Civic Center Task Force Moves Forward

New Committee will make recommendations for Center’s future

Published : Tuesday, July 18, 2017 | 4:55 AM

Following the collapse of a plan last winter to rehabilitate the 1928-era Julia Morgan-designed YWCA in the City’s Civic Center by converting it to a luxury boutique hotel, the City Council Monday unanimously approved a recommendation by the City’s Economic Development and Technology Committee to create a community Task Force to focus on future development of the Civic Center.

The plan for a Kimpton hotel on the site was soundly rejected by the Council as well as a number of local activists, placing plans for the development of Civic at “square one,” said Councilmember Steve Madison in May.

In April, 1925, City leaders adopted a plan created by Edward Bennett (now known as the “Bennett Plan”) along with a city bond that was issued to finance the construction of the Central Library, City Hall and the Civic Auditorium. Despite national and international recognition for the design and plan for the Civic Center, its full build-out has never been realized and opportunities for improvements and new development within its boundaries remain today, according to a city staff report presented by Principal Planner Leon White.

The approved motion will create a Civic Center Task Force comprised of a cross section of community members “with specific consideration to: affiliations to key advisory bodies; professional expertise, and the number of members.” Membership in the Task force will include consideration of representatives affiliated with a City Commission, Advisory Body or Community organization, as well as a member’s professional background and expertise, in either Urban Design/Planning/Architecture, Historic Preservation; Landscape Architecture; Transportation Planning; Economic Development; Development and Construction; and Community Advocacy.

The City staff report noted that the Task Force “needs to be large enough to include a diverse representation of community members with relevant expertise, but small enough to avoid potential impediments to reaching consensus and completing its mission within the directed time frame.”

The final approved recommendation specified that the Task Force be comprised of 15 members, with one representative from each of the following organizations or commissions: Planning Commission, Design Commission, Transportation Advisory Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Pasadena Heritage, and the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association

Each Councilmember would also appoint one Task Force member, and the Mayor would be allowed to select two appointees.

The City Council would also hire a “facilitator” to lead the discussions and help complete the task within the 6-month time frame prescribed.

The Task Force would develop recommendations on new construction, development and land-use standards for the YWCA and YMCA blocks consistent with the existing Specific Plan, along with an “examination of possible programming of public rights of way within Centennial Plaza, Holly Street and Garfield Avenue; as well as potential landscape and hardscape improvements.

The Task Force, which would have no regulatory power, would also make recommendations on Allowed Uses, Including Maximum Floor Area Ratios and densities, maximum heights, and appropriate Setbacks for developments in the Civic Center. Identification of “the appropriate range of options to consider the overall needs of the Civic Center as well as development of individual sites as they relate to parking and loading,” would also be considered by the Task Force.

Once the Task Force has been selected, it will gather data, convene public meetings, and ultimately develop recommendations with support from the Planning Department staff. The Planning staff will then forward the Task Force recommendations to City Council, for approval.

City Staff will then develop and release an RFP for developers, “consistent with the new vision,” according to the staff recommendation.

Noting that the Task Force would be dealing with more than the YWCA building this time out, City Planning Director David Reyes, said, “This is about preservation and rehabilitation of the Civic Center.”

Given the contentiousness of the Kimpton Plan, some activists are cautious about the Task Force plan.

“This is an extremely sensitive issue,” said resident Avram Gold. “This could blow up. I’m very worried about transparency. There is a distrust of government these days.”

Mayor Tornek noted that the Task Force would be a City entity and be subject to State Brown Act rules, which regulate all government meetings for transparency.

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