The Bogaard Report
On the eve of his eighth State of the City Address, Mayor Bill Bogaard contemplates Pasadena’s future, his second bid at re-election and the legacy he hopes to leave
Tilting a story about Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard's upcoming State of the City Address into “The Bogaard Report” in reference to Comedy Central's popular pseudo-punditry show “The Colbert Report” may seem like kind of a stretch.
Oh, he's occasionally funny, in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way. But there's generally nothing silly or sophomoric about the way Bogaard handles city affairs. Nor is there anything fabricated in the mayor's very-real world of meetings, projects and other important city business.
But, perhaps just as important as all of that may be, one thing actually does bind Bogaard and Colbert like nothing else: control.
Just as Colbert has become the undisputed master of his own fictional universe, Bogaard, for plenty of good reasons, could rightly believe at this point in his political career that he could remain mayor for as long as he likes.
Think about it: The last time Bogaard faced any real competition for the job was when the position of an elected mayor was created by voters in 1999. At that time, battle-hardened political veterans like sitting City Councilman Chris Holden and then-Council members Ann-Marie Villicana and Bill Paparian squared off in a 10-candidate free-for-all that Bogaard eventually won after a runoff with Holden.
In 2003, the ever-unflappable Bogaard eased into a second term by handily defeating under-funded affordable housing advocate Philip Koebel, taking nearly 85 percent of the 11,585 votes cast.
Koebel filed nomination papers to make another run at mayor in the upcoming March 6 election, but was disqualified by city officials for not gathering the number of signatures required to appear on the ballot. On Friday, he filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that city and county officials incorrectly dismissed several signatures and also violated state law by requiring too many signatures to appear on the ballot (see Upfront, page 8.)
Barring a court decision in Koebel's favor, Bogaard's only competition this time around is Aaron Proctor — a 25-year-old political newcomer whose “Goth”-styled appearance couldn't be further from the characteristically staid image of Bogaard, whom Proctor once described on his campaign Web site as being “170 years old.”
An avid bicyclist who is amazingly fit for a man of 68, Bogaard laughed heartily at Proctor's assessment of his age, largely because, if anything, the father of four and grandfather of six looks and acts like a man 20 years his junior.
“I would say, in response to his allegation that I am 170 years old, that I am running for re-election on the basis of my experience,” quipped Bogaard, who is well-known for projecting a generally cheerful and amiable demeanor, even under the most stressful circumstances.
Though his experience may not actually amount to 17 decades' worth, Bogaard has as much seasoning as any contemporary local politician could hope to draw from.
A native of Sioux City, Iowa, Bogaard and his three siblings grew up in a busy and at times somewhat public environment, as his mother ran a beauty salon out of one corner of the house and his father worked as a bread salesman.
From there he went on to graduate from Loyola Marymount University and then served as an Air Force captain in such faraway places as Casablanca. After leaving the military, Bogaard attended the University of Michigan Law School, becoming a specialist in corporate mergers and acquisitions and later executive vice president and general counsel of the First Interstate Bancorp, where he worked closely on the merger of First Interstate with Wells Fargo in 1996. He has also taught law at Michigan and USC.
On Wednesday, Bogaard will deliver his eighth State of the City Address — this year at the Hamilton Elementary School Auditorium, an apropos setting for the event's future-focused theme of “For Generations to Come.”
While Bogaard says he has no intentions of taking over local schools, much as his counterpart LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is trying to do in that city, the increasing involvement of city government in Pasadena Unified School District affairs will be a major point of discussion in the months ahead.
Along with recent City Council decisions putting Pasadena at the forefront of the environmental preservation movement (again, see page 8), he will once again discuss city affordable housing policy. Due as much to public pressure as economic forces, the bulk of city efforts to counteract skyrocketing rents and real estate prices, including restrictions on developers, have developed entirely during Bogaard's tenure as mayor.
The housing question
Since Bogaard was first elected mayor in 1999 — a title he once held in a more ceremonial way more than 20 years ago as a member of the then-Pasadena Board of City Directors — both Pasadena and the activities of its government have evolved in significant ways.
Perhaps most felt by longtime residents, the city has experienced rapid growth, especially in terms of residential development. From 2000 to 2005, Pasadena marked a net increase of 2,294 completed housing units, according to City Planner Bill Trimble.
