Purpose

To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Who Is Lining Up to Fight Measure M

http://la.streetsblog.org/2016/09/01/who-is-lining-up-to-fight-measure-m/

By Damien Newton, September 1, 2016

So far, most of Streetsblog L.A.’s coverage of Measure M, Metro’s sales tax proposal that will be on the fall ballot, has been positive. With our eyes fixed on graphics showing the growth of our rail and rapid bus network, a robust active transportation funding program, and some flexibility in the language allocating highway funding; there’s a lot to like in the proposal.

Photo: Jose Escobar/Fans of Los Angeles Metro Rail on Facebook


But no ballot measure, especially one of this size, is perfect and there are many groups fighting the ballot measure for a variety of reasons. Here’s a list of some of the main opponents of Measure M, along with a few others that might join the fight in the future.

ALREADY OPPOSED

Fight for the Soul of the Cities and the Bus Riders Union – The BRU has fought tooth and nail against Measure R in 2008 and Measure J in 2012. Their arguments, both then and now, focus on two points. First, they argue that Metro cannot be trusted with such a large infusion of funds because of a poor civil rights record. Second, they feel the measure’s focus on automobile flow and rail expansion instead of more robust growth for the bus network and greater fare subsidies won’t actually do anything to improve mobility or the environment. Read more details on their arguments, here.

Carson, Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes, Signal Hill, Santa Fe Springs, Commerce and Norwalk – These seven southeast cities argue that because the main project for their corner of the county, a freeway widening, isn’t scheduled for construction for decades that they are being forced to subsidize the rest of the county’s transportation plan. A recent lawsuit filed against the project also alleges lies in the approved ballot language.

PROBABLY OPPOSED

The City of Beverly Hills – John Mirisch isn’t just a commenter at The Source, he’s also the Mayor of Beverly Hills. Given the city’s opposition to one of Metro’s signature projects, the Purple Line Extension from mid-town to the V.A. Hospital, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the City renewed its opposition to a Metro proposed sales tax. Beverly Hills was a key member of the coalition that narrowly defeated Metro’s Measure J in 2012. Mirisch recently authored a long piece on the Huffington Post outlining why, in his view, a vote for Measure M will benefit Metro staff and developers and be bad for everyone else.


The Crenshaw Subway Coalition – In 2012, the Coalition was also a key member of the No on Measure J campaign mainly because there was not enough funding going to fun a full-grade-separated Crenshaw Line through South L.A.’s black-owned business districts.

At an anti-J rally, executive director Damien Goodmon argued “We are all opposed to…the crony capitalism, we are opposed to MTA becoming an ATM for the 1%, the developers and the contractors. We stand across the street from View Park Prep School (at Slauson and Crenshaw) where a proposed light rail line will be endangering the safety of children. It’s a common thread throughout the region…in Beverly Hills, in South LA, in East LA… and we see an agency that can simply not be trusted with our tax dollars.”

While the Crenshaw Line is under construction, an infusion of funds might not be enough to do the grade separation the coalition wanted four years ago. The organization is still active and is doubtless not happy with Metro.

“Taxpayers Rights” Organizations – There are a handful of organizations that oppose every newly proposed tax including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Even if they haven’t taken a position on Measure M yet, they almost certainly will.

NOT OPPOSED

No on 710 – The No on 710 Coalition is widely believed to have fought Measure J because its imagery appeared at No on Measure J events and the issue of the proposed highway tunnel extension was brought up by opposition. However, when I reached out to one of the leaders of the organization, they stressed that they were not in opposition to Measure J in the past nor Measure M today.

“First, let me say that the our organization, the No 710 Action Committee did not oppose Measure J. The issue of the tunnel was used by other opposition groups, so there was some confusion about our official position. As far as Measure M is concerned, Metro has included language in the ordinance that precludes the use of Measure M funds for construction of the tunnel alternative. The No 710 Action Committee does not oppose Measure M. We have always supported good projects such as the extension of the Gold Line to Claremont, and in fact strongly recommend that the remaining $700 million dollars (approximately) targeted by Measure R for the SR 710 be used instead for the very worthy Gold Line Extension.”

WHO KNOWS?

Familiar faces.
Familiar faces.

