Published : Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | 8:52 PM
Pictures taken by City Manager Steve Mermell and acquired by Pasadena Now revealed trash, graffiti and evidence of squatters inside the historic Julia Morgan-designed Pasadena YWCA building.
Mermell presented the photos to the City Council on Monday and told the council he did not venture upstairs because he realized he was not alone.
Cans and other items appear to be strewn about. According to Mermell, squatters have also started warming fires inside the building, which raises the risk of a building fire.
The Pasadena Fire Department has responded to the location on at least one occasion.
According to Pasadena Police Spokesperson Jason Clawson, Pasadena police officers have responded to three service calls at the building in the last three months to deal with transients in the parking lot.
Clawson said police accompanied city staff when they visited the site on April 5. Clawson said so far no one has been arrested inside the building but there were signs of “human activity” inside.
The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and sits across the street from City Hall.
The City purchased the building seven years ago under eminent domain laws and at that point the building was already dilapidated. Sue Mossman of Pasadena Heritage called on the council to secure the building at Monday’s meeting.
The building fell into serious decay after it changed hands in 1996 in a $1.8 million purchase.
That owner once described as the “daughter of a Hong Kong billionaire” balked at the city’s initial 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 acquired the building there was no clear plan for its future. In 2017, it looked as if the building would become a hotel. Preservationists opposed the idea, and it was eventually scrapped after 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. The subsidy would have granted the developer decades of free rent and parking.
On Monday dozens of local residents said they wanted the building to be used for homeless housing.
The council voted 5-3 on Monday to seek development proposals based on recommendations from a consultant who is expert in a style known as Beaux Arts, which permeates Pasadena’s Civic Center.
Perhaps not by chance, Morgan was the first woman admitted to the architecture program at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. She designed the YWCA building in the early 1920s
Morgan arrived in Paris in 1896 to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, the most respected architecture school in the world, but the school did not admit female students, although they did allow them to take entrance exams in painting and sculpture.
Morgan took the entrance exams for architecture, failing to reach the mandatory top 30 to get in the school.
On her third attempt in 1898 she finished in the top 15, and became the first woman ever to enter the department of Architecture at the École.