Council rejects Metro's 710 freeway board proposal

La Cañada Flintridge's role on an advisory board addressing the proposed extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway is off to a bumpy start.

City Council members voted unanimously on Monday to buck a request by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority to swap out their preferred representatives for the State Route 710 Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee.

The group's first meeting is Friday.

In March, the council appointed three of its own members to serve on the advisory committee despite Metro's insistence that the 17 participating cities send planning commissioners, not elected officials. City leaders staunchly oppose a surface route or tunnel that would link the 710 to the Foothill (210) Freeway.

Monday's vote refused Metro's proposed compromise that a commissioner serve as La Cañada's lead representative with a council member as an alternate.

“We felt strongly that we needed somebody from the council because we have the longest history and institutional memory on the 710 issue,” said Councilman Donald Voss. “I think it's cheeky for [Metro] to suggest we go back and change our minds.”

Voss was appointed the city's lead representative to the advisory committee, with Mayor Steve Del Guercio and Councilwoman Laura Olhasso serving as alternates.

Metro's resistance to council participation was “more than cheeky,” Olhasso said. “It appalls me that Metro is trying to control this committee by controlling who the appointments are. I think they've got a lot of gall.”

Metro community relations executive Lynda Bybee, a liaison for the committee, said the agency isn't trying to muzzle anyone and would accept the La Cañada council's decision.

“We are seeking optimum participation in this public process,” said Bybee.

As for Metro's preference for planning commissioners, “We just thought it was a good fit,” said Bybee. “Our assumption is that elected officials would be making their own contribution through the votes they take with their city council.”

The Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee is a counterpart to a Technical Advisory Committee for city planners, she said.

Metro's 710 study will consider extending the freeway 4.5 miles to the 210, tunneling under South Pasadena or upgrading rail lines and surface streets to improve regional traffic flow. Officials are expected to finish the environmental study in 2014.

The agency is also hosting a series of community meetings about the study. More than 60 people attended an April 30 meeting at La Cañada High School, and Metro will host another at the school from 10 a.m. to noon on May 19.

Cities involved in the Stakeholder Outreach Advisory Committee are divided over the possible extension of the 710, with La Cañada, South Pasadena and Glendale opposed, while Alhambra and other cities favor it.

Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian, a member of the Metro board since 2006, said La Cañada leaders should be able to appoint any representative they want.

“I fully support their autonomy on this,” said Najarian. “After all, planning commissioners report and answer to the City Council.”

The issue, Najarian said, “seems rather silly, given the serious implications of this project for the region.”

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