LocationAlhambra , CA United States
A lot of thought, planning and communication goes into picking a route for an open streets event like 626 Golden Streets. This year’s event, on Sunday, May 19, has a five-mile route weaving through South Pasadena, Alhambra and San Gabriel. Streets on the route will be closed to cars, making way for cycling, walking, scooters, skateboards, jogging and other alternative modes of transportation.
“We tend to look for routes that will connect things to people,” said Wesley Reutimann, special projects director with Active SGV, a non-profit whose mission is to make the San Gabriel Valley more bikeable and walkable. In collaboration with Los Angeles Metro, Active SGV is using 626 Golden Streets to connect people with local architectural landmarks, businesses, and public transit.
626 Golden Streets last took place in 2017, and featured a 18.5-mile route through South Pasadena, San Marino, East Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa to promote the Gold Line extension into the eastern San Gabriel Valley.
The 2019 route will be significantly easier to complete. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., participants will be able to traverse a path starting at the Mission Street Gold Line Station in downtown South Pasadena; continuing on through Main Street, the heart of downtown Alhambra; and ending at the San Gabriel Mission, which is one of the oldest Spanish missions in southern California.
These three locations make up the three hubs on the Mission-to-Mission route, all of which have restaurants, businesses, performances and activities for people to stop and enjoy. With all of the activities available at each hub, Reutimann estimates that 25,000 people will participate in the event. Alhambra’s Main Street is the second hub on the route, and it appealed to the Active SGV organizers because of the restaurants, shops and other businesses that people could stop at on their way from Mission-to-Mission.
“If we had the opportunity to go down Main Street, we would prefer that than going down a residential street or an industrial street without a lot of public-facing businesses or things people could stop at or frequent,” Reutimann said.
626 Golden Streets events are also designed not to interfere with churches, or with businesses that see a lot of activity on Sunday, such as car dealerships. The routes are also designed to avoid some streets that see heavy vehicle traffic, and would therefore be difficult to shut down, like Atlantic Boulevard. This is why the Alhambra portion of the route bypasses Atlantic for Olive Avenue, Woodward Avenue and 5th Street, in order to reach Main Street.
Active SGV works hard to inform residents of street closures on their block or nearby, doing two rounds of door-knocking, and leaving behind information about the event if they can’t talk to someone face-to-face.
For the last two Sundays before the event, Active SGV volunteers also leave flyers on cars parked along the route, informing them of parking limitations during 626 Golden Streets. Overnight street parking restrictions in all participating cities will be waived, so that people can move their cars off the route the night before and not get a ticket or be towed.
The Alhambra hub will be 626 Golden Streets’ largest, offering a family fun zone featuring face painting, balloon art, a climbing wall and more. People can also stop and watch three renowned chalk artists at work, while participants can also make their own chalk art. The Alhambra Farmers Market will also be running as part of 626 Golden Streets, and will extend hours to at least 2:30 p.m. The Alhambra Eco Fair will also be part of 626 Golden Streets, with eco-minded vendors on Main Street from 4th Street to Garfield Avenue.
There will also be a stage where local indie bands will perform, as will music and dance students from Alhambra’s Pop Rock Academy. The Arte Flamenco Dance Theatre will also feature performances at its new location on East Main Street, on the way to San Gabriel. Vendors include the Alhambra Educational Foundation; the Alhambra Preservation Group; API Forward Movement; the Villages at the Alhambra, which will offer healthy smoothies; and a hands-on urban planning activity by nationally-known planner James Rojas. There will be bicycle shops exhibiting at each hub, and a bike repair station at Alhambra Park, near the South Pasadena border.
Participants are also encouraged to patronize Main Street’s local restaurants and other businesses. Active SGV give materials to business owners to encourage them to have the staff and supplies to deal with the expected increase in foot traffic. The organization is providing 30 umbrellas and a number of Adirondack chairs for people to eat and drink and relax under at the hub.
“If the businesses are full inside, they can grab something to eat or drink and sit outside under an umbrella and watch the variety of folks and skateboards and bikes [go] by, and kind of take a break in the Alhambra hub [and] listen to some live music,” Reutimann said.
The Alhambra Unified School District will also have a presence at the event, with the San Gabriel High School Matador Marching Band performing at the San Gabriel hub. There are also a lot of activities at the San Gabriel and South Pasadena hubs, including a Historic San Gabriel Mission tour at 1 p.m., and a 5K run at 8 a.m. in South Pasadena. This hub will also host the event’s opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. To catch this, and to enjoy as many activities as possible, Reutimann recommends starting out early.
Vendors at each hub will also get people thinking about how they can make their cities more bikeable and walkable. The Alhambra and South Pasadena hubs will have electric bicycle for people to test, while the San Gabriel hub will let people test-drive electric vehicles. Both of these hubs will also let people design their own artistic crosswalks, to raise awareness of simple, low-cost measures that can make walking safer. LA Metro, the California Highway Patrol and other public safety agencies will also be participating as vendors, with CHP expected to give out bike helmets at the San Gabriel hub.
Above all, 626 Golden Streets is an opportunity for those of us who speed through our cities in our cars to slow down and enjoy the shops, parks and historic landmarks in our neighborhoods. “We’re so busy with everything else in our lives,” Reutimann said. “These types of events are a really unique opportunity that invites people out of their bubble to experience their community in an entirely different way.”
Visit the 626 Golden Streets website for event information, including a schedule of activities and vendors at the South Pasadena, Alhambra and San Gabriel route hubs. Don’t forget to stop by the Alhambra Source booth at Main Street and 4th Street. We’re an official media sponsor of 626 Golden Streets and we’ll be giving out sunblock and lip balm!