DIAMOND BAR — Residents opposing the extension of Grand Avenue from Chino Hills have tried lobbying officials and staging demonstrations in attempts to prevent or delay an influx of traffic into Diamond Bar. Now they are going to court.
The Stop Grand Avenue Expressway Committee and five of its members filed suit this week against San Bernardino County, seeking an injunction blocking the opening of the extension, which is scheduled for late next month. The committee is one of two Diamond Bar citizens groups that oppose the extension because they believe it will create gridlock in their community.
Grand Avenue now ends at the Los Angeles-San Bernardino county line. However, road crews are working rapidly in western San Bernardino County to link Grand Avenue with Chino Hills, a community where rapid growth and geographic isolation have caused serious traffic problems.
The suit, filed Tuesday in San Bernardino County Superior Court, alleges that San Bernardino County is to blame for much of Chino Hills' congestion. The plaintiffs argue that the county's construction of roads and other infrastructure improvements have failed to keep pace with residential development as required by the Chino Hills Specific Plan.
More than 30% of the 26,000 homes planned for the Chino Hills are already in place, but only 10% of the roadwork envisioned in the Specific Plan to improve access to the area has been completed.
Because of this lag in road construction, the plaintiffs argue, the extension of Grand Avenue would funnel thousands of Chino Hills commuters through Diamond Bar, which already has enough traffic woes of its own. The suit asks that the extension be delayed until other road projects to serve the area are completed.
"We're going to have a tenfold increase in traffic because they decided to build one road instead of 10," said plaintiff Gary Lawson, founder of the Stop Grand Avenue Expressway Committee. "We don't want to be the scapegoat for the county of San Bernardino because (officials) didn't do their job."
San Bernardino County Chief Deputy County Counsel Craig Jordan said his office had not been served with the suit and could not comment.
However, San Bernardino County Supervisor Larry Walker, who represents Chino Hills, said he has been advised by the county's lawyers that the extension project is not in danger.
"I've been assured repeatedly that we're on solid legal ground in every aspect of it," Walker said. "The lawsuit may have the positive impact of clarifying the issue. There are a lot of clouds over the project. I think it will be a good thing to have those issues explained."
Walker said he sees a contradiction in the suit's premise.
"On the one hand they're saying (San Bernardino County officials) are bad because they didn't build the infrastructure, and on the other hand they're saying they want to stop an infrastructure project," he said. "I'll tell the judge, 'Yes, your honor, you're darned right we're behind in infrastructure. Grand Avenue is our first major step toward catching up.' "
Gary Miller, founder of the Concerned Citizens for Diamond Bar Traffic Control, a citizens committee that has competed with Lawson's group for the support of Diamond Bar residents, said he doubted that the lawsuit would be successful.
'Doesn't Make Sense'
"They're going to go before a judge and say, 'We want Chino Hills to build roads, but not this road," Miller said. "I'm for anything that'll work. But this doesn't make any sense."
Vivian T. Shallito, attorney for the Stop Grand Avenue Expressway Committee, said the suit rests on the county's violation of its own Specific Plan for Chino Hills.
"They're straying from the Specific Plan that they worked long and hard on for the Chino Hills," Shallito said. "In the plan there were 10 roads to be built. Only two (including Grand Avenue) have been done. . . . They're actually amending (the plan) by default, and if you amend it you have to start the process all over again."
The suit argues that San Bernardino County is also violating the plan by opening Grand Avenue as a two-lane road instead of a four-lane expressway. The county is doing this, the suit alleges, as part of its efforts to open the road before March 7, when Diamond Bar voters decide whether their community should become a city. Some opponents of the extension believe that a Diamond Bar City Council would be more aggressive in trying to stop the project than Los Angeles County has been.
"They have people working two shifts, seven days a week to get that road completed before we vote for cityhood," Lawson said.
Walker sharply disagreed with this claim, saying that only a small portion of Grand Avenue will be two lanes when the road opens in late March. When construction is completed by April 28, the entire road will be four lanes wide with a raised median, he said.