State of the City Address
January 18, 2001
I want to celebrate with you this City's accomplishments last year, to highlight some of the significant developments that will shape the City in the coming year, and to offer a few thoughts on our challenges as we work to enhance Pasadena.
First, may I express thanks to Sandra Ell for introducing me. Sandra is a good friend—of mine, of City Hall, and of the entire community. She recognizes that citizens have an important role to play in creating quality of life, and time and again she has agreed to help.
I also want to express thanks to the Norton Simon for the opportunity to present this State of the City report in the auditorium of the museum. The Norton Simon has been transformed in recent times. Last year, the museum held a grand opening to celebrate the major renovation designed by architect Frank Gehry. The museum has extended its hours and expanded its outreach to young people. Annual attendance has more than doubled this past year to over 250,000 persons.
As Jay Belloli of the Armory Center for the Arts stated in the newspaper a few weeks ago, “Every time you turn around, they are trying something new.”
This new direction has taken place under the direction of Norton Simon’s widow, Jennifer Jones Simon, to whom I extend special recognition and gratitude.
Finally, I want to express thanks to my wife, Claire, who graciously accommodates a busy schedule on my part, and to the dedicated professionals at City Hall who provide leadership and service. I consider it a privilege to work with my colleagues on the City Council, the City Manager and all of the City employees.
The year 2000 was a good one for the City of Pasadena, with solid progress on many fronts.
If you think Pasadena feels more crowded these days, that’s because it is. There are more people living here, more people working here, and more people coming to visit. More people in an economy that is strong means: more retail sales, more construction, more renovation, more sidewalk cafes, more hot neighborhoods, more noise, and more traffic.
Obviously, as we celebrate our progress, it is critically important to concern ourselves as well with protecting our quality of life.
In April, a groundbreaking was held for Paseo Colorado, a $200 million shopping and residential mixed-use project that replaces the Plaza Pasadena. The groundbreaking was, in fact, a great community celebration. Rick Froese of Trizec Hahn, the developer, admitted that day, with a sigh, that Pasadenans expressed at least as much enthusiasm for the demolition of the Plaza Pasadena as they did for the beginning of the new project.
Paseo Colorado embodies many of the ideas for the City first proposed by Edward Bennet in his 1923 plan for the Civic Center, the famous Bennet Plan. He recommended a classical Beaux Arts plan, with grand boulevards anchored by public buildings, a civic center in the true sense—a place where one could wander and mix with people from all over and all backgrounds, a place for parties and parades.
I believe this project sets a new standard for urban design that will give vitality to our Civic Center. If the current construction schedule is maintained, Paseo Colorado will be open for holiday shopping in the fourth quarter. The new residential units will be available early next year.
Late last summer, the Art Center College of Design announced a unanimous decision to stay in Pasadena and expand here as it seeks to fulfill its commitment to students in the 21st century. An enhancement of existing facilities is being proposed on the Linda Vista campus, and a satellite campus is being planned for downtown Pasadena.
Negotiations are presently underway for possible location of the satellite campus on a portion of the property owned by our municipal utility at south Fair Oaks and Glenarm. The plan would renovate the Glenarm power plant, which has not generated power for nearly twenty years, and create a new building nearby. The project would be designed by Frank Gehry, who serves as Art Center’s architect.
Our municipal utility would retain sufficient property in this area, on the east side near the Pasadena Freeway, to locate modern generation equipment to serve electric customers.
A word about the energy situation might be interesting at this point.
Obviously, California is facing a major energy problem, with potential adverse consequences for the entire state, and perhaps the nation. But for Pasadena, the news is good, because our utility has assured access to all of the electricity needed to serve the customers, and has some power left over for sale to others.
Significant revenues have been received from power sales to others during the last 12 months, which enable us to stabilize electric rates for our customers even in the face of greatly increased cost of natural gas.
In today’s market, no city is free from risk, but we and our customers appear to have a competitive advantage with respect to electric rates over most other communities for the foreseeable future.
The utility has begun to develop a plan for upgrading its generation equipment, which is old and inefficient. This program should come into focus during the first half of this year.
During the new year, we want to continue the revitalization of Colorado Boulevard that began 20 years ago in Old Pasadena. East of the Paseo Colorado project, mentioned a moment ago, steady progress is being made in the Playhouse District to expand this retail and entertainment area. The inspiration for this development is the excitement of the Playhouse, the new Laemmle cinema, Vroman’s Bookstore, and other wonderful stores and restaurants.
