A new chapter has begun in South Pasadena, and new Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian looks forward to being a part of it.
“This is a very important time in South Pasadena history,” said Khubesrian, who gave her inaugural address during last Wednesday’s City Council meeting, focusing on her vision and goals in 2019.
The new chapter begins with the defeat of the 710 Freeway. At long last, after more than six decades, it is dead.
“For as long as any of us can remember, the 710 battle was the top priority for our city and community,” said the mayor. “The fight defined us. It consumed an unimaginable amount of time, energy and resources. Of course it was all worthwhile. The 710 extension would have destroyed everything we love about South Pasadena.
Khubesrian thanked the generations of activists who fought the battle. “Thank you to the members of the current City Council and staff who helped forge the right consensus among regional elected officials and decision-makers,” she said. “It’s hard to believe, but the future we envisioned is here.”
She then told audience members it was important to celebrate the achievement of a battle won, encouraging everyone to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment before exclaiming: “We did it!”
Moments later she said it was important to look at what’s next. “No longer do we have to define ourselves as being against something,” she said. “Now we get to stand for something. When I think about many of those activists who fought the 710, what comes to mind are some very creative people – artists, architects, musicians, designers, and many more who are unified by their love of South Pasadena. We need to unleash that creativity in new projects as we move the city forward. I want to help harness that spirit of activism for new initiatives in a new age – to create a renaissance for South Pasadena.”
One of the key components of that renaissance, pointed out Khubesrian, is the business community. “I’ve heard from many residents and business owners who love our city as it is, but see value in creating a more robust business district,” she explained. “One of my priorities for the coming year will be strategic economic development. The goal will be aimed at supporting businesses we have, while attracting new, dynamic businesses to our city. I believe we can preserve what we love about South Pasadena — and add to it.
Khubesrian wants to establish South Pasadena as a desirable and unique destination for shopping, eating and entertainment.
“I’d like to see more variety in our businesses,” she said. “I’d like to see more night life and all the energy and excitement that comes with it. I want to see more of our residents keep their tax dollars here in South Pas. The less we have to drive out of town to do our shopping, the more it benefits our businesses, local jobs, and tax revenue for the City that can be reinvested. And it reduces our collective impact on the environment. We will be engaging the community on these issues in the coming year as we create an economic development plan to move the city forward. Just as the arts helped lift Europe out of the Middle Ages, I believe that art will be a key part of our City’s renaissance.”
Art, insisted the mayor, gives a city life, vibrancy, culture, identity, and a sense of place. “It is also a powerful economic development tool,” she said. “The city has taken exciting steps in recent months, with our SPARC partnership, the City Hall art gallery, and the establishment of development fees for public art projects throughout the city.”
South Pasadena now has a Public Arts Commission for the first time in city history. “This year I want to build on that,” she said. “You will see more recognition and promotion of music and visual arts this year as we celebrate and champion local artists.”
Khubesrian says the renaissance will need all voices at the table. “A centerpiece of my goals this year is to encourage more diversity in the City,” she said. “We will have a stronger community when more women, more people of color, and more of our younger residents participate in local government. I’m thrilled with the amazing response we have had to our vacant commission appointments. We will soon be seeing much more diversity on our city commissions.”
But that’s only the start of her vision for the city she will oversee as mayor. “I want to bring a special focus on women’s leadership this year,” she noted. “I believe the city can do more to encourage women to pursue and attain positions of leadership.”
South Pasadena will be hosting a women’s leadership conference in 2019 that will focus on mentoring, training opportunities, career development, and other areas. “We will be recognizing the achievements of South Pasadena women of all ages and stages of their professional lives,” she explained. “We will be promoting educational scholarships for young women seeking careers in leadership.”
Honored will be South Pasadena women throughout history, “so that they will be role models for all of us,” said Khubesrian.
Improving streets, sidewalks and the city’s water system will continue to be a priority for the new mayor.
“A few months ago, as we were celebrating the groundbreaking of a new city reservoir, my council colleagues brought up a great point about investments in city infrastructure,” she said. “For decades, the city made no investments in our water systems. Our water facilities were old, aging, and in one case, shut down after a roof collapsed. The failure to invest in infrastructure – a crisis that we are seeing on a national level – shifts an enormous burden on to the next generation. As we all know, these investments always get more expensive as time goes on.”
