El Sereno Residents Feel Left Out of SR710 North Debate

August 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

About 30 people attended a meeting at the El Sereno Senior Center last week to discuss alternatives for closing the “transportation gap” between the end of the 1-710 Freeway in El Sereno near the Alhambra border and the northbound 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

It was the second such meeting in the neighborhood since Metro released its Draft Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) for the controversial transportation project in March, and the final meeting before the comment period on the report ended yesterday, Aug. 5.

El Sereno residents do not feel they have been given enough information “to know what the problem is or what the solution is,” said the meeting moderator, Kevin Ocubillo, planning deputy for Councilman Jose Huizar. They have not yet had an open conversation with Metro or Caltrans, he said.

The SR-710 project has been on the books for nearly 60 years but languished for decades when residents living along the path — including in El Sereno — strongly objected and won court injunctions against what was then to be a surface freeway.

During the 1960s, Caltrans purchased 500 houses along the then proposed freeway expansion route; nearly half, 220, were in El Sereno. The properties are still owned by Caltrans, which plans to sell the properties since the surface freeway has been eliminated from consideration.

Residents of El Sereno voiced their concerns about feeling excluded in the SR 710 meetings during a community meeting last week. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Residents of El Sereno voiced their concerns about feeling excluded in the SR 710 meetings during a community meeting last week. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Instead, the five alternatives for improving traffic in the region in the current Draft EIR/EIS now include: a bored freeway tunnel; light rail train; rapid bus lines; a traffic management system and the required “no build” option.

The proposed alternatives, however, have done little to lessen heated views on the project.

Last week’s meeting in El Sereno was co-hosted by the El Sereno Organizing Committee (ESOC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Office of Councilman Huizar, who represents the area. The councilman felt it was important to hear directly from El Sereno residents about their concerns, said Huizar Spokesman Rick Coca.

But “Not everybody knows about these meetings,” lamented El Sereno resident Olivia Trujillo. She complained that language barriers  — the meeting was in English — busy work schedules and too little information in public places, like libraries restaurants and on bulletin boards, have made the meetings and the issue “a hidden secret.”

Longtime resident Simon Fuentes said the local neighborhood council years ago opposed “any type of connector road.”

“For the past 56 years, Pasadena and South Pasadena want to dictate how El Sereno should live,” Fuentes said.

“It is not fair, not constitutional,” he complained. Fuentes said El Sereno residents did not have the same financial resources as those cities “to fight state and local government.”

During the meeting, people complained that Caltrans and Metro have done a poor job of listening to El Sereno residents.

It doesn’t seem to matter to the transportation agencies if eastside residents provide input, ESOC President Hugo Garcia said. From the beginning, “[Metro/Caltrans] made their choices and we weren’t taken into consideration,” he said.

Just 4.7-square-miles in size, El Sereno is home to about 44,000 people, the vast majority Latino and working class. The Los Angeles neighborhood is right where the 710 Freeway now ends, forcing thousands of vehicles onto local streets.

The Draft EIR does not really mitigate the traffic issues in El Sereno, Garcia told EGP. Instead, it causes more traffic, environmental, health and safety issues for local businesses and residents, he said.

“If a tunnel is built, there will be a lot of danger,” Garcia said. “What if there is a fire? Innocent people could pay the consequences,” he warned.

He wants Metro and Caltrans to go back to the drawing board and develop a better multimodal traffic diffusion plan to synchronize traffic signals and implement traffic calming measures.

“Prior to release of the Draft EIR/EIS, Metro and Caltrans conducted 92 community meetings, participated in six city-sponsored community forums and held over 200 briefings with community stakeholders,” Metro spokesperson Paul Gonzales said, defending the agency’s outreach.

“Any story indicating Caltrans and Metro have not provided opportunity for comment while the comment period [was] still open is based on opinion and not fact,” he said, pointing out that five public hearings were held on the Eastside, including one at the Christian Presbyterian Church in El Sereno on May 7.

State law only requires that we allow a 45-day period to comment on the Draft EIR/EIS, but we extended the period to 120 days, Gonzales told EGP.

Huizar, however, was not happy with Metro/Caltrans’s outreach and decided to join with community groups to host meetings focused entirely on the needs of El Sereno and the surrounding communities, Coca said.

According to Coca, the comment letter submitted by Huizar yesterday included the feedback he received from residents, as well as his longtime opposition to the tunnel option and the failed logic of the other proposed routes.

Huizar believes there isn’t any consensus at this point because no truly viable, vetted and well thought out proposal has been offered to the residents of El Sereno, he said.

“People do think, and we agree, that if we focus on local alternatives that improve traffic and access using a combination of street improvements and increased public transportation, that would be a much-more cost-effective answer to traffic issues than building a $5.6 billion outdated and bloated freeway tunnel model that will likely be a toll road,” Coca said.

