Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Trip to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is east of Allen -- about 150 miles east.

Over the long weekend, our scout group went camping at Indian Cove Campground in Joshua Tree National Park. The park is named for a type of yucca that grows there, but rocks are the main attraction. Our camp was at the base of this outcropping of rocks. Dads and sons shared small tents pitched in the sand and nestled up against the outcropping. These rocks were like kid magnets. The three days we were there, the boys were constantly climbing up and down.

I really like sunrise in the desert. I like the night sky too, but wasn't able to get any decent photos. This photo was taken Monday morning at sunrise steps from our tent. The photo was taken looking west.

The scouts got to try their hand(s) and feet at rock climbing. That's my son making his way up the rock.

Typical scenery around our campground, including the vapor trails in the sky.
Just a magnificent trip. The weather was great -- in the 70's during the day, low of about 40 at night and very little wind. Both of us are ready to go again.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Proposal to Develop St. Luke's Hospital Property

In 2009, you're going to hear a lot about St. Luke's. At Monday night's City Council meeting, DS Ventures will present its plans to develop the 13- acre property by converting the existing St. Luke's hospital building to an assisted living facility, and adding to the site 170 new condominium units, parking structures and a 50,000 square foot office building. The Council meeting is informational only -- to inform the council and public that a major project is being proposed. No decisions will be made. You can see the city staff report here. A site plan for the project, showing the existing and proposed new buildings, is attached to the city staff report.

Above is a view of St. Luke's Hospital as seen from New York Drive. That's Eaton Wash Reservoir in the foreground. The hospital was built in 1933 by the Sisters of St. Joseph and served our area's medical needs until it closed in 2002. This magnificent seven story Art Deco building is one of the most impressive landmarks in East Pasadena. Only the Stuart Pharmaceutical building rivals it.

In 2003, St. Luke's was sold to Cal Tech. Many were relieved that the future of this property was in good hands. The St. Luke's property is (and has always been) zoned for Public Service uses. Though the hospital was closed, Cal Tech would continue the historic Public Service use of the property by using it for education and research.

But, St. Luke's is located near the base of the San Gabriels, five miles from Cal Tech's campus. The location proved too remote from Cal Tech's main campus near downtown Pasadena. The venerable institution decided to sell and the property went on the market.

Developers salivated over the possibilities. Built-out Pasadena rarely sees a 13-acre parcel go on the market. And this was about 2006-2007. Developers were making bundles cranking out condominiums. As reported by Pasadena Now, Cal Tech's real estate broker called St. Luke's "an extraordinary assemblage of property" and said the property "generated interest from investors around the world."

Others were interested in the property too. Schools, churches, a cancer research center and other nonprofit users were interested. After all, the St. Luke's property was zoned for Public Service use and one might think it would be sold to another institutional user.

It may have been the irrational exuberance of the times or the mesmerizing image of acres of condos or just arrogance, but developers ignored the city's General Plan and zoning laws and lined up to bid on the property. Institutional users were priced out of the game. According to an October 2007, Los Angeles Business Journal article, in 2003 Cal Tech paid less than $20 million for the St. Luke's property. Four years later, it sold the property to Beverly Hills developer DS Ventures for more than $40 million.

To develop the property, DS Ventures will need the city to change the Public Service designation for the property. But, DS Ventures faces an even bigger challenge than that.

Pasadena's General Plan requires the city's growth to be limited to the city's downtown and along major transportation lines, such as the metro. This is the centerpiece to the city's growth plan -- a plan the city is fulfilling with dense development downtown and at metro stops. By aligning growth with public transportation and focusing it downtown, the city will hopefully reduce the need for cars, reduce pollution and make more efficient use of dwindling resources.

Based largely on our General Plan, our city is nationally known for progressive planning. The basics of the city's current General Plan were adopted back in 1994 as part of a campaign to "Imagine a Great City." Citizens turned out by the thousands to do just that. Guided by this guy and others, the city adopted a forward thinking General Plan that limits growth to targeted areas. It was cutting edge stuff at the time and put Pasadena planning at the forefront of the move away from auto-dependence and toward smarter growth.

So, in addition to doing away with the property's Public Service zoning, to carry out its plan to intensify use on the site, adding condos, parking structures and office uses, DS Ventures will need to convince the city to back away from the key to its General Plan. That may be tough to do.

The fact is the St. Luke's property is on the edge of the city, miles from downtown and miles from a metro stop. DS's plans to develop the property are out of touch with Pasadena's plan to target and limit growth and a hindrence to state and local efforts to reduce auto trips and emissions. With every day's news, it becomes more and more evident that we need to stop building for auto dependence and need to exercise greater care about how we affect our environment. The wisdom of Pasadena's plan to limit growth to targeted areas is proving more and more sound.

