Gold Line Extension ‘Divides’ Eastside

March 31, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

Variations in the plan to extend Metro’s Gold Line Light Rail down two of the busiest streets in East Los Angeles would further divide a community that has for decades already shouldered more than its share of transportation projects in the region, eastside residents told Metro officials Tuesday.

“Every community must share the burden of traffic,” said Martha Hernandez, who last year advocated against a light rail being included in plans to alleviate traffic congestion between the 710 Long Beach and 210 freeways, from East Los Angeles to South Pasadena.

“East L.A. has no more land to share,” Hernandez said firmly.

Lea este artículo en Español: Línea Dorada ‘Divide’ al Este de Los Ángeles

The Eastside Transit Corridor Phase 2 project aims to extend the Gold Line east from where it currently ends at Atlantic Boulevard in East Los Angeles. The two alternatives Metro is considering include a light rail line along the SR-60 Pomona Freeway that ends in South El Monte, or a north-south connection to Washington Boulevard, which would then travel east with a final stop in the city of Whittier.

Both proposals are similar to the alternatives presented nearly two years ago to residents and the business community, but have now been tweaked to reflect comments received from the community and regulatory agencies, according to Eastside Phase 2 Project Manager Eugene Kim.

The SR-60 NSDV alternative would travel for 6.9 miles along the southern edge of the Pomona Freeway, transitioning briefly to the north side of the freeway, stopping at the Shops of Montebello before continuing on to its final stop on Peck

Road in the city of South El Monte. The cost for this plan is estimated at $1.3 billion.

The Washington Boulevard alternative now includes Arizona Avenue, Atlantic Boulevard and Garfield Avenue, three variations for the north-side connection to Washington Boulevard in the city of Commerce, with a potential stop at the Citadel Outlets. The route would travel 9.5 miles and is estimated to cost up to $1.7 billion.

Metro officials pointed out that unlike two years ago when an aerial rail line was proposed, an underground subway would be used for the new Garfield route.

Kim stressed that no determination has been made on whether the light rail would travel at grade, above grade or below ground in the Arizona and Atlantic variations.

Metro has hosted public meetings on the revised plans in East Los Angeles, Montebello and Whittier. An additional meeting will be held Thursday at the South El Monte Senior Center at 6pm.

On Tuesday, the Washington Boulevard alternative proved to be the most controversial for attendees at the meeting at the East Los Angeles Library. Many of the participants recalled how business suffered when the Gold Line was first extended to the eastside along 3rd Street.

To this day, many in the community to this day say the community and businesses have still not recovered.

“Our businesses will suffer, our kids will suffer while Montebello or Commerce benefit,” complained East L.A. resident Raul Daniel Rubalcaba.

Meeting participants, from East L.A., South El Monte, Montebello, Pico Rivera and other areas were broken up into small groups where they discussed possible benefits and their concerns for each of the alternatives.

A Gold Line light rail train arrives at the Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A Gold Line light rail train arrives at the Atlantic Station in East Los Angeles. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

What came across loud and clear Tuesday, was East L.A. residents do not want a light rail that travels above ground.

“If a subway is good enough for the people on the Westside, it’s good enough for us,” said Clara Solis.

Most cited the loss of business among their greatest concern.

“We don’t want to transport our customers to the Citadel or The Shops at Montebello,” said Eddie Torres, the owner of a sign company and member of the East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

If the Washington Alternative moves forward, argued Torres, the Citadel and Commerce Casino  would be the winners in the long-run, while eastside residents, forced to live through the construction, traffic and noise would be negatively impacted for the rest of their lives.

“I’ll be dammed if I help send business their way on my grass,” Torres said.
Ben Cardenas, president of the Montebello Unified School District and assistant city manager for the city of Pico Rivera, told residents at his table that the community should really be advocating for both alternatives, something Metro is also considering.

“The goal is to bring mass transit” to the area, said Cardenas. “The bottom line is, are we willing to compromise short term for a long term benefit?”

He said another light rail could bring a new tax base to the eastside community, but only if riders get off and shop.

“These streets are already congested, the alternatives would just kill business,” countered Lily Hernandez.

Opponents of the SR-60 alternative pointed out the list of regulatory agencies that could complicate efforts to move forward. The SR-60 alternative travels near the EPA Superfund site, Southern California Edison transmission lines and near a flood control basin at Whittier Narrows. The north side variation could prevent any plans for widening the Pomona Freeway in the future, they argued.
Nothing has been set in stone, representatives for Sup. Hilda Solis and Metro assured residents.