Metro/Caltrans will now gather all the comments submitted since March—either at public hearings, by email and mail—to create a final report on the recommendation of the agencies’ final alternative.

Why Always Us? Ask East L.A. Residents

June 25, 2015 by · 4 Comments 

Angered by the possibility of another transportation project devastating their community, dozens of eastside residents expressed their opposition to a SR-710 North alternative they believe would once again require East Los Angeles to pay a high price for what is a regional problem.

“For decades, we have been the dumping grounds for the problems of other communities,” said Clara Solis Saturday during a Metro meeting in East L.A.

“Now we’re being asked once again to sacrifice for the greater good,” she said in disbelief.

[Read an introduction to the SR-710 North project here]
[Read about health concerns  http://egpnews.com/2015/06/health-concerns-weigh-heavy-on-east-l-a-residents/

It soon became clear that the majority of East L.A. residents at the meeting at Griffith Middle School believe the light rail train (LRT) alternative will disrupt a community already divide and surrounded by transportation projects.

Longtime East Los Angeles resident Margarita Sanchez, pictured left, scolds Metro officials for a SR-710 alternative she belives will devastate her community during a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Longtime East Los Angeles resident Margarita Sanchez, pictured left, scolds Metro officials for a SR-710 alternative she belives will devastate her community during a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“East L.A. has taken their burden, they have taken a fair share of projects,” said Jeffrey Hernandez, referring to the 60 (Pomona) 5 (Santa Ana/Golden State) and 710 (Long Beach) freeways and Metro Gold Line that were built to benefit traffic in the region but have splintered the eastside community.

Many said they prefer a tunnel over an elevated light rail train that would stay above ground through East L.A., but go underground in more affluent communities, such as South Pasadena, San Marino and La Canada.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard calls the light rail alternative an example of “environmental racism.”

“While the light rail is being proposed under the guise of a regional solution, the fact is it is nothing more than an irresponsible and unconscionable response to the more influential areas opposing the logical completion of the 710 Freeway,” she told EGP in a statement.

“Unfortunately, this light rail alternative is one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease more affluent neighborhoods.”

A similar statement from Roybal-Allard was read during Saturday’s meeting, drawing loud cheers from residents, heartened to hear an elected official speak so strongly in support of their community. Roybal-Allard represents East Los Angeles and Commerce, also located adjacent to the 710 freeway.

[Read her Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard’s full statement here]

The meeting was at times rowdy, as residents and business owners, often speaking loudly and passionately, demanded Metro officials give them a chance to be heard: something they said the agency failed to do during earlier scoping process.

When Metro officials refused to allow speakers who had gone over their allotted two minutes to keep speaking, the crowd at times responded angrily.

“Why not? Of course you can extend the amount of time,” one woman yelled out from the audience. Two minutes, “is not enough [time] for what we have to say.”

According to the Draft Environmental report, building the light rail would force the removal of 15 businesses.

“We in East L.A. have made a sacrifice to relieve traffic, we don’t need another Gold Line,” said Lily Hernandez. “What we need is jobs, we need progress and this alternative is going to hinder that,” Hernandez said.

Business owner Tony DeMarco, representing the Whittier Boulevard Merchants Association, said he believed the EIR/EIS process has been flawed since before it was expanded into East L.A.

“They should have allowed East L.A. to be in the discussion when there was 100 alternatives, not just when there’s 5 left.”

“The rich communities have had years to study this,” echoed Margarita Sanchez, a longtime East L.A resident. “You have the nerve to bring this to our community at the last minute.”

“It’s kind of like a take it or leave it attitude,” DeMarco said.

Many of those who oppose the light rail favor another controversial alternative.

“If you’re to give us what we need, give us a tunnel,” David Ibarra said defiantly.

However, Mark Lopez of East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice warned attendees not to be so quick to support the tunnel.

“East L.A. was so late in the process, [it’s] a tactic used to instigate more support for the tunnel project,” he told EGP.

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

“We need to get back to the scoping, not picking an alternative,” he said.

Dr. Tom Williams, a Sierra Club member and El Sereno resident, said he opposes all current alternatives. He said a community group is getting ready to submit yet another community alternative. In May, the cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena gave their support to the Beyond the 710 coalition’s “6th alternative,” not in the Draft EIR.

The plan calls for expanding public transportation, building a four-lane boulevard, and more pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths to reduce traffic congestion in the western San Gabriel Valley. Construction ends south of those cities. The 710 Coalition — which includes several cities and communities along the 710 freeway that favor the tunnel alternative — criticized the new initiative as too late in the game and just a guise for tunnel opponents to “undermine Metro’s ongoing DEIR/EIS process, which took four years to be reviewed, processed and released.”

On Saturday, County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the community must continue to make sure their voices are heard during the review process. She agreed that more information about the impact to the region is warranted.

