plans draw fire
Attorneys claim museum, city
Saturday September 04, 1999
By Janette Williams
PASADENA---Plans for a new Kidspace
Museum in Brookside Park started out with the support of
everyone from Pasadena Heritage to the Arroyo Seco Foundation.
But now attorneys for the foundation
have raised the possibility of taking legal action to stop the
new museum, saying the city violated its own rules by leasing
3.4 acres of park land to Kidspace without putting it to the
voters in a special election.
No one objected two years ago when the
city leased Kidspace the site for 50 years at $1 a year with an
agreement to restore the three historic buildings of the Fannie
E. Morrison Horticultural Center and incorporate them into the
new museum. Brookside, in the central Arroyo Seco, is already
home to the Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl Aquatics Center and Brookside
But since Kidspace unveiled the
avant-garde designs for its $15 million, 30,000-square-foot
project two months ago, opponents have charged museum officials
with violating their agreement with the city by proposing an
oversized complex completely different from the original concept
and unsuitable for the site.
"The lease may not be valid. The
voters were not asked," said Dianne Philibosian, president
of the Arroyo Seco Foundation. "We'll have to wait and see
the response from the city, but I'd like to see them reject the
mitigated negative declaration and the revised initial study and
require a full Environmental Impact Report at a minimum.
"I also have concerns about
possible City Charter and Arroyo Seco ordinance (violations) and
I don't know where that will take us. It could ultimately render
the lease null and void."
City Attorney Michele Bagneris said she
was "still going through things" brought up in an
18-page letter to the council, and could not comment on the
legal basis for the complaints.
Mayor Bill Bogaard said the council
plans to schedule a special public hearing the week of Sept. 20
to address questions raised about whether the lease constitutes
a transfer of park land.
"Some people now believe the
location is inappropriate," Bogaard said, adding that the
new building struck him as being "extremely large and
difficult to see as being compatible with the setting, the scale
and architecture of the rest of the buildings."
Councilman Paul Little said the issue
has generated a lot of mail for and against the project.
Still, Little said, he was surprised by
the level of opposition from neighbors.
"But then again I saw the handout
people were getting under their doors, and that was almost
inflammatory 350,000 people that were going to be swarming in,
and (Kidspace) was going to be selling alcohol," Little
said, referring to a flier put out by neighborhood opponents.
Carol Scott, executive director of
Kidspace, said there was never any intention of applying for a
liquor license. According to the lease, the nonprofit museum can
rent out the facilities up to 20 times a year to offset the
$900,000 annual running costs and groups could apply to serve
alcohol at their events, she said.
"I think what (Kidspace) has
proposed is something that will further enhance Pasadena's
reputation as a community that cares about kids," Little
said. "In and of itself, the design of the building is
extraordinary. They've got something amazing, all other issues
aside. Plunk that building down anywhere, and it would demand
the accolades the design's been getting" from architecture
But, Little said, Kidspace and
architect Michael Maltzan had missed an opportunity Monday to
give the whole community a presentation explaining exactly how
the museum was going to work.
Kidspace officials have been taken
aback by the level and spirit of the opposition, according to
executive director Carol Scott.
Focus groups met about a dozen times at
Kidspace for interested community members, said Angela Parris,
director of operations. The final proposals incorporated what
the Pasadena community asked for in the museum, including a
theater, she said.
"And I cannot emphasize enough the
thought and planning going on for outside the exhibit
area," Parris said. "If opponents, particularly the
ones so worried about the arroyo, could see the things we hope
to offer the children of Pasadena, I cannot see any of them
opposing it. We are enhancing the area."
Thomas Seifert, a longtime member of
the city's Recreation and Parks Commission, said everyone
originally "embraced" the proposals for bringing
Kidspace -- now in a 6,000 square-foot space on South El Molino
Avenue -- to Brookside.
"What happened is this project got
ahead of the process, and our concern is that it has grown
beyond the letter and spirit of the lease," Seifert said
Wednesday, adding that the commission has asked the council to
insist that Kidspace strictly adhere to the letter and language
of their lease.
"The foot grew to a size 14, and
we're trying to put it back into a size seven shoe,"
Seifert said. "It's gone beyond the scope envisioned. It
doesn't belong on public land. It belongs somewhere in the city,
and we truly want them to stay in Pasadena, but what they
envision for their needs and operations no longer fits Brookside