“Before recommitting to an environmental process we want to get feedback from the community again,” Kim explained.

Kim told EGP the agency has allocated $1.7 billion in Measure R funds for the project. He said the board is looking to allocate additional funds if voters approve a new transit sales tax in November.

Rubalcaba pointed out that when the Montebello residents and business owners complained two years ago that an above grade or at grade route would devastate their community, Metro listened and came back with a less intrusive option. He told the East L.A. residents in the room it was their turn to unite and demand what they want instead of allowing transportation projects to divide their community any further.

“Our grandparents may have let it go, our parents were too busy raising us, but this is where we draw the line.”


Twitter @nancyreporting

Commerce: Cleaning Up for a Cause

August 6, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Volunteers will clean the streets of Commerce Saturday to raise money for everything from athletic teams to a city-run teen program, perhaps demonstrating what it is to have civic pride in the process.

As many as 200 volunteers will earn $100 each by scrubbing away graffiti, trimming trees, and clearing away trash from some of the city’s busiest and most damaged streets, according to Steve Craig, president and CEO of Craig Realty Group, owner and operator of the Citadel Outlets and host of the 5th Annual Commerce Clean Up Day.

Lea este artículo en Español: Commerce; Limpiando por una Causa

The money will go to the volunteer’s designated team or organization, as long as they work from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. as required.

Commerce parks and recreation sports supervisor Frank Garcia has been charged with coordinating youth volunteers for Saturday’s clean up. He told EGP in many ways the money they earn benefits them directly, through youth programs and athletic teams.

Volunteers clean the streets of Commerce streets during a community clean up last year. (Courtesy of Citadel Outlets CIT)

Volunteers clean the streets of Commerce streets during a community clean up last year. (Courtesy of Citadel Outlets CIT)

Vanessa Perez with the Commerce Teen Center agrees.

“Many [Commerce] kids are from low-income families and cannot afford the $250” it costs to attend the city’s weeklong camping trip in Northern California, she explained. “So this is a great help for our fundraising,” allowing more kids to attend, she told EGP. The center has signed up 15 workers for Saturday.

Swim team head coach Kevin Larson says the city’s aquatics programs will send a team of volunteers as they do every year. “The money we get, we use it to travel” to swim meets, he told EGP.

Larson sees the event as a way to help the city while supporting local youth.

Craig said that’s what he wanted when first proposed the event back in 2011. His goal was to motivate younger generations – the millennials – to care for their community, he said.

“Our hope is that participating youth walk away with a greater sense of pride in their city and desire to make a positive contribution to its future,” Craig said.

In the years since, the program has grown from a small group cleaning near the Citadel to a citywide effort with many local youth programs and businesses donating time, work and materials.

While businesses and individuals are welcome to take part, only volunteers tied to local groups and organizations will earn the $100 participation donation, according to Traci Markel, marketing director for the Citadel.

“Businesses that donate time or labor will receive public recognition and thanks from the City of Commerce at council meetings, and a thank you on the Citadel Outlets LED boards,” she said.

Earlier this summer, Craig led a team of surveyors around the city to identify streets in high-need of repair. Volunteers will clean streets near the Citadel Outlets, in nearby neighborhoods, as well as storefronts and public structures.

They will perform landscaping, clear weeds, trim or remove dead trees, clear debris from roadway drains and paint street curbs.

On Tuesday, the city council approved up to $15,000 to help cover the estimated $30,000 cost for slurry work and restriping along Camfield Avenue on the north side of the Citadel. The council noted that the work addresses some of the infrastructural needs in Commerce’s Pavement Management Plan, and provides a substantial benefit to the city.

A map depicts the areas of concentration for the 2015 Clean Up Commerce event. (City of Commerce)

A map depicts the areas of concentration for the 2015 Clean Up Commerce event. (City of Commerce)

Ben’s Asphalt, which has worked with the city before, will donate the labor and provide materials at direct costs. The Citadel will cover the remainder of the cost.

Markel said slurry coating and restriping will take place over two consecutive weekends, starting Aug. 8-9 and concluding Aug. 15-16.

It’s truly wonderful to see a local business leader rally the community together to invest back into the City, said Commerce Mayor Lilia R. Leon in a press release.

