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