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

Friday, November 30, 2012


J   Votes Percent
1,870,783 66.02
962,972 33.98

Registration 4,593,621
Precincts Reporting 4,993
Total Precincts 4,993
% Precincts Reporting 100

Remember, you need to refresh this page to ensure that you have the latest results.
Last Updated: 13:52 11/30/2012 
November 6, 2012 - Los Angeles County General Election

(Measure J needs 66.67% to pass.)

The Favored Few

Just how democratic is LA County’s quasi-feudal form of government?
(See the remarks about Metro near the end of the article.)
 By Kevin Uhrich 11/29/2012 

The Favored Few
With a popular and progressive but negligent and unaccountable sheriff managing a department currently under federal investigation for allegedly operating one of the most corrupt and sadistic jail systems in the country, and a county tax assessor currently sitting in one of those jail cells, facing two-dozen felony corruption charges for allegedly taking bribes, now seems like an opportune time to ask why these two jobs remain elected positions in Los Angeles County.  
In the case of the assessor, chosen by the people since LA County was formed in 1850, the same year California was admitted into the Union, the question of whether that should become an appointed position was placed on the Nov. 6 ballot in the form of Measure A, a nonbinding advisory proposition that ultimately lost by 77.8 percent of the vote. Even the unfolding scandal involving current LA County Assessor John Noguez — who remains behind bars after pleading innocent to allegedly accepting $185,000 in bribes from a campaign contributor in exchange for huge property tax refunds from the county — was not enough to sway the electorate to begin the process of changing the current system.
In Noguez’s absence, the Board of Supervisors has appointed Santos Kreimann to serve as acting assessor until the elected assessor is cleared or convicted.
The Sheriff’s Department has also been headed by an elected leader for the past 162 years, a position that, like that of the assessor, was written into the state Constitution two years before the Board of Supervisors was even seated. Although there have been many calls over the years to change that job to an appointed post, nothing has ever come of them. 
If anything — as head of Homeland Security in Los Angeles and Orange counties, manager of the nation’s largest jail system and provider of police services for 42 cities, 130 unincorporated communities, 10 community colleges and, most recently, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — Sheriff Lee Baca has only become more powerful, heading a 16,000-employee law enforcement agency with vastly more responsibilities and powers than when he first took office.

Up in the air
In LA County, three top administrators are elected by the people: the district attorney, the assessor and the sheriff. The closest the county has come in modern times to having an appointed sheriff was in 1998, following the death of former Sheriff Sherman Block, Baca’s mentor. 
Block joined the department in 1956 and, like Baca, worked his way up through the ranks. He came to the job as did practically all of the others before him: handpicked by his predecessor (in Block’s case, Peter Pitchess, sheriff from 1959 to 1982) and backed by the all-white, all-male county Board of Supervisors. 
In 1998, six years after the Los Angeles Riots, the reform-resistant Block ran for a fifth term but died a few weeks before the election at age 74. Nonetheless, his name remained on the ballot and Baca’s political enemies asked the Board of Supervisors to formally support the dead sheriff. That way, if Block had won, the five supervisors, some of whom did not embrace Baca as part of “the club,” could have chosen his replacement, at least temporarily, until another election could be held. Baca, however, went on to win easily, getting 61.3 percent of the 1.8 million votes cast in that race. With the win he became the county’s first American Latino sheriff since the 1800s (Eugene Biscailuz, who served as sheriff from 1932 to 1958, was French and Basque) and the first sheriff ever not pre-selected by his predecessor and the powers that be.
To his credit, this moderate Republican in a nonpartisan position, now in the middle of a fourth term, publicly says many encouraging things and frequently speaks out for more funding to better deal with the growing numbers of the homeless and mentally ill people finding their way into overcrowded county lockups. 
Under the heading “Our Core Values” on the sheriff’s Web site, Baca writes: “As a leader in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, I commit myself to honorably perform my duties with respect for the dignity of all people, integrity to do right and fight wrongs, wisdom to apply common sense and fairness in all I do and courage to stand against racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and bigotry in all its forms.”
But, while hitting all the politically correct notes, in reality, Baca has come under fire for being soft on celebrities like Mel Gibson and Paris Hilton and for admittedly turning a blind eye to deputy abuse of county jail inmates — including the mentally ill — and allowing a culture of corruption and virtual gangsterism to flourish within the massive department’s ranks. 
In a recent searing review of the sheriff’s performance regarding the jails, the Citizens’ Committee on Jail Violence, a nonpartisan group of ex-judges, law enforcement experts and activists appointed by the Board of Supervisors, found that the sheriff ultimately bears responsibility for all the bad things going on in the jails and the rest of the department. A “failure of leadership” is how the commission put it.
Ever the politician, and one clearly with an eye on a fifth term in 2014, Baca did the politically expeditious thing by thanking commission members for all their hard work, immediately agreeing with most of the findings and publicly vowing to initiate nearly all of the dozens of recommended reforms. Unlike his predecessor, who essentially ignored proposals for reform made by the Kolts Commission formed after the 1991 beating of Rodney King by police, Baca at least seems receptive to the concept of change. After all, it’s not as if he has been oblivious to calls for reform. During his time in office, Baca started the Office of Independent Review (OIR), a group of six attorneys which examines department policies and procedures in use-of-force and deputy-involved shootings and makes recommendations for improvement. But it remains to be seen whether any real change will occur as a result of the citizens’ commission’s recommendations.
Then again, Baca — who grew up in hardscrabble East LA, worked his way up through school and department ranks and now holds a PhD in public administration from USC — could have very well told the Board of Supervisors, and the commissioners, for that matter, to go to pound sand, putting his faith in a supportive if uninformed electorate to keep him in office. For the time being, the sheriff appears unprepared to go that route. 
But to that end, Baca seemed to think it was necessary to remind the commissioners of potential alternative reactions to their findings. At one point during that panel’s public hearings earlier this year, the sheriff defiantly testified that only “the people” can kick him out of office for unsatisfactory performance. And that doesn’t seem likely, considering he ran unopposed in the 2010 election. When asked in testimony before the commissioners how he should be held accountable for the problems in the jails, Baca, according to a story appearing in the Los Angeles Times, said simply, “Don’t elect me.”

