Published : Wednesday, October 25, 2017 | 5:58 PM
The newly organized Pasadena Civic Center Task Force will conduct its first meeting on Thursday, October 26 to set ground rules and procedures on how the group should go about finding the right direction for developing the city’s Civic Center while, at the same time, preserving its historic character.
City Manager Steve Mermell is scheduled to open the inaugural meeting of the Task Force, with a description of its full mission and objectives.
Mermell said in an email, “We have an exceptionally talented group of people participating in this effort. The work of the Task Force is critical to the preservation and revitalization of the historic Julia Morgan YWCA building. I’m confident that the Task Force will be thoughtful in its considerations.”
To those members of the public who wish to attend, Mermell said the “Task Force meetings will be open to the public, and those wishing to observe are most welcome to attend,” he said. “I’m confident that we will have a good process, which typically leads to a good outcome.”
When asked if he has any deadlines for the group, Mermell said initial discussions at City Council talked about a four-to-six month process, which he said seems reasonable.
It’s the wish of Marsha Rood, Pasadena’s former Development Administrator and member of the Civic Center Coalition, that residents will monitor the Task Force’s work and be interested in all of its meetings.
Rood said she hopes that “citizens of Pasadena will realize the critical nature of these meetings because it goes to the very heart of our city and makes it special than any other city in northern or southern California, as well as one of the few in the nation that has an intact City Beautiful Movement city Civic Center plan. It’s critical to the identity of Pasadena, and therefore, it would be to the city’s interest that [residents] participate in a robust and informed way.”
According to City documents, the organization’s mission is to give suggestions on new construction, development, and land-use standards for the YWCA and YMCA city blocks consistent with the existing specific plan.
The Task Force will also examine “possible programming of public rights of way within Centennial Plaza, Holly Street, and Garfield Avenue,” as well as potential landscape and hardscape improvements in the area. The recommendations would then be used by city staffers to develop and release a request for proposal for developers, that is consistent with the city’s new vision.
Lambert M. Giessinger, a historic preservation architect for the city of Los Angeles, is a Task Force member representing District 4.
Giessinger said he believes that looking back at previous efforts towards rehabilitating the Civic Center would be helpful for all involved.
“One thing that comes to my mind [is] that the entire Task Force needs to discuss that there have been numerous previous demanding efforts in the Civic Center, and I think it will be helpful to have at least a summary of those efforts,” Giessinger said. “I believe they go back to a specific plan in 1990 and then a Civic Center midtown programming effort from 1998 and a refined concept plan in April of 2001. So I think it would be helpful to ask staff to provide a recap of those earlier efforts, (and) also what the voters approved in 1925.”
In 2013, a private developer, KHP Capital Partners, proposed the lease and construction of a 185-room hotel on a site across from City Hall in exchange for the restoration of the derelict YWCA building. Three years later, however, KHP’s terms changed due to a significant increase in the project cost. The City Council then decided it was going to be too costly and nixed the proposal.
Following the plan’s collapse, the Pasadena City Council voted to organize the Task Force, which is made up of community-based members that will focus on recommendations for the future development of the Civic Center.
The group takes inspiration from a time when some of Pasadena’s original planners actively sought the community’s input and put together many of the different features that now make up the Civic Center.
The first Civic Center Task Force meeting is scheduled to take place starting at 6 p.m. Thursday in Pasadena City Hall Basement Training Room, 100 N. Garfield Ave.. Pasadena.