Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Documents relating to Pasadena’s YWCA designed by Julia Morgan

The story of Pasadena's Julia Morgan YWCA is a complex one fraught with  controversy. These documents help to convey the “pros” and “cons” of using this site for a hotel. In 2018, the Kimpton hotel project went down in flames because it proved economically infeasible, according to the developer, without massive concessions from the city amounting to $30 mm. These concessions would have also required getting rid of most of the “garden” aspects of the site and covering most of the land with a “boutique” hotel comprised of  180 units. (Boutiques hotels typically have fewer than 100 units.)
This powerful groups—Pasadena Heritage and an ad hoc group called “Save Pasadena’s Civic Center”—battled over this site The talking points of both groups are included here, along with some relevant articles providing necessary background.
On Dec. 17, 2018, Mayor Tornek astonished affordable housing advocates—and shocked some City council members—by recommending the YWCA be used for homeless housing. The documents will help provide background facts and perspectives needed to assess the best use for important city historic landmark.

Some questions raised by these documents:
  1. If a developer couldn’t make a 180-unit hotel profitable without $30 mm in concessions from the city, and building a six-story structure that covers most of the land and leaves little or no park space, how could a small, truly boutique hotel (with fewer than 100 units) be economically feasible? Would the City have to essentially “give away” the property, as Kimpton requested?
  2. If a 180-unit hotel would yield less than $  2 million per year in transit occupancy and property taxes, and a truly boutique hotel with fewer than 100 units would probably yield less than $ 1 mm yearly, is this a significant benefit to the City given what it would have to concede and given the social benefits of alternative uses?
  3. Is there a proven need for another hotel in the City center? Has a study been done to determine that need? If the hotel fails, and the City is stuck with the building, what will it do with it?
  4. Is the City Council prepared to face a potentially massive pushback if it tries to approve a large hotel like the Kimpton that won’t be popular with most segments of the city, including Save the Pasadena Civic Center, homeless service providers, housing justice advocates, religious leaders,  and perhaps Pasadena Heritage (which prefers a small scale development)? 
  5. Is it possible that the Mayor has recommended using this property for homeless housing because this is the best option? 

Forgotten treasure

Posted by Joe Piasecki | Aug 6, 2009 in Pasadena Weekly

The years have not been kind to architect Julia Morgan’s once stately Pasadena YWCA building, a symbol of civic pride that now stands in the shadow of City Hall as little more than a monument to neglect.
Weeds grow tall near the rusty metal sign that had marked its entrance along South Marengo Avenue. Windows are broken or boarded up. Litter is strewn where flowers once grew. An outdoor play set rusts in its fenced-off courtyard, where shopping carts, bottles and other debris mark the hidden encampments of people who are as forgotten as the building, but find their way inside through a missing basement window. An architectural treasure is left to rot.
“It’s a disgrace,” said Claire Bogaard, wife of Mayor Bill Bogaard and cofounder of the preservation group Pasadena Heritage. One of the organization’s first acts more than 30 years ago was successfully campaigning for the building’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
But in recent weeks, city officials have taken a renewed interest in the three-story Mediterranean-style structure that was built in 1921 — just two years after Morgan, California’s first celebrated female architect, completed the palatial Hearst Castle on the Central California coast for press baron William Randolph Hearst. The building has been left vacant for more than 15 years since its sale by the YWCA to Trove Investments, a land-holding company owned by Hong Kong businesswoman Angela Chen-Sabella. Company officials could not be reached for comment on this story.
Earlier this year, city officials cited the structure for code violations and resumed stalled negotiations with Trove to either purchase the building or help broker an agreement for its restoration and reuse. The idea was discussed in a June closed-session meeting of the City Council, but specifics of those talks are being held close to the vest.
“It’s an increasing tragedy that the owner will not take proper action. The council is anxious to see progress made on that property,” said Mayor Bogaard, with Planning and Development Director Richard Bruckner adding only that the city is “interested in a process that would see significant investment in an historic revitalization of the building.”

