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, October 19, 2012

Measure J would extend sales tax hike to 2069, accelerate transportation projects


Updated:   10/18/2012 05:03:10 PM PDT
Thanks to a half-percent sales tax that voters overwhelmingly approved three years ago, the largest expansion of Los Angeles County's public transit and highway system is well under way.

But with some projects still decades from completion, voters are now being asked to accelerate the process by committing to pay that half-percent sales tax for 30 additional years.

It is currently set to lapse on 2039.

Measure J, if approved by two-thirds of voters on Nov. 6, would extend that time frame to 2069 and raise $90 billion in revenue.

Opponents of Measure J argue there is no need to extend the sales tax so soon after the adoption of Measure R.

But supporters argue the ballot initiative would speed up construction and lower the cost of building transportation infrastructure by allowing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to sell bonds while interest rates are at near-record lows.

 Under that scenario, Metro says it could complete a new rail or rapid bus project through the Sepulveda Pass by 2025 instead of 2039.

Meanwhile, the Purple Line would reach Westwood by 2022 instead of 2036, and move closer toward becoming the "Subway to the Sea," according to Metro's projections.

The Green Line would connect to LAX by 2023 instead of 2028, and highway improvements would be accelerated on the 405, 5 and several other freeways.

Some portion of the Measure J revenue would be set aside for Metrolink rail service, as well as for local governments to repair potholes, improve pedestrian walkways and bikeways, and operate car-pool and rideshare programs. 

 Proponents predict the ballot initiative would also speed up the creation of thousands of jobs. Currently, the county's unemployment rate hovers at about 11 percent.

"With Measure J, we can build all these projects in the next decade at considerably less cost than if we were to wait 30 years, because interest rates and construction costs are not going to stay this low forever," said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who sits on Metro's Board of Directors.

A 2008 study by the private nonprofit Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. estimated Measure J would cost Los Angeles County residents an average of $25 per person each year, an amount that would remain constant when adjusted for inflation.

Since Measure J is intended to start construction on seven rail and rapid bus projects and up to eight highway projects within the next five years, LAEDC estimated it would accelerate the creation of 250,000 new jobs.

Under the original timetable, some of those projects would not break ground for 20 years.

Measure J funding slated for Metrolink and local government transportation projects are expected to add another 220,000 jobs, according to the LAEDC.

Opponents of the ballot initiative, however, criticized Measure J's list of projects, saying most are concentrated in the city of Los Angeles, to the detriment of the rest of the county.

"This is stupid," county Supervisor Mike Antonovich said. "It's premature and unnecessary at this time."

He argued the original ballot measure that created the half-percent sales tax, Measure R, will not lapse for 27 years, so there is no need yet for the extension sought by Measure J.

"We can wait to have a ballot initiative in the next election to include all of the various transit needs of other cities," he said. "Let's first have community involvement, and then go forward."

Another sore point for Antonovich is that Measure J does not connect several local airports to existing rail service.


Endorsement: Yes on Measure J -- It's traffic relief in L.A. County faster, cheaper


Posted:   10/14/2012 10:34:54 PM PDT 
Updated:   10/15/2012 06:34:52 PM PDT
 Take a look at the congested freeways that wind through Los Angeles County. Motorists sit for hours to move a few miles during the morning commute. The agony continues on the way home. Even the weekends can be unbearable sometimes.
That's why Los Angeles County voters should say "yes" to Measure J, an extension of Measure R in 2008 that will expedite an array of highway and light-rail improvements - and do it for far less money.

Measure J would continue the half-cent sales tax through 2069, allowing the county to speed up critical projects and take advantage of low interest rates and construction costs.

As one proponent said, "It's acceleration on steroids."

Measure J comes at a challenging time with so many other bond and tax issues competing for the attention of voters in November. But this is not a new tax. Saying no wouldn't stop the 2008 sales tax or any of its transportation projects.

In its favor, voters can already see the fruits of Measure R, which has produced tangible results in fewer than four years: The Crenshaw and Exposition rail lines and the Orange Line bus lane extensions, to name a few examples.

Future voters should be footing some of the bill for transportation projects that they will benefit from by paying a mere 50 cents on every $100 spent in the county through 2069. That leverage would allow current taxpayers the ability to see some of the projects come to fruition and actually enjoy the benefits now. 

 For example, the Green Line - which abruptly ends in an obscure area of Redondo Beach - would be extended farther down into the South Bay by 2020, a full 15 years earlier than initially promised.

