East L.A. Residents Fear Losing Homes to I-710 Project

August 10, 2017 by · 2 Comments 

A proposed plan to widen and make renovations to a segment of the I-710 (Long Beach Freeway) in the heart of East Los Angeles could end up costing families their homes and harm the health of residents who live near the congested traffic corridor, according to a group of angry homeowners in the transportation project’s path.

They are referring to the various alternatives outlined in the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report for the I-710 Corridor Project to improve the major connection route for goods movement between the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the rail yards in the Cities of Commerce and Vernon and points farther east. One of the major areas state and local transportation agencies have targeted is the 710 and I-5 (Santa Ana Freeway) interchange through Commerce and East Los Angeles.

Planning for the freeway improvements has been underway for years and residents in those areas have long feared Caltrans and Metro plan to take homes in their neighborhood for the project, which could be the case if either Alternative 5 or 7 in the Draft EIR is eventually adopted.

They have testified at public meeting and provided written comment decrying any attempt to remove homes, and are outraged they “have been ignored,” said Los Angeles Unified School District teacher Juan Vasquez, leader of the Sydney Drive Neighborhood Group.

The group was formed about two years ago and serves as a local haven for residents who wish to voice their concerns or propose changes around the neighborhood.

“We are not being represented” in this process, Vasquez complained during the group’s meeting last week. “Why is it that when a new project is planned it has to affect East L.A.,” he said angrily. “It is not fair.”

There are a number of other alternatives listed in the Draft EIR but Alternatives 5 and 7 if chosen would have the biggest impact on residents on Sydney Drive in unincorporated East L.A., where dozens of homes could be slated for removal.

East Los Angeles residents are again under attack, and could lose their homes, complains Juan Vasquez, leader of the Sydney Drive Homeowners Group, which is gearing up to fight proposals in the I-710 Draft EIR that call for taking properties on their street. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez)

East Los Angeles residents are again under attack, and could lose their homes, complains Juan Vasquez, leader of the Sydney Drive Homeowners Group, which is gearing up to fight proposals in the I-710 Draft EIR that call for taking properties on their street. (EGP photo by Carlos Alvarez)

While Vasquez lives on Sydney Drive he will not lose his home, he told EGP he doesn’t want to see any of his neighbors lose theirs. If they do, the barrier wall between the freeway and homes would be moved to be right next to his front yard.

At a lightly attended meeting last Thursday at Vasquez’s home, residents emphasized they would fight to keep Sydney Drive residents from losing all or part of their homes.

Evelin Guzman moved to the Commerce-adjacent neighborhood about three years ago and says she may not lose her entire property, but could lose approximately 30 feet of the small patch of land she calls her backyard.

“It’s a small space for my kids” to play, said Guzman, pointing at the wall that separates the freeway from her backyard.

While losing her children’s play area is a concern, Guzman says she’s more worried about their health, explaining that her daughter Katelyn was recently diagnosed with asthma and the changes proposed in Alternatives 5 and 7 would put her at a higher risk for pollution-related illnesses. That would make it hard for her to stay in her home, Guzman said.

Carlos Ibarra and his mother Modesta may face the same fate as Guzman. Ibarra told EGP his parents have lived on Sydney Drive since 1974, and every few years transportation officials propose plans to restructure the freeway and the plans always call for stripping them of part of the land their home sits on.

Evelin Guzman Sydeney Drive Web Inside CAlvarez 08102017

“It’s always a few feet here, for this and that,” but “it’s never enough,” he said in frustration.

The proposed alternatives could affect approximately 24 properties in East Los Angeles.

Vasquez told EGP that through the years, residents in unincorporated East L.A. have had burdensome transportation projects thrust on them without input from the community.

He said residents should get informed about what’s going on in the neighborhood, adding he wants County Supervisor Hilda Solis – their only directly elected local official – to meet with homeowners and hear their concerns.

“We’ve reached out to her and we always get a representative” from her office, but not her, Vasquez said. “Former Supervisor Gloria Molina was more involved, I never see Solis at any of the public hearings.”

While Vasquez voiced his displeasure with Solis, other residents believe she will eventually meet with them.

Ernesto Rodriguez, 71, has lived in the neighborhood since 1950, and told EGP he believes Solis is a woman of integrity.

“Her track record is that of the people,” Rodriguez said. “She cares about the people and the community,” he said, implying he believes she will ultimately step up to the plate on their behalf.

In October 2015, Solis introduced Motion 22.1 to Caltrans and the Metro board, which she is a member of, requesting freeway designs minimize impacts while maximizing community benefits

Solis told EGP via email that she is deeply committed to an improved quality of life, the reduction of air pollution and the lowering of traffic congestion with as little negative impact to the community.

“My responsibility is to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table to help inform the final decision,” Solis’ email read.

The supervisor has yet to endorse any particular alternative, but she said she favors “a balanced approach and understanding of the benefits,” adding “weighing all the impacts is absolutely critical.”

For now, residents like Vasquez, Guzman, Ibarra and Rodriguez continue to inform their Sydney Drive neighbors about how the I-710 transportation proposals under consideration could change their lives completely.

“I became involved to be a voice for my neighbors,” Vasquez said, noting “It’s discouraging at times when we have these meetings and only 15 people attend.”

Vasquez told EGP that he will continue to go from house-to-house to let people know they have to unite against the alternatives in the I-710 Draft EIR that could change their homes and neighborhood.

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, August 23 at the Commerce Senior Center located at 2555 Commerce Way, Commerce CA 90040 from 6-9 p.m.

“I’ll be there,” Vasquez said as he walked the neighborhood and handed out meeting fliers to residents.

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