CITY COUNCIL | Possible Restructuring of Transportation, Public Works Commissions on Agenda

Plans to morph existing commissions, which have been in limbo for years now, may finally come to fruition during the council meeting Wednesday evening

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | South Pasadena City Councilmembers Dr. Richard Schneider and Diana, whom during a December council meeting discussed the possibilities of redefining key commissions for South Pasadena

After several years of wrangling and false starts, the South Pasadena City Council on Wednesday is set to restructure and clarify the roles of its infrastructure commissions. If approved, the Freeway & Transportation Commission would be rechristened as the Mobility and Transportation Infrastructure Commission (MTIC) and the Public Works Commission (PWC) would be given permanent oversight of “non-transportation infrastructure” including water, sewer, stormwater, buildings and city facilities.

The PWC was formed seven years ago after questions arose over a downtown street renovation project that was altered by contract city planners after the city’s controversial dissolution of the Caltrans-chartered South Pasadena Design Advisory Group. The FTC dates back to the 1966 Freeway Study Committee, when the city asked a group of citizens to figure out how to respond to the state’s desire to build a freeway through town.

“After more than 60 years of struggling with potential impacts of the State Route 710 freeway and little investment in street infrastructure or technology during that time, the freeway is now dead,” according to a city staff report. At the same time, the city has nearly $100 million in Metro money for traffic and mobility projects. This creates an opportunity to envision and implement “a new mobility blueprint” for the city, a task that does not easily fall within the “narrow” purviews of the existing commissions, it states.

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Metro and Caltrans want the city to complete a feasibility study on specific projects including the SR 110 Hook Ramp at Fair Oaks. The city is also working on several major long-term planning efforts and a transportation grant application; all of these “are interconnected and complement each other.”

The proposal would also eliminate “overlap and fiction” between the existing committees, the report states.

Both commissions currently have five members, all but one of whose terms ended in December.

Under the twin ordinances to be considered Wednesday, each commission would consist of one member appointed by each of the five City Councilmembers. One would have a three-year term; two would have one-year terms but be eligible for another term of three years; and two would serve for two years and be eligible for an additional three-year term. After that, the mayor would appoint all members.

In addition to having an interest in the respective topics, the city will “make a concerted effort” to see that the MTIC has at least one registered civil or traffic engineer and professionals with related experience; for the PWC, it will also work to recruit a civil engineer and professionals with relevant experience.

The MTIC would advise Council on traffic management plans, transit, multi-modal transportation and active transportation, evolving transportation and mobility technologies, parking management and regional transportation, as well as on related funding and planning. It would be involved in transportation-related capital improvement projects (CIP), the neighborhood traffic management and active management plans, and be a forum for community input on mobility topics.

The PWC would advise on non-transportation infrastructure projects, funding and planning, and on policy related to utility management for water, sewer and stormwater. It would provide input on plans and policies for non-transportation CIP items, water and wastewater management, safe clean water and Measure W, facility assessment and other plans. It too would be forum for public input on those matters.

The proposal comes two months after a plan to merge the existing commissions led to a nearly hour-long discussion about the commissions’ future at December’s City Council meeting. Ultimately, the Council signed off on Mayor Pro Tem Diana Mahmud’s motion asking staff to return with a proposal to keep both commissions with detailed scopes of jurisdiction.

Also Wednesday, the city is set to receive the Ramona Street Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan and to award a $1.87 million contract for the Alpha Avenue and Camino Del Sol Street improvement plan to Gentry Brothers, Inc.


Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle. He and his wife Karin, an arts administrator from El Sereno, live in South Pasadena.