These Pasadena residents want to transform the 710 'ditch' into a new community
|<b>May 19, 2016</b> - Architect Stefano Polyzoides and Mayor Terry Torenek discuss plans for the 50 acre parcel that Caltrans intended to develop the 710 extension. The parcel, if developed, could create 50 million dollars in tax revenue over thirty years for the City of Pasadena.|
|San Gabriel Valley Tribune|
A rendering commissioned by the West Pasadena Residents Association shows what the city might look like if development occurred on the freeway stub meant to connect the 710 Freeway to the 210. (Courtesy Photo provided by the West Pasadena Residents Association).
Stefano Polyzoides sees the northern stub of the 710 Freeway as a concrete wound cutting across Pasadena’s west side.
To heal the scars, the nearly 1-mile long “ditch” must be redeveloped, the Pasadena-based architect said.
“It’s a war zone out there, you know it, you live it,” Polyzoides said Wednesday to the members of the West Pasadena Residents Association.
Polyzoides’ presentation imagined what Pasadena would look like if Caltrans did not complete the 710 Freeway and instead sold the 50-acre plot of land to the city.
Polyzoides’ design, shown at the annual meeting of the Association, replaces the freeway stub with housing, businesses and a tree-covered boulevard. The state-owned land between California Boulevard and the 210 Freeway represents nearly 2.5 million square feet of potential development next door to the city’s thriving Old Pasadena district.
It could bring in nearly $50 million in taxes over 30 years, Polyzoides said.
“It takes back your city and gives it back to you in the form it was in 60 years ago,” he said.
His design starts with low density single-family homes on the south end and increases in density as it gets closer to the 210 Freeway.
Caltrans took ownership of the property decades ago to build a surface freeway from Alhambra to Pasadena. The project stalled and shifted over the years, but the most recent proposal suggests a more than 4-mile long tunnel from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the stub in Pasadena.
Pasadena’s city council voted to support an alternative plan in 2015, but the city attorney says the council could not directly oppose the tunnel because of Measure A, a voter-approved initiative in 2001 that supports completing the 710 Freeway.
Mayor Terry Tornek announced on Monday that he wants to put a repeal of Measure A on the November ballot. The vote on drafting that repeal is scheduled for June 13.
At the WPRA meeting, Tornek pointed to Polyzoides’ design as the “opportunity cost” of Caltrans’ long-delayed attempt at completing the 710 Freeway. The land would be extremely valuable because of its close proximity to Old Pasadena, Tornek said. A property with 50 acres of land does not exist anywhere in Pasadena and would be hard to find in Los Angeles County.
“This is the stuff that is not getting talked about because the 710 sucks all of the air out of the regional transportation planning,” Tornek said.
The potential improvements at Pasadena’s northern stub could also occur in Alhambra where the 710 ends, Tornek said.
Caltrans set up a concrete batch plant in the middle of the ditch last year and piled up rocks nearby. Some residents worried the work was related to the 710, but Caltrans says its using the land as a staging ground for 210 roadwork near La Crescenta-Montrose, according to the transportation department’s website.
The decision to place the plant in between two of Pasadena’s iconic neighborhoods incensed Tornek.
“It drives me absolutely nuts,” Tornek said.
Tornek spent the past year in office meeting with the 710 extension’s decision makers. He came away from those discussions frustrated, but determined to fight back. He says he is convinced the silence about the 710 is because the county and the Metro board do not want to put a transit tax scheduled for the November ballot at risk. But once the voting ends, he expects the push for the tunnel will return.
The mayor said if the city can pass a repeal — something he’s confident voters will support with a little education — it will be able to dedicate the full resources necessary to stop that push, including litigation.
And if the city can kill the extension, Caltrans is likely to sell the land for development, Tornek said.
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