A lot of ideas

A decade of false starts tells us this is anything but a done deal. Plans for converting the building’s upstairs dorm rooms, indoor swimming pool bathed in natural light and spacious gymnasium area under wooden trusses into a boutique hotel have fizzled twice, and more parking would be required for offices or housing.
“Over the years they’ve received several offers and we’ve been eager to get something moving there. The conundrum that any property owner would have is it’s going to take millions of dollars to rehab this historic building,” said Eric Duyshart, a business development administrator with the city.
Meanwhile, “It’s become an embarrassment to have this really important building right across from City Hall so in need of help,” said Pasadena Heritage President Sue Mossman. “I fear every day something will happen to it as it sits empty and looking pitiful, right in the heart of the city.”
Before Trove took over the building, it held offices for organizations including Women at Work and the Doo Dah Parade.
The latest reuse concept for the historic Civic Center building is its possible conversion into city office space. For his master’s degree thesis, Cal Poly Pomona architecture student and Pasadena resident Milad Sarkis drafted plans to restore the YWCA as a new headquarters for the Pasadena Water and Power Department (which currently leases space on South Los Robles Avenue), sharing the proposal earlier this year with both the American Institute of Architects and development officials at City Hall.
“The idea is that the public retain some kind of ownership of the facility and having PWP would fit a historic sense of having the building in public service,” said Sarkis, who would revive its courtyard as an educational xeriscape garden to encourage water conservation. 
According to a 1920 news report in the Pasadena Evening Post, YWCA volunteers at the time raised $350,000 to build the structure on land given to them by David Gamble of Procter and Gamble, who resided in the Gamble House. The fundraising campaign slogan: “By the people of Pasadena for the people of Pasadena.”
Sarkis was granted permission to enter and photograph the building last year during a taping for the television series “Heroes” and said he discovered a still-sturdy building despite some serious damage from squatters, nesting pigeons and rainwater leaking in.
City Redevelopment Manager Dave Klug attended a presentation by Sarkis, but no final decisions have been made about the building and “there are lots of ideas floating around,” he said.
“We’ve been trying to resurrect good-faith negotiations with the owner on some options the city is trying to understand — lease prices, purchase prices and the value of the property,” explained Duyshart.

A renaissance 

In terms of its impact on the city’s character, the YWCA building is a priceless piece of history, said Ann Scheid, who oversees the Huntington’s Greene & Greene collection for the Gamble House and is the author of two books about Pasadena, most recently Arcadia Publishing’s “Downtown Pasadena’s Early Architecture.”
Only the 1910 YMCA building next door and the 1914 post office on Garfield Avenue predate the YWCA — City Hall was finished in 1927 and the Civic Auditorium in 1932 — making it perhaps the most influential structure in the development of the city’s first Civic Center plan.
“The very layout of the Civic Center was determined by the location of the YWCA and the post office and they really determined the city’s architectural style. It’s a key building in the Civic Center and one of Pasadena’s greatest architectural achievements,” said Scheid.   
The Morgan building’s influence on the very design of the city core dates back to the City Beautiful movement, a push for urban beautification through the building of grand public structures that was introduced to America at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, explained Victoria Kastner, Hearst Castle’s official historian and an expert on the life and architecture of Julia Morgan.
“One of the most important things about the Pasadena YWCA is it was meant to be part of an ensemble of public buildings, and the saddest thing is that it’s now derelict and nearly abandoned instead of playing this important role,” said Kastner. 
It’s also one of the city’s first examples of affordable housing.
“YWCAs were an extremely important social response to young women going to work in cities in the first part of the 20th century and not having a safe and affordable place to live, being forced to take rooms at boarding houses, which meant associating with unsavory people. The YWCA gave young women who were entering the workforce a safe and chaperoned place to live,” said Kastner.
Morgan, who Kastner described as the nation’s “first great woman architect — the first to compete directly on the same playing field as men,” was heavily involved with the Young Women’s Christian Association, building a dozen YWCAs up and down the state in addition to her numerous other public and commercial projects, including the Mission Revival Los Angeles Herald-Examiner building in downtown LA.
Morgan’s connections with the YWCA were rooted both in her affiliation with philanthropist Phoebe Apperson Hearst, mother of William Randolph Hearst, and her own role as a career woman in a male-dominated world. Morgan, who studied engineering at UC Berkeley, was the first woman to graduate from the world-class École des Beaux-Arts architecture school in Paris — lauded worldwide at the time as a monumental achievement for womankind, said Kastner.
“Pasadena is extremely lucky to have a Julia Morgan building, and one that is still largely intact,” said Mossman. “It’s a simple building, but elegantly expressed. It’s functional, yet handsome, and reflects the influences of the 1920s. When [Morgan] was designing Hearst Castle she kept redesigning to what her client wanted, which was very extravagantly detailed and flamboyant in many places. Buildings like this YWCA, where Julia Morgan herself determined the design, reflect her true nature: an engineer as well as an architect, who understood structure and believed beauty can come from an honest expression of form and function that says everything it needs to say in a quiet, dignified way.”
So, said Claire Bogaard, “It’s a double blow to have our only Julia Morgan building, a building in the middle of the Civic Center and on the National Register of Historic Places, in such very bad shape. When Julia Morgan built something, she built it very well. The bones of this building are strong.”
But this isn’t the end of the story, suspects Kastner. 
“It would have made [Morgan] sad to see her building in this state, but the good news is it’s in a town where people really care about architecture,” she said. “I don’t know when or how, but it’s going to have a renaissance, and that would have made her happy.”