The Coalition to Preserve LA – The organization which is fighting to pass the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative in March of 2017 has yet to take a position on Measure M and quite possibly never will. However, some of the Coalition’s highest profile backers are vocal opponents of Measure M and some of Measure M’s highest profile supporters are opponents of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Will this lead to opposition on Measure M? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Did I miss someone? Let me know in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Hotels, New Recreation Centers, New Ideas, Highlight Councilmember Kennedy's Community Meeting

Lower crime rates, bike sharing program also presented

 http://www.pasadenanow.com/main/new-hotels-new-recreation-centers-new-ideas-highlight-councilmember-kennedys-community-meeting/#.V8dSZq2juSo

By Eddie Rivera, August 31, 2016

 http://pasadenanow.com/main/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Collage3.png
 Scenes during the Councilmember John Kennedy's community meeting on Tuesday, August 31, 2016.


New hotels, a bike sharing program and a plan to re-imagine the Northern “stump” of the 710 Freeway highlighted Councilmember John Kennedy’s District 3 community meeting Tuesday evening, as nearly a hundred residents gathered in the Donald Wright Auditorium at Pasadena Central Library for a wide-ranging update from the Councilmember.

Poet Gerda Govine Ituarte added a soup├žon of literary culture to the evening, reading from a poem which told the tale of her arrival in America as a young child in New York City.

Following Ituarte’s evocative poem, Kennedy honored newly retired Director of Library Services Jan Sanders, commending her for her 11 years of service in Pasadena.

Kennedy then began his presentation with a report on the city’s five new hotel projectss, highlighting the new and controversial proposed Kimpton Hotel/YWCA project, in Pasadena’s Civic Center, which would if approved convert the 1922 Julia Morgan-designed building at 79 North Marengo Avenue into a 179-room two-to-six story luxury hotel.

That project is one of five new hotel projects in the city, in various stages of planning or construction.
Kennedy also praised the new Heritage Square senior housing project being built north of the intersection of Orange Grove Boulevard and North Fair Oaks Avenue. Kennedy said the project has already received 1,500 pre-applications for the 70 apartments being planned.

Reporting on the city’s 2014 embezzlement case, Kennedy revealed that $5 million has been recovered through various insurance policies and the City hopes to recover the balance following the disposition of the case. A former management analyst in Pasadena’s Public Works Department, Danny Wooten, along with two other suspects, faces more than 60 counts of fraud, embezzlement and tax-related charges. No trial date has been set yet.

The new renovations and rehabilitations at Jackie Robinson Park are also getting underway, Kennedy reported, and a number of classes and activities will be moved temporarily to the Jackie Robinson Senior Center across the street to accommodate the work. While construction dates are still pending on the four-year old project, construction documents were completed and submitted to the Building Department in February, 2016.

The City’s Recreation Department will also be working directly with the Pasadena Unified School District in an effort to re-locate more activities during the construction process.

According to Kennedy’s update, the Renaissance Plaza on Orange Grove at Fair Oaks may also soon undergo some changes. As the original loan for the project is about to be paid off, Von’s Market, the current tenant, may be relocating.

“We are hoping to find a quality market for that location, who can provide fresh and healthy food for this community,” said Kennedy of the proposed change.

Kennedy also reported that 12,000 feet of city sidewalks have been repaired this year, and reaffirmed the City’s commitment to repairing as many feet of sidewalk as possible this year.

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez delivered updates on two recent shootings, but continued to bemoan the lack of community participation in providing information to police regarding crimes.

“Without your support,” Sanchez told the meeting, “We can’t close that loop, so we are constantly seeking information from anyone who might know anything.” Sanchez also noted that during or after previous District 3 community meetings, he has received information on crimes, either by phone or e-mail.

“That information stays confidential,” Sanchez emphasized, “so if you know anything, or you know anyone that is involved in that kind of behavior, please give us a call.”

The Pasadena Police Department to date, said Sanchez, has seized over 1,300 guns, with “150 guns seized this year alone.” According to Sanchez, the various guns were seized in search warrants, or from armed individuals, or surrendered by community members.

Finally, hammering home a familiar theme at community meetings, Sanchez told the group, “ I don’t want to get into a discussion about the Second Amendment, but I will say this. If you own a gun, please be a responsible gun owner. That means watching the gun, and keeping that gun in an approved safe.”

In addition to the project updates and safety reminders, Conrad Viana, principal engineer from the Transportation Department, reported that the City is moving closer to the full implementation of its proposed bikeshare plan, first proposed in 2014, making bicycles available for short-term rentals and commutes.

