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Mayor Lays Out City Successes at Annual Address

During his State of the City address on Tuesday, South Pasadena Mayor Jon Primuth highlighted city accomplishments, goals still underway and how strategic planning will help local government become more efficient and transparent.
Primuth, speaking for about 40 minutes before City Council and attendees at the Senior Center, gave an overview of what has been done over the past year.
He showcased better coordination taking place across diverse departments such as the city manager’s office, public works, the library, parks and recreation, police and fire departments and city finances.
The mayor highlighted new, permanent hires in the finance department and a five-year financial analysis being done on city coffers, future income and financial processes.
“Our long-term goal is to make sure we have a solid, well-rounded and skilled team,” said Primuth, praising upgrades in budgeting software and more timely and accurate financial reporting. “A key part of our mission statement is building a financially sustainable future — that’s what we want to create in South Pasadena. We want to make sure we are cautious and making all the right moves.”
The mayor also pointed out some of the challenges that he and the Council had tackled or continued to work on during his tenure, which will soon end, with Mayor Pro Tem Evelyn Zneimer becoming mayor next year.
In part of his annual overview, Primuth noted that the city of South Pasadena is a community made up of about 52% renters, which is important for housing development as well as the tenant protection measure that was passed.
The city needs to protect its “diverse socioeconomic community,” he added, saying that the tenant protection program took a “balanced approach.”
“This city has done a lot,” Primuth concluded. “The values we have tried to strive for are transparency, collaboration and respect. Let’s all continue to work together.”
The city’s community development department was one of the busiest this year due to trying to meet the state housing mandates and provide robust plans for making sure people can build and develop affordable housing in the city, he said.
Under the General Plan and Downtown Specific plan, “these are documents that implement our commitment to affordable housing — aspirational documents that call for higher levels of development. Five- and six-story buildings — those could be coming. Now we want to make sure it’s balanced, and we want to make sure it fits, but the state has a lot of requirements.
“It would be nice to have a more populous, urban village feel, where people can be out on the street with a lot of wonderful retail activity and lots of things happening. We don’t want to be car centric.”
The city is looking to find ways to organically grow housing density without losing its village, hamlet-style feel, the mayor said.
Primuth began his presentation wearing his longtime apron, which harkens back to his early days as a volunteer in the high school band snack bar. In fact, he helped serve meals to attendees at the Senior Center prior to the start of the session. He switched back into his suit jacket for his presentation.
The Senior Center has been a point of emphasis for the mayor, and he said that he wanted to enlist “ambassadors” who would help draw out older people who may have become isolated from the community.
“We need to be a lot more pro-active with our homebound. We have got to reach out to people who feel isolated,” he said. “We don’t want to be that community that ignores preventable suffering.”
The city manager’s office was praised for what Primuth labeled a “business concierge” strategy for attracting economic development; an improved city website; and attracting new and better candidates for city jobs.
“The city manager’s office really upped its game this year,” Primuth said.
Software updates made project management easier, and the clerk’s office streamlined the portal for public records. Parks and Recreation made it easier to reserve space, the mayor noted.
The importance of surveys and community meetings and the response to them was visible, Primuth said, in the development of new plans for both immediate and long-term transportation goals.
One example of public input was a series of hearings to discuss ideas for improvements in streets around the city.
“We have made a strong effort to aggressively handle our immediate needs,” Primuth said. “We made a strategic plan not to fall behind on fixing sidewalks and curbs, which had been in a significant decline for years.
“Our main corridors can’t just be pass-throughs,” the mayor emphasized, encouraging the development of streets for pedestrians. “We’ve got lots of great ideas [and] it’s exciting to see how these corridors might be connected to the community.”
In an aside, Primuth noted that in the future, the city may need a bond issue to further tackle the city’s transportation needs.
In his closing remarks, the mayor recalled how the Council had recognized its troubled past when it was known as a “sundown town” for its policies against minorities, and he urged the city to continue to recognize diversity.
“Let’s all work together to recognize the value of diversity,” he said. “We’ve got to keep the pressure on and keep moving forward.”

First published in the December 8 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.

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