She’s thankful the city has invested millions into the water system, street repairs and, we’ve been making the necessary investments to bring our water systems up to date and “bike-friendly upgrades that will improve the quality of life in our community,” she said. “We now have the opportunity to partner with our neighboring cities to improve our regional transportation infrastructure. Now that the 710 is not being funded, we will be getting millions of dollars for local projects.”
One of the more important includes a hook ramp at the 110 Freeway corridor on Fair Oaks Boulevard to ease traffic congestion, joining other regional solutions “that will make a huge difference in terms of traffic flow and mobility,” said Khubesrian. “I will also be asking staff to take a closer look at some of our less critical, but important city resources, such as the Arroyo Park golf course facility.”
Another of her goals is to see the Arroyo Seco Golf Course facility become a desirable destination for food, entertainment and recreation.
“This year we’ll be looking at some short and long-term projects to make that happen,” she said.
“Emergency operations will be another top priority for Khubesran during her year as mayor. “We’ve recently completed the renovation of the emergency operations center and introduced the City’s first emergency public information plan.”
There’s more on her plate, which is already full. “We need to continue to engage our community so that everyone understands their role in a disaster, and can get the critical information they need to help their families and neighbors,” said Khubesrian.
Another key value of the mayor is transparency. “The days of closed-door deals and secret promises in city government will never return,” she said. “However, complying with state open meetings laws and ethics rules are just the minimum. The city must do all it can to be as transparent as possible – over and above the legal baseline.”
Audio recordings of city commission meetings will now be available to the public. “It’s something we’ve never done before,” remarked Khubesrian. “As the year progresses, we will be examining our policies and procedures to find ways to make the city even more transparent and accessible to the public.”
The mayor then expressed her thoughts on the pressing issue of climate change, noting: “There is no greater cause than the crisis now facing our planet, she said. “All other progress will mean nothing if the planet becomes uninhabitable because of the continued use of fossil fuels. Tragically this issue is being ignored — and even made worse — by the policies of our current presidential administration. But we can be leaders here at home. Everything we do at the city can – and will – be viewed through the lens of sustainability and climate change. The solutions are within our grasp – if we act boldly, and we act now.”
South Pasadena has joined the Clean Power Alliance, which will soon begin delivering 100 percent green, sustainable energy to the city.
“It will start in February for residents and in May for businesses,” said Khubesrian. “You’ll be hearing much more about Clean Power Alliance throughout the coming year. But I want to emphasize tonight what an important step this is for our city to fight climate change on a local level. For the first time ever, we will be able to purchase energy that has been generated entirely from sustainable, non-fossil-fuel sources.
The mayor explained that South Pasadena has opted for 100% renewable energy, and is now one of eight cities in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties to make the effort. “It’s like having a solar panel on every roof in the city, generating 100 percent clean power!” exclaimed Khubesrian. “This is a major and important step. But we need to examine all potential solutions on a worldwide level. I am asking our City staff and Council to engage regularly with regional, state and national elected officials on issues of sustainability, so that we can lend our voice and support to global solutions on climate change.”
She’s also asking the community to join in this effort.
Khubesrian, in closing her remarks, stressed how honored she was to be city’s newest mayor for the coming year. “We have lots to do,” she said. “But I believe we have the will and the resources to make it happen. We have a great city staff. We have a council that works well together and respects each other. We have amazing civic, community and non-profit organizations helping to move the city forward. We have incredible residents who are willing to step up and help make their community a better place. Our record number of commission applications is just one example.”
The incoming mayor was joined by her mother, Rima, husband Mark, children Sophie and Max, sister Nune and niece Emily.
She thanked her colleagues on the City Council for their support in selecting her as the city’s newest may and recognized elected official and representatives in attendance including state Assembly member Chris Holden, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and from State Senator Anthony Portantino’s office, Evette Kim. Khubesrian was sworn into office by Barger.
The mayor also acknowledge some of the groups she is passionate about and will be supporting throughout the year: WISPPA – Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action, the South Pasadena Arts Council and SALEF, the Salvadoran American Leadership and Educational Fund.
In closing, Khubesrian declared that the South Pasadena Renaissance has begun.
“I am so honored to serve as mayor of this amazing city during an important time in our history,” said Khubesrian. “I call on everyone in our city and region to do their part — whatever you can and however you are able – to contribute to that success. Thank you for your support.”