Interview with Mayor Bill Bogaard
Mayor Bill Bogaard was interviewed in the April, 2007 issue of Urban Land, the monthly magazine of the Urban Land Institute, an international trade association of real estate professionals, finance specialists, government officials, and others involved with development of real estate and communities. Mr. Lockwood’s report follows:
Pasadena, California, conjures up images of the annual Rose Bowl football game and the Tournament of Roses Parade. But this city of 145,000 residents, located ten miles (16 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles, is also a successful laboratory for civic leadership and rebirth. Since 2000, development, which has focused on the central business district, has totaled more than 3,000 housing units, 750,000 square feet (70,000 sq m) of office space, and 500,000 square feet (46,500 sq m) of retail space. Two years ago, Pasadena became one of the first U.S. cities to mandate that most new private development be constructed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Bill Bogaard, mayor of Pasadena since 1999, comments on the city’s prosperity and the lessons it offers for other communities.
Why has Pasadena gone green? Pasadena, for example, is one of the first U.S. cities to require that nearly all private new buildings meet LEED certification.
Pasadena wants to offer leadership at the local level for the sustainability movement that is needed around the world. Recently, Pasadena’s new Environmental Advisory Commission held its organizational meeting, bringing together a group of environmental experts to help Pasadena achieve urban sustainability.
Their first task will be to offer public accountability on the city’s commitment to comply with the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement. Pasadena intends to be 20 percent more efficient in the next five years in regard to recycling, alternative energy, green building standards, open-space preservation, water, and low-emission and no-emission vehicles. Already, several recent projects—involving both new construction and rehabilitation projects—have received LEED certification, and city requirements will obviously lead to other LEED certifications in the future.
Didn’t Pasadena reach a low point more than 30 years ago, then bounce back stronger than ever in recent years?
Yes, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Pasadena hit a low point in its history, which stretches back before its incorporation in 1886. The leadership at the time determined to turn things around. This came about through a combination of statutory redevelopment initially and, thereafter, private sector investment based on historic preservation, managed growth, and progressive planning and design guidelines. Today, Pasadena is recognized for its architectural heritage, dynamic economy, great cultural and academic institutions, active parks, and livable neighborhoods. The important thing is that over the years, the city established the rules and the private sector invested in accordance with those rules, confident that in Pasadena the investment would pay off.
What laid the groundwork for the comeback? Was there a point when the revival took hold?
In 1980, the Plaza Pasadena shopping mall on Colorado Boulevard was completed on a site where nearly four blocks of historic buildings had previously stood. The community hated the project and decided that redevelopment—the use of condemnation to assemble huge parcels and tax increment financing to provide large subsidies—was not appropriate and was no longer needed. The activists wanted to have greater control over what happened in the city and in determining its future.
Pasadena Heritage, the historic preservation organization, was founded in 1978 as the Plaza Pasadena was being constructed, and neighborhood associations joined it in calling for managed growth. During the 1980s, there was intense controversy about historic preservation, design guidelines, mixed-use development, the protection of neighborhoods, and the height of buildings.
The controversy raged for several years, involving litigation challenging individual projects, citizen initiatives to stop growth, and planning efforts to reflect new community goals in the [city’s] general plan. Ultimately in 1994, the city council approved a general plan that offered a vision for Pasadena based on the principles of smart growth. Urban sprawl was restricted, single-family neighborhoods were protected from intrusive development, and commercial areas such as the downtown and areas along major boulevards were zoned to allow residential construction.
The best example of our success in urban revitalization is Old Pasadena, the city’s original downtown, which is cited as a success story by developers and planners around the country and is studied as a model for turning downtowns around.
In 2004, Pasadena was recognized as the most accessible city in America. Our commitment to accommodate persons with disabilities extends from building design requirements to public works improvements and arrangements for attending special events like the Rose Parade.
What subsequent city policies have built on those early measures and fueled Pasadena’s strong current revival?
Pasadena’s success today largely is due to two factors: first, the 1994 general plan and, second, the regional light-rail system, the Gold Line, which operates between Union Station in Los Angeles and the eastern boundary of Pasadena. This system and its six Pasadena stations offer excellent transit service within Pasadena and between Pasadena and Los Angeles.
It was in 1998 that the California legislature, led by [U.S. Representative] Adam Schiff, then a state senator, created a single-purpose construction agency to complete the Gold Line and transferred the available funding for this purpose. It did not take long for investors to gain confidence that the light-rail system would be completed and would assure Pasadena’s role as an active and livable city.
