by Winston Chua
ALHAMBRA – The Alhambra City Council Monday night gave earfirst to a presentation from the California High-Speed Rail Authority and thento residents of the San Gabriel Valley who could be affected by a proposedhigh-speed rail project. It was the first of two presentations that the CHSRAwill give to the City of Alhambra. Another meeting is scheduled to take placeThursday night at Fremont Elementary School at 7 p.m.
Although themeeting was designed to oppose any alignment of the CHSRA project that wouldimpede on properties in the SGV without the consent of property owners, theCouncil took a stand to oppose the project altogether, according to JessicaKeating, assistant to the city manager.
The CHSRProject is an 800-mile stretch, rail system that will operate at speeds of upto 220 miles per hour in order to transport riders from San Francisco andSacramento to San Diego in less than four hours.
The presentation was made specifically to Alhambra at therequest of the Council and city staff because the Project may run throughInterstate 10, possibly affecting residents who live on either side of thefreeway on Ramona Road. Alhambra City Hall was filled to the brim Monday asresidents filled every seat in the main meeting room and the seats in the Hall’slarge lobby.
Despite the benefits the Project may bring to Alhambra,there were concerns that the CHSRA was not adequately addressing the concernsof the residents who would most directly be impacted by the construction or theestablishment of a Rail; residents who lived near the 10 Freeway said that thesound walls are hardly enough protection from sound or noise, so how could anew project in greater magnitude have less of an impact?
“It’s hard to believe that going through everyone’s backyardis a good idea,” said Councilman Steven T. Placido. “It it’s going through ourbackyard, we should have a seat at that table.”
The formerAlhambra mayor argued that the Project can in no way proceed without a CHSRAboard member present at a presentation that directly represents the interestsand constituents of Alhambra. That member would have been Richard Katz, who isscheduled for another engagement this evening.
Jose Martinez,the presenter and regional manager for the CHSRA tried to appease concerns byoutlining the project’s strengths: that the project is one that has theapproval of local voters; that state and federal funding will be enough to getthe Project off the ground; and that noise pollution can be mitigated.
But afterMartinez spoke, more than a dozen residents of Alhambra, San Gabriel andRosemead expressed their discontent with the options presented by Martinez. Notone member of the audience in either the main hall or the lobby voiced his orher approval of the Project in its current form before the Council.
The regionalmanager had given the audience a map showing three possible routes that theProject might take along I-10, including options that might encroach uponresidential territory, which he eliminated during his presentation. More than ahandful of those who spoke were upset with all three options, citing noise andpotential reduction in property value as two concerns.
Several, like Edward Garcia and Louise Gonzalez, said thatthey also do not want to be displaced. San Gabriel Councilman David Gutierrezsaid he agreed 100 percent with Placido and that the CHSRA must only becompleted if it is done the right way and is well-planned.
RosemeadCouncilwoman Sandra Armenta said that the proposed options will have asignificant impact to those who live near the 10 Freeway and that the CHRSA hasfailed her constituents.
Hector Roman, who sat alongside his wife Patricia, urged theCouncil to be firm in its opposition to the Project running through Alhambra.
“We hope the City has the fortitude to oppose the Projectthe same way that South Pasadena has had the fortitude to block the 710Freeway.”
AlhambraCouncilman Luis Ayala made a motion to formally oppose all three Projectoptions in the City of Alhambra, and the Council resolved to begin to formalizea letter to the CHSRA expressing that they will not entertain any of the threeoptions brought forth by Martinez.
Other possibleoptions for the Rail would be the SR-60, the union Pacific Railroad and the UPAdjacent, all of which are believed to be unviable options (for environmentaland safety concerns). Should the CHSRA insist on using Alhambra as the finalroute (as was prepared Monday night), the Council plans to tie up the projectin litigation, said Keating. Another meeting was scheduled on September 2 inSacramento, but the city council and city staff moved both the location andtime of the meeting, which is scheduled for October 7.
As for certaincities that have appeared to agree with the Project, Keating said thatrepresentatives she spoke with from those cities said they were “caught asleepat the wheel.”
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