By Ted AYALA
In a surprising move, Glendale City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday to prevent city staff from advocating against the construction of the controversial 710 tunnel before the Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA) submits its environmental impact report (EIR) in February 2015. The advocacy would have used monies totaling $50,000 that was appropriated expressly for that use by council back in 2012.
The tunnel, which Cal Trans and Metro say is needed to close a “gap” in the 210 Freeway, would run from Cal State University Los Angeles to Pasadena. Supporters of the tunnel, which include the cities of Alhambra, San Marino and Monterey Park, say that the long overdue tunnel would relieve traffic on their surface streets. Opponents, though, say it would burden streets along the freeway with added congestion and contribute to elevated levels of pollution – a major complaint with residents of North Glendale.
Councilmember Ara J. Najarian, who sits on the board of the MTA, has long been an outspoken opponent of the tunnel. He pointed to recent moves by tunnel supporters, including Alhambra’s “710 Close the Gap Day” held in July, and the hiring of a high-profile public relations agency as evidence that Glendale and other cities opposing the tunnel need to step up their public advocacy.
“The other side is already playing ball,” he remarked. “If we don’t suit up soon, we’re going to get run over.”
But his colleagues on the dais, Councilmembers Dave Weaver and Paula Devine, stood in opposition.
Devine, whose recent electoral victory was aided in great part by voters in North Glendale, said that despite the aggressive public advocacy of tunnel supporters, she wasn’t moved to have the city take up action in kind.
“I think if [Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles] is waiting for a regional approach to the EIR,” she said, “then I think we should wait for it to come and keep our low-key approach.”
She was echoed in her sentiments by Weaver, who accused his opponents on the council of pushing “smoke and mirrors” and “hot air” before the public.
“What are you objecting to?” he asked. “When all is said and done, Cal Trans is the boss. I’ll stick with the way I think.”
Mayor Zareh Sinayan, who would have been the tie-breaking vote, pleaded not being well-informed on the issue as an excuse for abstaining from voting.
He added, however, that he was wary of claims by the MTA that construction of the tunnel would bring jobs to the region, adding that he was skeptical of the hiring of Dragados, S.A. of Spain to burrow the path.
“How sad is it if we have to rely on a Spanish company to do this?” he said. “[It] says a lot about how we’ve fallen behind in technology.”
Councilmember Laura Friedman chided her colleagues and supporters of the tunnel, claiming that its construction would be a “20th century solution to a 21st century problem.”
Najarian took a more defiant stance.
“We need to be strong and brave and stand with our residents in the north,” he said. “Stand for the residents of North Glendale and La Crescenta [or] stand against them.”