Summer 2001 Newsletter

Community Based Site Selection Leads To Joint-Use: Elementary School/Community Center

In October 2000, the City of Pasadena and the Pasadena Unified School District embarked on a six-month long process to decide where the best location for a new elementary school/community center would be located in the most densely populated area of the City--Northwest Pasadena. The process began with a small planning team from Concordia Inc. leading the way for a network of nearly 400 community members, who identified 19 potential sites and built consensus to achieve the final recommendation. NSBN is pleased to present this article detailing the process.

By: Steven Bingler, Bobbie Hill & Jessica Berman


According to the Pasadena Unified School District's (PUSD) Demographic Fact Sheet 2000-2001, over 6800 of PUSD students take bus transportation to school. Approximately 2300 of these students are K-6 students who live in Northwest Pasadena who must be bussed because of the...lack of sufficient capacity for this population in the neighborhoods' existing schools. "Neighborhood Schools," a report prepared for the City of Pasadena's Charter Reform Task Force on School District Governance in Feb. 2000, maintained that these 2300 students are the only K-6 students...who do not rely on busses by choice in order to attend magnet schools.

The PUSD's March '99 draft of the Master Plan recommended the development of two new 500-student elementary schools...In April '99, a month after these draft recommendations were made, the District reconfigured their elementary schools to move 6th grade to Middle School and turn all elementary schools into K-5's. This reorganization was said to eliminate the need for new school construction, thus altering the recommendations from the March version of the Master Plan. Northwest residents...began a campaign to reinstate the plans to build a new elementary school in Northwest Pasadena. The Master Plan was eventually amended to include the construction of one new K-5 school.

In "Why Not the Best?" the Charter Reform Task Force on School District Governance's Final Report and Recommendations encourages the Board to utilize new methods for site selection and exploration of joint use in planning for the new school in Northwest. The Task Force encouraged the School District to use the methods of New Schools-Better Neighborhoods (NSBN) as a model. Using the case study of the Cahuenga Neighborhood in L.A., facilitated by Concordia, Inc., the Task Force reported:

"The NSBN philosophy calls for the construction of smaller schools, which can share uses with community and governmental agencies. The NSBN model also calls for a high degree of community involvement in school site location, design, and construction..."

--"Why Not the Best?" p. 63

Concordia, Inc. first came to Pasadena at the invitation of the Charter Reform Task Force in Feb. 2000 to discuss the Cahuenga case study. Concordia was invited back by the District's Joint Use of Facilities Task September 2000. In October, Concordia received a contract from the Board of Education to engage the community in prioritizing two sites for the new elementary school/community center in Northwest Pasadena by April 2001...

Research & Organizing

Concordia, Inc. began the process with a research phase to familiarize our team with the area, familiarize the community with our team, and collect data. With the help of the Joint Use of Facilities Task Force, particularly with the New Schools Subcommittee, key individuals with local leadership capacities were identified...

...From this group, eighteen people (including the five members of the Joint Use of Facilities Task Force New Schools Subcommittee) were identified to serve as the Planning Team. Members of the Planning Team represented community organizations, neighborhood associations, the Joint Use Task Force, business, real estate, educators, youth programs, and the School District.

Simultaneously with the selection of the Planning Team process, baseline GIS data for the project were being collected...

Planning Team

The Planning Team worked from November 2000 to January 2001 to develop a mailing list of individuals to invite to participate on the Steering Committee. The Planning Team worked to achieve a balance among parents, students, school staff, and community members. [And] looked for equal representation between business, labor and industry, education, religious organizations, government, civic and service organizations, health and human services, and the community at large. The Planning Team determined the start date for the site selection process and endorsed the decision to hold meetings on Thursdays, three weeks apart, from 6:00-9:00 PM. Team members also agreed to a location structure in which one meeting would be held at each of the four schools in Northwest and one at each of the two community centers...

Over the course of six months, meetings were held with the steering committee as outlined earlier by the Planning Team. Concordia assisted the steering committee with facilitating the process and with gathering and analyzing data related to the community's assets and needs in a broad range of categories...All nominated sites were given equal consideration. An initial list of 19 sites was narrowed to five and eventually to a prioritized list of three final recommendations that were presented to the Board of Education by the Steering Committee...

Community Outreach and Engagement

A strong community outreach and engagement infrastructure was created as a result of this planning process. The Steering Commmittee's Communications Task Force and the Subcommittee Facilitators will continue to lead a concerted communications effort. This Task Force or an outgrowth of these efforts will be ongoing to assure open lines of communication for all community members. It is the intent of the both PUSD and the City of Pasadena that the ideas and opinions of all Pasadena citizens will continue to be valued and respected. They understand that people will invest in programs and projects where they have ownership and participation. This is the key to building a more dynamic community and a stronger democracy.