Outgoing Mayor Bob Joe | State of the City: South Pasadena

Addressing a year full of many pivotal moments

FILE PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Bob Joe, Mayor of South Pasadena 2019-2020

In a year that has been anything but ordinary, the City has remained focused on delivering the services our community depends on and deserves. By remaining focused on our goals, the City is making great strides toward adapting and moving forward during extraordinarily difficult times. South Pasadena has been nothing but resilient during this challenging year. This unprecedented year has proven that we are strong and capable of overcoming obstacles to deliver services with care and professionalism despite the challenges that face us all.

Thank you to everyone who participates, volunteers, represents, and works hard for our community because that is how, together, we accomplish as much as we do. Indeed, the key to our collective success is our partnerships, working together to meet our community’s needs, which has never been more critically important than it is now. I am so fortunate to have had this opportunity to be the Mayor of South Pasadena this past year. To be sure, it has been a year of transitions. We’ve experienced much social activism, a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and a notable leadership change at city hall. Again, despite all that has occurred, we continued to endeavor to make a difference every single day, for the betterment of the quality of life of all members of our community.

This year began on a high note from the very first day, a South Pasadena Princess in the Tournament of Roses, to our very own Laura Farber who served as President for the Tournament of Roses, and a successful Read Across America Month. In March the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and impacted our community. I am proud of how adaptable, flexible, and innovative our Staff and Community has been during this time. The City took an immediate response to this pandemic and completed necessary measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone in our City.

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We ensured the City followed all County orders, and did our part in mitigating the COVID-19 virus. We made all our crosswalks touch free to allow our community to continue to safely use crosswalks while minimizing the risks of spreading COVID-19. Our Fire Division Chief reached out to all the grocery store’s management to ensure all safety precautions are in place to protect their workers and shoppers. A few weeks into the pandemic the South Pasadena Senior Commissioners made Social Reassurance Calls, and the seniors who did not answer their phones or returned messages were visited by staff with the assistance of the police department to ensure that they were doing well and safe. The City, in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce, has successfully installed concrete barricades and launched the Al Fresco Dining and Retail Pilot program so that our businesses can expand their operations outdoors to provide patrons with a safe dining and shopping experience during the pandemic. The City also partnered with SPARC to beautify the k rails with art.

Even during the pandemic, the South Pasadena Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Program for Education, (HOPE) Team engaged in outreach day and night while out on patrol to assist the homeless and educate them about COVID-19, the importance on social distancing as well as providing available resources, including emergency shelters in the area.

Our Public Works and Community Services Department diligently worked together to plan, mobilize, and coordinate the cleaning of playground equipment so that our parks could open safely, and we are pleased to say that all of our parks are now open and operational.

The City received a donation of 2000 masks by The Roye Xu Foundation and another 2000 masks for the South Pasadena Care Center who was hit hard by the pandemic. Our Fire Chief delivered all the masks to the Care Center while the other 2000 masks were delivered through our meal program.

The Fire Department have been critical throughout this whole year, from fighting fires up North, assisting with the Lake Fire in Santa Clarita, the El Dorado fire in Yucaipa and working with business to ensure proper COVID 19 measures are taken. They have been nothing but admirable during these difficult times. The Fire Department alongside with the Police Department even received a commendation from LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Our Community Services Department faced many difficulties but has continued to provide exceptional services to our residents. They’ve provided our community with events and traditions allowing for a safe return to normalcy. We held a modified Eggtravaganza this year, and our Festival of Balloons became the Festival of Art through collaborations with Commissioners and the Community. We saw success and positive responses in our Virtual End of Summer Talent show and most recently our Halloween Treats Drive-by. Our Recreation Department has also continued to offer enrichments classes to the community.

The Community Service Department has not only been a life line for fun but an imperative resource for many of our seniors during this pandemic. Our Dial-a ride program has provided continual support to our seniors, with Grab n’Go and delivery meal service providing over 350 meals a week.

The South Pasadena Public Library proved to be nothing but adaptable beginning with offering Library Takeout, a no-contact materials check-out and pick-up service while the library remains closed. Our library also launched its first ever all virtual Summer Reading Program with great success, with over a 1,000 registered readers a total of 7,742 hours read!

Our Teen volunteers provided 1,090 hours of service, writing reviews, creating projects, writing letters to seniors, and chalking SRP messages on sidewalks around town. Our Librarians even resumed Story times and Author nights virtually. We had to redesign our programing because of COVID-19 from the ground up in a relatively short period of time, and what was accomplished is incredible.

The City’s Planning and Building department adapted by creating a Virtual Counter.  Staff worked through many obstacles to once again provide one-on-one customer service through a virtual counter.

The City made great strides in housing and community development this year. We were awarded a $160,00  SB 2 Planning Grant for an electronic permit system. The electronic permit system will streamline the planning process and approval of developments consistent with the State’s housing goals. The City is also working on its first density bonus project for senior housing with 13 affordable units. We were also awarded $40,000 by the State Office of Historic Preservation to revise existing Accessory Dwelling Units Ordinance to integrate historic preservation planning guidelines. We understand the importance of history in our future developments.

