710 freeway extension bill passes Assembly
One battle in the war over the proposed extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway may soon be over. A bill by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) to restore South Pasadena’s power to block a surface freeway through town has passed in the Assembly and is awaiting action in the Senate.

South Pasadena, along with Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and other nearby communities, is opposed to an extension of the 710 Freeway from its Alhambra terminus to the Foothill (210) Freeway.

Proponents say the link is needed to speed truck traffic from the Port of Los Angeles to inland transportation hubs. Area residents are concerned about construction disruption, traffic, air pollution and costs for the long-planned but never-funded project. South Pasadena is particularly concerned, as the shortest route connecting the 710 and 210 freeways is a 4.5-mile course through the city.

Cedillo’s measure restores South Pasadena’s right to block construction if the highway were to be built at or above ground level. That right is enjoyed by all cities in the state except South Pasadena, according to Cedillo’s office.

In 1982, during another skirmish over the project, language undermining South Pasadena’s right was added to the state’s Streets and Highways Code, according to South Pasadena Mayor Mike Ten.

Restoring the city’s authority would not kill the 710 Freeway extension, since the likely scenario under consideration by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is a tunnel under Alhambra and South Pasadena. An analysis of Cedillo’s bill in the Assembly determined that if it passes, “proponents hope to allay South Pasadena's opposition to the tunnel alternative.”

Ten, who supports Cedillo’s bill, said the measure should not be seen as a way to soften opposition to the tunnel.

“This may have roots in the 710 fight, but it’s more about an individual city’s rights,” Ten said.

But the measure would ensure that MTA’s ongoing feasibility studies fully examine the environmental impacts of a tunnel, he added.

“We don’t want [the study] tainted by saying, ‘We can half-heartedly look at a tunnel, but we know we can always force a surface freeway through,” Ten said.

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Glendale may cut its $7,300-a-month lobbying contract with Washington-based Ferguson Group because of local and federal budget constraints.

Glendale is trying to close an $18-million gap in its 2011-12 budget. Meanwhile, the federal government has a $14-trillion deficit and Congress has placed a moratorium on earmarking funds for specific projects, putting a chill on the appropriations-related work that municipal lobbyists do.

As a result, Glendale is preparing to go it alone for at least a year or so, according to John Takhtalian, assistant to the city manager.

“Based on what’s happening at the federal level, it is not an essential item at this moment,” Takhtalian said.

In budget meetings this week, the city put the contract with Ferguson on its list of “discretionary” expenses, the lowest rung after “essential” and “priority.” The City Council will make the final call on proposed budget cuts in the coming weeks.

Takhtalian said the city is satisfied with Ferguson’s work, which has focused on garnering funds for a planned forensic DNA laboratory in Glendale, the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk and other projects, as well as advocacy related to Glendale Water & Power. But with the federal cupboard bare, there is less to be gained from seeking funds in Washington.

Takhtalian said city officials will take up the task of working with federal agencies and tracking legislation.

“We’ll continue to be active and engaged in federal issues that affect the city,” he said. “We’re just going to have to do it on our own.”