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SGV Connect 121 Interview : Chris Greenspon Interviews David Diaz

Transcript: Chris Greenspon Interviews David Diaz

Chris Greenspon 0:00 Have people been riding in it?

David Diaz 0:01 Yeah, actually ran here yesterday. I ran on it. There's people already skating on it. So, every day I see people use it already already walking on it, which is what its intended uses, you know.

Chris Greenspon 0:13 So we're walking along the almost finished, Merced Avenue Linear Park. We being myself, Chris Greenspon. And himself, David Diaz, Executive Director of active SGV. David, there's no shortage of multimodal projects coming up, some of them already in the works are close to being finished, like this one here in Almonte. Was this kind of a master plan, so to speak?

David Diaz 0:46 Yeah, it's part of a couple of planning efforts for sure. Starting off with our Regional Bicycle Master Plan effort back in 2012-2014. You know, since a decade of planning, we're now focused on a decade of building and working with partners and public agencies and other nonprofits to try and realize these community driven projects. So, here's one of the first products that we're seeing come true. So we're super excited. I'm super excited about it. I live like a mile from here. So I'm gonna be using it for sure.

Chris Greenspon 1:23 Yeah, so we're gonna start obviously, with right where we are Merced Avenue. Can you describe this project a little bit for the listeners? It's not all just steamrollers and leaf blowers out here today.

David Diaz 1:36 It's a park in the middle of the street, this street is very wide. One of the reasons why the linear park aspect of it was built in because of concerns with safety, specifically with cars and people speeding in this area. And so given how wide the street was, and some of the needs in the community, such as lack of park space along with capturing stormwater, introducing some greenery, there's trees, here, there's vegetation. This is really a multiple benefit project. You also have some natural playground area elements that are included as part of this as well. So the Merced Avenue Linear Park project is really mad at, you know, increasing access to parks, addressing those public safety concerns, increasing access to green and open space, stormwater capture, it's funded by the safe clean water program. And so stormwater capture is a big component of it. So you can see like some beautiful bio soils and rain gardens that have been included as part of the design. So and then in the middle, you have kind of this multi use walkway for biking and for people just walking, strolling, hanging out whatever it is that they want to do.

Chris Greenspon 2:58 And so, how long is this thing? Roughly? Did you say that?

David Diaz 3:01 It's approximately point, one, five, the the stretch of it, because it's not the entirety all the way to Garvey. But it goes all the way down that way, towards the Rio Hondo River. And so the entirety of the stretch is about .15-.16. Around there.

Chris Greenspon 3:20 But then there's another project coming in a little further south on Merced. That's a little more traditional Greenway. Right?

David Diaz 3:27 Yeah, yeah. So on that this is the on the El Monte side, once you go north on Garvey, you're going to be connected to a class to bikeway stripe with green conflict striping. And that eventually is going to take you to Fern, which is kind of the upper limits of in South El Monte. For the city boundary, where on the north side, you're going to be connected to a class two bikeway that on the south side of it is going to connect to the Merced Avenue Greenway, which is going to be a multi use path at the same grade. Sidewalk level is going to include a number of trees, vegetation and stormwater capture, improve bikeability and walkability and you know, be like an all ages and abilities design for people living on the south side section of Merced Avenue.

Chris Greenspon 4:16 And before we move on to the other handful of projects, what's the estimated, "grand opening" for the linear park and the projected opening for the Greenway on Merced?

David Diaz 4:27 Yeah, so for the Merced Andrew linear park that's estimated this year, May 2024, that'll be completed. Merced Avenue Greenway: on the south side, the construction has already started. And it's anticipated that construction is not going to be done until sometime later, maybe late early next year. But the northern section of that, there's still a gap in funding the project team is trying to realize. The anticipated completion for that and still kind of in limbo or not determined yet.

Chris Greenspon 4:57 Ok, so last time I saw you this was the ribbon cutting for the first portion of Rosemead Boulevards Complete Streets project that was about half a mile so far...but a nice one in a strategic place between the Rio Hondo bike path and the San Gabriel River bike path. So what's it going to take to get the rest of this thing built? Or that thing over there on Rosemead?

