One Year After 13-Hour Standoff on Colorado Street Bridge, Suicide Prevention Plans for the Span Set for Public Discussion

Published : Monday, September 16, 2019 | 4:40 AM

In July 2017, Pasadena installed temporary emergency fencing at 20 alcoves lining the Colorado Street Bridge (pictured above). Then, immediately after a marathon standoff on Labor Day 2018, City Manager Steve Mermell ordered emergency fencing extending along the bridge's entire length. Now the City is moving ahead with permanent suicide mitigation plans and has scheduled a public discussion about the bridge for Sept. 26, 2019.

Pasadena City officials have scheduled a Sept. public meeting to bring residents up to date on plans for proceeding with suicide mitigation measures for the Colorado Street Bridge.

The Sept. 26 meeting will come a little over one year after a Labor Day 2018 incident during which Pasadena Police Crisis Team negotiators successfully convinced a suicidal woman to return to safety from her perch on the outer ledge of the Bridge after 13 hours of conversations.

The day after that incident Pasadena City Manager Steve Mermell ordered the immediate installation of temporary fencing along the entire length of the Bridge in an effort to curb further suicides. It had only partial fencing at alcoves at the time.

The “temporary” suicide-prevention fencing in the bridge’s alcoves was installed earlier in an attempt to stop a wave of suicides after a dozen people leapt to their deaths in 2015 and 2016.

Since the emergency fencing was installed along the bridge’s full length, only one successful suicide is known to have occurred.

Now, the City is moving forward with a program intended to put permanent mitigation measures in place.

The purpose of the Sept. 26 meeting, open to all, is to present of the scope and schedule for design of what is officially known as the Colorado Street Bridge – Suicide Mitigation Enhancement Project.

The firm chosen by Public Works to confect the plan is San Francisco-based Donald MacDonald Architects, which designed a like system for the Golden Gate Bridge.

“The firm offers a unique understanding and expertise in suicide mitigation projects and brings a wealth of knowledge from extensive research into suicide mitigation efforts around the globe,” public works staff said in its May report to the City Council recommending the contract.

The award-winning design firm specializes in bridge and road projects and has been working in concert with the firms of Biggs Cardosa Associates and Galvin Preservation Associates on the proposed solution.

The former is a structural engineering firm specializing in bridges, whether it involves seismic retrofitting, design or rehabilitation. Noteworthy is the fact Cardosa worked on the 1993 retrofit of the Colorado Street Bridge.

For its part, Galvin Preservation specializes in the evaluation of historic resources and preparation of environmental documents.

It, too, has worked on bridge projects in Pasadena; namely the La Loma Road Bridge rehabilitation, and the Holly Street Bridge seismic retrofit, which is ongoing.

The contract was worth $700,000 to McDonald, which was charged, for the first year, with conducting an investigation and site survey, complete the necessary environmental documentation, and deliver a preliminary design.

The second year focuses on final design and construction documentation.

“The objective of the vertical barrier,” said the Public Works staff report, “is to add a safety and health protection system to an existing structure that does not cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of the Colorado Street Bridge, a historical resource.”

The work is the product of a process administered by the City’s Colorado Street Task Force, which describes its mission as, “to engage the community in developing solutions that will deter people from attempting suicide at the bridge while also preserving the structure’s national historic status and architectural significance.”

In excess of 154 suicides have occurred from the Colorado Street Bridge since it was erected circa 1919, more than 30 of that total in the past decade.

City Hall Council Chambers 100 North Garfield Avenue, Room S249 from 6: 30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For information or comments contact:

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