Posted in Around Town, Current Events, Uncategorized

No Car Left Behind

Today’s article in the LA Times: “History, density are uneasy neighbors in Pasadena” reveals the fuzzy thinking behind development in Pasadena.

Westgate, an “urban village” of 820 residences and 22,000 square feet of commerical space at the eastern end of the old Ambassador College campus, will be the largest housing development in the city’s history. Referring to Westgate and the neighboring Ambassador West development, the article says:

“Those projects will complement Old Town’s commercial space, placing consumers within walking distance of Colorado Boulevard’s shops and restaurants, and giving them less reason to drive, said Mike Winter, a senior vice president of Sares-Regis, the developer of Westgate.”

If we build it, they will get out of their cars and walk.

Riiiiight.

Southern Californians will offer you a limb before they will part with their four-wheeled appendage.

There is a Ralph’s grocery store with a medium-sized parking lot situated between Old Town and the Ambassador West development. Here’s my question: Does that Ralph’s have to patrol its lot because visitors to Old Town try to get away with parking there for free? Or is the Ralph’s on West Colorado perceived as a little too far from Old Town, so no one even bothers to try and sneak parking there?

I’m guessing they don’t have much of a problem with sneaky parkers. I shop there from time to time and never have trouble finding a space.

There is a big bridge over the freeway that makes Old Town seem far from Ralph’s. The Ambassador West development is even farther from Old Town than the Ralph’s store is. What are the chances that residents will really walk to Old Town?

Mayor Bogaard is quoted in the article as saying that Pasadena’s General Plan, which encourages mixed-use, high-density development, is intended “to reduce dependence on the automobile. The hope is that our downtown will be vital and exciting.”

High-density development alone will not shake that steering wheel loose from the hands of a typical Southern Californian. Especially if one has to schlep kids around. Or haul a bunch of stuff back from the store. I know people who live within walking distance of Target, but they don’t walk there. Who wants to heave-ho 300 fluid ounces of laundry detergent all the way home?

The perceived safety and utility of the polluting metal bubble on rubber wheels outweighs the perceived pleasure of a stroll to the shops and restaurants. Changing that perception, changing a car-based lifestyle that is integral to SoCal culture–those kinds of lifestyle changes are the hardest to come by. Developers need to quit pretending otherwise.

Want to rent a nice two-bedroom apartment in a historic building at the Ambassador site? Here’s an ad from Craigslist–only $2,300 per month!