“As I have stated in more than one occasion, I do not believe that the East LA community has enough information about the health impacts of the different options for the 710 N. extension,” she told EGP in an email; stopping short of answering if she agrees with Roybal-Allard that the light rail train is another example of environmental racism.

“I do not see any of the alternatives as a natural choice, especially when considering the health, development, and economic impacts to those in my district,” Solis said. “I will continue to push Metro and Caltrans to be inclusive, transparent and responsive, until we have all the information we need to make a choice that helps … all residents of Los Angeles County.”

For East L.A. Chamber of Commerce Executive Board Member Eddie Torres, the choice is clear. He says his Chamber, the Whittier Merchants, Maravilla Business Improvement Assoc. and new East Los Angeles Advisory Board all support the tunnel alternative.

“We surveyed people leaving the meeting and about 80% said they want the tunnel, not a light rail, he told EGP. “ We’re hearing that Solis says we don’t want either, but that’s not true,” he said.

“Congresswoman Roybal-Allard has it right, she knows the community, she knows what we need and supports us.”

Health Concerns Weigh Heavy on East L.A. Residents

June 25, 2015 by · 5 Comments 

At a meeting in East Los Angeles Saturday, resident after resident voiced concern that a “plague” of pollution and health issues could rain down on their predominately Latino neighborhoods if they are forced to endure more light rail construction.

Their comments came during a public hearing at Griffith Middle School on Metro’s draft environmental report and study on alternatives for closing the gap between the Long Beach (710) and Pasadena (210) freeways.

[Read an introduction to the SR-710 project here]

Earlier that week, Martha Hernandez attended a meeting at Centro Maravilla in East L.A. with USC-Medical Center doctors who explained the substantial health risks tied to pollution.

“We were told air pollution causes asthma, diabetes, autism, and other illnesses,” she told EGP in Spanish.

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

A map of East Los Angeles illustrate how the community is surrounded by freeways. (Google Maps)

Like Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, many people at the meeting believe they are the victims of environmental racism and injustice, and were given little say on a project that could tear up their community.

[Read her full statement here]

“I’ve had enough of those who want to continue taking advantage of East L.A. because we are Latinos,” said Carmen Gonzalez, who lives near Mednik and Third Street, where a light rail station would be built if this option is selected.

Speakers said past transportation projects have already left them exposed to high levels of toxic pollution.

“I have asthma and it’s harder for me to play football,” said Garfield High School student Timothy Williams.

“Think about the health of our children, emissions affect our community,” another speaker said.

“Air quality hasn’t been studied yet” but should be before anything is decided, said eastside resident Lili Hernandez.

Lea este artículo en Español: SR-710: Residentes del Este de Los Ángeles Preocupados por Su Salud

Living in an area with high levels of traffic pollution can lead to serious illnesses, according to a recent infographic, Living Near Busy Roads or Traffic Pollution, shared by the USC Environmental Health Center.

The infographic shows that women who are pregnant are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure, giving birth to low-weight and/or premature babies, who in turn have higher levels of behavior or learning problems and autism; smaller lungs, asthma, ear, nose, throat infections and obesity. In adults, long-term exposure to pollution can lead to higher levels of heart disease, stroke, lung problems, memory loss and a shorter life span, the report found.

“We have schools, parks, the senior apartments and businesses” close to where they want to build the light rail, and there’s no doubt that’s harmful, Gonzalez told EGP in Spanish.

Before the meeting started, stakeholders were able to review maps and other documents pertaining to the five alternatives under consideration in the Draft EIR. They also had the chance to grill Metro staff about the plans.

One group of women directed their frustration at a Metro representative, questioning him about a now retired Metro employee’s assertion that metal scrapings from the elevated train – two stories high in some sections – would be released into the air and breathed in by unsuspecting residents.

Rudy Torres owns a business in East Los Angeles and says he supports the building of a 710 tunnel. He says, “It is the only [option] that doesn’t put a burden on East L.A. and cost life.”

The East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is actively fighting the light rail option, which they say will do nothing to relieve traffic on the 710 Freeway but will disrupt life on the eastside. The business group says a tunnel connecting the 710 to the 210 Freeway is a better solution for traffic reduction that will not be as harmful to the East L.A. community. “It will improve the flow of traffic and decrease traffic on surface streets north of Valley Boulevard, therefore reducing pollution in our local communities,” the Chamber states.

A little further south on the 710 corridor is the City of Commerce. The city’s residents on a daily basis experience the impact of diesel exhaust from the nearly 47,000 trucks that travel the 710 freeway everyday, and as many as 1,000 trucks an hour on the city’s main streets.

The daily exposure to high levels of exhaust causing pollution has raised Commerce residents’ risk for cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Last October, Commerce approved a resolution strongly supporting the effort to close the 4.5-mile gap “as soon as possible.” City officials believe completion of the freeway will alleviate traffic in local neighborhoods, generate economic development and create jobs in the region.

