Najarian Metro Board Seat in Danger Over Opposition to 710 Big Dig

(The original version of the story stated that the League of Cities selects the Metro Board Members. Dana Gabbard points out it is actually The City Selection Committee. The CSC is not a subsidiary of the League of California Cities, Los Angeles Division. Its authority is Sections 50270 through 50281 of the Government Code, and it is administered by Los Angeles County.)

Metro Board Member Ara Najarian’s seat at the table of the Metro Board of Directors is in danger because of his staunch opposition to the I-710 Big Dig project that would tunnel under San Gabriel Valley cities to connect the I-710 and I-210.

Najarian is no hater of freeway projects. Just ones that his constituents despise. Photo: Caltrans

Najarian, a Glendale City Council Member, serves on the Board as a representative of 12 “North County” cities including Glendale, Burbank, La Canada, San Fernando, Malibu, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Hidden Hills, Santa Clarita, Lancaster, and Palmdale. While these cities still support Najarian’s re-nomination as a Board Member, the Board Members are officially selected by The City Selection Committee (CSC). A CSC committee rejected his nomination, last week, with members specifically citing his opposition to a project that is nationally ridiculed by environmentalists and abhorred by the communities it would negatively impact.

“As a resident of one of the North County Cities, La Canada, that unanimously supported Ara as its representative on the Metro Board, I and many others are outraged that our cities’ selection for this position is being undermined,” writes Jan SooHoo, a leading member of the No 710 Coalition.

Spearheading the effort to oust Najarian is Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina and Duarte City Council Member, and Metro Board Member John Fasana. Alhambra is not one of the cities that Najarian represents. Neither is Duarte.  For their parts, Fasana and Messina make no bones that it is Najarian’s spirited opposition to the tunnel that brings out their opposition. From the Pasadena Star-News:

“His continuing opposition to the 710 freeway process, to allowing it to move forward even in terms of the environmental review is really a problem in terms of San Gabriel Valley cities,” Fasana said. “The 710 has long been and remains to be a strong priority of the San Gabriel Valley cities and I think it was just felt that the continued opposition was putting the project at risk.”

Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina agreed that Najarian’s stance and tactics on the long fought-over freeway are “not right,” and that he should no longer be on the Metro board.

In essence, both Fasana and Messina are complaining that Najarian is representing the wishes of his constituency too well and are doing their best to blunt that advocacy. Being on the Metro Board of Directors is not for the faint of heart.

For Najarian’s part, he is not done fighting. His appointment officially ends in January, but he would not formally be replaced until after a replacement is found and approved. In a statement released by the City of Glendale, he vowed to fight to overturn the committee’s political decision by being re-nominated by his caucus and taking the fight back to the next meeting of the CSC.

At the last meeting, Najarian netted a vote of the majority of members, but he need a vote of members representing a majority of the member cities.