Conflicting opinions
Chances are most people don’t realize just how much power they are investing in the person occupying the position of sheriff. If LA County were a country — at 9.8 million people, it is nearly as populous as Greece or the Czech Republic — Baca, head of the largest paramilitary force in the United States, would be the equivalent of an army commander, an elected general,  a notion contrary to ideals of civilian democratic rule. 
As awesome as that power may sound, however, these duties are not really that dissimilar to sheriffs of the early years, going back to the ninth century. Back then, the serfs, or citizens of “shires,” or towns in feudal England, chose a “reeve,” or guardian appointed by the king to protect the people as well as the royal investments by settling disputes, collecting taxes and punishing those who didn’t pay up. Hence, the terms “shire” and “reeve” were eventually combined to create the word “sheriff,” according to a brief history by Sheriff Roger Scott of DeKalb County, Ill., writing in “Roots: An Historical Perspective of the Office of Sheriff” at sheriffs.org. But make no mistake: The sheriff really worked for the king, not always the people. Today, of the country’s 3,083 sheriffs, roughly 98 percent are elected, Scott wrote.
Similar questions about the roles of what amount to bureaucratic heads of mission-specific county departments, like the sheriff’s, have also been raised in the tax profession over the years. Tax assessors — holding an office that originated in England and found its way to the American colonies in the late 1700s — are as ubiquitous as elected sheriffs. “From England, the 13 American colonies inherited the same scheme of organization and principles: Voters had to be landowners, and personal property, such as household goods and vehicles, wagons in those days, was taxed. The tax man,” according to a history of the job by the Harris County (Texas) Tax Assessor’s Office, “whether sheriff or tax collector, kept the records and collected” the money, states the report found at hctax.net/forms/TaxOfficeHistory.pdf. 
In some American counties, the roles of sheriff and assessor have been historically interchangeable. In Josephine County Ore., for instance, the office of assessor was created in 1844 by the would-be state’s provisional government. The following year, the Legislative Assembly decreed that assessments were to be made by the sheriff. Five years later — just nine years prior to Oregon’s statehood — the assessor was authorized to make assessments and the sheriff was authorized to collect taxes. It wasn’t until 1970 that all that changed, according to Josephine County Online, and responsibility for collecting taxes shifted to the assessor, treasurer or tax collector.  But even today, states the Harris County report, “the sheriff is the tax collector in many small Texas counties.” 
In the last general election, both the LA County Republican and Democratic parties, along with the Los Angles Times, opposed Measure A, with the Times opining that doing away with an elected assessor would limit democracy, as the caption, “Hey, LA, do you want more democracy, or less?” on one of the story’s accompanying  photos suggests.
Yes, the Times acknowledges, “It is true that political corruption is an inherent problem with elected assessors, because they need campaign money when they’re running for office and, once elected, they have the power to reward supporters and punish opponents by setting taxable property values.”
And true, the editorial continues, “Voters know as little about assessor candidates as they do about people running for Superior Court judge … [J]ust as they must be wary of judicial candidates raising campaign money from the very litigants who will bring cases before them, [voters] must be concerned as well about assessor candidates who will be setting the taxable value of property belonging to big campaign donors.”
But — and this is where the editorial draws a vague but critical line — Measure A should be opposed because “it doesn’t answer any of the balance-of-power questions raised by the Noguez scandal … Appointing the assessor and removing the voters’ oversight merely trades one set of hazards for another,” among them making the assessor susceptible to the self-serving political whims of the Board of Supervisors and disrupting the current system of checks and balances, a system which didn’t seem to be working very well in the case of Noguez, a former mayor of Huntington Park. 
Interestingly, the Times’ stand conflicts substantially with other lesser-known positions taken by nonpartisan tax experts, who have for years questioned not only the role, but also the effectiveness of elected tax assessors. In “Elected Versus Appointed Assessors and the Achievement of Assessment Uniformity,” appearing in the National Tax Journal in 1989, writers John H. Bowman and John L. Mikesell found widespread support among those in the industry for appointed assessors.
“Appointment of the assessor does not assure competent performance any more than it does for other key administrative positions, and there are many capable elected assessors; but when appointment is limited to persons with certified professional qualifications, there is more assurance of employing a person with the required technical and administrative skills than if the selection is left to voters,” Bowman and Mikesell quote from the report, “Assessment Administration — Elected or Appointed.” 
“Running for re-election steals time from the work of assessing, and when the turnover of the office is frequent, a community is likely to experience a succession of incumbents each learning his job at public expense,” that report states.
“On balance,” Bowman and Mikesell conclude, “the traditional argument still is that appointed assessors can be expected to perform better than elected assessors.”

