Local residents weighed in Monday with differing ideas on how best to use the historic but long-vacant former YWCA building located in the city’s Civic Center.
Housing advocates called on the city to use the building — designed by Julian Morgan, California’s first licensed female architect, in 1921 and constructed in 1923 — for affordable and homeless housing, but several preservationists were against that plan.
“I’m not thrilled with the idea that the YWCA would be used as homeless housing,” said local activist Jonathon Edewards. “It’s the Civic Center. It’s City Hall. I personally think this historic building in the Civic Center is not the right choice for homeless housing.”
City Clerk Mark Jomsky received nearly a dozen letters in support of using the building for housing homeless women. The city spent $8 million to purchase the building through eminent domain in 2010. Since then, plans included turning the structure into a boutique hotel, but that idea fell through in 2017.
“The mixed use of social enterprise and housing for women who are homeless is the perfect solution for the Pasadena YWCA,” wrote Jackie Knowles, founding program director of the Women’s Room, which serves San Gabriel Valley women who are alone and homeless, or at risk of being homeless.
The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property has also been designated as a historic monument by city officials. The building has been vacant since 1997.
Two consultants told the City Council on Monday that it will cost more to rehabilitate the structure than projected revenues from several reuse options will support.
Consultants from OLIN Partnership and Kosmont Companies were hired by the city to examine preservation, design plans and evaluate possible reuses of the property, respectively. Consultants with Kosmont concluded that reuse as a hotel is possible, but it would rely on aggressive revenue projections and offsite parking.
Consultants also studied using the building to house city offices, but that would cost 20 to 50 percent more than current leasing costs per square foot and would cost the city about $23 million, assuming all off-site city offices were relocated to the building.
Using the building for affordable housing would require $20 to $35 million in public funds.