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, August 30, 2012

'Residents 1, Metro 0'

With Avenue 64 off the table, West Pas residents now say ‘no freeway anywhere’ 

 Pasadena Weekly -- http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/residents_1_metro_0/11445/

By André Coleman 08/29/2012

Even after the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) last week took proposed plans off the table that would have extended the Long Beach 710 Freeway through their neighborhood, some local residents say the fight against the freeway remains far from over. 
On Monday, homeowners from one affluent West Pasadena neighborhood said they oppose alternative plans by Metro and Caltrans to build a tunnel that would start in Alhambra and end in Pasadena, near Huntington Hospital.
“We want the 710 nowhere to be found,” San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA) Vice President and local businessman Robin Salzer told the Pasadena Weekly. “There is no financial benefit to this going anywhere through Pasadena. It never should have been proposed, and it never should have gotten this far.”
The association was created specifically to oppose two alternatives being considered by the two transit agencies. One called for the creation of two 4.5-mile tunnels, approximately 100 feet blow the surface of Avenue 64, a two-lane street that provides a southern route from Pasadena to Highland Park, Garvanza and other neighborhoods in northeastern Los Angeles.
The other plan called for turning the largely residential street into a six-lane highway from the 710 terminus in Alhambra to the Ventura 134 Freeway. Both options, if approved, would have ultimately led to the destruction of hundreds of area homes.
Last week, Metro narrowed the number of proposals for the extension from 12 to five, taking those two options out of the running. The remaining proposals include only one freeway route — the tunnel from Alhambra to Pasadena.
Other options still on the table include: creation of a light-rail route from East Los Angeles to South Pasadena; creation of a bus line from Alhambra to Pasadena via Fair Oaks Avenue; 50 traffic improvement projects; and encouraging ride sharing. The options will be examined as part of an environmental impact study currently being prepared by transit planners.
Metro staff was scheduled to discuss the options Wednesday at its technical advisory committee meeting in Los Angeles.
In an Aug. 23 statement, Metro attributed public opposition to the plans as one of the reasons the agency removed the proposed routes along Avenue 64 from consideration.
“Metro staff, working in conjunction with Caltrans, is recommending that the list of alternatives being studied for the SR 710 north-south connection from Alhambra to Pasadena be pared from 12 to five for further environmental study based on operational, engineering, financial and environmental considerations as well as public input,” according to the statement.
Salzer said the neighborhood was steadfast in its conviction to stop the extension. For several weeks, signs opposing the 710 extension plans were posted on the front porches and lawns of nearly every home in the affected neighborhoods. 
“I said this would create a fury unlike anything ever seen in Pasadena, and it did,” said Salzer, who, along with his wife, former Councilwoman Ann-Marie Villicana, is relocating a historic home in an area of San Rafael in the path of the now-scuttled connector. 
“The neighborhoods won. We took it to the streets,” said Salzer, who also owns Robin’s BBQ & Woodfire Grill. “It’s not completely over, but if I was scoring, I would say residents 1, Metro 0.”
Salzer was correct: Opposition to the Avenue 64 was virtually universal, unlike anything seen in Pasadena’s recent history. More than 300 angry residents attended a Town Hall meeting at the Church of the Angels in Pasadena last week, one day before Metro made its decision. Other meetings drew similar large turnouts, including an Aug. 13 Pasadena City Council meeting at the Pasadena Convention Center attended by more than 700 people — nearly all opposed to Metro’s plans.
That outrage continued simmering well into this week. 
On Monday, El Sereno residents and members of the No 710 Action Committee showed up in full force at a Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee meeting to protest the proposed extension. The committee voted unanimously to oppose any form of a freeway extension. The full LA City Council followed suit Tuesday.
“We are going to fight all the routes. We want to continue to work with surrounding communities like Glendale and Highland Park,” said San Rafael Residents’ Association President Ron Paler. “Everyone is affected negatively by any 710 Freeway extension. When your quality of life is in jeopardy and you find out about a freeway 12 weeks before a decision is made, this came out of the blue for the majority of people who never received notification from Metro or the city. We are awaiting the review of the final recommendations.” 
Local politicians, however, are not waiting for the review. In published reports, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich called the Avenue 64 proposal senseless, adding that it never should have been on the table. 
Last week, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D–La Cañada Flintridge) called for an end to the proposed 4.5-mile extension and an investigation into Caltrans, which, since the 1950s and ’60s, has owned more than 500 homes it seized through eminent domain in Pasadena, South Pasadena and the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno — all in the path of the original overland freeway connector route.
The overland route has long been shelved due to a lack of federal funding, and four years ago, local transit planners came up with the idea of building a tunnel to connect the 710 and the 210 freeways. Before the homes could be sold, Caltrans would have to first declare them surplus properties, which it has not yet done.
The Pasadena City Council and the South Pasadena City Council have both voted to support a bill that would force Caltrans to sell the homes seized for the freeway extension. Co-authored by state Sens. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), the bill would require Caltrans to sell more than 300 homes and use revenue from the sales for local transportation projects.
A small number of residents of the Caltrans-owned homes would be able to purchase the properties at below market rates, due largely to provisions of the Roberti Bill. Named for former state Sen. David Roberti, the law allows tenants inhabiting those dwellings to buy them at affordable rates. The tenant, in turn, would not be able to sell the home for at least 20 years.
The Weekly first began reporting on complaints by tenants living in those properties in a series of stories by author and reporter Chip Jacobs called “Corridor of Shame.”
An audit of the Caltrans homes by the California State Auditor found that, between July 2007 and December 2011, Caltrans lost $22 million in rent due to underpayment by tenants. The state agency had been charging tenants below-market rate rents. The report also found that Caltrans paid out $22.5 million for questionable repairs. 
West Pasadena Resident Association President Bill Urban said he and his neighbors support LA’s efforts to stop the extension.
“We’re happier but we’re not quite happy,” Urban told the Weekly. “The tunnel would be a disaster for various reasons. The same residents that were fighting before will show up at the council meeting in Los Angeles to support the resolution the council is adopting. Metro thinks that everybody is going to go home, since Pasadena is off the table, but we are not going to go home.”

