Walk Against the Machine – Monterey Park Activists Oppose Traffic Lane Expansion

The proposal has already been stopped twice. Next time it could be in front of a very different City Council.

Community members, activists, and one Monterey Park City Council official pose in front of Divine's Furniture after a walk down Garvey Avenue to discuss traffic lane expansion. Credit: Chris Greenspon/Streetsblog
Community members, activists, and one Monterey Park City Council official pose in front of Divine's Furniture after a walk down Garvey Avenue to discuss traffic lane expansion. Credit: Chris Greenspon/Streetsblog

Last Friday at sunset, members of the Safe Streets for SGV coalition invited Streetsblog and elected officials to walk along Garvey Avenue and hear community members speak out against a proposal to convert the parking lanes on both sides of the street into traffic lanes: The Garvey Avenue Improvement Project (between Atlantic Boulevard and New Avenue).

The walk began in front of Ynez Elementary School on Garvey and Ynez Avenue. Resident Jaime Rodriguez said he’s worried about his granddaughter who goes to school there. “I myself was almost hit several times on the corner of Ynez Avenue in the morning hours when cars are traveling westbound and they don’t slow down. And I’ve seen, in the years, maybe close to five accidents involving pedestrians and cars.”

Residents and Activists walk down Monterey Park's Garvey Avenue. Courtesy Safe Streets for SGV
Residents and Activists walk down Monterey Park’s Garvey Avenue. Courtesy Safe Streets for SGV

The walk was attended by about 20 people, including the organizers. Opening and closing remarks came from Safe Streets for SGV member Je-Show Yang (who is also Senior Policy Coordinator for the non-profit Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement). He said the coalition is against lane expansion because of several worries: pedestrian safety in Monterey Park, impact on local businesses, and pollution burden. 

“You have the idea of the induced demand, right?” Yang told the walkers. “If lanes are expanded, when it’s widened a lot of cars are incentivized to come onto our local streets. So a lot of our GPS like Waze is navigating onto our local roads from the 10 Freeway, benefiting the commuters, and the residents have to deal with more cars coming onto our local streets, therefore increasing our greenhouse gas emissions.” It should be noted that the proposal does not call for any physical widening of Garvey, just a repurposing of existing space.

Friday evening traffic on Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park. Credit Chris Greenspon/Streetsblog
Friday evening traffic on Garvey Avenue in Monterey Park. Credit Chris Greenspon/Streetsblog

The funding for the plan comes from the remains of the 710 Freeway North tunnel project that was rejected by the Metro Board in 2017. $780 million dollars in Measure R sales tax money left over from the freeway budget was divided up among 710-adjacent cities, mostly in the western San Gabriel Valley. $100.3 million of that went to Monterey Park. Although city officials have said Metro told them that the purpose of this funding is to “relieve congestion” on surface streets, a motion by County Supervisor Hilda Solis on February 24th, 2022 stated that the funding to pay for proposed lane modifications is supposed to be available for multimodal transport construction. “So we want to make sure some of those funds are being allocated for those purposes,” Yang said.

The plan has been tabled at City Hall twice since March 2021. Last time it came up in February 2022, the plan was presented by the city’s Director of Public Works Frank Lopez with the scope adjustment that parking lanes would only be used for driving during “peak traffic hours,” but that still got plenty of negative public comment. City Council voted unanimously to “contact Los Angeles County Metro to seek alternatives to the lane expansion for the Garvey Avenue Capacity Improvements project.”

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“Residents came forward and said that the original proposal really is based on outdated notions of what transportation policy should be,” said Monterey Park Mayor Henry Lo. Gesturing toward a representative from Supervisor Hilda Solis’ office who also attended the walk, Lo said, “I’m really hoping that we can work with them and our community again to create solutions that are more in line with the values of our community and also 21st century ideas of what are more sustainable modes of transportation.”

Lo’s City Council colleagues may not even have a say in the plan next time it comes up though. Peter Chan and Hans Liang, will term out this year. Fred Sornoso stepped down from the Council due to health reasons, and Yvonne Yiu is currently running for State Controller.

Several candidates for council seats were at the walk. One of them, Thomas Wong, president of the SGV Municipal Water District board, gave Streetsblog his take on what to do with the Metro funding. “I think there are parts of the street that we need to do a better job of activating to become more pedestrian friendly. There’s a desire as we’ve seen during the pandemic, you want to be out and about and be able to walk around and dine outside.”

The walk concluded in front of Divine’s, a vintage furniture showroom that’s been in Monterey Park for over 90 years according to owner Brian Horn. Horn showed walkers Divine’s 11 back lot parking spaces which are shared with several neighboring businesses. Horn said if the parking lanes are converted to traffic lanes, Divine’s may go exclusively online and close up the showroom.

But Horn also suggested it was possible that he himself wouldn’t be standing in Monterey Park if there were no parking lanes on Garvey in front of his store.

Divine's owner Brian Horn points toward damaged sidewalk in front of his store. Credit Chris Greenspon/Streetsblog
Divine’s owner Brian Horn points toward damaged sidewalk in front of his store. Credit Chris Greenspon/Streetsblog

“I’ll show you guys a fun story,” Horn said, motioning over to the curb in front of the store. “See this cracked sidewalk right here? A parked car here saved my life because somebody came down the street, lost control, and hit a parked car here so hard that the parked car ended up on the sidewalk here.” Horn pointed closer at the damage. “And that’s the sidewalk getting broken from the wheel breaking the sidewalk. And if that car wasn’t parked here, my jolly self that was standing over here might not be talking to you today.”

SGV Connect is supported by Foothill Transit, offering car-free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the new Gold Line Stations across the Foothills and Commuter Express lines traveling into the heart of downtown L.A. To plan your trip, visit Foothill Transit. “Foothill Transit. Going Good Places.”

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