“Each year, Steve Craig leads by example – picking up a shovel and working hard alongside our local teens on projects that clean up our streets,” Leon said. “Through this event we not only see aesthetic improvements to the city that we live and work in but a change in the mindset of our young citizens,” she stated.

Other local sponsors include Hillyard, Waste Management and CAM services.

Volunteers are still encouraged to sign up; individual youth volunteers 18 and under, and youth organizations are coordinated through the City of Commerce. Organizations and teams are selected on a first come first serve basis. For more information, contact Garcia at

Local businesses and adult volunteers, and anyone interested in donating to the 5th Annual Commerce Clean Up Commerce should email Traci Markel at


Twitter @jackieguzman

Commerce; Limpiando por una Causa

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

El sábado por la mañana voluntarios limpiarán las calles de Commerce para recaudar dinero para diferentes causas, desde equipos deportivos a programas para adolescentes de la ciudad,  y al mismo tiempo demostrando su orgullo cívico en el proceso.

Alrededor de 200 voluntarios ganarán $100 cada uno por limpiar graffiti, recortar árboles y recoger la basura de algunas de las calles más concurridas y dañadas de la ciudad, según Steve Craig, presidente y CEO de Craig Realty Group, propietario y operador de las tiendas Citadel Outlets y anfitrión del Quinto Día Anual de Limpieza en Commerce.

Read this article in English: Commerce; Cleaning Up for a Cause

El dinero se destinará a algún equipo u organización designada por el voluntario, siempre y cuando ellos trabajen las horas requeridas de 6am a 1pm.

El supervisor de deportes de la ciudad de Commerce Frank García esta encargado de la coordinación de voluntarios jóvenes para la limpieza el sábado. Él le dijo a EGP que el dinero que ganan los voluntarios en muchos aspectos los beneficia directamente, a través de programas juveniles y equipos deportivos.

Vanessa Pérez con el Centro de Adolescentes en Commerce está de acuerdo.

“Muchos niños [de Commerce] son de familias de bajos ingresos y no pueden pagar los $250” que cuesta el campamento de una semana en el norte de California, explicó. “Así que esto es una gran ayuda para nuestra recaudación de fondos”, permitiendo que más niños asistan, le dijo a EGP. El centro inscribió a 15 voluntarios para el sábado.

El entrenador del equipo de natación Kevin Larson dice que los programas acuáticos de la ciudad enviarán un equipo de voluntarios como lo hacen cada año. “El dinero que recibimos, lo usamos para viajar”, le dijo a EGP.

Larson apoya al programa de limpieza, viéndolo como una forma de ayudar a la ciudad, mientras que este incentiva a la juventud local.

Esa fue la idea de Craig cuando propuso por primera vez el evento en 2011. Dijo que su objetivo era motivar a las generaciones más jóvenes – la generación del milenio- para que cuiden su comunidad.

“Nuestra esperanza es que los jóvenes participantes se vayan con un mayor sentido de orgullo por su ciudad y el deseo de hacer una contribución positiva a su futuro”, agregó.

Desde entonces, el programa ha crecido de un pequeño grupo limpiando cerca de Citadel Outlets a un esfuerzo de toda la ciudad con muchos programas de jóvenes y negocios locales donando su tiempo, trabajo y materiales.

Orgullosas voluntarias participan limpiando las calles de Commerce durante el Día Anual de Limpieza en el 2014. (Citadel Outlets)

Orgullosas voluntarias participan limpiando las calles de Commerce durante el Día Anual de Limpieza en el 2014. (Citadel Outlets)

Aunque los negocios y los individuos son bienvenidos a participar, sólo los voluntarios vinculados a los grupos locales y organizaciones ganarán la donación de $100 por su participación, de acuerdo con Traci Markel, directora de marketing de Citadel.

“Las empresas que donan tiempo o trabajo recibirán reconocimiento público y las gracias de parte de la Ciudad de Commerce en la reunión del consejo, y un agradecimiento en los anuncios de pantallas LED de Citadel Outlets”, agregó.

Los voluntarios limpiarán las calles cercanas a Citadel Outlets, en los vecindarios cercanos, así como frente a las tiendas y estructuras públicas.

Se llevará a cabo limpieza de césped, extracción de maleza, recorte o eliminación de árboles muertos, limpieza de escombros de los desagües de caminos y pintura en las aceras de las calles.

A principios del verano, Craig llevó a un equipo de inspectores de la ciudad para identificar calles en alta necesidad de reparación.

