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Pasadena OKs New Jail, Police Building

June 26, 1986|DEBORAH HASTINGS | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — After two years of discussion, the Board of City Directors has voted unanimously to build a new jail and police building.

What to do with the old jail, built in 1927 with used parts, has long troubled city directors, who have gone to great lengths to publicly denounce the structure as unsafe for police and prisoners.

The directors did not decide at Tuesday's hearing how to finance a new building or where to put it. A suggestion that the jail be located in northwest Pasadena, where crime and unemployment rates are the highest in the city, drew strong condemnations from two board members.

Mayor Calls It 'Repugnant'

Mayor John Crowley, who represents the area, called the idea "repugnant" and said he would not support it.

Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman, long an outspoken advocate of revitalizing the northwest area, said, "If the best of what we can do to show our commitment to northwest Pasadena is to put a police facility in northwest Pasadena, I don't think that's a commitment."

The audience of about 40 people at the hearing included Police Chief Jim Robenson and several business and community leaders, all of whom expressed unequivocal support for a new jail and police building.

Four possible sites--all in the downtown area--were recommended by city staff during the meeting. City directors voiced preference for a city-owned site on Garfield Avenue near Walnut Street.

Tuesday's hearing was held to discuss the recommendations of a citizens advisory committee that has been studying whether to build a new jail or refurbish the old one.

Committee members told the board that a study by H. Wendell Mounce & Associates, a Glendale-based engineering firm, found that building a new jail would cost $1.6 million less than refurbishing the present structure, which has been criticized by the Los Angeles County Grand Jury for being seismically unsafe.

The committee recommended that the city finance a new jail by issuing general obligation bonds, a move that would require approval by two-thirds of the voters.

The board instructed city staff to study financial alternatives, including a bond issue, and to examine possible sites in the northwest area.

If city directors decide to place a bond issue on the November ballot, they must do so by their Aug. 4 meeting to meet the deadline for general election measures.

Thorn in the Side

"My strong belief is that . . . it does not make sense for us to remodel a building that was built 60 years ago, including a jail that was bought used," Director Rick Cole said at the hearing.

Pasadena's city jail has been a thorn in the side of city directors for two years. In 1984, a ballot measure to finance a new facility received 57.6% of the vote, short of the two-thirds needed for approval.

The ballot measure failed despite a publicity stunt arranged by city directors, during which they were arrested for "sightseeing at the scene of a disaster" and booked into the city jail. There, they spent the night under the glare of television news cameras to publicize the condition of the dilapidated structure.

In 1985, the city awarded about $600,000 in out-of-court settlements for two wrongful death suits and four battery suits filed in connection with charges of brutality at the jail.

City officials said at the time that the deteriorated condition of the jail may have contributed to the alleged brutality.

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