[Editor’s note: The caption beneath the photograph of Mr. Blumenfeld in the body of the article contained errors in the original version. Those errors have now been corrected.]
Joining the battle against the 710 Freeway tunnel extension, the Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education last night voted to direct Lawrence Torres, its representative to the 5-Star Education Coalition an amalgam of local school districts — to vote in favor of a Coalition resolution formally opposing the plan to build a 4.5 mile tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena.
In February, the Coalition, consisting of representatives from Pasadena Unified, South Pasadena Unified, Glendale Unified, Burbank Unified, and La Cañada Unified, drafted a joint resolution opposing the tunnel extension of State Route 710 North.
When Pasadena Unified, blocked by the single vote of Board Member Larry Torres, failed to support the anti-tunnel resolution, the entire Coalition was thwarted and unable to formally adopt the resolution.
Pasadena Unified Board member Scott Phelps asked the Board to reconsider the issue Thursday after he noted that “the residents in my trustee area are overwhelmingly opposed to the idea” of a tunnel extension.
Second time around, Torres changed his mind.
“As our district’s representative I had felt that the school board had stepped outside its governmental role, and I had voted for us to abstain,” said Torres, of his previous vote on the resolution back in March. “Too often, school districts are called upon to cure all of society’s ills and I don’t know that that is our role. And that was my question, as to whether that was our purview.”
“But the speakers tonight,” Torres continued, in a revealing moment, “have changed my mind on this.”
Torres reflected, “I try the best that I can to be a good leader, and be a good listener and try to take in facts as best I can, as I think most of us do. But until this meeting, I was not prepared to say that this was within our governance. I think that the speakers, especially my good friend (school board member) Jon Primuth from South Pasadena, who spoke so eloquently, made a convincing case for me, so I would also vote to confirm this resolution.”
Local residents, who represented neighborhoods, community organizations, and school districts, as well as doctors and environmentalists, all presented arguments opposing the 710 tunnel, calling it among other things, “a pollution hot spot.”
“This is a child-related issue,” said Jan Soo Hoo, of La Cañada Flintridge, who said that she has fought against the project for more than six years.
Referring to the school board’s position, that it was “unsure if the issue was us,” Soo Hoo said, “If not you, then who is responsible for helping protect Pasadena’s school children from the negative impacts of the SR 710 tunnel? Oppose this project that will increase air pollution in Pasadena and imperil the health and academic performance of Pasadena’s schoolchildren.”
Former school board president and current board member Elizabeth Pomeroy, agreed, saying, “This is an education issue. We should oppose this.”
Said Primuth, who Torres singled out for his comments, “The solution to pollution is dilution, but this is the opposite. We ask that you join South Pasadena in opposing this pollution hot spot that will be concentrated in our two cities.”
The Coalition represents 70,000 K-12 students in those five school districts.
The Coalition’s draft resolution takes issue with METRO’s Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the 710 tunnel extension, saying “The 5SC finds that the DEIR does not adequately address the potential health impact on our students and staff whose daily school and work environment would be impacted because of our schools’ proximity to a route proposed in the study for State Route 710.”
The 5SC also did not agree with METRO’s findings that the building of a tunnel to extend State Route 710 will not bring additional traffic to the area.