Update Sept. 2, 2015 (photos of recognition of Chamber’s efforts on Gold Line by Mayor Gary Koavic during Sept. 1 City Council meeting below): There was no formal recognition of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce at the dedication ceremony Saturday (August 22, 2015) of the Arcadia train station of the new Foothill Gold Line, but the Chamber played a key role in many of the primary elements of the station as well as being instrumental in the successful lobbying for the funding of the nearly $1 billion project that will extend the light rail service for 11.5 miles from Pasadena to Azusa in 2016.
When trains actually begin running is still uncertain — the 500 or so attendees were only given a “commitment” from Metro officials that they would determine a start date within 30 days after the Construction Authority turns over the project to the transportation agency, which will be next month (September). Best guess for the launch of actual train service is sometime between March and July of 2016.
The final funding mechanism that triggered the green light for the entire Foothill Gold Line extension came from the Measure R half-cent County sales tax, approved by voters in November 2008 after several years of lobbying by all cities along the route, including the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce with then-Executive Director Beth Costanza, and the Arcadia Chamber’s Government Affairs Forum, led by alternating chairmen and co-chairs, Peter Ulrich, Mary Dougherty, and then-volunteer Chamber board member Scott Hettrick. They wrote many letters to federal, state and county officials and were often the only Arcadia representatives speaking at numerous key meetings of the Metro board in Downtown Los Angeles over a period of several years.
Scott and Peter, the latter of whom is now in his 90s, attended the ceremony Saturday and was pleased to see the station finally dedicated nearly a decade after his lobbying efforts. Ceremony host Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic introduced Scott in the audience. Scott is now CEO of the Arcadia Chamber.
That was only the beginning of the Arcadia Chamber’s role. The new station features Santa Anita Park color and design art elements coordinated by a Chamber committee spearheaded by Beth about five years ago that included Scott and Santa Anita Park’s Pete Siberell, among others. Beth’s granddaughter Madeline McVey Zack made some preliminary design suggestions for the station platform benches and the frieze on the walkway railing, which were then handed over to Santa Anita designer Candace Chew who created her own designs.
That work has resulted in art at the station ultimately created by Gold Like’s hired artist Michael Davis that evokes the art deco frieze at Santa Anita in stainless steel panels and benches painted to depict race horses above the name Arcadia (a lucky number “7” is hidden in the framework).
And that’s not all; the anticipated arrival of the Gold Line is also what sparked Beth and the Arcadia Chamber about five years ago to mobilize leaders in the surrounding Downtown Arcadia area to form the Arcadia Improvement Association business district to capitalize on the expected influx of people coming to/through Arcadia and boarding/unloading in the area. That has led to last September’s dedication of the Arcadia Historical Society’s Thoroughbred Racing Walk of Champions plaques in the sidewalks along First Avenue between the station and Huntington Drive and along Huntington, and the launch last month of the weekly Friday night Downtown Arcadia Street Fair.
Gold Line’s hired artist Michael Davis went a couple steps further with the art elements at the station by designing colored glass panels over the first (easternmost) and smallest of three canopies on the platform that feature an artistic interpretation of the eye of peacock feathers, although the eye is almost impossible to detect even if you know to look for it. And they are already looking a little weathered after just a few months exposed to the intense sun and heat.
Davis is also responsible for the 22-foot weather vane on the platform called “Arcadian Zephyr,” which, in addition to the traditional N-S-E-W directional spindle, includes bronze sculptures of several species of animals indigenous to the Santa Anita and the L.A. County Arboretum, the most distinctive of which are, again, race horses, as well as a peacock that tops the vane. Again, the vane itself, let alone the specific animals, may not be readily noticed by the majority of Gold Line riders, but such is often the case with public art unless it is so huge and obvious that it cannot be missed.
As for the Arcadia station itself, as well as most of the stations along the new route, it is simply a single raised concrete platform positioned between the two sets of tracks with two primary canopies. Other more elaborate stations in the growing network of service lines throughout Los Angeles are large underground facilities filled with extensive public art and platforms on the outer sides of both tracks.
Saturday’s ceremony featured short speeches by numerous local politicians and officials connected with the light rail service. With talk of a start of service in spring, Mayor Kovacic announced that in Arcadia, spring starts in January, or perhaps even as early as December this year, which drew laughter and applause.
Congresswoman Judy Chu and L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich were very pointed in their remarks about making sure support and funding continue for the light rail system to go to the next segment from Azusa to the L.A. County border at Montclair/Claremont – another 12.5 miles and another $1 billion for a project that could begin construction in 2017 and be complete in 2023 — and then on to the Ontario Airport.
The station is accessed from a ramp walkway from First Avenue on the northwest corner at Santa Clara Street across from 24 Hour Fitness, which wasn’t even there when the Foothill Gold Line project was initiated. That fitness center stands on the spot of the former Hotel Oakwood owned by Arcadia’s founder and first Mayor, Elias J “Lucky” Baldwin.
Baldwin was responsible for getting the very first railroad through Arcadia and a station stop right at his hotel in the early 1900s.
Current Mayor Kovacic noted that the train tracks have since been used for other rail services, including the iconic Pacific Electric “Red Cars” of the mid-20th century.
Prior to 2010 the Gold Line station was planned to be built on the east side of First Avenue because it was initially believed that trains would not be able to slow down the slope fast enough and get to level ground soon enough between the overpass at Santa Anita and a station less than a block away. Engineers eventually overcame that challenge to the delight of all involved.
Another major change in 2012 was not embraced as warmly — the downsizing of the new parking garage along Santa Clara Street from the initially-planned 800-space, four-level garage to the current two-level, 300-space garage. Gold Line officials compromised by saying that they built the garage in such a way as to allow for the addition of another level or two on top if demand warrants. But they assured City officials that rider projections indicate no more demand than 300 cars in the garage during peak times.
They also say many riders will use other forms of transportation to get to the station, including bicycles for which their are lockers and racks at the garage and the City’s adjacent Transit Plaza.
A couple of city officials rode their bikes to the ceremony today, including one from as far away as South Pasadena. But of the 500 people in attendance, there were no more than 10 bikes at the racks today, including Scott, who rode from his home a couple miles away.
The City has also added a block of newly-painted bike lanes on First Avenue from a block south of the station (Wheeler Street) to Huntington Drive.
The Gold Line Extension Construction Authority was praised again for completing the nearly $1 billion project on time and under budget, which was a follow-up to their work on the initial 13.9-mile segment of the Gold Line from Downtown L.A. to East Pasadena from 1999-2003, also on time and under budget. Their work and community relations has indeed been exemplary. But before the Authority was awarded the construction project and work began in 2010, the line was supposed to have been opened in 2013, so it will be at least three years behind the initial schedule.
Ceremonies along the way for the Gold Line have included a groundbreaking for the station dedicated today, groundbreaking for the bridge over Colorado Boulevard, groundbreaking for the bridge over Santa Anita Avenue — the only such bridge along the 11.5-mile extension — a grand opening ceremony for the iconic bridge over the 210 Freeway — the largest publicly-funded art project in the state of California — and now the dedication of the Arcadia station today.
Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic presented certificates of appreciation to Scott, Beth, Mary, and Pete Siberell at the City Council meeting on September 1.