ED: This article appeared in the Pasadena Star-News on Thursday, April 16, 2015.
By Thomas Seifert
We are at a critical crossroads in dealing with the city of Pasadena and its propensity to give away or severely restrict dedicated parkland and city-owned open space.
The Stewards of Public Land, a California nonprofit corporation, representing concerned Pasadena residents, recently filed a lawsuit against Pasadena challenging its approval of a proposed Lower Arroyo Archery Range. This approval grants the Pasadena Roving Archers use of a large part of the Lower Arroyo Nature Park, designates a seven-plus acre area of the park exclusively for archery, authorizes holding large-scale archery events within the park, and expands the archery range with installation of additional targets, barriers and signage. The action was approved by a 5-3 vote of the City Council on Feb. 3, and will restrict members of the general public from entering the seven-acre stretch along the western side of the Arroyo, just north of the La Loma Bridge from sunup until sunset, seven days a week. Additionally, construction of extensive barriers, structures and signage are authorized in this area that the Municipal Code designates as a natural preservation area.
The Arroyo Seco is a precious resource for all the residents of Pasadena and our neighboring communities. While do not advocate the closure of the archery range, we do not support Pasadena’s recent plan to hand over seven acres for the exclusive use of archers. We do support use of the area by the archers on a limited basis, with proper supervision of the range when it is open. At other times, the public must have the opportunity to use and enjoy these seven acres of treasured and limited open space. We are also concerned that proper safety measures be implemented to protect the public and nearby neighbors.
The Stewards of Public Land lawsuit will challenge the archery project’s compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Pasadena City Charter and the Pasadena Municipal Code. The lawsuit alleges that the Pasadena improperly exempted the project from having to undergo a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act. For the last five years, residents have urged the city to initiate a full Environmental Impact Report for the use of the Lower Arroyo by a private group. CEQA requires an EIR for projects, such as the archery range, that are situated in a protected natural setting and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We are very disappointed that the city wants to restrict public access to this treasured area and has ignored CEQA regulations. We have no choice except to go to the courts for relief.
Now the city is at it once again with the YWCA/Kimpton Hotel project being planned at Union and Marengo. The RFPs that went out to potential hotel bidders included the deeding over of a 90-year old city owned open space along Holly Street and Garfield Avenue just east of the YWCA building, named the “Sisters City Gardens,” and the reconfiguring of the open space around the Jackie and Mack Robinson Memorial. This action is not only contrary to the long-standing City Beautiful Bennett Plan for the Civic Center, but also everything sacred and respectful toward our nationally recognized City Hall. At the Planning Commission scoping meeting for the project EIR on March 25, the public speakers as well as the commissioners were shocked that this inclusion was being treated as a foregone conclusion and the narrowest possible definitions of impact parameters were defined in the initial study for the forthcoming EIR.
Here we go again: Ignoring CEQA, minimizing CEQA. What has happened to our city that once respected open space and parkland and did everything possible to preserve it and expand it, not to restrict it or to give it away? We call upon our City Council to listen and to heed our plea.
Thomas Seifert is board chair of Stewards of Public Land, www.stewardsofpublicland.org.