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LOCAL ELECTIONS

Pasadena Voters to Call Play on NFL Talks

The council ended negotiations on a pro team at the Rose Bowl, but an initiative on the ballot would allow the city back in the huddle.

October 18, 2006|Valerie Reitman | Times Staff Writer

Porfirio Frausto gestured toward the playing field of the aging stadium that has hosted five Super Bowls, two World Cup finals, a quarter-century of UCLA Bruins home football games and, of course, 82 Rose Bowls.

"This is the Rose Bowl, not a lawn ornament; if we don't use it, we abuse it," said Frausto, a lifelong Pasadena resident and a director of the nonprofit corporation that runs the city-owned facility.

His are fighting words to many Pasadenans, however, particularly those living close to the stadium where prim lawns now sprout green-and-white signs declaring, "No on Measure A. It's a bad deal for the city." They loathe game days, when miles of cars clog the few tree-lined residential streets leading to the stadium and noisy crowds intrude on weekend tranquillity.

At issue is whether the city should continue negotiations with the NFL to land a professional football franchise. But the outcome might not matter.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday October 21, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
Rose Bowl: An article Wednesday in the California section about a Pasadena ballot initiative asking whether the city should continue negotiations with the NFL to land a pro football franchise said lawn signs read: "No on Measure A. It's a bad deal for the city." The signs read: "No on Measure A. It's a bad deal for Pasadena."

Proponents view such a franchise as a means to raise $500 million to improve and repair the stadium -- at the prospective team's expense rather than taxpayers'.

Adding a football franchise would also bring more jobs -- in security, parking, maintenance, entertainment and lodging -- for less affluent residents, they say.

After the Pasadena City Council voted 5 to 3 to pull out of negotiations with the NFL last year -- city officials said the NFL rejected its proposed redesign with historic character in favor of a mega-stadium -- the three dissenting councilors opted to take the measure directly to voters. They gathered 10,000 signatures on petitions and weathered a court challenge by a neighborhood association to get the initiative onto the November ballot.

Even if voters approve the initiative, the effort could be moot. The NFL has indicated it is more likely to renovate the Los Angeles Coliseum or build a new stadium in Anaheim or Los Angeles -- if indeed it chooses to locate a franchise in the Los Angeles area at all.

But long odds don't daunt supporters. Frausto compares the council's premature dismissal to cutting a fishing line before even "seeing if we had anything on the line."

Supporters, including the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, contend that the NFL would pick up the tab for the $500 million in changes to the stadium -- including adding more spacious seats that would reduce capacity from 92,000 to 75,000 -- while adding $42 million to city coffers.

Otherwise, the city would have to pay at least $200 million for repairs to the aging structure.

But opponents, including Mayor Bill Bogaard, argue that the city would come out a loser if it were to get a franchise, which they contend would create only a few low-paying jobs and generate less than $3 million in additional business.

"I don't want a football team -- it's a nuisance with traffic and there's too much activity around here already," said Dr. Sherman Robins, 71, an ophthalmologist out for a swim Tuesday morning at the nearby Rose Bowl Aquatics Center. "It's a nice community. I don't want to junk it up."

Others said they feared altering the character of the billboard-free neighborhood, full of trees and Craftsman homes. Hundreds of people each day walk, jog or bike the loop around the stadium, swim at the aquatics center or golf at the public golf course (on big-game days the course is used for parking, providing a grassy venue for tailgating parties).

Agreed Rocky Behr, 77: "I am for change, but not for this change: It'll change the neighborhood and change the feel. Pasadena is too overbuilt now. It's such a lovely area that's really a landmark."

But others said having their own football team to root for might trump some of the downsides. "Pasadena is due for some excitement," said James Leader, 66, a retired Pasadena police officer, who said the deal would benefit taxpayers.

Agreed Erin Thompkins, 23: "I'd love to go to a game close by other than the Dodgers. Traffic is already a mess, and we're dealing with that."

Because only one house stood near the stadium when it was built in 1922, those now living in the neighborhood knew what they were getting into when they bought their homes. Their opposition to a team now smacks of elitism, Frausto says, recalling that it was only 36 years ago that Pasadena schools were ordered to desegregate, the first such order to a district outside of the South. Until the 1940s, people of color were allowed only minimal access to the the city-owned pool. Moreover, games of both the Bruins and the pro team would only be about 19 days a year, they say.

"The city was pretty much founded on the Rose Bowl," said Sylvester Ceasar, a maintenance supervisor at the stadium and golf course, who has been employed at the Rose Bowl since 1994.

Each day, he said there are people looking to do community jobs. Some are hired part time for the football season, but at year's end are let go.

"The Rose Bowl has propped the city up, and it could make more history. It's good for employees, employers and the city all the way around," Ceasar said. "A lot of people on the northwest side could use some help, job-wise."

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valerie.reitman@latimes.com

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