The Pasadena City Council on Monday night, Jan. 9, took early steps in the re-visioning of the remnants of a defunct plan to carve a freeway through prime land in the city, while also seeking voices who were directly impacted by that history.
The council approved a staff recommendation to create an advisory working group to be comprised of 11 members who represent a diverse background, able to begin moving the city forward on a vision to redevelop a roughly 40-acre area known as the 710 Stub.
“We’re at a place where we do want to start a process of planning for the future,” said Assistant City Manager David Reyes.
That process starts with a working group, subject to public transparency laws, that would advise the council.
That future could be a boon for an area that prior to 1964 had huge potential, only to end up in displaced neighborhoods once a freeway was envisioned to cut through them and when eminent domain started to carve out a place for the extension of the 710 Freeway.
“It’s an opportunity for housing, open space, every other use that’s going to be imagined…,” said Mayor Victor Gordo, who added that the plan for the land has to account for its place as a gateway into northwest, east and west Pasadena as well as its place as an important public safety corridor.
He also noted that the re-imagining is an opportunity to “re-stitch” the city back together, after a freeway plan, in effect, displaced part of it.
At the behest of Councilmember Tyrone Hampton, the working group will include at least two appointees impacted by eminent domain in Pasadena.
“You can’t have that conversation without someone who’s been affected at the table,” Hampton said.
All told, each councilmember will be able to nominate one member, the mayor two, and four at large appointments will include two members who were impacted by eminent domain.
The council unanimously approved the motion.
Gordo said the working group would act “to ensure we have a body that can has all of the insights that we need in order to move this project forward.”
The Stub is at the terminus of the once-planned 710 Freeway expansion through the area, and only recently turned over to local control by the state. It’s between California Boulevard and the 210 Freeway. While much of that terminus is a nondescript, dusty patch of gravel and dirt, the area represents nearly 2.5 million square feet of potential development next to the thriving Old Pasadena downtown district. Estimates have suggested the land’s development could generate tens of millions of dollars in economic benefits.
For years, officials have been eyeing the land for future development, but Monday’s vote — fueled by Caltrans’ recent relinquishment of the land to the city — was among the earliest formal steps by the city to do something with it.
The council agreed with a staff recommendation that the members of a 710 Planning Board should come from a variety of backgrounds — comprising a cross-section of the community. The effort should include, they said, people with professional and volunteer experience in urban design/planning/architecture, historic preservation, landscape architecture, transportation planning, outdoor/childhood education, economic development, development/real estate finance, engineering/construction, housing and community advocacy.
Officials envision a working group would be a body subject to public transparency laws while advising the City Council on “high-level input on the vision, land use, transportation network, and related key policy topics for the project area,” according to a city report.
The idea is that “community engagement” will be key in developing a plan for an area hit hard by a now-defunct freeway plan that once displaced neighborhoods on land that was first seized through eminent domain beginning in 1964.
But a major takeaway from Monday night was the need, voiced by council members and residents, for a large-scale historical assessment that accounts for the toll the freeway plan took on the community, particularly among generations of people of color. Officials said such a historical analysis is in the pipeline.
“History really needs to inform this process, community led, and also ensures those who were displaced and directly impacted, participate in and benefit from the solution, said Jasmine Shupper, a Pasadena resident and founder of Greenline Housing Foundation, focused on closing the racial wealth gap in housing.
Cities across the San Gabriel Valley — including Pasadena, Alhambra and South Pasadena — had worked to remove the 710 Freeway northerly extension project from the state’s highways plan for years to no avail. The extension would have included tunnel, proposed by Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2009, to connect the 710 to the 210.
New development in the Stub area remains years away, but officials say “now is the time to begin planning for what the future of this area will be,” according to Monday’s report.
That plan will move through phases, including the selection of the working group, the hiring of a planning consultant, the creation of a financing plan, and ultimately public outreach through the advisory board and city commissions — all by the spring of this year. A vision plan and specific plan for the area will extend into next year and the year after, according to the city.
“Needles to say, this is an extremely important project for the entire city,” Councilmember Steve Madison said. “And we don’t get to do it twice. We have one shot at this, and we’ve got to do it right.”