By Jason KUROSU
Issues of development dominated the Crescenta Valley Community Association meeting Thursday night, particularly with two major public transportation projects, the 710 Freeway extension and California’s high speed rail line, with both projects anticipated in the next few years and both drawing opposition from residents.
Susan Bolan of the No 710 Action Committee updated the CVCA on the latest on the 710 extension, which is currently undergoing the Environmental Impact Report process, with a report due to be released sometime in February.
Bolan emphasized that the No 710 Action Committee is not taking a strict “not in my backyard” stance, but rather endorsing a solution that comprises several different alternatives.
“What we are proposing is a multi-modal proposition that is a little bit of everything,” said Bolan. “We want the comprehensive regional approach, rather than ‘no, no, no, we don’t want the tunnel.’”
The Five Cities Alliance, consisting of Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre and La Cañada, will be reviewing the draft EIR with the aid of various experts, with each city contributing $50,000 to the cause. According to Bolan, the EIR will feature 50 comprehensive studies and over 10,000 pages of material, requiring a collaborative review effort.
The Glendale City Council held a vote on Nov. 4 for committing an additional $5,000 towards the Five Cities Alliance, but some of the council members felt that more information was necessary before taking a stance and committing further funds to the Alliance.
At that meeting, Councilmembers Paula Devine and Dave Weaver voted no, while Zareh Sinanyan abstained, with the three council members stating that they wanted to wait until the EIR was released before taking a firm position.
“What we’re seeing is Glendale taking a less active role than the other cities,” said Bolan.
The city council revisited the topic on Tuesday night with most of the council members retaining their positions from the earlier meeting. Laura Friedman said the funding that would go towards a tunnel would be more productive going towards public transportation.
“I would argue that that money is much better spent on a robust transportation system and rail system to move freight from Long Beach, not in thousands of individual diesel powered trucks,” said Friedman.
Councilmember Ara Najarian maintained his feeling that waiting for the EIR would not matter, because he believed the tunnel alternative was the only alternative receiving serious consideration. Najarian pointed specifically to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) as responsible for delaying the EIR, saying that SCAG called for delaying the report in order to supply additional traffic data for the study while also advocating for the tunnel.
“How in the world can the agency that’s providing the traffic data to the EIR consultant have its executive director stand before the world and say, ‘This tunnel has to be built’? If anyone argues that that information provided by SCAG is unbiased, they don’t know what the word bias means,” said Najarian.
Councilmember Weaver held the position that the council should wait to see what the EIR said before taking a stance.
“I cannot sit here and say no to the tunnel or yes to the tunnel or for any other alternative. I don’t know the impacts yet,” said Weaver.
Mayor Sinanyan also echoed his position from the November meeting, that he needs to view the EIR first.
“I need to get the complete picture in order to understand how the residents of our entire city are going to be impacted,” said Sinanyan. “I’m not for the tunnel, but I’m not ready to be against the tunnel. I’m willing to dedicate funds to analyze that EIR in an unbiased manner so that we can make an educated decision.”
Councilmember Devine was the lone council member who revised her vote, voting in favor of committing funds to the Five Cities Alliance. Devine said that initially it was thought that the funds to be committed to the Five Cities Alliance would be $250,000 rather than the actual $5,000 amount.
The council voted 3-2 in favor of an additional $5,000 to the Five Cities Alliance.
Dave De Pinto, president of the Shadow Hills Property Owners Association, led a presentation on the state’s high speed rail proposal, a similarly divisive project. De Pinto is a member of Save Angeles Forest for Everyone (S.A.F.E.), which opposes the bullet train’s construction through the Angeles National Forest. S.A.F.E. is particularly concerned with the Palmdale to Burbank portion of the rail line, which would include two rail corridors (SR-14 and East), culminating at Burbank Airport. The East Corridor, which passes through the forest, would require tunneling through the mountains.
De Pinto said that Shadow Hills worries about how the elevated trains would affect their equestrian community.
“The engineers don’t have a clue about the nuances, the culture and the character of our communities here,” said De Pinto.
De Pinto updated the CVCA on S.A.F.E.’s latest efforts, which included a meeting held at All Nations Church in Lake View Terrace a week prior. The meeting was attended by 2,000 people, including members of the California High Speed Rail Authority.
De Pinto said that several residents who lived along the proposed rail routes received requests for Permit-to-Enter letters, which stated that officials would need to enter those residents’ properties to conduct a variety of tests. Along with concerns about tunneling, S.A.F.E. is worried about eminent domain for residents living along the East Corridor route.
De Pinto also said that the budget, speed and ticket price for the train are not what was originally promised.
“This is not the train that we voted for,” he said.
De Pinto does have hopes that the San Gabriel Mountains’ recent designation as a national monument will work to deter construction, due to the amount of permitting needed to build on federal land.
Other development issues discussed at the meeting include plans to build a 221-unit development at the site of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course.
Karen Zimmerman of V.O.I.C.E. (Volunteers Organized in Conserving the Environment) could not attend the meeting but sent the CVCA an update on the latest regarding the project. Delays with recirculation of the draft EIR, which may feature a new alternative for the project, have kept the project’s progress at a standstill. Zimmerman’s update indicated that new traffic studies were supposed to begin in November.
Designation of the site as a historic cultural monument in 2013 has not deterred building plans, as Snowball West Investments has filed a lawsuit to have the historic designation removed, saying that such designation violates the city of Los Angeles municipal code.
Crescenta Valley Town Council President Robbyn Battles also updated the CVCA on what could be expected at future TOWN COUNCIL meetings. Battles said the month of February would include visits from Los Angeles County regarding potential installation of street lighting in La Crescenta and METRO regarding Measure R funds that may be used to build medians along Foothill Boulevard. Battles said the medians would be erected “not just to beautify, but also to break up some of the large intersections” with respect to pedestrian safety.
The town council is also planning to host the candidates for the Glendale Unified School District board of education in March.
The CVCA is also planning to host the candidates for Glendale City Council in the future.
Joanna Linkchorst, president of the Friends of Rockhaven, also provided an update on the historic site, which the group hopes to restore. The property is currently owned by the city of Glendale. Linkchorst said that the Friends of Rockhaven is seeking grants for research, planning, historic preservation and a number of different areas that will aid their efforts.