In this fourth and final installment of Patch’s Q&A with Sergio Gonzalez, South Pasadena’s city manager talks about a range of issues, including traffic problems on the Monterey Road/Pasadena Avenue crossing, public safety, tax revenues and the city’s major goals.
Patch: Based on comments during City Council meetings and also on Patch, could you tell us why some residents are unhappy with traffic on Monterey Road near the city limits?
Sergio Gonzalez: We have a Gold Line intersection on Monterey and Pasadena Avenue that suffers from a poor design. It’s a so-called ‘double grade crossing,’ which means that a vehicles crosses over the tracks twice. We believe its less safe and it has certainly impacted traffic. Ten years later [after the Gold Line was built] we strongly believe that it would make sense to have a single grade crossing. A single grade crossing is much safer because cars only have to cross over once, and if your vehicle stalls, you’re only crossing one rail.
People avoid Monterey and take the side streets. The business park area of the city near Ostritch farm, where Monterey and Pasadena Avenue are, by the city limits, are obviously suffering from convenient lack of public access to that area. The economic viability of the area is affected because of the traffic situation. Meanwhile, people who live around the area complain of traffic cutting through their streets.
We tried on numerous occasions to appeal to Metro about getting a single grade crossing. But ultimately, the decider on any change is the state Public Utilities Commission, which appears not to want us to change to a single crossing. Ideally, all the Gold Line crossings should have a grade separation [cars passing under the rail line through a tunnel]. But when you’re talking about $25 million to $30 million [per grade separation] we don’t have a very good chance of getting this done.
Patch: How is public safety in South Pasadena? I’m always surprised by the level of property crime here.
Gonzalez: I still believe that this is a very safe community. One way you can test it is by asking if you feel comfortable walking the streets any time of the day. But we’re still going to have crime because we’re in a metropolitan area—we’ve got Los Angeles, one of the biggest cities in the world, right next to us. You’ve got Pasadena—huge population. And you’ve got Alhambra, which has over 100,000 residents. So you’ve got a concentration of a lot of people—and where you’ve got a lot of people you’re going to have crime. It’s just the reality of life.
The biggest crime that we have is property crime. Cars broken into, homes broken into. Thankfully, we don’t have a lot of violent crime. But one of the things our police department and our police chief are working at is to educate our residents that the best thing they can do is to protect themselves—to be the eyes of ears of the police department.
When residents see something that just doesn’t feel right or something new—a car or person in the area that they haven’t seen before—the best thing to do is to call the police department. If it’s nothing, that’s O.K. But if it’s something we can prevent—that’s the reason why we want them to call. We do have officers on the street, but when you have a city of 3.4 square miles, you can’t have officers everywhere all the time.
Patch: What is the city doing to try to increase its revenues?
Gonzalez: We do have limited resources but we’re very fortunate to have residents who understand that in order to have a full-service city that has its own police department, fire department, library and recreation and parks, they also have to give back above and beyond their traditional property taxes. A lot of residents shop here, which helps keep their sales taxes local.
Residents have also passed what’s called a utility users tax and a library parcel tax, which provides additional funding for the library. We have also passed school parcel taxes. So, again, we’re very fortunate to have residents who understand that they have to give to have a high level of service. And then we have to make sure that those dollars are managed properly and don’t go to waste.
Patch: Generally speaking, what are some of the city’s major priorities?
Gonzalez: We definitely want to get the Rialto reopened. We want to kill the 710. We want to improve our infrastructure by getting new reservoirs done, redoing our entire sewer system, and repaving a lot more streets. As a city manager, what I want to do is make sure that all our city operations are running efficiently, that every single department is audited, to make sure that we’re doing the best we can do with the public’s tax dollars.
I think this city is very well managed, but there’s always room for improvement. So every year I will be looking at every department to make sure it’s running efficiently. Not only in terms of dollars but in terms of best practices. I’m very fortunate here to have a fantastic management team. The directors here in South Pas in every department are very experienced and with a great education background. I’m just very lucky.
Previous installments in this Q&A: