Pasadena’s Preservation Commissioners Express Concerns About Colorado Bridge Suicide Mitigation Designs

Published : Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 5:40 AM

Architect Steven Line of Donald MacDonald Architects, a notable San Francisco-based bridge design firm experienced in suicide prevention which has been hired by the City, explains design options to Pasadena's Historic Preservation Commission at its November 19, 2019 session.

 

UPDATE: The Design Commission will conduct the next hearing about the Colorado Street Bridge mitigation measure next Tuesday, Nov. 26

Pasadena Historic Preservation Commissioners wrestled Tuesday with proposed changes to the Colorado Street Bridge to prevent suicides, with most eventually leaning towards one design in particular while venting frustrations and misgivings about having to make any changes to the iconic structure at all.

After seeing the four designs that consultants said are most-favored by the public, Commissioner Tina Miller said “I hate them all, and I hate the reason why we have to talk about them.”

The City is moving to finalize a design for permanent vertical barriers along the bridge. Unsightly temporary fencing now on the bridge has all but eliminated fatal jumps from the span.

Despite concerns, most of Pasadena's Historic Preservation Commissioners appeared to favor Design B-2.

The Commission hearing was the latest step in the design process, before a hearing by the Design Commission, and a vote before the City Council.

Local preservationist and activist Nina Chomsky told the Commission that full-size sample mockups of the designs needed to be created, and “We need to see them from every distance.”

Much of the initial conversation of the design dealt with the idea that the views from the bridge, as well as of the bridge, from various vantage points, needed to be weighed and considered.

Activist Mic Hanson, clearly frustrated with the idea of altering the bridge, also asked the commission, “What is the tipping point? At what point do we simply eliminate the look and feel of the bridge? No matter what we do, we are encroaching on its beauty.”

Added Hanson, “We better get this right. This is something that is going to be there a long, long time.”

A number of the Commissioners were also bothered by the notion of any enhancements to the bridge.

“As a historic preservationist,” said John Arbogast, “I want nothing at all done to this bridge.”

Both Arbogast and Commissioner Alejandro Menchaca took issue with the idea of a curved frame at the top of one of the four designs, known as the B2 design. Both commissioners said that the design is “cave-like,” and “looks like a jail.”

“I’m an attorney,” said Menchaca, “and I’ve seen lots of jails. That’s what that looks like.”

Despite those concerns, most of the commissioners eventually selected that design as optimal out of the four alternatives.

Architect Steven Line of Donald MacDonald Architects, a notable San Francisco-based bridge design firm experienced in suicide prevention which has been hired by the City, told the Commission that the company will next produce a life-size mockup of the designs and prepare them to be mounted at the bridge.

He did not give a timeline for the construction.

The Department of Public Works will next provide a summary report for the Design Commission, which will hold a hearing of its own on Tuesday, November 26.