Pasadena Officials Promise Immediate Implementation of Slow-Growth Initiative

Times Staff Writer

City officials say they will move quickly to carry out the wishes of voters who clamped a lid Tuesday on apartment, condominium and commercial construction in Pasadena through the end of the 1990s.

“The voters have spoken, and it is now incumbent upon the city board to implement the initiative, and we will begin immediately to do that,” said Mayor William E. Thomson Jr., who opposed the winning slow-growth initiative.

Voters approved the initiative sponsored by Pasadena Residents in Defense of our Environment (PRIDE) by a margin of 57.2% to 42.8%, while rejecting the city’s rival interim growth-management plan by nearly a 3-to-1 margin.

One of the first steps, Thomson said, will be to establish criteria for judging development proposals.


‘Didn’t Set Specifics’

Michael Salazar, co-chairman of PRIDE, said the measure sets construction limits through the end of 1999 but does not spell out in detail what sort of projects will be allowed. “We didn’t set specifics in our measure,” Salazar said. “We left it up to the city.”

The initiative limits multifamily housing construction to 250 units a year and limits construction of commercial projects larger than 25,000 square feet to a total of 250,000 square feet a year.

It instructs the city to give priority to those projects “that best meet the purposes and intent of this initiative” and “also take into account, to the fullest practical extent, the city’s other plans, goals and priorities, including providing jobs for Pasadena residents and revenues for city services.”


Under a rival growth-control plan that was adopted by the city late last year but rejected by voters Tuesday, the city had been assigning priority to projects on a first-come, first-served basis. That system must be replaced, Thomson said, by a process that creates a “beauty contest” for development projects.

Projects ‘in Jeopardy’

City Manager Donald F. McIntyre said projects that had received priority under the old process are “obviously all in jeopardy” after passage of the PRIDE initiative. He said developers will no doubt feel frustrated because the city rewrote the rules on development last year, and the PRIDE initiative has rewritten them again. “We’re not going to be too popular,” he said.

Salazar said passage of the PRIDE initiative sends a “clear message” to City Hall that “we have to be tough and firm on our land-use policies and growth in Pasadena. And it’s time for City Hall, not just the development community, to face the facts.”

Rick Cole, one of three city directors who supported the PRIDE initiative, also interpreted the results as a repudiation of the way the city has managed growth.

And Mayor Thomson, too, said it is clear that voters are disturbed by the pace of growth. “I think that voters are saying that the face of the city is changing too rapidly,” Thomson said. “In the last 18 months or two years, a number of major developments have suddenly begun rising out of the ground, and people are saying we better have a pause and (take) better control over what happens.”

The city issued building permits for $255 million worth of construction in the last fiscal year and $190 million in fiscal 1987. In each of the three previous years, new construction had ranged from $64 million to $116 million.

The city Finance Department estimated late last year that the city’s own growth-control plan would cut new construction by $30 million to $50 million a year. But the city has not estimated the impact of the PRIDE initiative.


McIntyre said the impact will be felt gradually because the initiative exempts a number of projects, such as reconstruction and renovation of the historic Huntington Hotel and other developments that are already well under way.

The initiative also exempts single-family homes, affordable housing and commercial projects in northwest Pasadena.

Hard Work Credited

Salazar attributed the success of the initiative to more than a year of hard work by dedicated volunteers and to significant endorsements, including the backing of the Pasadena Star-News, the League of Women Voters and Pasadena Heritage.

Rick Phelps, chairman of the ABC Committee, which spearheaded the opposition, said the measure also benefitted from a fairly low voter turnout of slightly more than 20%. “We needed a bigger turnout,” he said. “We knew that if the turnout was low, we’d have a problem.

“We figured there were 6,000 to 7,000 hard-core no-growth voters out there,” he said. “We had to go against that.”


58 of 58 precincts, 20.3% turnout


BALLOT MEASURES Proposition 1--Interim Growth Management Ordinance sponsored by the city.

Vote % No 8,987 74.6 Yes 3,052 25.4

Proposition 2--Interim Growth Management Ordinance sponsored by Pasadena Residents in Defense of our Environment.

Vote % Yes 7,138 57.2 No 5,336 42.8