The idea, explained Viana, is to ideally provide bikes for short commutes to Gold Line or bus stations, and then bikes for the commute to work from public transportation.

The Metro bikeshare program is part of the City’s Bicycle Transportation Action Plan, with bikeways eventually located in 12 miles of collector and arterial roadways in the city. When fully implemented, the program will be located at 34 kiosks around the city, providing a total of 411 bicycles. The city is currently evaluating 120 potential kiosk sites.

Meanwhile to date, over 200 new bike racks have been added citywide to further promote bicycling
.
The evening also featured a dramatic presentation led by architect Stefanos Polyzoides on the “Connecting Pasadena” project, a plan to fill the trench at the Northern end of the proposed 710 extension and create a brand-new new community flanked by Pasadena Avenue and the freeway.

“Freeways are the bane of our existence,” said Polyzoides. “No sane person thinks that freeways are a good transit idea,” he said as he outlined two plans from his group’s presentation.

The first plan would leave the ditch of the 710 freeway in place and work around the existing topographic conditions, he explained. A main parkway would be placed in the center and at the bottom of the existing 710 right-of-way. All thoroughfares would be reconnected and turned into two-way circulation. With this plan, said Polyzoides, the volume and manner of access to the 134 and 210 Freeways is maintained and neighborhood traffic is slowed down and dispersed.

There would be development blocks located on either side of the parkway, according to the plan.

The second alternative would fill the entire ditch and re-establish the topographic level of the site as it existed before the construction of the freeway. A major boulevard, similar to Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue, would replace Pasadena Avenue, and serve to both direct traffic going into and out of the freeway, and disperse traffic to the neighborhoods to the south, east and west through reestablished two-way streets.

The proposed community would also locate housing close to public transit, and establish new green spaces as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Caltrans may begin selling 710 Freeway extension properties this fall

http://www.sgvtribune.com/general-news/20160829/caltrans-may-begin-selling-710-freeway-extension-properties-this-fall

By Steve Scauzillo, August 29, 2016

 Nellie Herrera, 91 has lived at 5513 Atlas Street in El Sereno for 54 years and will be moving to live with her daughter in La Puente because Caltran is selling this home. Caltrans is preparing to sell the first 42 homes that were along the surface route of the proposed 710 Freeway extension in about one month. Two key things have fallen in place: release of a final Environmental Impact Report for the North 710 in El Sereno (LA), South Pasadena and Pasadena surplus properties a few weeks ago and simultaneously the finalization of a list of regulations on how to go about selling the homes. The sales of surplus properties that were supposed to be standing in the path of an extended freeway (surface route) will begin at the end of September, said Caltrans. The EIR says these will not be impacted by any potential extension , such as a 4.5-mile tunnel. There are 460 potential properties that Caltrans has identified for sale. The final EIR says they will be selling off properties in a five-year period, from September to 2020. They will be sold to housing entities, previous owners, current tenants or other private individuals or organizations. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Southern California News Group)

 Nellie Herrera, 91 has lived at 5513 Atlas Street in El Sereno for 54 years and will be moving to live with her daughter in La Puente because Caltran is selling this home. Caltrans is preparing to sell the first 42 homes that were along the surface route of the proposed 710 Freeway extension in about one month. Two key things have fallen in place: release of a final Environmental Impact Report for the North 710 in El Sereno (LA), South Pasadena and Pasadena surplus properties a few weeks ago and simultaneously the finalization of a list of regulations on how to go about selling the homes. The sales of surplus properties that were supposed to be standing in the path of an extended freeway (surface route) will begin at the end of September, said Caltrans. The EIR says these will not be impacted by any potential extension , such as a 4.5-mile tunnel. There are 460 potential properties that Caltrans has identified for sale. The final EIR says they will be selling off properties in a five-year period, from September to 2020. They will be sold to housing entities, previous owners, current tenants or other private individuals or organizations.



Under orders by both the governor and the state Legislature, and after a years-long push by both cities and tenants, Caltrans will soon begin selling houses along the path of a scuttled surface route of a north 710 Freeway extension,

The state transportation agency, often criticized as an absentee landlord dragging its feet, will begin taking first offers on 42 properties this fall, said agency spokeswoman Lauren Wonder on Monday.

Wonder pointed to a list of 39 single-family and three multi-family properties on the agency’s website that will be put up for sale. The residential properties — most of them occupied with tenants — are located in El Sereno, a neighborhood spanning Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena.


