I’m Walkin’ Here

Three interrelated issues continue to dance around in my brain:

1. The development of high-density housing in Pasadena’s central area

2. The fact that little/none of this housing is “affordable”

3. The (nice but unrealistic) idea that the residents of this housing will not use their cars to get around. I agree that some will choose alternate forms of transportation some of the time, but they will still be car owners and car drivers. That’s how we roll in SoCal. We roll.

I’m not thrilled about high-density development in the downtown area of Pasadena, but I would stomach it if middle-income and low-income people could afford the housing that is being built. But since none of this new housing stock is affordable to those folks anyway, it’s a bad thing happening for no good reason.

So here’s a letter I wrote to the Los Angeles Times, which is based on my previous post No Car Left Behind:

The article “History, density are uneasy neighbors in Pasadena,”(March 23) reveals the fuzzy thinking behind the development of the old Ambassador College site.

Mike Winter of Sares-Regis says the Westgate development “…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.” Greg Galletly of Dorn Platz makes similar comments about the Ambassador West development.

Their assumption? If we build it, they will get out of their cars and walk. Pasadena already has several mixed-use, high-density projects in areas more central than the Westgate and Ambassador West projects. The growing traffic in Pasadena indicates that no one has left his/her car behind.

If we build it, they will get out of their cars and walk. To get to Old Town, Ambassador West residents, most of whom will be seniors, will have to cross the freeway. Been a pedestrian lately? Walking over the freeway just isn’t that pleasant. It’s noisy and smelly. There is no shade, no window-shopping, just cars whizzing below.

If we build it, they will get out of their cars and walk. High-density development alone will not shake that steering wheel loose from the hands of a typical Southern Californian. The perceived safety and utility of the personal automobile outweighs the perceived pleasure of a stroll to the shops and restaurants.

As much as we’d like to–for our waistlines, our wallets, and the environment–most of us aren’t ready to get out of our cars yet. We’re not ready for the lifestyle change. Developers need to quit pretending that their money-making projects will do the trick.

I believe in walking. I’m lucky enough to be able to work at home, to walk to the office of one of my clients, to walk to the gym, and to the new Farm Fresh Ranch Market. I don’t know what’s up with that market though…it looks like they never finished the floor. It’s orange, uneven and blotchy and makes the whole place look tacky.

I believe in public transportation too. Sadly, walking is infinitely more reliable than public transportation (in my experience).

Every once in a while, I will take the bus–the 260 southbound. It runs along Fair Oaks Avenue. It is a quick and easy way to travel the 3 miles from home to Pasadena’s Old Town (and I don’t have to park when I get there!). The route starts in Altadena, just north of where I catch the bus, so the southbound bus is usually on time.

But when I’m ready to leave Old Town, waiting for the northbound bus can eat up the better part of a day. Typically, the bus is 30-40 minutes behind schedule, and sometimes it just never shows up. Sometimes, after a long wait, two buses will arrive at the same time.

After 30 minutes of waiting, I start walking. It’s a game that I call “Walk as fast as you can to the next bus stop and see if you can make it there before the bus shows up.” I take off at a fast clip for the next bus stop (usually 2-3 blocks away). I look back once in a while to see if the bus is coming. If I get to the next stop, I stand there for a few minutes, searching the street for the bus bearing those words in orange that I long to see: Line 260 Fair Oaks Loma Alta.

If I don’t see the bus, I keep going. Once, I made it halfway home. I got to a bus stop and could see the bus was coming. Yippee! There was another guy standing at the stop with me. Turns out the driver recognized the guy as a problem passenger, so the driver didn’t stop. Fortunately, one of Pasadena’s ARTS buses came by, so we both hopped on that.

Despite the difficulties I’ve encountered, I won’t stop riding the bus. But I’m a believer. I believe we need to get out of our cars and get ourselves around some other way.

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4 Responses to “I’m Walkin’ Here”

  1. Aaron Proctor Says:

    I work literally a half a block up from the new Farm Fresh market.

    I like their pizza.

    I don’t own a car and I take the bus. It has tons of problems. That’s the only thing Mayor Bogaard and I agreed on during the campaign. There’s definitely a lot more ways the ARTS bus system can be better.

    Kudos to you for taking public transit, though. Wish more people did.

  2. James Macpherson Says:

    Love your comments, you hit on key issues facing New Urbanism. Sometimes seems as if it were invented by transplanted East Coast urbanites…
    Wondering if I might arrange to reprint this posting as an Opinion piece in Pasadena Now, daily online magazine at http://www.PasadenaNow.com.
    We’ve been online for 2.5 years, garner about 45,000 unique readers monthly, often serving 15-20,000 webpages in a day.
    Please consider– would give you byline credit and link to blog…
    Best regards,
    James Macpherson
    Publisher

  3. Chief Says:

    Being born and raised in Pasadena I have to admit I sometimes prefer the days when Earnie Jr’s was the only restaurant in Old Town. At 7pm when it closed the sidewalks were rolled up and it was a ghost town. It was hard to get used to paying for parking! The high density challenges our infrastructure and increases our pollution…not to mention blocks our view from Pasadena to the Mountains and Pasadena City Hall. Now as a resident of Beautiful Altadena I agree that we need to make our home a more pedestrian friendly environment! I wish that little Arts Bus came further North!

  4. Friday Briefs (Pasadena) | The Foothill Cities Blog Says:

    […] Affordable Housing Bunny Alert: Granted, it’s only one part of three issues, she deals with, but the AHB does pop it’s head up over at West Coast Grrlie Blather. Swing by for her thoughts on housing, development, and what a pain public transportation can be. She’s not entirely pleased with the 260, but she should try riding the 187…to Claremont. That’ll wipe out your day. — WCGB […]

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