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Political Gumbo: It’s Not Hard to Find Local People Displaced by the Freeway

Published on Wednesday, January 18, 2023 | 5:45 am

Applications for the 710 Stub Working Group are now online.

And as part of that group, the City Council voted to include at least two of the members shall be descendants of a resident or community member that was displaced by the proposed 710 Freeway expansion, consideration may also be given to displacement due to 210 Freeway, according to information provided by the City.

Trust me, it won’t be too hard to find people displaced by the freeway,

But first, some background on the matter. 

The state seized homes in Pasadena, South Pasadena and El Sereno to make way for an ill-fated freeway extension.

Locally, read Pasadena, those homes were located in mostly Black neighborhoods.

Pasadena wasn’t alone in this. 

Post World War II, communities of color fell victim to the highway expansion, large and in part due to the passage of the Federal Aid Highway Act in 1956 which cleared the way for a 41,000-mile interstate highway system throughout the country.

Local journalist Lee M. Merriman chaired a committee and worked with state officials on a route that kept the freeway away from iconic places like the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena Playhouse. 

In other words, they got together and cosigned to take it from Black people.

Yes, some in the City are bristling right now.

Fret now, you didn’t work there then and you didn’t cosign on it.

Back to the narrative, of course, no discussion was held on how the freeway would devastate Black neighborhoods. 

Okay we’re up to speed.

It should be no problem for members of the City Council to find people still living in Pasadena displaced by freeway construction.

In fact, some people well-known throughout the City come from families displaced by the freeway, including former Police Lt. Phlunte Riddle, former NAACP President Gary Moody and School Board President Michelle Richardson Bailey. 

Bailey said the freeway did not just displace her family, but divided it after some family members moved to Altadena which was then perceived by many Black residents as a highfalutin place where white folks lived.

Truth to tell, plenty of Black folks were breaking the color barrier there at that time, including my parents.  

Some Altadena residents even got letters stating their homes would be seized, including my folks.

Don’t know what the plan was there.

Brian Biery’s family lived just blocks away from the corridor. Biery has become one of the local historians on the matter and could prove invaluable on the matter.

Biery and others want the Council to not just examine the project, but go deeper.

Tina Williams, Jacque Robinson’s former field representative, is part of a group that wants the City to go deeper and connect with the state to discuss reparations for families impacted by freeway displacement.

Williams is part of the 710 Restorative Justice Pasadena Group.

In part, the goal of the group is for Pasadena families impacted to be at the decision making table regarding land use of the 710 stub.

The group will be comprised of local nonprofit organization leaders and community members advocating for a just and equitable solution in the 710 stub redevelopment plan. 

Our mission is to collaborate in creating a repair-based solution that is historically rooted, community led, and ensures those who were displaced / directly impacted participate in and benefit from the solution, according to the group’s spokesperson Jasmin Shupper.

There are many more.

Alma Stokes was a parishioner at First AME church on Vernon, one of Pasadena’s most beautiful churches. Unfortunately the church was on the route. 

Danny Parker is also an invaluable source of knowledge on the matter. 

There are more stories, and the pool for group members displaced or impacted by the freeway is deep.

It’s not hard to find them. They deserve to have a seat at the table.

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