Local Elections : Cityhood, Council Seats, Growth at Stake in Elections : Race for Board of Directors Is a Study in Marked Contrasts

Times Staff Writer

Three candidates with sharply contrasting styles are running for an open seat on the Pasadena Board of Directors Tuesday, while in another race, the incumbent in District 7 faces a challenge from a leader in the slow-growth movement.

Three of the seven city board seats will be at stake, but Jess Hughston, 65, a political science teacher at Pasadena City College, is running unopposed for his third four-year term. He represents District 5 in the eastern part of the city.

In the 3rd District in northwest Pasadena, Michael Zinzun, Chris Holden and Gretchen Sterling are seeking to succeed Loretta Thompson-Glickman, who is retiring from the board.

If none of the candidates receives more than 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff election April 18. All directors are elected by district rather than citywide.


Zinzun is a former Black Panther and community activist who won a $1.2-million settlement in a lawsuit against the city last year after a confrontation with police cost him the sight in his left eye. Holden, son of Los Angeles councilman and mayoral candidate Nate Holden, was a Pasadena High School basketball star. A real estate broker, he made a strong showing when he ran for city director four years ago. Sterling, a former member of the city Planning Commission, runs the Pasadena Certified Farmers Market program, which enables consumers to buy produce from growers at wholesale prices.

Mayor William E. Thomson Jr., a 53-year-old attorney, is seeking his third term in District 7, which lies south of Colorado Boulevard and east of Oakland Avenue. His opponent is Shirley B. Mauller, 65, co-chairwoman of Pasadena Residents in Defense of our Environment (PRIDE), sponsor of a ballot initiative to limit the city’s growth through the end of 1999.

Mauller said her chances for election are strongly tied to the fate of the PRIDE initiative.

As mayor, a position that is rotated among directors, Thomson pushed for the creation of an alternative to the PRIDE initiative that will also be on the March 7 ballot. The city measure is similar to the PRIDE initiative, but it would be in effect only while the city develops long-range controls.


Mauller said she is running because the measure Thomson helped fashion in response to the PRIDE initiative is “a deliberate attempt to confuse the voters.” She said actions by Thomson and the board majority “made me mad enough that I decided someone should run and it had better be me.”

Mauller, who is married to a retired school administrator, has lived in Pasadena for 35 years. She has served as president of the League of Women Voters, the city library board, Pasadena Planned Parenthood and other organizations.

Her concern about overdevelopment in Pasadena began, she said, when “it seemed like every time I would drive up a north-south street, there was a new building going up.” The growth has aggravated the city’s traffic congestion and pollution problems, she said.

Mauller said she faces an uphill fight against Thomson because he has the advantages of incumbency and the extra visibility that comes with being mayor. In addition, she said, “he’s not a bad man. I can’t paint him as a villain.” But, she charged, Thomson has at times shown “an arrogant disregard for the public,” and has not paid enough attention to residents in the eastern part of his district.

Thomson is running on his experience and achievements in eight years on the board. He said he is particularly proud of his “persistent, strong support of public safety,” reflected in endorsements by the city’s police and fire associations.

A Fiscal Conservative

Thomson, who has lived in Pasadena 20 years, said that he has been “very attentive to the needs of the district” and has been endorsed by people who live in all parts of it.

He said the suggestion that the city alternative to the PRIDE initiative is intended to deceive voters is simply untrue. He said the measure was put on the ballot to give voters an opportunity to approve an alternative that would control growth, but not lock the city into an ordinance for 10 years.


Thomson said he regards himself as a fiscal conservative who recognizes the importance of programs designed to meet human needs. The major asset he brings to the board, he said, is a “balanced perspective.”

The 7th District has 10,659 registered voters.

There are 6,721 voters in the 3rd District, which takes in much of the area north of Colorado Boulevard between El Molino and Fair Oaks avenues. It is an area that has long been considered economically depressed, but is now undergoing change as younger, more affluent families buy older homes and rehabilitate them. The district has a large black population and a growing Latino population. The incumbent, Thompson-Glickman, is the only black member of the board. Both Zinzun and Holden are black.

Low-Cost Housing

All three candidates say they are concerned about the displacement of poor families and the dwindling supply of low-cost housing. Zinzun and Holden support the PRIDE initiative and say it will help the city deal with its housing problems by easing some of the pressures created by overdevelopment. Sterling opposes both the PRIDE and city growth-limit measures, saying the city needs development to provide jobs so that people can afford housing.

Zinzun, 40, who is married and has five children, reached a settlement last year in his suit against the city. He received $250,000 and will get the remainder in installments. Zinzun said the money would enable him to work full time as a city director. Directors, who usually meet once a week, are paid $50 per meeting, plus another $50 for attending Community Development Commission meetings and $120 a month for expenses.

If elected, Zinzun said, “I will be meeting with the community on a daily basis. I will have a field office open during the day and after working hours.”

