Commerce Considera Impacto de Extensión de Línea Dorada

December 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Durante más de un año, los funcionarios de Metro han realizado estudios técnicos para finalizar dos propuestas alternativas para la segunda fase de la Extensión del Lado Este de la Línea Dorada. Un análisis, ha sido incluido también para averiguar lo que implicaría traer el servicio ferroviario a la Ciudad de Commerce.

Aunque se ha discutido que en el futuro ambas alternativas- una a lo largo de la Autopista SR-60 hacia Pomona y la otra viajando al sur del Bulevar Washington- podrían llegar a buen puerto, la Ciudad de Commerce está primordialmente interesada en ver la alternativa de Washington construida primero, dijo Lilia R. León durante la reunión del consejo municipal el 15 de noviembre.

Una conexión de la Línea Dorada con el Bulevar Washington crearía la oportunidad de paradas cerca de los Citadel Outlets o del Commerce Casino, los dos mayores generadores de ingresos para la ciudad.

“Lo que escuchamos alto y claro fue la idea de explorar una conexión del Metro con Citadel”, dijo Eugene Kim, gerente del Proyecto de Segunda Fase del Lado Este.

Las dos alternativas para discusión no han cambiado mucho desde que fueron presentadas al público a finales de marzo.

Una posible alternativa sería extender la Línea Dorada a 6.9 millas al este – desde donde actualmente termina el Bulevar Atlantic en el Este de Los Ángeles – a lo largo de la Autopista SR-60 hacia Pomona y terminando en el sur de El Monte. La segunda alternativa viajaría casi nueve millas, proporcionando una conexión norte-sur del Bulever Atlantic al Bulevar Washington, antes de viajar hacia el este a la ciudad de Whittier.

Metro planea presentar las dos alternativas refinadas al público en la primavera del 2017 y comenzará a discutir cómo reiniciar el proceso de informe del impacto ambiental, de acuerdo con Kim.

Uno de los mayores desafíos que enfrentan los funcionarios de Metro es seleccionar una ruta para llegar al Bulevar Washington, dice Kim.

A principios de este año, Metro identificó la Avenida Garfield, el Bulevar Atlantic y la Avenida Arizona como las tres rutas más prometedoras para la conexión. Las dos últimas opciones permitirían una parada cerca de los Citadels pero presentarían desafíos en la zona congestionada conocida como el “Mixmaster”, donde el Bulevar Atlantic se cruza con la Autopista I-5 hacia Santa Ana.

“Commerce es un socio muy importante para la identificación de las maneras posibles de hacer esa conexión”, Kim dijo.

Los residentes de la zona y los dueños de negocios locales se han quejado repetidamente que de que bajo las propuestas actuales su comunidad de nuevo tendría que asumir más que su justa parte de la carga para los proyectos de transporte en la región, como lo ha hecho durante décadas.

Muchos creen que la alternativa de Washington beneficiaría a los Citadels y al Commerce Casino pero a la expensa de los residentes que se verían obligados a aguantar la construcción. Ellos afirman que las empresas del lado este también sufrirán, al igual que lo hicieron cuando la Línea Dorada se extendió por primera vez allí a lo largo de la Calle 3.

“Alguien perderá y alguien ganará, pero aun no hemos ganado nada hasta el momento”, dijo el presidente de la Cámara de Commerce del Este de Los Ángeles, Eddie Torres, al Consejo de la ciudad durante su reunión.

“Tienen que aceptar algunos de los impactos también”.

Metro analizó todas sus opciones cuando consideró 27 posibles alternativas para llegar al Corredor de Washington, dijo Kim, pero últimamente será necesario cortar a través de Commerce.

Otros desafíos potenciales incluyen rutas que viajarán cerca de las líneas de transmisión de Southern California Edison, cruzando un corredor de carga muy activo y espuelas ferroviarias útiles para empresas locales.

