To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Two cities threaten to leave San Gabriel Valley planning authority over 710 tunnel stance


By Steve Scauzillo, August 7, 2015

Two cities are threatening to withdraw from the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments due to the regional planning authority’s support for building a 710 Freeway tunnel between El Sereno/Alhambra and Pasadena.

La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena are talking about creating their own council of governments with Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena and calling it the Arroyo Verdugo COG. All five city councils are in opposition to extending the freeway via a 6.3-mile freeway tunnel, of which 4.2 miles would be completely underground beneath South Pasadena and Pasadena.

South Pasadena City Council will vote on withdrawing from the SGVCOG on Aug. 19, according to council members Michael Cacciotti and Marina Khubesrian.

La Cañada Flintridge’s City Council voted Tuesday to stay a member of the SGVCOG for one more year but will “move forward very aggressively in forming the Arroyo Verdugo COG,” said Mayor David Spence.

Losing members from the 31-member San Gabriel Valley COG could weaken the organization’s clout and dent its budget. Dues from cities amount to $1.4 million, with each city paying between $5,000 and $20,000 for annual membership.

How to close the gap in the 710 Freeway has been a contentious issue for 56 years, ever since Caltrans proposed an extension between Valley Boulevard — at the freeway’s terminus — and the 210/134 juncture in west Pasadena. South Pasadena has successfully fought the project as a surface route during past decades. Since the release of a $40 million environmental report in March, five cities are opposed, saying the tunnel would emit noxious fumes into Old Pasadena and west Pasadena, is unsafe and too costly. Opponents have proposed dedicated busways, bikeways and light-rail as alternatives. Caltrans estimates a tunnel would cost $3 billion to $5 billion but many analysts put the cost much higher. Opponents say the money could be used for more realistic projects, such as the Gold Line extension from Azusa to Claremont, currently unfunded.

On June 18, the SGVCOG governing board voted 16-7 to send a letter to Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Agency (Metro) in support of the tunnel alternative without trucks. Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead and Montebello members successfully argued the tunnel would reduce congestion and complete the freeway. Members in opposition said the issue was divisive, volatile and a vote could split the COG, which works on regional issues such as homelessness and energy conservation and funnels state and federal grant dollars to city and county members.

Some say the June vote is coming back to haunt the COG.

La Cañada Flintridge Councilwoman Terry Walker wanted her city to quit COG immediately. Instead, the council voted to pay its $11,571 dues for 2015-16 on the condition its staff works on forming a new COG. City Manager Mark Alexander said he’s spoken to leaders from Pasadena, Glendale and Burbank and they are interested.

Pasadena has paid its dues for next year and is not presently considering withdrawal, said Mayor Terry Tornek. However, he said the SGVCOG does not benefit Pasadena and he’s very interested in a possible new COG with the Arroyo Verdugo cities.

Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge and South Pasadena say the SGVCOG does not listen to their viewpoints.

“I’ve seen the disrespect they have for us,” Spence said. However, the foothill city did not want to forfeit participation in grant monies collected by the SGVCOG, including money for freeway sound walls, at least for the next year.

Khubesrian said her pleas to take a neutral position fell on deaf ears. She called the SGVCOG’s stand on the 710 project “very premature and poorly thought through” and added: “Our voice is not being heard.” Tornek, Pasadena’s representative, called the vote “very offensive, inappropriate and foolish” and said he and others warned the board about repercussions, including cracks in the SGVCOG’s unity.

Fran Delach, interim executive director, said leaving the SGVCOG over one issue ignores the many positive benefits of membership. For example, the SGVCOG recently acquired $30.2 million in funding for smaller transportation projects from Metro that will be doled out to member cities.

Barbara Messina, an Alhamba council member and SGVCOG past president, said forming a new COG will not be easy. “If they think they can start a COG they’ll have a rude awakening,” she said.