• The park in front of City Hall (Photo - George Patton, Graphic Dept.).

      The park in front of City Hall (Photo – George Patton, Graphic Dept.).

      The Pasadena Civic Center Coalition (Pasadena CCC) filed a court challenge to the City of Pasadena’s approval to build a six-story, 185-room hotel located on city-owned land directly across from Pasadena City Hall and within the Pasadena Civic Center National Register Historic District (PCCNRD).

      The hotel project would demolish and remove almost all of the 1923 voter-approved parkland across from City Hall, a critical element of City Hall’s garden-like setting and a key feature of the Pasadena Civic Center District to make way for a six –story hotel room tower.

      The lawsuit alleges the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by certifying an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that fails to consider many of the project’s impacts, including those to cultural resources, loss of trees, and traffic impacts related to no on-site parking. In addition, the EIR does not address the project’s inconsistency with General Plan and Specific Plan policies regarding the protection of open space. The litigation also alleges violations of the State Surplus Land Act and Pasadena Municipal Code requirements for disposal of surplus property because the project allows private for-profit use of land that is currently public open space.

      Amy Minteer, a partner at Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the firm representing the preservation-focused group said:

      The City of Pasadena failed to adequately evaluate the impacts to the historic district as a whole; did not evaluate the impacts to immediately surrounding contributing buildings, including City Hall; and failed to address the cumulative environmental impacts over time to the historic Civic Center from loss of public open space. A revised environmental impact report is required to thoroughly analyze and mitigate those impacts before this project can move forward.

      A tree used to be there (Photo - George Patton).

      A tree used to be there (Photo – George Patton).

      Ann Scheid, noted architectural historian and Pasadena CCC member stated, “Building on this open space blocks views of City Hall and of neighboring historic buildings as well as impacting two important civic memorials: the Robinson Memorial and Pasadena’s Sister City Trees.”  Throughout the administrative process, Pasadena CCC and many Pasadena citizens urged the City and its developer to keep their promise to protect the YWCA building and restore it as part of a small boutique hotel.  Yet, in closed-door negotiations, the City instead gave in to short-term, unsupported economic demands of the developer and agreed to give away public parkland and open space that frames the historic City Hall, to accommodate a massively over-scaled project.

      Pasadena CCC member Jonathan Edewards said:

      The City started with a proposal to push the back end of this hotel into the face of City Hall, and preceded to ‘back into’ all the environmental findings required to justify the project.  From the beginning, the city cut corners in a desperate attempt to obtain project approval through a rigged public process.

      Edewards continued:

      We couldn’t just stand by and ignore the threat of irreversible damage to Pasadena’s Civic Center.  In an unprecedented move in 1923, Pasadena citizens bought the land and financed our civic center buildings that created the heart of the city with the dome being one of the most recognizable city landmarks. As the July 1980 National Register nomination form states, the Civic Center has a park-like character: it was ‘planned around the citizen—truly a place for people, to walk, to picnic and sunbathe, and to sit with friends among the trees and enjoy the open vistas.’ This legal action is only part of our efforts to ensure a better Civic Center for all Pasadena citizens.

      Pasadena CCC is an organization of citizens representing historic preservation, planning and real estate finance professionals who seek to preserve the historic features and garden-like setting of the Civic Center. Pasadena CCC supports the rehabilitation of the Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building and believes this historic building can be rehabilitated without sacrificing the monumental setting of City Hall and the integrity of the PCCNRD. 

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