Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Come to the City Council to Support Homeless Housing at the Julia Morgan Y

Please join us at the Pasadena City Council at 6:30-7:000 on Monday, June 3, when we will speak out in favor of permanent supportive housing at the Julia Morgan Y during the public comment period. We are concerned that  City Council approved a Request for Proposals (RFP) that favors commercial development and doesn't even mention public use or homeless housing (scroll down for more details).

We want to let our elected officials  know that the people of Pasadena want homeless housing, public use,  and park space, not commercial development, in our civic center. 

Please wear red and stand up whenever anyone speaks for homeless housing at the Y. Public comment lasts only half an hour so there will probably only be 4-5 speakers at most. We're been holding a red banner (see below). Please email and let me know if you are coming.

Also please email our elected officials and send this simple message via city clerk

"I want permanent supportive housing and public use, not private commercial development, at the city-owned YWCA. I don't want developers to encroach on the Robinson park. This is a historic legacy."

The Robinson park area is the 109-foot space adjacent to the Y that has statues of Mack and Jackie Robinson, as well as City Sister trees. The City's proposal would require cutting down these trees and reducing the park to a mere 45-foot "set back."

Cc me when you send your email so I can know how many emails are sent. The City Clark always lets the Council know how many emails have been received, so numbers are important. 

Our GPAHG Homeless Housing Committee is partnering with United Way, Union Station and Faith Partnership to End Homelessness to organize public engagement events to educate the public about the value of permanent supportive housing. Our next event:

Homelessness Solutions
Friday, June 14
Rosebud  Coffee
2302 E Colorado Blvd
6-8 pm

United Way has generously contributed $1000 for a series of Homeless to Housed Bus Tours, the first of which will take place in late July. Stay tuned for more information!

Letter sent to the City Council on May 28, 2019:

There is overwhelming and broad-based public support for the Mayor’s proposal that the Julia Morgan Y be used for homeless housing and civic/community use, including some kind of social enterprise restaurant. There is also wide-spread support to maintain the 100-year-old Civic Gardens located at the southwest and northwest corners of Holly and Garfield Avenue. Dozens of people showed up for public comment explaining how the Julia Morgan Y would be an ideal site for this purpose. Members of all Saints Episcopal Church, First Baptist Church, the First Presbyterian Church, Orange Grove Quaker Meeting,  the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Faith Partnership to End Homelessness, Union Station, and housing advocates all stood up or signed petitions in support of this adaptive reuse of the Y.  
Apart from five City Council members, no one spoke up in favor of commercial development during the entire City Council meeting.
Nonetheless, Margaret McAustin rushed through a vote at around midnight that resulted in a Request for Proposals (RFP) that’s biased in favor of commercial development and blocks homeless housing or non-profit public use. This RFP also raises legal issues and minimizes a pending lawsuit that could delay or even stop a commercial development like the failed Kimpton hotel. We are deeply disappointed that five members of the City Council have disregarded the wishes of their constituents.
This is a time to engage in a proper process since the community has spoken and doesn’t want another failed Kimpton. We are calling for:
1)     Extension of the RFP response time to 90 days, including a site visit, as specified in State AB 2135, so that Homeless and Affordable Housing Developers will have time to visit the site, identify funding and prepare a proposal. This RFP is being rushed through contrary to customary city practice and to AB 2135 which requires prioritizing homeless and affordable housing on surplus land and giving them 90 days to present a proposal. Here’s what the AB 2135 requires:
Enacted in 1968, the Surplus Land Act requires local agencies—such as cities and transit agencies—to prioritize affordable housing, as well as parks and open space when disposing of surplus land. Specifically, local agencies must provide a first right of refusal to entities that agree to use sites for affordable housing or parks and open space.  When local agencies dispose of surplus land, they are required to give notice to local public entities and organizations involved in affordable housing development. Once a preferred entity expresses interest, the parties must enter into good faith negotiations to determine a mutually satisfactory sales price or lease terms. Prior to AB 2135, if the parties did not agree to a price within 60 days, the local agency could then dispose of the land without further requirements….AB 2135 extends the negotiating period between local agencies and purchasing or leasing entities from 60 days to 90 days. See and
By prioritizing affordable, including permanent supportive housing, the Mayor was following this state law and respecting the desires of his constituents. By rushing this RFP through and blocking homeless housing developers to submit a proposal, the City Council may be violating the law; it is definitely arousing opposition and suspicion from the public.
2)     Allow the “set back” to be up to 109 feet and include in the RFP the preservation and development of the Robinson park area. The current RFP requires a 45-foot “setback” that would encroach upon the Civic Gardens, across from City Hall, which is a historic garden/park.  The RFP also provides virtually the same concessions regarding the setback, height, and parking that were granted to the failed Kimpton Hotel project, which aroused fierce opposition from many in our city and led to the project being rejected.  We are concerned that the RFP is misleading by implying that this pending litigation will somehow disappear by the end of the year. This is not what the litigants believe or anticipate. Developers need to be told that there is intense community opposition to commercial development on the Civic Gardens would likely lead again to delays in the rehabilitation of the YWCA  and public outcry that could delay or even stop development.
The Civic Gardens at the SW Corner and the NW corner of Holly and Garfield is part of the 100-year historic setting of Pasadena’s Civic Center, going back to the Bennett Plan in the early 1920s. As recommended by the Civic Center Implementation Task Force, the City should commission a Cultural Landscape Report to establish the historic significance to this. Instead, they commissioned a landscape architect, Olin, who was tasked with providing plans for developing this site in keeping with the aesthetics of City Beautiful/Beaux Arts period. By choosing Olin, the Council assumed that the land had no cultural or historical significance worthy of preserving. See We agree that a Cultural Heritage Report should be done before encroaching on the 109-foot parkland with Sister City trees and statues of Mack and Jackie Robinson.  
The RFP should include some statement about the maintenance and development of this park. The City has been looking for park space for years to develop in the central district. Every residential unit in the City, except for those designated as affordable, contributes about $20,000 for parks. This park space already exists in this ideal location next to City Hall.  This park should be funded, designed, and managed by the City.
3)     Prioritize public use and permanent supportive housing through a detailed scoring and point system.   This RFP is biased in favor of commercial development and blocks housing for homeless people by not including homeless housing in the project goals and objectives and stating that the project should “serve as a catalyst for continued economic growth and provide economic benefits” (p. 5). We are also concerned that only city staff will be involved in considering RFPs. How can we be sure that they will reflect the community’s concerns? For this reason, we propose that there be detailed scoring criteria and points which include the use of the Y for permanent supportive housing, non-profit, and public uses (which aren’t mentioned in the RFP). As the Mayor rightly pointed out, prioritizing commercial development will divide the City, delay this much-needed project, and cause further damage to this precious historic legacy. We are urging the City Council to put this RFP in abeyance to allow other projects to be considered such as a community project that includes housing for homeless individuals, nonprofit uses, and public space in the Y. This is what the public wants, and what we feel is in the best interest of the city. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Celebrating my 70th Birthday and 35 Years as a Quaker Peace and Justice Activist

During my 70th birthday party I had the joy of sharing this slide show about my life, especially my life as a Quaker peace and justice activist. Over 70 people attended, and we had a blast. In addition to my slide presentation, there was an open mic with sharing of music and poetry, and a 60s dance with music by the Stones, Beatles, Chuck Berry, Motown, Elvis etc.  I am grateful to God and to my friends and family for this joyous occasion. A big surprise: my sister Liz and her husband flew all the way from NJ to surprise me. Liz showed up at the party while I was very busy hosting and said, "I forgot to bring a covered dish." Without noticing who she was, I replied, "No worries. We have plenty of food." She smiled at me and I realized it was my sister and I couldn't believe it. I gave her a big hug and told her how much I loved her. It was the best gift I have ever received on my birthday since Jill accepted my proposal of marriage eight years ago!

During this presentation, many of my friends were invited to speak, including Cody Lowry, Jeff Utter, Joseph Prabhu, John Ishvardas Abdulla, Ruth Sharone, Kit Bell, and others.