Council delays vote on museum

Wednesday September 01, 1999

By Andrew Bridges
Staff Writer

PASADENA -- The City Council delayed voting Monday night on changes to the design of a new Kidspace Museum, choosing instead to hear from an overflow crowd of both supporters and opponents of the 30,000-square foot project proposed for a slice of Brookside Park.

The council was slated to consider a 9,353-square-foot addition to the proposed nonprofit museum's basement that would have allowed a reduction of the size of the above-ground portion of the building. But council members delayed that vote, hearing instead from dozens of residents concerned about the $15 million project.

The panel also delayed adopting a revised mitigated negative declaration for the project, which essentially would have certified that any negative impacts to the environment caused by the museum had been, or would be, dealt with.

That issue could become a thorny one for the council when it next takes up discussion of the museum sometime next month.

Jonathan Curtis, an attorney for nonprofit watchdog group the Arroyo Seco Foundation, delivered an 18-page letter to the panel before Monday's meeting, demanding the city prepare an in-depth environmental-impact report for the project, a process that can be both lengthy and expensive.

The letter takes to task the mitigation measures the museum proposes, saying they violate the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

"This 'Alice in Wonderland' type of mitigation is not permitted under CEQA," Curtis' letter reads in part.

Although city and museum officials signed a $1 per year, 50-year lease for the 3.34 acres of Brookside Park more than a year ago, complaints about the project have grown more widespread in recent months. Neighbors of the proposed museum, which would replace a much smaller operation at 390 S. El Molino Ave., have passed out fliers urging residents to oppose what it called a "Getty-like building."

Among the claims made on one flier is that the museum is seeking a liquor license a charge museum officials vehemently deny. Indeed, Angela Parris, the museum's director of operations, said the protests have caught them off guard.

However, she said, the debate calls into question the whole issue of use of the Arroyo Seco, already home to the Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl Aquatics Center and Brookside Golf Course.

"I think Kidspace was the last straw and an easy target," Parris said.

The museum plans to open by 2001, in a complex that mixes new construction and a renovated Fannie E. Morrison Horticultural Center, which has been vacant for nearly 20 years and has suffered fire damage.