David Diaz 5:19 Yeah, so it's, as mentioned, it's kind of connected to a series of other products. So we are here we're looking at the Merced Avenue Linear Park. you're going to be able to ride down to Merced Avenue Greenway. There's also a project on Santa Anita. So the Santa Anita corridor, which is like Santa Anita and Tyler, technically, because of its configuration, it's a 1.4 mile stretch, that also is going to have some of the same elements: mitigating, speeding, improving stormwater capture, urban greening, a protected bikeway along the entirety of the corridor, up until the Rush Street portion of it. That'll be available to folks. So if you wanted to travel like from Merced Avenue here, this linear park, you can get all the way to San Anita Avenue / Tyler safely, and then connect up to the already existing class 2 on Tyler Avenue in the city of El Monte. So it's like a nice little loop that's kind of forming north and south. But then there's also an Eastern West connections through Durfee Avenue as well as Rush Street in South Amani. So, in South El Monte Rush Street, about two point miles, we also engage the community over an 18 month process along with project partners que la, the City of South El Monte funded by CARB, to be able to develop a sustainable transportation equity project. Rush Street is not for us. There's a preferred design by the community. It's about 15 to $20 million, but it does include protected bikeways, more trees, more lighting, more public safety, better crossings along Rush Street. So there's also those projects that are in the works right now they're in the planning phase, but of course, there's still more work to be done in terms of design and having construction documents. And then for Rosemead Boulevard, that one we also work with the City of South El Monte, Alta Planning and Design for that corridor. It's approximately .8 of a stretch there, and it's just below Rush Street all the way up to Garvey, which is the South El Monte boundary. And for that similar to like all the other mentioned projects. You have complete streets anf all ages and abilities design. But the one thing that's like really unique about that concept, or the preferred concept is that they also want to include bus rapid transit. And so that bus rapid transit, taking people all the way to the now A Line up north. And so that's another project that's also been identified as a priority for the City of South El Monte, and we're working with them to try and realize the the funding gap for that as well.

Chris Greenspon 7:52 And it seems like overall, all these projects are kind of conspiring around connectivity to the Whittier Narrows.

David Diaz 7:59 Yeah! I mean, that's what we want, right is for people to have access to places of opportunity of places of recreation, places where their family lives, via other means, other than like driving in a car by yourself somewhere. It's not my South El Monte, love for Whittier Narrows bias that is leading to that. But I think that is a major factor given you know, how magnificent and grand Whittier Narrows is. people have an affinity, at least, you know, I have a great affinity towards Whittier Narrows. But that's not that's not why the products are getting built. But it's definitely like a key place that people want to get to.

Chris Greenspon 8:45 Yeah, you're not the only one. But we think you regardless, we're pushing for it, David, thanks for coming on. SGV connects for what is it? Like the 500th time?

David Diaz 8:53 Yeah, potentially, potentially. I'm not going to be invited back for sure.

Chris Greenspon 8:56 You know what, suddenly a bonus question comes to mind. There's a project in the works called Parkway Drive. It's this two mile stretch, including a little elbow of another street right in front of Mountain View High School along the river. And that looks like a really good one. Can you tell us about it?

David Diaz 9:14 Back in 2014 and 15 was that Day 1 we were organizing with youth at Mountain View High School around like needs in their community. And one of the things that rose to the top was lack of safe streets. If you're familiar with the Parkway Drive area, you know, fortunately, they they installed, you know, speed bumps every like 20 feet because of a terrible tragic accident that happened where a car was speeding it struck, a mother and her young children. Everyone died in the accident. The city's response at the time was to install the speedbumps. Speed bumps, you know, ultimately, you know, haven't curbed ed any of the dangerous behavior that continues to happen on Parkway Drive. And so through this process that you've had identified, Parkway Drive is an opportunity. We did like a walk audit. So like we cited kind of some of the concerns and youth did a survey. Initially, it was like priorities that they wanted to see. And so out of that, we actually worked on a couple things. One was the bike plan to urge that be strongly considered as a priority advocacy to the city to include in their capital improvement plan. And so you know, many years later, the city initiated ...did include it in their CIP plan, and did initiate a planning and design and community outreach initiative for Parkway Drive, which we Active SGV were a part of. And so some of the engagement was limited, because it was during COVID. That happened. And so we did some digital outreach with the youth held some stakeholder groups, key stakeholder interviews, to learn about what the issues were, did some direct mailing to houses, had a future then communication with folks that kind of affirm their priorities and preferred design for the corridor. And so again, working with Alta Planning and Design, the City of South El Monte, were able to get design where we actually going to have protected bikeways along Parkway Drive now, many years later, almost a decade later. And, you know, to the city's credit, they've continued to apply for funding opportunities. And they got funded through the Clean California Program, I believe, as well as the California ATP. And now it's fully funded. And it's pretty much at 100% kind of construction documents. And last I heard it's going to go potentially start construction later this year or early next year, and then have about a 12 to 14 month period for construction. So I think along with all the renovations and remodeling that's happening about Mountain View High School, like that whole area there, it's just gonna have a different dynamic and feel to it. I'm really happy to see that project get done as well. A lot of these projects, Chris, I've been working on for almost 10 years now. And even before I started working on them, there was like 10 years before that for some of these projects, you know, and so it's just it just takes an incredibly long time to realize this infrastructure. That's why I'm like, so stoked to see this happen. You know, this, this happened a lot faster than any of us anticipated. But that's kudos to the City of El Monte staff just working, you know, steadily to get the funding and align and, you know, submit the proposals and to be able to have it already done constructed here. So yeah, looks awesome, doesn't it?

Chris Greenspon 12:46 This looks great. And we're looking forward to the rest of these projects. Thanks again, David.