A bill by Pasadena Assemblymember Chris Holden which would have been one of the final nails in the coffin for the 60-year-old 710 Freeway extension project and which attracted broad support from the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, and Alhambra failed in the State’s Transportation and Housing Committee Wednesday.
The bill would have returned the “stubs” of the 710 Freeway — at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra, and California Boulevard in Pasadena — back to those cities, which the City of Alhambra indicated recently would have been turned into a 50-acre park.
The 710 Tunnel Extension project was killed by the Metro Board last year.
A representative for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority indicated during the Transportation Committee hearing that Holden’s new version of the bill — Assembly Bill 533 — effectively addressed the Metro Board’s previous concerns.
So what went wrong with the Holden Bill?
Senate Transportation and Housing Committee Member Senator Ben Allen’s comments during the hearing may have provided some clarity as to what happened behind the scenes leading up to the Committee meeting, pointing to State Senator Anthony Portantino.
“Our concerns have been addressed by the amendments the Assemblymember [Holden] has introduced,” said Senator Allen, continuing, “The issue seems to be that Senator [Portantino] who we serve with, and who represents the area, seems to be opposed. I think that’s where we are struggling here, what’s going on here in terms of this disagreement, when it appears [we] have the same goals.”
Added Allen, “If we had been talking about a member who was wishy-washy on this issue over the years, I’d understand, but he’s been so firmly in opposition. I want to get a better sense.”
Portantino responded to questions from Pasadena Now by saying that he doesn’t sit on the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee and he didn’t have a vote on Holden’s Bill.
“It was my understanding from the committee that Mr. Holden missed the deadline to get amendments for consideration by several days. Issues surrounding the 710 are 60 years old and the Committee, not me, made the decision to not advance last minute amendments after the required deadline and before the EIR is certified.”
Meanwhile, Senator Jim Beall raised the issue of Holden’s legislation interfering with the State Route 710 North Study Environmental Impact Report and recommended introducing the legislation next year.
Holden responded during his testimony that “It’s important to note that the way this bill is written, given that we are expecting Caltrans to certify the EIR in short order, (that) this bill doesn’t go into effect until there is certification of the EIR, to allow the communities to start working with Metro next year so they can get their projects integrated into their funding plans.”
Holden’s legislation, as proposed, stated in part that “Any property acquired as a right of way by the state for the former segment of Route 710 located between Route 10 and Route 210…shall be deemed vacated for public travel and access purposes and transferred to the underlying municipal jurisdiction in which the property is located…”
The bill added, “This section shall become operative when the SR 710 North Project Final Environmental Impact Report is certified.”
Had the bill had passed the legislature and been signed by Governor Brown, there was a possibility for Pasadena to take control of the 710 stub just below the 210 freeway as early as the end of 2018.
Now, it looks as though the cities may have to wait at least an additional full year.
On Thursday, following the state committee meeting, Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger also supported a Metro Board motion by Director John Fasana Thursday calling for removal of the stubs from the state highway plan and for the return of the land to the local jurisdictions.
According to a statement from Barger spokesperson Tony Bell, “The Supervisor was not comfortable taking a position on a bill that she had not seen final amended language for. She supported her cities in their effort to amend the bill. Citing Senator Portantino’s prior efforts and the need to wait for certification by Caltrans, she also called on Metro staff to work with both legislators and the local cities to deliver a bill once Caltrans takes action.”
The idea of Pasadena once again reclaiming the 710 ‘stub’ land back into the City, is clearly on City Manager Steve Mermell’s mind, however.
Mermell told Pasadena Now Thursday, “As far as what we want to do…we want to reintegrate this land back into our City. There are no particular City plans at this time, however, the Connecting Pasadena Communities group came up with a variety of interesting concepts that he might want to explore. If we were to get the land repatriated we would engage in a community planning effort to identify the right kind of uses for our community.”
Longtime activist Claire Bogaard, who opposed the 710 extension for many years, added Wednesday, “I think that [the Bill] has potentially some interesting aspects to it, but maybe it was pulled together at the last minute, which is why it didn’t make it through the Committee. Hopefully we can see if there’s another way of approaching what Chris Holden was suggesting.”
“I think a lot of people will be enthusiastic about the release of the land that’s vacant and owned by Caltrans at this point in time,” Bogaard continued. “I don’t have any idea how Caltrans would respond to that suggestion.”