THE VOTE ON THE 710 FREEWAY EXTENSION
Three of my colleagues let us down last night. I moved to formally oppose the disastrous tunnel proposal for the 710 freeway extension, but my motion failed by a 4-3 vote; even though our Council only has seven members presently because of Chris Holden's election to the State Assembly, five votes are still required for Council action. (You may recall that on August 13, I made a motion that the Council oppose three alternative routes around Avenue 64 in West Pasadena, and on that occasion my motion carried unanimously.)
Before the roll call vote, I implored my colleagues to support my motion on the grounds that a huge 6-mile underground highway tunnel would have devastating consequences for Pasadena, would disrupt our quality of life and threaten historic neighborhoods, be unsafe and be deleterious to the health of all of us (particularly seniors, school-aged children and those with health problems such as patients at Huntington Memorial Hospital and the clinics and medical offices around the hospital).
I asked my colleagues to follow the advice of virtually all the community members and groups and experts who have weighed in on this, as well as our friend and former Assembly member Anthony Portantino who spoke eloquently in favor of my motion last night. I reminded them, too, that I convened a forum at the Convention Center on 9/18, at which a panel of experts all described the tunnel as a major threat to our community's health and safety, and hundreds of residents turned out to oppose the tunnel.
I explained that Measure A presented no impediment whatsoever because of the three "T's" -- tunnel, trucks, and toll -- which were not on the table when Measure A was voted on in 2001. I told them that we needed to be clear and unambiguous with CalTrans and Metro, the agencies that will make the decision about the scope of the EIR for the 710 freeway extension, that the tunnel is a non-starter.
All we needed last night was one more vote. Mayor Bill Bogaard, Councilmember Victor Gordo, Councilmember Gene Masuda and I voted yes. Regrettably, Vice Mayor McAustin, Councilmember Jackie Robinson and Councilmember Terry Tornek voted no.
Councilmember Tornek led the group unwilling to oppose the tunnel, stating that most of his constituents with whom he has spoken support the 710 extension! He said more study was needed, and that an environmental impact report should go forward on the tunnel project. I responded that we do not need an EIR to know the tunnel would be disastrous for our community. In and of itself, a lengthy EIR process including the tunnel as an alternative could severely impact property values in West Pasadena and move the tunnel closer to adoption.
I asked the three dissenters to focus on leadership not arithmetic (i.e., politics). I told Terry and the others that one could not say he opposes the tunnel but not vote to oppose the tunnel. I said now was no time to get weak in the knees. All to no avail.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Terry was the lone vote in opposition to an EIR commissioned by the Rose Bowl Operating Company regarding the potential temporary use of the Rose Bowl for professional football games on a short-term basis (I will be posting a more lengthy message about this issue soon). At the time he said he thought the mere approval of the EIR would negatively impact property values in the neighborhoods around the Rose Bowl. So the hypothetical possibility of additional football games in our football stadium for a season or two will diminish property values, but the construction and operation of a 6-mile tunnel under historic neighborhoods, schools and hospitals won't? Ironic to say the least.
I intend to raise the issue again, perhaps after Chris's seat (Council District 3) is filled. Those interested in the threat of the tunnel proposal would be well served to pay close attention to the March municipal elections and where the candidates--and incumbents--stand on this important issue.
Here are some of the officials who are handling the 710 freeway extension; I encourage you to share your view with them:
Board of Supervisors, chaired by the Honorable Mike Antonovich:
Transportation Deputy Michael Cano
Full METRO Board list available here:
METRO CEO Art Leahy
Executive Director Doug Failing
Administrative Offices: 213.922.6000
Director Malcolm Doherty
District 7 (LA & Orange County) Director, Michael Miles
Office of Governor Jerry Brown