West Pasadena Residents Association Helps Fund Lawsuit Against the City of Pasadena

Published : Friday, January 20, 2017 | 5:27 AM

Collage created on August 15, 2016 shows images from the City Council session during which the hotel plans were approved: Joe Long of KHP Capital Partners, representing Kimpton Hotels, addressing the Council, finalized hotel plans approved that night, members of the Pasadena Civic Center coalition in the Council chambers.

A West Pasadena neighborhood association has donated money to a downtown Pasadena coalition’s lawsuit against the City, saying it cannot “just stand by and ignore the threat of irreversible damage to Pasadena’s Civic Center.”

The Pasadena Civic Center Coalition has received a substantial financial contribution from the West Pasadena Residents Association (WPRA) to help pay legal fees for the Coalition’s lawsuit against the City of Pasadena for its approval of the Kimpton Hotel-YWCA project across from City Hall.

The Coalition alleges in the lawsuit that Pasadena violated the California Environmental Quality Act, the Surplus Land Act and the City’s own municipal code in the design plans approved by the City Council.

“The WPRA is joining others in supporting the Civic Center Coalition’s lawsuit opposing the project, so that the parkland and the character of the Pasadena Civic Center National Register Historic District may be retained,” the Association said in a statement posted on its website.

Avram Gold, the Association’s Land Use and Planning Committee Chairman, said the WPRA’s Board of Directors made the decision to support the lawsuit in a January meeting, after consulting with other community stakeholders.

“We’ve always been approached to take positions on certain issues. Sometimes we take them, sometimes we don’t,” Gold said. “I determined for myself that the hotel was over-scaled. That was my opinion and a lot of people agreed with that. So I brought it to the Board.”

Gold would not reveal how much was donated to the Coalition but said it was substantial, raised mostly from the contributions and donations of their members and supporters.

“This is really community money, and the community that we represent trusts us to support the projects that we believe would benefit them,” Gold said. “And we believe that the downtown Civic Center benefits everyone in Pasadena as well as our own neighborhood.”

A statement issued by the Pasadena Civic Center Coalition said contributions from individuals in support of the lawsuit have exceeded $12,000.

In August last year, the Pasadena City Council unanimously approved the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed Kimpton Hotel/YWCA project, which would convert the 1922 Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building at 79 North Marengo Avenue into a 179-room two-to-six story luxury “boutique” hotel.

The decision not only approved the EIR and its conditional use permit, but also a host of other changes ranging from parking to loading variances, and permits for a hotel operation, and the sale of alcohol once the hotel opens.

The decision directed the City’s Design Commission to address the hotel’s corner height and articulation at Union and Garfield, and recommended that the Urban Forest Advisory Committee search for ways to preserve as many trees in the area as possible.

Following the approval, the Civic Center Coalition filed suit in September alleging that the City “failed to offer the public lands used by the project for public purposes before deeming them surplus lands and turning them over to private control.” It also said the “proposal and negotiating process for constructing a private for-profit development on public land” was not disclosed to the public.

After the filing, City of Pasadena spokesman William Boyer told the Pasadena Star-News that the City expects to prevail in the lawsuit.

“We believe we have taken appropriate steps, we have followed the law, we have followed the CEQA process,” Boyer told the Star-News last November.

The Coalition and other Pasadena community organizations have presented an alternative to the plan to preserve the YWCA property. Calling it “Alternative 2E,” the option would, they said, reduce the footprint of the envisioned hotel and lessen its impact on the Sister Cities Tree Garden nearby.

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