Freeway Expansion a Misguided Approach to Improving Air Quality

( EGPNEWS.COM -- http://egpnews.com/2012/08/freeway-expansion-a-misguided-approach-to-improving-air-quality/ )

By Felix L. Nuñez, MD, MPH

For decades, east and southeast communities living along the I-710 corridor, including Bell Gardens, where my community health center is located, have faced unrelenting exposure to hazardous particulate and noise pollution. Without question, improvements to the I-710 would benefit residents from Bell Gardens and from the other 17 communities that are located along the corridor. As a Family Physician, it was gratifying to read that the number one purpose of Caltrans’ proposal for the I-710 Corridor was to improve air quality and public health. However, I question the logic that implies that expanding the freeway to ten general purpose lanes and adding four lanes for trucks would achieve the purported goal of improving air quality. Rather than using $6 billion taxpayer dollars to expand this freeway to ten general purpose lanes and four lanes for trucks—as is being proposed with the I-710 Corridor Project—we should invest significantly in public transportation and speed the implementation of commercial and noncommercial zero-emission technologies. Such initiatives would reduce hazardous emissions and improve the quality of life for the residents and commuters of the corridor.

Everyday, our health center sees how high levels of exposure to carbon based pollutants along the I-710 result in negative health outcomes. Increases in the incidence of asthma and other respiratory illnesses are the most visible—but by no means the only—harmful effect. Diseases of the cardiovascular system, neurologic system, and cancer have also been linked to exposure to air pollution. There is little doubt that compounding exposure over a lifetime increases the risk of developing pollution related disease. Despite knowledge of this threat to health, there are ten schools, six day care centers and five mobile home parks within one fourth of a mile from the I-710.  This proximity almost certainly increases the likelihood of exposure related illness.

People who live in areas with high levels of pollution are often marginalized politically. Ninety one percent of the residents living in the I-710 corridor are people of color and often are medically indigent.

