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Posts from the "The 710" Category

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NO-710 Action Committee Warns Metro Against “Accelerating” 710 Big Dig

(As we speak, the Metro Board of Directors is deciding whether or not to seek the funds and support to “accelerate” the I-710 Big Dig. Earlier this year, the Board voted to seek acceleration for every highway project accept the Dig thanks to a motion by Glendale City Council Member and Metro Board Member Ara Najarian. The following is written testimony by Jan Soo-Hoo of the No-710 Action Committee. A copy of the testimony, with supporting letters from leaders in surrounding communities, can be found, here. – DN)

To see the full packet given to the Metro Board, click here.

At the September 18th meeting of Metro’s Planning and Programming Committee, Sergio Gonzalez, City Manager of the City of South Pasadena asked why Metro is actively promoting and shopping the SR-710 North Project tunnel as a Public- Private Partnership (PPP) despite the fact that the EIR/EIS has not been completed and no locally-preferred alternative has been chosen. The Chair of Metro’s Board of Directors, Diane DuBois, asked Metro’s CEO, Arthur Leahy, “Are we shopping it as a tunnel alternative?” CEO Leahy’s obfuscated response to the Chair’s question (see attached transcript) only served to reinforce the conclusion repeatedly expressed by the public and multiple elected officials, that Metro has already reached a decision about the locally-preferred alternative and route and that Metro is spending $40 million going through the motions of the EIR/EIS process because it is obligated to do so by CEQA and NEPA regulations. Documentation of these concerns, which began long before the EIR/EIS was begun, is abundant and verifiable.

As early as October of 2007, in the context of comments on the Scope of Work for the State Route 710 Tunnel Support Studies, Assemblymember Anthony Portantino wrote to Caltrans District 7 Director, Doug Failing “…Anything short of that and any attempt to use the prior report as a foundation for this study will continue to bolster claims that this project is a runaway train in a quest to be Los Angeles’ version of Boston’s ‘Big Dig’ fiasco.”

Again, in 2008, Mr. Portantino urged the Metro Board not to include the 710 extension project in the baseline or recommended plan of its Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and states “…i Read more…

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A Midnight Ride Up to Sac Gives 710 Communities the (Possibility) to Breathe

It should be no shock that Sen. Ricardo Lara–who represents the 33rd Senate District spanning Long Beach to Huntington Park–has a vast interest in protecting neighborhoods that line the 710 as it goes through its proposed expansion. His most recent attempt to empower neighborhoods, SB 811, would help give communities a greater say in whether or not Caltrans goes forward with a massive widening spanning Long Beach to East Los Angeles.

SB 811 ispopular with his constituents. Before a key vote in the Assembly, Lara offered a bus to more than 50 Southern Californians from his district to take a very long, leave-at-midnight-seven-hour trip to Sacramento to participate. The legislation passed the Assembly Transportation Committee 10-2.

Senator Lara, with some of his guests at yesterday's Assembly Transportation Committee Hearing. Photo via Senator Lara's office.

A native of the 6.5 sq. mile city of Commerce–where the 5 and 710 both slice through–and the son of immigrants, Lara has personally experienced the struggle of not just coming from a family that consistently worked, but one which was continually surrounded by growing traffic arterials.

During adolescence, Lara saw the 710 grow from a simple passageway to an Interstate but was removed from the backlash of the Golden State Freeway’s proposed Los Angeles area construction in 1953. The latter project–some twenty years before Lara even came into existence–has an interesting tie with many of Lara’s own struggles. The proposed I-5 construction at the time largely marginalized an already-marginalized Mexican-American population, as noted in Ernesto Chavez’s book Mi Raza Primero! Construction of the freeway went ahead despite opposition.

One can call it experience–given his childhood in Commerce–or one can call it the aligning of stars–many L.A. communities were ultimately disregarded in the construction of the 5–but it goes to show that Lara both recognizes his routes as well as his history.

The 710 has essentially become a core arterial in goods movements as cargo volumes from the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles have exploded–which has also in turn made the trucks using the 710 explode in numbers as well. It acts as the main connector from the ports to each L.A. rail yard–Vernon and East Los Angeles–as well as connecting to the 60 and 10 freeways for access to the San Bernardino and Colton rail yards. Read more…

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Streetsblog Asks Metro Board to Waive Attorney Client-Privilege on Najarian’s 710 Big Dig Motion

SBLA Metro 710 Priviledge

At last week’s Metro Board meeting, County Attorney Charles Safer responded to an April motion by Board Member Ara Najarian containing questions on the I-710 Gap Closure Project. The Najarian motion sought the answers to three basic questions concerning the relationship between Caltrans and Metro on this project.

Specifically, Najarian sought to see who was the final decision maker on the project, who would be liable to defend the EIR for the project in court, and whether or not there is an MOU concerning the project between the two agencies.

As the County Attorney and Metro Board of Directors are refusing to answer these basic questions to the public, Streetsblog is formally requesting that Metro reverse its position and waive attorney-client privilege. If they don’t, Streetsblog may seek other avenues to get the information disclosed to the public.

