The Los Angeles area is riddled with freeways. Most of us hate their presence and driving on them. They are a major source of air pollution and a chief contributor to global warming. The 210 freeway runs right through the middle of Pasadena, and there were plenty of objections to its construction at the time, but to no avail. It got built anyway.

So what’s the alternative? 

Early on there were other alternatives such as street cars and light rail, but these were discouraged by the auto and oil industries, which financially benefited from increased automobile traffic. So these industries pushed hard for freeways to boost their car sales and sales of their oil products, such as gasoline.

All the more reason why it was historic and perhaps unprecedented that the people of South Pasadena and Western Pasadena were recently able to stop the 4.1 mile extension of the 710 Freeway from Alhambra to Pasadena. Also deserving credit for putting a halt to the extension of the 710 Freeway are state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge) and Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).

Why did the 710 Freeway extension fail? One reason is that it pitted communities against communities. Most people in Alhambra and El Sereno wanted the 710 extension, hoping it would ease surface street congestion. That’s a good reason. The people of South Pasadena and West Pasadena, however, saw things much differently and did not want the tremendous disruption,upheaval and housing destruction that the 710 extension would bring to their areas. That’s an even better reason. In the final analysis, Portantino and Holden’s clout in the state Legislature proved stronger. And Gov. Gavin Newson signed Portatino’s bill.

Portantino’s Senate Bill 7 also addresses renting issues and the selling of Caltrans-owned properties along the proposed route of the 710 extension. Opponents of the 710 extension struggled with this issue for decades, and proposed multiple alternatives to adding to the freeway, such as building an underground tunnel and better utilizing other surface routes. None of these ultimately proved to be feasible. This is why trying to please multiple constituencies is very difficult.

In consideration of the rents paid by tenants who live in the surplus residential properties along the proposed 710 corridor, Caltrans cannot increase their rents as long as they meet the conditions of and comply with the the state’s Affordable Rent Program. Humane to say the least. 

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek has praised Portantino’s legislation for ending years of uncertainty, saying “this is a new day in Pasadena now that the 710 freeway is history.”

Added Tornek, “We can now focus our attention on re-knitting of this area back into the fabric of the city and addressing local traffic needs,” 

Others have added that approval of the 710 freeway extension “could have decimated portions of West Pasadena.”

Perhaps this demise of the 710 extension represents a time when Pasadena and the LA area will rethink the addition of more freeways and place an emphasis on other forms of transportation such as extension of the Gold Line and other light rail systems. 

One can only hope.  n 

John Grula, PhD, is affiliated with the Southern California Federation of Scientists.