SGV Connect #103 – Damien Newton and Chris Greenspon Discuss the San Dimas Parking Situation

Damien Newton (Damien) : Welcome to this week’s SGV Connect I’m Damien Newton with Chris Greenspon.
This week’s a little different. In addition to an interview but we have a news report explainer that I have worked on about what’s been going on with San Dimas and the Foothill Construction Authority. It’s a complicated story, and the list of people that understand the story l that aren’t involved in the lawsuit between San Dimas in the Authority is really small. So, rather than have someone on to spin the lawsuit we thought that we would just try and explain it as best we could, very neutrally.
After that we have an interview that Chris does with Julian Lucas. Julian is a photographer who lives in Pomona. They’re talking about a new exhibit that he has going up…I believe it’s it’s on going now and starter I believe last week… 
Chris Greenspon (Chris): Correct. It’ll be going till about the end of the month.
Damien: So before we get into it with this do our eternal reminder that SGV Connect is sponsored by Foothill Transit. Offering car free travel throughout the San Gabriel Valley with connections to the Gold Line stations across the Foothills and into the heart of downtown Los Angeles. To visit Foothill Transit at foothilltransit.org. Foothill Transit going good places. 
So if you haven’t been reading our newsletter, and haven’t been reading the local press is might be a new story for you. It has really big potential to have a big impact on on the extension of the Gold Line Foothill that’s being constructed right now. It might end up not being anything but we thought we should try and sort of explain what’s going on because, who knows?

The Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority voted to use eminent domain to seize a park and ride lot near the future San Dimas station to build a parking garage. Would add 100 spaces to the existing 175. San Dimas has filed suit to stop the E.D. seizure The Authority says the line will still be handed over to Metro in January of 2025 for pre-operations testing which could take six months. Can do this without San Dimas Station if construction is halted or paused until it is ready.

The Authority wants to build the park and ride over an existing municipal lot. San Dimas wants a different location more into a residential neighborhood (that has proven unpopular with the people living near it). Relocating the municipal lot would cost the city $20 million.

The city has had issues/questions about the parking going back at least to 2018. Concerns that too much parking will induce people to drive to San Dimas to park and take the train if it’s more convenient parking than at other cities.

The city has asked that the Authority pay for parking enhancements and has completed a couple of studies, including one this last summer, that calls for the increased parking. The city is challenging the studies and the environmental review.

The Construction Authority has been under fire for building too much parking for its stations. It originally planned for 289 spaces for San Dimas but abandoned plans for a parking garage in 2020 shrinking the amount of spaces to 170 spaces as part of an overall reduction in Phase II of the extension. With the garage that is now planned in the current lot it’s 275 spaces.

The station is located on San Dimas Avenue near its intersection with Bonita Avenue along the Pasadena Subdivision right of way in San Dimas, California. It will be served by the A Line.

Eventually San Dimas is going to happen. Whether it opens up the possibility of down the line saying, “well you know we had all the money to build the station in 2022, but you know when inflation and all that has made it such that we can’t afford it anymore, we need to raise more money…” It’s hard to know if that’s really even a possibility because nobody wants to say something that will jeopardize their side of the lawsuit about what’s happening behind the scenes.
At the least, this could potentially jeopardize him station openings or maybe even delay the whole Gold Line Extension opening, which nobody wants to see. 
We’ll keep reporting on it, keep our eyes on it it goes forward. 
Chris: Just for clarification, any bypass of the San Dimas Station is just temporary, until a parking situation is settled and constructed, right?
Damien: That’s what they’re saying. If there’s a construction pause right now and six months from now everything’s figured out, construction could be ongoing when the Authority hands it over to Metro to run their pre operations. Pre-operations takes about 6 months for a rail agency to have control of the line to run all the safety precautions and all that sort of stuff to make sure the line is ready. 
Habib Biallan, the head of the authority, said in his newsletter that hey can program the trains just go around the station. Basically it’s an easy fix.
Chris: Isn’t there already going to be somewhat of a parking lot in existence or is it going to be a multi-level structure? Is there going to be a place people could park, just not at the full capacity that the construction Authority wants?
Damien:  I know this isn’t a perfect analogy, but I live in West Los Angeles. The Expo stations open and some of them don’t have any parking. Those stations are doing fine. Some of them have now rows and rows of spaces that you have to reserve like ahead of time or only for monthly parking and there a lot of empty spaces at them. It’s something that people that only want to ride the train once or twice will complain about on Next Door that they can’t just go park in the station. 
I know it’s a very differently on the San Gabriel Valley because we’re talking more of a commuter train than then you are necessarily with the Expo Line. But if the station opens while they’re building a parking lot on that land then there would be obviously no parking available. That did happen with one of our Expo stations, where the parking lot was still under construction when the when the station actually opened.
I think that’s what they’re worried about: that even with a temporary hold on construction, there might be zero parking for it when it actually opens.
Chris: If they’re still constructing the the parking lot, does it make sense for the parking situation to be shifted over to that municipal lot? Like you said, it isn’t necessarily popular solution in San Dimas.
Damien: The authority wants to build on that municipal lot, it’s the city that doesn’t want to move it. It’s a little confusing. That’s where they’re public works and all that stuff is located. They could theoretically just move all that stuff to the other lot, but they’re saying that’s where the 20 million that they’re trying to get the construction authority is needed for: to build a lot that’s not much farther away but apparently the reconstruction costs including resurfacing to handle some of the larger trucks.
It’s not as simple as just repainting it when you’re talking about moving these large trucks into a different lot then just the smaller cars.  The trucks would destroy a parking lot that’s designed for smaller lighter cars, so you have to do all that sort of stuff and they’re saying that’s 20 million dollars and it’s unfair to at this state of time to have a plan that would cost the city and its taxpayers 20 million dollars.
This is what makes me think that this is could really be about trying to get some funds to to offset those costs. I don’t know enough about the excuse me about the construction Authority’s budget to know if there’s any funds to alleviate this.
Chris: How realistic is it that the eminent domain seizure by by the Construction Authority could be stopped by the City of San Dimas and its special attorney.
Damien: I am not a legal expert here but when we have seen organizations in the past try and stop eminent domain that is about increasing car parking, we have not seen a lot of success. I can say historically it doesn’t seem all that realistic to me. However I haven’t actually read the lawsuit. I don’t want to opine other than saying if I were basing it on history I would not give them a huge chance that this would they would could stop the eminent domain seizure in court.