That the item even appeared on the agenda is almost completely due to Najarian’s vigilance. Last Friday’s draft agenda didn’t include discussion of his April motion, despite a request that it be returned in 90 days, and he had to push just to get it discussed at all.

At last week’s meeting, it was revealed that Safer’s answers to these questions were not going to be made available to the public. Safer cited attorney-client privilege, leaving the Metro Board to decide whether or not such basic questions could be given to the public. As the report is still not public, the public can only speculate on what was in the report that required the Board to keep it from the public.

Here’s my speculation: the report could reveal that in the opinion of the County Attorney both Metro and Caltrans have broken state law.

When Najarian first introduced his motion, he did it because Caltrans, not Metro, is listed as the lead agency for the project. Despite this, it is Metro, not Caltrans, who is paying CH2M Hill to complete the environmental documents provided under CEQA. There is no Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies that is approved by the Metro Board of Directors.

California Public Resources Code section 21100(a) says “All lead agencies shall prepare, or cause to be prepared by contract, and certify the completion of, an environmental impact report on any project which they propose to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment. . . . .”

Read more…

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How Do You Taint A Block Party? Lobby For A Freeway!

"Close the Gap" shirts ran for $5 each at Alhambra's block party in support of the I-710 freeway expansion from Alhambra to Pasadena. Kris Fortin/LAStreetsblog

For most people who live in Alhambra, the pedestrian is a second rate participant on the city’s roads. Car dealerships line Main Street in the north, wide four lane streets run along Valley.

So, to see Alhambra close one of the busiest north-south arteries in the city from 11 am to 2 pm on a Wednesday was beyond surprising. Alhambra’s ”Close the Gap” event blocked Fremont Avenue from Valley Boulevard to Mission Road from 11 am to 2 pm. Wednesday to automobile traffic as a way to promote the Interstate 710 expansion project.

Alhambra hasn’t closed a street since the annual Jubilee ended a few years ago, but that event happened on a minor side street off Main Street that doesn’t get nearly as much foot or car traffic.

Art Beanda, 46-year-old Alhambra resident, sat with his two children in front of the apartment complex off Fremont Avenue.   After four years at the apartment complex, the block party gave Beanda his first chance to meet his neighbors.

“You see them and I mean, this guy lives here and you just say hi, but from far away,” Beanda said.

While the block party is a great direction Alhambra is headed for pedestrian activities, the association to the highway project felt odd. It’s great to see Alhambra close off a street for a recreational activity, but I’ve never heard of a pedestrian friendly event lobbying for a highway project. One step forward for Alhambra pedestrians felt like a step back by lobbying for the highway project.

Whether or not the 710 project goes through or not, will Alhambra continue to use July 10 (7/10) to promote the existence or non-existence of the expansion? Probably not. Read more…

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Measure R Funds to Join the 710 Coalition? Metro Says Its Fine

Last week, a mini-furor was passed around by opponents of the 710 Big Dig project. The Pasadena Independent reported that the City of Rosemead is using a portion of the over $500,000 it receives annually in Measure R Local Return funds to pay its membership dues in the 710 Coalition. From the Independent:

Paid for with Measure R dollars?

According to the staff report, the Coalition is requesting membership dues in the amount of $6,000 a year to be paid through Measure R monies…

…The 710 Coalition’s proposal, submitted for the Rosemead City Council’s consideration, states that funding for participation in the 710 Coalition would be paid through Measure R monies – revenue generated by the sales tax initiative approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.

Measure R established a one-half cent sales tax to be used for public transportation purposes, ending in 2039.
Among the benefits from joining the Coalition, the City of Rosemead will be able to work closely with other members to determine and develop public messaging in support of the I-710 Extension project, according to the staff report.

The idea that Measure R funds are being used to advocate for one of the most controversial and expensive projects in the state doesn’t sit well with many. However, according to Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero, this use of funds is well within Metro funding guidelines.

“The Measure R Local Return Fund Guidelines allow for the planning, coordination, engineering and design costs incurred toward implementing projects for traffic congestion relief,” Sotero writes. “The City of Rosemead made the request to use their Measure R Local Return apportionment for the 710 Coalition and it was approved.”

Sotero also stated that no community other than Rosemead has requested to use their Measure R Local Return dollars for membership dues to the 710 Coalition. Read more…

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Three Government Committees Reject Current Plans to Widen 710 Between Long Beach and East LA

Environmental groups developed their own alternatives to the massive proposed widening of the I-710 between Long Beach and East Los Angeles. "Community Alternative 7" is clearly the preferred alternative of community advocates, but if Metro/Caltrans feel they just have to build something really big, there's an alternative for that. Read all about them at in this report prepared by the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice

Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee,  Gateway Council of Governments and The Project Committee all reject current environmental documents for 710 widening between Long Beach and East Los Angeles.

Following thousands of comments from leaders within community health and environmental coalitions, the State-led project to expand the 710 Freeway from eight lanes to 14 lanes for 17 miles from Long Beach to the 60 Freeway in East Los Angeles was delayed. The Project Committee, am advisory committee to Metro, Caltrans and the Southern California Association of Governments, halted the project with an astounding “no” on the proposed routes.  Meanwhile, the Long Beach City Council I-710 Oversight Committee recommended that Caltrans and Metro recirculate the draft EIR, allowing for more public comment.