Talking Points of the Pasadena Heritage, Major Supporter of the Kimpton Hotel Project

Today, Pasadena’s historic Civic Center, along with its grand civic buildings, includes underutilized public spaces, languishing landscape, confusing traffic patterns, and an acre of concrete in front of our most distinguished historic monument, City Hall. A new hotel could introduce the opportunity to save the historic but vacant YWCA building, bring new activity to the civic heart of Pasadena, and improve the overall quality of place. Pasadena Heritage has been involved in exploring such an opportunity for more than five years.

This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) summary is intended to help Pasadena Heritage members and others understand this major new project proposed in the Civic Center, our position, and the process going forward.

The former YWCA building is located 75 N. Marengo in our Civic Center Historic District. It was designed by well-known California architect, Julia Morgan, and built in two consecutive phases, from 1921-1923. Since 2008, it has sat vacant.
The City acquired the property through eminent domain in 2011. As planned when the building was acquired, the city sought a development partner for the property’s re-use through an RFP process (Request For Proposals). Kimpton Hotels’ proposal was selected by a review committee from a variety of applications, most of them proposing hotel uses. Their proposal was chosen for adapting the site as a boutique hotel, and for their track record of having done this successfully with other historic buildings. Kimpton’s proposal included the rehabilitation of the existing historic YWCA and the construction of new hotel rooms where there is presently a parking lot, across the street from our monumental City Hall.

Yes. A new use for the old building is urgently needed to rehabilitate it and return it to active use. The YWCA building was originally designed for a very similar use, meaning that it can function as a hotel with very few interior changes. The existing building will be rehabilitated and restored while a new hotel wing will be constructed immediately adjacent to the historic building, along Union Street.
A hotel in the Civic Center would create a new destination; bring increased activity both day and night; bring more visitors; and add beautification, a restaurant, meetings rooms, event spaces, and courtyards to the Civic Center. As a result, the area would have more pedestrian traffic, be more attractive and feel more welcoming and safe.

Yes. The hotel project would have multiple entrances, with the original front door of the historic YWCA on Marengo serving as the hotel’s main entrance. A restaurant/bar and coffee station will be open to the public. A second major entrance at the corner of Holly and Garfield streets, with views of City Hall, will lead into the interior courtyards. Two event spaces and meeting rooms would also be created in the gym and pool wing.

No. It is still early in the official “design review” process. Drawings in the EIR and other approval documents are preliminary only, showing what the building might look like in a general way. There remain extensive public hearings with opportunities to comment on and influence proposed designs for the new building to ensure the best and most compatible one is approved.

Yes. The 1925 drawing of the Bennett Plan illustrates a “future building site” east of the YWCA building, across from City Hall. Several Civic Center plans have been developed over the past 39 years and all anticipated that new buildings would be built on this site AND also on the site across Holly Street to the north, forming a symmetrical layout in front of City Hall.
The footprint of the proposed alternative 2A with modifications would fall within the footprint outlined on the Bennett Plan drawings. Pasadena Heritage believes that the proposed project is compatible with and further realizes the vision of the Bennett Plan.

