PASADENA — After two lengthy and emotional public hearings, the Board of City Directors this week approved a controversial $80-million redevelopment project to be built across the street from City Hall.
The project, Plaza Las Fuentes, calls for a 10-story luxury hotel, restaurants, office buildings and retail space to be built in two phases on 6.8 acres. It was opposed only by Director Rick Cole, who mailed 350 letters on city stationery to residents urging them to rally against the development at public hearings held Monday and Tuesday evenings.
'Flat-Out Not True'
Cole was severely criticized by board member Loretta Thompson-Glickman, who said during Tuesday's hearing that "the fact that you would use a tactic such as this letter-writing campaign . . . I personally feel shows little to no respect for the rest of us and is . . . a cheap shot."
Glickman also accused Cole of "waffling and playing both sides of the issue," saying that Cole had initially been in favor of the project and changed his position at the last minute because it was "politically expedient."
Cole denied Glickman's statements. "It's just flat-out not true. I did not switch sides on this issue," he said Wednesday. Cole said Tuesday that he did not object so much to the plan itself, but rather the process in which it was carried out.
Cole claimed that City Manager Donald McIntyre failed to inform the board and the public of the plan's details until the last minute. "After all these years he fails to understand that you can't leave the citizens out and he just failed to think about them," Cole said.
Because of that, he said, he sent out letters advising the public of the development.
Plans for Plaza Las Fuentes have been in the works for more than two years. Beset by problems, including failure last year to secure federal funds to help finance the project, its developers, Maguire/Thomas Pasadena Center Ltd., recently obatined financial help from the city in the form of $16 million in tax-exempt bonds to be used to acquire land and build an 850-space underground parking garage.
Letter Attracted Crowd
The development will contain nearly 1 million square feet of offices, retail stores, movie theaters and the hotel.
Monday's hearing drew a standing-room-only crowd of about 145 people, many of whom said they came after receiving Cole's letter.
Tuesday's hearing was attended by about 60 people. Reactions at both hearings were mixed, with residents alternately assailing and praising the plan, which promises to bring and average of $1.1 million in annual revenues to the city and 2,800 new jobs, most of them hotel service and entry-level retail positions.
Opponents claimed that the development was yet another example of McIntyre and the board trying to "ram another thing through at the last minute," referring to a proposed special assessment district last summer that prompted hundreds of residents to call for the ouster of McIntyre and an election to recall the board.
Proponents praised the architectural design of the project, which incorporates a civic garden and fountains that look onto City Hall, and claimed that the development would bring needed jobs and revenue to the city. The plan was approved on a 4-1 vote Tuesday, with Cole objecting. Directors Glickman and Jess Hughston, both of whom favored the plan, were unable to vote because they had to leave early.
Under the present plan, which still must go through zoning hearings, Pasadena would acquire seven small parcels of land, through purchase and possibly eminent domain proceedings, for the developer. Most of the 6.8 acres slated for the project are owned by the city's Community Development Commission and would be leased to the developer for 30 years with an option to acquire the land at certain points during the lease term.
Construction of the first phase, which includes a 350-room luxury hotel, two restaurants and a 180,000-square-foot commercial building, is set to begin next October on the block bordered by Union Street to the south, Los Robles Avenue on the east, Walnut Street to the north and Euclid Avenue on the west.