“Sin una alternativa que tenga el apoyo de la ciudad y la cooperación del personal de la ciudad, será muy difícil identificar una alternativa viable del Corredor del Bulevar Washington”, explicó Kim.

Funcionarios del Metro están buscando diseños que incluyan estaciones aéreas y subterráneas para enfrentar los obstáculos.

Una estación de metro cercana a los ampliamente visitados Citadel Outlets podría ser posible con una máquina de perforación de túneles, pero eso requeriría que Metro adquiriera hasta cinco acres de tierra, le dijo Kim al consejo.

Funcionarios del Metro también están buscando un sitio de 12 a 15 acres para una instalación de mantenimiento para complementar el proyecto.

“¿Ha considerado a la ciudad de Commerce?”, preguntó la alcalde Pro Tem, Tina Baca Del Río a Kim.

“Hemos estado buscando en todas partes a lo largo del corredor” él respondió.

Los funcionarios del Metro no han identificado un área específica para la instalación propuesta, pero en octubre invitaron a los funcionarios de Commerce a visitar a un patio de mantenimiento de Metro en Santa Mónica para darles una mejor idea de cómo podría ser una instalación si se construyera en la ciudad.

La idea de construir una instalación tan grande, junto con la actividad del túnel, tiene a los funcionarios de la ciudad preocupados por lo que ven como la interrupción inevitable del corredor comercial más activo de la ciudad.

La ciudad necesita más detalles sobre lo que sucedería “porque tenemos mucha actividad en toda ese área y esos impactos necesitan ser evaluados adecuadamente”, dijo el concejal Hugo Argumedo.

La concejal Leila León se apresuró a señalar que aunque una ruta de Washington serviría a los principales destinos de la ciudad, es igualmente crucial trabajar con sus vecinos.

“No se trata de los Citadels o del casino”, dijo León, reconociendo que “sí nos beneficiaríamos”.

“Tenemos que ver cómo podemos asociarnos con el lado Este para revitalizar esa área de Los Ángeles, para que no se sientan excluidos”.

Measure AA Paying Off In Commerce

June 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

While many southeast Los Angeles County cities are struggling to find funds to address aging infrastructure, the City of Commerce will be using a projected surplus and over $5 million in other monies to pay for a variety of citywide enhancements, maintenance and capital improvement projects.

The City Council Tuesday approved a $58.8 million budget for 2016-2017 that included $58.2 million in dedicated spending, leaving Commerce with a projected $630,000 surplus, $417,000 of which will be used to pay for things like park programs, increasing the children’s library budget, a children’s faire, and new full-time positions and animal control services.

“If we didn’t have that money we would be digging into the pockets of the general fund right now,” Rifa said.

When the Great Recession hit and state lawmakers closed down redevelopment agencies  – tax increment financing used to combat urban decay – to try to shore up California’s massive budget shortfall, Commerce turned to voters and asked them to approve a half-cent sales tax increase to fund city services.

The Commerce City Council approves $58.8 M Budget for 2016-17 during Tuesday’s meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The Commerce City Council approves $58.8 M Budget for 2016-17 during Tuesday’s meeting. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“Measure AA has made all the difference in significant capital improvement projects to address aging infrastructure,” according to Rifa.

Since approved in 2012, Measure AA has generated over $1 million annually to help pay for city employees, public safety, parks, libraries and other city services. For the last couple of years, revenue from the special sales tax has been used to pay for sidewalk repairs and improvements at the senior center and city parks.

“Those Measure AA funds have been so helpful,” commented Mayor Pro Tem Tina de Baca Tuesday before voting to approve the budget.

During the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year, Measure AA revenue will be used to fund various planning initiatives, the implementation of the green zone action plan and other services.

“Hopefully, the residents will see the benefits of that up close,” said Maryam Babaki, director of public works and development services.

Another major source of revenue for the city this year comes from the first installment of an RDA loan repayment. Unlike other neighboring cities that were forced to sell RDA-owned properties or pay millions in settlements, Commerce is receiving $4.2 million in funds from the state.