Now, the City has begun a planning process for east Colorado Boulevard, from Lake Avenue to the eastern boundary of the City, where we hope to see new investment in the future, providing new retail, entertainment, and residential opportunities.
Last year, a contract was let for construction of the Blue Line light rail system, and negotiations are underway for transit related development projects at the Del Mar and the East Sierra Madre stations.
Completion of the Blue Line is expected in the second quarter of 2003. The system will attract additional companies to the City, and provide a focus for expanding local transit systems, so that the number of cars on our streets can be reduced.
Our challenge is to take full advantage of the Blue Line to reduce traffic. We must expand transit facilities to allow passengers to go to work, do their shopping, and have fun without using an automobile for every trip. Late last year, the City Council asked staff to recommend an expansion of the ARTS bus system beyond its present routes.
There have been many other positive economic trends in Pasadena, too many to mention in this report. But we should keep in mind that the strength of our economy directly measures the City’s ability to deliver municipal services.
In the next few weeks, the City Council will receive the City Manager’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2002. It serves as the business plan, if you will, for how money is spent on City projects and services. An overview of the general fund and the budget process was folded into your printed programs, and I hope this information will encourage the public to participate in the budget process
Pasadena can be proud of being one of only a few cities to achieve a complete count in the 2000 census. Credit for this success is due to Prentice Deadrick, Assistant City Manager, who managed the project. The U.S. Census Bureau released national and state figures earlier this month, and the numbers for Pasadena will be issued in June. This data will determine whether the types of services we provide, and the levels of those services, meet the needs of our changing population. Such data will also provide a basis for any needed realignment of Councilmanic districts.
In Pasadena in recent years, technology-based enterprises have represented an increasingly important part of new business development.
The City installed a high-speed fiber optic network 2 years ago to attract businesses requiring high-speed data and broadband telecommunications services. The original investment of nearly $2 million has been fully recovered as of last September. Established technology companies are choosing Pasadena, and a recent crop of relatively young technology firms are experiencing rapid growth here.
The technology corridor along south Raymond and south Fair Oaks Avenues, anchored by Huntington Memorial Hospital, has emerged as an attractive area for biotechnical companies, and it provides a showcase for Pasadena’s commitment to expanding our technology business base.
But technology companies are not locating only in this geographic area. Earthlink, with over 2000 employees, has its operations in east Pasadena. Another east Pasadena company, Swales Aerospace, is celebrating the successful launch last November of a spacecraft called “Earth Observing-1”, which it designed and built for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In its performance so far, the EO-1 has exceeded scheduled performance requirements. Swales came to Pasadena about three years ago with four employees transferring from the company’s headquarters in Maryland, and that number has now grown to 120.
I want to acknowledge the major role that Caltech plays in Pasadena’s progress in the technology sector. Since President David Baltimore’s arrival, Caltech has offered its tremendous resources beyond the boundaries of its campus, and has become an active partner with the City.
Our success to date in biotech and other technology nterprise development would not have occurred without this active involvement.
Let me give an example of Caltech’s importance. Last year a feasibility study was conducted regarding possible establishment of a biotechnology facility in the area. The legislature allocated funding at the request of now State Senator Jack Scott. The report will be issued in the next few weeks.
The report concludes that there is a substantial role for a new center that can serve as an anchor and a catalyst for biotechnology enterprise. The center would integrate research, applied workforce training and incubation of new business.
The report also concludes that the proper location for the new center is Pasadena. The City’s high quality of life, its demonstrated leadership in creating the biotechnology corridor, its many technology-related resources, and, above all, the presence of Caltech, make Pasadena a perfect site.
I sincerely hope that the City of Pasadena will be able to play a significant role as a partner with others in realizing this new bioscience center.
I had hoped that Caltech Professor John Baldeschwieler would be here tonight so that we might all join in extending congratulations to him. He was recipient of the National Medal of Science, America’s most prestigious scientific honor. The award was delivered in a ceremony conducted by President Clinton.
Dr. Baldeschwieler is a principal player in Caltech’s program for technology transfer. He’s not able to be here tonight because he is conducting a session of his unique course at Caltech on technology enterprise development.
