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City’s Planning Director Previews New General Plan at Town Hall

Published on Friday, September 25, 2015 | 4:54 am
Vince Bertoni, Pasadena's Director of Planning and Development, at a District Six Town Hall meeting on Thursday, September 25, 2015.

Calling it a culmination of a six-year effort, including 160 community events attended by over 4,700 and the collaboration of nine commissions, Pasadena Director of Planning and Development Vince Bertoni gave an overview of the city’s newly instituted General Plan at the District 6 Town Hall Meeting at the Pasadena Humane Society community room Thursday evening.

The evening was hosted and moderated by District Six Councilmember Steve Madison. Fred Dock, director of transportation and Steve Wright, city engineer, also made presentations.

The newly approved plan is the first major update in two decades, said Bertoni.

“This is a plan that actually looks forward 20 years,” he said, “and helps guide us as to how we will grow and maintain our neighborhoods over that period of time.”

“Where the pedal really meets the metal,” however, said Bertoni, “is not really in the General Plan, but in the specific plans and zoning ordinances, as well as in the design guidelines.”

District Six Councilman Steve Madison seen speaking at the September 24, 2015 Town Hall.

The new General Plan “updates the city’s land use mobility elements” and applies land use regulations to every property in the city, as opposed to its predecessor, which applied regulations mostly to the Central city, said Bertoni. The previous plan essentially redirected growth, while the new plan hopes to maintain it.

According to Bertoni, the new plan also reduces development capacity city-wide, using a methodology called called the “efficient transportation alternative.” The commission examined new development capacities which were less than those allowed in the past, and re-examined those capacities in a way that was “focused around transit,” said Bertoni.

Bertoni also said that the specific plan which covered the District Six area known as the West Gateway, would be allowed to expire or “sunset.” This is much of the area around the Ambassador College property.

The planning commission also reviewed the boundaries of the specific plan, said Bertoni, and made changes where necessary and relevant, including the area around South Fair Oaks in the Central District Specific Plan, adding an area along the southwest portion of the plan.

The idea was to create a more delineated South Fair Oaks area, as opposed to Central Downtown.

“I think we will see some of the greatest changes there in that area, in terms of land use,” said Bertoni. He also envisioned a lot more use related to transit and the Gold Line there, as opposed to the original planning idea, which was that the area would concentrate on bio-med companies.

“We will see a lot more people living above ground floor retail in mixed use situations there,” he said.

The area around Old Pasadena, which continues to thrive, will likely see more residential opportunities as well, and as such, will not be greatly affected by changes in the general plan, said the planning director.

Since, as Bertoni mentioned, much of the real changes and effects come from specific plans, the commission is updating eight specific plans and zoning ordinances in the city.

“The last time we did something like this was in the ‘90s, and that took 11 years,” Bertoni said, “and we are trying to work within a much quicker time frame this time.” The commission will begin scheduling meetings this fall.

“We want to make that we are also mindful of the community’s time as well,” he added.

The commission will also be adopting a new climate action plan, said Bertoni. “This is something that the state doesn’t mandate, but does encourage.”

In addition, the city will be looking at developing new standards for more transit-oriented development.

Fred Dock, director of transportation, also emphasized the importance of aligning the city’s mobility elements with the general plan, saying that the City’s previous plan already emphasized a number of issues, including walkability, public transit and moving around the city without a car.

“We had some shoulders there to stand on, and that gave us a firm foundation to incorporate what we are doing in terms of mobility,” he said.

Dock also explained a new street types plan, (the plan which defines a street’s role, whether main highway, secondary highway, arterial, etc.), as one which would look at a “Context-based approach, that looks at not only the role of a particular street, but also the character of that street, and those around it.”

The new street definitions will also require new city policy changes as well, including the city’s street hump policy, which will be updated over the next several months.

The new street types would also affect stop signs and signal lights in the city, he said.

City Engineer Steve Wright also announced at the meeting that construction has begun on the new Desiderio Park on Arroyo near La Loma Bridge.

“We are now in the painful phase,” he joked. “We wished and wished to start, and now the city will begin to feel the effects of the actual construction.” The existing buildings on the site will begin to be torn down over the next few months.

Desiderio Park broke ground a few weeks ago, said Wright, and will eventually include a three-acre community park with a small play area, walking paths, and picnic structures. A restroom will be built at a later date as a separate project.

The park is budgeted at $3.4 million, and $2.4 million of that has currently been made available through developer impact fees, said Wright.

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