No. The City owns the YWCA building, which it acquired nearly eight years ago with the goal to save the neglected historic building. Long vacant, it was deteriorating and needed to be secured and stabilized. The City also owns the vacant area to the east of the YWCA building, currently a parking lot and open land. Both the existing building and a portion of that open land will be leased to Kimpton Hotels for hotel use – it will not be given away nor sold. Under city code, a long-term lease must be evaluated in the same way as a sale and so the term “sale” is used in some city documents. But the land will NOT be sold, and the city will remain the owner.

Yes, and no – it depends on which design concept you are talking about. For example, the “EIR Project” differs significantly from the other alternatives studied in the EIR, and would remove nearly all of the open space. Pasadena Heritage did not support this design. Alternatives in the EIR and other, more recent revisions, retain more of the open space and respond to combined feedback from the public and various Commissions.
For example, the EIR Alternative 2A showed a thoughtful building plan that retained half of the existing landscaped area AND added landscaping in the area now used for parking in addition to introducing a coordinated landscape design for the entire Centennial Plaza. This includes the open space area across Holly Street to the north and achieves a symmetrical, well-defined, grand civic area with a balance of buildings and garden spaces, including the Sister City trees. It also would improve the confusing traffic patterns and ill-defined expanse of concrete in front of City Hall. Other alternatives leave more open space along Garfield, but stack the building volumes higher and higher to still achieve what is described as an economically viable project.

Yes. The Memorial and its surrounding space will remain untouched, and it is being carefully considered in relationship to a new building.

Yes. The RFP was available to all who were interested and/or wanted to respond with a proposal. After Kimpton was selected, two early conceptual drawings were created and discussed with the Design Commission at three public hearings, with the Planning Commission at two public hearings, and with the City Council at two public hearings. The purpose was to gather public feedback early on and begin a dialog with the many parties and Commissions from the start.
Based on feedback on those early concepts, and on interest from community organizations most concerned about the site, a working group was formed. Over several weeks last summer, Kimpton’s design team hosted an in-depth look at historical, economic, urban design, and transportation issues surrounding the site. Through these lengthy and informed discussions, further conceptual designs were explored. Several of these were included as alternatives studied in the environmental analysis (sometimes referred to as “CEQA” or “EIR”).
Pasadena Heritage held the very first meeting about the future of the former YWCA more than five years ago at the First Baptist Church with tours of the Julia Morgan building. We have regularly updated its members and e-news subscribers of public meetings, our comments and concerns, and revisions to the project as they emerged.

Yes, and no. The process has been open and the project has been widely discussed at multiple public meetings. However, the City Council has discussed the property leasing terms in closed sessions as is customary in order to retain its negotiating power. Such “exclusive negotiations” are common practice in such situations. The design and zoning reviews have all been public, during public hearings. Additionally, the Kimpton design team has independently sought input from established stakeholder groups from time to time, including Pasadena Heritage and the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association, and the project has changed and been refined throughout the process.

The Planning Commission reviewed the final environmental analysis (FEIR) and a variety of Use Permits (hotel, off-site parking, alcohol sales, etc.) at its meeting on July 13. After a thorough presentation, many public comments, and a long discussion among the commissioners, the Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the FEIR and Alternative 2A to the City Council, with two strong additional recommendations. One was that the Council should approve the smallest possible project that would be financially feasible and that the Design Commission should have as much latitude as possible it directing the final design. View and download the Planning Department’s Staff Report and extensive Attachments here:

Yes. We support a version of this project that addresses our historic preservation goals for the former YWCA building and the Civic Center. We also fully support the Planning Commission’s additional recommendations.

We have not and do not support the first version of “Project” as proposed in the EIR – instead, we have supported Alternative 2A with modifications that would make it more compatible with the existing historic YWCA building and City Hall. This design best reflects the Bennett Plan, best respects the original YWCA building, and achieves the smartest use of open space.

The former YWCA building must be rehabilitated in keeping with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, and any new use should be compatible with the building’s original design and utilization of space. Connection points of new construction with the Julia Morgan building deserve careful study and analysis to assure as little change or damage as possible to existing historic fabric.
Any new building in the Civic Center National Register Historic District must be worthy of this historic place and be of the highest quality in both design and materials and respect the overarching Bennett Plan.
The project should enliven, activate and enhance the civic heart of the City.
The City of Pasadena should realize a reasonable return on its investment to acquire the building, and the long-term success of the project is important not only for the developer and the City’s finances, but for the historic Julia Morgan building, the Civic Center and the city as a whole.

