Pasadena Star News

Officials back museum lease

Foundation sues over use of parkland

November 23, 2000

By Janette Williams
Staff Writer

PASADENA -- Kidspace Museum officials and City Attorney Michele Bagneris said Wednesday they are confident the new $15 million Kidspace Museum will be built in Brookside Park despite Tuesday's legal challenge by the Arroyo Seco Foundation.

The city's right to lease Arroyo Seco parkland to Kidspace for $1 a year for 50 years granted without objection by the City Council in 1997 has been the subject of a year-long dispute.

Opponents of the proposed 30,000-square-foot Kidspace project, led by the foundation, claim the city is violating its own law by leasing the 3.4-acre parcel of parkland without putting it to the voters in a special election.

But Bagneris said the city's position that it is legally entitled to lease the site to Kidspace has not wavered.

"I do believe that the city had the right to enter into the lease," Bagneris said.

Procedural issues raised by foundation members, who claim in the lawsuit that they filed a timely appeal against the city's decision to grant a Conditional Use Permit to Kidspace in October, don't hold up, Bagneris said.

"They attempted to file after the (10-day) deadline. The code is pretty clear on that," Bagneris said. "And although I can't say it has never happened before, I haven't been asked to waive a deadline. And I don't believe the City Council had the authority to."

Edward Garlock, president of the Kidspace board of directors, said he had not heard about the lawsuit when contacted Wednesday. He later issued a written statement and said Kidspace officials would have no further comment.

"We understand that the Arroyo Seco Foundation has filed suit against the city of Pasadena on issues related to Kidspace Museum's use of the abandoned Fannie Morrison Horticultural Center in Brookside Park," Garlock wrote. "However, we have not had an opportunity to review the legal filing. We remain confident in the city attorney's finding that our lease with the city is valid, as well as the recent ruling by the city zoning hearing officer granting a Conditional Use Permit for Kidspace Children's Museum to occupy the former Fannie Morrison site. The Board of Directors of Kidspace and the thousands of Pasadena residents who support a new home for the museum look forward to this project moving ahead as quickly as possible."

Mark Frankel, an Arroyo Seco Foundation board member, said his group had been left with no alternative to the lawsuit.

"We have been trying from the very beginning to work with the city and let them realize this is not the correct, legal use of parkland," Frankel said.

After an appeal of Kidspace's CUP was denied and the council refused to reopen the matter, the foundation was forced to sue, he said.

"We don't want to go to court and spend all that money we could use for our mission," Frankel said. "But in a way this is a use of money for our mission. The organization is interested in protecting the open spaces we have left."

Councilman Paul Little said all the legal opinions the City Council has heard uphold the legality of Kidspace's lease.

"Beyond that, I think it's a good use for the area and buildings, especially if you wander down there and take a look at the condition the buildings are in," Little said. "The choice seems to be moving forward with Kidspace or knocking down the buildings because they're unsafe. And this is the only project proposed for the area that had some funding support."