What is democratic?
The Times calls the county’s current election system for assessor a “hybrid,” inasmuch as its leaders over the years — with the exception of Noguez, the first Latino to hold that office since the late-1800s — have not really been elected as much as handpicked prior to election, much like the ages-old procedure in the Sheriff’s Department. In the case of the assessor, it’s been rare, the Times points out, “to have an open election for assessor, with no incumbent seeking to keep the seat. More often, an assessor resigns or retires in the middle of his term, the Board of Supervisors appoints an interim replacement, and that person runs, and generally wins, as an incumbent.” 
The race for the District Attorney’s Office, won by longtime Deputy DA Jackie Lacey, the first woman and the first African American to hold the position, was the first time in 50 years that an incumbent DA didn’t run, the Times reported, although Lacey was 12-year incumbent DA Steve Cooley’s handpicked choice for the job.
But, the truth is, the Sheriff’s Department, the assessor’s job and the DA’s Office are small potatoes compared to even greater examples of democratic opportunities blown or misused and public participation thwarted in LA County.
First on that list: The Board of Supervisors.
Most of the five supervisors are now thoroughly entrenched incumbents many times over who never really had to worry about being re-elected once in office. Representing roughly 2 million people apiece and lording (as feudal kings or queens might) over 4,083 square miles of rugged mountains, scenic coastline, vast farmland and inhabitable desert, they all know it would take a millionaire — which some supervisors have become while in office — to beat them.
The composition of the board today is a far cry from that of just 30 years ago. In 1979, Yvonne Braithwaite Burke, who had just served in Congress, became the first woman and first black member of the Board of Supervisors when she was appointed to fill a vacancy on the board by then-Gov. Jerry Brown. She lost the 1980 election for the District 4 seat to Deane Dana, returning the board to its all-male and all-white status.
Twelve years later, Burke ran again, this time for the District 2 seat vacated by legendary Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who had served on the board from 1952 to his retirement in 1992. Hahn, who had served on the LA City Council before becoming supervisor, headed an LA political dynasty; his son, James, now a Superior Court judge, served as mayor of LA, and his daughter, Janice, now a congresswoman, was on the LA council. For the record, Kenny Hahn, who died in 1997, was no relation to former County Assessor Kenneth P. Hahn, who was the first openly gay person to serve in the position.
Just as it had zero black members before Burke, the board had also had no one with a Spanish surname since the late 1880s. Then, in 1992, former LA Councilwoman Gloria Molina won the board’s District 1 seat, formerly held by Pete Schabarum. She has been in office ever since.
Burke was replaced on the board in 2008 with the election of Mark Ridley-Thomas, also African American and also a former LA City Council member. With his election, the former state Senator and Assembly member remains the first and only African-American man to serve on the board.
In other seats, Dana retired in 1996 and was replaced in the District 4 seat that year by Don Knabe, Dana’s longtime friend and former chief of staff, who won election to the position. Ed Edelman was replaced in the board’s District 3 seat in 1994 by Zev Yaroslavsky, also a former LA Council member, when Edelman, himself a former council member, did not seek re-election after 20 years on the board. Today, the longest serving supervisor is Mike Antonovich, who’s represented District 5 since 1982.
With 2002’s Measure B, which passed with 63 percent of the vote that year, supervisors are now limited to serving three consecutive four-year terms. This means Molina and Yaroslavsky will be termed out of office in 2014, and Antonovich will be forced to step down in 2016 after 34 years in office — six years shy of tying Kenny Hahn’s record.
By comparison, the LA City Council, representing 3.8 million people, has an elected mayor and 15 members — a citizen-to-councilperson ratio of 252,000 to 1. Even the city of Pasadena, with roughly 140,000 people, has seven council members and an elected mayor. 
Then there is the 13-member Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors, which looks, acts and sounds democratic but actually consists of the mayor of the city of LA, the five supervisors, the mayor’s respective appointments, city council members from communities most affected by the mass transit system and one non-voting appointment of the governor. Few activists, business leaders or mere citizens have been members of this important powerful body. The MTA is but one of many such boards that make monumental decisions, recommend spending lots of money and forward critical recommendations to other governing boards, yet are populated by nothing but already elected officials, who are paid stipends and other perks for their “extra service.”
Shouldn’t members of these boards — especially the Metro board, which is presently deciding whether to connect the 210 and 710 freeways with multibillion-dollar, 4.5-mile-long traffic tunnels underneath parts of Pasadena — be responsible to the electorate for their actions in these extra-legislative capacities? These current members may be elected officials elsewhere, but no one voted for them to do these other jobs. Exactly how inclusive or democratically representative is that? 
For that matter, to use the Times’ rationale, why not make all top leadership jobs in county departments — public works, education, health and welfare, the register recorder and registrar of voters, which are also susceptible to undue influence by supervisors and others — elected positions?
After all, the question is not whether to increase democracy. That should be everyone’s goal. The question is how to use the instruments of democracy that we have available to make our present system stronger, more inclusive and representative, and better.
And while we’re on the subject of making government more accountable and increasing opportunities for people to participate in the workings our present democratic system, why is there no appointed or elected citizens’ panel overseeing the Sheriff’s Department, much like the one that watches over the LAPD? 
Answer: Unlike the Sheriff’s Department, the LAPD chief is hired by the mayor, with the approval of the City Council, not elected. The mayor also appoints members to the Board of Police Commissioners, which “serves as the head of the Los Angeles Police Department, functioning like a corporate board of directors, setting policies for the department and overseeing its operations. The board works in conjunction with the chief of police, who acts as a chief executive officer,” and reports to the board’s five civilian members, according the LAPD Web site. 
The LAPD also has an independent inspector general’s office, a Christopher Commission reform recommendation in 1991, which reports directly to the citizens’ board on such things as misconduct, use of force and officer-involved shootings. No such office, except Baca’s OIR, which serves more as a tool of remediation than prosecution, exists to keep an eye on the Sheriff’s Department. There is no appointed or elected citizens’ board in Pasadena overseeing that city’s Police Department either, though there have been sporadic calls for the formation of such a body in the years since the riots. Also unlike the sheriff, in Pasadena, the chief of police is hired by the city manager.
On the upside, though, among the 77 recommended reform measures recommended by the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence, one calls for the hiring of an expert on maintaining people in custody and another suggests appointing an inspector general, much like the LAPD’s — and both proposals have been enthusiastically supported by Baca. 

Don’t count on it
They say out of crisis grows opportunity, and perhaps that’s how time will treat the abominable situation in our county jails and the Noguez affair, still under investigation, as Noguez (whose name is really Juan Reynaldo Rodriguez, unbeknownst to most people, including voters) heads to trial. But good things will come of them only if they spark substantive democratic reforms which turn up the volume on long-marginalized citizen voices instead of stifling them further by incumbent officeholders’ clinging to antiquated political ideas and counterproductive election practices.
But in LA County’s ossified political system of exclusivity, privilege and patronage — which the Times calls “hybrid,” but seems more like a type of medieval oligarchy dressed up in modern democratic clothing — don’t count on it. As we’ve seen, carefully cultivated power once placed in the hands of the favored few is only relinquished with great care, caution and, on rare occasions, struggle, no matter who’s in charge, what party they belong to or how they got where they’re at.

Small union is causing big problems for ports



 A strike by about 800 clerical workers is disrupting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and costing them an estimated $1 billion a day. Above, trucks line up Thursday to enter Pier J at the Port of Long Beach. (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles Times / November 30, 2012)

The small band of strikers that has effectively shut down the nation's busiest shipping complex forced two huge cargo ships to head for other ports Thursday and kept at least three others away, hobbling an economic powerhouse in Southern California.

The disruption is costing an estimated $1 billion a day at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, on which some 600,000 truckers, dockworkers, trading companies and others depend for their livelihoods.

"The longer it goes, the more the impacts increase," said Paul Bingham, an economist with infrastructure consulting firm CDM Smith. "Retailers will have stock outages, lost sales for products not delivered. There will be shutdowns in factories, in manufacturing when they run out of parts."