The funds will be used for one-time department upgrades, including equipment replacement at parks, an internship program, Citadel bus route, curb painting, street and alley repair and youth sports uniforms.

The city also plans to allocate $500,000 from the repayment fund to the city’s Other Post Employment Benefits trust, used to address pension obligations; $1 million will be set aside in the facilities upgrade holding account and another $1 million will be allocated to the city water fund.

Many neighboring cities have struggled to pay for much needed repairs for their aging city-owned water systems, but Commerce is investing in its city-owned asset.

“You can only take care of it for so long before you ultimately have to replace it,” explained Rifa, adding that Commerce has already increased rates to pay for repairs and maintenance.

The city is anticipating a $333,000 surplus in its 2015-16 fiscal budget, which will be used for capital improvements at parks, libraries, city hall and community services, such as new computers, passenger vans, air hockey tables, fitness equipment, a dog drinking fountain, pool tables, and a vehicle for the food distribution program.

Rifa credits The Commerce Casino, Citadel Outlets and Measure AA for Commerce’s financial health.

“Without those three things, we would be in a whole lot of hurt right now,” he said.

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

nmartinez@egpnews.com

323 Bistro Offers Fresh California Cuisine

November 19, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The City of Commerce has a nice new place where residents and visitors to the city can spend time with family and friends while enjoying simple but tasty dishes.

Since opening last month, 323 Bistro at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Los Angeles-Commerce Casino is quickly becoming a popular hangout for people who live, work or visit the community. Its varied menu includes sandwiches, salads, soups, and a variety of other choices.

The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch and dinner and room service to guests staying at the Crowne Plaza Hotel: a smaller menu is offered between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Mayor Leila Leon was among many guests taking part in the October grand opening of 323 Bistro at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Commerce Casino. (The City of Commerce)

Commerce Mayor Leila Leon was among the many guests taking part in the October grand opening of 323 Bistro at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Commerce Casino. (The City of Commerce)

Marie Blomquist, director of food and beverage at the Crown Plaza Los Angeles-Commerce Casino, noted that the previous restaurant at the location offered Asian cuisine. But when the hotel took charge of the place the restaurant underwent a change “to a California [cuisine] menu of fresh and varied food,” Blomquist said.

The quality and freshness of the ingredients used  in 323 Bistro’s dishes can’t be overstated. It’s what guides every meal creation:

      “Say yes to fresh and raw ingredients and a fusion of flavors inspired by cultures across the earth. Real food is grown, prepared,  and plated with love–and eaten with joy,” boasts the 323 Bistro website.

The restaurant, according to Blomquist, is off to a good start, with a steady flow of customers, especially in the afternoon. In addition to its eat-in restaurant, 323 Bistro has meeting space available that can accommodate up to 100 people.

“The casino customers and hotel guests have started to notice the presence of the new outlet and have come to check us out,” Blomquist said.

Commerce Mayor Lilia Leon said that the opening of Bistro 323 is an option for those who want to enjoy something other than Asian cuisine.

“Customers will have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of foods rather than the only option they had with the Chinese restaurant,” said Leon, who attended the restaurant’s grand opening in October.

“Any new restaurant will do very well [in Commerce] because we have limited places to go to eat in the area,” said Leon, adding she’s happy that 323 Bistro offers parking validation to customers.

During the Thanksgiving holiday, the restaurant will offer traditional Thanksgiving dishes on Thursday and Friday, from 11 am to 10 pm. Plans are to offer similar service during the Christmas holiday, but the menu has not yet been set.

In addition to offering a new local dining experience, 323 Bistro has also become a source of employment for residents of the City of Commerce, Los Angeles and Orange County. The restaurant employs about 26 people, 90 percent of them Latino.

323 Bistro is located at the Crown Plaza Hotel – Casino Commerce:  6121 E. Telegraph Rd. in Commerce. It is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit  http://323bistro.com/ or call (323) 832-4311. 

 Updated: 4:03 p.m.

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