Plans for WCG property draw residents' ire at public hearing

This article is reprinted by permission from the Pasadena Star-News of Jan. 12. It originally ran under the headline "Huge Development Draws Residents' Ire at Public Hearing." Read more about the plans to develop the Worldwide Church of God headquarters property, which includes the former Ambassador College campus, at

By Elizabeth Lee

PASADENA, Calif.--A 1,900-unit housing development that neighbors say will increase west Pasadena's population by 40 percent drew harsh criticism at a public hearing this week as the developer's long-running effort to gain city approval heads into the home stretch.

Legacy Partners plans to develop 49 acres, including the former Ambassador College campus, with more than 1,900 apartments, condominiums and houses. It would be the largest residential development to be built in Pasadena in decades.

The developer has spent nearly two years trying to shore up support by meeting with residents, earning high marks from some for keeping the community informed.

But, now that the project's draft environmental-impact report (EIR) has been released, the honeymoon may be over.

Too many people

About 200 residents braved the cold and rain to pack a planning-commission meeting Wednesday, many of them telling the commission the Ambassador project EIR was inadequate.

They said the project would funnel too many cars and people into west Pasadena.

"It's clear that this project is simply too big," said former assistant city manager Judy Wilson, a resident of west Pasadena.

"Change the scope of this project," she told the commission. "Do not let a developer's avarice trump the public's right to health and mobility."

A Legacy spokesman said later, however, that traffic flow would actually improve under the proposals.

"The reality is these mitigation measures do work," said Vice President Bill Shubin of Legacy.

"Our engineers go out and count cars. They know exactly what these roads are designed to handle, what they're currently handling and what the projections are."

Knee jerks

The city is soliciting public comment on the EIR through noon Jan. 26.

"I think a lot of comments probably were knee-jerk reactions, [made] without really studying the EIR," Mr. Shubin said.

He noted that the West Pasadena Residents' Association, which represents more than 4,400 households in southwest Pasadena, generally supports the project.

But, while the residents' association supports the plan in concept, it has several concerns about traffic and other issues, the association wrote in a letter to the city. A representative earlier told the planning commission that one of the proposed plans to reduce traffic impacts is so objectionable it would be a "deal-breaker."

Vice President Vince Farhat of the association said that, if the city approved "Plan B," a traffic-mitigation measure that includes extending Bellefontaine Street from Fair Oaks Avenue to Raymond Avenue, neighbors would fight the project, possibly in court.

Developing specter

A Legacy representative told the Transportation Advisory Commission on Thursday that the developer prefers the traffic option that would not extend Bellefontaine Street and plans to submit a letter to the city saying so.

Mr. Farhat invoked the specter of the planned Forest City development on South Lake Avenue, which prompted a lawsuit from neighbors in 1998.

"We don't want to see that happen" with the Ambassador project, he told the commission.

Neighbors are afraid Plan B would put more traffic onto Pasadena and St. John avenues. Extending Bellefontaine would also require bulldozing the Bellefontaine Nursery, a longtime family-owned business.

Imminent opposition

"This is an insult to my family," said nursery manager Alan Uchida.

"I was raised on this property, and this has been my home and work for over 30 years.

"We oppose eminent domain and have no intention of selling our soil for a road."

Carolyn Naber, president of the West Pasadena Residents' Association, said about 4,400 households reside in the association's area, bounded by Colorado Boulevard, Fair Oaks Avenue and the southern and western city boundaries.

The planning commission planned another hearing on the project for Jan. 24. The city council will likely consider the project in April.

Meanwhile, Legacy will hold a traffic workshop for the public this Tuesday, detailing additional traffic-mitigation plans that weren't included in the EIR, a state-mandated report that examines all the environmental impacts of a development.

For more information call Legacy at (949) 261-2100.

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