Despite the union's size — about 800 members of a unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union — it has managed to flex big muscles. Unlike almost anywhere else in the nation, union loyalty is strong at the country's ports. Neither the longshoremen nor the truckers are crossing the tiny union's picket lines.

The strike started at the L.A. port's largest terminal Tuesday and spread Wednesday to 10 of the two ports' 14 cargo terminals. These resemble seaside parking lots where long metal containers are loaded and unloaded with the help of giant cranes.

The union contends that the dispute is over job security and the transfer of work from higher-paid union members to lower-paid employees in other countries. The 14-employer management group says that no jobs have been outsourced and that the union wants to continue a practice called "featherbedding," or bringing in temporary workers even when there is no work.

The two sides haven't met since negotiations broke down Monday, but they were scheduled to begin talking again Thursday night. The union has worked without a contract for 21/2 years.

The clerical workers are a vital link in the supply chain. They handle the immense flow of information that accompanies each cargo ship as well as every item in the freight. One shipload of shoes, toys and other products is enough to fill five warehouses.

Logistics clerk Trinie Thompson, 41, normally spends her days working with railroad lines and trucking companies to ensure that the right containers are sent along to their proper destinations. On Thursday, she was walking the picket lines at the docks.

"We will be setting up trains to Houston, trains to Dallas, to Chicago, to the Pacific Northwest," said Thompson, who has worked for 10 years for Eagle Marine Services terminal, which is affiliated with the giant APL shipping line.

"For a typical container ship, we will have to set up multiple trains. We might be sending 200 to 300 containers to Chicago alone, and there will be paperwork for all of them."

The strike comes at a time of simmering labor unrest at other U.S. ports, underscoring the unusual power labor holds in maritime trade.

On the East Coast and Gulf Coast, another group of shipping lines and terminal operators called the United States Maritime Alliance has repeatedly failed to reach agreement on a new labor contract with the International Longshoremen's Assn. A strike that might have involved dozens of ports was avoided only after both sides agreed to extend negotiations past the September end of their current contract.

A strike also was narrowly avoided at Portland, Ore., only a few days ago in a dispute between grain shippers and union workers.

Operations at Oakland International Airport and at the Port of Oakland, the third-largest port in the state behind Los Angeles and Long Beach, were affected by a brief strike this month.

Maritime unions "have successfully organized one of the most vital links in the supply chain, and it's a tradition they nurture with all of their younger workers," said Nelson Lichtenstein, a UC Santa Barbara history professor and workplace expert. "They have a very strong ideological sense of who they are, and for now they are strong."

In Los Angeles and Long Beach, the 800 clerical workers have been able to shut down most of the ports because the 10,000-member dockworkers union is honoring the picket lines. Work continues at only four cargo terminals, where the office clerical unit has no workers.

"Longshoremen stand up when other workers need our help," said Ray Ortiz Jr., a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's Coast Committee. "Sure, it's a sacrifice to give up a paycheck when you refuse to cross the picket line, but we believe it's in the long-term interest of the Los Angeles-Long Beach harbor area to retain these good local jobs."

Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the shipping lines and cargo terminals, said the clerical workers have been offered a deal that includes "absolute job security," a raise that would take average annual pay to $195,000 from $165,000, 11 weeks' paid vacation and a generous pension increase.
At a news conference Thursday, Berry denounced the tactics by the clerical workers, calling them "irresponsible."

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Opinion: Meet Long Beach's newest state senator

Updated:   11/29/2012 04:02:07 PM PST
 Assemblyman Ricardo Lara will be sworn-in Monday as Long Beach's new state Senator.
  Ricardo Lara may be new to Long Beach but the state lawmaker is clearly ready to face some of the city's challenges head-on, from bolstering trade through the port to reducing congestion on 710 Freeway.

The 38-year-old Lara didn't get much ink during the election season because he ran unopposed in the new 33rd District, which runs from Long Beach to Huntington Park and Maywood. But now that he will be sworn-in as the area's new state senator on Monday it seems like a good time to get to know him.

The Democrat's moderate views will fit in with this district as some of his larger goals include job creation, reducing onerous business regulations and furthering pension reform across the state.
After serving as a legislative aide for nearly a decade, Lara was elected to the Assembly two years ago to become one of the state's eight openly gay lawmakers and chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus.

With ports being built in Mexico and the Panama Canal expansion project near completion, Lara understands the need to keep the Port of Long Beach competitive for the sake of sustaining the region's economy. Transporting goods from the port to the rest of the region remains a challenge, he said, because the 710 Freeway stops short of connecting with the 210 Freeway near Pasadena.

Along with transforming the local goods-movement system, Lara also said he hopes to find ways to decrease air pollution emitted from port operations and local freeways, while also keeping big rigs from idling in residential neighborhoods -- issues that continue to plague many of the working-class communities in his new district.

Even though Gov. Jerry Brown's pension reform package was approved by the state Legislature this year, Lara said that he wants to help close the remaining gap by going after politicians, double-dippers and others who collect an unusually high amount of retirement benefits.

"We can't do it on the backs of state workers who play by the rules," he said, referring to those who receive pensions of about $30,000 annually.

Lara's mother was a seamstress and his father was a factory worker, which is emblematic of his desire to attract many of the manufacturing jobs that have slowly disappeared from the blue-collar communities in the northern end of his new senate district. The first step in doing that, he said, is to review some of the outdated rules contained in the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.

"As we tackle the issue of green jobs and green technology, we also have to realize that we need to do a better job to bring back manufacturing jobs," Lara said. "There has to be a balance to protect the environment while also putting people back to work."

Lara said he also wants to focus on higher education, particularly in stabilizing the rapidly rising cost of tuition in the state's college systems.

Unfortunately, voters didn't really get a chance to get to know Lara and very little was written on this page because he didn't face any opposition during his senate race. But, Lara has clearly taken the time to learn about the issues and developed some pragmatic answers. Hopefully he manages to meet most of these lofty -- yet attainable -- goals.

- Art Marroquin

The Hidden Toll of Traffic Jams

Scientists Increasingly Link Vehicle Exhaust With Brain-Cell Damage, Higher Rates of Autism 



Congested cities are fast becoming test tubes for scientists studying the impact of traffic fumes on the brain.