Zinzun said Pasadena should scrap the city manager form of government and put the city under the management of full-time directors and an elected mayor. He said the city is now “run as if this was a corporation, rather than a community of human beings. The city manager form of government is outdated.”


An Eighth District

He advocates the creation of an eighth district to give the city’s growing Latino population a seat on the Board of Directors.

Born in Chicago, Zinzun began life in “probably the poorest part of the city,” he said, and was sent to Pasadena to live with an aunt when he was 8 years old. His mother, brothers and sisters joined him two years later.

He attended Blair High School, was trained as an auto mechanic in trade school and at the age of 18 began joining civil rights, anti-war and other political causes. In 1969 or 1970, he said, he joined the Black Panther Party. He said he does not apologize for being a part of the revolutionary Black Panther movement. When he talks about its achievements, he stresses not its call for violent change, but programs that provided free breakfasts for children, testing for sickle cell anemia and cockroach extermination.

Zinzun said he has grown since his Black Panther days, but “I have not shed my beliefs, my goals and objectives.” He said he remains committed to such ideas as “justice for masses of community people” and “decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings.”

Bridging the Gap

Zinzun said residents in northwest Pasadena have long suffered from having their interests sacrificed to development.

Now, he said, “what some white folks are finding out, especially on the other side of town, is that . . . when those big developers roll in here, they’ll roll over them, too. And that’s why we’re working together on the PRIDE initiative; we’re bridging the gap between east Pasadena and northwest Pasadena.”

Zinzun is chairman of the Coalition on Police Abuse in Los Angeles. He stressed that he is “not anti-police,” but is “anti-police-abuse.” He said he can work with the Pasadena Police Department, despite his clashes with it. The police officers association has endorsed Holden.

All-Star Honors

Recently, Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl F. Gates reprimanded Assistant Chief Robert L. Vernon, a Pasadena resident, for using a Police Department computer to search for newspaper stories and other public documents about Zinzun. Vernon said he had been asked to obtain the information by neighbors.

Holden, 28, ran against Thompson-Glickman four years ago and received 40% of the vote in a losing effort. This time he is running with the endorsement of Thompson-Glickman and Hughston. Zinzun has been endorsed by directors Rick Cole and William Paparian.

Holden has lived in Pasadena all of his life, aside from his years at San Diego State University, where he played basketball after earning all-star honors in high school.

He said he was influenced to run for public office by the role model of his father and by the impact of working at Juvenile Hall and seeing so many children wasting their lives. He worked briefly as a Probation Department service worker at Juvenile Hall after graduating from college. “I asked myself, what am I doing to make a difference?” Holden said.

Holden said the city has often neglected northwest Pasadena. “We had a windstorm at the end of November,” he said. “Palm fronds were all over the street. They laid there for two and three weeks at a time before anyone came by to clean them up.” All three candidates have promised to maintain field offices in the district to help residents get action at City Hall.

Pockets of Poverty

Holden said northwest Pasadena is economically depressed and needs a major grocery store, bank and other services. He said he is concerned about the diminishing availability of low-cost housing as newcomers buy up and rehabilitate older homes, pushing property values and rents upward.

“Pasadena is an affluent community with pockets of poverty,” Holden said. “If you wipe out the pockets of poverty to the point where Pasadena is all affluent, then you are not going to have the rich diversity we love to claim.”

Holden said the PRIDE initiative would help the city cope with traffic congestion, trash disposal problems and air pollution. If development is not checked, he said, pollution will become so bad that “everybody is going to have to walk around with a gas mask on.”

Sterling said the PRIDE initiative and the city interim growth measure are unnecessary.

“The existing ordinances that are on the books offer the protection that the neighborhoods need,” she said.

“The one thing that both of the slow-growth measures do is halt the housing construction that is desperately needed. My children in 10 years time will be more than ready to buy a house and they won’t be able to afford one in Pasadena if the PRIDE initiative wins.”

Sterling said that by curbing development, the slow-growth measures take away jobs that could enable families to buy houses. And without the tax revenue that is produced by development, she said, the city will have to cut back on services.

She said the fact that young professionals are buying homes, rehabilitating them and driving up home prices and rents in northwest Pasadena is “truly a natural process and cannot be stopped. It’s a natural evolution that happens in cities that have been going as long as Pasadena.”

The task for the city, she said, is to see that new low-cost housing is built by offering developers an incentive, perhaps by allowing more units to be built on each lot. She said low-cost housing should be scattered through the city. “I don’t feel Pasadena should be allowed to be an elitist community,” she said.

Sterling, 42, who is married and has two children, attended Pasadena High School and Pasadena City College and has lived in the district since 1962. She served on the Planning Commission from 1981 to 1986.

She noted that most of the attention in the race has focused on the other candidates, both of whom have run for public office before and are better known. She said the other candidates “seem to think that I’m invisible and they probably think that I haven’t a chance in hell, but I think I will surprise them.”