Experience and research on induced traffic suggests that if we expand a roadway to relieve traffic, additional drivers will fill the new “non-congested” space, leading to an increase in emissions. Despite well-documented lessons from countless other freeway development projects, proponents of the I-710 freeway argue that new lanes will reduce congestion and truck idling and therefore improve air quality. Given that these projects often induce more traffic, expanding the freeways to accommodate more cars and trucks is not a long term solution to our transportation and infrastructure needs. We have an opportunity to  move commuters to modes of transportation that use less fossil fuel—let’s not miss it.

The right approach to managing our freeways must move beyond the “bigger is better” mentality and instead incorporate a robust public transportation system and alternative fuel technologies. In its proposal for the 710 Corridor, Caltrans should analyze the impact of public transportation alternatives, such as constructing a light-rail line or Rapid Bus System along the freeway to increase mobility for residents of Southeast Los Angeles. To alleviate air contamination from the movement of goods from the ports, Caltrans should invest in the research and implementation of clean trucking technology. The corridor project should provide incentives for truckers, many of whom are financially strapped independent owner operators, to transition to zero or near zero emission technology.

A Health Impact Assessment of the I-710 Corridor recommended that “the alternatives being considered should include more concrete proposals and commitments to improve public transit, walkability, and bikeability.”  Moreover, it recommends that public transit, walking, and biking infrastructure in the Gateway Cities be fully funded before funding is sought for the I-710 Corridor. These are sound and realistic recommendations. Unfortunately, Caltrans’ over 10,000 page Draft Environmental Impact Report does not include the Health Impact Assessment.

Los Angeles’ massive network of freeways has caused our region to have the worst air quality in the nation. Transportation decision makers must take a lesson from regional history and develop a transportation system that contributes to healthier and stronger communities.

Felix L. Nuñez, MD, MPH, is a board certified Family Physician and Chief Medical Officer of the Family Health Care Centers of Greater Los Angeles, a nonprofit federally qualified health center serving the communities of Southeast Los Angeles.
 (from Carla Riggs)

FLASH MOB PHONE Call and email to the CalTrans Director Malcolm Dougherty and District 7 Director Michael Miles. 

with a cc to
Michael Miles, District 7 Director

Talking Points:

1. Cost of the tunnel(s) could rise above the current California State deficit.

2. The recent Audit of CalTrans mismanagement of homes along 710 Freeway Corridor.

3. Public process and public interaction with CalTrans is "non-existent".

Here’s a sample e-mail from John Picone:

Dear CalTrans Director Malcolm Dougherty:

I am writing to voice my concern regarding the continuing evidence of corruption regarding Caltrans’ mismanagement of the 710 freeway extension homes. These are the over 400 homes CalTrans
has supposedly been maintaining in the public trust for decades.

Examples of corruption per the recent audit as published in the media this August 2012 (see the many links below for more info):

1. Caltrans "passed up roughly $22 million in rental income for these properties between July 1, 2007, and December 31, 2011, because of poor management," auditors wrote.

2. For one of those vacant houses, state officials recently estimated it should have cost $56,000 to repair a roof and replace the garage. But the cost soared to more than $184,000 after it was expanded to include "miscellaneous interior repairs" — a coat of paint and upgrades to two bathrooms. "Caltrans could provide no evidence of the need for additional work," the investigators said.

3. The audit was commissioned after a June 2011 L.A. Times story on a series of roof repairs that cost taxpayers more than $100,000 each. That's four to five times what a private homeowner would expect to pay in Pasadena for similar work, according to roofing contractors who reviewed state invoices at the newspaper's request.

4. Four employees of the state’s Department of General Services paid below-market rent to live in the houses. The four employees work for Caltrans.

5. Nepotism was also a cause for concern, the auditors found. They checked the backgrounds of five small businesses that supplied $300,000 worth of goods to the Direct Construction Unit over the last year. Four of the companies were owned by members of a single family.






How can the public trust you – CalTrans -- to do to anything at this point? You need to get your house in order if you want to regain the public trust. Please investigate and publish a report for the general public to see.
In a follow-up to Tunnel Visions-Corridor of Shame, August 28, 2012 -- http://www.710studysanrafaelneighborhoodposts.com/2012_08_28_archive.html  -- in answer to the question as to who got the 710 extension on Measure R, read the following article --  http://t4america.org/blog/2008/11/19/denny-zane-on-measure-r-and-transit-in-la-county/:

Denny Zane on Measure R and Transit in L.A. County

[It appears from the article that the many backers of Measure R each got something that they wanted put into the measure. For labor, we can assume this means putting in the 710 extension.]

