PASADENA — A judge's refusal to block Union Station from building a new soup kitchen and temporary shelter for the homeless apparently clears the way for construction of the disputed center in a business district.
The decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Cole is the latest development in a yearlong controversy between the church-sponsored Union Station and businessmen in the largely commercial and industrial area who opposed the project.
The judge ruled against eight property owners who filed suit in July to overturn a decision by the Pasadena Board of City Directors allowing Union Station to build the facility at 410 S. Raymond Ave., between California and Del Mar boulevards. The suit alleged that the board violated zoning laws last May when it granted Union Station's request and that environmental testing was not done to determine the effect of the shelter on the surrounding neighborhood.
Attorney Martin Washton, who represented the property owners, said his clients may appeal.
Union Station plans to begin construction of a 6,000-square-foot, two-story building in the spring and to occupy it by November, said director Bill Doulos.
Doulos said he is pleased with the court decision.
"It has been a drain on our energy during the last year since we started the zoning process, but I feel we are over the hurdles now," he said.
"The judge spoke so strongly in stating that the suit was without merit that I feel an appeal would not go against us."
Union Station, which was begun in 1973 by All Saints Episcopal Church and is now sponsored by six downtown Pasadena churches, operates a soup kitchen out of a 1,500-square-foot building at 202 N. Euclid Ave. and a 20-bed shelter in the basement of First Congregational Church at East Walnut Street and North Los Robles Avenue.
Soup Kitchen to Move
The soup kitchen, which has outgrown its present facility, will be relocated to the new building, but the shelter will remain in the Congregational church.
At the hearing Jan. 10, Judge Cole rejected the suit's contention that an environmental impact report should have been made. He said the report was not necessary because the plaintiffs had been unable to prove that social and economic fears would have a significant effect on the environment, according to Deputy City Atty. Jerome Levin, who represented the city.
Opponents had said that the shelter would attract transients who would urinate and defecate on lawns and sidewalks, decreasing property values.
In approving the project in May, the city also allowed Union Station to have only seven parking spaces instead of the 15 required by city code. Judge Cole said the city code is superseded by a state law allowing local authorities to give preferential treatment to shelters for the homeless.
"I think the court's application of state government code tends to give carte blanche to local agencies to give special treatment to some but not all property owners without creation of standards and safeguards," Washton said.
The new building will cost $650,000, including the $200,000 purchase price of the property, Doulos said. He said that $275,000 will be available from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development when the legal process is completed. Union Station will also get $150,000 in state Emergency Shelter Program funds and the rest will come from contributions.
Union Station's long and bitter fight with its neighbors-to-be came to a head in May, when the Board of City Directors decided to hear the issue, despite the fact that the center's relocation to the Raymond Street site had already been approved by both the Zoning Committee and the Board of Zoning Appeals.
The directors approved the project after a compromise was worked out with some businessmen in the area. Among other things, the compromise calls for formation of an advisory panel to monitor the operation.
Feeds 150 Daily
The present soup kitchen feeds 150 transients a day. Under the compromise, no more than 225 people will be allowed on the new site during a 24-hour period, and the number beds offered cannot exceed 40.