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 16, 2012

Judge backs California high-speed rail over farmers


  November 16, 2012/ Associated Press

FILE -- In In this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo a sign against the proposed high-Speed rail system is seen on Highway 43 near Hanford, Calif. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley is expected to decide Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the project. Groups representing Central Vally farmers claim in the lawsuits that the California High Speed Rail Authority failed to conduct through environmental reviews and comply with public meeting laws. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)


FILE -- In this Sept. 13, 2012 file photo, a sign against the proposed high-speed rail system is seen at a home near the proposed route near Hanford, Calif. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley is expected to decide Friday, Nov. 16, 2012 whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would temporarily halt the project. Groups representing Central Vally farmers claim in the lawsuits that the California High Speed Rail Authority failed to conduct through environmental reviews and comply with public meeting laws. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, file)
A judge denied a request Friday from Central Valley farmers who sought to halt work on California's ambitious high-speed rail project, allowing work on the $68 billion project to continue at an aggressive pace.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley denied a request for a preliminary injunction, saying that the agency overseeing the project "acted reasonably and in good faith" in trying to comply with California environmental law.

Groups representing Central Valley farmers had hoped to stop the California High-Speed Rail Authority from all planning and engineering work because of their claims that the authority did not thoroughly weigh the potential environmental harms of the project.

Frawley did not rule on the merits of their case, which is expected to be heard this spring, but said he was persuaded that the state generally sought to comply with California's rigorous environmental laws, and that the potential harm to the state was much greater than the potential harm to farmers along the route.

The rail authority's chairman, Dan Richard, applauded the decision.

"Both the voters and the Legislature have spoken on high-speed rail," he said in a statement. "The judge's decision ensures that we can continue to move forward with our preparatory work to build the first segment of high-speed rail in the Central Valley, with a plan to break ground next summer."

The initial section will be a 65-mile segment running from Merced to Fresno, in the heart of California's agricultural industry.

In making his ruling Friday, the judge acknowledged that California laws require an understanding of a project's harm to the environment. Yet he said he did not feel there was sufficient reason to grant farmers a preliminary injunction, since actual construction is not slated to begin until July 2013.

The rail authority argued in court that the potential harm to the state for halting the massive transportation project was far greater than the objections of Central Valley farmers and landowners — up to $3.2 billion in federal funding if the bullet train does not meet federal deadlines, and $8 million to $10 million in higher construction costs.

"In this case — forgive me — we don't really care what goes on statewide. We're very concerned about what's happening in our county, and what's happening in our county is very real and it's happening every day," said Anja Raudabaugh, executive director of the Madera County Farm Bureau, one of the parties to the lawsuit. "My guys can't get operating loans to plant trees next year. My guys can't get operating loans to buy equipment for expanding their operations because they're in the footprint of the alignment."

The decision allows the rail authority to begin buying land along the proposed route and continue with site surveys, engineering design work and geological testing that began months ago.
Jeff Morales, chief executive of the rail authority, said the agency takes farmers' concerns seriously and wants to address them.

With the court decision out of the way, "we can begin interacting with property owners much more directly and start working with them to address their particular concerns," he said outside court.

The rail authority has already surveyed more than 300 parcels of land along the proposed route since Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation giving his approval in July.

Lawmakers approved the first phase of the planned 800-mile line this summer, allowing the state to begin selling $2.6 billion in bonds for construction of the first 130-mile stretch of the bullet train in the Central Valley. That approval also allowed the state to tap $3.2 billion from the federal government.

The money is contingent upon completing the first phase of the project by 2017, requiring what officials say is an unprecedented construction pace.

Voters approved issuing $10 billion in bonds for the project in 2008, but public support for the plan has dwindled in recent years as the project's expected costs have soared. The most recent estimate is at least $68 billion for the completed project linking Northern and Southern California.

In one of their court filings, opponents said rail officials are spending furiously because they hope "to become so financially committed to the currently conceived section alignment that it will be unthinkable to later choose another course."
Report on Metro's Stakeholders Outreach Advisory Committee (SOAC) Meeting 

Posted by John Picone on No on Measure J Facebook page (forwarded from an email from Sylvia Plummer)

Meeting was held on November 15, the same handouts as the TAC meeting were used.

Report from Bill Weisman --

The message from today's SOAC meeting was unmistakable:

The tunnel WILL be built. There are NO viable alternatives.

Hasan Ikhrata, SCAG executive director said, and I quote: "Any proposed tunnel alternative MUST produce equivalent congestion relief and air quality improvements, or it will not be considered." He also claimed this opinion to have unanimous consent from SCAG decision makers.

