Those Flinty-Eyed Guardians of the Public Purse Are at It Again

That the 710 Freeway (originally planned to go through South Pasadena to connect the Long Beach Freeway in Alhambra,  to the Foothill Freeway in Pasadena) isn’t going to be built as planned (i.e., as a surface freeway) is old, old news. We would love to tell the tale, but neither we nor you are young enough to wade through it, and we doubt that any attempt on your part to do so would leave you with sufficient time to engage in gainful employment and in procreative activities. Suffice it to say that after a half century of resistance by South Pasadena, that makes the siege of Leningrad look like a neighborly contretemps, CalTrans (California’s agency once known as the State Division of Highways) has seen the light, and has decided to abandon its plan for a surface freeway link through South Pasadena. See City of South Pasadena v. Slater, 56 F.Supp.2d 1106 (C.D. Cal. 1999), reversed sub nom. City of South Pasadena v. Mineta, 284 F3d. 1154 (9th Cir. 2009). So now, CalTrans now means to build that freeway link as an underground tunnel under South Pasadena, a subterranean venue where it believes the locals won’t be able to stop it, although being the cynical type that we are, we believe it possible (make that likely) that they will breed a race of troglodytes who will give it a college try.

But that leaves a problem. It seems that in anticipation of building the original surface link of the 710 freeway, starting in the 1950s — that’s shortly after your Dad came home from World War II, and moving right along through the 1970s — Cal Trans bought or acquired under threat of condemnation some 460 homes which are still sitting around, some rented and many in a state of decrepitude, but which CalTrans won’t tear down and cannot sell. Why not? Because, if the Los Angeles Times is to be believed, in order to build that 4.5-mile underground tunnel in accordance with the new design, CalTrans will have to complete an environmental impact report, and the law governing those, requires consideration of alternatives, including — you guessed it, sports fans — a surface route which evidently must be preserved to evaluate the impact of its destruction by that freeway link that isn’t going to be built. Never mind that a half-century of Homeric battles in local and federal courts, to say nothing of the civic-political battlegrounds, has established beyond all reasonable (and possibly unreasonable) doubt that the surface route of the 710 freeway link through South Pasadena isn’t going to happen. The law is the law, and CalTrans “engineers are required to study the idea [of a surface route] as part of an exhaustive environmental impact report on what to do with the traffic in the so-called 710 gap,” even though that “surface route” is not going to be built, and it is the decision not to build it that has inspired the need for a new environmental impact study.

Of course, we understand that by now some of you at least are thinking along the lines of “Nah! That can’t be right.” But alas, that’s what the Los Angeles Times reports. See Caltrans Pressured to Sell Homes Bought for 710 Freeway Extension. February 20, 20012 – click here.  So unless you are prepared to charge the Times with aggravated prevarication, that’s the way it appears to be: first, your Dad’s money was spent acquiring hundreds of homes for the route of a freeway that isn’t going to be built, and now they can’t be sold because CalTrans’ engineers must consider the environmental impact of the freeway route that isn’t going to be followed, and whose absence has inspired this whole boondoggle.

Welcome to la-la land.

Afterthought. It occurs to us that the L.A. Times report nowhere mentions the cost of this caper. Might be interesting to learn what it has been and at what rate it’s growing. If you are into such stuff, take a peek at 40 Loyola L.A. L. Rev at p. 1112, footnote 174 and associated text.

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