By Ted AYALA
A divided council split 3-2 in favor of having Glendale take a more aggressive stance against the proposed 710 Freeway tunnel that would funnel increased traffic into North Glendale.
Councilmember Paula Devine requested to bring the matter before council again on Tuesday night, following a vote late last year that shot down a push for anti-710 advocacy.
At the time, city staff estimated that costs for advocating against the 710 tunnel, which would bring the possibility of fighting lawsuits, could incur as much as $250,000 in shared costs among the Five City Coalition, which consists of Pasadena, South Pasadena, La Cañada, and Sierra Madre, as well as Glendale.
Last year, Devine had opted to remain neutral on the issue, explaining that it “wasn’t responsible to spend that sum of money.”
Now, with city staff offering a number of lower cost options that wouldn’t entail legal entanglements, she offered her support.
“[The community] has reinforced my opposition to the tunnel,” said Devine.
Faced with a head start from cities such as Alhambra and Monterey Park which have been aggressive in their advocacy in favor of the tunnel, tunnel opponents on the council were seized with a sense of urgency to act.
“It’s only fitting that we’re as vocal advocates as can be for our position,” said Councilmember Laura Friedman. “Besides its being a fiscally irresponsible program, the effect on [North Glendale’s] quality of life will be tremendous.”
Councilmember Ara J. Najarian turned some harsh rhetoric on the tunnel’s supporters, calling them “foolish.”
He also expressed profound misgivings over the impartiality of an environmental impact report (EIR) due next month.
The head of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the organization tabulating traffic reports to be used for the EIR, was invited to speak at Alhambra’s “710 Day” last July 10. Najarian said he took to the podium to declare the tunnel a “necessity.”
“The EIR is junk before it even comes out,” the councilmember declared. “It won’t be worth the reams of paper it will be printed on.”
Nevertheless, some members of council remained unmoved.
Councilmember Dave Weaver has long declared himself neutral on the subject pending review on the subject.
“I hear people saying that the EIR will be tainted,” said Weaver. “I don’t know that. I cannot sit here and say ‘no’ to the tunnel or ‘yes’ to the tunnel. It will take time for me to review it. There will be a lot of input.”
His position was attacked by Najarian as being effectively in favor of the tunnel, telling him that if he “wasn’t against the tunnel, then [he] was for it,” a charge Weaver vehemently denied.
Mayor Zareh Sinanyan also remained neutral, saying that he needed to study the impact of the tunnel on all of Glendale before coming to a final decision.
“I need to get the complete picture,” he said. “I’m willing to wait for the EIR to come out.”
Members of the community rallied council to step up advocacy against the tunnel.
Susan Bolan, head of the No 710 Action Committee, said that the opposition needed to be stiffened in the wake of a decision that has been seemingly predetermined by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and CalTrans.
“It’s vitally critical that you look at [other solutions],” she told council. “A freeway tunnel is complicated and expensive. We want to look for transit opportunities that [allow] for connectivity between areas. We should consider smaller projects.”