Appeal of Pasadena Move : Court Hears Soup Kitchen Debate

Times Staff Writer

Those hoping to prevent a soup kitchen and shelter for the homeless from being built near their businesses are really opposed to "the character of the users," an attorney for the city of Pasadena told the State Court of Appeal last week.

But an attorney representing opponents of a proposal to provide a new site for an expanded Union Station argued that Pasadena officials erred in not requiring an environmental study in 1985 before approving the move.

A three-justice panel heard oral arguments in the case Thursday and will rule on the future of the proposal within 90 days.

Union Station, the largest agency outside of Los Angeles' Skid Row that provides free meals and shelter for the poor, has been fighting for two years to move so that it can expand its facilities. It is housed in a small building near the Civic Center that workers say cannot accommodate growing numbers of destitute people.

Arguing that Union Station presents a unique case, Jerry Levin, an attorney for the city, said opponents of the move do not want the homeless in their neighborhood. He said there probably would be no lawsuit if people other than the poor and homeless were to be fed and housed at the site.

Levin said the city was within its rights in not requiring an environmental study of the proposed location at 412 S. Raymond Ave., about a mile southwest of the present Union Station.

Pasadena approved the move to the Raymond Avenue site in 1985 after several long public hearings.

Martin Washton, who represents the Old Pasadena Assn., argued that moving Union Station into the industrial area would strain sanitary facilities and police and fire services. The association, whose eight members own or manage businesses in the area, filed the appeal after losing its case against the move in Superior Court in January, 1986.

Among other allegations, the association's suit against the city and Union Station alleged that Pasadena erred in granting the shelter a special variance reducing the number of required parking spaces from 15 to seven.

Justices Lynn D. Compton, Donald N. Gates and Morio L. Fukuto made few comments during the oral arguments Thursday.

Asked whether the appeal might be "a stalling tactic" by the Old Pasadena Assn., Washton replied that the lawsuit represented real concerns of those who filed the suit.

The soup kitchen was founded in 1973 by All Saints Episcopal Church and moved to larger quarters three times to meet growing needs. Now sponsored by seven downtown Pasadena churches, it serves breakfast and lunch to about 150 people daily in its building at Walnut Street and Euclid Avenue. It provides a number of social services, and a few homeless people are given beds for up to two weeks in a nearby church.

The proposed new facility would serve meals to 225 people and provide 60 beds as well as laundry, showers and other services.

Union Station Director Bill Doulos said the number of homeless is growing and he criticized the Old Pasadena Assn. for "not trying to help in a constructive way."

The Rev. George Regas, rector of All Saints Church, who attended Thursday's hearing with about a dozen Union Station supporters, said the city's and agency's case is strong. "I can't believe we won't win," he said.

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