PASADENA — After more than 2 1/2 years of preparation, debate and workshops, the Board of Directors has finally adopted a new Civic Center master plan, amending a vision of the city drafted in 1923.
But the approval came reluctantly.
The Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, the owners of Plaza Pasadena and board members Kathryn Nack and John Crowley all sought Tuesday to postpone the final decision, which had been delayed last month.
"If we have been working 21 months on this, it doesn't seem 30 days would make that much difference," said chamber President Ann Hight.
Hight asked for a 90-day delay for the chamber to prepare an economic impact report, then switched to pleading for a 30-day postponement when she sensed opposition from Mayor William Thomson and Director Rick Cole.
Can 'Revisit Issues'
"We're not putting something in concrete this evening," Thomson said. "We'll have ample opportunity to revisit any of the issues."
"This is a framework," agreed Cole. "It allows different kinds of development, perhaps housing, perhaps commercial."
In a 5-1 vote, with Crowley opposed and Nack abstaining, the board adopted the master plan and certified the final environmental impact report for an area that spans roughly from the Foothill Freeway south to Cordova Street and from Los Robles Avenue west to Fair Oaks Avenue.
The plan calls for up to 1.1 million square feet of new office space, 326,000 square feet of new retail space, 1,180 units of new multifamily housing and a 350-room hotel. Development costs are estimated at $60 million.
The board also agreed with a city staff recommendation to create an oversight committee to provide case-by-case consultation to prospective developers. The staff was directed to prepare a Civic Center program budget.
A recommendation that the glass windows and doors be removed from the two-story Plaza Pasadena shopping center archway on Garfield Avenue was left open for further discussion.
Objections to the plan's adoption Tuesday centered, as they did last month, on that controversial recommendation.
The city has pinned much of its hope for downtown revitalization on the plaza, which was built in 1980. The shopping center stands on Colorado Boulevard between the Beaux Arts-style Central Library and City Hall and the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The plan suggests removing the glass in order to link the two structures and provide a 24-hour pedestrian thoroughfare through the arch.
But Nat Read, a spokesman for the Hahn Co., which built and operates the mall, said such a proposal would cut the mall in two and drive out businesses. The May Co. already has left the mall, Read said, and the J. C. Penny Co. would probably follow if the glass were removed.
"I sense an almost unbelievable depth of emotion (over the issue)," Read said. "There's been an unhappiness with the Hahn Co. . . . but we are shooting ourselves in our foot in Pasadena trying to get back at Hahn, if that's what's in this provision for opening up the mall."
Hahn attorneys researched the city's easements in the shopping center, granted when the mall was built. Any change in those easements could subject the city to "an unbelievable legal morass," Read said.
He suggested a 30-day delay to allow for a Sept. 28 meeting between Hahn architect Jon Jerde and the mayor to resolve the issue. Hight sided with the Hahn company in her call for an economic impact report that would evaluate the impact of dividing the mall.
However, the board avoided action on the issue by specifically leaving that proposal open for future discussion.
The board also postponed detailed discussion of how a senior center, All Saints Episcopal Church, the Pasadena YWCA and Kaiser Permanente would be affected by the Civic Center Plan.
Crowley sought a delay to discuss zoning matters in detail.
Nack was similarly concerned that the board had not conducted in-depth discussion of the senior center and the YWCA.
Crowley suggested a one-hour briefing by project architect Donlyn Lyndon, of Lyndon/Buchanan Associates. But Thomson objected, saying of the groups, "They're not here this evening, so these concerns must have been satisfied."
As part of its Civic Center discussion, the board reviewed a proposed design for Centennial Square, the broad concrete expanse in front of City Hall.
The design calls for the City Hall steps to become a symbolic gathering point for the city. Toward that end, Lyndon has proposed a broad walkway under an avenue of fruit trees along Holly Street. Trees would also line Garfield Avenue in order to direct the eye toward City Hall.
A semicircular arcade would be built around the curving sidewalks in front of City Hall to allow for wisteria vines to shade the area; fountains and seats would also be installed. If desired, underground parking for 300 vehicles could be built beneath the square, with elevators and stairs leading from the parking are to the arcade.
The cost of the project is estimated at $4 million, or $4.5 million if underground parking is added.
"This strikes me as a little overdone, gilding the lily," said Cole. But he added that he supports the proposal because, as with the Civic Center plan which he originally opposed, he has been persuaded of its benefits to the city.
The Centennial Square proposal will be presented again at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 10 for public comment.