From this week's Print Edition

Rain Doesn’t Damper Participation in 626 Golden Streets

Thousands Partake in Day-long Event that Shut Down City Streets
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The massive rally that encompassed three cities, So Pas, Alhambra and San Gabriel, and five miles of shuttered streets went off without a hitch this past Sunday despite a steady downpour of unseasonable rain. Photo by Henk Friezer

A light-falling rain did not dissuade the hundreds of walkers, runners, cyclists, as well as other modes of self-propelled transport to join in the 626 Golden Streets rally Sunday that shuttered five miles of city streets linking So Pas, Alhambra and San Gabriel.

The massive 626 Golden Streets Mission-to-Mission event being led by South Pasadena was held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. It is the first time this type of tri-city event has been attempted that’s designed to link the central business districts of So Pas, Alhambra and San Gabriel through five miles of city streets closed to cars but open to all other modes of transportation, according to city officials.

“I’m here because South Pasadena is an awesome community,”  state Sen Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, said during a brief interview Sunday morning. “Michael Cacciotti (So Pas Councilmember) is bringing some wonderful cutting-edge, green technology, get people out of their car ideas. The other part of it is that this is connecting communities,. You have Alhambra, San Gabriel, South Pas, all working together to get people out of their cars and celebrate pedestrians and bicyclists. It is just a nice spirit and ethos to support. Even in the rain. I wish I was walking more. It’s a good thing. Get out of your car, unplug it and enjoy yourself. South Pas is one of the leaders of that movement and I’ve been proud to represent the community for a long time and proud to be here to support them and say, “well done.” “

South Pasadena is the lead city in planning and hosting the event along with ActiveSGV, city officials said. The city has been planning the event since the first of the year.

“626 Golden Streets Mission-to-Mission will invite the public to explore the cities of South Pasadena, Alhambra and San Gabriel like never before,” a city staff report stated that was presented to the City Council at a Jan. 16 meeting. “Connecting each community’s historic central business district, this first-time event will close the gap between these distinct communities by temporarily opening five miles of city streets for walking, bicycling, skating and more. With an overarching Earth Month theme, the event will provide participants with a wide array of opportunities to learn about sustainable living, green mobility, and active lifestyles, as well as sample some of the San Gabriel Valley’s best food.”

The City Council unanimously approved accepting a $332,000 grant award from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the event that did affect traffic Sunday.

Electronic signs were posted throughout the city and traffic was congested more than usual, officials said.

In fact, one driver had to be turned away several times because she kept telling authorities Google navigation told her to drive through the road blocks onto the closed streets. That was the only way she could go, she told authorities. Eventually, she did as instructed, turned around and followed the detour signs.

Newly appointed So Pas Police Chief Joe Ortiz and his wife Shawna walked the five-mile stretch on Sunday, saying they were excited to participate.

“I think it’s wonderful, I really do,” said Shawna Ortiz. “I mean you need community activities like this to get the people together. Otherwise, we will all just stay in our homes and never get to know each other. I think it builds neighbors and communities. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Cacciotti, the So Pas City Councilmember and avid cyclist, has been a driving force behind 626 Golden Streets because, he said, it’s a revolution.

“This is really about a transportation revolution, which directly impacts air quality,” Cacciotti said during a brief interview just prior to mounting his bike and riding the five-mile stretch of shuttered city streets. “Started back in 2002, when you had your first battery-electric car, the Prius, and in 2003 the Gold Line opened up all the way to Pasadena. Then in 2015, as you know, the extension all the way to Azusa. They are already planning the next extension to Claremont. Next year, we’ll closed down the Pasadena Freeway. This is an exciting time for people to know that there are alternatives to fossil-fuel driven cars for the first-time in decades.”

Cacciotti said the constant drizzle would not dampen the event and actually would make it better.

“The rain actually makes it better,” he said. “You’re not going to sweat. You’re not going to have sun. You are going to have a good time. Clean air and a lot of fun. And for three historic cities, it’s a great day.”

The proposed route connects the downtowns in each city by this five-mile stretch of streets.

The route began on Mission Street at Meridian Avenue and headed east towards Marengo Avenue. It then headed south on Marengo and turned east on Alhambra Road, then turned south on Olive Avenue, northeast on Woodward Avenue and south on 5th Street. It headed east on Main Street, turned south onto Mission Drive and finished at Mission Road.

Over the last several months, the massive event has been the keynote feature of many a meeting around the city as well as the two cities as well.

San Gabriel Mayor Jason Pu explained.

“We are really excited to be part of the very first one,” Pu said Sunday. “I’m here because this is such a great event. All the open streets’ events draw so many people, promotes clean transportation and healthy lifestyles. It promotes sustainability and multi-mobile transportation. These are all extremely important to me as an elected official because I believe if we don’t solve climate change them nothing else will matter. So we need to make sure that we all do whatever we can to change the culture and start encouraging active transportation and helps us get out of our cars and ultimately

The council was visited by the notoriously elusive Sasquatch in March to promote the upcoming 626 Golden Streets bike-friendly event.

Sasquatch, played by 28-year-old Alex Watts of Rancho Cucamonga, was at the event Sunday. He said he was doing great.

The last monthly South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting known as ShopTalk focused on 626 Golden Streets.

Edward Duong  from ActiveSGV spoke about the upcoming day-long affair at the Lost Parrot Café, 1929 Huntington Drive, as part of that chamber meeting.

In fact, Duong told the gathered business leaders from South Pasadena that people would be coming from all over Southern California to join in this open streets’ event. 

They are going to be biking, walking, running, skating, and even dancing during the event on Sunday, Duong promised.

Duong’s prediction was accurate as that’s exactly what transpired this past Sunday.

Officials said the event was hugely successful and the planning for next year’s Golden Streets with the anticipated closure of the Pasadena Freeway is already underway.

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Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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