City Hall: Future Hotel Site? | RFP Considers Developing Several Key Properties

Up to eight city-owned properties may see a re-purposing including a possible bit for a hotel in the downtown area of South Pasadena

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | South Pasadena City Hall

South Pasadena City Hall, the Fire and Police Departments and two city-owned parking lots may have development potential as future hotels, the city said in a recent request for proposals (RFP). South Pasadena Unified School District’s (SPUSD) headquarters could also be in the mix. The city’s March 10 RFP asks bidders to submit proposals for the development of a “Hospitality Feasibility Study” that it could send to prospective developers interested in signing a public-private partnership with the city.

The RFP identifies eight city-owned downtown lots with a total of 2.29 acres where the buildings and parking lots are located.

“At this time, there is not a specific vision for the city hall site,” City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe told the South Pasadenan News in an email. “The reason we are looking at hotel options is as a way to generate occupancy taxes to provide tax revenue as well as a hotel in town.”

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The RFP contemplates awarding a contract and holding a kick-off meeting in April with the study completed in August. But DeWolfe said the recent and sudden disruption in the economy due to COVID-19 may affect plans. “Due to the unfortunate timing, it’s unclear if the city will proceed with the study at this current time.”

The RFP says the study should analyze the current and projected market demand for the number, type and duration of hotel stays in the city. It should examine the amenities needed to provide a “successful and unique alternative to the current hotel stock” in the area and study the economic feasibility and “pro forma potential” of the properties.

DeWolfe noted that a hotel was one of the preferred revenue-generating alternatives respondents cited when the city conducted a survey and community engagement process in connection with last year’s budget process.

Just under 50 percent of the 353 survey respondents “strongly supported” a hotel, though the question did not mention a location. A similar level of support was found for “more productive use” of the city’s parking lots.

But the future of City Hall and other city buildings is not specifically mentioned in the city’s draft Downtown Specific Plan(DSP) or General Plan(GP), other than to note their existence, recommend a charge for parking at them, and referring to City Hall as among the “most important buildings [along the town’s] historic main street,” although the 55-year-old building is not itself on the City’s list of historic landmarks.

Woodie Tescher, principal at Placeworks, which has a $129,000 contract to complete the DSP/GPs developed by an previous contractor, said that while the Plans are not site-specific the DSP does, in the “residential” portion of a table on page 96 in Section 4.3 on land use standards, mention “lodging, hotel, motel and B&B” as a permitted land use for Mission Street. In addition, on page 55 in the GP’s chapter on “Our Prosperous Community,” there is a bullet point under Action Number 2.8 which calls for providing “community‐desired goods and service[s] not available elsewhere in the Downtown area such as a hotel.”

The RFP also identifies SPUSD’s 1.9-acre parcel between El Centro and Mission, though it says use of that property would require a land swap to relocate the District’s headquarters to another site.

Bids were due Feb. 28 on an RFP the District issued last November seeking proposals to exchange that parcel for another site within the city, part of a long-contemplated plan to find a higher and better use for the District’s enormous Mission Street parking lot and upgrade its aging headquarters.

No report on the status of the RFP was provided during the District’s March 10 regular meeting, though School Board President Michele Kipke did say the “ongoing RFP” came up during her monthly ad hoc meeting with city officials. But she did not elaborate.

City Spokesperson Rachel McGuire said the city’s RFP is separate from the one the District issued. “The City included the School District’s site to develop a comprehensive understanding of the hospitality opportunities in the City.”

Respondents to the City’s RFP were also told to consider private properties near the Arroyo Seco Recreational Area to capitalize on the amenities within that 47.4 city-owned property, which includes the Nature Park, driving range, golf course and tennis courts.


Ben Tansey
Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.


  1. I see the argument for relocating the school district headquarters, which just contains offices. But moving City Hall would require the city to relocate the police and fire departments, which would require building an OSHA-compliant fire station and finding neighbors who would be happy to have emergency operations and frequent sirens in their neighborhood. It’s just silly to think this is worth the time and energy. At least if we tear down our City Hall we’ll be tearing down a pretty new courtyard, I guess. On to the next tax increase!

  2. What a STUPID idea. Time to replace city council over the next several election cycles. Really tired of theses “innovative” ideas. Remember the “street diet” concept for Monterey Road and the “lovely” bulb-outs that continue to confound drivers. Every time a new bureaucrat (or manager) is hired they have to act like they have some new brilliant idea. I may gear up to run for council.

  3. Whose bright idea was is to authorize $100,000 for City Hall Courtyard beautification whilst also entertaining proposals to tear it down?

    This is hilarious!

    I can’t wait to hear the argument the cops up with this time as to why we need to keep the Utility User Tax going.

  4. So the city will pay Placeworks to come up with a plan based on 353 respondents, with “almost half” saying they might like to see a hotel (though no location was mentioned)? This is NOT government by the people.
    For our City Manager and other city personnel who are so keen to bring in developers and additional retail, you might want to take a deep breath. NO monies should be used for such a feasibility study when the nation is in an economic free fall. We’ll be lucky if half the small businesses on Mission survive. This is madness!

  5. And another thing: Isn’t there a proposal to spend (i.e. waste) $100,000 to “beautify” the City Hall Courtyard? Leaving the foolishness of this proposal aside, why would you pay for an RFP to recommended uses for a property that you’re about to pour $100,000 into? Someone, please explain this to me.

  6. Did the City Council even know about this? It’s time for the City Council to step up and take back control of the City by lowering the amount the City Manager can spend without approval. And by the way, I don’t really trust anyone who says, “at this current time,” when they mean “now.”