Task Force Meets to Discuss the City's 'Crown Jewel'

New Civic Center Group plans visit as first duty

Published : Friday, October 27, 2017 | 5:33 AM

Pasadena Civic Center Task Force Meeting

The newest incarnation of a Pasadena Civic Center Task Force held its first meeting Thursday evening to develop recommendations for the City’s “crown jewel” Civic Center, to be eventually approved by the City Council.

First things first: there will be no chair and no vice chair. All decisions will be made by consensus. And there will be no voting, according to facilitator Patrick Ibarra, the Mejorando Group, which was hired by the City to organize and run the meetings.

The current Civic Center Task Force, the fourth since the early 1990s, was established on July 17 to provide recommendations to the City Council regarding new construction or development and land-use standards of the YWCA and YMCA blocks consistent with the Central District Specific Plan.

Its inception followed the collapse of a plan for the Kimpton Hotel chain to build a luxury boutique hotel from the historic Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building and adjacent property, between Holly and Union Streets. The plan for the hotel was abandoned by the City Council when Kimpton developers requested formidable and costly subsidies as part of the development agreement.

Pasadena Civic Center Task Force Meeting The new task force is comprised of 15 members, with one representative from from certain local organizations or commissions: Stephanie DeWolfe, from the Planning Commission, Alan Loomis, from the Design Commission, Blair Miller from the Transportation Advisory Commission, Gary Floyd from the Historic Preservation Commission, Claire Bogaard from Pasadena Heritage, and John Byram from the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association.

Andrea Rawlings and Vince Farhat are Mayor Tornek’s appointees.

The Council appointees are Raphael Henderson, District One; Chris Peck, District Two; Joel Bryant, District Three; Lambert Glessinger, District Four; Cecilia Estolano, District 5; Wendy Cobleigh, District Six, and Gail Price, District Seven.

Kevin Johnson, Pasadena’s senior planner, will act as the City’s representative.

Thursday’s meeting centered around broad strokes for the group, including basic details such as scheduling and meeting times.

In an informal survey, the members were also asked to briefly discuss their goals for the group and its recommendations. Blair Miller reminded members to come prepared and “Do your homework, ” while Stephanie DeWolfe touched upon the idea of creating a complete green space to replace what she called the “ocean of concrete” that is Centennial Square in front of City Hall.

Mayoral appointee Farhat said he hoped for a “holistic approach that considered the current uses,” while Bogaard said she wanted “a space that the community can celebrate, while not letting the [YWCA] building deteriorate any more.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” said Gail Price, who, like others, called Civic Center a “crown jewel.”

“The process is a funnel,” she continued. “We start big and then we narrow things down.”

Estolano agreed, saying, “We need to be very clear with our specific goals.”

Offering her comments, former Pasadena Development Administrator and current downtown activist Marsha Rood asked the group to “decide on which Bennett Plan you want — the 1923 plan, which includes green space and trees, or the 1925 plan, which allows you to build anything there.”

The Bennett Plan was part of Pasadena’s City Beautiful movement, and laid out the Civic Center’s original designs and uses. It was first developed and financed by voters in 1923 and formally created as “A Plan for the City of Pasadena” in 1925. It is considered the design road map for the City’s Downtown development in the civic center area, although neither plan was officially adopted by the City.

The Task Force will now gather data, convene public meetings, and ultimately develop recommendations with support from the Planning Department staff. The Planning staff will then forward the Task Force recommendations to City Council for approval. City Staff will then develop and release an RFP for developers, “consistent with the new vision,” according to the staff recommendation. The City Council requested that the Task Force provide its recommendations to the City Council within six months of its initial meeting.

The Task Force agreed that it will tour the area as a group, before developing its work plan and formally scheduling its next meetings.

Updated information on the Task Force is available at

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