November 19, 2008
Denny ZaneWhen people think about Los Angeles County, images of high-speed subway lines extending to the sea and sleek light-rail cars passing through dense transit-oriented development are generally not the first things to pop into their heads.
But thanks to the November 4 approval of Ballot Measure R – a half-cent sales tax increase expected to generate $40 billion for transportation improvements, largely in transit, over the next 30 years – L.A. County’s reputation as the epicenter of sprawling development and automobile culture could be set for a major overhaul.

Denny Zane (right), a longtime community activist and former mayor of Santa Monica, helped lead the fight to win support for Measure R by heading up Move L.A., a coalition of labor, business, and environmental groups that saw a common interest in battling climate change, reducing congestion, and improving transportation options in the region.

In a phone interview this week, Zane spoke to Transportation for America about the process of building a unified front for the effort, the challenges in getting the measure on the November ballot, and the future for Los Angeles County and Move L.A.

What’s your background in local activism, how did it lead you into becoming involved with transportation?
In the late ‘70s, I became active in the rent control battles in Santa Monica, and at one point was the campaign manager for a ballot measure for rent control. We created a little political organization, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, and became the progressive environmental coalition that eventually expanded its issues beyond rent control and housing. Thirty years later, it has a majority of the city council and the elected board of Santa Monica.

That organization is what gave Santa Monica its progressive, liberal reputation. Prior to that, the city had a very conservative city government. I was elected to the city council in 1981 – the first year where we gained what we called a progressive majority – and my primary interests at the time were housing, land use and the environment. I got involved very much then in the objective of moving the city to have the greenest possible fleet of alternative fuel and electric vehicle technology, and very much involved in actually leading the effort to create the Third Street Promenade (the city’s landmark smart-growth development project). Those projects were very important because they were my environmental work and economic development, which gave me a lot of credibility with the business community.
Los Angeles Commuter Train

I was also the director of the Coalition for Clean Air – which expanded my environmental relations and history and knowledge – and worked very actively in what was the living wage campaign of Santa Monica, which became a sort of entrée into the labor movement. My father had been a steelworker, so that certainly was a helpful source of credibility.

How did the effort for measure R begin?
The process really started with me and Terry O’Day (the executive director of Environment Now) looking for foundation funding to get the environmental community in L.A. involved with transportation.

We decided to try to hook up with the labor community, in part because the labor community is powerfully politically, and it seemed like a natural alliance. At first we started talking about the Subway to the Sea, because that had been the iconic symbol for Mayor (Antonio) Villaraigosa’s election campaign. We were doing this for clean air purposes and greenhouse gas reduction just as much as congestion relief.

We had a hard time finding a foundation that would be interested in this because there was so little optimism about the ability of Los Angeles to deal with these issues, because it has not really done it before. This is still the automobile capital with an immature transit system – lots of buses, but not much in the way to of rail to flesh out the system. So we had to look for other sources, like the private sector, to support the effort.

A questionable future for transit
At some point, the MTA announced that they had six billion dollars for new capital projects over the next 30 years, which is a pittance. Then they announced that they had four billion dollars – Terry and I looked at each other and said, “That ain’t good.”

And within a month they announced that they now had zero. All of the problems were driven by the cost of materials for construction for permitted projects going up, thereby taking down money that was otherwise available.

We were looking at each other thinking, “This is incredible, the largest metropolitan area in the United States, is saying that it has zero money for new transportation capacity of any sort,” They had money for maintenance and operating what they already have in place, but they had zero money for new capacity. There’s about two million new residents expected over 25 years, so how do you fit two million people into this community and move them around without new capacity? That seems like a world of hurt.

Finding a direction
At that point we were no longer talking about the subway as the iconic project driving a transit agenda and we’re talking about finding money.

The only real money we could get would be from the voters, and in most cases that means you have to get a two-thirds vote. That wouldn’t happen if it were just a subway – people in the other outlying parts of the county would be unlikely to give it two thirds vote – so that means our thinking had to shift away from the subway to a comprehensive countywide plan.

