Road to nowhere
Pasadena council and crowd tear into Metro at tense council meeting on 710
By André Coleman 08/16/2012
Michelle Smith of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) patiently waited for her turn to speak to the Pasadena City Council Monday night, surely certain that what she had to say would not be well received.
The regular meeting had been transferred from City Hall to the Pasadena Convention Center to accommodate large numbers of people expected to speak out on Metro’s plans to either build a 4.5-mile twin-barrel tunnel underneath Avenue 64 or turn the densely residential street into a six-lane freeway in order to connect portions of the gap separating the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways.
For unknown reasons, the Convention Center’s sound system was on the fritz that day, causing delays in people — including Smith — speaking up about the agency’s proposals.
But when the sound system was finally fixed, and Smith introduced herself, there was no mistaking the overwhelming sentiment of the crowd of nearly 700 people at the meeting, many of whom booed and jeered the transit agency spokeswoman before she had a chance to say another word.
After the crowd settled down, Smith gave her presentation. But before members of the audience could universally condemn both Metro proposals, Council members Margaret McAustin and Victor Gordo lambasted the plans.
“If someone were trying to fail more miserably, they couldn’t have done it better than with these alternatives,” Gordo said of so-called alternatives F-5, the tunnel plan under Avenue 64, and H-2, a plan to turn Avenue 64 into a freeway. Another alternative, LRT-4, would see a traffic tunnel dug underneath through South Pasadena and Pasadena along Fair Oaks Avenue.
The various options, all of which were unanimously opposed by the council, were developed as part of an environmental review of the project, proposed as an alternative to an overland connection between the two freeways. First considered in the 1960s, that idea was scuttled four years ago due to a lack of federal funding, but not before Caltrans had seized through eminent domain more than 500 homes in Pasadena, South Pasadena and the LA neighborhood of El Sereno in the 1960s and ’70s to build the connector.