“That is what we are getting prepared to sell,” Wonder said, referring to the list. “We will go out and start taking first offers.”

After years of challenges, rewrites and delays, Caltrans on July 26 approved a final, state-required environmental report on the sale of surplus properties along what would’ve been the buildout of a surface freeway route from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in west Pasadena.

On the same date, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty signed off rules allowing the sale of 460 properties in the same north-south strip under a state program.


With a new surface freeway route ruled out, Caltrans is still considering other projects for the area: a dedicated busway, a light-rail line, traffic management systems or a 6.3-mile freeway tunnel with or without trucks, according to the agency.

The first homes being sold will lie outside “the scope” of those transportation options, according to Caltrans.

Properties closer to the new routes will be sold later, as will properties considered excess if alternative routes are built or the project is killed.


Any decision on a freeway tunnel or another alternative won’t be made until next year, she said.

Caltrans said the approval of the reports will allow the agency to move forward with the sale of the homes at appraised, fair-market value. Homes with residents living there for more than two years will be sold at an “affordable price,” according to Caltrans documents.

Sergio Gonzalez, city manager of South Pasadena, said the city is “very excited about getting these properties back into private ownership.”

Of the 42 properties listed, three are in Pasadena, six in Los Angeles and 33 in South Pasadena.

Gonzalez said in the past, many of the Caltrans properties along the route were shuttered or marked with graffiti. Many fell into general disrepair.

A recent bill by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, required Caltrans to remove itself from its landlord role and sell the homes as is. But the opening of bids is likely to bring even more questions about the properties and their residents.

Some wonder whether the rent-paying tenants will be able to afford the asking price for their homes. If not, advocates worry that they’ll be forced out.


But some residents, like Nellie Herrera, 91, who has lived in the same home in El Sereno for 54 years, said it might be time to move on. If her house is sold, she said she’ll go live with a relative.
“It is a nice home. I like it,” she said. “I take good care of my house. But it is too big for me.”

Chris Sutton, a Pasadena attorney who has represented tenants of Caltrans’ homes located along the surface route for decades, was skeptical about the sales moving forward. Caltrans has broken promises in the past, he said.


Sutton is also worried that the formulas Caltrans proposed for setting the selling price may leave low and middle-income tenants out on the street.

“We are hoping that the EIR will suggest mitigation measures to allow people to buy as many properties as they can,” he said.

Gonzalez said South Pasadena wants to see the homes sold so the owners can pay full property taxes, a source of revenue for the city, county, school and water districts. But he also said the city wants to see tenants buy the homes from Caltrans. “They are our residents,” he said.


CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, the date Caltrans planned to sell the homes was incorrect. Caltrans plans to sell the homes this fall, but has not specified an exact month.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Forum on Alternatives to the 710 Tunnel

Pasadena City Councilmember Steve Madison invites you to a Forum on Alternatives to the 710 Tunnel.  Everyone is invited, you do not have to live in Pasadena.

 
When:  Thursday, September 15, 2016
Time:    6:30 - 8:00 pm  (doors open at 6pm)
Where:  Pasadena Convention Center Ballroom
              300 E. Green, Pasadena

Message from Steve Madison: 

We hope that you will attend this important forum on alternatives to the 710 tunnel.  The forum will address the preferred Pasadena plans and demonstrate how they fit into regional transportation plans.  We think this is an important beginning for providing information to the public about a better way to move people and fix traffic.
   

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

f Metro Can’t Manage Rail Expansion, Why Should We Trust Them to Manage Another Tax Increase?

http://citywatchla.com/index.php/the-la-beat/11603-if-metro-can-t-manage-rail-expansion-why-should-we-trust-them-to-manage-another-tax-increase

By Beth Cone Kramer, August 8, 2016


 



THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Just when you thought the November ballot was splitting at the seams with volumes of initiatives and measures, the Board of Supervisors has stuffed in another, agreeing unanimously last week to add the MTA’s proposal, asking county voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase that would continue indefinitely to bankroll a major expansion of SoCal’s transit network.

Back in June, MTA directors greenlighted the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan,” which would add at least $860 million a year to expand the county’s rail network through the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, and the Sepulveda Pass. The funding isn’t limited to rail; the proceeds from the tax would fully or partially fund ten new highway projects, which would include a State Route 71 expansion and a new carpool-lane interchange between the 405 and 110.

