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.”
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.