New lease on life

City starts eminent domain proceedings to acquire Morgan’s YWCA

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 4/15/2010

With no objections, the Pasadena City Council unanimously voted to direct city staff to open eminent domain proceedings to acquire the historic but long-vacant and now decaying YWCA building located at 78 N. Marengo Ave. 
Public comment Monday night was clear: Pasadena residents want the city to take the building over from the current owner, Trove Investments, in order for the structure to be restored and used in a way that will enhance neighboring Centennial Square, the area around City Hall, the Pasadena Courthouse, Pasadena Central Library and the Pasadena Police Department.
Although City Manager Michael Beck did not state what the city is considering using the building for, residents suggested it be utilized to house homeless or serve as a senior center.
“It has been tragic to witness the ongoing deterioration of this rare and priceless cultural resource,” wrote Richard Quirk, an architect and the vice chairman of the city Planning Commission. “I am encouraged and delighted to see the city has decided to take on the commencement of the ambitious rehabilitation and reuse of the YWCA building.”
Peterson Law Group, representing Trove Investments, submitted a letter of objection to the city taking control of the building.
“Trove has the means to develop the site to a variety of uses consistent with the city’s goals,” the letter stated. “It is absolutely unnecessary for the property to be taken by eminent domain.”
Trove acquired the property in 1996 for $1.8 million. The city offered Trove $6.43 million, but Trove countered with $12 million. 
Julia Morgan, California’s first registered female architect, built the historic YWCA building in 1921, six years before construction on City Hall was finished. Morgan went on to design numerous structures throughout California, including Hearst Castle, owned by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.