What does this mean to your wallet? The county’s base sales rate would be pushed to 9.5 percent and 10 percent in cities like Santa Monica and Commerce. Ouch. And if that isn’t enough to break a sweat, the half-cent tax would double to one-cent in 2039 to replace revenue lost when Measure R expires. That one-cent increase would also continue indefinitely.

We all know that the traffic jams, Sig Alerts, and smog in these parts are among the worst in the country, especially on that parking lot otherwise known as the 101/405 interchange. Though the measure seems to have support from labor groups and municipalities, Supervisor Don Knabe expressed concern about what is now the third tax to fund Metro that does not have an expiration date.

If the measure is approved, Metro will get two cents on every dollar spent in LA County, a mighty steep allowance. However, the measure faces some uphill battles, including a ballot already jammed with a tax initiative and a two-thirds pass threshold. Other taxes on the ballot for county voters include a parcel tax for parks and a community college bond measure; LA City voters will be voting on a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund housing for the homeless.

Giving any entity unlimited access to our credit and debit cards for eternity is always a dicey move but add in the fact that the MTA doesn’t appear to be doing a bang-up job with what’s already in the coffers just further raises our eyebrows.

Getting Angelenos to ditch the Prius for a ride on the Metro is a challenge. Two months after the Westside light rail extension, riders have been waiting for hours for a train because the MTA doesn’t have enough rail cars to accommodate the Expo Line’s ridership, due to a year-long delay in acquiring additional cars. As it stands, rail cars don’t have adequate space for bikes, wheelchairs, sometimes even passengers during peak hours. Waiting twelve-minutes for the next train doesn’t make riding the Metro more of a draw to commuters who are on a schedule.

Westsiders have been turning to the Metro during the week; trips have increased by half since the trains began running in Santa Monica but logistical issues have not allowed the Metro to keep up with demand for cars.

Back in 2008, LA County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund almost thirty miles of light rail tracks and rail cars; the first fifty from Italian company Ansaldo/Breda came in years behind schedule and overweight by almost three tons. The MTA deal with the company collapsed and the transit authority was left scrambling for a replacement, this time giving a $900 million contract to Japanese-based Kinkisharyo International back in 2012 for 235 new cars. Kinkisharyo delivered the first silver and yellow cars expediently but tests are taking longer than planned. Of the 41 cars delivered, 13 still need to be tested. While the goal is to run trains every six minutes by year’s end and three-car trains by 2017-2018, platform length limits trains greater than three cars, which means not everyone will get a seat.

The challenge of continuing to encourage commuters to trade in their gas cards for a Metro Card and to attract new riders needs to be balanced with the blank check sales tax proposal put up by the MTA. If the MTA is not up to the challenge as of yet, handing over the checkbook does not seem like a prudent plan.

Metro in trouble.  Lousy planning. New Westside extension short on train cars. Riders left standing at stations for hours because trains are jammed.

Our question is, if they can't -- with years to do it -- manage to prepare for the extension, then why should we trust them to handle the new sales tax they're asking for?

Obviously, they're not ready for growth. So why would people give up their cars to stand in line for hours waiting for a train?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Here’s which cities are for, against a half-cent LA county transportation tax

http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/general-news/20160802/heres-which-cities-are-for-against-a-half-cent-la-county-transportation-tax

By Steve Scauzillo, August 2, 2016

 Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes as part of the I-5 widening construction project. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)


 Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes as part of the I-5 widening construction project.



Lurking beneath a unanimous vote Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placing a half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot to fund $132 billion in transportation improvements was some hefty opposition from cities in the southeast and South Bay.

While others praised Measure R-2’s list of rail, highway and bikeway projects as equitable, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments disagree, saying the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) kicked their freeway and railway projects to the back of the line in favor of added projects for the west side of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.


Last month, the Gateway Cities voted 21-1 to oppose the measure, with Long Beach abstaining. The South Bay cities voted 9-0 in opposition, including Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Torrance, records show. Inglewood, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Rolling Hills Estates abstained.

The two organizations, representing 43 out of the 88 cities in the county, may stir up enough opposing votes that could place Metro’s ballot measure — one it has asked the county to name Measure M — in jeopardy of gaining the necessary two-thirds vote on Nov. 8.


Ballot watchers and Metro insiders say obscure regional city groups angry over missing out on local transit dollars may not sway traffic-weary motorists from voting for congestion relief. On the other hand, elected officials from tight-knit communities such as Bell, Cudahy or Huntington Park could influence voters through word of mouth and informational fliers mailed to thousands of homes from City Hall, said Karen Heit, transportation consultant for the Gateway Cities.