Beyond that, what has helped Pasadena are some traditional strengths that provide the context for a great community. These include the Norton Simon Museum, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Art Center College of Design, and the Huntington Medical Center. Each of these institutions—and others—are widely recognized for excellence and for their commitment to the community.
How did Pasadena carry out the 1994 general plan, and can it offer any lessons for other cities? What portions of the general plan have really worked best?
The general plan offers a vision for the city as a cultural, scientific, corporate, entertainment, and educational center for the region. It protects single-family neighborhoods from intrusive development and allows mixed-use development in commercial areas. It calls for Pasadena to be a city where people can circulate without cars. Under the plan, change must be harmonized to preserve Pasadena’s historic character and environment. In my experience in urban affairs, I know of no set of policies that has been more influential, more effective, than this general plan.
With the coming of the Gold Line [in 2003], we have experienced transit-oriented development at or near the rail stations. This has created the opportunity for an urban lifestyle without the need for an automobile. Of course, the new residents also represent market opportunities for the businesses nearby, as well as being prospective employees. As a result, retail and office investment has also increased.
At the same time, in the neighborhoods there has been significant reinvestment in Pasadena’s single-family homes, most of which date back more than 50 years. What was called for many years “aging housing stock” has become the foundation for charming neighborhoods with well-constructed and handsome homes on wide, tree-lined streets.
Have Pasadena’s transit-oriented development (TOD) projects made a significant difference for the city?
There are two TODs that deserve comment because they are located at Gold Line light-rail stations and were made possible through conscious decisions by the Gold Line Construction Authority to promote compatible projects at those sites.
One project is Del Mar Station, which offers 437 apartments and so-called neighborhood retail stores. In addition, the historic Santa Fe Railroad Station, which had been used for more than 100 years by persons arriving from the Midwest for winter vacations, has been authentically restored and will be used for restaurant and retail purposes.
The other project is under construction [on East Foothill Boulevard near the Sierra Madre Villa Gold Line station], but it also provides residential units, neighborhood retail, and other amenities. It incorporates an architecturally significant building constructed in the 1950s by Stuart Pharmaceuticals [designed by architect Edward Durell Stone]. As part of the restoration of this historic building, a prominent southern California theater group, A Noise Within, will establish its first permanent home with a 350-seat theater, administrative offices, conference rooms, and classrooms for its outreach programs to students and others.
What about Pasadena’s neighborhoods? Is the city maintaining its longstanding ethnic and economic diversity so that residents can work in the now-thriving downtown Pasadena without traveling 30 or 40 miles (48 to 64 km) to get there?
Pasadena’s success this decade and its attractiveness as a place to live have been accompanied by a relentless increase in the cost of housing. The economic diversity that has characterized the city, and to which I am committed, is clearly in jeopardy.
The city, which since the mid-1980s has worked hard to preserve and produce affordable housing, has redoubled such efforts this decade. In 2001, an inclusionary housing ordinance was adopted that requires 15 percent of new units in projects involving ten or more new homes be offered as affordable housing. This has become an effective tool, along with others, to produce homes affordable to people with average incomes and to others with special housing needs. But the supply falls far short of the demand, and Pasadena is currently exploring ways to strengthen these efforts.
Traffic is a nightmare in southern California. Has Pasadena found any good solutions beyond its mixed-use downtown and its transit-oriented development, or must other traffic solutions be carried out on a regional level?
Our regional transit priority is to extend the Gold Line 22 miles [35 km] from its current terminus at the eastern edge of the city to Claremont and Montclair. When the extension is completed, it will provide a major regional transit resource through the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. Pasadena actively joins the other cities involved in this project in advocating for its final approval and full funding.
Within the city, there has been negative public reaction to local traffic. Many persons associate an increase in traffic exclusively with new residential development. Pasadena’s traffic has increased over the years in part due to new homes, but also due to growth of other kinds—increased employment, large numbers of students at area colleges, new restaurant and retail outlets, and an active arts and culture scene. There also is a lot of traffic that passes through the city to other destinations. Traffic management is a major priority, and we continue to search for ways to implement steps to reduce its negative impacts. UL
Charles Lockwood is an environmental and real estate consultant in southern California and New York City.
Urban Land: April 2007
© 2007 ULI–the Urban Land Institute, all rights reserved.