It was very clear that November 2008 was a golden opportunity, because there would be substantially higher turnout in that election than most. But nobody would make the preparations because the general assumption was that two-thirds vote was too much, especially, considering the economy. This was all before the banks collapsed, even before gas prices started to rise – this was only the normal depressing economic situation. There were lots of other money things to be on the ballot – college bonds, schools bonds, etcetera – so in general, the political leadership thought “Well, two-thirds vote was too steep a climb, we wouldn’t make it, so sorry gang, but this has to be figured out some other time, some other way.

Uniting for a common interest
We were feeling like 2008 was too much of an important opportunity that we couldn’t simply accept that judgment at face value. We didn’t want the election to come and go and do nothing by default.
The decision was made to try to convene this business labor environmental dialogue, in order for this coalition to have a fighting chance to come together for November 08. We invited 35 organizations for a meeting in October last year, which was composed equally of business, labor, and environmental representatives.
Los Angeles Traffic

At that meeting I proposed to the group, that we needed to expedite the discussion about…transportation funding, and (we decided to try to) put something on the ballot.

Developing a strategy
We decided we could have this conference, which we had a couple months later in January. Three weeks before it happened, we thought we’d get about 125, but it turned out we got 350, so we were clearly exceeding our expectations.

It was a very interesting group of business leaders, multiple unions, and multiple environmental organizations, and the people who spoke were really starting to get with the program, including the mayor. The mayor had long wanted this to happen, but had felt there wasn’t evidence the constituencies and the voters were ready to make the kind of campaign that needed to happen. People frequently want election officials to do everything, but don’t appreciate the fact that elected officials can’t do everything – they need their constituency leaders to take initiative as well.

This time we had to create the parade ourselves, so the elected leadership would have a constituency to work with. The conference showed there was a parade, there was a constituency coalition ready to get to work, and there was such good energy in the room.

Movement towards November
My organization got funding to do its own poll, and we came in with 69 percent supporting a sales tax for a broad county plan, and that was encouraging. That led Metro to do its own poll a couple weeks later, and they came in at 71 percent, and that was encouraging. And the mayor’s office, being a bit skeptical about some of these polls, decided to do one of its own, so they did one a month later that showed 73 percent supporting the sales tax.

So now we had a group of numbers showing it was reachable.

There were lots of places where this could have just fallen apart completely. The legislature could have sat on the legislation, there was some efforts to pork barrel the legislation, which were resisted. When the bill passed, the governor was trying to veto everything until the legislature passed the budget, which held the whole measure up for a couple months and meant that no one could really be sure if there was going to be a campaign.

Thanks to the extra efforts of the mayor, and thanks to the efforts of the labor movement, we got five million dollars ultimately pulled together which was sufficient to have a decent TV and radio campaign. The key thing was we always knew that there would be a strong turnout and that the Obama factor was in our favor. The new voters going to the polls to support Barack Obama were voters that would give us very strong support and could push us to a higher threshold, and that’s exactly what happened.

Building a Future for Los Angeles County
The program is between two-thirds and 70 percent transit, which is remarkable for Los Angeles County, in the heart of automobile culture. About 15 percent of the money will go to the local governments for use as they see fit for transportation services. Many of them will use the money for transit. A conservative estimate is that if five percent of that local money goes to transit, than we are at 70 percent transit.

That will help keep the system solvent, the fairs low, and the service robust. Otherwise what we would be having is a rise in fares and services cutbacks just because of the economic situation, but now we can avoid that. The really new thing is there are multiple light rail systems in the measure, there are multiple bus rapid transit systems, high capacity bus programs, and of course, the iconic subway to the sea, although Measure R only funds it from Westin to Westwood. With federal help it will be able to make it to the coast?

A lot of this is electric, which I refer to as zero emission transit, which has got to be the direction for anyone serious about reducing greenhouse gas emission.

What do you think really made you successful? Do you think it had a lot to do with the political environment, with rising gas prices, with a growing interest in transit in general, or with traffic problems in the area being particularly acute?