“In these small communities, where their councilman also coaches football or soccer teams, it could be a very real factor in the way people vote,” she said.


Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said people vote for tax measures when they believe the dollars will come home. Already, Metro is benefiting from Proposition A, approved by voters in 1980; Proposition C, approved by voters in 1990; and Measure R, approved by voters in 2008. Metro opened two light-rail line extensions this spring using sales tax dollars. The new measure would bring the total sales tax for transportation to 2 percent. It does not have a sunset date.

 “No community organization has absolute influence on these types of votes,” said Schnur, who added: “It is not determinative but it doesn’t help.”

A Metro survey conducted in May found 72 percent in favor of a permanent, half-cent transportation measure, said Pauletta Tonilas, Metro spokeswoman. Of those, 70 percent in favor lived in the South Bay and 71 percent in favor lived in southeast Los Angeles County.

Still, if Metro loses votes from these and other Gateway Cities such as Artesia, Bell, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, South Gate and Whittier, it could doom the measure.


Because voters in many of these cities are mostly Democrats and are more likely to approve a local tax, losing them means Metro has to work harder in more conservative parts of the county to increase voter support, Schnur said.

“If community leaders in one part of the county come out against the measure, then you need to increase support to an even greater degree in areas that support it ... or in communities that are more likely to benefit,” Schnur said.

Unlike presidential politics, strategies don’t focus on race or ethnic groups but rather on location, he said. “On a transportation measure in particular, geographic considerations have a huge impact,” he said, calling transportation taxes a zero-sum game. “You either get the light-rail route or you don’t.”


The measure’s project list includes 19 of the 44 projects that are new, added since 2008’s Measure R. Eleven are scheduled for groundbreaking in the first 15 years. The Gateway Cities argue that two of their projects, the widening of the 5 Freeway from the 605 to the 710, and the proposed Eco-Rapid rail line from downtown L.A. to Artesia, were pushed aside to make room for new ones.

“We do have a problem with all these other projects marching up front,” Heit said.

The 5 Freeway project would not break ground for another 20 years (2036), well after the southern half of the 5 project is finished. But a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass would begin in 2024, part of a $9 billion project to connect the west side of L.A. with the San Fernando Valley, most likely by rail. In addition, the last segment of the Purple Line subway under Wilshire Boulevard finishing in Westwood would break ground in 2018, while the Eco-Rapid line would not be completed until 2041.


“If you read the ballot measure, the first thing it says is that it will fix the freeways. What they don’t tell you is not for 20 years,” Heit said.

It appears the middle, north and east end of the county may favor the measure, while the southern and southeastern areas may not, creating a north versus south scenario.

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted in support of the measure last week. “From our perspective, we kind of got what we wanted from the tax measure,” said Mark Christoffels, a consultant to the SGVCOG and chief executive officer of the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority.


The east San Gabriel Valley’s next foothill extension of the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont is scheduled to begin construction in 2019 and will receive more than $1 billion from the measure, about 99 percent of the cost.

The San Fernando Valley Council of Governments has not yet take a position but may vote in support in September. Seven Los Angeles City Council members from the San Fernando Valley, led by Bob Blumenfield, wrote a letter of support to Metro in June. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Metro board member, has ardently supported the measure.


The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project and the extension of the Orange Line busway to the Gold Line would both begin within the first few years. A light-rail station at 96th Street that would allow a people-mover to take passengers directly into LAX would start construction in 2018.

South Bay Supervisor Don Knabe said Tuesday he believes Measure M is geographically unbalanced. Yet, conservative Supervisor Mike Antonovich praised the tax measure, saying Metro got it right by asking each COG for a list of projects.


“The proposal before us today includes input from the bottom up for a regional transportation system,” he said before the historic vote.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes the San Gabriel Valley as well as many southeast cities, said she believed the measure includes an inclusive list of projects. “It didn’t necessarily mean a dollar would be attached to every item (cities asked for). That is impossible,” she said.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Metro faces high hurdle in persuading voters to back transit sales tax measure

http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/08/01/63030/metro-faces-high-hurdle-in-persuading-voters-to-ba/

By Meghan McCarty, August 1, 2017

 127934 full

When Los Angeles County voters see a measure on their November ballot asking them to approve higher sales taxes for transportation projects, they may well ask: what's in it for me?

