Potential Development Under the Edison Lines, including Self-Storage
(last updated July 14, 2007)

Edison has been directed by California's Public Utilities Commission to make a better return on the land that Edison owns under its power lines.  Edison told them that was difficult under the long standing rules that no permanent structures could be built and the longest allowed lease of five years.  So the PUC changed the rules to allow for long term leases and permanent structures that meet a number of safety restrictions.

As part of this goal, Edison set out several years ago to change the way the land under its lines running through Pasadena is used.  RHC Communities took an option to develop the land under the wires in Pasadena and has been working on plans that include development of self-storage facilities by Pacific Storage Partners.

Edison and RHC Communities has found that self-storage is an industry which can fit within the under-power-line restrictions and make significantly more money then nurseries.   The claim is that self-storage has a low traffic impact (less then residential, retail, or commercial), high security, and makes minimal noise.   But they were aware that self-storage comes with controversy, and adjacent residences accustomed to a nursery neighbor would be especially upset.   As a result, some accommodations and compensations were proposed in development applications submitted in 2005-2006.

In the face of stiff public opposition, as of late November 2006 RHC Communities retracted its pending application to reconsider its proposals.  It is expected that they will have new proposals sometime in the fall of 2007. Persson's Nursery and Present Perfect Nursery were given 6 month extensions by Edison, allowing them to stay until the end of June and August 2007, respectively.  However, at the June deadline approached, Edison indicated it would not provide any further extension.  In the face of much public lobbying, the Mayor reportedly stepped into negotiations between Perssons and RHC Communities and/or Edison.  According to a Pasadena Star News article from June 29, 2007 under a tentative deal Perssons would be offered a 20 year lease, Vina Vieja Park would be "augmented", there would be a bike path somewhere, and access would be provided to the skating rinks and a YMCA.  No mention was made of Present Perfect nursery.

The following reflects the main elements of the last official (2006) proposal -

Between Foothill and Orange Grove Blvds

Early on, the land south of Orange Grove and north of the PCC parking lot was identified as not very good for self-storage development.  PCC said it wanted more parking.  And the city was expressing interest in eventually using some of it for parkland.  Then the Ice Rink project came up.  While an ice rink cannot be built under the wires, the city owns the parcel next to the wires and felt there was enough land there if only it wasn't already planned for use by Eaton Wash Park and the dog park.  So the self-storage developer gave up its development rights adjacent to Orange Grove, the park was redesigned to use that land, Edison terminated the lease of Norman's nursery and then leased a portion of it to the City for use as part of what is now Viña Vieja Park.  This left the southern portion of city land that was originally going to be part of the park available for the city's proposed Ice Rink project.  As part of this deal, the Edison land adjacent to what is to be the Ice Rink was expected to be available for lease for additional parking by the City or PCC.  This portion remains vacant, and it appears the ice rink progress may be stalled awaiting the outcome of the storage project proposals although none of the involved parties is saying this.  At this time, the self-storage developer retains development rights to the ice rink adjacent land.  (A north-eastern strip south and east of the park may be permanently vacant as a "safety zone" to which public access is not supposed to be allowed because the wires are too low.  This is why the south east corner of the park does not extend to Avocado Avenue and the pedestrian entrance is so circuitous.)

North of Sierra Madre Blvd
Between Orange Grove and Sierra Madre Blvds
South of Colorado Blvd
Possible Tied-in Inducements to Approval
A major hurdle to the self-storage plans is that in 2002 the City of Pasadena changed the commercial zoning code to eliminate the ability to build self-storage facilities by right.  They did not ban the building of self-storage, but it now has to be approved on a case by case basis.  The zoning for the land is currently Open Space. The self-storage developer is asking the city to rezone the land as a Planned Development and asking for approval for their self-storage plans on it.   With a planned development, the city and developer have the ability to negotiate what is to be done relatively free of the standard zoning rules.  The City Council will have to make the decision of what to allow.

There was an informational item (952K) about the initial version of this project on the July 18, 2005 City Council Agenda.  It generally describes the self-storage building plan as it was at that time.

Pacific Storage Partners submitted two applications for  zoning and general plan amendments somewhere between December 2005 and June 2006.  One application is for the area north of Sierra Madre Blvd., the other for the area south of Colorado.  These are separate applications and presumably could independently be approved or denied by the City Council.  How these are severed or joined with the inducements involving other pieces of land or cash is unclear.

City planning staff was reportedly working over several months in late summer and early fall 2006 on a new informational report (a pre-plan review) describing the projects.  This report was expected to be delivered to the City Council in October.  But the advent of strong public opposition caused the developer to reconsider the project proposals.

What is Next

It is expected that the developer will submit revised proposals by the fall of 2007.  With less storage and more park space.  Presumably the city planning staff will work on a new informational report to the City Council for that, and then there should be neighborhood meetings to take comments.  After that, the Planning Commission will evaluate the project(s) and make a recommendation to the City Council.  Then the City Council will receive all the information and make a decision.  If the Council approves an application, the Design Commission will review the design.

Opposition Groups

In the fall of 2006, oppone
nts of the plans organized to fight the self-storage plans.
The residential neighbors south of Colorado Blvd. said they didn't learn about the project next to them until late August.
They started an opposition campaign named Pasadena Open Space Preservation and invited participation from everyone who agrees.  They coordinated with neighborhood associations, the nurseries, community groups.
They held regular meetings Thursday evenings at 7 pm in the meeting room of Ability First located on the corner of Kinneloa Ave. and Del Mar Blvd.  In January 2007 they decided to take a break and planned to start meeting again after the municipal elections on March 6.  That didn't happen.  Expect activity to rev up again once a new development proposal is submitted.

An opposition petition was circulated.

Demonstrations were held Saturday November 18, 2006 between the Farmer's Market held at Victory Park and Perssons Nursery and on December 16 at Del Mar and Kinneloa.  The goal was to show strength and raise awareness of the situation.  These were covered in the Pasadena Star News.

The Pasadena Neighborhood Coalition has also taken a position in opposition to these projects.  They are lobbying state agencies and politicians to forestall development of remaining open Edison land and support an open space/trails/nature corridor from Eaton Canyon to Whittier.

A new organization, Pasadena Open Space Now has been formed to advocate for preserving all the open spaces in Pasadena.  As they note, "open space" is not the same as a "park".  As part of their effort they have lobbied for a new Open Space element to the city's general plan.  The City Council has allocated some resources to work on that.