He strenuously denied that the tunnel had anything to do with goods movement, specifically mentioning the USC Keston report by name, saying that was old information from 2007 that was no longer applicable.

The rest of the presentation was focused on methodically demolishing all of the major counter-arguments to a tunnel project: there won't be ANY container trucks from the ports going to the 210, there are no life safety fire or ventilation issues that cannot be mitigated, tunnel opening at LOS F is from an incorrect/incomplete/flawed study, tolling will not cause congestion on local arterials, etc.

They (Metro, Caltrans, CH2MHILL) are proceeding under the assumption that the tunnel is a foregone conclusion.

There is still a little window dressing about the alternatives analysis (final report due in December), but even some of the alternatives, like BRT, seem to now have mysteriously migrated into the tunnel. Don Voss joked as we were leaving that next thing we might hear would be about a bikeway through the tunnel. I also briefly discussed with Don Voss after the meeting ended the fact that the concessionaire member of the PPP would of necessity have to retain the lions share of decision authority regarding toll setting. They're not going to commit billions into a project where they cannot control the revenue stream - otherwise it won't pencil out for their management and stockholders/bondholders.

The whole thing was kind of depressing.

Please feel free to pass this along to anyone else who needs to see it.


- Bill
Monday Evening City Council Meeting to Ratify Rose Bowl for NFL Games!

 Thanks to Ron Paler for sending us this important information~(received in e-mail from Carla Riggs)

The Pasadena City Council is meeting on Monday, November 19th at 6:30 PM to adopt the final Environmental Impact Report released last week permitting up to 25 displacement events at the Rose Bowl required to host an NFL team for up to 5 years.  IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT IMPACTED RESIDENTS ATTEND THIS FINAL MEETING TO VOICE THEIR CONCERNS OR SUPPORT OF THE CITY'S INITIATIVE TO BRING AN NFL TEAM TO THE ROSE BOWL TO HELP FUND ROSE BOWL CONSTRUCTION COST OVERRUNS.  The meeting will be held in the City Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall at 100 N. Garfield Avenue, Pasadena.

When over 1,000 residents attended the City Council meeting regarding the extension of the 710 FWY through a proposed San Rafael/Ave 64 Route, the Transportation Committee had no choice but to scratch this route due to the overwhelming outcry of the residents being impacted.

Loring Guessous (Western Arroyo Resident)

This following message is from Jonas Peters who started the petition "City of Pasadena Residents and Neighboring Communities: Oppose NFL's use of the Rose Bowl and even more HUGE events there," which you signed on Change.org.

