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A New Lease on Life for Historic Bungalows

Redevelopment: Eight once-proud homes that have sat empty and rotting in an upscale Pasadena neighborhood for decades will be restored as condos.

November 07, 2001|RICHARD WINTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A group of landmark Pasadena bungalows that has sat empty and rotting in an upscale neighborhood for decades can be restored as part of a 45-unit condominium complex, the City Council has decided.

The council cleared the way for the rehabilitation of the eight bungalows perched above the Arroyo Seco, overlooking the Colorado Street Bridge, by voting for a zoning change and determining that the project will not harm the environment.

"It is not an understatement to say that, at least in West Pasadena this [project] is really historic," said Councilman Steve Madison, who represents the area. "For many years these bungalows have, all at once, been a source of pride and yet really quite irksome."

The Vista bungalows were built in the 1920s and 1930s on Grand Avenue near Green Street as part of the neighboring Arroyo Vista Hotel, which became a branch of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1980s. But the bungalows have largely been abandoned since World War II, when the Army used the hotel as a hospital.

Neglect, vandalism and a series of fires, the latest one in a bungalow in August, have taken their toll.

Grand Vista Partners officials said they will restore the eight bungalows in accordance with federal preservation guidelines. The bungalows would house 16 condominiums; 29 additional units would be built on the 2.9-acre site.

Two residents opposed the project during Monday's hearing, citing traffic concerns and overdevelopment. But preservationists, who have fought repeated efforts to tear down the bungalows to make way for other buildings and even extra parking spaces for the federal courthouse, praised the project.

"This plan is at last a chance to see the bungalows treated properly and for new development designed in a compatible way," said Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, which, since its founding in the 1960s, has fought to rehabilitate the structures.

She said the bungalows were built by families such as the Maxwell coffee family, who wanted their own residences when they came to Pasadena for the winter. "Some families shared the bungalows, so they'll make ideal condos," she said.

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