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  • Pasadena Seeks to Balance Growth & Preservation: 1970-Present

    With growth and new development came concern for preserving the unique quality of life in Pasadena. Neighborhood and preservation groups joined forces in 1981 to defeat a proposal to build two high-rise towers in downtown Pasadena. That same year, the Pasadena Redevelopment Agency was disbanded. A citizen initiative to restrict growth was passed in 1989. It was later repealed by voters in 1992, in conjunction with revising the General Plan to respond to growth management issues.

    Old Town PasadenaAn awakened respect for the city's architectural treasures led to the renovation of historic homes and buildings throughout the city. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Old Pasadena, where the city's business district first started. Revitalization of this area occurred throughout the eighties, and culminated at the end of 1992 with the completion of the One Colorado historic block. Transformed into a restaurant and entertainment center, Old Pasadena has become a major attraction in Southern California.

    In the eighties, population growth accompanied development. Between 1980 and 1990, the population of Pasadena increased by 11%, becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. The largest increase was in the Hispanic population, which grew to 27.3% of the total city population by 1990. A charter amendment, approved by voters in 1980, changed Pasadena's election system from citywide runoffs to district only elections. This paved the way for the election of minority candidates and a greater emphasis on neighborhood concerns. In 1993, the name for Pasadena's elected representatives was officially changed from Board of Directors, a term associated with corporations, to City Council, a term prevalent in most city governments. A mayor was selected on a rotating basis from the senior City Councilmembers. The City Manager, however, was responsible for the day-to-day operation of the City. And in 1998, Cynthia Kurtz become Pasadena's first female City Manager. The same year voters decided it was time to elect a Mayor who could represent Pasadena on a city-wide basis. A former city Councilmember, Bill Bogaard was elected in 1999.

    In 1994, the Northridge earthquake, the most severe quake in a series to hit Southern California, left Pasadena relatively unscathed. The finial atop City Hall's dome was knocked askew and several residential chimneys were damaged. The world's leader in seismic research, the California Institute of Technology was consulted frequently during this time by the media.

    Between 1970 and 2005, Caltech's faculty and alumni garnered 14 of the Institute's 31 Nobel prizes. The most recent award went to Robert H. Grubbs in 2005 in chemistry, along with Yves Chauvin (Institut Français du Pétrole) and Richard R. Schrock (MIT), for their work in the development of the metathesis method in organic synthesis. Perhaps best known for its research in physics, the Institute's faculty and alumni have also received Nobel Prizes in the fields of Physiology or Medicine, Economics and Peace.

    RoverCaltech's satellite laboratory, The Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), was responsible for several of NASA's successes in the 1980s and 1990s including deep space navigation and communication, digital image processing, intelligent automated systems, and microelectronics. Despite recent set backs in the loss of the Mars probe Orbiter and the Mars Polar Lander, it is the memory of the Mars Pathfinder Mission that still remains fresh in the minds of many. In July of 1997, the world was able to watch as Rover, a robot on four wheels with a camera and extendable arms, moved over the surface of the red planet. The robot took photographs, collected rock and soil samples and transmitted scientific data back to the earth. Rover lasted considerably longer than it was originally designed before it fell silent in September 1997.

    Colorado Street BridgeAs Pasadena looks toward the future it seeks to
    balance growth with community needs, historic character, a diverse economic base, and a safe, healthy family community. The Colorado Street Bridge, designed in 1913 as a "work of art" and renovated in the early 90's to conform with seismic safety standards, symbolizes the commitment of Pasadena to integrate its rich cultural heritage with the challenges of the new millennium. 


    The Pasadena Public Library has an extensive collection of materials about Pasadena in the Pasadena Centennial Room at Central Library.


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