For the longest time, years in fact, South Pasadena city officials and a group of committed citizens, who have spent much of their lives taking it on, have felt like they were alone in the fight.
That’s no longer the case, as neighboring cities have come on board in recent years, tag-teaming of sorts, to form a strong coalition, making it increasingly clear, based on sheer numbers alone, and two major events this month, that opponents of a proposed 710 tunnel under El Sereno, South Pasadena and Pasadena mean business.
As Metro officials prepared to update the public on the progress of the North Environmental Study to ease congestion through the corridor Saturday morning at Blair High School, a large gathering of 710 opponents, including local politicians, vehemently echoed their concerns about the underground route. On July 4, while celebrating the country’s independence, many of those in attendance at the weekend rally in Pasadena, walked along the parade route in South Pasadena, making it one of the largest delegations in support of the no tunnel movement.
Enjoying the united front Saturday was South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider, who has watched the city he represents in the freeway fight, now entering its 60th year, include citizens and city officials from La Cañada Flintridge, Sierra Madre, Burbank, Pasadena, El Sereno, San Marino, Monterey Park, Silverlake, Lincoln Heights, Highland Park, Eagle Rock and a variety of outlying areas. They proudly held up signs declaring their residency during the organized meeting spearheaded by the No on 710 Action Committee.
Joining Schneider in speaking out against the 710 Freeway tunnel during Saturday’s organized event were Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard, La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Laura Olhasso, MTA Board Member and Glendale City Council member Ara Najarian, Pasadena Councilman Steve Madison and former state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who has made it known he’ll seek a seat in the state Senate.
He’s sure to get plenty of votes from those opposing the 710 tunnel. “We still don’t know the cost, the benefit, and they [Metro] is still trying to sell the public a bill of goods that if you bring more cars and trucks into neighborhood that somehow pollution will decrease,” said Portantino prior to the rally. “Any third grader knows that more cars and more trucks equals more traffic and more pollution. These guys (Metro) still won’t come clean on that basic fact.”
Portantino insists Metro has not put one credible financial or traffic model on the table or shown environmental evidence to substantiate “one claim they are making,” he said. “The taxpayer deserves better, the residents of the San Gabriel Valley deserve better.”
Bogaard told the crowd outside Blair High that “it’s absolutely critically important that the word about this project be disseminated far and wide, and thank God for the energetic people who are part of No on 710, making it a point to spread the word in community after community, to neighborhood after neighborhood and make a difference in this battle over the 710,” he said.
The Pasadena mayor stressed that, “When anyone hears the facts about the project they’re opposed [to the tunnel]. When people are asked to face facts they change their mind.”
He insists there are “a million reasons” to oppose the 710 tunnel idea – the cost, time of construction, disruption to the region, safety issues. “This is a project – $5 to $10 billion, maybe more – that is in search of a justification,” Bogaard said, noting that there hasn’t been enough discussion about the tolls that are absolutely “an essential part” part of the tunnel concept.
Bogaard pointed out that Assemblyman Chris Holden, whose 41 District represents South Pasadena, opposed the 710 North if trucks will be allowed on it. “That is a very significant change in his position,” said the Pasadena mayor.
“There are going to be trucks on this project,” Bogaard told the crowd on Saturday. “There are going be tolls on this project. There is going to be a gathering of traffic, then a dispersal in the region that will be unlike anything we’ve experienced before [now].
Portantino introduced Dr. Schneider as South Pasadena’s “Little mayor that can,” for his dedication, drive, fortitude and determination to continue the city’s “fight the fight” against the 710.
Schnieder, an avid cyclist, rode his two-wheeler to event and is pushing Metro to ease traffic congestion through the region by making better use of light rail, buses and bikes and taking the tunnel out of the equation.
“I want Metro to know there are bicyclists and there could be a lot more bicyclists,” he said.
Olhasso welcomed the crowd by saying, “Good morning tunnel fighters,” before explaining that she has a lot of sympathy for the residents of Alhambra, a city that has been in strong support of the 710 extension. “They need a solution to their problem,” she said. “Their solution can’t be won to make it worse for the rest of us. It can’t be won giving us more congestion, more noise, more air pollution to all the other communities in the area. If this tunnel is built, we’re looking at staggering health impacts.”
She stressed that Metro’s proposed tunnel is a “20th century solution,” she said. “It’s not green, it’s not cost effective and does not deal with what we need to deal with today. It’s a knee-jerk old-fashioned solution.”
Olhasso wants to stop pitting community against community and select a solution that is “more green, more modern, less costly and more realistic than this darn tunnel,” she said, raising her voice at the podium. “Let’s find a solution that works for the entire region. We need to stop fighting each other and work together for something that works for all of us.”
Following the meeting, many 710 tunnel opponents stayed around to hear from Metro officials as they share with audience members information about the five alternatives studied in the 710 North Study Environmental Impact Report.
Alternatives to moving traffic being studied include:
• No Build.
2. Transportation System Management (TSM)/Transportation Demand Management (TDM).
3. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) with TSM/TDM and bus feeder service.
•Light rail Transit (LRT) with TSM/TDM and bus feeder service .
A. Freeway with TSM/TDM (dual bore tunnel).
B. Freeway with TSM/TDM and tolls (single and dual bore tunnel).
C. Freeway with TSM/TDM and Express Bus through the tunnel (single and dual bore tunnel).
Helen Ortiz Gilstrap, Metro’s communication manager, said she was aware of the No on 710 Action Committee voicing its position against the tunnel concept as part the five alternatives. Gilstrap said she listened to some of the comments that were being made by those addressing the audience.
“We feel it’s important to have civic engagement,” she said. “This is a good example of that. We welcome all the communities to give us their comments and their position. It’s important for everyone to express their ideas. This is really a good opportunity for them to do that.”
The Metro employee heard a message from the No on 710 group to “not trust the process,” responding by saying, “I would like to reassure the public that the process is one that can be trusted. We are in the second year of a four-year environmental study. It’s for these reasons that we are holding this meeting, the one we held on Thursday [in Los Angeles] and another one on Tuesday.”
That 710 session will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Langley Senior Center, 400 W. Emerson Avenue in Monterey Park.
Gilstrap said the draft EIR for the project will be released next spring and the final EIR will be presented to the public about a year later.
“Open to the public, these meetings allow individuals to see the process, get information and have an opportunity to leave us their comments,” said Gilstrap. “It’s a really good process and one that they should have trust in.”
- : Join South Pas in 60-Year Freeway Fight
- : By Bill Glazier Review Editor