Despite the inability to hold and host public meetings, we held our Housing Element Workshops virtually. The City understands the community’s concerns regarding the significantly higher RHNA allocations and the impacts such development will have on the existing infrastructure and historic character of the City. The RHNA Appeal Ad Hoc Committee has been working with staff, the City’s appeal will focus on challenging the state’s housing targets; the effective boundaries of the High Quality Transit Areas that were used in the SCAG allocation methodology; the City’s infrastructure and school capacities to accommodate 2,000 housing units; and preserving the City’s historic resources.

With an appreciation for preserving historic resources and our small tow character, and balancing the needs for more affordable housing and health economic development, Planning Commission approved three mixed use projects this year, including 182 housing units, 86 of which are senior housing and 13 are affordable. Planning Commission continues to prioritize affordable housing, quality design, and right-sized/right location development.

Sustainability has always been an important part of life in South Pasadena. In an effort to promote environmentally sustainable transportation, the City has installed 196 bicycle parking spaces at various locations along the business districts, parks and schools. After multiple years of public outreach, the City, in coordination with Active SGV, was able to select the locations that best reflect the community’s interests and the current commuting patterns.

The City achieved the highest level of the San Gabriel Valley Energy Champion Awards – Gold! The SGV Energy Champion Awards recognizes the cities’ efforts for increasing energy efficiency in municipal facilities and communities. We achieved Gold by attending energy efficiency training, benchmarking all municipal facilities, providing education of energy efficiency, and reducing there usage by at least 10% from March 2018 to March 2020.

The City hosted a Compost and Mulch Giveaway Day at the South Pasadena School District parking lot, Athens Services donated certified organic compost and West Coast Arborist donated mulch. The contactless event was a great success and many residents were joyful that the event was back.

The Public Works Department Started construction for the Alpha Avenue and Camino Del Sol Street Improvement Project. This project will provide the replacement of aging water infrastructure and repaving of dilapidated roads to better serve our hillside community. The City has also made major project development on the Monterey Road Rogan Funds to improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle congestion along Fair Oaks Avenue in and Orange Grove Traffic Signal. As the construction progresses, the intersection is only few months away from being fully operational to provide a safe and efficient travel for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

This year we saw a call to action from our community, so the City has acted on this call by forming a subcommittee to work with the Public Safety Commission to examine policing in South Pasadena. A task force, comprised of South Pasadena Police Department leadership, has also been created to work with our Public Safety Commission. Together, they will review the use of force policies, establish the need for police reform, and focus on the eight policy reforms urged by Campaign Zero.

Additionally, City Council voted to approve Resolution 7673  Affirming the City’s Commitment to Diversity and to Safeguarding the Civil Rights, Safety and Dignity of all our Residents. Council unanimously approved the resolution. The City of South Pasadena reaffirms the public policy of the City to be inclusive and to respect the inherent worth of every person, without regard to a person’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, immigration status, disability, housing status, economic status, political affiliation, or cultural practices.  Acts of discrimination and crimes motivated by hatred toward a person’s affiliation with any protected classification, their viewpoint or its expression have no place in our community and will not be tolerated by the City.

It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted operations in more ways than the day-to-day operations of City departments.  The City’s finances have also suffered negative consequences, most noticeably, with a decrease in Sales Tax revenues.  The City responded to these challenges by implementing a hiring freeze, and reducing expenditures.  In the near future, the City will be taking further action to respond to the decrease in city revenue, while preserving the services that our residents and businesses have come to expect.  At this time, it is particularly important to remember to shop locally, and help our South Pasadena businesses as much as you can.   

It is important to mention that staff is currently working with the Finance Commission and the newly formed Finance Ad Hoc Committee to update City financial policies and procedures.   These procedures apply to every function the Finance Department performs on behalf of the city, and will help ensure that future financial documents are prepared and presented in a timely manner.  The timely preparation of important financial documents greatly enhances transparency and public trust.  On that note, work has begun on the FY 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).  The CAFR is a complete set of financial statements that summarizes the City’s financial position for the fiscal year.  The report is prepared annually by city staff and audited by an independent auditing firm.  The FY 2019 CAFR, and prior years CAFR’s are available on the City’s website.

Every year South Pasadena mayors give a state of the city address this year’s report shows that in spite of everything the city is progressing. We saw that out of frustration comes progress. We recently held ribbon cuttings for two new business and a reconfigured bank just opened with several new establishments to immediate success.  Not only that three residents associated with the LA Dodgers are presenting a 2020 World Series book signed by Joe Davis the Dodger TV announcer.

As Mayor, I am proud of the strength and patience of South Pas as we move forward in new directions. I would to personally thank our Interim City Manager Sean Joyce, and Interim Assistant City Manager Elaine Aguilar for assisting South Pasadena into moving into new directions. Thank you to Staff who has done the impossible during these tough times and shows how creative and innovative this City can be. And I thank the community for making South Pasadena a wonderful City.