New Group Trying to Kill Pasadena’s Slow-Growth Law

Times Staff Writer

Business is booming in the fight to stop slow-growth.

Last month, a coalition of community leaders and business people sued the city of Pasadena to invalidate a slow-growth ordinance voters approved in March, claiming that the measure is unfair to businesses, minorities and the poor.

Now, a separate group--composed of many of the same people--has launched another campaign to derail the ordinance, this time by commissioning a new growth-management plan to replace the existing ordinance.

The new plan will take at least six months to complete. To become law, it then must be approved by the city Board of Directors or by a citywide vote.


Carolyn H. Carlburg, the group’s attorney, said there are no specific proposals, since the group was just formed.

Not Mission to Control Growth

But she added the new growth-management plan will aim to ease the restrictions on developers and business people that have been established by the slow-growth ordinance.

“We’re not interested in stopping anything or imposing limits,” she said. “It’s not our mission to control growth.”


The group, whose sponsors include the Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League and the Minority Business Assn., has no formal name. The announcement of its new strategy against the slow-growth ordinance dismayed community activists who waged the successful initiative campaign to adopt slow-growth restrictions in the city.

The initiative was sponsored by the community group, Pasadena Residents in Defense of their Environment (PRIDE) and was approved by a vote of 7,138 to 5,336.

Mike Salazar, co-chairman of PRIDE, said the movement to create a new growth-management plan is an attempt to wage a guerrilla war against the PRIDE initiative.

“They’re attacking us from so many different angles,” Salazar said. “I’m tired of it. They’re trying to thwart the will of the people.”


Even Mayor William E. Thomson Jr., who has opposed many aspects of the PRIDE-sponsored slow-growth ordinance, frowned at the latest attempt to create a new ordinance, saying it is a potentially divisive move.

“At some point these things have to come to an end,” Thomson said. “The public has spoken. Let’s get on with things.”

R. Dale Beland, an urban planning consultant hired to draw up the new plan, said the group’s first step will be to analyze the long-term effect of slowing development in the city.

Beland said that PRIDE waged its initiative campaign by appealing to public opposition to development but that it did not present any statistical information on how slow-growth would help or hinder the city.


For example, how would the slowdown in residential construction affect housing prices, he asked. And would restrictions on commercial development financially cripple the city because of lost tax revenue?

“It’s not clear to me that anyone understands the fiscal aspects of slow-growth,” he said. “There’s a lot of information missing.”

Beland said that PRIDE and the city, which at one point was supporting its own slow-growth proposal, both failed to involve the public in writing their slow-growth proposals.

He said the new group intends to hold public hearings throughout the city in the months ahead.


The new plan will cost at least $100,000 to complete and may require another $100,000 for a citywide initiative campaign. The Chamber of Commerce has provided the major funding for the group, with a $35,000 contribution. The group expects to raise the balance from individuals and businesses.

The group’s complaints against the PRIDE initiative have sparked a round of derisive laughter from slow-growth activists.

Effects Said Well-Known

Salazar said the effects of no restrictions on development are well-known to anyone who has driven down Lake Avenue, where most of Pasadena’s office construction has taken place.


He added that PRIDE and the city held a series of public hearings on growth.

“We went to the chamber and the Board of Realtors. They had their chance to speak up,” Salazar said. “They’re full of baloney.”

The PRIDE initiative limits multifamily housing construction to 250 units a year and restricts construction of commercial projects larger than 25,000 square feet to a total of 250,000 square feet a year. It also requires the city to give priority to those projects that “best meet the purposes and intent” of the law while balancing other needs such as producing jobs and revenue.

Exemptions from the ordinance include single-family homes, low-income housing, residential projects in redevelopment areas and all projects in parts of northwest Pasadena.


Business people have attacked the ordinance as excessively restrictive and confusing. Several community leaders from largely minority northwest Pasadena have also attacked the ordinance, saying its restrictions on housing construction will increase housing prices, making it difficult for the poor to live in Pasadena.

Effect on Minorities

The opponents’ suit claims that the ordinance disproportionately affects minorities, immigrants and the poor by decreasing the supply of housing. Carlburg said that by restricting new housing construction, the ordinance perpetuates patterns of segregated housing in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

In addition, the suit claims that the ordinance conflicts with the interstate commerce clause of the state Constitution, the California Environmental Quality Act and the state’s Community Redevelopment Act.


Supporters of the ordinance say the suit is a grab-bag of tenuous and ill-conceived arguments.

“They’ve alleged that the initiative is in violation of everything but the United Nations’ Charter,” said Pasadena City Director Rick Cole. “Obviously, they’re operating under the assumption that if they throw in every argument, the judge might buy one.”

A hearing on the suit against the ordinance is set Aug. 4 in Los Angeles Superior Court.