As roadways choke on traffic, researchers suspect that the tailpipe exhaust from cars and trucks—especially tiny carbon particles already implicated in heart disease, cancer and respiratory ailments—may also injure brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory.

New public-health studies and laboratory experiments suggest that, at every stage of life, traffic fumes exact a measurable toll on mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability. "There are more and more scientists trying to find whether and why exposure to traffic exhaust can damage the human brain," says medical epidemiologist Jiu-Chiuan Chen at the University of Southern California who is analyzing the effects of traffic pollution on the brain health of 7,500 women in 22 states. "The human data are very new."

So far, the evidence is largely circumstantial but worrisome, researchers say. And no one is certain yet of the consequences for brain biology or behavior. "There is real cause for concern," says neurochemist Annette Kirshner at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at Research Triangle Park in North Carolina. "But we ought to proceed with caution."

To be sure, cars and trucks today generate one-tenth the pollution of a vehicle in 1970. Still, more people are on the road and they are stuck in traffic more often. Drivers traveling the 10-worst U.S. traffic corridors annually spend an average of 140 hours, or about the time spent in the office in a month, idling in traffic, a new analysis reported.

No one knows whether regular commuters breathing heavy traffic fumes suffer any lasting brain effect. Researchers have only studied the potential impact based on where people live and where air-pollution levels are highest. Even if there were any chronic cognitive effect on drivers, it could easily be too small to measure reliably or might be swamped by other health factors such as stress, diet or exercise that affect the brain, experts say.
New research from Los Angeles, a city defined by the automobile, adds to a pattern of public health studies in recent months on the surprising impact of air pollution from tail pipe exhaust. Lee Hotz has details on Lunch Break.

Recent studies show that breathing street-level fumes for just 30 minutes can intensify electrical activity in brain regions responsible for behavior, personality and decision-making, changes that are suggestive of stress, scientists in the Netherlands recently discovered. Breathing normal city air with high levels of traffic exhaust for 90 days can change the way that genes turn on or off among the elderly; it can also leave a molecular mark on the genome of a newborn for life, separate research teams at Columbia University and Harvard University reported this year.

Children in areas affected by high levels of emissions, on average, scored more poorly on intelligence tests and were more prone to depression, anxiety and attention problems than children growing up in cleaner air, separate research teams in New York, Boston, Beijing, and Krakow, Poland, found. And older men and women long exposed to higher levels of traffic-related particles and ozone had memory and reasoning problems that effectively added five years to their mental age, other university researchers in Boston reported this year. The emissions may also heighten the risk of Alzheimer's disease and speed the effects of Parkinson's disease.

"The evidence is growing that air pollution can affect the brain," says medical epidemiologist Heather Volk at USC's Keck School of Medicine. "We may be starting to realize the effects are broader than we realized."
Reviewing birth records, Dr. Volk and her colleagues calculated that children born to mothers living within 1,000 feet of a major road or freeway in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Sacramento were twice as likely to have autism, independent of gender, ethnicity and education level, as well as maternal age, exposure to tobacco smoke or other factors. The findings were published this year in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"Based on our data, it looks like air pollution might be a risk factor for autism," Dr. Volk says. Still, there are so many possible genetic and environmental influences that "it is too soon for alarm," she says.

Exhaust fumes can extend farther from roadways than once thought. Traffic fumes from some major L.A. freeways reached up to 1.5 miles downwind—10 times farther than previously believed. And local weather patterns caused L.A. pollution levels to reach their most intense concentrations, not during normal rush hours, but in the hours before dawn when people are most likely to be at home, according to recent measurements by UCLA and USC researchers.
Scientists believe that simple steps to speed traffic are a factor in reducing some public-health problems. In New Jersey, premature births, a risk factor for cognitive delays, in areas around highway toll plazas dropped 10.8% after the introduction of E-ZPass, which eased traffic congestion and reduced exhaust fumes, according to reports published in scientific journals this year and in 2009. The researchers, Princeton University economist Janet Currie and her colleagues at Columbia University, analyzed health data for the decade ending 2003.

After New York traffic managers rerouted streets in Times Square recently to lessen congestion, air-pollution levels in the vicinity dropped by 63%.

Scientists are only beginning to understand the basic biology of car exhaust's toxic neural effects, especially from prenatal or lifetime exposures. "It is hard to disentangle all the things in auto exhaust and sort out the effects of traffic from all the other possibilities," says Dr. Currie, who studies the relationship between traffic and infant health.

Researchers in Los Angeles, the U.S.'s most congested city, are studying lab mice raised on air piped in from a nearby freeway. They discovered that the particles inhaled by the mice—each particle less than one-thousandth the width of a human hair—somehow affected the brain, causing inflammation and altering neurochemistry among neurons involved in learning and memory.

To study the effect of exhaust on expectant mothers, Frederica Perera at Columbia University's Center for Children's Environmental Health began in 1998 to equip hundreds of pregnant women with personal air monitors to measure the chemistry of the air they breathed. As the babies were born, Dr. Perera and colleagues tested some of the infants and discovered a distinctive biochemical mark in the DNA of about half of them, left by prenatal exposure to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in exhaust.

By age 3, the children who were exposed prenatally to high exhaust levels were developing mental capacities fractionally more slowly. By age 5, their IQ scores averaged about four points lower on standard intelligence tests than those of less exposed children, the team reported in 2009. The differences, while small, were significant in terms of later educational development, the researchers said.

By age 7, the children were more likely to show symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention problems, the researchers reported this year in Environmental Health Perspectives.

"The mother's exposure—what she breathed into her lungs—could affect her child's later behavior," Dr. Perera says. "The placenta is not the perfect barrier we once thought."
Corrections & Amplifications
In a previous version, the article mistakenly suggested that the Columbia University researchers had only tested children for developmental delays who also had a DNA marker from prenatal exposure to high levels of exhaust fumes. They tested all children who had been exposed prenatally to high levels of exhaust fumes.

