By Terry Miller
Dozens of Pasadena residents joined forces Saturday morning in the publicly-owned park facing city hall (100 N. Garfield Ave.), for the clear and definite purpose of saying “no” to a proposed give-away of one of the city’s two most recognizable parks.
The small parkland in question was purchased through a 1923 bond, specifically designed to complete the City Beautiful Bennett Plan, anchored by the Pasadena City Hall and plaza (the backdrop for the “Parks and Recreation” TV show, as well as many Hollywood films), extending north and south to include the City’s Public Library and Civic Auditorium.
It was not purchased to be given away to a hotel developer, in order to restore the old YWCA building, an architectural landmark designed by Julia Morgan, the architect of Hearst Castle, nor to bring in City of Pasadena General Fund money to help the city pay off the bad investments of CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System).
Using a bull horn, residents, including long-time community activist Crystal Balvin, shared memories of the Civic Center, while others stood under a “For Sale for Free” real estate sign and filled out post cards which were delivered to the mayor and city council. The postcards ask that the city create a new RFP (request for proposals) that allows citizens to weigh in on the future use of this land and no longer condone the private or developer-organized meetings that until now have characterized this project.
According to organizers, “this project has operated outside of the normal rules of transparent decision making and community participation that have long been the cornerstones of development and city planning in Pasadena. The city council did this behind closed doors … ” former Pasadena Development Administrator Marsha Rood said.
Rood added, “We as citizens should not have to sue the city to follow its own rules and the laws of the State.”
Like many other California cities, Pasadena is looking for ways to fund its obligation to CalPERS (California Public Employees Retirement System), whose bad investments have left the fund without adequate revenue to meet its obligations. It is now passing that responsibility on to individual cities.
In Pasadena, residents claim the city did not conduct community-wide meetings requesting public input on this proposed give-away of the Civic Center Park, which contains two nine-foot bronze sculptures of Pasadena native-sons and sports heroes, Jackie and Mack Robinson.
Residents say the city should look for other sources of funding and avoid setting a precedent of giving away its most valuable and recognizable publicly-owned park space to facilitate over-sized commercial developments.