Mayor Tornek Announces New Arroyo Seco Task Force

‘All-Star Squad’ of experts to develop overall plan for funding, improvements and implementations

Published : Thursday, April 20, 2017 | 5:35 AM

Following a presentation by Arroyo Seco Foundation Executive Director Tim Brick, in which Brick praised the work of the Foundation, delivered a short history lesson to members, and lambasted the city for not spending an estimated $88 million in allocated funds for specific projects within the Arroyo, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek told the gathering, “The City doesn’t do a good job in terms of planning and implementation in the Arroyo.”

As Tornek explained, “Part of the reason for this is that nobody’s really in charge of what’s happening there.”

Brick’s presentation and Tornek’s statement were part of the Arroyo Seco Foundation’s Quarterly meeting, held at the Donald Wright Auditorium at the Pasadena Central Library Wednesday evening.

Tornek continued, “We have the Human Services and Recreation Department that has a role there, we have the Rose Bowl Operating Company, we have the Public Works Department, we have semi-private entities in the Aquatic Center and at KidsSpace, and we have groups like the Roving Archers and the Rose Bowl Riders.”

“We have all these players,” Tornek explained, “like the swap meet and UCLA football, but there is nobody on the public side who is really responsible for all this, and able to provide a real vision and management of that resource.”

Tornek agreed with Brick’s assessment that the City has managed to invest $200 million in upgrading the Rose Bowl, “and yet we have $88 million of Arroyo Seco capital improvement projects… but we don’t have the ability to implement them.”

The statement served as an indirect way for the Mayor to introduce the formation of a new Arroyo Seco Task Force, what he referred to as an “all-star squad,” to be partly headed by former Mayor Bill Bogaard, to oversee a new vision and overarching plan to implement improvements in the Arroyo.

The City has also hired a consulting firm to work with the task force, said the Mayor, to “take a look at best practices around the country, to think about what the priority projects might be, …and to think about what the governments and around the Arroyo can do, and also think about how to raise the money” needed to fund existing and new projects.

The Mayor emphasized that the money needed to fund a laundry list of Arroyo projects “can’t all be public money,” although some portions would come from county, state and federal coffers.

“A lot of the money is going to have to come from the private side,” said Tornek. “We need to find a way to induce people to want to contribute to this list of projects, that they want to see implemented, and be willing to write a check for.”

Tornek compared the idea to the Rose Bowl’s legacy campaign, which has raised $18 million in private contributions for the stadium in a few short years.

“Imagine that for the Arroyo,” he said. “Not everyone is interested in football, but some people are interested in restoring Arroyo stone walls, or developing hiking trails. If we can get a game plan together, I think the public will join in.”

“What we need is a plan for projects, some priorities, and a plan for funding, and it is my hope that by the end of the year, that will be in place,” concluded Tornek.

Earlier in the meeting, Attorney Mitchell Tsai updated the group on the March court decision concerning the LA County Flood Control District plan for removing sediment from the Hahamongna area north of the Devils Gate dam.

In a March 23 ruling, LA County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant found that the project’s Final Environment Impact Report (FEIR)“lacks substantial evidence to support (the) conclusion that mitigation would be effective, and the district will have to newly analyze any proposed habitat mitigation and perform a feasibility analysis for the use of model year 2010 or later trucks. Until this is done, the FEIR must be set aside.”

Judge Chalfant also noted that the first phase of the project involves sediment removal and would “immediately impact emission controls on hauling trucks and excavation and removal of sensitive habitat, the subject of the mitigation inadequacies found by the court,” and also said that “the entire FEIR lacks the necessary information to support its certification.” The ruling essentially halts all aspects of the project for now, from permits to actual work.

Members of the Arroyo Seco Foundation brought the lawsuit against the the LA County Flood Control District last year, when the District sought approval to dig out up to 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam to remove a threat that heavy rainstorms could inundate the dam and flood homes along the Arroyo Seco Channel.

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