The proposal presented last week had problems beyond just concerns over induced traffic demand and air quality. It required moving power lines to line the banks of the Los Angeles River, interfering with service provider facilities including Shelter Partnerships, Bell Shelters, the Long Beach Multi-Service Center, and Seasons at Compton senior housing. The Gateway Cities Council of Governments (GCOG) understood this, and called for the EIR to go back out for public comment, another 90 days for the public to read, criticize and weigh-in, at a January 29th meeting.

At that meeting, two of the most exceptionally flawed alternatives–known as 5A and 6A–were recommended to be removed from the table by GCOG consultant Jerry Wood, stating that “south of the 405, we don’t need 10 general purpose lanes.”

While community and environmental advocates are desperately fighting against the proposed widening plan, they aren’t just naysayers. Aided by a group of environmental groups, they’ve developed their own alternative.

 Community organizers were forthright in their desires at the public meetings. Despite praising state officials for abandoning two harmful alternatives, still asked that the Oversight Committee consider their “Community Alternative 7″ within the upcoming EIR in addition to the other alternatives, mainly the no build, 6C (zero emission freight corridor with 10 lanes) and 6D (zero emission freight corridor with 8 lanes). Read more…
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Open Thread: Big Dig Alternative Analysis Released

How did your favorite alternative score? Click on the image to see a legible version.

You have to hand it to the public outreach folks for the I-710 Big Dig Project. Nothing says “community involvement” quite like dropping an Alternatives Analysis that was completed in December of last year to the public at Friday, at 3:50 p.m. before a holiday weekend.

Still an abject refusal on Caltrans part to accept that connecting two highways might somehow result in increased air pollution.

The analysis narrows down the alternatives that will be studied in the Environmental Impact Report to five potential projects. Yes, one of them includes digging a really big tunnel. However, the document recommends ”refining” each of the alternatives to better fulfill the projects overall goals. For example, the tunnel option also should include a look at Bus Rapid Transit. The Bus Rapid Transit option should include other Transportation Demand Management evaluation and so forth.

We wanted to create a place for interested parties to discuss the Alternatives Analysis over the weekend, especially since Monday is a holiday. After the jump is the five project descriptions that live to be studied another day, a description and the recommended refinements. All information is directly from the executive summary.

Read more…

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Congressman Weighs in on Metro Board Nomination: Keep Najarian

In the odd drama over whether or not Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian will be reappointed to the Metro Board of Directors, there are a lot of conspiracy theories.

Congressman Adam Schiff. Photo: Tim Berger/La Canada Online

Some, including the Councilman, believe that Supervisor Mike Antonovich is using Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina and Duarte City Council Member John Fasana to wage a proxy war against Najarian. Antonovich, a political heavyweight who used his current position as Chair of the Metro Board of Directors to replace Najarian with Mark Ridley-Thomas on the Metrolink Board of Directors, is believed to be stung by Najarian’s vote to place Measure J on the fall ballot and incensed over his effective opposition to the I-710 Big Dig project.

If this theory is true, then Najarian’s chances for renomination have brightened as an even bigger fish is now backing his bid to return to the Metro Board. Congressman Adam Schiff , in a widely copied letter, wrote to the League of California Cities to forcefully back Najarian and reject any notion that his position against The Dig should disqualify him from serving on the Board. His letter is  available exclusively online here at Streetsblog.

After defending both his record as a Board Member and his position on the Big Dig, Schiff argues that a vote against Najarian is a vote for parochial interests over that of the whole county.

The Metro Board is well served by members with a diverse set of views, so that the County has the benefit of a cross-fertilization of ideas and from the scrutiny from a Board that is not a rubber stamp from any particular point of view. Although Ara has served our region extremely well, he has not served in a parochial way; nor should individual voting members of the League of California Cities act parochially in attempting to reject his nomination. Read more…

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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: Read more…

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Op/Ed: Freeway Expansion Is a Pill for Poor Health

Dr. Roberta Kato, MD, is a Pediatric Pulmonologist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and an Environmental Health Ambassador with Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA.

As a Pediatric Pulmonologist, I’m concerned that Caltrans proposed expansion of the I-710 Corridor— from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the Pomona Freeway—will negatively impact air quality in adjacent communities.  Our children will be healthier when fewer vehicles travel through the neighborhoods where they live, learn and play.

Caltrans claims that expanding the 18-mile freeway is a path towards cleaner air.  The over 10,000 page Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) analyzes six different design proposals—called alternatives—for improving the I-710Corridor, including a no-build alternative.  Five of these alternatives propose expanding the I-710 to up to ten general purpose lanes, and several include an additional four lane freight corridor.

A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of the I-710 Corridor Project recommended a complete modeling and mitigation plan to address future air quality impacts attributable to the project.  This is essential; the community deserves protection in case Caltrans’ modeling—which suggests air quality will improve—turns out to be inaccurate.  Unfortunately, Caltrans excluded the HIA in the DEIR. Read more…