Council to Meet in Closed Session on YWCA

Representatives from developers will appear in closed session meeting

Published : Monday, January 20, 2020 | 6:15 AM

Civic Center Task Force members shown touring Pasadena's dilapidated YWCA building in 2017. Photo by Eddie Rivera

[Updated]  The Pasadena City Council will hold a special closed session meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday at City Hall to discuss price and terms of payment for the development of the YWCA building and a nearby Water and Power property.

The Council will give City Manager Steve Mermell direction in regards to current negotiations with five developers about their proposed plans for the nearly 100-year-old dilapidated Julia Morgan building. Mermell is the negotiator for the City for this project.

If any action beyond discussions is taken in the meeting, the Council is required to report it to the public.

Mayor Terry Tornek said earlier this month the Council would be updated in closed session.

City spokesperson Lisa Derderian said that “at a minimum The City Manager could make an announcement about public engagement on the 27th”.

Some residents want the site to be used for an affordable housing project, the city currently lacks affordable units.

Councilman and mayoral candidate Victor Gordo told Pasadena Now that the Council should not decide on a project without input from local residents.

“Because it’s such an important project we should discuss it as a community, and ensure that the project is one that Pasadenans 100 years from now will be proud of, and at the same time addresses the very specific goal that has been laid out by the residents of our city,” Gordo said.

Mayor Terry Tornek told Pasadena Now previously that he was awaiting further discussion before backing a project. Tornek guaranteed public engagement on the matter.

The site has been the subject of numerous development ideas since the City purchased it in 2012 for $8.3 million to preserve and restore it under eminent domain. The structure fell into serious disrepair after it changed ownership in 1996.

But even after the city completed the purchase, the building continued to go unused and deteriorate.

In 2017, developers wanted to build a 127,912-square-foot, 60-feet high, 181-room hotel project with a subsidy that would have granted the developer decades of free rent and parking.

Preservationists opposed the plan, which was eventually scrapped when the developer asked for a $30 million subsidy to help cover increasing construction costs.

Local preservationists filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of a report clearing the way for the project and claimed the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by certifying an environmental impact report (EIR) on the project.

In November, Councilman Steve Madison called on the council to “pick a great project, move it forward, and get our $5 to $10 million back [that we paid for it].”

The current proposals include a 125-150 full-service Four Seasons hotel at YWCA site along with 25 luxury residences at the former Water and Power site by Carpenter and Company of Boston, Mass.

Continental Assets Management in Arcadia is proposing a four-star 167 hotel room, either a five-story 120 room market-rate unit building or a six-story 139 affordable housing unit is proposed at the Water and Power site.

A proposal by Edgewood Realty Partners from nearby South Pasadena would see a 164-room boutique hotel operated by Palisociety and a 70,000 square foot, five-story office building is proposed for the Water and Power site.

New Orleans-based HRI Properties LLC would create a 179-room hotel, of which 165 rooms would be in a new 83,000-square-foot building adjacent to the YWCA. Their proposal didn’t specify what the Water & Power site would be used for.

The Ratkovich Company with the National Community Renaissance in Los Angeles is proposing two alternatives.

The first would call for rehabbing the building for office space. The second option calls for the rehabilitation of the building with construction of a new 59,000 square foot office building, or rehabbing the building and building a 142-room hotel.

On the PWP, permanent supportive housing or permanent supportive housing and 15,000 square feet of leasable office space is proposed by Ratkovich.

In November, City Manager Steve Mermell, said that the City may “mix and match” various elements of the proposals.

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