Friday, January 11, 2013

A new vision for the Central Arroyo Seco

As a result of my recent Trash-a-Dena blog series documenting pollution in the Arroyo, Pasadena Director of Public Works Siobhan Foster asked to meet with me to discuss my ideas and a possible partnership with the City to address plastic pollution in the Central Arroyo.  On Tuesday, November 27, I met with Siobhan Foster, Parks and Natural Resources Administrator Charles Peretz and Parks Superintendent Ana Bailey, and shared with them my plan for the proper everyday maintenance of the Arroyo:

Role of volunteers:

  • Volunteers are an effective resource for periodic, targeted cleanups.  However, volunteers cannot manage day-to-day maintenance of the Arroyo and special event cleanups.  More manpower and financial resources are necessary to adequately maintain the Central Arroyo.

Generate funds for regular, day-to-day and event cleanup:

  • Install Kiosks which distribute day/month/yearly passes.

  • Funding could be generated using a tiered pricing system--a modest fee for residents of the surrounding neighborhoods, a slightly higher price for other citizens of Pasadena, and a higher, but still reasonable, price for residents of other cities.

  • Parking permit would have to be priced reasonably to discourage recreational users of the Arroyo from parking in the surrounding neighborhoods.

  • According to the Urban Land Institute, the 3.3-mile Rose Bowl Loop attracts 1.5 million visitors per year, and Brookside Golf Course attracts 800,000 visitors per year.  If 500,000 of these visitors purchased a $10 annual parking pass, the City would generate $5,000,000 of revenue.

  • Keep the proceeds in the Arroyo.

Use Funds to:

  • Create a sustainable "Arroyo Seco Corps"- creating jobs for low-income youth throughout Pasadena, particularly from the Northwest.  By doing so, the City could create Green Jobs for the most economically disadvantaged youth in the City.

  • Offer the program through PUSD to students in good standing.

  • Train Arroyo Seco Corps in best practices for trash cleanup and invasive plant removal.  Training could be provided by local organizations such as the Arroyo Seco Foundation.

  • Install recycling bins and additional trash cans throughout Central Arroyo.

  • Install trash screens throughout Arroyo.

  • Install interpretive signage to educate public about habitat and pollution issues.


"Green" the Arroyo-- Set environmental rules for events - As documented in my post regarding the latest Walk for Autism, event organizers often distribute thousands of plastic water bottles to participants, which inevitably end up polluting the Arroyo stream and trails.  In addition, the recent balloon release by the Farmer's Insurance float during the Rose Parade impacted the Arroyo with litter.

A simple solution to these problems would be to require event organizers to serve water from refreshment coolers, using paper cups instead of distributing plastic bottles.  Event participants could be encouraged to bring reusable bottles.  Paper cups would not permanently pollute our watershed and ocean, and are easier to spot and remove during subsequent cleanup.  Balloon releases, which are nothing more than acts of mass-littering, should be prohibited.

  • Find alternatives to plastic zip-ties which are used to erect temporary fencing.  These zip-ties are often left on the ground, polluting the Arroyo after events.

  • Discontinue distribution of common Arroyo pollutants such as plastic straws and plastic beverage lids by restaurants and other food and beverage vendors in the Arroyo.  

  • Replace disposable, single-use plastic items with more sustainable alternatives.  For example, the Los Angeles Zoo and the Huntington Library have moved away from plastic packaging in favor of glass and compostable alternatives.

The Rose Bowl Stadium is located in the bottom of a canyon in an environmentally sensitive watershed.  It is a stadium with a year-long mountain stream running along side it which leads to the Pacific Ocean.  Pasadena should make it the "greenest" stadium in the world.  The Rose Bowl Stadium should set the standard for sustainability, and the Central Arroyo should be a model parkland.


This proposal is win-win for the City, the recreational users of the Arroyo, young people, public schools, and the Northwest Pasadena economy.  It will help the City comply with it's Zero-Waste goals,  create green jobs for Pasadena's young people, preserve the natural beauty of the Central Arroyo, and provide the citizens of Pasadena and all visitors to the Rose Bowl Stadium and the Central Arroyo with a world-class experience.


  1. Sounds reasonable to me. What was the response from the government authorities to your proposals?

    1. Siobhan Foster and Ana Bailey responded positively. Siobhan said that they were just beginning to study how the City could implement the Urban Land Institute suggestions, and said my proposals were timely.

      A week after our initial meeting, Parks Superintendent Ana Bailey toured the Central Arroyo with me to view the pollution problems from my perspective. I received this email from her afterwards:

      "I wanted to follow up with you and thank you for meeting with us to discuss your observations in the Arroyo Seco. Since our meeting we have cleaned the areas adjacent to the stream between the Colorado and Holly Street bridges along with some areas north of the dam near Hahamongna. We have identified these as target areas that will be addressed more frequently and look forward to working with you in the future.

      Thank you kindly,
      Ana Bailey
      Parks and Landscaping Superintendent • City of Pasadena"

      City Manager Michael Beck also promised me that the City would take more responsibility for cleaning the Arroyo, but unfortunately as documented in my recent post "Pasadena Pollutes," the Arroyo remains trashed. The area Ana Bailey mentioned under the Colorado St. Bridge was the target of a large ASF cleanup yesterday, and we've never seen the place so trashed. Seems like Petrea had a similar experience up towards Devil's Gate.

    2. Generally, Hahamongna looks great. But near the Devil's Gate Dam is an area that collects trash. Although the trash we saw the other day was obviously plastic water bottles left behind by litterers, whenever there's rain, more trash collects in this area. It's a tough spot.

      One thing we have to understand is that a clean-up effort every now and then, though well-intentioned, won't do the job. This needs to be an ongoing, regular effort.

  2. This is fantastic, Tim. Congratulations. Your influence is such a big help.

    We walked just north of the dam yesterday and found so many plastic bottles and so much trash we couldn't carry it all. There's a kind of a "dump" area down there. It's dismaying, but with your solutions I think we can beat this problem. I hope the city backs you up and sticks to the plan.