The Idle Class

The number of vehicles on U.S. roads jumped 20% to 254 million in the past decade.
  • Tuesday is the busiest morning peak period, but Friday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. is America's most congested hour of the week.
  • The amount of delay for the average commuter was 34 hours for 2010. For the 15 largest urban areas it was 52 hours, using 25 extra gallons of gasoline per commuter.
  • Congestion has worsened outside of 'rush-hour' periods, with midday and overnight traffic jams accounting for about 40% of total delays.
  • The Washington, D.C., area had the most wasted hours for commuters last year, followed by Chicago and New York.
  • The Los Angeles area's freeways are more congested than that of any other U.S. or European city.
Source: INRIX, Texas Transportation Institute, Hedges & Co.

Study: L.A. Home to Most Congested Freeways in Nation


  LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- No big surprise here -- Los Angeles is home to the most congested freeways in the nation, according to a report by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.

study looked at 328 stretches of highway across the country.

L.A. grabbed seven of the top ten spots on the list.

 The "winner" is a three-mile stretch on the Northbound 110 Harbor Freeway near Dodger Stadium.

The report estimates that 1.4 million hours are spent each year by commuters sitting in traffic at that

one intersection, using using 2.1 million gallons of gasoline.

The second busiest roadway is just two miles to the south, where the Harbor Freeway intersects with the 10 Freeway near Staples Center.

Third place went to the 405 Freeway from the 105 Freeway to Getty Center Drive on the Westside of L.A.

The top three freeways where Angelenos waste gas are: the southbound 101 Freeway between Woodland Hills and Downtown L.A., the northbound 405 from LAX to Getty Center and the eastbound 91 Freeway from Anaheim Hills to Corona.

The research engineers who completed the study say the data can be used to address traffic problems.

They suggest building roads, aggressive responses to crashes to keep traffic moving and giving incentives to employers in congested areas that offer telecommuting and flexible work hours.

Harbor Freeway Toll Lane Toll: 12,297 Citations Already Issued



LOS ANGELES (KTLA) -- New toll lanes on the 110 Freeway went into effect November 10 and already over 12,000 citations have been mailed to motorists caught on camera without the required FasTrak transponders.

The toll lanes run from Adams Boulevard just south of downtown to the Harbor Gateway Transit Center near Torrance and the 91 Freeway.

The tolls vary from 25 cents to $1.40 a mile, depending on congestion and demand.
 For now, those caught without the required transponders are only being asked to pay for the toll.

But starting December 10, offenders will face a $25 fine, plus a $30 penalty for late payments.

In addition, the CHP has the authority to issue tickets of $401-plus for solo drivers who evade fares by placing their transponders on a carpool setting, and penalties of at least $154 for those driving in the lanes without the device.

Officials estimate the average toll for a motorist will be between $4 and $7 a trip, though it could be as much as $15.40.

Anyone who uses the lanes, including carpools and motorcyclists, needs a special FastTrak transponder. (Carpoolers and motorcyclists do not have to pay tolls.)

They cost $40 if you pay with a credit/debit card, and that money can be used toward fares.

If you pay with cash, the upfront cost is $75, $50 of which can be used toward fares. Discounts are available for low-income households.

The devices can be purchased online at www.metroexpresslanes.net or at walk-in centers at 500 W. 190th Street in Gardena or the El Monte Station at 3501 Santa Anita Ave.

Alternatively, you can print out and mail an application to MetroExpressLanes, P.O. Box 3878, Gardena, CA 90247.

Drivers can use the same transponder on different vehicles as long as the license plates for those vehicles are added to the FasTrak transponder's account.

Transponders must be set to accurately reflect the number of passengers in the vehicle on each trip.

The toll lanes are part of a one-year, federally funded demonstration that also includes another stretch of express lanes on the 10 Freeway scheduled to open early next year.

Those toll lanes will run for 14 miles between Union Station and the 605 Freeway.

Officials will evaluate the express lanes to determine whether to continue beyond the first year and possibly expand to other freeways around the county.

'Pro-NFL inclinations'


  ‘Recall Madison’ Web sites go online after District 6 councilman votes to clear the way for talks with the NFL 

