Diet Plan

Published : Monday, October 15, 2018 | 4:43 AM

The Pasadena City Council will revisit the controversial plan to put Orange Grove Boulevard on a “diet” by reducing it to one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane on Monday, when the City Manager is slated to recommend they ditch the idea.

The reversal follows a lively community discourse on the plan since it was announced in March, which saw the formation of a community advocacy organization called Keep Pasadena Moving to oppose it.

“After seven long months of growing opposition to the proposed road diet, we applaud the city for considering this measure and urge the council to cancel this controversial project,” Keep Pasadena Moving leader Frank Duerr said.

City Manager Steve Mermell is scheduled to address the Council Monday and recommend they remove the project from the Future Projects Section of the Capital Improvement Program, “thereby eliminating the ‘road diet’ option for Orange Grove Boulevard.”

“While many residents indicated support for the proposed modifications, a significant number voiced concern about the proposed reconfiguration, many of whom live adjacent to the Orange Grove corridor,” Mermell wrote in a report. “These concerns included fears that widespread congestion would be created, which would increase travel times and push traffic into adjacent neighborhoods.”

Hundreds of people attended a community meeting on the project in March, overwhelmingly in opposition to the plan to reduce the road to one lane in each direction and add bike lanes in place of the existing traffic lanes.

A series of community meeting had been planned on the project through January, according to Mermell.

“While staff is prepared to continue with this effort, should that be council direction, the city manager believes it would not be productive to do so and instead is recommending removal of the Complete Streets – Orange Grove Boulevard (Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements) Project from the CIP [Capital Improvements Projects],” the report said.

He cited three reasons. They included a lack of community consensus, a lack of funding for alternative plans and a need to prioritize city resources where they’re most needed.

“In the interest of addressing safety and mobility issues in Pasadena with the limited funding currently available, resources may be better spent focusing on areas with the greatest need for remediation (whether on Orange Grove Boulevard or elsewhere) rather than attempting to achieve cost-effectiveness through projects of opportunity,” Mermell said. City officials had previously hoped to streamline the road diet project by having it coincide with a planned repaving project.

“It is important to note that this recommendation in no way suggests that the city should abandon the policies it has adopted as part of the Mobility Element,” Mermell added. “There have been numerous successful projects within the city that advance these aims and there is every reason to expect that with proper planning and robust community engagement, success will continue in this regard.”

Duerr said he questioned the need for the project in the first place.

“They said safety. So when we reviewed the data… the same data they use, the Department of Transportation uses, Orange Grove is actually an extremely safe street. Even according to the Department of Transportation,” he said. “I think it was just an agenda.”

“We used the data to tell us the truth and I think we won,” Duerr said.

The group isn’t against bike lanes, in general, Duerr said.

“KPM is not opposed to bike lanes and pedestrian lanes when warranted,” he said. “It has to be smart and logical and we’re completely open to that.”

“We feel it’s important that local residents have their voices heard,” Perry said. “And we feel like this is a real important step that people are able to demonstrate that you can fight city hall and you can sometimes win.”

KPM organizer Ken Perry said many residents felt they were being ignored and the road diet was being forced on them. A petition circulated by the group has garnered nearly 2,000 signatures, he said.

“We’re very excited. We’re hopeful that the city council will adopt the measure and that the Orange Grove road diet will be killed,” he said.

Pasadena Planning Commissioner Felicia Williams said she would have like to see the road diet work out on Orange Grove Boulevard.

“I’m disappointed to see that the city and community could not find a resolution to the Orange Grove Road improvements. With new grants from the state, Metro, and (the Southern California Association of Governments), I hope the city can get funding to create a solution to improve the safety and access of our beautiful boulevard.”