Slideshow: A tour of historic buildings along possible 710 extension routes

Despite the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's elimination of several freeway options that posed a threat to San Gabriel Valley neighborhoods, "No on 710" activists remain skeptical of the agency and its plans to complete the 710 Freeway.

Last week Metro officials announced the agency would no longer pursue a surface or tunnel route through the upscale San Rafael neighborhood in Pasadena. A planned surface route along Meridian Avenue in South Pasadena has also been abandoned.

 For many, the fight is far from over.

"Call me cynical, but I think it was a plan of Metro to propose programs with such dire consequences, so when they take these off the table we'll say thank God they took away Avenue 64 so we won't oppose the tunnel," said Bill Sherman, South Pasadena Transportation Commissioner and member of the No 710 Action Committee.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted to oppose several surface routes and a tunnel connecting the 10 to the 210.

But even that announcement won't lead to a peace accords between the entrenched freeway opponents and the transit agency. Five proposed routes remain in play, including light rail, bus, transit technology, "no build" and

boring a tunnel underneath South Pasadena, Pasadena and parts of Los Angeles.
Longtime freeway proponent Nat Read of Pasadena said the anger from residents was "inevitable" when Metro drew a freeway through their homes. But he said he expects that anger to cool.

"It's only been a few days," Read said. "There are other things to do than to keep responding to an organizer who wants them to come out to yet another meeting when the freeway is not going to come through their neighborhood anymore."

Tunnel talk 

The 60-year pushback against completion of the 710 freeway has been fought on several fronts: from the freeway fighters who attend South Pasadena City Council meetings wearing "No on 710" T-shirts to preservation groups desperate to retain the area's historic charm.

Even now that Metro staff says they've eliminated routes through San Rafael and South Pasadena, the proposed tunnel route connecting the 10 and 210 Freeways makes preservationists uneasy.

"It seems almost unavoidable that (the tunnel) could have some significant impacts on historic resources in Pasadena," Pasadena Heritage's Jenna Kachour said.

She said threatened areas include Pasadena Avenue's Markham Place Historic District, Governor Markham Landmark District and Pasadena Avenue Historic District.

Like his neighbors to the north, South Pasadena Preservation Foundation board member and former mayor Odom Stamps said he worries that the tunnel could damage hundreds of that city's historic homes.

He said earth often settles after a tunnel is built, causing damage to the structures above it.

"They are in far less danger than they were yesterday, but nevertheless if you look at the routes - they go right under these houses," Stamps said.

 Further south in El Sereno, residents are still "absolutely" concerned, said Val Marquez, president of the Concerned Neighbors of El Sereno.

"Because this is where the freeway ends," Marquez said. "We are affected no matter what."

Metro officials assured city representatives this week that the final five alternatives have minimal impacts on homes and historic properties.

Ron McCann, an environmental consultant hired by Metro, said the remaining tunnel option would affect 72 properties over 45 years old, much less than the other freeway or highway options Metro considered.

Environmental concerns

If Metro pushes through with the tunnel option, it will have to tackle what to do with the tons of exhaust emissions spewing from vehicles in the tunnel.

"The polluted air from within the tunnels will be blown out at either end," said Claire Bogaard, executive director of Pasadena Heritage. "That polluted air will immediately impact the surrounding neighborhoods."

Bogaard said she is also concerned that construction of the tunnel could compromise local aquifers.

Metro official Frank Quon said it's too early to speculate on the environmental impacts stemming from a tunnel and stressed that it is only one of five options Metro is considering.

"We're just in the beginning of the environmental process," Quon said. "We've heard their concerns, we are aware of them, but we will address them much later on in the process."

Some see good in plan

Cruz Silva, 63, of La Puente, was a boy in the 1950s when his father purchased a house on Floral Drive in East Los Angeles. The home lay directly in the path of the freeway.

Shortly after, Silva's father was forced to sell the home.

"We brought a brand new house and they said we had to move because they were going to put a freeway through it," Silva said.

No grassroots organizations sprung up to help save the Silva home; no advocacy resulted from their forced removal of the families in East Los Angeles.

"Back then when they went through there, it was an old Mexican neighborhood and nobody cared," Silva said. Despite being displaced by the 710 freeway, Silva supports its completion as a matter of fairness.

To Silva, Metro is cowering to affluent activists from South Pasadena and Pasadena. If the residents along the gap where black, Latino or poor, the freeway would have been built, he said.

"What's good for one is good for all," he said. "(The freeway) is going to help everybody."

The city of Alhambra has long championed the 710's completion to relieve traffic along the north-south running Fremont Avenue.

But not everyone in Alhambra supports completing the 710.

Cathy Arsset lives along the soundwall barrier to Interstate 10 in Alhambra. She drives Fremont Avenue north, traveling alongside the thousands of commuters who cut through Alhambra and South Pasadena between the 10 and 210.

"Traffic flows just fine," Arsset said.

Arsset believes said a freeway cutting through the heart of Alhambra, South Pasadena and Pasadena would destroy the quality of life she and her neighbors enjoy.

"There's no room for a freeway," she said. "This would disrupt people's lives. There's no more room for freeways."