Outgoing Mayor Diana Mahmud | State of the City: South Pasadena

PHOTO: Frank Hegyi | South Pasadenan.com News | State of the City address presented by Mayor Diana Mahmud

Launching into a summary of some of what has taken place over the past year, South Pasadena Mayor Diana Mahmud in her State of the City address Tuesday night told a gathering of about 100 inside the War Memorial Building that the “year has flown by” before talking about the top story still dominating the news.

“Here we are déjà vu,” she said, delivering her message at part of the South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce annual holiday mixer. “Here we go, notwithstanding the fact we have the vaccine and [coronavirus] cases are surging again,” she said, urging everyone to continue wearing masks.

Earlier in the day, Mahmud had heard that COVID cases in Utah and Ohio were triple what they are in Southern California. The University of Utah and Ohio State are playing in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day, which will bring thousands of out-of-state fans to the Pasadena area.

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The virus surge could come as winter approaches, health officials warn, not only from the recently identified Omicron variant but the Delta strain, which they say continues to pose a threat from all parts of the country.

The Los Angeles Times reported Thursday that some cities in California are seeing a “fresh rebound” in cases of the coronavirus, signaling an increase after the Thanksgiving holiday, causing worries of a fifth surge in the state. There are warning signs, according to the Times article, yet it’s still unclear whether California will experience a significant spike during the winter months.

After sharing COVID concerns, Mahmud, who will be handing off her mayoral role as part of the South Pasadena City Council reorganizational meeting on December 15, then gave a brief update on some city departments and talked about a series of accomplishments made SCW for Huntington Drive Regional Green Street project.

Mayor Pro Tem, Michael Cacciotti, who has held a seat on the council for 20 years, is expected to become the next mayor. The selection comes through a vote of the council.

Among those on hand for Tuesday’s event were State Senator Anthony Portantino, a representative from Assembly Member Chris Holden’s office, Cacciotti and other local council members – Jon Primuth, Evelyn Zneimer and Jack Donovan – and South Pasadena City Manager Arminé Chaparyan, who was joined by members of the city’s executive team.

Topics beyond COVID addressed during Mahmud’s 40 minute included Senate Bill 381, the hiring of a new city manager, and updates on the police department, the fire department, public works department, sustainability, storm water projects & advocacy, community development, the finance department, the library and Clean Power Alliance.

“I want to say a huge thank you to all of you who have supported the city in our many endeavors, (to those) who have responded to our surveys,” said Mahmud. “We have surveyed you a lot this year, relatively speaking. There will be more surveys coming so we look forward to your goodwill.”

She also paid tribute to the City of South Pasadena’s staff, saying: “They keep the lights on, they keep the services going, they respond to the calls, they really keep our city running.”

In closing, she thanked Chamber of Commerce President Laurie Wheeler for what she does for the city and for hosting the holiday mixer.

The main portion of her presentation was a PowerPoint of the Key issues addressed over the past year, including:


  • February – Repurposed $420K from ArroyoFest for pandemic recovery
  • Modified work areas for employee/public safety – installed plexi-glass & air filters
  • March – Approved $50K for Chamber of Commerce & Nexusplex – business marketing to attract visitors to the city
  • April – Adopted “hero pay ordinance – $3/hr, 60 days
  • May – City Hall reopened
  • June – Council/Commissions resume in-person meetings
  • Sponsored several local COVID vaccine distributions
  • Throughout the year, posted updated County Department of Public Health orders on the city website, through social media, and extended emergency orders until September
PHOTO: Frank Hegyi | South Pasadenan.com News | State of the City address presented by Mayor Diana Mahmud

SB 381 (Portantino) Becomes Law

  • SB 381, introduced by Senator Anthony Portantino, proposes changes to the existing surplus disposition process and provides a path for South Pasadena to sell homes along the path of the 710 Freeway Caltrans path.
  • All existing tenants have priority to purchase homes before Housing Related Entities (HRE).
  • City given priority before other HREs to acquire properties.
  • Properties available for HRE acquisition at Caltrans’ acquisition price.
  • City has ability to purchase unoccupied historic. properties at acquisition price, resell at fair market value.
  • Must use proceeds of FMV sale for development of affordable housing on 3:1 basis.
  • Purchases of affordable housing carries a 55 year covenant.
  • Much work, outreach, discussion and decisions remain ahead.
  • Caltrans likely to file implementing regulations spring 2022.