On Tuesday, Commerce unveiled one of the 20 the new “No Idling” signs that will be placed throughout the city targeting truck drivers who leave their engines running while stopped in the city.

Mayor Lilia Leon calls closing the 710 a much-needed regional effort to improve transportation. “Because there is not a connector, everybody ends up in Commerce,” Leon said. “If there was one, probably they would keep going on the 710,” she told EGP. “I’m sure it will alleviate the traffic flow,” she said.

Councilman Jose Huizar (CD14), who represents El Sereno, an L.A. neighborhood that has for decades been at the forefront of efforts to block the 710 expansions, disagrees.

On his website he states that he strongly opposes the 710 freeway expansion and believes a “multi-modal approach” — which could includes things like street light synchronization and dedicated bus lanes — is the better alternative to alleviate traffic.

“I oppose any option that disrupts the community of El Sereno or brings additional traffic to the area. The five alternatives in the Draft 710 EIR fall woefully short in my opinion,” Huizar told EGP via email.

“Working with local stakeholders and community groups, my office has begun the process of asking El Sereno and the surrounding communities a question that no one has asked them up until now: What do they want? What traffic improvements can we make locally that help, serve and advance the community of El Sereno?” Huizar said.

The councilman hosted a meeting on the SR-710 alternatives in El Sereno last week, which according to his spokesperson Rick Coca was “well-attended.” The “focus was entirely on truly listening to local residents to get their feedback – something that has been lacking in this process,” said Coca.

Metro held a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles to allow eastside residents a chance to provide testimony on the SR-710 North project.(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Metro held a meeting Saturday at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles to allow eastside residents a chance to provide testimony on the SR-710 North project.(EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

If the light rail train is constructed, 15 businesses will have to be moved and the new East LA Civic Center Plaza would be replaced with a train station. About 155 employees would lose their jobs according to the website East LA Against Injustice and Racism. Nueva Maravilla Public Housing and Kipp Raices Charter School—which will open in the fall—could also be taken.

Several residents told Metro that more studies and health assessments must be made before they reach a decision.

In the past “People proposed a lot of ideas that were ignored said East L.A. resident Luis Garcia.

The deadline to submit comments has been extended until August 5th.

 

Comments will be accepted by mail addressed to Garret Damrath, Caltrans Division 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 South Main Street MS-16, Los Angeles CA 90012

The full study is available at 

http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis

The document can be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

To read more about the SR-710, go to www.EGPNews.com.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

 

 

SR-710 Expansion: 60 Years of Discord

June 25, 2015 by · 3 Comments 

More than half a century ago, transportation officials in the Southland knew that they would have to do something to relieve the inevitable traffic congestion that would pile up along the 710 Freeway headed north. They had plans to build a freeway extension to complete the 4.5-mile gap between the terminus of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

Fearing disruption to their neighborhoods and the taking of their homes, residents filed lawsuits, effectively stopping the expansion for nearly 60 years.

During the ensuing years, traffic has increased dramatically, both in terms of goods movement and people driving to work, school, shopping or home.

For large diesel trucks traveling from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, hauling as much as 40% of all the goods consumed in the U.S., the 710 Freeway is a key transportation route to distribution centers and commercial markets to the east and north of Los Angeles County.

The crush of traffic has pushed more trucks and cars onto local streets, making it harder for residents to get around, and according to health experts, increasing their risk of cancer, asthma, learning disabilities and premature babies due to increased pollution.

In March, Metro released a Draft Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) with five proposed alternatives for improving traffic through the region; a freeway tunnel, a light rail train; a rapid bus line; a traffic management system and the required “no build” option.

Several public hearings on the draft report have already been held; the latest Saturday in East Los Angeles. Some groups are now calling the alternatives “outdated” for today’s transportation and environmental needs, and want to start the process over.

The two proposals getting the most attention are the 7-mile tunnel connecting the two freeways, and a light rail alternative that backers say will make it easier for people to leave their car behind.

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard represents many of the working class, predominately Latino communities caught in the 710 traffic snarl. Last week, she issued the strongest statement to date by any public official on the project:

“The proposed light rail route is an unacceptable alternative. It is one more example of the environmental racism with which East L.A. and Southeast citizens are only too familiar … one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease more affluent neighborhoods.” (See her full statement here ). She supports building the tunnel.

Metro has extended the deadline to comment on the on the Draft EIR from July 6 to Aug. 5. Comments will be used to create the final report and recommendation of an alternative to Metro’s Board of Directors.

It’s Time to Close 710 Gap, But Not With Light Rail

June 25, 2015 by · 6 Comments 

The goal of the State Route 710 North study is to address a nearly sixty-year delay in completing this Freeway. The unfinished SR 710 creates traffic jams, pollution, and an overall unhealthy environment, resulting in a lesser quality of life for the surrounding communities.

