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Lobbyists, Lawyers Are Sure Winners in Fight Over Freeway : Transportation: Alhambra and South Pasadena have spent more than $1.3 million arguing over highway extension.

January 27, 1994|RICHARD WINTON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Whether the extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway is approved or rejected, three groups are sure to have benefited from the struggle: the army of lobbyists, lawyers and public relations people employed by South Pasadena and Alhambra.

On the pro-freeway side in Alhambra, where streets are jammed daily by thousands of cars spilling onto and off the dead-end freeway, $439,424 has been spent on a cadre of legal advisers, Washington insiders and public relations consultants.

South Pasadena, which would lose 315 homes and see its largely upscale residential neighborhoods sliced in half, has so far paid $875,208 to attorneys, lobbying firms and planners to argue the anti-freeway cause.

City Manager Kenneth C. Farfsing said South Pasadena probably will spend much more on a massive lawsuit if the California Transportation Commission and Federal Highway Administration approve Caltrans' 6.2-mile extension of the freeway between the San Bernardino and Foothill freeways.

The lawsuit would challenge the environmental report on the north-south route that would run from the Alhambra city limits, through a portion of Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

Critics of the freeway fight say legal and lobbying costs have escalated since the late 1980s. The South Pasadena City Council at that time decided to use Community Redevelopment Agency funds to hire Antonio Rossmann, a respected $200-per-hour environmental lawyer, and Ochoa & Sillas, a $90-per-hour Sacramento lobbying firm.

"I feel these people are lining their pockets at the taxpayers' expense," said Robert O. Cook, a member of the South Pasadena Taxpayers Assn.

Since February, 1989, Rossmann has been paid $389,049 for work on the freeway. Ochoa & Sillas, led by Ralph Ochoa, ex-chief of staff for the state Assembly Speaker, has taken in $351,902 since December, 1988. Last month, the city manager hired Cochran & Lotkin, a Los Angeles and Washington law firm, to lobby the federal government. Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. is also Michael Jackson's and Reginald Denny's attorney.

Alhambra has fought back. It has paid the Los Angeles law firm of Burke, Williams & Sorensen $233,004, Read Communications of Pasadena $115,839 and Washington lobbying firm The Ferguson Group $77,541 to make its point. Read, Ferguson and another Washington lobbying firm, Marc & Associates, are all paid monthly retainers of $2,000 to $5,000.

South Pasadena leaders agree that the freeway fight is costly for a small city with a $16-million budget. But they say the consultants have earned their pay because there still is no freeway.

Ochoa helped persuade the National Trust for Historic Preservation to designate South Pasadena as one of "America's Most Endangered Places."

Last year, Rossmann successfully challenged a 1982 state law that allowed Caltrans to build the freeway through South Pasadena without its permission. The judge said the legislation had expired. The decision has been appealed and the issue remains clouded.

Alhambra officials describe their pro-freeway campaign as an investment.

"What we are spending on this issue is absolutely justifiable. We want traffic off our streets and onto the freeway," said Julio J. Fuentes, city manager.

"We've spent $5 for every resident compared to $37 for South Pasadena," he said, noting that Alhambra has 82,000 residents compared to its northern neighbor's 24,000 residents.

Costs of the Freeway Fight

SOUTH PASADENA 1988-89 89-90 90-91 91-92 Antonio Rossmann $30,702 $59,724 $67,042 $43,938 (attorney) Ochoa & Sillas $60,144 $65,941 $91,503 $55,971 (lobbying firm) Cochran & Lotkin (lawyer, lobbyist) Stephen Glazer $14,052 $291 (public relations) Ed Johnson (editor) Oliver, Barr & Vose $2,050 (law firm) Emerson & Associates (lobbying firm) Kimley Horn & Associates (planning firm) Travel, conferences $2,596 $12,745 and miscellaneous TOTAL $90,846 $139,717 $161,432 $114,704

*

SOUTH PASADENA 92-93 93-94 Total Antonio Rossmann $122,524 $65,119 $389,049 (attorney) Ochoa & Sillas $ 49,202 $29,141 $351,902 (lobbying firm) Cochran & Lotkin $2,267 $2,267 (lawyer, lobbyist) Stephen Glazer $14,343 (public relations) Ed Johnson $500 $500 $1,000 (editor) Oliver, Barr & Vose $4,467 $2,614 $9,131 (law firm) Emerson & Associates $3,742 $18,908 $22,650 (lobbying firm) Kimley Horn & Associates $26,012 $ 31,946 (planning firm) Travel, conferences $8,269 $29,288 $52,918 and miscellaneous TOTAL $188,704 $163,022 $875,208

*

ALHAMBRA 1988-89 89-90 90-91 91-92 Burke, Williams $8,449 $8,728 $24,453 $11,555 & Sorensen (law firm) Read Communications $21,458 (public relations) Ward Public Relations The Ferguson Group $12,348 $13,317 $14,587 $15,127 (lobbying firm) Marc & Associates (lobbying firm) Peter Sanford (lobbyist) TOTAL $20,797 $22,045 $39,040 $48,140

*

ALHAMBRA 92-93 93-94 Total Burke, Williams $141,541 $38,278 $233,004 & Sorensen (law firm) Read Communications $64,417 $29,964 $115,839 (public relations) Ward Public Relations $1,040 $1,040 The Ferguson Group $16,260 $5,902 $77,541 (lobbying firm) Marc & Associates $12,000 $12,000 (lobbying firm) Peter Sanford $600 $600 (lobbyist) TOTAL $222,218 $87,184 $439,424

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