The Gold Line eastside extension into San Bernardino County would be completed by 2022, which is 13 years earlier than projected. Several highway projects throughout the region would also be accelerated, aimed at improving capacity on traditionally congested arteries such as the 405, 605 and 110 freeways.

Opponents incorrectly claim that Measure J gets rid of some of the protections that prevent money grabs from one project to another - specifically to support Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's pet project known as the "Subway to the Sea." That's not true.

An amendment by Duarte Councilman John Fasana - a former opponent of this tax who has since converted - prohibits these funds from being transferred from one region for another.

For example, money earmarked for highway projects in the San Gabriel Valley could be reallocated to the Gold Line rail line extension - but not for a subway extension into the Westside of Los Angeles. Projects slated for the South Bay, the San Fernando Valley and other areas of Los Angeles County are similarly protected, thanks to Fasana.

Another gripe is that this is just too soon. But that can be fixed by future taxpayers. If this sales tax doesn't make sense 25, 30 or even 50 years from now then it can be reprogrammed to include new projects that we might not be able to foresee as the region's transportation needs evolve. Future voters - our children and grandchildren - can even opt to end it through a referendum.

By voting for Measure R four years ago, Los Angeles County voters showed they would do just about anything to ease the daily grind of traffic congestion during their commutes.

Voters can - and must - speed along the progress of transportation projects aimed at making their lives a little easier by voting in favor of Measure J on Nov. 6.

Foes of transit sales tax extension face uphill battle


 Measure J would extend the half-cent levy an extra 30 years, to 2069. Backers are an array of interests fueling their bid with money. The opposition is a relatively low-budget, grass-roots effort.

Measure J 


A small group of opponents to a three-decade transportation sales tax extension on next month's ballot huddled this week for their first news conference, a thinly attended event in a Hyde Park parking lot.

Only two television stations showed up — one from USC — signaling the kind of David versus Goliath battle they face.

The Coalition to Defeat Measure J included a smattering of groups with accumulated grievances against the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Among them were bus riders who feel shortchanged by the agency's heavy spending on rail projects and Beverly Hills school officials battling part of a subway route beneath their city.

That same day, the head of the Yes on Measure J effort was hurrying to pick up yet another financial donation and was gearing up for a television advertising blitz to promote the proposed tax extension.

"This has been a very good week," said campaign leader Matt Szabo, a former top aide to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who is also running for a seat on the City Council. "We've gotten a lot of money for J and a … nice set of [newspaper] editorials."
As the campaign to extend the half-cent tax for an extra 30 years heats up, the strategies and fundraising efforts between the two groups could not be more different.

The organized opposition is a relatively low-budget, grass-roots effort consisting mostly of groups highly critical of Metro and only a few elected officials, including county Supervisors Don Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich, who also chairs Metro's board of directors, and City Councilman Bernard C. Parks. The proponents, meanwhile, are a well-heeled array of civic leaders, business interests and union members who are fueling the campaign with money and support.

Recently released campaign disclosure statements show that Yes on Measure J received $171,000 through Sept. 30, with the largest donation of $100,000 coming from the shopping center giant Westfield, which owns a mall in Century City at a proposed stop for the Westside subway extension.

But Szabo and other pro-J organizers said that they have since raised far more than that, and that they will have enough to fund a spate of television spots in the two weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election. On their website, they highlight big-name donors like Eli Broad and Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. as providing "major funding," and Szabo said they hope to raise at least $2.2 million to $3 million.

"What I'm doing today in between meetings to collect money for J is we're shooting our ads, traversing the county and doing that as well," Szabo said Tuesday. "We'll have enough to certainly be up on TV for the last two weeks."

The Coalition to Defeat Measure J isn't likely to run any television ads because it lacks the funds for a series of commercials. And when asked how much money the group had raised for its campaign, Damien Goodmon of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition simply responded: "We're grass roots."
Measure R was the original half-cent transportation tax for 30 years that voters passed in 2008. It is estimated to bring in about $36 billion over its life span. Measure J would remove the sunset provision and extend the tax another 30 years, until 2069, or until voters decide to end it.

Voters only narrowly approved Measure R, and the question is whether these opposition groups will have enough reach to help derail Measure J.

Villaraigosa has championed Measure J, saying it would allow transportation officials to borrow against future tax revenues and speed up construction of several transit projects, including the Westside subway extension and a downtown rail connection.