The proposed light rail route is an unacceptable alternative. It is one more example of the environmental racism with which East L.A. and Southeast citizens are only too familiar. While the light rail is being proposed under the guise of a regional solution, the fact is it is nothing more than an irresponsible and unconscionable response to the more influential areas opposing the logical completion of the 710 Freeway. The light rail does not solve the real problem of the 710 gap, nor will it reduce transportation congestion on the surrounding residential streets. It will, however, further divide and negatively impact East L.A. neighborhoods in the same way Boyle Heights, where I was born and raised, was divided and damaged by the building of the freeways. Furthermore, the light rail project will require destroying East L.A.’s newest economic development project, a business plaza that is home to 15 businesses and 155 jobs. Destroying these thriving businesses and eliminating jobs in a community that continues to suffer from unemployment that is higher than both the state and national levels is totally unacceptable.

I have fought environmental racism my entire political career. Unfortunately, this light rail alternative is one more example of a minority community being sacrificed to appease more affluent neighborhoods. This is highlighted by the fact that the proposed light rail does nothing to address the real issue of an incomplete 710, and the commuter traffic it dumps onto our city streets. Further evidence is that the proposed light rail is elevated in the East L.A. area, but goes underground once it leaves East L.A.!

Of the five alternatives presented to us in the Draft EIR, the freeway tunnel is the only alternative that meets the stated goal of improving the efficiency of the existing regional freeway and transit networks. It is also the only alternative that provides a seamless transportation route for commuters on the 710 corridor.

It is long past the time to do the responsible thing and close the 710 gap!

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard represents California’s 40th District, which includes the cities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Commerce, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Maywood, Downey, Bellflower, Vernon, and Paramount, as well as South Los Angeles and the unincorporated areas of East Los Angeles.

Tunnel Opponents Propose ‘Street Network’ for 710 Gap

June 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A coalition of community organizations and cities gathered at Metro headquarters last week to publicly oppose to the construction of a tunnel connecting freeways between Alhambra and South Pasadena and to present what they said is a new direction in the SR-710 debate.

“Today is a new day in the 710 debate,” said Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, a firm opponent to the building of a tunnel to close the gap between the terminus of the 710 Freeway in Alhambra and the 210 Freeway in Pasadena.

“We are committed to finding solutions that work for everyone,” Najarian said during the May 28 press conference to announce the Beyond the 710 Plan, a new initiative backers say will do a better job of reducing traffic and connecting people than the current options under review for the 710 Freeway.

The cities of Glendale, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena have all signed onto the coalition and support its plan for expanding public transportation and building more pedestrian- and bike-friendly paths to reduce traffic congestion in the western San Gabriel Valley.

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

(EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

“There’s a lot of money at stake here,” said Najarian, referring to the $5.6 billion it would cost to build the tunnel, one of five alternatives currently under review. Najarian is also a member of the Metro Board and said last week that the 710 Freeway tunnel is favored by engineers, contractors and developers because they stand to make a lot of money.

The closing of the 4.5 miles gap between where the 710 ends in Alhambra and the 210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena has been under debate for nearly six decades. In March, Metro released a Draft Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (DIR/EIS) that contains five proposed alternatives for improving traffic through the region; a freeway tunnel, a light rail train; a rapid bus line; a traffic management system and the required “no build” option.

Several public hearings on the draft report have already taken place in cities and neighborhoods that would be the most impacted by the project: The tunnel and light rail line alternatives have by far generated the most support and opposition.

Backers of the new Beyond the 710 initiative said last week that Metro initially had more than 100 proposals to choose from  and that none of the five alternatives in the Draft Impact Report would be as cost effective or good for the community as what they are proposing.

The group presented its plan to the Metro Board, which is in the process of evaluating the alternatives for closing the 710 gap but did not comment on the Coalition’s plan to expand bus service and build a network of surface street projects, including a four-lane roadway – Golden State Boulevard – that would travel from the south stub of the 710 freeway to Cal State LA, connecting along the way to Freemont Street, Alhambra Avenue and Mission Boulevard.

They claim the surface street network will make using public transportation easier by connecting both legs of the Metro Gold Line, the Green and Blue Lines, as well as Metrolink’s San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange County lines and the El Monte busway. The Coalition said there would be stops on or near Huntington Hospital, Cal State LA, East LA College, St Francis Medical Center and the communities of Bell, Maywood and South Gate.

The plan also proposes restoring the Arroyo Rosa de Castilla, a year-round creek that runs alongside and under the 710. Restoration would provide over 30 acres of new parklands, three regular soccer fields, and a 2.5-mile bike path connecting Alhambra, El Sereno and South Pasadena.

Planners for the project estimate the cost at $875 million.

