On December 17, 2018, Mayor Terry Tornek recommended that the city-owned YWCA, located next to City Hall, be used to house our homeless neighbors, many of whom live on the nearby streets. He noted that Centennial Place, the former YMCA adjacent to the YWCA, houses 144 homeless individuals and is what he calls a "good neighbor."
Advocates such as the Greater Pasadena Affordable Housing Group (GPAHG) , the Faith Partnership to End Homelessness, and community leaders listed below, applaud the Mayor's recommendation. We believe that this property should be preserved and restored to its original intent—a home for those in need.
On Wednesday, February 20, some Centennial Place residents and community activists held a candlelight vigil at the YWCA, praying that this property be used for God's intention, just as people prayed at Heritage Square South, where 60-70 units for homeless seniors were approved in December 2018.
Some history: This YWCA was designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, best known for designing Hearst Castle. She also had a heart for the poor and vulnerable and designed several YWCAs. Built in 1921, Pasadena’s historic YWCA has sat vacant for over 18 years. In 2012 the City of Pasadena, concerned about the lack of care and maintenance, invoked eminent domain, purchased the building and later began negotiations to convert the building as part of a proposed a 180-room Kimpton hotel. A huge pushback ensued from the community and in 2017 the City Council unanimously rejected the Kimpton Hotel concept.
Why Supportive Housing?
Using this YWCA for supportive housing makes sense. Fortunately, funding is available for this purpose from federal, state and county sources. This would meet a desperate need for homeless housing in the City, especially around the City center. According to the 2018 homeless count:
· 677 people in Pasadena are homeless.
· 462 are living on the street.
· 104 are in families.
· 70% are men, 29+% women, <1 o:p="" other="">1>
Since the YWCA is across the street from Centennial Place, and since Union Station Homeless Services works with Centennial Place, Union Station could work more efficiently in both locations. Union Station has had over 45 years of experience successfully addressing homelessness in Pasadena and would commit to quality services and ensure permanent stability for residents
What are the Possibilities?
Historic Restoration –The developer should have experience and a successful track record in preserving historic buildings. Historic Resources Group, located here in Pasadena, could be hired to ensure its historic character is preserved.
Historic Preservation Stakeholders such as the Pasadena Heritage could to ensure that if any new structures are built on the surface parking lot, they would be respectful of the YWCA’s historic significance and architecture. The Rosalyn Hotel in Los Angeles is an excellent example of an historic site repurposed to help house those in need.
Economic Development – In order to incorporate an economic development component, we propose the inclusion of a social benefit enterprise like a restaurant that would provide training/job skills to the residents of the YWCA, Centennial Place and other low-income individuals. Catalyst Kitchens and Homegirl Café are examples of successful enterprises.
Creating affordable housing brings economic benefits to the City. Developers of affordable and homeless housing in Pasadena are required to hire at least 20% of their workers, 20% of contractors locally and to purchase at least 20% of their supplies locally. Commercial developers do not have this same requirement. Heritage Square North generated over $6 million dollars into the Pasadena economy due to this policy. Another alternative is that the City of Pasadena could relocate some of its five of- site office locations to this building. Since the City owns this property, it would not need to lease on another site.
Open Space – It is essential that we preserve public open space on the eastside of the YWCA. We would only support a proposal that preserves the green space associated with the Robinson statutes and the Sister City trees. A new building, if added only be built on the surface parking lot on the south side of the YWCA lot.
This proposal ensures that YWCA would remain a landmark in the city, while meeting a genuine need– a fitting tribute that honors YWCA’s concern for vulnerable people as well as the Pasadena’s community spirit and compassion. We urge the Pasadena City Council to restore this historic YWCA, embracing the intent for which it was originally built and thereby helping to solve our City’s growing homelessness crisis.
Thanks you for your consideration of our proposal,
· Pastor Sandy Olewine, First United Methodist Church of Pasadena
· Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Friends In Deed
· Pastor Jon Stewart, New Guiding Light Missionary Baptist Church
· Pastor Tera Little, Throop Unitarian Church
· Pastor Connie Milsap, First UMC of Pasadena
· Cynthia Kirby, First Baptist Church of Pasadena
· Pastor Dan Davidson, Rose City Church
· Nora Ames, Throop Unitarian Church
· Taiji Miyogawa
· Mercy Young, Fuller Seminary
· Georgia Daniels, Orange Grove Friends (Quaker) Meeting
· Gary Bagwell, Orange Grove Friends (Quaker) Meeting
· Nina Rivina, Orange Grove Friends (Quaker) Meeting
· Edie Salisbury. Orange Grove Friends (Quaker) Meeting
· Sarah Eggers, Orange Grove Friends (Quaker) Meeting
· Dr. Jill Shook, GPAHG
· Dr. Anthony Manousos, GPAHG