The answer depends on where the voter lives — and that, in a nutshell, is the challenge facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as it seeks to convince two-thirds of the electorate to approve the measure. It's a tall order in the biggest county in the nation.

If the measure is adopted, county residents would pay a new half-cent sales tax and continue to pay an existing half-cent tax originally set to expire in 40 years.

The proposed sales tax increase would raise over $120 billion and fund train lines, buses and and highways as part of a broad vision to reduce the region's dependence on cars and connect a divided, far-flung county lacking a comprehensive network of transportation systems.

With about 10 million residents living in 88 cities and unincorporated areas, L.A. County is double the size of the next most populous county, Cook County, Illinois. A wide variety of communities characterize L.A. County, from dense urban areas to suburban housing divisions, beachside enclaves and rural ranch lands.

"It’s just a colossal thing," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.


 



A map from L.A. County's Metro shows existing transportation projects and those that would be built with funds from a sales tax increase that will be voted on this November. Slide the white bar to see the changes.

Forging any kind of political consensus in a county as sprawling as L.A., stretching from the northwest San Fernando Valley to the Port of Long Beach, is difficult, he said. To do it, Metro will need to perform an extraordinary balancing act by offering a broad range of projects that provides something for everyone, Sonenshein said.

It’s a bit like trying to cater to a giant, unruly family: keeping track of so many competing relatives at once can sometimes leave someone behind.

A broad coalition did come together in 2008 to pass Measure R, which funded the recently opened Gold and Expo Line sections.

But an extension of that tax, known as Measure J, failed in 2012 by a thin margin – falling short mostly in communities on the edges of the county where investment in transit has been minimal.

"The Valley dramatically got short-changed," said state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-18th District), who serves the San Fernando Valley and pushed Metro hard to make his area a higher priority with this year’s ballot measure.

When an early draft of the proposal didn't include funding for his favored projects, Hertzberg held press conferences, took out full page ads in newspapers and sent out emails campaigning against it.
"I went to war. It wasn’t gonna happen, I was not gonna support this," he said.

The effort paid off. In June, when Metro released its final project list, it included plenty for the Valley: new bus service to California State University, Northridge; streamlined improvements to the Orange Line rapid bus; a new transit line along Van Nuys Boulevard; and a subway under the Sepulveda Pass.

Hertzberg and a coalition of San Fernando Valley politicians and business groups recently announced their full support for the latest measure.

But inevitably, when one community gets attention, another ends up feeling abandoned.

For years, the Harbor Gateway Cities in the southeastern part of the county have pushed for a light rail connection between downtown L.A. and Artesia, traveling through densely populated, working-class Latino neighborhoods that rely heavily on public transit.

Metro has included funding for the rail line in the ballot measure, but the line would not be completed for at least 25 years.

"It’s a slap in the face for the Gateway Cities," said Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias.
Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias points out the future site of a light rail station. Under Metro's ballot measure proposal, it would not be completed for at least 25 years.
Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias points out the future site of a light rail station. Under Metro's ballot measure proposal, it would not be completed for at least 25 years.

"I don’t know if I will be alive or any of the majority of my residents are gonna be able to see that happen," she said of the rail line. "There’s no incentive for us to go out there and really tell our community, 'You know, vote for this and you’ll get something in return,' when in reality they’re not."

Leaders throughout the Gateway Cities and the South Bay have publicly declared they will not support the measure if Metro does not move up the timetable for projects in their areas.

Metro CEO Phil Washington said the agency made every effort to equally distribute projects through the county.

"There is something in this plan for everyone," he said. "It's not perfect, and everybody's not getting their project in the first five years, simply because we're not collecting all the sales tax in the first five years."

Washington points out officials spent years collaborating with local representatives to narrow down the projects, and ranked them based on factors like cost and impact on congestion. Each subregion was given a project or program within the first 15 years of the plan, he said.

Metro hopes it can speed up many of the projects farther out on the timeline with additional funds from the federal government or private partnerships. But there’s no guarantee of that, especially with federal transportation funding on the wane.

Cal State L.A.'s Sonenshein said the solution to the county’s fractured politics and division over transportation spending could lie in the question before voters.

"I really do think that in the long run, if we did have mass transportation, that people in distant areas would feel more connected," he said.

However, to reach that point, projects funded by the measure would need to be built and, to be built, voters would have to approve the additional taxes. Whether they do or not will remain an open question until the November election.