Opponents of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 710 Gap Closure project were celebrating a victory of sorts Tuesday when the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to oppose any extension of the SR-710 freeway through the city. Activists say they will now gear up to oppose a ballot measure that aims to fund related transportation projects.
Cheers and whistles broke out after Tuesday’s 11 to 0 vote on a resolution authored by Councilmen Jose Huizar (CD-14), Ed Reyes (CD-1) and Eric Garcetti (CD-13). Reyes and Garcetti, however, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting; Councilman Bill Rosendahl (CD-11) was also absent.
Related story: Metro Throws Out Highland Park Route, Narrows 710 Freeway List to Five 
Lea esta nota EN ESPAÑOL: Ayuntamiento se Opone a la Construcción de la Autopista SR-710 por Los Ángeles 
Originally introduced in 2009, the resolution opposes construction of the freeway in certain zones. It has now been updated to oppose specific alternative route proposals announced earlier this summer, including a controversial tunnel option.
The resolution opposes routes F-2, F-5, F-6, H-2 and H-6, above ground projects that would have run through Northeast Los Angeles. The resolution also opposes option F-7, a tunnel alignment that would connect the 710 Freeway from its terminus in El Sereno to the Foothill (210) Freeway in South Pasadena.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Huizar said he and other members of the council were originally told the tunnel route would benefit El Sereno, a neighborhood he represents, reducing traffic and pollution caused by commuters who use Huntington Drive to cut through the area after being dumped off the 710 freeway where it ends at Valley Boulevard.
However, Huizar said he now distrusts the information provided by Metro and criticized the transportation agency’s outreach efforts as terrible and disrespectful to the communities most impacted.
“A lot of time [at meetings] there was no translation for people who do not speak English, there was no technical staff available to answer technical questions—and we took that as a dog and pony show that didn’t take seriously the input the community would want to give. When we do get this information as to whether the tunnel makes sense or not, who is to say that it is the right information or that they are doing the appropriate outreach to decide whether it makes sense or not,” Huizar said.
After the vote, several residents stopped to thank and congratulate Tina Golutta Miller, a Garvanza resident who helped organize efforts against the SR-710 freeway alternatives in Northeast Los Angeles.
“This is historic, never in the 50 years of the SR-710 extension has the City Council brought to motion or publicly considered opposition of all the freeway alternatives throughout communities,” she said.
Golutta Miller said Metro consistently failed to be transparent or conduct meaningful outreach. Northeast L.A. residents launched a campaign against the SR 710 freeway using three Facebook pages, including one in Spanish managed by El Sereno resident Gloria Castro, she said.
“[Gloria Castro] has translated our press releases, flyers… that’s our multicultural outreach and Metro hasn’t done that,” Golutta Miller said, noting Metro’s website and Facebook page on the project are only in English.
Several residents asked the city council to support the resolution, pointing out what they claim are defects in the project.
“There are a lot of hotel workers present… ask yourself, do you think the people who are here fighting for a cause today would have the money to pay the toll road for a freeway should it be built,” said Trisha Gossett, a member of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.
Gretchen Newsoon, Dr. Bill Sherman and others said goods movement is at the heart of the freeway expansion project, but there’s a lack of transparency where the topic is concerned.
“You cannot get Metro to say the word ‘truck,’” said Janet Dodson, also a member of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council.
Dodson said a rail project should be considered to move goods inland for national distribution. The technology exists to address the flow of traffic on the streets as well as move goods with heavy electric rail near the ports, she said.
John Safos called the tunnel “an 8 lane concrete pipeline” that would have been “an environmental disaster for El Sereno and the surrounding communities.”
Golutta Miller said the SR 710 Gap Closure project is intertwined with the 710 Corridor Expansion project that focuses on widening an 18-mile stretch of the freeway from the Port of Los Angeles to East Los Angeles and Commerce.
“Measure J is our next campaign,” Golutta Miller told EGP after the meeting. “Measure J is critical to Caltrans to continue to fund their projects … the expansion of 710 corridor… is entangled with Measure J.”
Measure J is a half-cent sales tax, similar to Measure R, which would fund transportation projects. The measure will be on the November ballot.
She said people want a freight rail to carry cargo, and electric rail to get it to the ships.
“We want a clean, less destructive rail line that will support business and commerce… [We are saying] please don’t destroy communities,” she said. “We are saying you need to rethink what you are presenting to the public and we want public participation. And we don’t want Los Angeles to enter into a project with Caltrans for these projects without public notice and public process.”
The SR-710 gap closure project seeks to alleviate regional traffic congestion and close the gap between the 710 Long Beach Freeway and 210 Foothill Freeway.
But the vote by the Los Angeles City Council, while significant, is not the final word on the subject. The Metro Board includes representatives of the County and several other cities, some of whom may favor expansion.
Metro staff has repeatedly said that no final route or plan has been determined, and that they are still gathering input from the community.
The remaining alternatives still under consideration include a “No build” option, a bus rapid transit route (BRT-6) from Los Angeles to Pasadena, a Light Rail route (LR-4) from East Los Angeles to Pasadena, and intelligent traffic systems option (TSM/TDM – Transportation System Management/ Transportation Demand Management) such as light synchronization and enhancing current bus lines.
An Environmental Impact Report is expected to be released in early 2014.