In the first nine months of last year, 843 more units opened around the city, largely due to the completion of such large projects including housing built around the Del Mar light rail station, the Trio apartments in the city's Playhouse District and student dwellings on the Fuller Seminary campus, said Trimble.
Likewise, population has increased. While US Census Bureau statistics traced only a 1.8 percent increase of Pasadena residents between 1990 and 2000, estimates by the state Department of Finance place the city's 2005 population at 146,166 — an increase of more than 9 percent since 2000.
With housing also growing ever more expensive and in demand at the eve of the new millennium, so much so that living in Pasadena was becoming out of reach for some who had lived there for decades, in 2001 Bogaard and the City Council adopted the city's Inclusionary Housing Ordinance.
Under that law, developers must set aside 15 percent of the housing they build for rent or for sale at below-market rates or pay penalties, which have only increased over time, into a city affordable housing development fund.
In 2002, the council convened and Bogaard chaired the Housing Affordability Task Force, which recommended ways to more effectively use the ordinance to create affordable housing.
In the third quarter of last year, 22 percent of the 304 housing units completed in the city were designated as affordable housing. As of Sept. 30, permits existed for 1,074 yet to be completed housing units, 10.2 percent of those affordable, according to city planning documents.
To many of those who champion the affordable housing cause — notably longtime activists Marvin Schachter and Michelle White, who wrote as much in the Housing Affordability Task Force's Minority Report in June of 2003 — having 15 of every 100 new homes in Pasadena sell or rent below market rates is not enough to preserve the city's cultural fabric.
Like those who came before him, Proctor believes Pasadena's affordable housing programs, while admirable, will never fill the city's need. He believes city officials should put caps on what landlords can charge for rent, market forces be damned.
“I think the city made a small effort, but not anything major to put it out there. You don't want to have all this ridiculous expensive housing that people can't afford. Why not focus on the poor people, unless it's a veiled attempt to get rid of them,” said Proctor.
“I know rent control is a scary word to a lot of people of the well-to-do or wealthy nature. However, I know it can be implemented here in Pasadena and it can work,” he said. “High rent is more than simple economics and supply and demand, and it has worked in cities like Santa Monica without destroying the beautiful image of the city.”
According to 2000 Census figures, 54.2 percent of city residents were renters, and 14.9 percent of households lived below the poverty line.
Despite fees developers can pay in lieu of creating affordable housing, Bogaard, who does not support rent control, said he believes the ordinance will live up to at least what it promised, though he acknowledges that — with some 4,000 people on waiting lists, as the Weekly recently learned — the need for affordable housing is even greater than what is being created.
“I expect that when this decade is over, we will look back at the new residential units constructed and find that 15 percent of them are affordable,” he said, adding that he believes public-private partnerships with nonprofit developers will create even more affordable housing. “I think Pasadena is capable of achieving that, but that effort is still far short of the need of the community. I want to find ways to further strengthen our commitment to affordable housing.”
As for how, there aren't any specifics at this point, but much of Bogaard's plan involves backing the activities of nonprofit developers, as was the case with a $3.9 million loan to Heritage Housing Partners, of which Bogaard's wife, Claire, serves as an officer, to construct 32 affordable homes near the Fair Oaks Renaissance Plaza. Because of their relationship, Bogaard recused himself from the 2003 discussion and vote on the loan.
To preserve and protect
As Bogaard looks to the future, he must also look at the past. While acknowledging the demand for more affordable housing, the council has sided with many residents seeking to preserve the historic character of the city.
Under Bogaard, whose wife also co-founded the preservationist group Pasadena Heritage, the City Council has awarded landmark status protections to many individual structures and 10 entire neighborhoods.
Extending that neighborhood-protection impulse, City Council members recently focused their attention on a large group of East Pasadena residents who banned together to try to keep a strip club from opening on East Foothill Boulevard. Favoring residents and citing quality of life concerns, council members unanimously adopted a new ordinance restricting sexually oriented business in Pasadena, and were immediately sued by business owners who feel unfairly run out of town.
Bogaard also sided with preservationists and many of Pasadena's wealthiest residents by arguing against plans to bring professional football into the financially struggling but still world-famous Rose Bowl. That put him back at odds with Holden, who took the issue all the way to the ballot box with November's Measure A.