It is clear that the year 2000 was good for Pasadena, particularly in regard to economic activity and investment. But such activity does not take place without certain ramifications. For example, there is a question whether Pasadena will be able to maintain a diverse economy over time, offering jobs and the opportunity for advancement at all levels of the economic scale. In some places, there is a growing tendency to regard the growth of high technology industry as an end in itself, as a complete business development strategy. But I believe we have a responsibility to build a broad economy, including some industrial and warehouse activity, that can tap into the skills and energies of persons who might otherwise be left behind.
Basic to Pasadena’s legacy is a unique and diverse population which contributes in various ways to the vitality and richness of our lives. So, as we enjoy a period of great prosperity, I urge at the same time that we renew our commitment to creating a full range of job opportunities to give all Pasadenans a good opportunity for personal and economic advancement.
A second challenge at the present time is the rapidly rising cost of housing. The City Council discussed this subject on several occasions during the last year, and I believe that the Council is committed to pursuing expanded opportunities for affordable housing.
Thirdly, as I mentioned earlier, prosperity breeds traffic. The recently issued environmental impact report for the Ambassador College redevelopment lists over 50 new projects that are presently under consideration. The City Council would be derelict in its duty if it did not declare the improvement of traffic circulation and the promotion of new transit opportunities in the City as a priority during the coming year.
Fortunately, significant funding is available for this effort. I have totaled approximately $40 million presently available to create traffic improvements in the city south of Colorado Boulevard and west of Lake Avenue. Such funds come from federal and state sources as well as from contributions from developers to mitigate traffic increases resulting from their projects.
I believe the City staff recognizes the importance of moving forward with implementation of these traffic improvements.
But the fact is that there is a need for traffic mitigation in all parts of the city. Every Councilmember is concerned and each is hearing from constituents about increased traffic. I believe there is a consensus that comprehensive traffic management is not only appropriate, but essential at this point in time.
Pasadena voters will have an opportunity to express their opinion on two transportation issues on March 6. In response to an initiative, the Council placed the issue of the 710 Freeway extension on the ballot. Voters will decide whether the City should take a position in favor of the extension of the freeway.
The second ballot measure seeks voter approval of a Citywide transportation and traffic plan. If approved, this measure would call for a neutral position on the freeway until traffic improvements have been installed.
Before closing, may I take a moment to look at he schools, and programs related to our young people.
When I took office as Mayor nearly two years ago, I committed myself to enhancing the opportunities of young people in our community. That continues to be my first priority.
For the Pasadena public schools, the year 2001 will mark a very important transition.
In the March election, at least four new school Board members will be elected. There are well-qualified candidates running for each of the seats involved in this election, and I am confident that the new Board will be strongly committed to continue and complete the reform program that is underway.
A new Superintendent will take office at mid-year, following a selection process that has emphasized community outreach. The final decision will be made by the new Board of Education after it takes office in early May. Even before that, a curriculum audit begun last year will be available and ready for implementation.
After-school programs have become an important complement to the learning opportunity offered to P.U.S.D. students. “Pasadena Learns” operates after-school programs at 14 campuses, with funding under three-year grants from federal and state agencies. Its goal is to improve student performance as well as student attitudes toward learning, all within a framework of arts and culture. The C.O.R.A.L. initiative—Communities Organizing to Advance Learning—will begin its after-school program in February, with funding from the James Irvine Foundation.
But money for these important programs will run out. One of this year’s challenges is to identify funding to permit these programs to continue, and to be expanded to other campuses. I am pleased to say that a task force, formed by the school district and the City, has been working for several months to develop a recommendation.
Some very exciting partnerships are underway with respect to arts in the schools. The League of California Cities presented its coveted Helen Putnam Award to the Cultural Passport Program, a partnership between the Pasadena public library, the P.U.S.D. and the Lightbringer project that brings arts and cultural education to middle school students.
In modern times, the arts have come to be considered a frill in education. But more current studies have proven that the arts are not an isolated quantity, but integral to a successful educational progress of each student. Arts education can provide a dynamic and engaging experience for students—an experience that benefits them directly and enhances their appreciation of other subjects.
In closing, I hope it is clear that the year 2000 was great for Pasadena, and that we have good reason to be confident of our future. But there are challenges, including a slowing economy, and the unknown implications of California’s energy crisis. But I look forward to working with all of you to pursue our goals. The future of our community is in our hands.
Pasadena has come a long way, and I am proud to be part of the leadership that has ushered our City into a new century. Working together, we can maintain the momentum so Pasadena will be in great shape when the next century comes. Please join with me in renewing our commitment to the future of Pasadena.