Guest Opinion: Erika Foy | Does Phrase “Rules Are Meant to be Broken” Apply to Due Process in Pasadena?

Published : Tuesday, September 3, 2019 | 2:30 PM

Does the saying “rules are meant to be broken” apply to due process in the City of Pasadena? On August 26th, Pasadena City Council adjusted the rules of due process in a developer’s favor, ignoring residents’ overwhelming objection to a controversial development at 253 S. Los Robles Ave.

At the City Council meeting on July 22, dozens of concerned citizens spoke out against the development for approximately five hours, while hundreds more submitted letters of opposition to the project. After witnessing the overwhelming outpouring of dissent from their constituents, council members effectively denied the project. Why, then, has Mayor Tornek re-opened a review of this development when neighbors have made it resoundingly clear that they don’t want it, at least without mitigations?

Last week, the council voted 5-2 in favor of a “motion to renew,” effectively giving the developer of 253 S. Los Robles Ave another chance to present their proposed development, this time with modifications. (What these modifications might include, however, remains to be seen.) This decision seems very strange and inappropriate, especially considering how many valid issues were presented by residents.

In short, the development located at 253 South Los Robles was designed well beyond zoning limits, did not advance walkability, was out of character for the neighborhood both architecturally and in scale, and was one of six recent developments in the area that will have a devastating cumulative impact on traffic in surrounding neighborhoods Adding insult to injury, the developer also planned to remove the last protected tree on the block, a 100 ft. canary pine. The proposed development is so out of step with the city that Mayor Tornek called it “outrageous.” And yet, here we are.

The City’s lack of oversight in this case has been astounding. Pasadena has very specific goals regarding development of our city, and they are defined in our General Plan, which was created to allow successful progress in our city while avoiding uncontrolled change. These guidelines are not suggestions–they must be followed, and yet the Pasadena City Council and staff have failed to require the developer to plan for any traffic mitigation or provide meaningful environmental studies.

Most troublingly, the project is being given an exemption from CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) which, if enforced, would allow the public to see how this project, in conjunction with all of the other new developments nearby, will impact quality of life issues including noise pollution, pedestrian safety, and emissions exhaust. Residents are understandably concerned that the City is not taking either these environmental impacts or operational aspects of the intensifying traffic volume into consideration, or that, at the very least, they are minimizing these challenges. As a response, private citizens had to do what city employees and elected officials would not: they spent hours evaluating the traffic impacts of this proposed development.

The neighborhood’s goal was not to stop the development, and certainly not to stop affordable housing, but the city continues to try to drive its agenda without incorporating residents’ valid concerns.

After many long days and nights attending meetings and finding serious discrepancies between this project, our General Plan, and Specific Plan, concerned residents were able to successfully convince council members that this proposal is not right for Pasadena. The council’s failure to gain consensus to approve this development, thereby denying it entirely, should have been enough. Re-opening this proposal for continued debate at this point is a betrayal of public trust.

The decision regarding the fate of this development is now once again in the hands of those we elected. They have heard our concerns and our arguments. They know where we, their constituents, stand on the matter. Their next vote on this project will tell us where they stand: on the side of the people that voted them into office or with outside developers trying to make a profit in our city. Trust in our local government is waning and I am afraid our elected leaders have absolutely tuned residents out. This is a moment of truth.

The Mayor says he is afraid that if the City doesn’t approve the project, the State will sue Pasadena for failing to provide affordable housing. Really? The residents are asking for traffic mitigations and environmental studies, and the City keeps shutting us out. Why won’t you respond to us? Why do you keep giving the developer a “second bite at the apple,” as you called it, rather than propose some meaningful traffic mitigations to protect our neighborhood? Something has to change.

 

Erika Foy is a Madison Heights neighborhood resident and Board Member of the Madison Heights Neighborhood Association.

 

 

 

 

 

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