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La Cañada officials ID 4 new sound walls to build with hoped-for $11M

State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge)
State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) shares with the La Cañada Flintridge City Council Tuesday his hopes that the $5.5 million he recently secured for sound walls in the state’s budget process will be matched by Caltrans and Metro for a total $11 million in funding.
(Sara Cardine / La Cañada Valley Sun)

If the last two decades has seen La Cañada Flintridge engaged in a marathon effort to secure funding for sound walls along the Foothill (210) Freeway, the last year can only be described as a sprint toward the finish.

As of May 2018, after years of effort to fund, design and construct sound walls to protect homes and businesses from freeway noise, 20 previously identified segments still needed to be built at a combined estimated cost of $48 million.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino helped secure $12 million in transportation funding last year that will pay for two walls along each side of the Hampton Road overpass by Flintridge Preparatory School and a third on the freeway’s south side, from Alta Canyada Drive to La Cañada Boulevard. Those are in the early design phase, officials confirmed.

Portantino secured an additional $5.5 million in June through the state’s budget process and says he’s confident Caltrans and Metro will provide matching funds for a total of $11 million in new sound wall funding.

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And the city knows exactly where they should go.

On Tuesday City Council members heard the recommendation of a subcommittee convened in July 22 to identify which of the remaining sound walls would provide the most bang for the buck.

The group considered the number of citizens who would benefit from a wall, along with cost, feasibility and impact of construction and identified four segments on the 210 Freeway’s north side. Two walls — overpass segments S298 and S300 — would run from Waltonia Drive to Glenhaven Drive and from La Granada Way to Vista Place.

A third is proposed from La Cañada Boulevard to Angeles Crest Highway, while a fourth would run between Commonwealth and Oakwood avenues.

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Public Works Director Pat DeChellis said the overpass segments require an engineering analysis to determine whether the infrastructure could bear the weight of new construction.

He confirmed Tuesday a similar set of “bridge” sound walls approved last December along Hampton Road, identified by officials and hundreds of nearby residents who petitioned for their construction, were recently approved by a consultant engineer.

“They concluded that, given the standard design and the standard wall [materials and specifications] … the bridge would be sufficient,” DeChellis said, adding that the combined cost estimate of $8.7 million should be sufficient.

Mayor Len Pieroni, who sits on the sound wall subcommittee with Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown, said the four newest walls should benefit the maximum number of citizens.

“The walls that are recommended here are really the best fit for the dollars,” he said. “During design there might be some issues that might make a couple of these less feasible. But I think this is a great option.”

Portantino, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he’ll work at the state level to see if cheaper, lighter and alternative sound wall designs might be researched. In the meantime, though, he’s pleased to see a city goal come to fruition and is “optimistic” the latest $5.5 million will be matched.

“The staff has been working with Metro and Caltrans, and it seems to be teed up,” he said.

Flintridge Avenue tree appeal withdrawn, agreement reached

Council members were set to hear an appeal against a tree-removal permit granted in May for a home at 861 Flintridge Ave. Tuesday but learned the complaint was withdrawn by applicants Peter and Judy Cooper.

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Community Development Director Susan Koleda confirmed the Coopers reportedly reached an agreement with homeowner Ezra Callahan, whose plans for a 13,237-square-foot residence and guest house was approved by planning commissioners in May. Koleda did not know the details of the agreement, nor whether the two mature oak trees in question would be retained or removed.

The Coopers did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, but neighbor Linda Deacon expressed her concern with a planned trash-bin structure that allegedly pushed plans for the main house into a grove of oaks.

“If we have come to the point in the city where the placement of your trash bin is more important than signature oaks along a major thoroughfare of the city, then we have fundamentally lost the tree ordinance,” she said.

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