By André Coleman 11/29/2012

Seven years ago, Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison kept people guessing before casting the deciding vote to lock the NFL out of the Rose Bowl following a lengthy evening meeting that stretched into the early morning hours.  
Last Monday night, many thought Madison would once again come down against two motions that would
But after another contentious marathon council session, one in which dozens of people spoke for and against having a team play in the Rose Bowl for up to five years while a pro-standard stadium is built in downtown Los Angeles or City of Industry, Madison reversed field, going along with six of his council colleagues in voting for opening negotiations with the NFL.
Many of the more than 100 residents who showed up at City Hall that night, most of them there to argue against an NFL team playing in the Rose Bowl, were angered by the two 7-1 votes, with only Councilman Terry Tornek voting against both a motion to increase the maximum number of major events at the stadium from 12 to 25 and certify an environmental impact report allowing the city to start talks with the league.
Now residents of Madison’s West Pasadena District 6, upscale neighborhoods that border the historic stadium and share roads that lead in and out of the Rose Bowl’s Brookside Park home in the scenic Arroyo Seco — have launched a recall drive against the four-term councilman.
The Weekly has learned that two of Madison’s constituents have purchased Web sites aimed at aiding efforts to kick the councilman out of office.
Local author Weston DeWalt purchased the domain recallmadison.com. The domain name recallstevemadison.com, which went live Nov. 21, two days after the council’s latest vote, was registered by attorney Mike Vogler.
“Council member Madison’s lack of energy in the early days of the [Long Beach] 710 [Freeway] extension issue prompted me to reserve the domain, in case he did not act in the interest in the community on the 710 Freeway. Given his vote to approve the final EIR [on the NFL proposal], the issue remains open. I think it’s a question that people in District 6 ought to be asking,” DeWalt said.
On the 710, the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (Metro) and Caltrans proposed plans to connect the freeway with the Foothill (210) Freeway by tunneling underneath portions of the two-lane Avenue 64. The idea was universally opposed by residents and area politicians, including Madison, who was consistently vocal in his opposition to the Metro plan and encouraged public comment by hosting meetings regarding the freeway controversy.
“It’s the same group of people that campaigned against me so negatively in the last election,” Madison told the Weekly. “I heard the recall movement was being talked about before the meeting. I think it has no bearing at all. It is just another attempt to try to damage me politically.”
Nevertheless, Vogler believes Madison has not been truthful with his constituents.
“Year after year, Steve Madison has misled us and lied to his constituents,” Vogler said. “Actions speak louder than words. It is destructive to our neighborhood,” he said of a possible NFL deal. “[Madison] said in the last two elections that he was against the NFL. The writing is on the wall. We don’t have a representative who represents the interests of our neighborhood.”
Organizers have 120 days from the time Madison is served with notice of being recalled to collect signatures from 2,812 qualified voters living in District 6 before the issue can be placed on the ballot, said Pasadena City Clerk Mark Jomsky. 
If enough valid signatures are collected, the council would have 14 days from the time the signatures are filed with Jomsky’s office to call a special election. 
If approved, the recall election would consist of two questions: 1. Should Madison be recalled? and 2. Who should be his replacement?
Madison’s vote Monday ran contrary to recent polls taken in his district. Three of the most powerful neighborhood associations in Pasadena — the West Pasadena Residents’ Association, the Linda Vista/Annandale Residents’ Association and the San Rafael Neighborhood Association — are located in District 6 and have a collective membership of about 3,800 people. Earlier this year, the boards of all three of those associations voted unanimously against the NFL coming to Pasadena.
“This doesn’t smack of democracy,” said businessman and District 6 resident Robin Salzer, a member of the San Rafael Neighborhood Association. Salzer is owner of Robin’s Woodfire BBQ and Grill. “He did not vote for the people. He voted against them. At what point does the financial gain outweigh the quality of life? We don’t even know what the financial gains or job gains will be. It was a dereliction of his responsibility.”
Madison, a private attorney and a former federal prosecutor, was re-elected to a fourth term two years ago after a tough election battle against businesswoman Carolyn Naber, who staunchly opposed the NFL coming to town.
“During my campaign, I warned District 6 about Madison and his pro-NFL inclinations,” Naber told the Weekly. “He has shown his true colors and sold out his district. Every council member that voted ‘yes’ voted to cover up their incompetence on the Rose Bowl renovation, which is massively over budget. In every district in the city, when we had the NFL [question] come before the voters, they were against it. In District 6, which Madison represents, 86 percent of the people voted against it.”
Over the past two years, costs associated with renovation of the Rose Bowl have ballooned from $152 million to $195 million, sending city officials scrambling for ways to cover costs. Officials are attempting to cut costs by delaying some of the work. The NFL could help close that budget gap by generating between $5 million and $10 million a year, according to staff reports. 
The Rose Bowl has been in the running as a temporary home for an NFL team since AEG, formerly owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, got a green light from the Los Angeles City Council to build Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles, next to the LA Convention Center and across the street from AEG’s LA Live entertainment complex.
As part of the deal, a team must move to Los Angeles before AEG can break ground on the stadium. According to NFL bylaws, a team must have a home before it can move to Los Angeles. Also still in the running is a plan by Los Angeles real estate magnate Ed Roski to build an NFL stadium in City of Industry.
In order for things to work out for stadium owners and the league, a team would have to play in a temporary home while whichever chosen stadium is being built.
According to Pasadena city spokesman William Boyer, city officials have had “informal” talks with the league, but no deal is currently on the table. 
City officials earlier this year paid $400,000 for an environmental impact report, which revealed that there would be more than 25,000 extra car trips in the Arroyo Seco on game days. 
In 2005, after the council rejected plans for a pro team to play in the Rose Bowl on a temporary basis, 73 percent of voters citywide shot down a ballot initiative backed by Councilman Chris Holden and then-Council members Joyce Streator and Paul Little, which would have allowed a team to play in the Rose Bowl on a permanent basis.
At that time, the NFL was proposing a deal that would have given the league control over the stadium. In return, the NFL would have spent $500 million on renovating and expanding the historic structure to include retail shops and restaurants around the stadium. The plan alarmed residents and environmentalists alike. The deal also would have given the NFL naming rights to the Rose Bowl field. 
In the latest plan, the league would have no authority to build in the Arroyo Seco and no control over the stadium.
“We have to call things the way we see them,” Madison said. “There was a clear majority for this on this council. Are they going to recall Mayor [Bill] Bogaard or Vice Mayor [Margaret] McAustin? All that this [vote] means is, if an NFL owner wants to come here, we can have talks with them and look at the terms. That’s what we did the clear the way for a pro football team to play in the historic stadium on a temporary basis.
 More proof of the Metro lie  -- Directly from a Metro news release

 I'm amazed at how easily these people look on in the eye, and such a fabrication as this comes flowing out.  Everyone knows this 710 corridor is being pushed for the goods traveling from our ports to the rest of the nation. 
Failings' direct quote is at the very end of the article.
Thanks to Sylvia (Plummer) for the links.
~Carla (Riggs)

Doug Failing 
(Executive Director of Highway Programs-Metro)

wrote a letter saying he had been mis-quoted in the "Everything Long Beach" article (see below).

"Your primary concern is in regards to statements that may have been attributed to me, presented in an article that ran in the publication "Everything Long Beach", asserting that the State Route 710 freeway tunnel option is being planned as a goods movement corridor for trucks.  Please be advised that, while this may be the interpretation of the author of the article, that statement should not be attributed to me as the State Route 710 is not a goods movement corridor."

However..  This is where the lie comes in:

In a News Release by Metro, dated March 21, 2011, near the bottom of the article....
Metro states "The 710 north gap closure between the I-10 and the I-210 would complete the natural goods corridor that was begun several decades ago..."

Metro's Highway Program Shifts into High Gear with 18 New Projects Worth Nearly $1.4 billion Set to Break Ground in 2011 


Monday March 21, 2011

While public attention remains fixed on the dozen bus and rail projects mandated by L.A. County voters with the passage of Measure R, the half cent sales tax for transportation, Metro is working feverishly on a parallel track to accelerate its highway program.

This year that work will pay off as the agency launches an astonishing 18 new projects worth nearly $1.4 billion.

The goals are lofty but realistic, said Doug Failing, executive director of highway programs who joined Metro in 2009 following 30 years at Caltrans, most of the last decade as L.A./Ventura district director.

"If you look at the rate of congestion over the last 10 years or so, you'll see that in most major cities in the United States there's been a large increase. But here in Los Angeles we've had a very small increase in the rate of congestion. That's because we've made strategic investments in transportation.