El martes, el Concejo de la Ciudad aprobó hasta $15,000 para ayudar a cubrir el costo de $30,000 para el trabajo de estiércol liquido y redefinición de líneas en la carretera de la Avenida Camfield al lado norte de Citadel. El consejo mencionó que el trabajo aborda algunas de las necesidades de infraestructura en el Plan de Gestión de Pavimento de Commerce, y proporciona un beneficio importante para la ciudad.

Ben’s Asphalt, que ha trabajado con la ciudad antes, donará el trabajo y proporcionará los materiales a costos directos. Citadel cubrirá el costo restante.

Markel dijo que el trabajo de estiércol liquido y redefinición se llevará a cabo durante dos fines de semana consecutivos, a partir de agosto 8-9 y concluyendo en agosto 15 y 16.

Es realmente maravilloso ver a un líder empresarial local reunir a la comunidad en conjunto para invertir de nuevo en la ciudad, dijo la alcaldesa de Commerce Lilia R. León.

“Cada año, Steve Craig predica con el ejemplo—recoge una pala y trabaja duro junto a nuestros adolescentes locales en proyectos que limpian nuestras calles”, dijo León. “A través de este evento no sólo vemos mejoras estéticas en la ciudad en que vivimos y trabajamos, pero un cambio en la mentalidad de nuestros jóvenes ciudadanos”, añadió.

Otros patrocinadores locales incluyen Hillyard, Waste Management y Servicios CAM.

Todavía se anima a los voluntarios a inscribirse. Los jóvenes voluntarios individuales de 18 años y menos, y organizaciones de jóvenes estarán coordinados a través de la Ciudad de Commerce. Las organizaciones y los equipos se seleccionan en base a quien llegue primero.

Para obtener más información, póngase en contacto con García vía email a:

Los negocios locales, voluntarios adultos, y cualquier persona interesados en donar para el Quinto Día Anual de Limpieza en Commerce deben contactar a Traci Markel en


Twitter @jackieguzman


Caltrans to Pay Commerce for Access to Bandini Park During Freeway Widening

May 28, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Commerce city officials have agreed to allow Caltrans to move forward with a widening project on the 710 Freeway that will temporarily close off a section of Bandini Park starting sometime in 2017.

Last week, the city council unanimously approved a motion to grant the California Department of Transportation aerial and construction easements in Bandini Park to allow the transportation agency to continue work on the I-710 Long Life Pavement Rehabilitation Project, which is intended to “increase the safety of travel,” according to city staff.

Lea este artículo en Español: Caltrans Paga a Commerce para Accesar al Parque Bandini

Commerce Director of Public Works Maryam Babaki told the council during its May 19 meeting that this I-710 widening project is not the same as the I-710 North widening project that will add more lanes to the freeway. “This is about widening the shoulders” along the freeway to improve road surface and safety, Babaki explained.

Google Maps aerial image of 1-710 freeway bridge next to Bandini Park. (Google)

Google Maps aerial image of 1-710 freeway bridge next to Bandini Park. (Google)

The project has been in the works for several years but it wasn’t until within the last year that negotiations between Caltrans and the city started to make progress.

“It started out kind of a muck,” said Mayor Lilia Leon, reminding the council that Caltrans “wasn’t going to work with us.” Leon thanked Babaki and her staff for negotiating the agreement under which Caltrans will pay the city $650,000 for the cost of the work and the value of the easements, funds that the city can use to make improvements.

The project calls for widening the existing I-710 bridge 35 ft. next to Bandini Park and 35 ft. next to the Union Pacific rail yard; a 3.5 foot crash barrier and 14-foot high sound walls to prevent noise and debris from landing in the park will also be constructed.

The Easement Agreement gives Caltrans temporary access during the construction phase and a permanent easement to locate the base of the support column in Bandini Park. Caltrans will also be given “air rights” for the bridge overhang.

Commerce residents were not happy about the project when they were first informed years ago of Caltrans’ plans for the busy park. They were worried construction would lead to more pollution and that sediment from the construction would ruin park facilities like the multipurpose courts and softball field.

Residents living in the adjacent Ayers, Bedesson and Connor area — often referred to as the ABC community — were worried that debris, vehicles, or even parts of the planned sound wall and crash barrier could fall into the park if there was a major accident. They also feared construction would increase traffic, pushing more cars and trucks off the freeway and into their neighborhoods.

