‘Straw poll’ reveals council favors CVPRA compliance, 5-3
By Gus Herrera
The Pasadena City Council’s most recent meeting got off to late start and had an even later finish, as discussions around the dais lasted past midnight.
There were two main events on the agenda: the first regarded the potential establishment of a park in the underserved Playhouse District; the second dealt with the city’s response to the California Voter Participation Rights Act (CVPRA).
Although deliberation on the two items lasted several hours, council ultimately refrained from taking any action and instead directed city staff to further study the items and return at a later time.
The potential establishment of park was in response to the fact that many residents within the Playhouse District lack walkable access (within one-half mile) to any outdoor recreational space, according to city staff’s report.
As the city continues to approve mixed-use development within the district, many of the incoming residents are looking for the city to justify rising prices by providing outdoor amenities and promoting walkability.
City staff recommended partially converting one of two city-owned parking lots (100 N. El Molino Ave. or 50 S. Madison Ave.) into park space but conversation around the dais quickly shifted from parks to parking.
During the public comment portion, some prominent local business owners (i.e. Linden Optometry, Vroman’s Bookstore, etc.) spoke out against the creation of a park at the cost of eliminating a number of the Playhouse District’s endangered parking spaces.
Brian Wallace, executive director of the Playhouse District Association, spoke in favor of the need for open space but also urged council to seize this opportunity as a chance to grow and build the district as a whole. He argued that until the parking issue is solved, the district’s potential for growth will remain capped.
In the end, it was clear that the Playhouse District lacks two key resources: parks and parking. Council ultimately directed city staff to continue researching possible solutions and begin to engage stakeholders and the community.
When it came time to debate whether or not the city should comply with the controversial CVPRA, council again stopped short of taking any formal action and instead chose to hold an informal “straw poll.”
The result: council voted 5-3 in favor of complying with the state’s decree (Council Members Kennedy, Hampton, and Masuda opposed). The mayor then tasked City Clerk Mark Jomsky with studying the specifics of complying with the CVPRA, before returning to council for action. Jomsky will now study whether the city should shift to a plurality system or maintain the current primary system.
“We’ll pick this conversation up again,” concluded Tornek.
Earlier in the evening, council approved the meeting’s consent calendar via motion sweep, which included the acceptance of $415,000 in grant funds from the California Office of Traffic Safety to conduct various driving under the influence (DUI) education/enforcement programs.
The city’s latest DUI outreach efforts are set to run until next September and will include eight stationary checkpoints, 11 roving DUI patrols, two warrant service operations, and 29 educational programs.
In addition to educating drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, the grant will also fund training for Pasadena police personnel, as well as phlebotomist services.
There were two public hearings scheduled on the agenda, but council surprisingly decided to cancel one related to the city’s proposed water rate adjustments.
“We’re not quite ready to move with that,” was the only explanation given by Mayor Terry Tornek.
The second public hearing involved the designation of the Craftsman Heights neighborhood as the city’s 26th landmark district. The picturesque northwestern Pasadena neighborhood will finally be able to shed its infamous nickname: “the donut hole,” as it is surrounded by four districts that have already achieved landmark or historic designation: Orange Heights Barnhart District to the south (also listed in the National Historic Register), Garfield Heights Landmark District to the west, Washington Square Landmark District to the east, and Normandie Heights Landmark District to the north.
The neighborhood is primarily made up of single-family homes and is representative of the Arts & Crafts and Period Revival-era styles, according to staff’s report.
Several residents appeared before council to speak in favor the designation, but very little convincing was necessary, as the neighborhood was granted landmark status unanimously.
One speaker revealed that two prominent local political figures once resided in Craftsman Heights: Loretta Thompson-Glickman, the first African-American female mayor of Pasadena, and Henry T. Wilfong, the first African-American member of the Pasadena City Council who also served in the Reagan and Obama administrations.
Council Member Tyron Hampton and Vice-Mayor John Kennedy were particularly thrilled to approve the designation, as both share a storied history with Craftsman Heights (Hampton’s family resides within the neighborhood to this day).
Council will meet again on Monday, Sept. 23.