Friday, January 23, 2009

Should Obama Break South Pasadena?

That was the chilling title of an article up yesterday on LA Observed. Here is the gist of that piece:

"Journalist Joe Mathews has become the latest advocate of a narrow SoCal position to argue that taking his side is somehow a test of whether President Barack Obama truly means to 'get beyond old disputes and divides' and to 'rebuild the country's infrastructure.' What's the grand litmus test this time? The missing link on the 710 freeway through South Pasadena." 

Interesting. A small southern California city successfully stands up to forces far larger and more powerful than itself, and in the process preserves a way of life that is the envy of many. Sound familiar? But, of course, neither South Pasadena or Sierra Madre has yet to be tested by the might of the Federal Government. And it looks like there are some who are now just aching to bring in the most powerful government on the face of the earth to deal with the likes of, well, us.

On Fox & Hounds, a site you really need to check as often as you can, Pasadena resident Joe Mathews fleshes out his statist dream:

For half a century, the 710 has been unfinished. It was supposed to go all the way from the Port of Long Beach up to Pasadena, where it would connect to the 210 Freeway, allowing drivers and truckers to skirt downtown LA on their way northwest ... But the highway stops 6 miles short of the 210 in Pasadena, dumping drivers onto the surface streets of Alhambra. Why? The power of one very well organized special interest: the residents and city fathers of South Pasadena.

Fascinating viewpoint. A community defends its city and way of life, and for this they need to be not only roundly condemned, but also forced to have an 8 lane freeway rammed right through the center of their town. No less a punishment would suffice. So much for the rights of individuals and a system of laws that defends the weak from the tyranny of powerful central governments run amuck. Obviously when Mr. Mathews comes around, you'll need to hide the kittens and little puppies. Joe continues:

Coverage of the dispute focuses on the decision-making of state transportation officials, and the role of local bond money in paying for it. But this is fundamentally a federal issue, and Obama has a role to play in forcing the project forward. 

Let's put this into perspective. Sacramento and its various entities have been trying to get the 710 finished for 50 years, and have met with nothing but defeat at that hands of those annoying South Pasadena people. After decades of failure, the folks who believe that no mere mortals should dare to stand in the way of such mighty things as superhighways are chafing from a rash of epic proportions. And now, in their madness, they believe they have a president who will bring to bear all his mighty power and help them realize their dreams.

Fortunately, Barack Obama is not an idiot. Or at least I don't think he is. And a politician who won the presidency by promising to defend the rights and interests of the struggling middle class would not seem likely to saddle up the troops and descend on South Pasadena so that billions can be spent to finish yet one more godforsaken L.A. freeway. (Or, as one commenter to Joe's screed nicely put it, "I would hope that the new administration puts OUR money where it will generate the highest return, and not on some project that makes it easier for the Joe Mathews of this world to get to Chinatown for dim sum faster.")

But that said, there is something that needs to be mentioned. And as a lifelong legacy Democrat this is not a lesson that came easily to me. Mainline organization Democrats in our little corner of the world are for the most part a badly compromised bunch who sold out their natural constituency in order to better support some pretty rotten people. And it is safe to say that the Los Angeles County Democratic Party is hand in glove with organizations that would love to "redevelop" the quaint little towns (i.e. tear them down so they can build ugly crap and make lots of money) that grace this part of our world. The thought that the Federal Government might step in to help them realize their dreams has got to be pure ecstasy for these guys. And there can be no doubt that breaking South Pasadena would be a huge step forward in their efforts to redevelop the San Gabriel Valley.  

And who knows, maybe this kind of corruption does extend all the way to the top of the Democratic Party. I personally doubt it. I mean, would the likes of Barack Obama really want to associate himself with local L.A. County transportation and real estate hustlers plus those who so willingly handle their dirty laundry? He would have to be an awfully small individual to see any value in that kind of action.

But I guess we're going to find out.


  1. To South Pasadena freedom fighters:
    We can only HOPE there will be no CHANGE in your fight to stop massive over development.

  2. They have a duty to protect that beautiful historic area from over development. We are responsible for our world. If we continue to destroy the world we live in, will we all want to live here?

  3. This looks less to be about transit and more about the $780 million - as reported in the LA Times - to be spent on the project, should it go through. (Estimates place actual costs at $3 billion.)
    Now, they are spending $17.2 million on the "feasibility" study for the proposed tunnel extension 250 feet underground, testing "seismic reflection activities."
    How are huge sums available for this, and not our public schools for teachers and books and computers?

