At the annual Chamber of Commerce holiday party Tuesday night at the War Memorial, Marina Khubesrian delivered her State of the City speech — one of her last acts as mayor before turning the gavel over to Mayor Pro Tem Bob Joe the following day and returning to a regular council member’s role.
“We’re a scrappy little city that punches above our weight because we know how to leverage our resources and our regional partnerships,” said Khubesrian.
She highlighted residents’ activism and volunteerism as the “legacy of our city,” the city promoting regional leadership, South Pasadena as a “well-run city,” a “great place to run a business,” and a “safe and clean community-driven city.”
For activism, she noted a special focus on youth activism, with the South Pasadena High School environmental club and government involvement with commissions. There was also a new tradition of tree planting for outgoing mayors and a new replacement policy for trees within a new tree ordinance.
“That shows our dedication to preserving and maintaining our tree canopy,” said Khubesrian. “We know how important trees are to fight climate change, to counter the effects of the heat islands that are created. So we’re going to continue to advocate for our trees.”
Khubesrian saluted regional social activists as well, including those who encouraged the House of Representatives to pass a resolution to recognize the Armenian genocide, a Salvadoran American leadership fund which helped to support “migrants trapped in shelters,” and those who helped worked to block the 710 freeway and tunnel in South Pasadena.
Khubesrian also made a special recognition of resident Paul Abbey, a longtime volunteer in the city who died suddenly on Sept. 27. She presented his wife Cathy Abbey with a certificate of recognition for his “exemplary legacy in the South Pasadena community.”
“Mr. Abbey was well-known in the South Pasadena community for his passion, for the Tournament of Roses and his volunteerism with numerous programs such as the South Pasadena High School Boosters, Tiger Bingo and Kiwanis,” said Khubesrian.
For the city’s regional leadership, Khubesrian noted the city has been able to “reap the benefits” from Measure M, a sales-tax ballot measure known as the Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan and passed in 2016. She said that through the partnerships the city has built over time, the city was able to acquire $100 million in traffic mitigation-related funds from the measure.
“We continue to advocate for multimodal transportation in the region,” said Khubesrian.
The housing crisis was also highlighted, with Khubesrian addressing the emergency ordinance passed by the City Council in November.
“The community just came together to say en masse, ‘We do not want our neighbors to be evicted before the holidays,’ ’’ said Khubesrian. “The city staff and the City Council, we were able to come together and pass this emergency moratorium on no-cause evictions that helped a lot, not everyone, but it did help a lot of our residents stay in their homes.”
The city also coordinated with nonprofits in order to purchase some of the Caltrans houses in bundles, and secured funding that would allow the organizations to sell them to those in need of affordable housing.
“We’re the first people who have done this in the corridor where we have Caltrans homes,” said Khubesrian, adding that Pasadena is currently looking at the city’s example.
For South Pasadena being a “well-run city,” she saluted the work of city employees.
“There’s not many of us,” said Khubesrian. “We’re a small staff but they’re able to multitask, they’re able to be flexible, they’re able to work together, and they’re scrappy and they get things done, so it’s a good thing.”
She also thanked the voters who approved Measure A, a sales tax rate increase from 9.5 percent to 10.75 percent, and those who supported the campaign.
“This allowed us to fund a professional workforce,” said Khubesrian. “That’s so important. We got to have labor agreements with all three of our main bargaining units and we were able to bring them that much closer to competitive salaries that are at the median — we’re not quite at the median but we’re awfully close and we’re consistently close. That was a big deal.”
For South Pasadena serving as a “safe, clean and community-driven city,” Khubesrian highlighted the new commission leadership, with “more gender equity” going from 34 percent to 52 percent.
“Women stepped up and wanted to be on commissions in bigger numbers this year than ever, which was great,” said Khubesrian.
She also noted the recruitment of new Police Chief Joe Ortiz and both promoting and hiring more firefighters.
“We take the safety of the community very seriously,” said Khubesrian. “To that effect, we have worked hard to make sure that, as quickly as possible, we have full staffing in our fire department and our police department.”
In closing, Khubesrian shared a sense of gratitude for all levels of the city.
“Thank you so much everybody who has come out, thank you to everyone who participates, who volunteers, who represents, who works hard for this community because that’s how we make this small city do so much and be able to lead the region,” Khubesrian said.
“It’s through partnerships — internally, externally — it’s through collaboration, it’s through cooperation and it’s really tapping as much variety and diversity and perspective and talent as we possibly can.”