Four candidates running for two City Council districts this June shared their views about issues of importance to the local business sector and community in a forum organized by the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League of Pasadena and other nonprofit organizations on Thursday, May 19.
District 3 candidates Brandon Lamar, chairman of the Human Relations Commission, and incumbent councilmember John Kennedy participated in the forum. District 7 candidates Allen Shay, a Northwest commissioner, and Jason Lyon, a commissioner from the Planning Commission, both vying for the seat currently being held by outgoing Councilmember Andy Wilson, also participated.
The candidates answered questions from moderator Pasadena Chamber Board Chair Raphael Henderson of Wells Fargo. The discussion revolved around their plans for the local business sector and how to address pressing issues in the Pasadena community at large.
Henderson asked the candidates how the millions of dollars in federal funding the city will get through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) should be used to benefit businesses, especially those struggling because of COVID.
“We could use those funds to subsidize rents both on the residential side and the commercial side. We have housing providers in the city who have been suffering under our eviction moratorium,” Lyon said.
Lyon also said a portion of the funding should be used to fill up vacant retail locations along South Lake Avenue.
“It is one of our signature retail districts in the city and it is hurting right now,” Lyon said. “I would like to see a program to help small locally-owned businesses get into those locations and bring back walkers to South Lake.”
Shay expressed a similar position.
“I believe we can certainly take those funds and jumpstart South Lake Business District,” Shay said. “There would be a great opportunity for the City of Pasadena to use that as a starting point and then spread that over to the East boundary lines of District 7 off of Colorado and Allen area to make sure that those small businesses are stabilized.”
Kennedy said he wants a portion of the funding used for rental assistance. He also said another portion of the funding should be used for a microloan program that will provide loans to start-ups and small businesses.
For Lamar, aside from being used to assist landlords as well as tenants impacted by COVID, the funding should also be used to create tiny homes to address homelessness in the city.
“Some of these funds should go to small businesses — to help them to brand and market their businesses, to help them fund and get on the ground,” Lamar also said.
The candidates also shared their ideas on how the Rose Bowl, which is staring at millions in outstanding debt, could become self-sufficient and remain viable in the next few years.
Lyon said Rose Bowl remains an asset of the city and the jewel of Pasadena and the city needs to find a way to make it work.
“I don’t think it is reasonable to get rid of it – to close it down. I don’t think anyone in the city would want that, but we do have to figure out a way to make it economically viable,” said Lyon. “Whether that’s going to be more events that are smaller or whether it’s going to be longer-term contracts with other sporting outlets.”
Shay said the Rose Bowl is Pasadena’s treasure and it is important for the city to look for more options to eliminate the Rose Bowl’s debt.
Kennedy said one way to deal with the debt of the Rose Bowl is to allow more displacement events that will generate millions in revenues.
“Everything has to be on the table now — including the opportunity to build a world-class hotel in an area that is not excluded by the charter in state law,” Kennedy said. “There are a lot of options and we have to pursue them all for the health of our community.”
Lamar said it is now time for the city to make “hard decisions” when it comes to the Rose Bowl to be able to sustain it and to maximize its use.
“We could have sustained it (Rose Bowl) if we walked in with the NFL when they wanted to work with us but we did not take to heart and now we’re paying for that,” Lamar remarked.
At the forum, the candidates also shared their opinion on how the 710 “stub,” anticipated to be reclaimed by the city, should be utilized. The forum also covered candidates’ ideas on how the housing crisis should be addressed and the initiatives the city should undertake to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The complete forum can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEhv0kMG6Xc