Many felt the Bogaard-Holden battle would serve as a preview to this year's mayor's race. Instead, it turned out to be the dullest of prize fights, as Measure A was trounced at the polls and Holden licked his wounds instead of announcing a candidacy.
But no Holden, no matter. There is still much more to discuss, says the dark horse Proctor, a former wrestling promoter who, in addition to rent control, supports bringing an end to just about all public parking-related fees and special city restrictions.
Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Proctor usually wears eye makeup and a leather jacket decorated with 22 buttons, most of them celebrating new wave musical performers such as Adam Ant and Depeche Mode.
The Pasadena City College alumnus has never been to Casablanca, and may share more common experience with former Minnesota Gov. and onetime pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura than with Bogaard.
Like Ventura, Proctor has also worked in the smoky arenas of sports entertainment, mostly playing a bad-guy manager — really, the mouthpiece for performers who couldn't talk well enough to rile up the crowd after withstanding steel-chair shots and pile drivers from men with names like Brawlin' Bo Cooper.
Now he wants to speak for Pasadenans, particularly renters, who've had enough of business as usual.
“If you live in Pasadena, you shouldn't have to pay for parking,” said Proctor during a recent telephone interview. “So many people live in apartment buildings. Some of them have to park in the streets. Why should they be penalized for that?
“I know it's a way for the city to generate money, but it's not like the city doesn't have enough money,” he said.
Finding the issues
Bogaard says he doesn't mind a little healthy competition, and at the start of the campaign told this newspaper he was pleased to see so many young people, including Proctor and a few others who are running for council seats, getting involved in city affairs.
“I look forward to getting acquainted with Mr. Proctor and believe he will have good ideas to discuss and perhaps pursue,” said Bogaard. “He would like to see the expansion of our local [ARTS bus] transportation system, and I certainly do not disagree with that. I intend during the campaign to reach out to every neighborhood and to use this opportunity as a chance to learn what's on the voter's minds and be that much better informed about the hopes of the voters for the city.”
As difficult as it is to find an open Bogaard critic among local power circles — Pasadena restaurant owner and City Council candidate Robin Salzer, who is married to one-time Bogaard opponent Ann-Marie Villicana and was recently prevented by city officials from moving a historic home into Pasadena, said Friday that Bogaard “has done a wonderful job” — Proctor's dark horse candidacy has nonetheless garnered some attention.
“Mr. Proctor is an interesting alternative,” said retiring three-term Councilman Paul Little, who supported Holden's push to reopen negotiations with the NFL. “It will be interesting to see if the issues he is talking about will resonate with voters. Bill works very hard to be uncontroversial. It's very hard to find fault with anything he has done. He is a nice guy, and he represents the city well and has a lot of positive qualities.”
But, said Little, “Pasadena is changing. There is political tension between the traditional faction the mayor represents so well and new people moving to town.”
Little didn't go into much detail about his assessment, but according to a draft copy of the city's Recreation and Parks Master Plan released last week, Pasadena is “increasingly becoming a city of older adults without young children.” As most LA County households grew in size between 1990 and 2000, Pasadena homes had slightly fewer children despite small increases in the total population and its average age, according to that report.
Proctor, whose image and politics seem more appealing to younger residents, seems to differ in his approach from Bogaard's careful balance of priorities: namely limiting change and development while at the same time allowing it to occur in ways that balance the interests of property owners and (via the affordable housing ordinance) those who struggle just to make a living.
In addition to rent control and his libertarian-leaning opposition to parking fees, Proctor is supportive of medical marijuana, dispensaries of which have been banned by Bogaard and the City Council in lieu of clear state guidelines.
Proctor also wants the city to pass a resolution against the war in Iraq, which, despite activist efforts, failed in 2003. At that time, Bogaard said he believed the council should stay out of what he believed was a federal matter and “stick to the city knitting” of public safety, street repair and the like.
As of this writing, Bogaard and Proctor have not yet officially met. Their only personal encounter so far occurred last month on the day Proctor stopped by the City Clerk's Office to pull nominating papers for the election. The two men simply smiled at each other as Bogaard got off and Proctor got on the notoriously slow elevator inside the temporary City Hall offices on East Colorado Boulevard.
Since then, they spoke on the phone after Proctor challenged Bogaard to a debate and, according to the mayor, the two will soon meet for coffee.
“He's a very popular mayor, very nice and a people-person,” Proctor said of his opponent. However, “For as many nice things I can say about him personally, there are plenty of things wrong with the city. He is in charge, and he is a target for that.”