MYTHBUSTERS from the wesbite of SAVe PasaDena’s Civic Center

MYTH #1:  The Julia Morgan YWCA building is in urgent danger and if construction doesn’t begin SOON, we’ll lose the historic building forever.
The City has had ownership of the building since 2010, but has done little to secure it against vandalism or to protect it from water penetration, leading to further deterioration of the building. Certainly, we should rehabilitate it sooner rather than later, but we shouldn’t sacrifice the Civic Center itself to rush a poorly-designed solution, as we did with Plaza Pasadena. Why not insist on the best plan and the best team to get a good project that will last for generations?

MYTH #2:  The proposed development is the City’s only option to recoup the $8.3 Million it paid to purchase the YWCA, and  the only feasible option to rehab the YWCA.
Other options, to our knowledge, were never explored.  Based on its financial assumptions, the City continues to stand by its conclusion that the only known option was to “throw in the dirt [i.e. Civic Center parkland] to sweeten the deal.”  Even assuming recouping the $8.3MM is an appropriate objective, this past summer, it was revealed the City’s plan to recoup this amount is woefully insufficient.  According to the City Manager Steve Mermell, this amount would be repaid over a period of 12 to 27 years!  Furthermore, “if everything went right,” the City would receive $2.1MM per year (from rental payments, property tax, and transient occupancy taxes.)   What the City has not answered is: "what exactly has to go right?"  And, what happens if things don’t "go right?"  
When the City obtained the YWCA parcels via a stipulation agreement with the previous private owner, it obtained control over that entire block for the first time in history.  Why was there no creative exploration of alternative uses for the YWCA block in the context of the Civic Center as the public’s space and Pasadena’s seat of government?  Why was the public not consulted when the decision was made to turn the YWCA parcel over to a private developer and, in the process, privatize the existing parkland?  The City currently leases office space for its Water & Power, Transportation, and Housing departments; it may own other properties that could be reused, and government offices and other civic uses could be consolidated in the Civic Center.  Why was the public not consulted when the decision was made to turn the YWCA parcel over to a private developer and, even more shocking, privatize the existing parkland?

MYTH #3:  The city isn’t obligated to follow the voter-approved 1923 Bennett Plan.
The citizens of Pasadena voted 80% in favor in 1923 for the bond measure that purchased the land upon which to build the Civic Center. This land includes public open spaces that form the garden-like setting of City Hall and the other buildings in the Civic Center. The City cannot legally claim that the public open space, paid for by the public, is now surplus and can now be used as land for a private hotel project. In fact, as of this date, no public hearing has been held to surplus this public property.  Subsequent drawings, like a 1925 version of the original plan, cannot replace the one that the voters approved and that was published in the newspaper and displayed in City Hall in 1923 as an exhibit describing what the citizens wanted and were told they were getting. The City is obligated to follow the voter-approved Bennett Plan for the Civic Center, and should not cheat the public out of precious open space that was bought and paid for with public money by the citizens in 1923. Allowing the land that was intended to provide the setting for City Hall to be sacrificed for a private building betrays the public trust.

MYTH #4:  The City Manager claims the Civic Center public parklands are just surplus land (“remnant parcels”) of no value to the City and its citizens, and that there is no giveaway of public land, just a "lease".
The voter-approved Bennett Plan and the National Park Service cite not only the Civic Center buildings but also the park-like setting and “grounds, approaches and appurtenances” belonging to City Hall as having significance. The parkland is an “approach” to City Hall; those "approaches" provide a setting for City Hall, making the height of the soaring rotunda even more monumental by providing a space--a lush garden setting--to view and admire the entire façade of City Hall unobstructed by competing buildings. This project will destroy the setting of City Hall by building a hotel on the parkland.
According to the City’s own rules, a lease exceeding 15 years us treated as a sale of City property.  Even if the City technically retains ownership of the land via a long-term lease agreement, how is that preserving the setting?    The ability to recover from a tragic mistake in 50 to 100 years is not justification to proceed with a tragic mistake in the first place! 

