The Monday night meeting of the Pasadena City Council was a mixed bag, beginning with two poems* about homelessness and ending, 2 ½ hours later, with the Council voting to authorize the City Manager to execute contracts to provide General Plan implementation.
By Garrett Rowlan
In between it was, at times, an evening of harmony and opportunity, the latter being the announcement that Pacific Oaks College would award two full-ride scholarships in the fields of Advocacy and Social Justice. Following this, plans for the adding of 80 new students at Polytechnic High School were approved. As public speakers attested, the alteration of the campus had been planned, discussed and otherwise vetted to such an extent that both the neighborhood and the school were satisfied. A feeling of benevolence swelled in the chambers as speakers addressed the Council with nary a discouraging word, as the project had taken pains to eliminate the possibility of a worsening traffic situation. Council members bestowed praise on the participants, even to the extent that the negotiations were seen as providing a blueprint for the future. Remembering previous dust-ups involving other projects proposed and developed, Mayor Terry Tornek said that “Institutions have evolved to live with the neighborhood they’re in,” meaning living with rather than just co-existing.
The room pretty much cleared out after that, leaving just a handful of people. Next up was the recommendation to update the city’s land-use regulations. The presentation began with the reading of the 17-page staff report, a tedious slog for the eardrums, but which picked up once discussion began. At one point Vivian Kahn, a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and a member of the Dyett and Bhatia team, was effectively grilled by Councilmember Andy Wilson as to the plan, her previous experiences with other cities, and her means of implementation. The questioning was so extensive that Mayor Tornek had to stop Wilson and remind him that Ms. Kahn was not here for a job interview, whereupon Wilson replied that he was only “voicing concerns he had heard.”
Other councilmembers weighed in on the importance of the General Plan, the need for pushback, clarification, and the responsibility to consider the spirit of the community as well as the letter of the law with regard to development.
The process whereby the various companies were picked had been an extensive one , and Tornek, at the end, acknowledged that “This process has been somewhat tortured.” Adding that, “We’ve lost momentum.” Still, the importance of getting it right was emphasized by the Council. “This is where the rubber hits the road,” councilmember Margaret McAustin remarked. The staff recommendation was finally approved, and I left remembering the poem* that had been read at the beginning of the meeting, and a line about homeless people trying to endure a night of pouring rain, and what new zoning codes would mean to them.
*Two short poems about houselessness were read by Teresa Mei Chuc at the Pasadena City Council meeting on Nov. 13, 2017.
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