By Ted AYALA
The Glendale City Council unanimously voted to step up its advocacy efforts against the proposed 710 tunnel last Tuesday night, allocating a total amount of $56,000 toward the move.
In what Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa described as the “first phase” of its advocacy, the city would pay $10,000 toward the retention of a public affairs consultant, Nelson/Nygaard of Oakland. The remaining $56,000 would be paid out as bills from the consultant would come up, though Councilmember Laura Friedman urged staff to “work out a deal” with them.
The costs come as part of Glendale’s share as part of the Five City Alliance (FCA) and the Connected Cities Coalition (CCC).
The FCA—which includes the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, and La Cañada—is a coalition of cities opposed to the 710 tunnel project. The CCC is its public advocacy arm which, according to City Manager Scott Ochoa, was “formed to advocate sober understanding of the project.”
City Council in January voted to join the CCC, but directed staff not to commit funds to group. Other cities in the coalition have since paid for transit and economic analyses. Both concluded that the effects on Glendale and the region as a whole would be negative. Those positions have since been supported by groups such as the Sierra Club, Los Angeles Conservation Voters, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Mayor Ara J. Najarian stressed that the allocation of funds was crucial in “getting that story out” as the FCA was “getting outspent and outgunned” by its opponents on the tunnel issue. He praised Nelson/Nygaard as having an “efficient and economical staff,” adding that the firm had been “carefully vetted” and would be “kept on a tight leash.”
“They would highlight the folly of this tunnel,” the mayor said of the firm.
Nelson/Nygaard’s work would consist of organizing press conferences and press releases putting forward the CCC’s views to the public.
Analysis of the environmental impact report (EIR) on the 710 tunnel is ongoing, Ochoa told the council. Those efforts, however, were being worked on in cooperation with other CCC member cities.
Though he eventually voted in favor of the allocation of funds, Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan was concerned over how the project would affect various parts of the city.
“Just as the EIR is being criticized as subjective,” he explained, “so could our analysis.”
Those concerns were rebuffed by Najarian, who said that CCC’s analysis was “objective” and that it “would expose the flaws in the EIR.”
He also warned that time was running short for action as Metro will close the public comments period on the EIR on July 6.
“We’re coming to a point where [a decision on the tunnel] isn’t theoretical anymore,” he said. “It’s going to happen in [our] terms of office. The people don’t get to vote on it.”
Najarian also assuaged concerns from Councilmember Vartan Gharapetian over whether the city’s funding of Nelson/Nygaard would be “bottomless,” answering that the allocated $56,000 would only go to this first phase of advocacy. He also added that cities such as South Pasadena have already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own studies and legal fights over the tunnel. They have not asked for help with those fees, he said.
Ochoa said that if it were necessary for the city to retain legal counsel, his staff would return to the council for a separate allocation of funds for that.
In the end, the mayor managed to rally the Council behind a more muscular public advocacy.
“This is one of the most significant positions we can take on public policy,” he told his colleagues. “This is something that is very critical. This tunnel is the worst idea to come forward.”