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Pedestrian Friendly Ralphs Needed for Pasadena

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Back in Jan 2010, I wrote about my disdain for the current suburban-styled Ralphs supermarket that sits in the middle of Pasadena’s urban downtown financial district along Lake Ave. This particular Ralphs that many of us Pasadenans shop at is surrounded by anti-pedestrian characteristics that actually harm the built environment as it pertains to pedestrian activity. The potential for creating a better community in this section of Pasadena sits tragically unfulfilled. That’s why I’m still not happy with it.

Along Lake Ave, the market is fronted by a large surface parking lot, which we should all know by now is not the best way to induce pedestrian activity. In fact, surface parking lots are so anti-pedestrian, most drivers would rather circle around and around, wasting time and gas, just to be a few parking spots closer to the store entrance (we have all been guilty of this). Not only that, but the fact that the Lake Ave Gold Line station is just two short blocks north of this Ralphs means that this particular section of Pasadena is “supposed to be” pedestrian oriented, right? But it’s not.

To make matters worse, the side of Ralphs facing Mentor is nothing but a blank wall and perimeter fencing with zero interaction with the sidewalk. This situation becomes such a waste of potential because hundreds of new urban dwellers have moved into the new Lake@Walnut mixed-use development, which borders Mentor. The whole point of mixed-use development is to promote walking. With great attractions and stores just two short blocks south of this new mixed-use development–like Ice House Comedy Club, Boston Court, and many restaurants like Noir–you would think more residents would be WALKING to and from these amenities. But for those who understand the urban context as it pertains to pedestrianism, the answer is quite obvious why that is not the case today.

Ralphs could be redesigned to be a better neighbor for the community. It could feasibly become the glue that binds the Lake Ave Gold Line station in the north to the shopping and dining, not only along Mentor, but to the South Lake Avenue district, which is only a quick 10-minute walk from the  Gold Line station. If I were a stakeholder on South Lake Avenue, desperately thinking of ways to help generate interest and foot traffic to a struggling district to increase property values and revenues, I would be contacting Ralphs and Pasadena City Hall asking them to support this idea because we must all prepare for the near future as Los Angeles’s rapidly expanding metro system (made possible by Measure R and Villaraigosa’s 30/10 plan) will begin to reach a critical mass that will finally jump start a “culture of pedestrianism” in the region.

Communities that serve that new constituency of pedestrians and bicyclists will be rewarded greatly by being economically competitive, attracting the new young talent that are attracted to walkable communities and access to good public transit they’re used to in cities like New York, Chicago, SF, and even new surprising upcoming cities like Salt Lake City and Denver that have jumped on the transit bandwagon. Pasadena is on the right track in that regard, but we are far from perfect.

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