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Local Officials, Preservationist React to Historic 710 Stub Vote

Published on Thursday, June 30, 2022 | 6:01 pm

Just one day after Pasadena reclaimed the 710 stub, locals continued to react to the news.

Caltrans voted unanimously to approve relinquishment of the 710 stub back to Pasadena on Wednesday.

The vote by the California Transportation Commission will return approximately 50 acres of property to the City of Pasadena and as well as provide a one-time payment of $5 million.

It came after decades of uncertainty regarding the future of the 710 northern extension, and marked a historic moment in the City’s long-sought goal of re-envisioning and rebuilding what was once an integral and vibrant part of Pasadena.

More than 50 years ago, Caltrans seized hundreds of homes in southwestern Pasadena, the city of South Pasadena and the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno through eminent domain in what ultimately became a failed effort to connect the Long Beach 710 and Foothill 210 freeways.

“Yesterday was the culmination of decades of work almost from the inception of the 710 freeway proposal 70 years ago,” Councilmember Steve Madison said Thursday. “Fighting the freeway and accomplishing relinquishment has been a key platform of my service on the City Council for the last 23 years.”

In 2000, Madison successfully garnered five votes on the City Council to oppose the extension of the 710 freeway, only to have another colleague on the Council at that time run a successful ballot referendum to overturn the City Council’s opposition.

In the last few years, Madison has made three separate motions to oppose the freeway tunnel, and the last one was adopted.

Madison testified before the California Transportation Commission (CTC) in January and again Wednesday in support of the relinquishment.

In the interim, City Staff negotiated and on his motion the Council approved an agreement with Caltrans regarding the remaining open issues The agreement was the subject of the second CTC agenda item regarding the stump on Wednesday, regarding the payment by the State of $5 million for costs attendant to the relinquishment.

Now the city moves from the acquisition of the land to determining infrastructure and its use.

“Recreating ‘city’ from this wasteland will be a huge challenge, but what a magnificent opportunity for the community to rebuild a part of itself!” said Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage.

“As preservationists, our thinking starts with what was there – the streets, the homes, the buildings, the institutions and the people. Recreating the street grid would be one place to start, but today’s needs and a vision for the future must be part of the thinking too. Some work has already begun with community members brainstorming about a future for the ditch, but a lot more discussion and outreach will be critical to success. We look forward to being part of the process.”

But there is another part of the issue that has to be considered,according to recently re-elected City Councilmember John Kennedy.

Caltrans demolished dozens of homes owned by African-Americans in western Pasadena for the project.

That situation was not unique to Pasadena. According to National Public Radio, the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 routed some highways directly through Black and Brown communities and, like Caltrans, took homes from families via eminent domain.

Over the past several years, a movement has started to give land back to the people who lost it.

California lawmakers unanimously passed legislation to allow the return of Bruce Beach, once a thriving coastal resort that catered to Black residents when racial segregation barred them from many beaches, to the family this year.

Kavon Ward has started Where Is My Land, an organization dedicated to helping families with similar stories reclaim what once belonged to them.

“The repatriation of the 710 Freeway Stub to the City of Pasadena is little different than the return of Bruce Beach in Manhattan Beach to the African American family who had the the land stolen from them almost 100 years ago,” said Councilmember John Kennedy. “Bruce Beach is valued at around $20 million dollars, a conservative estimate.”

According to Kennedy, a rough estimate of the value of the land at the 710 Stub is possibly into the several billions of dollars.

“The critical piece to keep in mind is that African American and other minority groups had their land taken from them via the evils of eminent domain actions,” he said.

Kennedy said the 52 acres can help solve the housing crisis in Pasadena, establish much-needed green space for children and families, create tremendous opportunities for small businesses and “simply unify our geographical plain.”

But he cautioned, the community must be heard, public hearings must take place and an overall empathetic and respectful framework announced for consideration.

“It is incumbent that Mayor Victor Gordo, in concert with the Pasadena City Council, impanel, bring together, a diverse and knowledgeable group of residents, community leaders, researchers, clergy, students, educators, developers, and professionals to help map out the way forward and make the crooked places straight!” Kennedy said.

The city is scheduled to undertake a multidisciplinary community-led process to determine the future land use, transportation network, and utility infrastructure network needed to reconnect Pasadena.

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