Denny Zane, head of the pro-J group Move LA, said he thinks voters will respond to the message that Measure J will both help fuel employment and improve transit.

The strategy is to sell voters on "jobs, jobs, jobs … jobs and traffic relief in as many different mediums as we can," Zane said.

But critics of Measure J say Metro has already fumbled its handling of much of the Measure R money on ill-conceived projects that benefit contractors and developers more than the public and by prioritizing rail over the more widely used bus system.

"Measure J needs corporate backers with deep pockets, because Metro's reputation among regular people at the community level is tarnished," said Eric Romann of the Bus Riders Union. "Despite all the money and all the hype behind Measure J, we believe voters of L.A. County will see this proposal for what it is, a blank check for corporate welfare at the expense of the well-being of local communities."

Romann conceded that the opposition doesn't "have anywhere near the resources that the Yes on J campaign has," but he hopes a committed army of organizers can turn the vote. His group has been working the phones to reach voters and will continue to do so until the election. They also plan to be at events like Taste of Soul this weekend in South L.A. to try to sway voters.

The informal coalition held another news conference Thursday with Antonovich, who as chairman of Metro's board is in the minority in his opposition to the tax extension. At the news conference, Antonovich equated Measure J to a "shakedown" and said it "does not meet the bus needs, the rail needs, the taxpayer needs, and it locks in funding until 2069, when all of us are going to be in the local cemetery."

Recent polling by the Yes on J group suggests the vote could be close, with 68% of likely voters in favor of the initiative and 22% against. Passage requires approval from at least two-thirds of the ballots cast.
Times staff writer David Zahniser contributed to this report.
Downtown Pasadena Residents Association Meeting on Oct. 18,2012:  Report from John Shaffer

John Shaffer gave a presentation to the Downtown Pasadena Residents Association last evening.  Here is his report:

Not a large turnout tonight (probably 20 to 25, counting Sarah and me), but a very intelligent group that clearly is focused on our community.  They were largely against the tunnel, but asked some good questions and raised some good issues.  Sarah asked whether they would formally oppose the tunnel, and they said they would take it up at their next board meeting.

 A few points / issues:

 1) Joe Cano was there from El Sereno, and he volunteered to do a staged DVD of the program.  His email address is joecano@adelphia.net   I am happy to participate, select some slides, talk, etc., but schedule-wise I can’t really do more in terms of the planning for this.

2) I have too many slides for a group that is going to ask questions and engage, which they did, and I ended up going back and forth a few times.  Unfortunately, one-size doesn’t fit all perfectly, but I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise.  In any event, by skipping a few, we got through fine, I think.

3) There were some important issues raised about induced demand, and whether there are statistics that support the “demand follows capacity” argument.  Similarly, we had some discussion about the fundamental policy question of whether it is good to make it easier for people to drive further.  It was noted by one person that some people can only afford homes in the Inland Empire.  On the other hand, there are societal costs to sprawling cities, and should taxpayers be subsidizing those costs by building highways, when developers aren’t paying all of the societal costs caused by development (for example, what did developers in the Inland Empire pay to fix the traffic problems caused in Pasadena by the 210 extension)?

 4) There was confusion about the No 710 Committee’s position on Measure J, not surprisingly.  I said the Committee itself had no position, but many individual members opposed Measure J.  I said for me it was a mixed bag – I support the funding of transit, but I don’t support the additional funding of highway projects and locking into particular transportation plans that may not make sense in the future.  Jonathan Edewards mentioned the moving of money, but I noted that too was a mixed bag because the money could be moved to highways.

 5) People were interested in alternatives, and what the No 710 Committee supported.  I noted Gold Line improvements, freight-by-rail improvements, and that South Pasadena was working on a low-build model that the 710 Committee would be studying closely.

 6) Tim Brick, who served on the Metropolitan Water District Board and is, to say the least, something of an expert on water, disagreed with a statement that I had picked up from the District 7 forum on the 710 – that the tunnel could allow contaminated water from the Pasadena area to flow down into the San Gabriel Water Basin.  His view was that most of the Pasadena basin was clean enough to use, and that the San Gabriel Basin had its own contamination issues anyway.  He is, however, an opponent of the tunnel for a number of other reasons, including the difficulty of building the tunnel through wet areas.  Note that this doesn’t change anything in the Powerpoint slides themselves; they simply mention that the tunnel cuts through two water basins.  But he did not agree that would lead to cross-contamination of the water basins.