MYTH #5:  A supposedly ‘impartial’ EIR was conducted and the Project has no impacts on the historic setting of the Civic Center, traffic, and parking.
Who are they kidding?? It’s a 6-story addition to a 2-story building, which builds on almost every inch of the parcel, with massive losses of trees, sidewalks, and public landscaping.  The YWCA’s character-defining feature is the front facade on Marengo Avenue, and the project carves up and destroys this ceremonial entrance for a hotel valet parking drop-off. Also, did we mention that the project has no parking and is solely dependent on nearby maxed-out garages in the Civic Center area??

MYTH #6:  The City claims that it held 15+ public meetings about the project, and the public has provided lots of input.
Not so. No public meetings were ever held to publicly decide whether or not the open space should be “thrown in.”  A request for proposals was initially developed by the City Managers' Office, in cooperation with Pasadena Heritage, without the Planning Department’s involvement and City Council approvals. Closed door meetings in City Hall were then held to evaluate and select a developer, as well as approve the exclusive right to negotiate which the City claims is not a public document.  The public saw a preliminary plan three days before Christmas in 2013 that already sacrificed the parkland.  Seven months later, the public found out that a closed-session decision had been made that struck the project in stone and stole the parkland. All the “15+” subsequent public meetings have been exercises in “designing the box”.  The key decisions to ‘throw in the parkland’ and to choose this developer were made without any public involvement or debate.

MYTH #7:  This a “boutique” Kimpton Hotel.
A “boutique” hotel is small, with big personality. It’s petite and unique!  It should not be much bigger than 100 rooms, with intimacy of size and scale that creates its personal feeling and ambiance.  That’s what was promised in Kimpton’s original proposal and by the City of Pasadena in the newspapers.  The current project has morphed into about 180+ rooms and you might be forgiven for mistaking the new addition for an airport Holiday Inn. 
Also, we have learned that since January 2015, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, has not been the developer.  Rather, the city’s developer-partner is an affiliate of KHP Capital Partners, a private real estate equity firm, newly formed in January 2015 and not affiliated with Kimpton.    In January 2015,   "Kimpton" was acquired by International Hotel Group – an umbrella hospitality firm that owns such brands as Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Candlewood Suites and others like that.   So, in fact, for almost 2 years, “Kimpton” has had no ownership interest in the project whatsoever.  "Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants" might be the operator of the hotel, via a contractual fee arrangement.  However, even if Kimpton is the operator, under IHG, what will a “Kimpton” brand hotel be?  Will it be like the boutique hotels created by its founder Bill Kimpton in 1984?  Or something else?  There is no guarantee of a "Kimpton" hotel.

MYTH #8:  The proposed hotel will boost city revenue, stave off the budgetary deficit that is looming for 2017, and recoup the $8.3 million purchase price.
With five new hotel projects planned or currently underway in Pasadena, the City Manager has not performed an absorption (“vacancy rate”) analysis to show the impact of additional hotel rooms in the Civic Center on existing or projected city-wide and Civic Center hotel occupancy and room rates. Without this information, how can the City Manager state the project will bring economic benefits, whether from recouping its $8.3MM investment or ongoing city revenue from transit occupancy tax? After almost 40 years, the City’s approximately $90 MM investment in the Plaza Pasadena shopping mall (and the now renamed the “Paseo Colorado”)  that wreaked such destruction on the Civic Center has failed to live up to its promise of revitalizing retail activity in the Civic Center area. The proposed hotel is no panacea for the City’s financial problems. Promised economic benefits are uncertain and questionable, at best.

MYTH #9:  “Nothing else pencils out." The only economically feasible option for the rehabilitation of the YWCA is to build a six-story, 180+ room new hotel on the adjacent parcel and public parkland along Garfield Avenue and Holly Street. 
“It won’t pencil out” is standard developer claptrap.  At the same time, the City Manager states the City staff does not know what the estimated construction costs are and what the sources of construction financing are.  To our knowledge, the City has not performed a market analysis upon which to estimate hotel occupancy rate, room rates, or operating expenses. With no supporting financial data and analysis, how can the City Manager make any statement about project economics?  And, importantly, the National Park Service reports in 2015 alone 870 historic properties were rehabilitated totaling $4.47 billion in development costs, and they were compatible in design and scale with the original historic buildings and settings.