Dear neighbors, friends, local residents and all supporters opposed to the NFL in Pasadena and the Rose Bowl:
Thanks for your previous support and signing our petition.
It is now really important that, if at all possible, you attend the City Council meeting this coming Monday, Nov 19th. More below. The short of it is that it is seems 100% probable that the City Council will move forward in favor of this NFL project, and they really need to hear from us. If not, it is a very real possibility we will be hosting NFL fans in our neighborhoods, in addition to UCLA fans, on a weekly basis in the future, from Aug-Jan, and that the entire Rose Bowl/Brookside area and all facilities will be fully closed to the public for 1-2 days every weekend during these months. A small number of us have attended previous meetings and represented all of us up to now, but we really need a good turn-out this coming Monday. I realize it is Thanksgiving week, but that is part of the City Council's scheduling plan to attenuate public turnout and input.
Note the time and place. It is "not" at the Convention Center, as the City Council originally suggested it would be.
More detailed info:
The Pasadena City Council will vote on Nov 19th to adopt the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), which will immediately cause them to change the Pasadena Municipal Code to allow 25 instead of 12 Displacement Events, and clear the way for them to enter negotiations with the NFL.
The City Council and Mayor Bogaard appear only interested in raising money to try to cover the cost over-run of the Rose Bowl renovation, offering essentially zero interest in the major environmental and quality of life issues that are apparent in the environmental impact study, along with the wealth of input they have received from dozens of citizens, neighborhood associations, and their own Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission in the last two months. They seem to have had their minds made up from the get go, and the EIR study and the recent meetings seem to have been more of a box-ticking exercise rather than an effort to gather information and have a substantive dialogue.
The City Council is swimming in Conflicts of Interest with respect to this decision, and it is imperative for folks to show up and let them know they will be held accountable.
* Two of the 7 members of the City Council are on the Rose Bowl Operating Commission, the commission that has steered the Rose Bowl into this financial mess and is looking for a way out and to save face. They apparently couldn't care less about our recreation, the air we breath, the traffic, noise, crime, and trash when weighed against needing to raise cash for a badly managed renovation. It's a desperate move and stands in the face of 72% voter opposition to the NFL in the Rose Bowl in 2006. And there is every likelihood that they are highly uninformed in regards to how much cash they can actually raise, and what the real economic factors are, and whether this will be a net positive or negative for Pasadena, regardless of all the obvious non-economic negative side effects.
* The City Council has literally censored formal input from the Planning Commission as a body (the Planning Commission requested the opportunity and was formally denied), and Council Members Gordo and Masuda can be seen on video at the last City Council Meeting stating the main reason for not allowing the Planning Commission to deliver input as a body on this matter is because it would be "legally problematic" in the event of a law suit against the City. In other words, the opinion of the Planning Commission is not helpful unless it supports endorsing the FEIR and the project, and given that individuals of the Planning Commission skewered the EIR at their own meeting on the topic, the City Council is censoring them so a conflicting opinion won't be available in a courtroom hearing. Incredible. Watch the video for yourself. The relevant dialogue arises at about the 2 hour mark of the meeting. Council member Terry Tornek is the sole voice of democracy and sensibility.
* At all of the recent meetings on this topic, virtually all members of the public who have spoken out have spoken out "against" adopting this EIR and moving forward. Neither the City Council, its staff, or any members of the public have offered detailed arguments as to why this project should move forward. In contrast, incredibly detailed arguments have been presented that argue agains this project.
You can see all of the info documented at the City Website by downloading the FEIR as a set of pdf files:
* The City Council collected all comments from the public by Oct 8th, scheduled a single meeting on Oct 29th to deny the Planning Commission request, had not meetings the first two weeks of Nov, and now is having the single meeting on the topic, before the vote, on Nov 19th, the week of Thanksgiving. They have timed everything to make it as hard as possible for the public to get involved.
* It is likely that most members of the City Council have not read the FEIR in its entirety (some have indeed admitted this as recently as the past week!), and moreover haven't read and digested all of the concerns raised by their own commissions, neighborhood associations, and members of the public. Indeed, there is been know public back and forth including the City Council, discussing any of the serious issues that were raised. They are moving forward "blind", because they had always planned on doing so.
So, come and let them hear from you. This is government at its worst, and it's happening right here in our City. While a lawsuit will likely be filed to try and stop this train, maybe there will be some impact if we all show up and tell them how we feel.
Thanks in advance, and Happy Thanksgiving. Sorry not to be spreading better news on this front. We hope to see lots of you at the meeting!

