For half a century residents in Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno have opposed the 710 freeway extension.
The controversial project finally died in 2018 thanks in part to work by state Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblyman Chris Holden.
In the early 1960s, Caltrans seized more than 500 properties in Pasadena, South Pasadena and the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles through eminent domain in order to build a surface connector. After that effort died, transit officials attempted to go underground with a two-lane, barrel-shaped 4.5-mile-long tunnel, which also failed.
According to City Manager Steve Mermell, Caltrans has indicated they are willing to proceed with relinquishment of the properties after certain conditions are met.
“The freeway and freeway tunnel projects are dead,” said City Manager Steve Mermell. “The key now is to work with Caltrans on developing and implementing interconnections between the highway system and our local streets. We are currently working on this.”
Now candidates in the District 6 race have made the 50 acre 710 stump between Pasadena Avenue and St. Johns a major talking point in the election.
“There were largely African American, Japanese American and Latino families that were living there,” said Incumbent Steve Madison. “There were businesses that were also owned by people of color. You think about an icon like Friendship Baptist church, the oldest African American church in Pasadena, which is at Delacey and Dayton. It serves a broad community, but in those days it served, that neighborhood that I’m describing to you as well. So I think that’s an important part of the consideration here, to restore and pay respect and deference to those historic communities.”
Neighborhoods populated by people of color have often been decimated to make way for highways. Many of these dislocated people were forced into housing projects, and these failed widely all over the country forever linking freeways to segregation and housing discrimination, said Julie More in “Freeways, Suburbanization and Segregation.”
Madison also referenced the Connecting Pasadena Project that envisioned refilling the ditch, and then building neighborhood streets, thoroughfares, open space and parks.
Madison said the process should begin with outreach at the council level to take direction from the community.
Ryan Bell agreed with Madison about the historic communities of color that were there before the ditch was dug, but also said that historic housing has to be prioritized.
“I think it’s very, very important to prioritize affordable housing in whatever goes in there and for the city to ensure that the housing is affordable in perpetuity,” said Bell. “That’s a major crisis that we are facing, in our city. That’s my number one priority.”
Candidate Tamerlin Godley called for a project that involves outstanding urban planning experts that will listen to the concerns, interests, and dreams of the residents of Pasadena and translate them into one or more financially feasible plans, followed by further public comment, revision and decision. The entire process needs to be transparent and inclusive of the entire community.
“In planning this project, we need to consider options that bring people together and mitigate the tale of two cities, enhance mobility, serve multiple generations, increase affordable housing, and increase our green space,” said Tamerlin Godley.
According to Mermell any project at the site will take several years.
“Keep in mind there’s several pieces here,” said Mermell. “There’s the interconnection issue, but what I think people are really interested in is what land-uses will replace the existing gorge. This will necessitate a community planning process; likely a specific plan for the area. We also need to figure out how to finance all the needed infrastructure to provide for redevelopment of the area. Remember, currently there is no Redevelopment Program in the state of California. There’s potential for some type of special district to finance improvements.”
Part of the area was last used the area as a rock quarry with tons of rocks dumped near the overpass on Green Street, leaving local residents to worry about air quality and other health issues.
Mayor Terry Tornek and others called for the cement plant to be removed.