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City Holds Public Sessions on Street Improvements

Residents presented concerns and ideas while city officials listened and helped consultants to gather preliminary feedback last week on how to use $16 million in grants to make improvements on Fremont Avenue, Fair Oaks Avenue and Huntington Drive in South Pasadena.
Two larger sessions, on Sept. 25 and Sept. 28, were conducted by the city’s Public Works Department, which is coordinating the project. The sessions, attended by more than 100 people over the week, featured nine consultants who work for Toole Design, which was hired to work on early design and to help the city prioritize potential improvements.
Toole Design has worked on projects around the country including in South Bend, Indiana; Winter Park, Florida; and Sulfur Springs, Texas.
Two smaller sessions, called “open studios” were held separately and interested groups and individuals were also invited to meet with the consultants.
The consultants — after making onsite visits along the three streets — prepared a preliminary map with suggestions for improvements along the three major arteries carrying traffic through the city.
Public Works Director Ted Gerber said that he thought that the sessions had been positive and constructive. His feelings were echoed by many people who attended the sessions.
“I attended the ‘starter ideas’ session [on Sept. 25],” said resident Janna Philpot. “I went with an open mind and low expectations, and was pleasantly surprised at the ideas that this talented group of consultants had to offer.”
Brandon Fox, with the Families on Fremont group which has pressed for several years for improvements on that street, said after the first session that he “was impressed with the consultants.”
The consultants will return later this month with more proposed ideas and then will help Public Works officials prioritize which projects might fit in its first three-year plan, which would probably run through 2026 and would be funded by the $16 million grants.
Gerber said other projects might grow from feedback that are developed during this initial planning stage.
The consultants, in their presentations Sept. 28, drew several conclusions, including the fact that many parts of the three streets are not safe for pedestrians, business, or bicycles. They also focused on driver behavior, including speed problems on Fremont.
One consultant said that a common concern is the difficulty to cross the street, and to get to know neighbors. In some cases, conditions on the streets produced a lower quality of life. They mentioned the need to make the streets more accessible for children, people using bicycles and the disabled.
Commuters use three streets to drive through town, but they are not stopping, the consultants said.
“We’ve got to reward shorter trips to make the city more attractive,” one consultant said, “and the residents are paying a high price for the traffic on these three streets.”
“What we’ve got to do is provide a vision of what the city ought to be like,” another consultant said.
The key, the consultants agreed, was shorter and fewer trips. The more traffic that flows, the more traffic will overflow onto other streets in an attempt to find shortcuts.
“Reward shorter trips,” was how one consultant phrased the concept.
Some of the concerns and suggestions mentioned by the consultants were:


  • greater access across streets so neighbors could have a greater sense of community
  • slower speeds, including possibility of a roundabout like intersection at one or more places
  • fewer large trucks (“The key is people, not trucks,” said one consultant).
  • walkability: wider sidewalks in some locations
  • raised walkways at some intersections, including Mission and Fremont
  • poor sightlines
  • better lighting
  • bike lanes
  • congestion at schools — formalize pick up and drop off points

    Fair Oaks:
  • better lighting
  • bike lanes
  • synchronize traffic lights
  • more trees, perhaps in islands or medians
  • a more practical way to turn into Bristol Farms
  • better bus shelters
  • encourage people to use existing transit systems

  • better use of signage at the south entrance to Fair Oaks and also at the north end of Fair Oaks before entering Pasadena
  • possibility of adding bike lanes and bike buffer lanes
  • frontage lanes, which would separate through lanes from residences and businesses
    Gerber told the Review before the meeting that the city would try to provide more of a people-friendly atmosphere on Mission and on Fair Oaks where people could stop and shop or eat.
    The consultants and city staff will be meeting Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. with the city’s Mobility Transportation and Infrastructure Commission at City Hall and on Zoom.
    A third open session is scheduled in the community room of the library on Oct. 17 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and there will be a public session on Oct. 19 from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
    Gerber said that his department is eager to receive additional comments and concerns by email at or by phone at (626) 403-3370.

    First published in the October 6 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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