How will this all play out? Well, as I said at the start, in 2009, I think we're going to hear a lot about the St. Luke's property. Hopefully we'll also hear a lot about the City's General Plan, the need to reduce auto use and emissions and ways to better conserve our environment. In the process, we will learn much about Pasadena's commitment to remain an environmental and planning leader.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Six Eggs In A Day

Today it happened. All six of our hens laid eggs. The light green/blue eggs are from the Ameraucanas. The deep brown eggs are from our Rhode Island Reds. The tannish colored eggs (which are sometimes speckled) are from the Barred Rocks. They were the last to start laying.

Since New Year Day, we've averaged four eggs a day! We're having quiche tonight.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rose Parade 2009

An absolutely beautiful day for the parade. The kind of day when at 8 in the morning you can't decide to whether or not you'll need a sweater. This is Sierra Madre Blvd., kind of a lonely place early parade day morning and it was fun to walk right down the middle of a usually busy street. But, this is where the floats go for post parade and in a few hours, this area will be overflowing with people looking at the floats.

On our way down Sierra Madre Blvd. we said hello to friends already in place for the parade or wandering around the street. Some school friends had slept overnight. We got hit up by scouts for Krispe Kremes. Then, further down Sierra Madre Blvd. we met up with another Pasadena family to watch the parade. Most of the people around us were locals (or relatives from out of town) -- people who year after year watch the parade at the same spot. One of the many Trojan fans was next to us. Oh, nice mountain views too.

I decided to try my hand at photography this year. I'm trying to improve my photography skills. So far, the pictures I see and the ones my camera takes seem to be two different things. This is one of the few pictures I took that I really liked. That's Alhambra's float by the way.

The Penn State band was fantastic. Five miles into the parade and the band still had great energy dancing their way to the finish line. Their baton twirler was juggling batons! Here she is waiting for one of her batons to come back to earth. Penn State got huge cheers from the crowd around us. And their band was so good I almost switched my football team allegiance from the Trojans to the Nittany Lions.

It's the Emerald City! But, the poppies, the poppies will put our heroes to sleep. Good thing Glenda the Good Witch is there to save the day.

Sometimes you can get flowers when the parade and post parade are done and the floats are bing towed back to storage. But, I'd never seen anyone run out during the parade and pick a flower off of a passing float. Actually this was for a good cause. The flower filcher presented the rose to a lady celebrating her 50th birthday on the curb watching the Rose Parade.

It's an international parade. But, it's also a local parade. Actually that's one of the things I really like about Pasadena. In many ways, we're a world class and world renowned city. But, in significant ways we're also a small town. This well decorated girl scout just marched five miles in the world's best known parade and was plainly happy to hear a chorus of friends calling her name from Sierra Madre Blvd.

Wile E. Coyote is after the Roadrunner on Sierra Madre Blvd. Looks like he's still using those ACME rockets. Some coyotes never learn.

The good news is that, out of hundreds of beautiful contestants, we've selected you for the honor of riding in the 120th Tournament of Roses Parade where you'll be seen on television by millions of people world wide.

The bad news is, well, you've got to wear this hair....

Gotta like band directors who engage the crowd. This guy from the LAUSD All District Band was shaking hands, waving and clapping.

Notice the helicopter flying just out of the surfer's grasp. I waited for this shot.
My favorite float by the way. Surf City USA -- the real one in the OC.

La Canada's entry. I like the fact that many of our surrounding cities have floats in the parade.

What float will Raul and his parrot ride on this year? Answer: China Airlines. Spectacular float. This guy knows how to do it.

The Liberty High Grenadiers were really good. But, the hats.... Even the band director had one. Leadership by example.

Great float from Alaska. These guys did a hunting dance and charged the crowd. Lots of fun.

It's the Age of Aquarius. Lots of activity here: dancing, drums, juggling, wild colors. I'll pass on the Jumbo Jack. But a wonderful float.

Donate Life. Huge cheers from the crowd. And with good reason.

The City of Hope and Duarte float. We like City of Hope. It's an inspiring and world class place much befitting its name. My mom is there now, but soon to be released. She was watching the parade on TV when I called her from the parade route.

Here are the good folks from the Valley Hunt Club, which club founded the Tournament of Roses 120 years ago. With the Hunt Club's history, the horse driven carriage and all, I thought I'd try some fancy photo work and go black and white. Great idea; terrible photo. Also, while I was thinking 1890s, I didn't notice the tow truck in the background. Oh, well.

Cal Poly makes fun floats. Like them every year.

Roseville float from NoCal. The engineer has both arms and half his body out of the window. This was a fun float with lots of energetic riders.

The Sierra Madre float broke down and was towed to the finish. The guy in the white jumpsuit is not part of the Bollywood thing, but just a really dejected float driver.

Burbank. Great job. I thought the drive-in with the mountains in the backdrop was a nice touch.

One of the directors of the Band of America. Five miles in and still engaging the crowd.

You know times are tough when realtors can't afford shoes.

Another wonderful parade is over. Time to load up the chairs, wander on back home and wait for the football game.