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'Y' Project OKd Under Pact to Save Landmark

February 11, 1988|ASHLEY DUNN | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — After a flurry of last-minute negotiations, the city Board of Directors has approved a compromise that will allow the YMCA and YWCA to build a new joint facility while saving part of a historic landmark that had been slated for demolition.

The compromise was hammered out late Monday night in a last-ditch attempt to save the north wing of the YWCA building designed by Julia Morgan, the state's first licensed woman architect.

Although the Y will be allowed to demolish half of the north wing, the other half, which houses the gymnasium, will be saved for at least 20 years.

As part of the deal, the board unanimously agreed to waive up to $100,000 in development fees to offset the expense the two groups will incur in redesigning their $15.1-million expansion project to accommodate the preservation of the gymnasium.

YMCA and YWCA officials were elated that after three years of planning, their expansion project in the heart of the city's civic center has finally gotten the green light.

"We're very happy with this compromise," said Arthur E. Barrington, president of the YMCA board of directors. "It won't be as good a plan as we had before, but it's a good compromise."

Preservationists and some city officials were less enthusiastic about the compromise, but conceded that it was probably the best they could expect.

"There was a strong possibility we could have lost it all," said Kennon Miedema, chairman of the city's Cultural Heritage Commission. "We didn't get all that we wanted, but it's better than nothing.

Director William Thomson said he was uncomfortable because the city had waived a portion of the $600,000 the project will provide in development fees.

"I realize this has been a long, drawn-out process," he said. "I would have been willing to go $50,000, but a $100,000 bite is a bit much."

Thomson conceded, however, that with or without the compromise, the two groups probably had enough support to win board approval.

"It was clear a majority of the board was willing to go along," Thomson said. "It just seemed better to move past the issue."

Before the agreement was reached, Director Rick Cole expressed lingering concerns about the Y's parking plan, which requires the city to shuffle parking in the already congested civic center area to provide the joint facility with 189 spaces.

But Cole eventually settled for an agreement that will allow the city to review the parking situation a year after the facility is opened.

The expansion project, which has been on the drawing board for three years, was sparked by the continuing deterioration of the YMCA's 77-year-old building on Holly Street near City Hall and the YWCA's 67-year-old building across the street.

Joint Facility

The organizations decided to build one joint facility rather than renovate their separate buildings.

Under the plan, the YMCA will move into the YWCA building, which will be expanded by about 77,000 square feet to accommodate two swimming pools, racquetball courts, a gymnasium, a running track and classrooms. The YMCA building will be sold to help fund the expansion.

But the proposal ran into complaints from Pasadena Heritage, a historical preservation group, over the proposed demolition of the YWCA's north wing, designed by Morgan. Morgan, who died in 1957, also designed William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon mansion in San Luis Obispo County.

The YWCA's main building, which the organizations had always planned to restore, and the north wing are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cultural Heritage Commission rejected the proposal last month, saying the two groups had failed to prove that the north wing had to be demolished to accommodate the expansion.

At the same time, some city staff members raised concerns about the potential parking problems the joint facility might create.

The expansion requires the elimination of 63 parking spaces on the two properties. Y officials estimated that the joint facility would need 189 parking spaces in nearby city garages. The parking concerns led the city's Board of Zoning Appeals to reject the project last month.

Proposal Appealed

Because of the two rejections, the proposal was appealed to the Board of Directors.

When the YMCA and YWCA presented the project to the board last week, board members also voiced concerns over the demolition of the north wing and the potential parking problem.

Last Friday, a breakthrough occurred when Delmer Beckhart, the project architect, suggested that half of the north wing might be saved. The YMCA, YWCA, Pasadena Heritage and the Cultural Heritage Commission studied the idea and negotiated through the weekend. Just hours before the board met again Monday, they were still negotiating.

The parking problem was largely solved earlier Monday, when the YMCA and YWCA agreed to help pay for a new parking garage in the civic center area.

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