It's not one specific project. It's money spent on city streets, ramp metering, signal synchronization. It's all of these things combined, plus the way we're growing our transit service," Failing said.
"What we can do with these projects is to actually reduce the rate of congestion. We would be the very first county in the United States of America to do so."

Among the tools in Failing's arsenal are a vast system of HOV lanes -- 500 miles of them -- the largest freeway carpool network in the nation. Added to the mix is a signal synchronization system that monitors traffic and alters light timing to keep traffic  moving. Freeway on-ramp meters regulate vehicle entrance and tone down snarls. Also in abundance are carpools, vanpools and coming soon, ExpressLanes, Metro's first congestion reduction pricing demonstration project, which will offer a system of toll lanes to attract drivers willing to pay to move faster than the flow of traffic on the I-10 and I-110 freeways. The movement of those drivers will likewise increase the speed of traffic in regular unpaid lanes. ExpressLanes is part of the transit plan to make better use of the highways and roads already in place, since there's not much space for building more.

For a transit agency to plan and fund highway construction seems to go against common logic. But Failing said Metro's 18 highway projects will actually enhance the ability of mass transit to do its job well.

"A significant number of the projects we're building this year are HOV lanes or HOV connected. We find that a number of transit providers -- from the Antelope Valley to Los Angeles; from Orange County to Los Angeles -- use HOV lanes for long-distance commutes. HOV lanes increase the efficiency of the buses that travel on them. That's important to both overall traffic and to rubber tire transit."

When a bus filled with commuters moves to HOV lanes, dozens of cars are removed from the freeways. Fewer cars mean improved freeway speeds, which in turn attracts more commuters to transit and loosens up city streets where Metro buses are stalled in traffic. The emphasis on these projects is not to be taken as a sign that Metro is building highways to encourage driving.

"That's not what we're doing," Failing said. "We're an exceedingly built up environment because of development that has already happened. The investments we're making now are to balance our system and to support those homes that have already been built."

The challenge, as always, is money. And so last spring, at the direction of the Metro Board of Directors, Metro staff began to explore the use of innovative public-private partnerships to accelerate delivery of highway projects that were not fully financed through traditional sources, such as Measure R.

Public-private partnerships are more and more viewed as attractive funding tools for cash-short transit projects. In one common scenario the design of a project is handled by an outside construction company rather than the funding agency. This can speed up the process and, accordingly, reduce costs. Also attractive is the fact that certain project development and implementation risks are transferred to private sector partners who have a vested interest in
making the building process efficient. And if there's potential future maintenance income--as with toll roads or lanes -- there is built-in incentive to complete projects that will be low maintenance down the road.

On the Metro roster for this year are projects designed to enhance an aging highway infrastructure at the same time they expand the capability of existing roadways and better coordinate them with L.A. County's growing network of buses and trains.

The projects include those funded by Measure R, as well as a handful in Metro's Long Range Transportation Plan. Many are sound walls designed to shield surrounding neighborhoods from the buzz of traffic at locations near the I-405, SR-134 and SR-138.

As soon as the end of April or perhaps early May, there could be a ground breaking for an HOV lane on the I-5 near Glendale/Burbank, between SR-134 and Magnolia Boulevard. Also along the heavily congested I-5 Freeway south between L.A. and Orange County, a series of six project segments are planned. The first of the six, the I-5/Carmenita Road Interchange, will start construction this July. (Three additional I-5 projects will begin within 24 months -- one at the end of this year and two midyear in 2012. The last two projects have a scheduled 2013 start date with all projects scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.)

Among other major projects set to break ground this year are a grade separation along the Alameda Corridor east at Baldwin Avenue and the San Gabriel Trench at the Alameda corridor east. As anyone who has traveled these areas knows, they are not just prone to gridlock; they are known for it.
In addition to the 18 projects set to go this year, there are four others that will likely change the face of Los Angeles County mobility in a significant way.

Already under construction and continuing this year is the Sepulveda Pass Improvements project northbound HOV lane on the I-405 between the I-10 and Highway 101. The 405 widening also involves reconstruction of on-ramps, as well as three bridges. It's an essential project, Failing said, because it's the only major corridor between the San Fernando Valley and the Westside, two major hubs for housing and jobs.

While this year's 18 projects and the I-405 are designed primarily to give people a better commute, three other high-profile projects in various planning stages but not yet scheduled, address the demands of commerce -- specifically goods movement from the twin ports of L.A. and Long Beach, the two busiest ports in the country, and goods movement from California's Central Valley, America's bread basket.

The I-710 south from the Pomona Freeway (SR-60) to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will involve a freeway widening and possibly a separate freight corridor that could be tolled.

The 710 north gap closure between the I-10 and the I-210 would complete the natural goods corridor that was begun several decades ago. Metro has been holding a series of conversations and outreach with the community, in an effort to collect ideas on best options.

A third, the High Desert Corridor, will be a brand new 63-mile east-west freeway between SR-14 in Los Angeles County and SR-18 in San Bernardino County. It would create a shortcut for goods movement from the Central Valley to the rest of the United States and trim back goods congestion through the L.A. basin.
Like infrastructure investment, goods movement investment is an investment in our future, Failing said.

"What made America great was the building of the system that allowed us to take products to market. America has lost jobs overseas. Even though American workers are still the most productive on the planet, we are not as competitive because we can't move  goods within our own country. We need to continue to make these investments so that we can have a healthy economy and we can continue to attract the kinds of jobs that are going to be necessary for us to maintain the standard of living we have."

Everything Long Beach  Same article as above.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Storm is coming: Need sandbags? L.A. Fire Department can help you

City News Service
Updated:   11/28/2012 08:29:42 PM PST
 LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Fire Department is giving away sandbags and sand, where available, at its 106 stations around the city today in advance of the season's first significant storms.
The first wave of wet weather, due tonight, is expected to produce a quarter- to a half-inch of rain, and at least one other frontal system is expected to deliver about the same amount over the weekend and Monday.

"We're not expecting this to be the mother of all storms," Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department said, adding that sandbags are typically offered for free throughout the rainy season.

Sandbags can be used to divert runoff that could otherwise flood homes, especially in foothill areas where normally dry creek beds can quickly turn into destructive torrents, he said.

Filling a loading sandbags will be up to residents, he said. Moving a large number of sandbags can be tough work, and Humphrey suggested hiring a contractor to handle any complex flood preparations.