The Planning Report, Vol. XV, No. 9
David Abel, publisher of The Planning Report, interviewed Mayor Bogaard regarding the City’s progress in developing infrastructure to support the City in the new century. Mr.Abel’s report follows:
In recent years, the city of Pasadena has witnessed rapid growth in both residential and commercial development. Additionally, the MTA Gold Line is set to begin operations next year and plans to expand the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport are moving forward. Pasadena’s first elected mayor, Bill Bogaard, is leading the City through this period of development, all the while promoting Smart Growth techniques and infill projects. TPR is pleased to present this interview with Bill Bogaard, as he discusses Pasadena’s approach to infrastructure development and other issues of regional significance.
Mayor Bogaard, in a 1999 TPR interview you stated that you would like to be measured on your “ability to enhance neighborhoods … improve public schools … and build a strong economy that contributes to Pasadena’s quality of life.” Give us a sense how you’re doing.
Pasadena is fortunate to have experienced several years of economic growth due to high retail sales, heavy construction activity and the growing interest of technology-based companies to locate within the city.
That prosperity has given us the ability to target investment in our neighborhoods, increase their livability, and reduce crime.
One of the cornerstones of that reinvestment is public schools. We’ve made significant progress in Pasadena with respect to schools. We have a new school board and new superintendent, a curriculum audit that offers numerous recommendations, and a $300 million capital improvement program.
That assessment of Pasadena’s quality of life would not be complete without an analysis of the housing market. Tell us about what’s happening in Pasadena, vis-à-vis housing.
In the last two years, over 1,500 housing units will have been completed within the city and another 3,000 units are at various stages in the approval process. Juxtapose that with the fact that we were able to build only 1,100 new residential units in the entire decade of the ‘90s. So Pasadena has made enormous progress.
But what makes this progress impressive is that the bulk of these homes are proposed for the commercial sectors of the city. So we’ve been able to not only increase housing production, but we’ve done it with Smart Growth that links jobs, housing, shopping and transit.
Where we fall short is housing that is affordable.
And how have you—in concert with the City’s leadership—been able to do that? How have you won support for the increased density you just spoke of?
The principal reason Pasadena has been able to address its housing need is that the projects do not intrude into our existing residential neighborhoods. While we are doing some infill projects near neighborhoods, a majority of our projects are in the Downtown area or just outside the commercial center in more mixed-use areas. So the bulk of our new housing will go into commercial sections where there isn’t a direct impact on single-family neighborhoods.
By prioritizing housing in those areas we are not only dealing with the shortage of units, but addressing the issues of traffic and parking.
We’ve also complemented the city’s housing priorities with alterations and expansions in our local bus system. Now, when the Gold Line is completed in 2003, we will have a bus system that feeds the rail line so that people will actually be able to leave their houses, walk to a bus and travel to commercial or job opportunities both inside and outside the city.
As you know, the whole basin is struggling with infill housing and the kind of public leadership necessary to incentivize it. Given your experience, what lessons could offer neighboring cities like L.A.?
At present, the biggest housing challenge facing Southern California municipalities is affordability. Extraordinary increases in land values compounded by a laborious approval process has made the construction of homes, town houses, apartments and other multiple residential units extremely complicated.
As a state, California has not created significant incentives to deal with that problem. That lack of vision has kept cities like Pasadena—who have contemplated “urban” housing for nearly 20 years—from being able to make it materialize.
Because of that, local municipalities have to think outside the box and create a vision that relates not merely to housing but to the overarching problem of growth. By doing that, by creating an environment where all the facets of growth—transit, quality of life, housing, etc.—are prioritized, we were able to create a place where the market wants to go.
Let’s turn to the subject of infrastructure then. You’ve mentioned the need for neighborhood infrastructure, but what about water and power? We’ve all survived the electrical crisis in one way or another, but there’s another issue looming on the horizon: water. How is Pasadena situated in terms of water?
Pasadena has its own utility that manages both our water and electric service. We have recently spent an enormous amount of time on the electric side of the equation, and because of that, the water side of the business has been largely forgotten. But we started a year ago to come to grips with that through a long-range capital program that will assure Pasadena’s population a clean and less costly water supply in the long term.
And transportation, what about that? You mentioned the MTA Gold Line, but what about the Alameda Corridor East, the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport? What’s the position of Pasadena vis-à-vis these infrastructure investments?
