PASADENA — Sparked by an unprecedented boom in residential and commercial development, a slow-growth movement is emerging in Pasadena.
Within the last few months, two groups of residents have started organizing grass-roots movements that they hope will spread citywide.
One group of northeast Pasadena residents has proposed two ballot measures that could bring the slow-growth issue before the voters in June. And for the first time, a group of local activists has banded together in a fledgling organization to tackle slow growth on a citywide basis.
Some slow-growth advocates concede that their ultimate impact on the city is unclear. But given the pace of development, which topped $190 million in new construction during the last fiscal year, and the promise of even more in the future, slow-growth advocates are optimistic that their movement will take hold. They hope that heightened prospects of more traffic, pollution and congestion will spark anti-growth sentiments.
"It really is an idea whose time has come," said Tony Thompson, a longtime advocate of controlling growth in Pasadena. "All of a sudden, in a couple of years, several buildings have gone up and people are beginning to see that we're going to face a wall-to-wall canyon of buildings."
The ballot campaigns are being led by a group of neighbors of the proposed Rose Townhomes, a controversial 184-unit project.
Amos N. Hoagland, a spokesman for the Northeast Pasadena Residents Assn., said the group will begin circulating petitions in the next week and could force a citywide vote in June.
The first of their ballot measures would be a referendum aimed at overturning a decision by the Board of Directors earlier this month to grant a zoning change for the Rose Townhomes.
Under state law, residents can attempt to undo a board decision in a citywide vote if they can get the signatures of 10% of registered voters--or 6,315 signatures in Pasadena.
The association must collect the necessary signatures by Jan. 21 for the issue to be placed on the ballot next June.
The project, proposed by Calmark Development Corp., would be situated on one of the last and largest tracts of vacant land in the city--a 16.4-acre site just north of Pasadena High School.
The developer plans to build 11 homes on each acre of land, compared to the maximum of six homes per acre in the surrounding area.
A New Style
Opponents have complained that Calmark wants too many homes on too little land, and they fear that the project will decrease property values and increase congestion in the area. The developers say the project falls within limits outlined in the city's long-range planning guide and would benefit the school district, which has sold Calmark the land for $9.3 million, contingent on approval of the zoning change.
Although the referendum would affect only the area around the Rose Townhomes project, Hoagland said it signals an increasing aggressiveness in the traditionally quiet residential neighborhoods of northeast Pasadena.
In tandem with the referendum movement, the association has also begun an initiative movement that could affect the entire city.
An initiative is a legislative process that allows residents to propose and enact legislation through a citywide vote.
The association's initiative would:
Impose a moratorium on major development projects until at least July 1, 1990, unless the project had the unanimous support of the Board of Directors.
Ban the use of city money to finance street and utility improvements for any major project unless approved by a unanimous vote of the board.
Require that any housing lost because of a major development be replaced.
Require that developers of major projects pay to increase sewer, water and electrical capacity in the area surrounding their developments.
A major development, as defined by the association, would be larger than 25,000 square feet, higher than 32 feet or have more than 25 individual units.
New Group's Objectives
At the same time that Rose Townhome opponents are gearing up, the new slow-growth group, which calls itself PRIDE (Pasadena Residents in Defense of Their Environment) hopes to limit high-density construction citywide.
One of its leaders, Stanford Taylor, who was involved in a successful 1981 battle to stop the construction of twin high-rise office towers near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Los Robles Avenue, said that his group has only begun organizing and has yet to prepare a concrete proposal.
But judging from the 30 to 40 residents involved in the formation of the group, Taylor said he does not expect it to be a "flashing star that fades quickly."
The founders include Claire Bogaard , executive director of Pasadena Heritage, the outspoken preservation group; Roland Zapata of the Northeast Pasadena Residents Assn., and Kit-Bacon Gressitt, a leader of the unsuccessful drive to stop the demolition of the Huntington Hotel.
Part of Wider Trend