Residents Vent at Town Hall Meeting on Traffic Proposals

Having shifted gears in response to resident concerns, the city plans to dedicate this month’s Public Safety Commission meeting to answering a litany of questions gathered from a public meeting this week regarding Metro’s grants-to-be for traffic improvement projects.
The city hopes to host that meeting, scheduled for Monday, June 24, at a larger venue such as the San Marino Center to best accommodate a group of residents who are, at minimum, skeptical of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s motivation for offering the money. This week’s meeting was used as a stage for those residents to get their questions on the record so that officials and experts have ample time to prepare answers for the next meeting.
In the meantime, city officials reiterated — and kept reiterating — that the city has made no commitments or decisions regarding the $32 million Metro has earmarked for San Marino, part of the more than $515 million set aside by the agency in December.
“No decision has been made,” Councilman Steve Talt emphasized at the meeting held on Monday night at Crowell Public Library. “No decision has been brought to the City Council. We’re not necessarily still collecting any information, but we’re still exploring what all of our options are.”
Metro’s money comes courtesy of the Measure R sales tax, which was enacted in 2008 to help fund the proposed 710 Freeway tunnel connector to the 210 Freeway. Metro pulled the plug on the tunnel in 2018, electing instead to direct the funding to the communities that would have been most affected by the tunnel.
A current round of earmarks is for projects designed to improve traffic flow and capacity, but otherwise carries no strings from Metro.
San Marino’s earmarks are for traffic signal synchronization along Huntington Drive and San Gabriel Boulevard, capacity improvements to various left-turn lanes on Huntington, modifications to lanes near school sites and changes to the infamous intersection of Huntington, Atlantic Boulevard, Garfield Avenue and Los Robles Avenue.
Although city officials and some supporters tout the projects as a strategy to reduce backups and congestion throughout the day and to keep vehicles on Huntington instead of side streets, a group of vocal residents accuses Metro of foisting the burden of surface street traffic onto San Marino, at the expense of the quiet residential community’s way of life.
“I think what Metro is trying to do is a disaster,” said Dr. C. Fredrick Milkie, a city resident. “The purpose is to increase the flow of traffic from the 710 north to the 210 Freeway without any concern for safety. All of the proposals are designed to increase the traffic flow through San Marino. We have six schools, lots of shops, homes, churches and a lot of kids on Huntington Drive. This could cause serious environmental and safety risks to the children, the shoppers and the residents.”
Dr. Ghassan Roumani, who is spearheading the opposition through his organization Citizens for a Safe San Marino, said “enough is enough” while speaking prior to Monday’s meeting.
“We call on our local leaders to heed the voices of their constituents,” he said.
Questions raised Monday were wide-ranging, with residents asking how effectively city officials are being kept in the loop, whether the city is holding dialogues with neighboring governments on their plans, what deadlines there are, if any, and how signal synchronization works, among other queries.
After the Public Safety Commission meeting on June 24, the City Council plans on dedicating a portion of its Friday morning meeting on June 28 to a workshop addressing these potential projects.
“We’re going to try to get as much information as possible within that time frame,” City Manager Marcella Marlowe told residents.
Katherine Perez-Estolano, a former deputy mayor for Pasadena and now an associate principal at the Los Angeles office of international consulting and planning firm Arup, was brought in to coordinate this week’s town hall-style meeting.
That helped the city avoid running afoul of the Brown Act, since a meeting involving council members otherwise would have required more formal public notice.

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