Editorial: Metro Gives Monterey Park $100+ Million to Improve Transportation… and the City Wants to Build Parking Lots with it?

Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park - photo courtesy of author
Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park - photo courtesy of author

This Wednesday, March 17, the Monterey Park City Council will vote on a proposal to spend $100,300,000 to:

    • Build three parking structures
    • Eliminate street parking on Garvey Avenue , Garfield Avenue, and Atlantic Boulevard
    • Add lanes for traffic along those streets

Correction requested by author (3/19/2021, 12:38 p.m.): Monterey Park city council did not vote to increase the number of lanes on Atlantic and Garfield Avenues at the March 17 meeting. The city council voted and approved on December 16, 2020 a $5 million funding agreement with Metro to add lanes to Atlantic and Garfield Avenues, and Ramona Road.

Metro awarded Monterey Park $100+ million from the Measure R sales tax increase passed by voters in 2008. This tax increase was supposed to fund the completion of the North 710 Freeway stub, but when that idea was killed in 2017, Metro divided nearly $1 billion amongst San Gabriel Valley cities to improve traffic. Funds could be used for: repairing roads, increasing local bus services, intelligent traffic lights, lane expansion, and various other transportation improvements.

The city is proposing to use this once-in-a-lifetime funding for lane expansions and parking lots – with virtually no community engagement. No surveys were sent out. No town halls were conducted. No input from residents on how we want our tax dollars spent.

The proposal stems from two assumptions: that more lanes will decrease traffic, and more parking will increase business activity. Both assumptions are false.

Lane expansion on Atlantic, Garvey, and Garfield means that traffic will flow right up against the sidewalks, where senior citizens and families with young children walk. More lanes means that drivers will be able to go faster. Monterey Park already has a well-documented pedestrian safety issue, with at least one resident hit and killed by a vehicle nearly every year. (Remember the 14 year old who was killed in 2019? Or the man in his 80s who was killed in 2018?) Lane expansion will only make this worse, making it more dangerous to cross the street and walk on sidewalks.

Also, while more lanes will temporarily ease traffic, studies consistently show that lane expansions actually increase traffic over time. If passed, this proposal will turn Monterey Park’s main streets into mini freeways filled with more and more cars.

Some think that parking structures will help businesses. We all agree that Downtown Monterey Park needs revitalization. However, it’s not the lack of parking that keeps shoppers and diners away. It’s the lack of businesses that cater to how people spend their money nowadays. With online shopping as the norm, residents want places to dine and spend time with friends. They want to walk from a restaurant to a dessert shop, then check out a cool boutique, all without having to get into their car again. Sidewalks with cars speeding by will only hurt efforts to attract these kinds of businesses.

The Monterey Park City Council will vote on how to spend $100+ million of your tax dollars this Wednesday, March 17 (item 5-B). I ask you to join me in advocating for Council to:

  1. vote No on this proposal,
  2. get community input to develop a better plan, and
  3. use some forward-thinking to come up with proposals that are less car-centric and promote cleaner, more active, safer streets.

Submit a public comment (template below) to mpclerk@montereypark.ca.gov by 6 p.m. tomorrow – Tuesday, March 16.

Subject: 3/17 Item 5-B Public Comment in Opposition

Dear Mayor Yiu and City Councilmembers,

My name is ______. I am a resident of Monterey Park  [or insert a sentence here that clarifies your connection to Monterey Park.]

I am writing to ask you to vote NO on Item 5-B tonight, the proposal to spend $100 million to build parking structures, eliminate street parking, and increase the cars on our local streets.

Lane expansion has been proven not to decrease traffic, and will make our streets less safe. Cars will be able to drive faster and there will be no buffer of parked cars between the traffic and people on sidewalks. It will make our streets more dangerous for everyone, particularly senior citizens and children.

[Insert a few sentences about how you would like the $100 million used for transportation – ex: pedestrian infrastructure, bike lanes, public transportation, etc]

Sincerely,
[Name]

Jennifer Love Tang is a public school teacher and community organizer based in Monterey Park. Connect with her on Instagram @jenniferlovetang or via email at jenniferlovetang@gmail.com.

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