MYTH #10:  The Downtown area, including the Civic Center, has sufficient open space and parkland.
In fact, City Council-adopted policies call for an additional 4–7 acres of parkland in the Downtown, and encourage the retention and enhancement of open space and parks.  Specifically, these adopted policies call for the “protection of open space from loss to new development”, “spaces that support community activities and celebrations as a necessary part of the public life of the community”, typically those “closely associated with the City’s major civic institutions, namely City Hall, the Central Library and the Civic Auditorium”.

MAY 23, 2017
As part of its original submittal in 2013, KHP proposed to pay to the City a required lease payment of at least $300,000 per year. KHP claims that their costs have increased to the point of unprofitability and requested two economic subsidies: No lease payments for the land and the YWCA building, and No charge for parking. (City to dedicate 136 parking spaces out of its existing garages, for free.) On April 3rd, the Council "paused" and gave KHP additional time to present more information or refine the project.  KHP provided some additional information about costs but continued to insist that a subsidy is needed to continue with the project.

Pasadena rejects hotel proposal for Julia Morgan’s historic YWCA building\

Now it’s figuring out a Plan B
By Patrick Lee@ripleycal  Updated May 24, 2017, 12:07pm PDT   SHARE

Pasadena will spend at least $500,000 to secure and stabilize its vacant YWCA building while it comes up with a new plan to restore and reuse it in the wake of a decision to scrap a proposal to turn the historic building into a luxury boutique hotel.
The City Council voted unanimously this week to reject a 181-room Kimpton Hotel Project in the YWCA after the developer asked for more than $30 million in concessions, the Pasadena Star-News reported.
Opponents of the project—led by the Pasadena Civic Center Coalition—had argued that the hotel would be too big for its Civic Center location and would take away green space, among other things.
The matter goes back to the City Council's economic development and technology committee, which is tasked with framing the scope of any future proposals for the building. Its recommendations will inform the work of a citizens' task force that will be convened to explore ideas for what to do next.
The initial stages of the process should take six to eight months, city spokesman William Boyer tells Curbed.
"The recommendation was to basically go back to the drawing board," Boyer says. In the meantime, the city will "button up the building, secure it, protect it," he adds.
The Pasadena Civic Center Coalition—which had sued to stop the Kimpton Hotel Project—applauded the decision. "This outcome is very similar to our recommendation, so on the whole, this is very good news. Hooray!" the coalition said on its Facebook page.
The City Council's vote means the Julia Morgan-designed YWCA building will continue to sit vacant for months or years, as it has for decades.
The building—on a site bounded by Garfield Avenue, Union Street, Marengo Avenue and Holly—was designed by the architect who also created the L.A. Herald-Examiner buildingand Hearst Castle. The YWCA building needs $10 million to $14 million in repairs and renovation.
The preservationist group Pasadena Heritage had supported the hotel project. "Pasadena Heritage continues to seek an appropriate new use for the former YWCA building and the commitment to sensitively rehabilitate it," Executive Director Susan N. Mossman tells Curbed.
"Now vacant for more than 20 years, and likely now to remain so for some years to come, the building needs to be better secured and protected," Mossman adds. "The city has so far allocated $500,000 for this work, but will need to continue to maintain and preserve the building for the duration of this new process."
Boyer says the city will make sure the YWCA doesn't have any major roof leaks, any places that are exposed to the elements or any way that unauthorized people can enter it. "People think, 'Oh, the walls are falling down or something,'" he said. "[But] there's not, like, holes in the walls or anything like that. It's structurally sound right now. They just need to make sure that it is secured against the elements."
As for how long it will take to come up with a Plan B, Boyer says City Council members are mindful of a need to do something before too long. "They don't want it to languish, that's for certain," he says. "They want a project that everyone feels good about, can be proud of, and that is befitting of the unique character of our Civic Center District area."

In response to the Mayor’s recommendation that the Julia Morgan YWCA be used for homeless housing, Pasadena City staff are preparing various proposals for the use of the YWCA site which will be considered on March 25, 2019. GPAHG and other advocacy groups in the City support the Mayor’s recommendation and support  “mixed use” of this property—homeless housing plus some commercial development, such as a restaurant that could train formerly homeless residents.

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