His TAP card in hand and bike at his side, South Pasadena Councilman Michael Cacciotti said they are all he needs to get around. “It took me 45 minutes [to get] from Pasadena to Los Angeles,” he said, “and I exercised.”

Claiming it would cause significant damage to their cities, the group said building a tunnel is completely unacceptable. “Pasadena has suffered the negative impacts of freeway ‘solutions’ and we recognize that better options exist, such as great streets and smart transit,” said City Manager Michael Beck.

On the other side of the issue, the 710 Coalition — which includes several cities and communities along the 710 freeway that favor the tunnel alternative — released a statement criticizing the new initiative as too late in the game. Tunnel opponents have “rebranded themselves” in an effort to undermine Metro’s ongoing DEIR/EIS process, which took four years to be reviewed, processed and released, they said.

City officials, businesses, labor and local residents have been engaged in the ongoing public comment process since March 6, the 710 Coalition pointed out.

“To disrupt this process is unconscionable and disrespectful to the hundreds of residents that have participated in the process throughout the years,” said Alhambra Councilmember Barbara Messina.

Metro and Caltrans have spent countless hours and millions of dollars to support the review and analysis of the five alternatives to address the incomplete 710 Freeway, the statement said.

The DIR/EIS comment period ends July 6. Metro board members are expected to vote on the project in 2016.

County Homecare Workers Seek $15/Hour Wage

June 4, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

As home healthcare workers continued to push Tuesday for a wage hike from $9.65 to $15 an hour, Los Angeles County’s interim CEO laid out some of the other claims on county coffers, including $27 billion in unfunded retiree benefits.

Sachi Hamai said the county could ultimately risk a downgrade in its debt rating if it failed to fund that long-term liability, which is based on the cost of providing benefits to past, present and future employees.

Other big ticket items that need attention include a jails plan that could cost $1.8 to $2 billion, replacing outdated technology and meeting minimum and “living wage” demands of county employees.

On top of that, the county has $640 million in deferred maintenance projects.

“The inventory is large and old,” Hamai told the board, with more than half of county properties built more than 50 years ago.

Only about one-quarter of the 2015-16 proposed budget of $26.9 billion is spent at the county’s discretion, Hamai said. About $9.5 billion is federal and state funding for designated programs, while roughly $10 billion is tied to specific uses.

The county uses some of that discretionary revenue — generated primarily through property taxes — to meet required matches for federal and state funding. That leaves roughly $3.9 billion for the board to allocate, Hamai said.

Paying in-home supportive services workers — who care for those who otherwise would likely be sent to a nursing home — $11.18 an hour would cost $43.1 million this year. To phase in increases to $13.25 and then $15.25 over the next two years would cost $211 million and $374 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively, according to Hamai.

Home healthcare workers, represented by the Service Employees

International Union-United Long-Term Care Workers, have been negotiating a raise for months and dozens assembled again today outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.

Workers told the board about the work they do caring for the elderly and disabled, some of whom are members of their own families, and how hard it is to make ends meet on $9.65 an hour.

“Nursing shoes cost two days pay,” said one woman who told the board she works 60 hours a week but still can’t afford new shoes or an eye exam.

Paid through a state program, the home care workers would not benefit from an increase in the city or county’s minimum wage.

Others warned that not raising wages would end up costing the county more in the long run.

“Would you rather for us to be out on the street and homeless?” asked Sharie Washington.

Union research shows that 81 percent of the in-home care providers live in poverty, 33 percent rely on public assistance and 18 percent depend on food stamps to feed their families.

A study released by union leaders today concluded that a raise hike to $15 would generate $768 million in local economic activity and support the creation of 6,000 new full-time jobs.

“Because a large portion of these salaries are supported by the federal and state government, putting L.A. County’s home care workers on a path to $15 an hour is a win-win for all local parties — the county, caregivers and the local community and economy,” said Chris Thornberg of Beacon Economics, which conducted the analysis.

No action was taken on the proposed IHSS raise, but Hamai said other programs would have to be cut in order to pay home care workers more.

Projections by the CEO’s office showed county revenues roughly keeping pace with cost increases for existing county services over the next five years.

However, funding retiree benefits, dealing with deferred maintenance, financing a new jail treatment facility and paying for all the other future needs would result in a deficit of more than half a billion dollars by 2019-20, according to the estimates.

“Future budget demands now under consideration will require difficult decisions on existing priorities and services,” Hamai told the board.

Residents Worried SR-710 Light Rail Would Burden East LA

April 16, 2015 by · 8 Comments 

East Los Angeles residents fear they will once again be forced to bare the brunt of efforts to relieve traffic in the region.

They remember all too well the disruption to businesses and residents extending the Gold Line east caused in their neighborhood.

Lea este artículo en Español: SR-710 Tren Ligero Podría Ser una Carga Para el Este de Los Ángeles

Those concerns were expressed Saturday during a public hearing at East Los Angeles College hosted by Metro and Caltrans to get feedback on the State Route 710 Study.