One, the traffic congestion was so acute that everyone knew it was going to get worse. I think that made it believable that people would vote two-thirds, and the fact that there was going to be a presidential election with a high turnout, and the fact that you had a mayor who had campaigned on and was consistently prepared to support such a system.

[Next question to answer, why was CH2M Hill  awarded so many contracts: part of the tunnel study contract, the EIR/EIS contract, and a role in the P3 Advisory Team (Halcrow, Inc. was selected to be on the P3 consulting team in 2009. CH2M Hill bought out Halcrow, Inc. in 2011). Wouldn't the first contract put CH2M Hill in conflict of interest with further work on the tunnel project?]
Metro briefs community on final five 710 options

By Lauren Gold, SGVN  -- http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_21431799/metro-briefs-community-final-five-710-options

Posted:   08/29/2012 09:50:42 PM PDT

Loren Bloomberg, consultant for Metro, which hosted a TAC meeting to discuss the final five alternatives it has chosen for further study for the SR-710 Freeway extension in Los Angeles. (SGVN/Photo by Walt Mancini)

 Gallery: Metro hosts TAC meeting to discuss 5 final alternatives for 710 Freeway extension

LOS ANGELES - A contingent of "No 710" freeway extension activists posed tough questions Wednesday to a team of technical and environmental experts from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The grilling came in a session with representatives of cities along proposed routes - a meeting where members of the public are normally asked to remain silent observers.

Metro officials spent three hours Wednesday detailing the final five options it will study to close the 4.5-mile 710 Freeway "gap" between Alhambra and Pasadena: a bus route, light rail, "no build," transportation management solutions and a tunnel connecting I-10 and I-210.

Loren Bloomberg of CH2M HILL, the agency Metro hired to complete the environmental reports, said they used a "mathematical process" to weigh the top 12 alternatives before narrowing it to five.

"We brought in the highest performing alternatives," Bloomberg said.

Overall, the study determined each route's potential to reduce traffic congestion compared with its impacts.

Bloomberg said the bus and rail alternatives performed best in having low impacts on neighborhoods, but did not
rate as well in solving the transportation issues in the area.

Of the highway and freeway option that made the cut of 12, most addressed congestion but had more adverse impacts on neighborhoods, parks and historic structures, Bloomberg said.

In contrast, the F-7 tunnel route both improved transportation and had low local impacts, he said.

"It's very clear when you look at the impacts that F-7 is superior," Bloomberg said, "That left us with one freeway alternative that merits further study."

Despite Metro's detailed explanations, there were some numbers opponents felt were missing - the cost.

Metro officials estimate a tunnel would cost about $3.3 billion and would see about 6,000 cars an hour during rush hour. Metro official Frank Quon said much of this preliminary analysis is based on a 1.7-mile underground freeway tunnel that began construction in Seattle this year. He said further study is needed to determine the actual costs and benefits of all the final five alternatives.

But Ann Wilson, of La Ca ada Flintridge, criticized Metro's preliminary environmental and cost analyses, saying it should have considered what she called the inevitable toll that would help pay for the tunnel.

"The fact is you have an alternative in there with bad information," Wilson said.

Others complained that Metro's data was difficult to understand.

"I have an engineering degree, I have an MBA and I'm still trying to figure out what you guys are doing up here," said Gretchen Knudsen of Highland Park.

Lee Dolly, former Alhambra city attorney, was a lone voice from the audience in support of completing the freeway. He commented on traffic congestion that clogs Alhambra streets because of the 710 "gap."

"We've got too many cars, we've got unbelievable congestion in Southern California ... that's shown in every damn study," Dolly said. "Measure R was voted in by the people of this county by two-thirds and the tunnel that will close the gap is included in that."

Metro officials said such issues as tolls, trucks and environmental effects will be studied more thoroughly in the next phase of the environmental impact report.

Project Manager Michelle Smith said Metro also plans to make information more accessible and post it online.

Quon said the 710 project leaders will receive input from cities and residents on the final five routes and explore possibilities - including a possible "hybrid" project - by fall.

Metro will start the two-year environmental analysis early next year, officials said.

"This is just a step in that process moving forward," Quon said.

lauren.gold@sgvn.com, 626-578-6300, ext. 4586