> Caltrans has relinquished the 50-plus acres, known as the North 710 Stub, back to the City of Pasadena. This presents a new opportunity for the City of Pasadena to reintegrate the stub into a future that does not include the 710 Freeway. (Read Part 1)
Cooperation among South Pasadena, Pasadena, Glendale, La Cañada, and Sierra Madre.
By Marina Khubesrian
The Beyond the 710 Coalition was founded in the fall of 2014. It was chaired by Glendale City Councilmember and Metro Board Member, Ara Najarian, and spearheaded and co-chaired by this author, then South Pasadena Mayor and City Councilmember. The official position of the City of Pasadena on the 710 Freeway Tunnel changed from support to opposition in April 2015 under the leadership of Pasadena Mayor, Terry Tornek.
The Beyond the 710 Coalition formally launched the BT7 Alternative at a press conference on May 28, 2015, with Congressman Adam Schiff headlining. This coalition played a crucial role in the victory that was to come because it reshaped the debate over the 710 Tunnel dramatically. The “Beyond the 710” debate became a stage for re-imagining issues of mobility and congestion that had divided the western San Gabriel Valley for decades. My invitation to collaborate brought together mayors of cities that would be affected by the Tunnel – namely Bill Bogaard of Pasadena, Ara Najarian of Glendale, Jonathan Curtis of La Cañada, and John Harabedian of Sierra Madre.
We first met at the Garfield Park Youth House conference table on a sunny day in Fall, 2014. We agreed that it was advantageous to work together to find a way forward that did not mire us in costly litigation. A better alternative would benefit all affected cities and be feasible enough to implement traffic solutions immediately. Mayor Najarian agreed to serve as chair; I agreed to co-chair and host the monthly meetings with staff support.
We worked with the Nelson/Nygaard firm to develop a better mobility and community alternative, with the Maxima Group, to provide jobs and economic benefits numbers for the alternative, and with Coby King of High Point Strategies, who served as our executive director of public relations and outreach efforts. We also enjoyed support and partnership from Damon Nagami and Chris Morris, senior staff at National Resources Defense Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, respectively. Most importantly, we engaged citizens and met with organizers in affected communities.
The Nelson/Nygaard team studied the Draft Environmental Impact Report and put forth a mobility and land use alternative plan which would repurpose land use and restore connectivity at the “stubs” – at the 10 and 210 freeway junctions. This would present opportunities to create transit and bus links to Cal State L.A, to remove bottlenecks and apply modern traffic mitigation solutions that would benefit all modes of travel and to add green zones, restore riparian habitat, and uncover tributaries of the LA River.
The “Beyond the 710, Moving Forward, New Initiative for Mobility and Community” plan presented a comprehensive vision that would reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. All this could be done for a fraction of the estimated $5.6 billion cost of the Tunnel, and would leave funds aside to extend the Gold Line. This alternative also would create thousands of good construction jobs in the foreseeable future. We believed we had a better alternative and set about sharing the BT7 vision with our State and County representatives, neighboring city leaders, organized labor, public health communities, and transportation decision makers at all levels of government.
The leaders of the BT7 New Initiative for Mobility and Community Alternative were: this author, Dr. Marina Khubesrian (South Pasadena, Co-chair), Ara Najarian (Glendale, Chair), Terry Tornek (Pasadena), Jonathan Curtis (La Cañada) and John Cappocia (Sierra Madre). Along the way, we made new allies, encountered success in community and boardroom debates, and stayed out of the courtroom.
There was a lot to organize before the Beyond the 710 Alternative could be launched publicly, and in a timely manner following its refinement and subsequent endorsement. We relied on Coby King of High Point Strategies as executive director of a fast moving, massive campaign with branding, messaging, press engagement, and management of high level outreaches and meetings. I found myself spending several hours daily spearheading communications, facilitating decisions, and preparing presentations on the benefits of the BT7 Alternative. I had the privilege of working closely with what had become a reliable and effective team. We formally launched the BT7 Alternative at a press conference outside the Metro building ahead of a scheduled Metro Board meeting on May 28, 2015. Congressman Adam Schiff, whose office had been briefed by our executive director on the benefits of BT7 Alternative, led the press conference, demonstrating most welcome leadership. I had the honor of making comments along with Ara Najarian, John Harabedian, Jonathan Curtis, and other BT7 allies, to convey that this new set of solutions was a better alternative to the Tunnel.
The BT7 Alternative garnered positive media attention and was recognized by transportation leaders and land use planners as a game-changing set of ideas that would solve the decades-long stalemate of the 710 Freeway in the region.
Marina Khubesrian, M.D. is a San Gabriel Valley based physician, and a former councilwoman and Mayor of South Pasadena.
■ PART 1: Beyond the 710 – It Was Bleak.
■ PART 3: Beyond the 710 – New Possibilities.
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