Councilmember Gene Masuda Opens Up About Why He’s Running Again

Published : Friday, May 3, 2019 | 4:45 AM

Pasadena District 4 Councilmember Gene Masuda (far right) speaks with students at High Point Academy about the school's composting program.

Homelessness, balancing the budget, the fate of the former St. Luke Medical Center, the impact of new marijuana retailers in Pasadena, the vacant former OSH and the new plans by Home Depot at the former AVON site… these and more issues top the list of reasons why Pasadena Councilmember Gene Masuda said he is seeking another four-year turn in his District 4 seat.

The self-styled “longtime neighborhood and quality of life advocate” announced April 30 that he’d filed a Candidate Intention Statement with the California Secretary of State for re-election to the Pasadena City Council representing District 4.

Masuda was first elected in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. He represents East Pasadena including the neighborhoods of Upper and Lower Hastings Ranch, Daisy-Villa, Eaton Blanche, East Eaton Wash, Eaton Canyon Wash, East Orange Grove, Fox Ridge/Canyon Close, Loma Vista, Sierra Madre Villa, and Victory Rose.

Pasadena Councilmember Gene Masuda

In an interview with Pasadena Now Masuda expressed an affinity for the public aspect of his job, for contact with the organized and unorganized constituents of his district, for the give-and-take of knowledge that comes with grass-roots interaction.

Although the next election comes in March 2020, Masuda has already begun walking the neighborhoods of his district, taking the temperature of different issues and handing out a survey for further feedback.

One standout issue struck Masuda so far.

“It’s not a surprise, but a lot of people have their concerns about our public school system,” said Masuda. “And I strongly support our public school system. I know they have gotten a lot better, but we have lost a lot of enrollments. Last year, we lost over 500. And we were projected to lose over 200 this year. I hope that doesn’t happen, but that was the projection. So that worries me.”

The walking tours are in line with a public outreach Masuda seems adept at cultivating.

“What I’m real proud of is that in District 4, we’ve improved the residents’ participation in the awareness of the issues. That was always a goal of mine. If you’ve been to my district meetings, they’re very well attended, I think, because they’ve learned to want to be involved and to have the knowledge about what’s going on.”

For Masuda, the interaction is a two-way affair, the give-and-take of debate enriching rather than draining.

“I’ve learned a lot from people that actually have an opposing view,” said Masuda. “It’s not about just trying to listen to people that agree with you. It’s the opposing views who I learned a lot from, and then sometimes I have to change my attitude toward whatever I was thinking about. A lot of their comments really help me.”

Masuda was asked to identify three top priorities for his agenda.

“Well, for sure it’s the homelessness issue,” he responded. “I hear so much about that. And crime. And what is still on people’s minds is the density that comes with new development.

My main focus will be to protect the neighborhoods.”

The Councilmember is apparently no fan of the new marijuana outlets to be licensed in Pasadena, but happy at least they have been capped at no more than one per district. In them he sees a potential for crime.

And while crime has been decreased in Pasadena over the past 10 to 15 years, there’s always more that can be done at the grassroots level.

“I encourage neighborhoods to have a Neighborhood Watch program in as many areas as possible,” he explained. “Of course, the neighborhood associations have to get involved with that. I hope that we can have more police presence as well.”

Masuda is on the record in his opposition to the planned mixed-use project on the Spacebank Mini Storage site in his district. He is also on record as saying the level of development occurring in his district is “too much.”

Masuda said he takes pride in the role he played when it came to capping residential development in the general plan.

“I fought really hard to keep it as low as we could and be reasonable,” he explained. “So, right now, in our district we have a total cap of 850 residential units and I think we’re going to be reaching that really soon. So that was very important back then, because if I didn’t do that there’d be no end to what the limit could be.”

In addition to Masuda’s District 4, the terms on Districts 1 (Tyron Hampton), 2 (Margaret McAustin), and 6 (Steven Madison) will expire in December 2020. Elections to fill them will be in March 2020. McAustin announced she will not rerun for her seat.

The nomination period begins on Nov. 19, and closes Dec. 6.