 -- John Shaffer
CH2M Hill Contract extended 7 yrs, extra 6 million for Bridge Improvement Program- Measure R
Posted by Tina G. Miller on No 710 on Avenue 64 Facebook page
 LA City Council October 23, 2012

10-1711 COMMUNICATION FROM CHAIR, PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE relative to Contract Amendment No. 2 with CH2M Hill, for project management services for the Bureau of Engineering Bridge Improvement Program. Recommendation for Council action, SUBJECT TO THE APPROVAL OF THE MAYOR: APPROVE and AUTHORIZE the President or two members of the Board of Public Works, to execute Amendment No. 2 to Contract No. C-109434 between the City of Los Angeles and CH2M Hill to extend the contract term for seven years through October 31, 2021 and to add $6 million to the contract ceiling, subject to the approval of the City Attorney. Fiscal Impact Statement: The City Administrative Officer reports that the proposed amendment extends the term of the program management services contract between the City and CH2M Hill, with no fiscal impact on the General Fund. The maximum compensation of $16 million for these services will be paid by Federal Highway Bridge Program funds, City Measure R Local Transportation funds and State Proposition 1B Transportation Bond Program funds. Community Impact Statement: None submitted.

Protesters rally against proposed railyard on Long Beach border


By Phillip Zonkel Staff Writer
Updated:   10/18/2012 09:48:48 PM PDT
   Brianna Garcia, right, joins other protest against the Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) Project in Wilmington on October 18, 2012. The SCIG involves the construction and operation of a railyard between Sepulveda Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway along SR-47. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

WILMINGTON - In the latest confrontation over a proposed railyard on Long Beach's western border, more than 100 people rallied to oppose the project Thursday night before a public hearing.
As the 6 p.m. hearing being held by Port of Los Angeles officials got under way, the crowd filled the room to give written comments on the port's environmental impact report analyzing the development.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe wants to build the 153-acre Southern California International Gateway railyard in Wilmington near the Terminal Island (103) Freeway, south of Sepulveda Boulevard, north of Pacific Coast Highway and east of Alameda Street.

The proposed $500 million railyard would pass by five schools, a day care center and homeless housing for veterans, opponents say. Some of the neighborhoods that would be most affected are in West Long Beach, an area that already experiences unusually high asthma and other health problems.

"We don't want our kids' lungs to be filters," said John Cross, president of the West Long Beach Neighborhood Association.

During the rally, several community and environmental groups opposing the project wore white T-shirts with the words "Southern California International Gateway (SCIG)" crossed out by a red line. They also carried picket signs reading "Protect our health."

Labor union members who support the project were also at the meeting, though not in the numbers of the opponents. Supporters wore orange T-shirts printed with the words "clean air" and "good jobs."

The meeting was part of a 45-day comment period on the project's updated draft environmental impact report. The previous report had used old data, so the study was revised.

The written comments submitted there will be entered into the public record, said Chris Cannon, the Port of Los Angeles' director of environmental management.

Port officials didn't take any questions.

Most opponents of the proposed project said they were upset that it's located next door to their neighborhood, adding that it will generate 5,500 additional truck trips and 16 train trips daily.

Findings in the report, released last month, indicate that without the railyard, traffic along the Long Beach (710) Freeway will increase dramatically. Supporters say this shows the project has both traffic and environmental benefits.

Cross and others recommended an alternative site on Port of Los Angeles property that is closer to the docks.

Cannon said the proposed location is the only option.

Railroad officials contend that the project will use green technology at the facility and help remove 1.5 million trucks per year from the 710 Freeway.

But critics say the technology isn't that green because the trains are not zero-emission, so they are still polluting.

"They're using 19th century technology with locomotive trains," said Jesse Marquez, executive director of the Coalition for a Safe Environment. "We have 21st century technology with zero emissions, electric trains."

Proposed in 2005, the facility is designed to help accommodate the rising cargo demand by allowing trucks to load containers and put them on trains closer to the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, rather than having trucks drive 24 miles away to another BNSF facility in downtown Los Angeles.
The Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners might vote on the project before the end of the year.

If the board approves the project, opponents say they will appeal the decision to the Los Angeles City Council. If the council approves the project, opponents will consider a lawsuit, said Morgan Wyenn of the Natural Resources Defense Council.