Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek has placed a recommendation on Monday’s City Council agenda for the City to hold a special election to repeal Measure A, the 2001 initiative ordinance which promotes completion of the 710 Freeway.
Measure A positioned the City as being squarely in favor of completing the “missing link” gap in the 710 Freeway connecting its current terminus at Valley Boulevard in Alhambra with the 210 Foothill Freeway in Pasadena, even though in recent years the Council has gone on record as being in opposition to the 710 tunnel proposal.
At the May 17 Council meeting, Tornek said that “after the November elections the City is going to get ambushed and we will be confronted with a full court press to build [the 710 tunnel]. We have got to be prepared to prevent that from happening.”
“So,” he continued then, firing a shot across the bow of the 21 cities in favor of the project, “In order for us to be ready when this hits the fan after November… we must repeal Measure A … because Measure A restricts our ability to actively oppose the completion of the freeway. And that measure can only be repealed by a vote of the people.”
A legal opinion by Pasadena City Attorney Michele Bagneris holds that Measure A precludes the City from taking any action against the 710 tunnel project. No monies may be raised or spent in opposition to the 710 tunnel by the City unless Measure A is repealed, the opinion concluded.
Yesterday, Tornek said he is hopeful the Council will vote in favor of holding the special election.
“I don’t handicap these things,” he said Thursday when asked if he felt optimistic about passage of the recommendation. “I have not polled the Councilmembers individually, as that would be a violation of the Brown Act [Legislation which prevents legislators from discussion of official business outside of a formal scheduled meeting].”
“The Council is unanimous in its opposition to the 710 Tunnel,” added Tornek “so the only question is their reaction to actually placing this on the ballot. I don’t anticipate any resistance to it, but you never know.”
“There are tremendous forces gathering to try and push this through,” Tornek said, “and we have a five-city coalition to object to it, but Pasadena is sort of participating in that process with one hand tied behind its back because of Measure A.”
Tornek is concerned that the predicted successful passage of R-2, an extension of a previous and expiring sale tax measure, would trigger a major offensive by pro-tunnel forces. R-2 would raise over $120 billion to fund Metro’s transit projects and initial polling indicates 68% of Los Angeles County voters support the idea. With a huge warchest, Metro and other cities, such as Los Angeles, will push even harder to complete the 710 tunnel project, Tornek reasons.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) approved a plan to complete the 710 Freeway between the 1-10 Freeway in Alhambra and the 1-210 Freeway in Pasadena back in 1998.
Work stalled when a federal judge issued an injunction as residents fought to halt the project, citing negative impacts of the planned freeway route that passed through residential areas in South Pasadena and Pasadena.
The Pasadena City Council adopted Resolution No. 7865 in April 2000, reversing prior City support for the 710 Freeway extension. An initiative petition was then circulated by proponents supporting the 710 Freeway extension. Measure A was submitted to the voters in March 2001, and was overwhelmingly approved with a 58% majority.
The FHA then suspended its support of the plan in 2003, and directed state officials to conduct a new environmental impact study of the project. Five years later, voters approved Measure R, providing the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) with new funds for transportation projects, and new interest in the 710 Freeway project.
A series of plans to close the 710 gap were created in 2012, but eventually Metro settled on a five-mile tunnel from the 710’s terminus in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway near California Avenue.
The City Council voted to formally oppose the Tunnel plan in April of 2013, and offered a package of alternatives to Metro developed by a citizen committee.
Wrote Mayor Tornek in his report to the council, “In light of the magnitude of the project and impact this will have on Pasadena and quality of life issues, the City Council must reinsert the City’s voice and legal standing to express opposition. The only way to accomplish this goal is to submit a ballot measure and repeal Measure A by a vote of the people.”
“Pursuit of this effort is consistent with the City Council’s goals to increase conservation and sustainability; improve mobility and accessibility throughout the City; support. and promote the quality of life and the local economy; and ensure public safety.”