Ask Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek what were some of the events that shaped 2018 and further might shape 2019 and he can give you nearly a dozen right away.
Ahead of his ride down Colorado Boulevard on New Year’s Day, Tornek reflected on the issues that defined (and divided) the city this past year.
“I think there were a lot of issues that came to an important milestone in 2018, like the 710 [freeway extension],” he said. “The 710 has been hanging fire for a long time. Bingo, now we have a decision, and that kind of thing is really critical.”
“Every year has its share of significant events, and I just look at the trend line, which way the city seems to be progressing, or does it seem to be declining?”
His conclusion? “I think we are on the right track.”
Tornek will talk about how the city is doing what remains to be done in his 2019 State of the City address scheduled for January 17 at Pasadena High School.
First and foremost on his list of 2018 highlights were the passages by Pasadena voters of sales tax measures I and J, which together provided a much-needed pecuniary shot-in-the-arm to both the City and the Pasadena Unified School District, the latter of which was facing a financial takeover by the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Tornek said the implications of the sales tax funding represent a “a very dramatic change for us, and will have a huge impact for years and years to come, both in terms of our ability to take care of some deferred [projects] in the city but also proclaiming City support and involvement in supporting the public school system.”
Tornek also noted the “real progress” made on the Arroyo project, a plan to restore and revitalize the City’s Arroyo Seco parkland.
According to Tornek, the Arroyo advisory group “completed its work, came up with some demonstration projects, did a fundraising feasibility study and they are now forming their nonprofit organization to raise money and try to implement their trail program.
“That’s going to re-emerge and the important groundwork was done during 2018,” said Tornek.
Tornek detailed the significance of the cessation of the 710 Freeway extension project. For the Mayor, it means converting some of the allocated funds into projects that will come to Pasadena, such as a grade separation at California Boulevard and the Gold Line.
Tornek added that the decision to not proceed with that project will free up homes for sale on the former 710 route, and also allow the City to “recapture the stub” of the 710 Freeway which ends at California Boulevard.
Tornek turned to the Devil’s Gate sediment removal project in the Hahamongna, a project whose scope is opposed by various environmental groups. But Tornek sets the project against the backdrop of a similar effort called for but never completed in the town of Montecito. Heavy rain unleashed floods and mud and debris flows last January and 18 people died.
“A big part of the reason for those tragic deaths and the destruction that happened in Montecito,” said Tornek, “is because the debris basins weren’t empty. It was a parallel situation, the debris basins that got filled up because of the huge fire which denuded the hillside and when it rained, created all this sediment that washed into the debris basins and they didn’t clean them out, and that’s exactly what this [Pasadena] project is about.”
Moving to a different, Tornek said he is also pleased with the hiring of John Perez as Police Chief.
“Having the departure of [former Police Chief] Phil Sanchez and the elevation of John Perez, that’s a big deal,” said Tornek. “Having that kind of continuity and experience, I think will serve the City well.”
Tornek also pointed to the evolution of the new Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine and to breaking ground on the 100 West Walnut, the transformative mixed-use development slated for the parking lots surrounding the Parsons Corp. headquarters in Pasadena, which he called “the biggest development project in the city’s history.”
Concerns? Chief among them is the State legislature overstepping by passing laws which preempt local ordinances.
“Sometimes, the cure is worse than the disease,” Tornek said.
In sum, however, Tornek seems confident.
“In terms of the general quality of life and making progress on issues that we’ve worked on,” said the Mayor, “I think the trend line here is pretty definitely positive. And that’s what makes me optimistic.”
Mayor Terry Tornek’s 2019 “State of the City” address will take place January 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the Pasadena High School gymnasium at 2925 East Sierra Madre Boulevard. It is a public event. For further information contact either Araceli Mellem at (626) 744-7411 or Rhonda Stone at (626) 744-7147.