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Passing the Torch: Remembering David Wolf

Posted by Wes R on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Two men stand together, smiling proudly at the camera. One holds a spiral-bound book in front of his chest; the title is 	“Pasadena Passages	”.

Then-councilmember Terry Tornek (left) and David Wolf (right) show off a copy of David's Pasadena Passages booklet, c. 2014

David Robert Wolf (January 1, 1965 - December 21, 2019) was a lifelong Pasadenan, a visionary architect and urbanist, and a dear friend to many of us at Pasadena CSC. We grieve his loss, remember his life, and invite you to share in his vision of connection.

As we look to renewal in the first year of this decade, we also look to the past for guidance. Patterns of change tend to echo through time, and one of David’s gifts was the ability to see those patterns and make them visible to others.

David and his vision will forever be a part of Pasadena, and we now look to his life as we nurture and carry his vision forward.

A deep-rooted history in Pasadena

A proud graduate of Pasadena’s public schools – including Linda Vista Elementary, Cleveland Elementary, Eliot Junior High School, and John Muir High School – David obtained a BA in Economics and Architectural Studies from UC Santa Cruz and a Masters of Architecture degree from UC Berkeley. After a career in teaching and design, he dedicated the last decade of his life to three local projects, meticulously researching the history of Pasadena’s city planning and identifying opportunities to build upon the legacy of the City Beautiful movement by creating a more walkable, connected community.

David’s approach was built upon a detailed understanding of historical precedent to create a continuum, bridging our past with our future.

David’s ideas for Pasadena were bold and wide-ranging, yet his approach was built upon a detailed understanding of historical precedent to create a continuum, bridging our past with our future. From 2008 to 2019, he invested thousands of unpaid hours in developing and refining three beautifully designed blueprints for a more engaged, holistic, and livable Pasadena. These works included:

David's Pasadena Passages map shows a connected network of human-friendly walkways throughout Pasadena' Civic Center and Central District in green (larger image)

A passion for connection

David’s projects had a profound impact on leaders and members of the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association and the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, who helped champion and refine the plans as they were released over the course of a decade. It was hard not to be inspired, as David’s enthusiasm was contagious. He was tireless in connecting with people from all walks of life about planning in the City.

David (lower left) educating the public about Pasadena Passages at the DPNA Mayoral Forum, 2015

A passionate educator, David hosted one-on-one meetings, small group discussions, tabling booths at community events, and formal presentations for whomever would take him – whether they were City staff, elected officials, neighborhood associations, grassroots advocates, or business groups. He regularly invited diverse groups of people to his home to share a meal and his latest drafts, nourishing community connections alongside support for his plans. He also constantly reminded his friends (presciently, in hindsight) that others would have to carry his work to fruition: that he was just a messenger, who’d soon be moving on.

The opening page of “The Arroyo Link - A Proposal to Reconnect” (read document)

On November 18, 2019, David presented his final work - the Arroyo Link - to the Pasadena City Council, who warmly received the project. (You can view that final presentation here, under “Public Comment Items Not on the Agenda”, starting at time mark 33:03.) Approximately one month later, suffering from severe depression unbeknownst to many who loved and cared for him, David took his own life, passing the torch to those who shared his remarkable vision and supported his plans.

Self-designed button, David Wolf, 2018

We hope you’ll join us in the coming years to advance Pasadena Passages, engage more residents of all backgrounds in City planning, and reconnect downtown Pasadena to the Arroyo Seco. In this vein, we’ll be hosting a series of events to recognize and raise awareness of David’s work in 2020, including a Passages Walk and Arroyo Link tour.

If you’d like to participate in planning, or receive a personal invitation to these events, please add your contact information here. In the meantime, David's collective works can be viewed at www.pasadenapassages.org.

Tags: Arroyo Link, David Wolf, My City, Pasadena Passages, PasCSC

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