As with any construction project there could be negative impacts, Babaki told EGP. The park’s popular basketball courts, for example, will not be open during the two-month construction of the sound walls, she said. But Babaki also said the city has negotiated terms that will reduce the project time line and the amount of traffic on city streets significantly from what was originally proposed.

Caltrans will spend nearly $1 million to build the sound walls before construction begins along the backside of Ayers Avenue and Leonis Street on the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) side. Caltrans also agreed to give ABC residents two weeks notice before any construction activity begins.

“Caltrans has agreed to stage their construction and route their trucks through Union Pacific property,” minimizing the impact  to businesses and/or residents, Babaki told EGP in an email.

She also said Caltrans has made arrangements to use the Union Pacific access road behind the ABC neighborhood to access the bridge and the park, she said.

While the council stated approval of the terms of the agreement, there remains some reservation about the impact construction will have on park programs. “What will happen with the sports programs? Has that been considered?” Mayor Pro Tem Tina Baca Del Rio asked the public works director.

Babaki responded that since construction will not begin until 2017 there is still time to think about a strategy for moving programs and informing residents.

The 2014 start date was pushed back to 2017 as part of an agreement Caltrans reached with Union Pacific to alleviate impacts to the rail yard, which according to Caltrans Project Manager Diaa Yassin had been underestimated by the transportation agency.

“At first, we had programmed $5 million for right of way impacts on the business,” but in reality the total cost is about $55 million, Yassin said.

“We were talking about monster numbers, we underestimated how the railroad operates,” he said. “Union Pacific runs 25 percent of goods in the U.S.” through its rail yards and they are going to need two years “to reconfigure some of their facility in order to avoid interruption” while Caltrans is working, he explained.

“We have to wait for them to finish their work so we can start ours,” Yassin said.

Babaki said construction at the park will take two months but the entire project could take up to two years to complete.

The city is preliminarily considering using part of the $650,000 it gets from Caltrans to refurbish the basketball courts and for new lighting and landscaping.

According to Caltrans, the roadway rehabilitation will result in better ride quality and reduce future maintenance, minimizing traffic delays, costs and impacts on surrounding communities and the environment.


Twitter @jackieguzman

Suspect Sought in Commerce

February 5, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A search was conducted in the Commerce area early Tuesday for a car thief.

The suspect, a male, fled in the stolen blue Honda Civic after a short vehicle pursuit that ended near the Citadel shopping outlets, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy said.

The pursuit began in East Los Angeles, where the vehicle was originally reported stolen around 4:55 a.m., the deputy said. The pursuit ended near Telegraph Road after the stolen vehicle crashed into one or more other vehicles, according to reports from the scene.

Voluntarios Participan en Un Día de Limpieza en Commerce

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Más de 200 voluntarios se reunieron el sábado por la mañana para participar en el cuarto evento anual “Limpieza en Commerce” organizado por Citadel Outlets, el Casino de Commerce y 30 empresas participantes.

Los voluntarios, muchos de ellos jóvenes, llevaron a cabo proyectos de embellecimiento de la ciudad incluyendo la eliminación de graffiti, recolección de basura y arreglo de las calles.

Todos los voluntarios recibieron camisetas gratis, teniendo así la oportunidad de participar en un día de servicio, creado y dirigido por Steve Craig, presidente y CEO de Craig Realty Group, empresa de gestión de Citadel Outlets.

“Siempre estamos buscando maneras de invertir en esta maravillosa comunidad que ha sido tan acogedora para nuestro centro”, dijo Craig en un comunicado de prensa. “Es muy inspirador ver a la juventud local saliendo y enorgulleciéndose de su ciudad y de su futuro,” añadió.

Las organizaciones no lucrativas participantes recibieron una donación de $100 por cada miembro participante por parte de Craig, acumulando más de $10.000.

Este evento de limpieza “es separado del que fue aprobado en el presupuesto,” recientemente en julio, de acuerdo con Jason Stinnett, especialista en medios de comunicación de la Ciudad de Commerce, refiriéndose al evento anual de limpieza que se llevará a cabo en uno o dos parques de la Ciudad de Commerce el próximo año.

Grupos de jovenes se reunieron el sábado por la mañana para limpiar la ciudad de Commerce. (Cortesía de la Ciudad de Commerce)

Grupos de jovenes se reunieron el sábado por la mañana para limpiar la ciudad de Commerce. (Cortesía de la Ciudad de Commerce)

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