For over 20 years the community has repeatedly expressed its desire
to keep Hahamongna Watershed Park rustic and natural, “a haven… for all seeking peace.” For almost as long,
there have been proposals to develop it extensively. In the recent planning for the Hahamongna Annex, a proposed road, taken
out of the Hahamongna Master Plan after community protest, was once again under consideration. The Annex is the 30 acres in
the park formerly owned by the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and now owned by the City of Pasadena.
The following chronology outlines the developments proposed for the west side of Hahamongna from the late 1980s to
In the late 1980s, the area behind Devil’s Gate Dam lay desolate and neglected,
a dusty quarry and illegal dumping ground. Even the lake which had pooled behind the dam was no more after the dam was declared
seismically unsafe in the 1970s. This was the dry, barren expanse where a group of visionary local residents saw instead a
restored wetland with lakes, trails, bird sanctuaries and picnic areas. And so began the Devil’s Gate Multi-use Advisory
Committee in the 1980s and the long struggle to keep Devil’s Gate, later Hahamongna, natural.
decided in the early 1990s to take out the east side Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) parking lot and replace it with water spreading
basins. A parking garage was to be built in the park to house the displaced cars, thus generating revenue from increased water
percolation while still retaining the JPL parking revenues. One of the locations proposed for this garage as early as 1992
was the JPL West Arroyo parking lot, carved out of open space as a temporary parking lot in 1986. In the 2002 Hahamongna Watershed
Park Master Plan, park user access to this garage was proposed via a new road to be built across the Annex property. According
to city documents, as many as 600 cars were projected to pass through the park to access the garage on weekends. One consultant
even suggested that revenue could be generated by using this parking garage for off-site parking for the Rose Bowl. But to return to 1986 – it was actually two west Hahamongna open space parcels, including one on the Annex,
which were rezoned so that the JPL West Arroyo parking lot could be created. These were referred to as Planned Development-16.
Although the Annex parcel was never used for JPL parking, it still to this day retains the PD zoning. The strange result is
that part of the Annex, protected in perpetuity by an open space easement, is zoned for a planned development!
In 2007, JPL received notification from Pasadena that in 2013 the spreading basin project would begin and JPL would
have to vacate the east parking lot as of spring 2013. Where those 1200 cars would park in the future and how that would impact
Hahamongna became questions of more than academic interest. Over the years various developments
have been proposed for the park in addition to the parking garage. In 1988, William H. Pickering, a former JPL Director, sent
a letter to the City expressing interest in building a Hall of Science in Oak Grove Park. In 1991, a Devil’s Gate draft
park plan map shows a general science museum located immediately to the east of the Annex property with a large parking lot
just to the north. A year later, a Pasadena staff report mentions the south knoll near the Equestrian Staging Area as a possible
location for a science museum. In 1993 Pasadena staff submitted to the City Council a proposal to bring the Southwest Museum
to Hahamongna. This was an ambitious project which would have changed the nature of the park forever – an influx of
300,000 visitors was projected!
Five years later, in 1998, Pasadena approached MWD expressing
interest in purchasing the Annex property where Los Angeles County Fire, the U.S. Forest Service, Rose Bowl Riders and Tom
Sawyer Camps had been located for many years. At the time MWD was not ready to sell but proposed instead a low cost long-term
lease. For over 5 years the lease negotiations dragged on without success. MWD wanted to retain the existing tenants while
Pasadena wanted a lease which would give them the ability to substitute users and increase the intensity of land uses on the
property in the future. Foothill Municipal Water District also wanted to retain part of the property for a water storage tank
which further complicated the lease negotiations.
In 2005 MWD’s Board of Directors reversed
course. They decided that the property was no longer needed for any water purpose and could be sold. Pasadena then purchased
the property and began the Annex planning process during which the road to the west JPL parking lot reappeared, a critical
component of earlier revenue generating proposals planned for Hahamongna.
Pasadena was not the
only entity still interested in developing the Annex, however. In 2001, JPL met with MWD staff and set forth a plan for a
science museum and a parking garage on what is now the Annex property. The JPL Master Plan, released in 2003, identified the
Annex property as having acquisition potential for Laboratory expansion. There was interest from the private sector as well.
In 2003, when word got out that the Forest Service was not interested in renewing their lease, a real estate broker contacted
MWD about putting an office park on the Annex. About the same time, another broker offered his services to find what he considered
a suitable tenant for the property such as a private school campus.
Throughout the years, despite
this enormous development pressure, the community remained steadfast in its commitment to a natural, rustic Hahamongna, attending
hundreds of meetings over the years. The equestrian community was particularly active, concerned that the plan was eventually
to move Rose Bowl Riders, Tom Sawyer Camps and MACH 1 off the Annex and out of the Arroyo in favor of higher intensity uses
which would generate more revenue.
The community was so concerned about Hahamongna and the rest
of the Arroyo that, in 2003, over 600 comments were sent in concerning the Arroyo Seco Master Environmental Impact Report.
In response to those comments, the parking garage and the road through the Annex were removed from the Hahamongna Watershed
Park Master Plan.
The specter of the road reappeared once again, however, after Pasadena
purchased the Annex from MWD and began planning for the use of the property. Howls of community protest ensued but the
issue wasn't yet resolved. A long, complicated planning process took place which involved a "trail corridor"
wide enough to become a road at some future date. No one was fooled. There was community protest led
by the Friends of Hahamongna demanding that the road be removed once and for all. The Planning Commission, the
Design Commission, the Hahamongna Advisory Committee, and the City Council heard the community loud and clear. The Council
issued a set of Guidelines for Staff which directed staff to prepare "a design for a 10 foot wide (maximum) bikeway
along the northern perimeter of the HWP Annex with a design... that does not lend its to becoming a road..."
Has the road finally been laid to rest? There are a few worrisome signs that this may not be the case.
The Friends of Hahamongna will continue to monitor developments in Hahamongna in the tradition
of community activism in support of this great park. Please join us.