Multi-City Board Outlines New Vision on Transportation

A board made up of officials from South Pasadena and nearby cities is crafting a new strategic plan, potentially expanding its role in coordinating transportation initiatives in the area.
Members of the governing board for the Arroyo Verdugo Communities Joint Powers Authority expressed interest Aug. 6 in moving beyond traffic and infrastructure concerns to consider other types of transportation, such as light rail and bicycles, for local development, as well as environment-related projects.
The joint powers authority was formed in 2017 and includes officials from South Pasadena, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Glendale, Burbank and the Los Angeles County Fifth Supervisorial District. South Pasadena Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian serves as the local representative on the authority’s board, but announced during the Aug. 6 meeting that this would be her final term on the panel, as she is not running for reelection to City Council.

The group was founded to coordinate regional transportation projects and the allocation of Measure M funds, gained from a half-cent sales tax that county voters approved in 2016 to improve traffic infrastructure. For instance, after each city receives approval for transportation projects from its commission or city council, the authority divides available Measure M funds among its members and grants the submission of the projects to the L.A. Metro transportation agency for consideration.
But in recent interviews with city officials, representatives from the Lee Andrews Group — which serves as a consultant for the authority — found that many felt the group’s mission needed to be expanded, with some saying they wanted it to address issues beyond transportation.
Most cities’ representatives also agreed that the authority “should focus on identifying projects that benefit all of the member agencies instead of each agency protecting its own interest,” according to a report from the Lee Andrews Group that was presented at the governing board meeting.
Though concrete initiatives were not discussed at the meeting, where board members participated in a brainstorming session for a revamped mission statement, officials expressed unified interest in including transportation projects that promoted economic development.
Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer, who was appointed the board’s chair on Aug. 6, voiced support for shifting the emphasis from transportation to mobility, a word she believed had broader connection with other modes of movement as well as housing.
“If it’s done correctly — it has to be planned, but it will just happen,” she said at the meeting. “It will result in affordable living [and] it will result in a more sustainable lifestyle in terms of housing.”
Shahid Abbas, public works director for South Pasadena, also wanted the group to pursue environmental sustainability, referencing an executive order signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that required California to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. Improvements to transportation, Abbas argued, are the way to achieve that goal.
He also pushed his colleagues to craft a vison statement that would reflect the board’s commitment to transportation development.
“I don’t see how this promotes the future of transportation,” he said of an initially proposed statement that veered away from focusing on the topic. “It’s just [the] status quo.”
Though many city officials present at the meeting — including municipal staff members not on the governing board — shared a desire to consider the extended impacts of transportation in the group’s decision-making, some were also wary of straying too far from the authority’s original focus.
“The reason I focus it on transportation is because that’s what we’re founded on,” said Pasadena Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, who serves on the board. “That’s kind of how we came into being, and I want to make sure we gain recognition in our core business before we start trying to go out in too many other things.”
Due to time constraints, board members decided to end the planning session, agreeing to continue the discussion at a future special meeting, which was still to be determined as of the end of the Aug. 6 meeting.