Monday, October 5, 2009

Four East Pasadena Issues for the General Plan Update

As promised, here are my top planning issues concerning East Pasadena that I think should be discussed and be part of the city's updated General Plan.

1. Eaton Wash Trail

And the winner of the award for longest planned project never built is ..........................
The Eaton Wash Trail!
Seventy-eight years after the first plan, we have a trail of plans, but still no trail.

First, there was this 1932 plan that I posted on a year ago.

1932 Plan for Eaton Canyon Park

Then there was the 1967 plan approved by Pasadena's Director of Parks. Really a plan for a park and trail extending from Eaton Canyon south along the wash to the southern city limits. Exciting stuff. But, the plan went nowhere.

Instead, over the years, bits and pieces of the long planned park were carved away for developent. A few acres here and there for housing developments, 30 acres for an industrial park and so it went. The old plans gathered dust on a shelf.

Then, 40 years after the city's '67 plan, the city revived plans for an Eaton Wash trail in the 2007 Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Less ambitious than earlier plans, but still holding on to the goal of a north south trail along the wash.

But, the city has never gotten behind the trail in any serious way. Most of the noise for a trail these days is provided by others -- the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy , Pasadena's Open Space Now, local bloggers and Cal Poly graduate students. The city has largely been passive while others push an Eaton Wash trail as part of a web of proposed regional trails.

In 2008, Cal Poly graduate students produced the Emerald Horseshoe Concept Plan: trail connections for the Los Angeles Region. In particular, Part 4 (be patient, it takes some time to load) of the Concept Plan presents the trail plan. With cues from decades old plans, the Concept Plan takes the Eaton Wash trail to another level -- the students revived old plans for public use of the Eaton Wash Reservoir and for a migratory bird sanctuary. They propose an Eaton Wash Plaza where the wash crosses at Colorado Blvd. and give details of how the trail connects to other trails to the north and south of the city.

The Eaton Wash trail, especially as envisioned in the Concept Plan, has the potential to directly connect the city with Eaton Canyon and with the city's natural landscape. The trail would be a much needed defining element of East Pasadena and a recreational attraction used by people across the city.

Certainly the city would have to change spending priorities to build the trail. And LA County would need to cooperate. All possible and all appropriate for a general plan discussion. Pasadena is a resourceful city. Projects the city wants tend to happen. It is time for the City of Pasadena to take hold of this long-planned project and do what it takes to build the trail.

2. Open Space

Preserve open space. Absolutely. Positively. No exceptions.

Be proactive about planning the open space under the Edison power lines. East Pas has dozens of acres of land zoned open space and sitting under power lines just growing weeds. Now that Edison is making all kinds of "green" noises, why not seize the moment and be proactive about using this land for more than weed fields. Urban farms? Community gardens?

City owned land adjacent to the Eaton Wash and between Orange Grove and Foothill. The land is zoned open space but was approved for an ice rink building 500 feet long, 116 feet wide and 54 feet high plus a parking lot for 150 cars.

The 1994 General Plan requires the city to "preserve and acquire open space." However, the city's zoning code allows construction of massive buildings, such as the proposed ice rink and a parking lot for 150 cars, on "open space" zoned land. What's the point of the open space designation if you're just going to pave it and construct massive buildings? I think there's a disconnect between what the General Plan requires (or should require) and what the zoning code allows. The zoning code should be changed.

3. Development Near the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station
This is a big big issue. If or when building resumes, there is likely to be a lot of pressure to develop within 1/2 mile (generally walking distance) of the Sierra Madre Villa Metro Station.

Traffic is already congested along Foothill and Rosemead. Obviously how new development impacts traffic will be a huge issue.

If there are new developments, what kind of uses will they be? I'll admit to some disappointment over the lone "transit oriented" project we've seen so far. As originally planned, the corner of Foothill and Sierra Madre Villa and the old Stuart building was to include a mix of uses, including office, bio-tech uses, and some housing. Somewhere along the way, that plan got jettisoned and the entire area is now primarily devoted to housing. I'd rather have the mix of business uses and potential work opportunities than just more housing. But, hopefully future development around the metro will bring in more business uses.

Also, maybe I'm just not clued into swanky '50's styling, but the Stuart apartments just don't read enduring quality and design to me. They don't reflect the same quality or appealing design as the historic Stuart building that fronts the apartments or the Kaiser office building to the west. The apartments more reflect the untitled design of the SMV Metro Station, which seems uninspired to me as well. Standards need to be higher for future development.

4. St. Luke's Medical Center

I've posted before on the proposal to develop the St. Luke's site with condos and assisted living. DS Ventures, which bought from Cal Tech, paid way too much for the Public Service zoned St. Luke's property anticipating that they'd be able to jam condos on the site. The proposal is now on ice as the owners apparently work their way through bankruptcy. Pasadena needs to evaluate the best uses for the site and adjoining neighborhood without regard to the price paid by the westside developer. This is an exceptional and rare property with great history. Likewise, future plans for the property should be extraordinary as well. Among other possibilities, future use should include return to medical services and medical research.


altadenahiker said...

Well done Michael. Over here on the westside we're most concerned that they keep their mitts off the Arroyo.

Michael Coppess said...

Thanks Hiker. Hey, if that Emerald Horseshoe trail ever gets done, you can hike up the Arroyo, across the foothills, down the Eaton Wash and all then way to the Pacific!

Eric E said...

That Emerald Horseshoe concept plan is extremely cool! My back yard fence is right up againts the west side of Eaton Wash. I can just imagine the possibilities of opening up my back yard gate right into a dechannelized Eaton Wash instead of the no trespassing zone that is there now.
Oh, and thanks for the clarification on the plan update. I was unaware that the update comes every 5 years. And I agree that it's really too bad that the Stuart apartments (and SMV station) look so awful. Kaiser Permanente, the Fire Station, even Ross and Best Buy look more like they belong there.

Brenda's Arizona said...

Thanks for your history - this is really interesting. Plus, I was born in St. Lukes... so it is gone? sigh...

Michael Coppess said...

Hi Eric: Thanks for the comments. I hope support for the trail picks up steam. I think that could alter the landscape of East Pas very much for the good.

Brenda: I'm always amazed at how many people I meet who were born at St. Lukes. Doesn't make sense to me that the hospital was needed years ago when population was less, but somehow is not needed now when population has dramatically increased. Regardless of how it is used, the hospital building is not going anywhere -- it is a landmark protected by the city. Thanks for following all the way from AZ!

Romantic bed and breakfasts said...

St. Luke’s is the Philippines' undisputed leader in many fields, most especially in cardiovascular medicine, neurology and neurosurgery, and cancer. It is the first choice of medical and health-related practitioners and patients for executive check-ups.

Pasadena Real Estate said...

Nice work. Keep it up.