Thursday, June 27, 2002

Master plan for arroyo blasted

PASADENA -- Nature lovers, equestrians and anxious neighbors lambasted the city's plan for the Arroyo Seco at a Recreation and Parks Commission meeting this week.

Most of the 50-plus people who attended the meeting Tuesday night at Victory Park were highly critical of the Arroyo Seco Master Plan.

The multimillion-dollar plan calls for new sports fields, bike trails and several new parking areas in the city's largest open space.

"I was just appalled by what I saw," said Altadena resident Dierdre West, who blasted the portion of the plan covering Hahamongna Watershed Park in the Upper Arroyo. "It's like Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island with parking lots."

The Arroyo Seco is a sometimes-dry river canyon that stretches from the San Gabriel Mountains to the Los Angeles River. It's one of Pasadena's most important recreational areas and home to many plant and animal species.

The master plan, released in May with an environmental impact report, plots the future of 1,000 acres of the arroyo. The document was created over several years with widespread public input.

But only a couple of speakers voiced support for it at the joint meeting of the commission and the Hahamongna Watershed Park Advisory Committee.

Most visitors complained the city's vision for the arroyo is too focused on recreation and not enough on conservation.

"You should stop fiddling with nature," said Loren Lutz of the Southern Council of Conservation Clubs. "We just don't want any changes to (the arroyo). It should be treated as a treasure, an emerald glittering in the sun."

The plan covers three areas: Hahamongna or Upper Arroyo, the Central Arroyo and the Lower Arroyo.

The heaviest development is proposed for Hahamongna, where more than 75 projects are called for. They include two new soccer fields and a new, 1,200-space parking structure.

The Hahamongna portion of the Master Plan and the plans for the Lower Arroyo drew the most criticism.

Some residents were irritated that the Master Plan includes a proposed bike path in the Lower Arroyo Seco. Some residents and equestrians have long fought the proposal, saying it would be dangerous and that bikes have no place in what is mostly a natural area.

"This commission approved an alternative (plan) with no bike path" last year, Pasadena resident Richard Davis told the Recreation and Parks Commission. "This alternative must be included in order to maintain your good faith and stewardship."

Commission Chairman Michael Hurley said the group did indeed vote its opposition to a bike path, although in a different way than Davis suggested. But the City Council requested that a path be considered. "Staff felt it had to honor the council's request," Hurley said.

Hurley said there is, in fact, a "no-bike-path" alternative in the EIR. "It's my understanding that the no-project alternative is meant to cover the no-bike-path alternative."

Some speakers said their input into the exhaustive deliberations over the plan was largely ignored.

"(The plan) is unresponsive to the expressed desires of the citizens of this city," said David Czamanske, of the Pasadena-area Sierra Club. He said elements of the plan were "completely new to the public.

"I've got to lay this responsibility at the highest level of city government the city manager and the director of Public Works," he said.

Visitors begged the commission for more time to study the Master Plan. The document comes in five volumes, not including the EIR, but people have only until July 31 until the city closes the public comment period.

Afterward, the EIR will be re-released with answers to the public's comments and questions, and then the Master Plan and EIR will go to the commission for consideration, probably in October. After the commission makes a recommendation on whether to approve the plan, it will go to the council for possible adoption.

-- Elizabeth Lee can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461, or by e-mail at

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