Skip to Content
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Log In

SGV Connect #123 Interview – Damien and Je-Show Yang

So we are recording on Zencaster. My name is Damien Newton I'm talking today to Je-Show Yang. He's a candidate for CD4 in the City of Alhambra. 

We've talked to him a few times before and links to the stories and podcasts that he's been in will be included with the text that accompanies this podcast at So if you're listening somewhere else and you want more, make sure to head over to Streetsblog  if it's in the next couple days after this goes up. There will be an SGV Connect logo somewhere on the front page. Click on it and you'll get all the text with all the links. Now that the boilerplate is done: Welcome back. It's good to see you again.

Yeah, thanks for having me.

You're running for City council. We know you as an advocate and some of the things you worked on through that. So why don't we start off a little bit talking about the transition from being an advocate that's worked on these issues from the outside to trying to be come a City council member like what is how does that? How has anything changed in your mindset from going from advocate to candidate?


There's obviously different perspectives to be provided here. I am going to bring a lot of my advocacy experience into the City Council. I've been working on building a broad coalition of folks, broad representation, which I think is. crucial to organizing inside a campaign or as an elected official. 

I worked with seniors students. So many different ethnic groups as well as local elected just make sure that I'm representing the views within my base.

I've been working on the ground through my own nonprofit quite some time, spoken to hundreds of residents on safe street projects

Everyone does want to feel safe on their own streets and in my own work fighting against lane expansions freeways I'm dedicated to making sure that t this issue of freeways and cars just going through our communities is being addressed.

Issues of safety and air pollution have fallen on deaf ears. These issues have not been addressed for many of the residents. I've been to the city council on so many occasions and in this broad coalition I've built. We've had over 400 comments sent into cities pushing back on these types of projects that's just focused on building capacity for our local roads for our freeways.

These experiences are going to translate to informed advocacy on the city council for making sure that we have responsible urban planning and responsible transportation policies. Focus on our people. Not the people who are driving through our cities and not the people who are just going to use this as a route to go home. Alhambra has always been that city that gets the short end of the stick. We always focus on how could Alhambra solve this regional problem of the millions and millions of cars that go through La County. 

We're the Gateway City but as a result we're always the ones who have to bear the short end of the stick when it comes to lots of cars. Lots of air pollution. I believe we need to stop figuring out how we can solve this issue through adding more, lanes adding more cars. 

We need to figure out how we can stop this legacy where we're actually focusing on residents who actually live here. Meanwhile, you have cities like South Pasadena where they're looking at options of closing free ramps. They're looking at ways to make it harder to drive through the city because they recognize if you're going to go through my city; we're gonna do it on our terms. 

That's something I want to replicate in our own town through our own district where free ramps are. I will make sure that a lot of these policies that are often pushed down the throats of a lot of residents aren't being bullied by big government agencies like Metro and Caltrans. 

So many other folks just want to have these large freeway projects going through our communities but they never ask that of the more wealthy or affluent communities. I believe that cities like us need to fight back and really be willing to champion our own residents and that's why I'm fighting in the Alhambra city council.

It's difficult for a lot of cities when you're trying to deal with a Metro, or a Calttrans and they have the big project. Metro may want to effectively push back when they have local return funds…how they do the funding. I think we've talked about this before with Fremont Avenue. In Alhambra where the money that Caltrans wanted…or maybe it was Metro… I can't remember what the city that was different than what Metro wanted the city actually wanted to spend it on.

One was about car capacity and then the city’s was about safer streets for bicycles and pedestrians.

What do you think the best way is for a city to push back at these larger agencies when their agendas for your area isn't the same as what the City's agenda for itself is?


It first comes from the city's own political will. There has been a desire from the supervisor side who controls that funding from Metro as well at the state agencies. There has been a strong desire to push for multimodal transit I think the political will is there. But sometimes there are agencies that act in bad faith. I think Metro is a great example of this, unfortunately. 

These local return funds from Measure R after the 710 was canceled. Cities were pretty much up in the air about how to spend that funding cities like Pasadena decide to spend it on roundaboutsm bike lanes, some additional trees, electrify some of their buses and even doing a ton of crosswalks. But City of Alhambra unfortunately, understanding what Caltrans wants to solve regional problems by just building these freeways 

I think the pushback is to have people like Supervisor Hilda Solis who holds the strings to the purse that holds all the money for these projects. They're the ones who passed that resolution to make sure that the Measure R funds from the canceled 710 allow for projects that prioritize safe streets, prioritize multimodal transit, and that's how she was able to get her multimodal transit projects in unincorporated parts of LA County. That's how Eric Garsettti was able to push for that in the City of LA. They were able to push that since they were on the board for ,etro and unfortunately it seems that we need to have these super supervisors’ staff to help get us along that route of using that funds in that direction.

I'm lucky. From my perch in Los Angeles, my council memberber knew how to play that game really really well: Mike Bonon. Our current council member maybe isn't as good at playing the game at Metro; but she's on the city's transportation committee so she has a lot of influence on how the city decides to to move its agenda internally. 

Of course the city is the city. It's 4000000 people and has a lot of political power.

I've come to realize how it's much harder to have a champion at that level at a smaller city. Even a mayor…a very popular mayor. With Metro unless you're on the Metro Board OR unless you have the ear of the supervisor they can just sort of do whatever they're going to do. That creates a very different political dynamic for a lot of the SGV cities especially because a lot of that local return funds are still being decided by the highway division. Ah the seven ten fundsing and they're not. They're not as hip to ah.

So, what cities like Alhambra along that 710 corridor are trying to do is a special challenge. 

