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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mt. Washington mobilizes against a freeway tunnel

The idea of digging a six-lane freeway tunnel that begins in El Sereno, loops around Mt. Washington and emerges in Glassell Park seems far fetched. The concept, one of many being considered to close the 710 Freeway gap, is for now the dream of Caltrans engineers with no money behind it. But the idea has many residents across Mt. Washington and Glassell Park terrified. On Monday night, Councilman Jose Huizar, in response to those fears and a well-organized anti-tunnel campaign, appeared before a meeting of the Mt. Washington Assn. to express his opposition to the construction of any tunnel through the area. "It does not make sense to me," said Huizar. It's what residents want to hear but many remained fearful of a Mt.Washington-Glassell Park version of Boston's Big Dig. "It's a good start," said Mt. Washington resident Nancy Campeau. "But there is [still] a tremendous threat."

* * *

Campeau is part of a small group of activists who have come together recently to put pressure on Huizar and other Los Angeles city officials to take a more public stand on the tunnel concept. In a short matter of time the Los Angeles activist have held meetings that have attracted hundreds of residents, collected petitions with more than 3,000 signatures, teamed up with freeway opponents in South Pasadena and have shown up at Los Angeles City Council meetings demanding action. On Mt. Washington, the movement gathered steam after local architect Frank Pasker wrote a story titled The 710 Freeway: It's Closer Than You Think! in the July issue of Mt. Washington Assn. newsletter. Divina Lombardo, who lives near Terrace 45 and Cleland Avenue, was shocked when a neighbor gave her a copy of the newsletter. "The entrance of the tunnel is supposed to be near my house," Lombardo said. "I got scared."

She also got organized. Divina and Campeau quickly held a neighborhood meeting in a room at a nearby church. So many people showed up that the meeting was moved into the main sanctuary of the Holy Virgin Mary Orthodox Coptic Church. The meeting soon found Mt. Washington residents teaming up with neighbors in Glassell Park, Highland Park and South Pasadena over the 710 tunnel issue.

But some other neighborhood activists and groups, however, have not seen the tunnel studies being conducted as an immediate threat. The Eagle Rock Assn. said in the group's August email newsletter that "those opposed to a local solution may be firing their cannons a little early." But tunnel opponents wanted to eliminate this threat before it picked up steam and funding. Many Mt. Washington residents were putting particular pressure on their council representative, Huizar, to take a stand against the tunnel. Not only does Huizar represent Mt. Washington and a large swath of Northeast Los Angeles, he also sits on the board of the powerful Metropolitan Transit Agency.

So, getting Huizar to publicly say he opposed the tunnel options through Mt. Washington and Glassell Park was considered a victory. Huizar also said that he and fellow councilmen Eric Garcetti and Ed Reyes, both of who represent adjacent neighborhoods, were working on a council motion to deal with concerns dealing with any proposed freeway tunnel. In response to a question from an audience member Monday night, Huizar said he would as a transit agency board member support looking at non-freeway alternatives to reducing traffic congestion.

But Huizar said he has not determined whether or not he will support the building of a freeway tunnel under El Sereno, which he also represents. It's also not clear how effective Huizar and his fellow councilmen will be in influencing the direction of the 710 freeway tunnel, which is a state and federal project. Now, many Mt. Washington residents said their next task is to make sure the Los Angeles City Council passes a resolution against the freeway tunnel.

"I can't sleep yet .... until the whole City Council passes that legislation," said Lombardo.

Image from No on 710 Freeway Tunnel on Facebook


  1. Huizar can do plenty to protect the health of the residents of El Sereno. Huizar refuses because its not politically advantages for him to do so. He tells the community members of El Sereno that he will stop the Valley connector Road and 710 Fwy, yet all his actions demonstrate that he is in favor of the valley connector road and 710 fwy , even though all medical and pollution studies indicate that those projects will cut short the lives of all affected El Sereno Residents lives by 10 - 15 years. Time to Recall Huizar.

  2. "even though all medical and pollution studies indicate that those projects will cut short the lives of all affected El Sereno Residents lives by 10 - 15 years"

    What a completely baseless, ridiculous, laughable claim. You guys will say anything, won't you?