City Manager

Interim City Manager Sean Joyce

September 2020 – May 2021

  • City hired a diversity, equitability, and inclusion consultant
  • Joyce worked with the Finance Department to reduce backlog of necessary work.
  • Passed two fiscal year budgets and Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
  • Hired SPPD Police Chief, Brain Solinsky
  • Helped to stabilize city

Arminé Chaparyan, City Manager

May 2021 – Present

  • Met with all community groups and organizations
  • Created new Management Services Department to oversee human resource, IT, and City Clerk.
  • Hired new Community Development Department Director – new human resource manager and city clerk start next week
  • On-boarded 61 full and part time staff
  • Created Community Survey for 2021 Strategic Plan – 385 people responded.
  • Hired consultants to review Public Works, City Clerk, and Police planned.

Police Department

  • South Pasadena Police Chief Brian Solinsky was hired.
  • Investigated citizen complaints, issued comprehensive report.
  • Revised Public Safety Commission Ordinance per its request.
  • Invested in new computer-aided design (CAD) and record management, more granular reporting.
  • Getting ready for Mobile Crisis Unit Pilot Project, of which South Pasadena will be part of.
  • Restructured to hire Management Analyst

Fire Department

  • Responded to 11 major brush fires throughout the State, including Lightning Complex & El Dorado Fires.
  • Received “Gold Standard Award” from LA Co. Emergency Medical Services Agency.
  • Brought on Delta the Dog to assist with detecting accelerants and finding the cause/origin of fires – grant funded.
PHOTO: Frank Hegyi | South Pasadenan.com News | State of the City address presented by Mayor Diana Mahmud

Public Works


  • Completed Graves Reservoir (San Marino), can store 1.2 million gallons.
  • Started Westside Reservoir engineering study
  • Comprehensive long range water, wastewater study almost completed.
  • 2020 Urban Water Management Plan finalized

Streets and sidewalks


  • Held several leaf blower outreach events for residents and their gardeners
  • Approved organic waste reduction ordinance, effective 1/1/2022.
  • Climate Action Plan implantation: working with SCE to implement Charge Ready Program – EV charger installation.
  • City continued to offer rebates for outdoor water conservation.

Storm Water Projects & Advocacy

  • Received $4.8 million, Safe Clean Water Program, for Arroyo Seco San Pascual Wetlands project – Pasadena lead. Prop 68.
  • Received $300K feasibility study funding from Safe Clean Water (SCW) for Huntington Drive Regional Green Street project.
  • Preparing request for feasibility study funding for Camino Verde storm water retention project.
  • Rio Hondo Load reduction strategy project design underway
  • Testified at Senate Natural Resources & Water Committee in support of SB 426 (Rubio), Financial Capability Guidelines.

Community Development

  • Council authorized hiring of six permanent staff to assist with a backlog in projects.

Housing Element

  • 2,067 units assigned after unsuccessful appeal, 55% extremely low & low income.
  • Draft Housing Element prepared, to be resubmitted to Human Development Center (HCD) early next year.

Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.

  • Inclusionary housing ordinance adopted (20%), option for in-lieu fee.

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU)

  • Revised existing Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) ordinance to facilitate construction of ADUs (2 story ADUs, no minimum lot size).
  • Approved ADU ordinance for historic properties, and design guidelines.
  • Established Virtual Planning Desk to assist residents.
PHOTO: Frank Hegyi | South Pasadenan.com News | State of the City address presented by Mayor Diana Mahmud

Finance Department

  • Adopted balanced $32 million general fund budget despite challenges this year.
  • Hired staff to bring payroll back in house
  • Approved 2019-20 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), 2020-2021 in preparation
  • Provided direction on use of $4.3M Cell Tower Revenue, followed Finance, Commission recommendation.
  • Staff presentation on permissible uses of American Recovery Program funds – consideration next year.

South Pasadena Library

  • Launched mobile app
  • No more overdue fines
  • Reopened, and returned to in person programs (Storytime, Thursdays Outreach, Arts Crawl, and One City One Story events). Library still closed on Sundays due to staffing challenges.
  • Staffing challenges due to COVID.

Clean Power Alliance

  • The Clean Power Alliance is designed to improve the lives of all people by empowering communities through clean, reliable, and competitively-priced energy.
  • Added 560 MW renewable energy, 71616 different projects
  • One geothermal, five new solar + storage, one storage
  • Serve more customers with renewable energy than any other LSE in country.
  • Per my request, Senator Portantino authored SB 612, would give CCAs access to resource adequacy facilities.
  • Mahmud started fourth and final as chair – 30 cities, two counties