Experts Step Back From Development Proposals for 710 "Ditch," Saying Relinquishment to City is Only Focus Now

Stretch of 710 extension land likely won’t be ‘relinquished’ to Pasadena until 2024; emphasis now is on community input

Published : Thursday, November 14, 2019 | 5:51 AM

While residents, preservationists, planners and activists eagerly anticipate the historic “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that the end of the 710 Freeway extension and tunnel project bring to Pasadena, nothing can happen until the“relinquishment” occurs, according to Caltrans and the City’s transportation department.

The relinquishment process is the final transfer of the 710 “ditch”, as Pasadena Planning Director David Reyes refers to it, to control by the City. That is supposed to happen by 2024, when the land on the western side of Pasadena, is removed from the California Highway System.

Caltrans District 7 Director John Bulinski said the key right now is to create a “framework for relinquishment.”

Such a framework would include a feasibility assessment, said Bulinski, as well as determining how the 134 and 210 freeways will be accessed, since even these last wind-down steps of the 710 extension project must serve the mission of moving traffic through Pasadena.

The City and Caltrans must also take into consideration the Metro Bus Rapid Transit lines now under development, the Metro Gold Line grade separation project, as well as the City’s “Complete Streets” program, Bulinski noted.

Bulinski made his remarks as part of Councilmember Steve Madison’s “Reconnecting Pasadena: Reimagining Pasadena in a Time of No 710 Tunnel” community forum at the Pasadena Convention Center Wednesday.

Bulinski was joined by Point C consultant Tony Harris; Laura Cornejo, City of Pasadena director of transportation, and David Reyes, Director of the Planning and Community Development.

Councilmember Madison served as the moderator of the event, introducing the speakers and presenting questions gathered from the audience.

“We don’t own the property yet,” Reyes emphasized in his presentation. Reyes stressed the importance of community input at this stage of the process.

“Community input is so important at this stage,” said Reyes. “This is a once-in a-lifetime opportunity.”

Reyes also pointed out that Caltrans may have ideas of its own in terms of State requirements for the relinquishing of the property, including some affordable housing requirements.

But Transportation Director Cornejo told the packed exhibit hall audience that the City’s Planning and Transportation departments are already working closely together to develop a framework for working with Caltrans.

“We need to be true to our original goal for ending the extension project, and that is local mobility,” said Cornejo.

Caltrans’s Bulinski noted that the 210/134 freeway intersection still sees an average of 45,000 cars per day. Cornejo said that there are “alternate plans” for traffic, but did not offer details.

Harris, of the consulting firm Point C, emphasizing the point, told the audience that a transportation solution through Pasadena still needs to be found.

“There won’t be two freeways,” he said. “We need to find different ways to make that connection. There are going to be a lot of technical issues. We have to see what things will look like.”

Bulinksi, in response to a question from the audience, explained that the original Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which determined the fate of the 710 extension, still has to be respected.

Any plans which are developed should not “jeopardize” the original EIR, he said.

Reyes said that one relinquished to the City, developing the area would likely also require a new specific plan, and perhaps a new EIR once that new plan is developed.

But Reyes again stressed that any new plans should “honor the intent” of the original EIR.

While much attention has been given to the ambitious Connecting Pasadena Project which envisions filling the ditch and creating new neighborhoods of multi-family residential housing, Reyes said when asked, that no such plans have been developed by the City for the area.

“That is not the plan,” said Reyes. “We are still at ground zero.”

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