After two years of negotiations with residents and historical preservationists, Caltech has won city approval for a master plan that will guide campus development for the next 25 years.
The plan was approved after Caltech reached an agreement with neighbors, but not with preservationists, who gave up much of their fight to save 40 houses on Caltech property, some with historic value.
“Caltech is the fair-haired institution as far as the city is concerned,” said Sue Mossman, program director of the historical preservation group, Pasadena Heritage. “Taking them on and screaming about every house demolition would just wear us out.”
Caltech is expected to eventually add up to 1.8 million square feet in an undetermined number of buildings in the area north of Beckman Auditorium to Del Mar Boulevard. The expansion will include up to 785 dormitory rooms to accommodate all of the school’s undergraduates and about two-thirds of the graduate students.
The school is also planning substantial changes in the layout of the 124-acre campus, such as the creation of a new main entrance off Del Mar Boulevard.
The city Board of Directors approved the plan on a 6-1 vote. Director William Paparian dissented, saying he believed the plan’s 25-year duration is too long.
Neighbors of the school had originally opposed the plan, saying Caltech failed to protect the neighborhood from increased traffic, noise and pollution.
But over the last few months, the objections were resolved after the school agreed to improve landscaping and reduce the size of many proposed structures. The agreements include lowering a parking structure, restricting the use of tennis court lights, providing 24-hour parking lot security and involving residents in the landscaping of Caltech property near residential areas.
At a public hearing Tuesday, most residents applauded Caltech’s efforts and supported the plan.
“When I first got involved, there were a lot of issues that people thought would never be resolved,” said Stanley Lamport, the attorney representing Arden Road Citizens, a homeowners group. “But we’ve resolved all our differences.”
However, differences with the preservationists remain.
Caltech has agreed to save 24 of the most historically significant homes and help move the 40 targeted for demolition. The single-family homes, which include some Craftsman-style houses, are used as offices and student housing.
“We’re pleased Caltech is saving one-third of the homes, but the potential demolition of two-thirds is still a significant loss,” Mossman said.
The purpose of the master plan is to outline the school’s construction plans and establish the rules it will follow in designing and locating new structures. The plan details landscaping requirements, maximum building heights and demolition plans, among other items.
With a master plan for its campus, Caltech will be able to avoid the time-consuming process of seeking special construction permits every time it wants to build a new structure.
In return, the city and neighbors are guaranteed that development will follow the master plan.
The plan proposes focusing construction along a north-south axis centered on Beckman Auditorium.
The new main entrance on Del Mar will form the beginning of a long corridor of open space that will extend south through the campus and intersect with two east-west corridors of open space.
The plan will require the school to make buffers with the surrounding neighborhood through the use of landscaping and the preservation of many single-family homes along its perimeter.
The houses targeted for demolition are located around Holliston and Chester avenues and Lura Street.
Director Rick Cole asked that Caltech be required to move at least half of the homes.
When no one on the board showed much enthusiasm for his request, Cole suggested that Caltech provide $15,000 to help anyone who wanted to move a house.
Last year, Caltech offered to give away 16 Craftsman and ranch-style houses that were scheduled for demolition. But because of the cost of moving a house and the difficulty in finding an open lot, only five houses were moved.
“Caltech’s record to date is abysmal,” Cole said.
The board tabled discussion to give Cole and Caltech time to draft an acceptable relocation plan.