The two measures aimed at putting the final stake in the heart of the 710 North freeway both passed the state legislature in the wee hours of Sept. 14. Senator Anthony Portantino’s SB-7 sailed through the Senate on final passage with a vote of 32 to zero at 2:16 am, one of the last votes taken in this year’s session. A few minutes later, Assemblyman Chris Holden’s AB-29 crossed the finish line with a vote of 56 to 5, with all the opposition coming from members representing San Bernardino, Inyo, San Diego and Riverside counties.
Both bills include language Portantino negotiated with Caltrans to remove the segment of SR-710 from Alhambra Ave. to California Blvd. from the state’s Freeway and Expressway System as of January 1, 2014, leaving the so-called “stublands” in Caltrans’ hands. But Portantino’s bill authorizes the California Transportation Commission to relinquish stub land in the city of Pasadena earlier if it can reach a satisfactory agreement with the city.
The lack of a similar clause in Holden’s bill created some drama last week when the State Building and Construction Trades Council sent Holden a letter withdrawing support for his bill. “We are strongly concerned that the redefinition of the 710 freeway in AB 29, without including a provision to ensure Pasadena can develop this land, will adversely affect the common goals of the city and the Building Trades,” SBCTC legislative director Cesar Diaz wrote on Sept. 9.
Diaz sent Portantino a separate letter affirming the Council’s support, noting the Pasadena stub land “must be allowed to be developed and used, both to meet local needs and to generate jobs for the working men and women of the Building Trades.”
The difference in stub treatment is a reflection of the greater consensus that exists in Pasadena on the future of the stub there than does among the communities in the south, where the stub straddles the LA/Alhambra border.
Portantino’s bill also freezes rents for low income tenants of Caltrans-owned houses in the 710 corridor and enables nonprofits like Sequoia School to purchase their buildings at prices substantially below market prices.
Final passage was a long time coming. Besides the six decades of opposition initiated when the state first announced its intent to extend the 710 north of the 10 freeway to the 210, Portantino’s bill was the final step in a December 2016 handshake settlement he orchestrated among the stakeholders laying the groundwork for a non-freeway alternative. Holden, a former Pasadena mayor and long-time freeway proponent, announced his new position two months later with the first of a series of bills to kill the freeway, each of which failed until Saturday morning.
“I am very excited that SB-7 passed the legislature and is on the Governor’s desk,” Portantino said. “I’m glad it helps Pasadena develop the stubs and know the non-profits are excited to finally be able to buy [their buildings]. I have tremendous respect for the Freeway Fighters who have been doing this for 60 years and brought me into this fight and inspired me to help. They deserve all the credit.”
“We’re just one step away from burying the tunnel idea for good,” Holden said in an early morning press release. “The concept of changing the Highway Code came directly from the community and I’m looking forward to seeing this through till the end.”
The bills passed in the final hours of the long and grueling final day of the legislative session which opened with a daunting agenda of unfinished business. Final votes on both bills were further delayed due to an incident Friday afternoon when an anti-vaccination protestor clad in a long black dress and yelling “their blood is on your hands” tossed some red liquid from her spot in the senate’s upper spectator gallery onto six members below, including Sen. Susan Rubio of Baldwin Park. The sergeant-at-arms evacuated the chamber and the senate reconvened four hours later in a nearby hearing room.
After 2:00 am when the bills finally came up for their third and final readings in both houses, each legislators offered speedy and abbreviated remarks. Holden noted his bill was a part of his carbon reduction priority and that it was beneficial to communities “moving together and working together.”
Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo of East Los Angeles noted the battle over the 710 North extension has been going on “much longer” than she’s been alive, but reported the communities on the southern end of the corridor are “now working very hard to resolve the pending local issues.” She was disappointed that language aimed at facilitating the involvement of areas such as El Sereno and City Terrace in those discussions was stripped from Holden’s bill at the behest of Sen. Rubio, but nonetheless expressed confidence the communities would have “a seat at the table.”
The Governor has until Oct. 13 to decided which bills to sign. All the text of Holden’s bill appears in Portantino’s bill. Under the state constitution, whichever bill is signed second becomes law.