  4. I can tell you right now for free - it ain't safe!

  5. If Alhambra officials are so concerned about too much traffic, they shouldn't have allowed their city to be overbuilt.

  6. Thanks for giving this struggle your attention, Sir Eric. And what an insightful description: "...a badly compromised bunch who sold out their natural constituency in order to better support some pretty rotten people."

  7. Great photos on - Thank you for the link.

  8. I prefer the photo on this website of the dirt tryin' to swat a fly on his nose with a hammer.
    Keep fighting them, So. Pasadena.

  9. This is not as clear-cut as South Pasadena wants us to believe. I'm not quite ready to throw them under the bus, what stop and think for a minute. What are we being asked to "save"? How many cars drive through Columbia Avenue or Fremont Avenue or Fair Oaks every day. These routes are not the quiet leafy streets you are being asked to protect. It is conceivable that South Pasadena has only the "look and feel" of a small town, but the traffic of Los Angeles suburbia. It has not been protected from development; it was "ruled" by the hand of former Sierra Madre City tyrant Sean Joyce for several years with much the same outcome as Sierra Madre experienced. While I will always side with those who struggle for self-determinism, and I'm not crazy about the notion that more freeways are the best way to address growth, I also have to figure this is not the ditch I want to die in. The arrogance and pretense of South Pasadena has alienated me.

  10. While I have to agree with much of what you say here, you don't always get to pick your allies in a war. Sometimes shared self-interest is the tie that binds. And if the Federal govt develops a taste for interceding in the affaits of our little valley, there won't be much left standing once they are done. This is SCAG's wet dream, and their patrons'll ride this all the way to the bank.

  11. A federal judge lived in South Pasadena and used his influnece to stop the freeway. It should have been build in the 70's and it would have cost millions less. South Pasadena has caused awful traffic congestion in both Alhambra and Pasadena. The 210 freeway should have been continued as far as Columbia Street and then dumped onto Columbia. It would have kept a lot of traffic off Orange Grove, Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena Ave, Del Mar, and California.

  12. Anonymous @ 11:08 - if you think traffic is bad now, wait'll the 710 is finished and it becomes the major gateway into your neck of the woods. The truck traffic alone will shake your world. Not to mention what becomes of the already pathetic 210.

    Couple of points on the 6 mile tunnel. Do we really want to build such a thing in one of the world's most active earthquake zones? And with a tunnel that long, car exhaust will have to be vented. So what happens if the power goes off? And its right in the middle of rush hour? Power failures do happen, and especially during earthquakes. Power off, cars stopped, tunnel shaking. Be a whole bunch of people turning blue and then some. I know wouldn't want to be in there.

  13. Too bad Good Year Tires bought up the Red Car only to shut it down. Good Year wanted to sell tires and you don't sell tires to people using public transportation. Everthing was in place. That is the reason there is such a large land divider in the Middle of Huntington Dr. One route was from the top of Baldwin in Sierra Madre to Santa Monica Beach. My dad used to talk about taking the Red Car everywhere.

  14. Yep, Pasta is right.
    The Red Cars were a great public transportation system, big error scrapping them.
    I know my grandma used to name a mayor of L.A., forgot his name, as the culprit here.
    Probably "influenced" by Good Year.

  15. You know they'll eventually get what they want. Maybe not this year, or in 10 years, but someday they'll prevail because government is just relentless. But that said, why the hell should we make it easy for them?

  16. Curly, during the 1991 Loma Prieta (7.1 on the Richter scale) earthquake in the Bay Area, all the BART and freeway tunnels survived perfectly intact, but elevated freeways collapsed. Tunnel engineers know what they are doing, same with ventilation.

    Don't bring technology into this, the problem is politics. One thing this post does not mention, is that the 710 is a trade route. its not just about local traffic its about truck traffic. That makes it more difficult on all counts.

  17. Instead of building this stupid tunnel, why not propose an extension of the Gold Line thry Alhambra and then farther south, possibly connecting up with the Green and/or Blue Lines.
    The real tragedy of LA was the demise of the Red Car system, and our only alternative from a gridlocked future is the expansion of our puny light-rail system.

  18. TP: I'm not sure that the 710's designation as a "trade route" (paging Marco Polo) really means all that much. You could call it a 20 mile long conga line and the effects of its completion would still be as miserable.


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