There are examples where they were able to fight back against these giant entities. I mean South Pasadena is that example, right? They pretty much threatened to sue Metro and make sure that this is going to be such a long project that's not worth it. 

Alhambra could do the same.s. To have that political will to come together as a city council to be able to push those entities away because at the end of the day these funds are meant for the cities to decide. The supervisors are supporting the cities but there's that middle person which is the highways department who's pushing them in a certain direction and bad faith.

Moving on, We talked a lot of the big policy stuff. Is there anything when you look around the city right now that makes you think, “wow that is something  I'd really like to address like quickly when I'm in office.” 

D you have do you have a agenda at that level or here in the first week in ,ay is it a little too early to try to get into those kinds of specifics.

There are specific policies I would like to address, specific concerns. 

We should make sure we have speed bumps along high vulnerable communities. That includes schools, parks, senior centers and hospitals.We should make sure we prioritize those communities because they're more at risk if a collision from a car hits them. It's just going to be more fatal more likely to be fatal 

In terms of broad policy, I personally am focused on freeway fighting and pushing for safe streets. I’m really trying to see how we can address this concern that there's seniors who just have issues with crossing the street. 

I mean in Valley Boulevard there have been seniors who've been hit trying to cross the street on Valley Boulevard. If you ever try to cross, you’ll totally understand why there have been so much apprehension for people to be around that area. For that exact reason Valley Boulevards is the most dangerous streets in the city.

Just looking at statistics, Alhambra was rated as the worst city in the state for similarly size cities in 2017. For pedestrians over the age of sixty five, in 2018  it was the fourth worst for all pedestrian, fifth worst for pedestrians over the age of 65. It seems that  we're always in the top 10 worst.

I really want to make sure that since  Alhambra is always treated as that drive-through city, our gateway city as I mentioned before; how do we make sure that's in our own terms. 

How are we making sure that we're focusing on people who actually live here? 

I mean there were engineers who were studying people who was driving off the 10 freeway as well as the 710 freeway. Around 60 to 65% were people driving north who weren't going and staying in Alhambra. My question is, “Why are we trying to solve the congestion issues for people who are trying to commute to and from outside of our city? Why are we not focused on making it sure that people who live in our city? 

We've got to make sure that there's traffic calming measures that would allow us to make sure our kids can walk safely to school and make sure our seniors can make it safely when they're traveling around the community, and make sure that folks who might be wanting to just have a stroll in the park are able to just enjoy their day and not be concerned that cars will be barreling down the road. 

My other platform concerns are making sure that we have more green space. Alhambra is considered as “park poor” and has a high need for green space despite being a “tree city.” We only have 14% tree canopy space in just a few miles north we have South Pasadena which is about 40% tree canopy. My thought is that if our neighbors can do it, why can't we?

We always have this short end of the stick and I've mentioned that on multiple occasions. Even several elementary schools have 0 green space or trees. Garfield Elementary is an example. Baldwin is also an example. I believe every community deserves access to green space as well as shade.

I want to make sure we're smart supporting our local businesses. And I think this is really highlighted after the 2020 pandemic, a lot of businesses were hit hard, especially Asian Businesses.

LA Taco did this whole interview with several restaurants in the SGV, just the asian american business alone. There was a survey they found that half of the businesses lost 75% of their revenue. That means tons of restaurants which have been around for decades, restaurants that have pretty much institutionalized themselves as a place for the community, were just gone in an instant. They closed because of certain ideas that Asian folks are more likely to have COVID and the 2020 pandemic has unfortunately shed light on some of our. 

Prejudices, and thus some asian hate issues as well. And honestly, when I think of the San Gabriel Valley, it's all about the asian businesses as well as the Latino mom and pop businesses. People don't come here for Starbucks, Jack in a box or Chic Filet. 

People come here for the authentic ethnic cuisines. It's the land where immigrants have dreams. Where local restaurants and businesses are a symbol of their dream. They open their doors of their heritage and hope that it's what it takes to make sure that their kids have enough money to go to college. I want to make sure that. We support them because for me, what is the San Gabriel Valley without these type of businesses and ethnic groups?

Without these ethnic enclaves, it'll just be another average American City. That's why I'm keeping these three as my top policy platforms: safe streets, green space, as well as supporting our local businesses.


Well we try to keep these interviews at about 15 minutes and according to my timer we're at about 15 minutes. But I always like to give a chance at the end if there's something that you really wanted to say that we didn't really cover in our notes today

A lot What are we going to do about the 10 Freeway ramp on Fremont Avenue next to Fremont Elementary. It's been a concern. And district for several years and it's something I've been showing up to every single meeting on to push back on. The original designs had things that would make it less safe for kids to cross by the school and I really wanted to see how can the city move forward.

That's my number one priority when I'm going to the city council race. 

To be honest, I'm I'm kind of curious about what other candidates feel about this particular issue. I mean this is a $100,000,000 project in my opinion. This is the once in lifetime.

I's going to impact our pollution as well as transportation patterns for the next fifty years because Alhambra isn't just a random suburb, Alhambra r is the gateway to LA and the gateway to San Gabriel Valley. What we do here will impact the rest of the county since the 710 freeway is one the most congested and most used freeway.

Well you can find out well one at least 1 of your opponents says because Chris interviewed 1 of your opponents last week we're gonna coin flip to see which one goes first in the podcast. So if yeah, you're listening to this and you're at like the 15 minute point just keep listening and you'll get to hear what he says about it hat freeway entrance. If you're like the 30 minute point you're going to need to rewind though. 

<laughing> Sounds good.


I'm sure we'll check in on this race before it happens and you know good luck with everything and we'll ah if nothing else we'll talk again in november.

Yeah, sounds great. Thanks so much for having me.