From the Pasadena Star News:
To develop or not to develop and where? Pasadena debate heats up
By Brenda Gazzar, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/28/2010 08:28:20 PM PST
Diane Ricard, walks around the South Lake Business district on Nov. 19. Ricard said she loves living in a "walking neighborhood," where she has access to restaurants, entertainment and shops and doing many of her errands on foot.(SGVN/Staff Photo by Eric Reed)
PASADENA - For Steve Mulheim, the thought of scaling back development in the city's center is "frightening" for him and others that live or have businesses there.
The president of the Old Pasadena Management District says he's surprised the idea is even being considered as a viable alternative for the city's future.
"Most cities try to focus their density in downtown areas, near transit hubs, trying to incentivize walkable areas (and) being able to travel without a car," he said. "That has been working the last number of years (in the central district) and we seem to be turning that backwards."
But for Christle Balvin, a member of Pasadenans for a Livable City, the central district is already overdeveloped and many of buildings built there in recent years are out of place.
"We've stopped one of the developments - the six-story awful IDS (Playhouse Plaza) project - but yes, I don't think it enhances our quality of life and they've allowed some very ugly buildings to be built" there, she said.
Following an appeal, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge struck down the $75 million retail and office IDS Playhouse Plaza development last month after ruling there were glaring omissions in the project's Environmental Impact Report.
The idea of reducing development caps in the central district and shifting capacity east and to other major corridors is one of four alternate strategies being explored to update the city's General Plan, a blueprint for future land-use decisions.
The alternatives, discussed earlier this month at a series of intense workshops, and the decisions that flow from them will help determine what the city looks like in the next 25 years. For Councilman Terry Tornek, the key lies in striking a delicate balance between various interests.
"We're walking a fine line here, between encouraging and maintaining that pedestrian experience, but at same time not exceeding that mysterious and magical density threshold, which makes people feel like we are turning into West L.A. and Santa Monica, that we've gotten too dense, too packed together and lost the charm of what makes Pasadena so special," he said.
That first alternative favors reducing commercial square footage and the number of apartments or condos now allotted to the central district, while shifting capacity elsewhere, such as major corridors like East Colorado Boulevard, North Lake Avenue, Lincoln Avenue and around the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Gold Line station.
The central district includes Old Pasadena, the Civic Center mid-town (including the Central Library, Paseo Colorado and the Convention Center), the Playhouse District and the South Lake Avenue Business District.
If ultimately pursued, this strategy could signal a significant change in policy for the city.
"I think that in the central district, just large office buildings are problematic" because of traffic congestion, said Marsha Rood, a member of General Plan Update Advisory Committee. "But I don't see as much problem with residential (units) because 80,000 jobs are here. If we are ever going to have people live close to work, you need a way to accommodate them."
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