While a majority of people who spoke at the hearing appeared to support a freeway tunnel option, several eastside residents said support in other cities for a light rail train through their neighborhood has them worried.

A map viewing at East Los Angeles College Saturday allowed residents who live along the proposed SR-710 Freeway project to view the impact on their communities. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A map viewing at East Los Angeles College Saturday allowed residents who live along the proposed SR-710 Freeway project to view the impact on their communities. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

More vocal communities along the route are getting all the attention, they complained.

In March, Metro and Caltrans released a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), which outlined five alternatives for closing the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways. The options include a traffic management system, a rapid bus line, a light rail, a freeway tunnel and the required “no build” option.

About 100 people from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, El Sereno and East Los Angeles attended the hearing.

Many speakers supported the option to build a 2-way, 6.3 mile tunnel from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the connection with the 210/134 freeways in Pasadena.

The double decker option would have two lanes traveling in each direction and would run for 4.2 miles of bored tunnel. Vehicles carrying flammable or hazardous materials will be prohibited in the tunnel.

Residents from eastside communities and throughout the San Gabriel Valley spoke at the SR-710 Metro meeting, held at ELAC Saturday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Residents from eastside communities and throughout the San Gabriel Valley spoke at the SR-710 Metro meeting, held at ELAC Saturday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Several eastside residents claimed they “were left out of the conversation,” referring to the decision to include the Light Rail Train (LRT) alternative. They pointed out that some of the businesses hurt by construction of the Gold Line Eastside Extension in 2009 never recovered.

A light rail will destroy “one of the nicest corridors” and the East LA Civic Center on Third and Mednik Streets, they complained.

“We do not need the rail,” Martha Hernandez told Metro. “We can get to Pasadena on the Gold Line,” she said, adding that eastside residents can already get to Cal State LA by taking Metro’s Silver Line. There is also an express shuttle from ELACC.

Liz Sanchez lives one block from Mednik Street where a station could be built if a light rail is chosen. She told EGP a train would add to parking problems in her neighborhood because there’s no plan to provide public parking for rail passengers.

“I have a disability and even now it is hard to find parking… I don’t want to be selfish, but this is not a good option,” she lamented.

Clara Solis asked Metro and Caltrans to explain why East LA residents should bare the burden of other cities’ transportation problems. “Fifteen of our precious businesses that are walking distance from residences will be removed,” she said.

Yolanda Duarte, advisory chairperson for the Maravilla Community Center, said Metro 710 project spokespersons had gone to the eastside Center to give the community and businesses more information about the project.

Yolanda Duarte, an East Los Angeles resident, told Metro officials her concerns with the rail alternative. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Yolanda Duarte, an East Los Angeles resident, told Metro officials her concerns with the rail alternative. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“On two occasions questions were asked if businesses or residences will be taken, the answer [by Metro] was no. [Now] The EIR states 15 businesses will be targeted” to make room for rail stations, she said, visibly frustrated. The businesses are on Mednik, south of the I-60/at Third Street: One home and a businesses on East Cesar Chavez could also be taken.

People were able to review maps and other visual materials pertaining to the five alternatives and ask Metro engineers questions before the public hearing got under way.

Metro planners explained that if the light rail is chosen, it would travel 7.5 miles, divided into 3 miles of aerial track and 4.5 miles submerged approximately 6-stories underground.

The rail line would run from south of Valley Boulevard, with the first aerial station on Mednik Avenue adjacent to the East LA Civic Center Station, and two more aerial stations on Floral Drive and at Cal State LA. It would then go underground with stations in Alhambra, Huntington Drive, South Pasadena and to the Fillmore Station in Pasadena where it would connect with the Gold Line.

Many eastside residents have long resented Metro opting to build the Eastside Gold Line above ground while  approving preferred but costlier underground subway options for other communities.

Several people said the eastside is once again getting the short end of the stick, complaining that the proposed rail line would run above ground through East LA, but then go underground through the more affluent communities north of Cal State LA.

“Why don’t we get a tunnel” like they do in Pasadena, one speaker demanded to know.

“Take out this project, do not even consider it,” said Gilbert Hernandez.

How to fill the 4.5-mile gap between the 710’s terminus in Alhambra and the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena is a debate that has raged on for more than six decades. If a route is eventually selected, a revenue source to cover the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars needed to build it would still have to be found. The project could take three to five years to complete if the light rail is chosen.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis represents East Los Angeles and other areas impacted by the SR-710. She told EGP via email it is imperative to reduce congestion, improve air quality and enhance mobility for all residents, however, she does not yet see “any option as a natural choice” due to the many pros and cons.