Again, Pasadena strongly supports the Gold Line and is working with other cities in the San Gabriel Valley to support Phase 2 of that project—a 22-mile stretch from Pasadena to Claremont. That’s a high priority for Pasadena.
We also strongly support completion of the Alameda Corridor East. We believe that it is greatly needed and will assist Southern California in lowering traffic on our highways and freeways.
Lastly, there’s a new wind blowing at the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport. Newly installed Burbank Mayor David Laurel is changing the style of negotiation with the airport authority in hopes of discovering a mutually acceptable approach for a new terminal. We all recognize that the airport is a major transit resource for the region that needs our support. But we also recognize that in doing that, Burbank’s residents must be given assurances that the impacts of an expanded airport on the surrounding neighborhoods will be mitigated.
Why don’t we try to link these divergent strands into a cohesive Smart Growth message? The next state school bond, AB 16 includes $100 million for the development of joint-use facilities. Are there any models in Pasadena where you pursued such a leveraged strategy of bond funding to create the infrastructure to support a neighborhood like that?
We have 2 projects in Pasadena that involve joint-use. One is a project between the School District and the City to identify the site of a new elementary school. Over the last 18 months, a committee of community members has engaged in research and analysis leading to the identification of 4 or 5 sites suitable for a new school. When that school is built, not only will it have been chosen through a collaborative effort, but it will incorporate community as well as school facilities to create a neighborhood resource.
On a somewhat smaller scale, the School District and the City are jointly seeking grant funding under Prop. 12. for a new Pasadena branch library to be located adjacent to an elementary school and a high school—both of which are library deficient. That facility will be integral to the quality of life in that elementary and high school as well as in the entire neighborhood.
All of these issues have come to a head in L.A. and created a movement which believes the only answer is to secede from the city. From your experience as mayor, in the private sector and your knowledge of governance, I wonder what your perspective is on this debate?
Until now, it seemed the practicalities of making secession happen were overwhelming. The division of Los Angeles’ civic infrastructure alone seemed insurmountable. Compound that with the separation of the city’s utility provider, the streets, parks, libraries, etc. and it seemed almost impossible. But despite those hurdles, it seems that the political momentum to secede in some parts of L.A. is alive.
As a citizen of Pasadena, I don’t want to condemn or condone this secession movement, but I can say that as cities face the difficulties and opportunities of the future they must do so in a unified manner. Problems must be addressed by entire communities, not balkanized by small constituencies.
That goal may be difficult to achieve in Los Angeles because of its vast size. But, it is much easier to imagine a new administration working within the current confines of the city government to address and overcome the issues driving this secession movement. It’s much easier to understand and see how a great city like Los Angeles will move forward as a whole than it is to try to judge what two smaller cities will be able to accomplish separately.
There was an attempt that some people are trying to revive which proposes a Borough system for L.A. What are your thoughts on that?
I’m intrigued by the potential for Neighborhood Councils and Area Planning Commissions that were created under the new L.A. Charter. Both of those mechanisms go a long way toward providing more manageable access to government for ordinary citizens. And while I’m not knowledgeable about how a Borough system would function in L.A., I do recognize how difficult it is for a city as vast and as varied as Los Angeles to address the problems and challenges of neighborhoods and communities of interest directly and effectively.
Let me draw from that answer and combine it with a quote you gave in an interview with our sister-publication MIR in June 2000. You said, “My satisfaction in serving as Mayor is derived from the optimism that we can make Pasadena a model for the nation to study in addressing the challenges of a dynamic and changing population and economy.” How are you progressing in Pasadena to keep that optimism moving forward?
We’re a very diverse community. The census data for 2000 indicated that Pasadena’s population has become more diverse than ever before. We’re 35 percent Latino, 12-13 percent African-American, 8-10 percent Asian, and have growing populations of Arab- as well as Armenian-Americans. And that diversity combined with our recent economic good fortune has created a vibrant city with active community life and strong cultural and economic roots which attract people to come, visit, shop, work and live.
And how much can you attribute that to your leadership? Does a Mayor really make a difference in guiding a city toward prosperity?
The key in Pasadena is the people – dedicated, public spirited and willing to work hard to address the issues. History will be the judge of whether this new position of a directly elected Mayor has made a difference. But I can tell you that my commitment to the community is strong, and community organizations, churches and people have responded very positively. As long as they continue to be involved and excited about this community, I will feel that my efforts have had a positive effect.