Pasadena Sued Over Union Station Move

Times Staff Writer

Eight business owners have filed suit against the city to block the relocation of Union Station, a soup kitchen and temporary shelter for the homeless that recently won approval to move after a long and bitter fight with its prospective neighbors.

The suit, filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court, asks for a review of the city's actions concerning Union Station. It alleges that the Board of City Directors violated zoning laws when it granted Union Station's request to move to a largely industrial section of southwest Pasadena, and that environmental testing was not done to determine the effect of the shelter on the surrounding neighborhood. The suit also names All Saints Episcopal Church, which runs the shelter, as a co-defendant.

Attorney Martin Washton, who filed the suit on behalf of business owners near the vacant lot at 410 S. Raymond Ave., where Union Station plans to move, said the suit "is not a case that is seeking to raise social and economic issues. It challenges the manner in which the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Board of City Directors chose not to apply (zoning) law."

Deputy City Atty. Jerome Levin said he could not comment on the suit because the board had not yet reviewed it.

The relocation of Union Station prompted a heated neighborhood debate. A well-organized group of business and home owners lobbied City Hall and circulated petitions seeking to stop Union Station from building a 140-bed shelter in their area.

Opponents predicted that transients visiting the shelter would urinate and defecate on their lawns and sidewalks and that their property values would decline. Proponents of Union Station claimed that the shelter would be forced to close if it was not allowed to move from its cramped quarters across the street from City Hall.

The Board of City Directors took an unusual step in May and decided to hear the issue, despite earlier approvals of the relocation by both the Zoning Committee and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

The board subsequently voted to allow the shelter to move after a compromise was worked out between Union Station and three local businessmen. Those businessmen were not part of the suit filed last week.

The compromise established a seven-member advisory panel with representatives from the police, the city manager's office, Union Station and residents of its new neighborhood. The agreement also limits the number of people the facility can serve each day and shelter over night, and requires the employees to clean up litter within a 500-foot radius each day.

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