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Pioneer Blvd during construction of medians. A small group of business owners, most of whom deal in cash only, complained the medians were hurting their businesses. The popular boulevard will go back to four lanes.



By Tammye McDuff

Three items took center stage on Monday’s standing room only Artesia Council meeting and all had to do with the Pioneer Promenade Project.

The council was to consider ceasing all work on project and make immediate changes to the Pioneer Promenade plans including unverified safety concerns.

“I want to share a bit of history on this project that actually began in 2014,” stated Mayor Ali Taj, “toward the end of 2014, the Council was united with several downtown merchants to take advantage of monies received for redevelopment and beatification of Artesia.”

The original project was to be completed in four stages. Pioneer Project completed the first two stages of which was the extension of sidewalks, planting trees and furniture, with the final phases being the construction of a pedestrian median that would house several dining options, bicycle racks in a pedestrian friendly space.

The Council hoped that these additions and improvements would bring more people into the city and enhance the various events and street fairs.

“The last phase was to have private investors come in and complete the Project,” continued Taj, “unfortunately these investors were scared away by the public disapproval of the project. Where we stand today is an issue that has escalated.”

In 2016, a ribbon cutting and fanfare was heralded to welcome the modernization of the streetscape. Then-Mayor Victor Manalo stated, “the Council and I are all in one accord when it comes to this project. We know that one of the main purposes of the Council is to promote social, economic, environmental and cultural community. Not just the present, but for our future.” The core mission of the City Council is to provide services and infrastructure to facilitate those services, Manalo continued, “what you see here is the result of years of planning and budgeting by various Staff members and City Council.”

The dining and pedestrian promenaded was already in the process of being built when residents and business began to express concerns and dissatisfaction.

In February of 2016, a small group of disgruntled business, shop and land-owners gathered at Paratha Grill. They stated that the flow of traffic had been stunted by the reduction of the traffic lanes and it was hurting their business.

Many businesses in Artesia conduct their business using cash as a large part of their revenue so it is difficult to ascertain if the median hurt businesses at all.

They also addressed public safety and fire access. The City assured business owners that the Los Angeles County Fire Department had been included on all projects reviewed the plans and approved them.

But that small group remained steadfast with their complaints.

Fast forward to the council meeting of September 11th, a standing room only crowd packed the Council room. “The central median cannot remain the way it is now,” said Taj, “If we had been able to complete the project six months ago – if our investors had not been scared away, we would be in a completely different situation, at this point we need to take action.”

Councilman Miguel Canales defended the original decision of the downtown project saying “I am never going to back down from slowing down traffic on Pioneer Boulevard. There is nothing wrong with having less carbon dioxide, there is nothing wrong with having more air to breath or having fewer vehicles drive down our city streets. The problem seems to be the concerns for emergency vehicles. There is a lot misinformation and miscommunication out there.”

“The vision that I had for downtown Artesia, began when I was on the Planning Commission, over ten years ago,” commented Councilman Victor Manalo,” I could see the opportunity to take a walk out in the evening, stroll down the Boulevard and have coffee or ice cream and enjoy a beautiful downtown. I believed we were on that road toward that goal to create that vision. We had plans and the plans have not come through.”

Resident Sonia Lopez, who is a lifetime resident, addressed Council saying, “I have been on Pioneer Boulevard when there was a fire engine behind me and they could not get through. There was no place for cars to move either to the left or to the right. I was told that the fire department had been given some type of remote where they could turn all the lights green. But when there are ten cars in front of the emergency vehicle, they still have to wait for movement. And those few minutes could actually be the difference between life and death; I think it is a good idea to restore the two lanes going north and two lanes going south.”

Another resident, Brandon Madrid, quoted a letter he received regarding emergency vehicles response times, possibly causing loss of property or life.

Madrid said the letter stated the downtown project had been approved by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s and Fire Departments and that the improvements did not cause safety concerns.

Madrid made a verbal public request that copies of these approvals be made available to all residents of Artesia.

“At this point we I believe we need to put the two lanes back, we cannot leave the street as it is,” said Taj, “we did not anticipate the public concerns that have been expressed.”

The motion was made and seconded to cease all current work on the project, return an extra lane to the North and South bound streets, until further directions and assessments can be made.