“For example, the light rail alternative threatens the highest number of businesses and homes while the tunnel options could become a bottomless money pit. A combination of alternatives may end up being the way to get the most for our money,” she stated, adding that her staff is studying the various options and will hold community input meetings in addition to those scheduled by Metro.

“The communities I represent deserve a solution that absolutely improves their quality of life and environment … while improving mobility and using transportation to foster economic growth,” she said.

Metro and Caltrans have scheduled two more public hearings:

—Wednesday, May 6 at La Cañada High School auditorium, with a map viewing from 5-6 p.m. and public hearing at 6 p.m.

—Thursday, May 7 at the Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, map viewing 5-6 p.m. and public hearing at 6 p.m.

The full study is available at  http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis and can be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 and public libraries listed here:  http://www.metro.net/projects/sr- 710-conversations.

Comments will be accepted by mail through July 6: Mail to Garret Damrath, Caltrans Division 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 South Main Street MS-16, Los Angeles CA 90012.

To read more about the SR-710, go to www.EGPNews.com.

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Twitter @jackiereporter

jgarcia@egpnews.com
Updated 2;50 p.m.

710 Freeway Extension Report Released

March 12, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Caltrans and Metro released a draft environmental study of proposals to address the 4.5-mile gap between the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena and the end of the Long Beach (710) Freeway in East Los Angeles.

The five alternatives proposed in the draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement are:

—a traffic management system to upgrade and synchronize signals and improvements to local street intersections to more quickly move traffic that exits the dead-end freeway;

—a rapid bus line featuring high frequency service with minimal stops and potentially a dedicated bus lane;

—a light rail to carry passengers between East Los Angeles and Pasadena; and

—a freeway tunnel that would extend the 710 Freeway.

—and the required “no build” option that would leave conditions as they are;

No decisions have been made on any proposed alternative in the report, said Paul Gonzales of Metro. He said

However, opponents of the project say they believe the decision will ultimately come down to the tunnel alternative.

Janet Ervin from the “No 710 Action Committee” told EGP that the instead of relieving traffic in the area it will become a new bottleneck attracting more congestion.

“You can’t build your way out of traffic,” she said.

But proponents of the project like Celine Cordero of the 710 Coalition believe the freeway must be completed as soon as possible in order to “close the gap” in the region.

“The 710 Coalition supports the freeway tunnel because it will reduce the most cut through traffic in local neighborhoods and create over 40,000 jobs,” she said in an email. “Polling has also shown majority support in LA County for completing the freeway.”

Last year, in a letter addressed to 710 Coalition members, Commerce Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio said the city “strongly” supports the completion of the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways.

“For far too long, residents of our community have experienced its fair share of unnecessary traffic congestions,” the letter read.

The mayor pointed to the improvement to regional transportation, economic development, creation of jobs and alleviation of traffic in local neighborhoods as reasons for their support.

Joanne Nucklos, a longtime South Pasadena resident and member of No 710 Action Committee, told EGP she is concerned with some of the routes the alternatives propose.

“El Sereno has gotten the short end of the stick,” she said, referring to anticipated disruption to local neighborhoods and businesses due to construction in the area.

Several people have complained that the 120-day public comment period, which began last Friday with the release of the report, is too short, noting that entire report, including all the studies and appendices total more than 26,000 pages.

“They expect us lay people to understand it and question,” in a short time, said Ervin. “While they had years to create it.”

Caltrans and Metro will hold three public meeting where people will be able to review the documents, including maps, and ask questions about the proposals and submit comments.

Caltrans is “looking forward to receiving valuable input from communities and the public on this critically important transportation issue that has affected not only this area, but the region, for decades,” said the agency’s District 7 Director, Carrie Bowen.

“The feedback we receive is a vital part of the project development process and helps inform the selection of a preferred alternative,” Bowen said.

The first two public hearings have been scheduled:

—Saturday, April 11, at the Rosco C. Ingalls Auditorium on the campus of East Los Angeles College, with a map viewing from 10-11 a.m. and a public hearing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and

—Tuesday, April 14, at the Pasadena Convention Center, with a map viewing from 5-6 p.m. and a public hearing from 7-9 p.m.

A third public meeting will be scheduled later, according to Metro.

Metro is encouraging the public to attend the public hearings and to  the document at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis .

The public comment period ends July 6.

The full document can also be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Copies are also available at public libraries listed here: http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/.

An EIR is required to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, and an EIS fulfills requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.

The laws require government agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions, and to avoid, minimize or mitigate any adverse effects.

Information from public comments will be weighed before preparing the final environmental document, Gonzales said.

Altogether, about 26 detailed technical studies are included in the Draft EIR/EIS, Gonzales said.

Through the process of compiling the Draft EIR/EIS, Metro and Caltrans conducted 92 community meetings, participated in six city-sponsored community forums, and held over 200 briefings with community stakeholders.

EGP staff writer Nancy Martinez contributed to this report.

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