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My Sunday Column: Activists Fight for a Seat at the Table of Power

It was a triumph of citizen activism — the Pasadena City Council’s unanimous repudiation last week of plans to extend the long-stalled Long Beach (710) Freeway through town.

Someday, we might look back at what happened Monday night as a historic moment in the battle for Los Angeles and the quality of all our lives.

It was the first test of strength for members of a brand-new community group that sprung to life this summer after word got out that their lovely west Pasadena community was the target of a possible 710 extension. It would mean long-term disruption, destruction of dozens of homes, noise, pollution, etc.

People I know, such as Dr. Ron Paler and attorney John Shaffer, came together with their neighbors and went to work acquiring facts, getting on the same page, contacting hundreds of neighbors who might never have known what could happen until it was too late to do anything about it.

So began the San Rafael Neighborhoods Assn., which in just a few short weeks, got the Pasadena City Council to call a special meeting to handle what was expected to be a large crowd.

Monday night, more than 500 people showed up and they all had something to say, but they spoke in one voice: Not in my backyard, or my neighbor’s, either. These are not NIMBYs, they are preservationists, ordinary folks fighting for their homes, their neighborhoods, the quality of their lives.

Through four hours of enthusiastic hoots, hollers, jeers and cheers Monday night, there was a lot of tough questioning ofLos Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authorityofficials about their proposals to close the 710 Freeway gap — and, more importantly, about whether the agency was trying to create the appearance of public participation without really engaging the public, the art of political illusion.

For Michelle Smith, the MTA’s project manager for the 710 extension, it was a tough crowd to face — unhappy people from Eastside L.A. communities like Highland Park and historic Garavanza, to South Pasadena, Pasadena and La Cañada-Flintridge.

These people came from different communities and backgrounds, but were united in saying that while they want public transit to work, they don’t want to see an unneeded highway destroy their neighborhoods just to benefit the trucking industry and bail out the ports, which are facing a lot of tough years ahead with increased competition from the Panama Canal to every port north.

Smith seemed shaken by the intensity of emotions when she defended the MTA’s feeble, if costly, efforts at community outreach, saying things like, “we’ll be interfacing with the public throughout the process,” and in the end, conceding to the City Council she will “retool” the outreach program.


This entry was posted in 2012 Election, Community Activists, Glendale-Burbank, Los Angeles, Transportation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to My Sunday Column: Activists Fight for a Seat at the Table of Power

  1. Wayne from Corruptopia says finish the 710!!! says:

    People LEAVING L.A. need MORE ROADS OUT OF DODGE—I SAY BUILD THAT FREEWAY EXTENSION TO THE 210 and SAVE THE VICTIMS OF CORRUPTOPIA more commuting time! Also COMPLETING THAT PROJECT WOULD GUARANTEE THE ROSE BOWL GETS AN NFL TEAM and A BILLION IN UPGRADES to go along with that! But the old and tired Pasadena-ites CAN’T SEE THIS and will miss the chance of a lifetime to benefit MILLIONS of motorists and get the NFL back in the L.A. Region AND SHAFT AEG OUT OF ANY CHANCE TO GET A TEAM! No, not in CORRUPTOPIA-COUNTY, U.S.A.
    Can you see the day UCLA gets a deal to take the Rosebowl for FREE like USC STOLE AWAY THE COLLOSEUM? STADIUMS ARE WORTHLESS WITHOUT NEW TENANTS!

  2. LA Moderator says:

    Bravo Ron!

    Spot on…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ken Alpern, a Mar Vista Neighborhood Council member & a transit wacko urges a Yes vote on Measure J in “City watch”:

    “And while our NIMBY neighbors in Pasadena continue to reject a decades-overdue connection of the I-710 freeway to the rest of the freeway system (while hideously victimizing Alhambra and their neighbors to the south), they’ll be pleased to know that Measure J allows for transfer of planned I-710 freeway funds to extend the Foothill Gold Line and the Alameda Corridor East project to enhance passenger and freight movements, respectively.

    Should the voters approve Measure J this November, the City of LA can finally start fixing its infrastructure, the City of Pasadena can further delay the I-710 freeway to suffering of its neighbors, and the rest of the San Gabriel Valley can enjoy better passenger and freight rail mobility and movement.

    And maybe we can build the Wilshire Subway and MetroRail to LAX within our lifetimes.

    Measure J: J as in Jumpstart!”

    Meanwhile, Mar Vista wants to seccede from LA & join Culver City.

  4. Paula Shatsky says:

    This is a brilliant piece on a very complicated, emotional topic. The layers of this story have not even begun to appear.

    Thank you for your astute observations of our struggle to be heard.

    We will triumph!

    Pasadena, Ca.

  5. Wayne from Ventura subbing for vacationing Ron (8/20/12) as my post awaits moderation and will most likely be deleted says:

    I know it’s a little early for New Years resolutions, but here’s my:
    HA HA HA!!!!!

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