January a Key Month for Future of Historic Julia Morgan YWCA Building in Civic Center

Published : Monday, January 6, 2020 | 5:43 AM

Pasadena City Councilmembers will receive staff recommendations on the Julia Morgan YWCA building and a former Water and Power site later this month.

“We are excited to share our recommendations based on the interviews with the City Council on January 27th,” said City spokesperson Lisa Derderian. “This will then lead to additional community meetings where we hope to have meaningful public input. The responses to the RFP, the interviews and public input will ultimately provide the foundation for the City Council to select a developer(s) and project(s) for the rehabilitation of the YWCA and new development in the Civic Center.”

According to Mayor Terry Tornek the Council will be updated in closed session this month.

City officials met with the five top developers on Dec. 11 to discuss their respective plans. They were assisted by a consultant from Keyes Marston Inc.

The 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 Ratkovitch 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 Department of Water and Power site, permanent supportive housing or permanent supportive housing and 15,000 square feet of leasable office space.

When asked if he favored any of the proposals Tornek said he did not enough have enough information about them.

“I just had a cursory review of the proposals,” said Tornek. “I’m waiting for the staff to drill down to the point where we can really get serious about it and spend some detailed time on it. So no, the answer is, I don’t have a favorite, but I have stated publicly that I think it’s important to somehow come out of this with some additional, permanent supportive housing, in the civic center. I’m supportive of any proposal that includes a way to deliver some permanent supportive housing.”

City Planning Commissioner Felicia Williams, who is also running for the Council seat in District 2, said she’s worried about the process as it is unfolding.

“I am concerned the City has not spent the $500,000 allocated to protect the building, and is moving forward with proposals given the pending lawsuit,” she said. “The public has expressed a desire for a civic use in the building and preservation of the beautiful surroundings of City Hall, and we need a more transparent process to ensure that the public is heard. ”

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.

The city purchased the YWCA building for $8.6 million seven years ago under eminent domain. At that point, the 96-year-old structure had become dilapidated having fallen into serious disrepair after it changed ownership in 1996.

That owner balked at the city’s initial purchase offer of about $6.43 million leading to a court battle that resulted in the city purchasing the property under eminent domain in 2012.

But even after the city purchased the building it continued to sit vacant and unused.

In 2017, preservationists opposed the idea for a hotel project that was eventually scrapped when the developer asked for a $30 million subsidy to help cover increasing costs on the proposed 127,912-square-foot, 60-feet high, 181-room hotel project. If approved, the subsidy would have granted the developer decades of free rent and parking.

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.

According to lawyers for the Civic Center Coalition, the EIR did not consider traffic impacts, the loss of green space or the encroachments on memorials dedicated to historical figures Jackie Robinson and his brother Mack.

After that project died, locals began calling on the City Council to use the project for affordable housing.

The lack of affordable housing in the city has devastated local schools. The district has lost more than 1,000 students over the past five years and has been forced to close a number of schools due to a decline in funding. The district makes about $10,000 per student in average daily attendance funds from the state.

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