With hardly any funding to speak of, Proctor is running his campaign primarily on the Internet. He has a campaign Web site and a MySpace page, which as of last week contained a picture of Proctor and PW reporter André Coleman during their recent appearance with host Barry Gordon on the KPAS 56 program “Newsrap,” and on which dozens of people have voiced their support.
“I just saw the vid, actually, and was on my way to Proctorland here to give you props. :),” wrote one, referring to the KPAS appearance. “I'm glad you're making waves so early on, and I'm sure you'll do well in your campaign. Keep on truckin' ;).”
It was on that Dec. 14 “Newsrap” episode that Proctor challenged Bogaard to debate.
During public comment before the Pasadena Board of Education's closed-session meeting to hire a new superintendent, a particularly frustrated frequent schools critic wondered if everything wrong with local public schools couldn't somehow be traced back to Bogaard.
While few in town may agree with that comment, which was prompted by the fact that Bogaard traveled with school board members to research Superintendent-to-be Edwin Diaz before he was hired, the mayor has involved himself in schools affairs for several years.
Bogaard has long sat on the board of the Pasadena Education Foundation, a schools fundraising group that includes some board members and other political insiders.
Once staying out of school district elections, in spring of 2005 he supported then-incumbents Susan Kane, Esteban Lizardo and PEF-affiliates Mike Babcock and Ed Honowitz. Only Kane, who faced popular political newcomer Scott Phelps, lost.
While acknowledging during last year's State of the City Address that 2005 had been a tough year for the district with declining enrollment prompting massive funding shortfalls, Bogaard was also quick to praise academic progress in state testing results in that speech. Following the closure of four elementary schools due to budget shortfalls and an eruption of community anxiety over the running of the district, City Council members last year stepped up financial support, resource-sharing and management advice for the district.
In this year's address, Bogaard, who has expressed no interest in official city involvement in the running of the district, said he plans to call on the private and nonprofit sector to jump further into the fray.
“I want to spotlight the performance and promise of the PUSD schools and call upon the community to work with the schools in helping them serve the needs of young people. The concept is the schools can't do it alone, and that traditionally successful public school districts have had substantial support from their communities,” said Bogaard, who praised organizations such as Caltech, the Norton Simon Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for partnering with the district for various programs.
“Partnerships exist. What I would like to see is that we scale-up the community collaboration in the coming year,” he said. “Opportunities will come up for support and for partnership which are different and more significant than what we've done in the past. … This city, many people have observed, has such tremendous resources.”
‘The fullness of time'
Following the flooding of New Orleans caused by Hurricane Katrina, Bogaard was starting to sound more like former President Franklin Roosevelt than the mayor of a well-to-do Southern California city.
“8/29” — the day Katrina hit — “joins 9/11 as days of infamy in the history of this country,” he said. “I hope we will all rededicate ourselves at all levels to recognition of government's role and responsibility, not only to provide public safety and public works, not only to provide planning and building, but to provide opportunity, to provide security and to provide relief for persons who are not part of the mainstream.”
There are those who would credit Bogaard for doing so through the city's affordable housing programs, and then there are those who say those efforts fall too short of need, and those like Proctor who wonder if the city wouldn't rather see most of the poor people pushed out altogether.
Then again, at last count Bogaard had the support of all but 1,700 voters in a city of nearly 150,000 people.
Asked last week to describe what kind of legacy he'd like to leave behind, he chose to reply via email:
“When this decade is over, I hope that it will be viewed as an era in which Pasadena lived up to its commitment in the General Plan, adopted in 1994, to preserve and strengthen its distinct neighborhoods, its parks and open space, its economic vitality, and its architectural heritage and history.
“This is my commitment as mayor. … I hope that Pasadena is and will continue to be a strong leader in arts and culture, science and technology, employment and new business development, environmental stewardship and sustainability, and most importantly, tolerance and compassion. The city's unique character cannot be retained if we do not succeed in embracing all of Pasadena's diverse population as a continuing part of our community,” he wrote.
Maybe Bogaard can only go as far as Pasadena is willing to go. Then again, maybe it's the other way around: Maybe Pasadena can only go as far as Bogaard is willing to take it.
Only in what Bogaard sometimes calls “the fullness of time” will we ever really know for sure.