Turn Parking Lots into Parks? Council to Consider New Plans

Published : Monday, October 16, 2017 | 5:24 AM

This parking lot at 100 North El Molino Avenue is one of two which might be partially converted into a park.

An innovative approach to adding more parkland to Pasadena’s Playhouse District by converting portions of a city-owned parking lot into a bucolic retreat goes before the Council tonight.

The Pasadena City Council is expected to act Monday on a recommendation to launch community outreach efforts about the potential of establishing a park at a City-owned parking lot at 100 North El Molino Avenue or 50 South Madison Avenue.

Each of these locations are within the City’s under-parked “gap” areas, or areas with very limited public park areas within walking distance from residences within. They were considered in the past for park projects as underground parking lots were being constructed, and could allow for further development of park amenities.

In an Agenda Report for Monday’s City Council meeting, the Office of the City Manager said both the El Molino and Madison lots are used for vehicle parking within the Playhouse District and are partially used to satisfy parking entitlements for other activities in the area.

The report said City Manager office staff had participated in several meetings that included Playhouse District Association members and nearby stakeholders.

“Over the course of several months, the group met to discuss possible park development in the Playhouse District and the related issue of parking,” the report said. “Overall, the meetings were productive and a good opportunity to share concepts and ideas. For example, the idea of creating a park on a portion of Oakland Avenue between Union Street and Colorado Boulevard was discussed and met with some level of interest.”

The report added it is now appropriate for the City Manager’s office to provide an update to the City Council and seek direction on the recommended next steps.

“In recent years, the effort to develop additional parkland focused mainly on the use of
surplus City property,” the Agenda Report said. “Unfortunately most of these parcels are substandard remnants ill-suited for development even as small pocket parks. In late 2016, staff broadened its approach to consider non-city property and has since held discussions with several private and institutional property owners regarding the potential for park development. Given the economic realities of Pasadena’s high property values and demand, however, it is not surprising that this process has yet to yield any tangible results.”

To accommodate the needs of parking entitlements that could be lost when the lots are converted, staff has worked with the owner of the existing 700 space, multi-level parking garage (culinary school garage) located at 40 S. Oakland Avenue.

“The owner has agreed to host the 91 spaces (Laemmle evening and weekend) currently assigned to the El Molino lot,” the report said. “Additionally, this property owner also owns the adjacent parcel to the north and has received entitlements to construct a five story medical office building on the site with a five level subterranean parking structure.”

When the lots are developed, a neighborhood park in an underserved area of the City will be established, without sacrificing the expanding the pool of public parking in the area.

At Monday’s meeting, the City Council will consider some valid concerns with the proposal, including the fact that the El Molino and Madison lots are controlled by the City and easily noticed by users, while the proposed South Oakland structure (Culinary garage) is privately owned and managed. The structure will also need to accommodate both current and future tenants from the culinary school block.

City Manager Steve Mermell said funding for this effort will be addressed by the utilization of existing budgeted appropriations in the Pocket Park Planning CIP project.