In LA, Not Election Fatigue But Democracy Fatigue


 Joseph Mailander, 16 Nov 2012



MAILANDER ON LA - In the aftermath of a high stakes election, there is an onset of a period of election fatigue.  This much is quite well-known.
But is there also, at least among elected officials here in the City of Los Angeles, a fatigue for democracy itself? 
Consider the following post-election anti-democracy antics of the past week from the leaders of the once-robust bastion of democracy that was LA.
The morning after the big election, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa caused many local political analysts to shake their lattes in disbelief when his cronies asserted that his own beloved Measure J, a punishing tax hike hopeful of handing the MTA an amount of money so vast that it was more typical to Federal programs than local largesse, was not entirely defeated in the popular vote.
Despite the pronounced verdict the voters rendered Tuesday, defeating a Countywide transit tax measure for the first time in over three decades, Matt Szabo, director of the Measure’s campaign and a top Villaraigosa confidante, hinted Wednesday morning to media that the Measure might yet pass on the strength of favor with provisional ballots.
Why those who were obliged to fill out provisional ballots would favor a big transit tax in vastly different numbers than the rest of us who voted was anybody's guess.  Indeed, it was only after several outraged objections by the tiny No on J team to media and the County Clerk’s office that the Mayor finally admitted to USC's Neon Tommy that, while he remained “hopeful,” he was also “realistic.”
The whole unfortunate episode called to mind other incidental Villaraigosa transgressions over the past few years that have flaunted an apparent disdain for the voice of the people.  A chilling reversal of a voice vote at the Democratic National Convention on a key platform flank, in which the Mayor ruled in favor of the side with the weaker voice, was the most recent instance.  But it also reminded local observers that Villaraigosa failed to debate any candidates in his own previous re-election.
“Like me, my staff is daring and unconventional,” the Mayor spun in the prospect of owning defeat while collecting himself for a new battle, and perchance even remaining hopeful to find a way to thwart the will of the people at some new point in the future.
Urges hostile to democracy similarly spilled over to the City Attorney’s office too this week, where LA’s beleaguered City Attorney Carmen Trutanich keeps accepting debate invitations that include former City Councilmember Mike Feuer and exclude the third candidate in the race, noted whistleblower litigation specialist Greg Smith. 
And further, early this week, there was the sad case of several of the City’s top future Councilmember-pensioners—the Councilmembers who are alums of the City’s Police Department—not disqualifying themselves from a vote Council President Herb Wesson’s plan to raise City sales tax by a half-cent.
Former Mayor Richard Riordan believes that the sales tax proposal is a ploy to pay employee pensions, the bulk of which are paid to Police and Fire retirees.  “These are pension taxes,” Riordan spokesman John Schwada told the Beverly Hills Courier earlier this week.
But Councilmember and former cop Joe Buscaino failed to abstain from voting on the plan—he voted in favor.  (Councilmember Englander, a reserve officer, voted against).  Buscaino has good personal economic incentive to keep pensions intact; he ran last year while underwater in his own top-of-the-market purchased home.  Police pensions staying dependable, along with Buscaino’s $178,000 a year salary, will go a long way to setting things right in the Buscaino household someday.
Finally, perhaps gaining the top prize in the post-election lower-than-democracy sweeps, there was Councilmember Paul Krekorian.
Krekorian, in whom there was once so much of the City’s promise invested.  As Cyril Connolly once quoted, with heavy pith and a nod to Euripides: “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first call promising.”
Krekorian’s fall from grace has been near complete already, but this week he outdid himself.  The ethical problems within the once-promising Krekorian’s shortcut-favoring office now are becoming too obvious for even local print media to ignore, and Krekorian is well on his way to becoming the City’s new S.S. Trutanich.
In this week’s episode, the Daily News’s Dakota Smith caught Krekorian’s office fabricating a phony letter from a phony constituent, all in the interest of allowing Krekorian to explain his increasingly tortured position on digital billboards in the City.
Longtime Krekorian-watchers know that his rogue communications officer Jeremy Oberstein often operates in a cocoon of smug silliness, dishing out snippy messages from the Councilmember in black shirts and Serpico-styled three-day beards that make him come across more like a Godfather extra than a media relations specialist, always professing perfect innocence in all things Krekorian.  Meanwhile, the Councilmember himself blithely smiles his way through meetings with anyone at all who might be able to help him bring another developer windfall to his district.
In the latest fracas, Oberstein even mustered the audacity to pride himself on his own “unprecedented” efforts in media relations—for which the Daily News also called him out, in a scathing follow-up editorial that hammered Oberstein and his Boss K too.
But Krekorian’s contortions are nothing new, even if they only now are garnering broader media traction.  My own readers may well remember that many thought his own former Chief of Staff, Adrin Nazarian, stayed on far too long for ethical comfort, inviting plenty of opportunity for influence peddling from key City lobbyists, before leaving his prime slot to focus on his now-successful Assembly run.  They also remember that Krekorian’s name came up at the Democratic leaning nationwide site DailyKos more than any other name in the on-going Kinde Durkee scandal—a State-wide scandal hatched from Durkee’s offices in Burbank, that as it happens was quite proximate to Krekorian’s own home base.
In days that were not very long ago, the City of Los Angeles was politically sturdy enough to withstand the hard battles of a healthy democratic process, and had a media interested in pursuing all angles to civic debate.  A scant decade ago, in fact, democracy was vibrant enough in LA that the City could even vote on whether or not it should split, amoeba-like, from itself, and spawn a new burg in the San Fernando Valley.  But the actions of the recent ensemble of electeds have succeeded only in inviting more cynicism and inspiring ever thinner ranks of citizens.  
With another civic election due in March, and all the old and older media people who stood as watchdogs to democracy now either consigned to smallish blogs or repping less than ethical office-holders themselves, the concept of the City of Los Angeles as a beacon of healthy civic democracy is becoming a nostalg

Voters Wise Up on “Traffic Relief” Tax


 Bill Pope, 16 Nov 2012

 VOICES - LA County Voters were wise to reject Measure J, the so-call “Accelerating Traffic Relief” sales tax extension. Measure J would have had the same effect as the original “traffic relief” sales tax Measure R passed by county voters in 2008. 

 It has now been four years since Measure R passed and several new freeway lanes and light rail lines have been added. Do you see any traffic relief? “No!” because both measures were really nothing more than welfare for land speculators; making existing residents pay for the transportation infrastructure required to accommodate the traffic from density-increasing land development projects because cities and the county are not willing to make the developers pay for it.  
In 2008, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) lead voters to believe that their proposed Measure R, which levied the original one-half cent sales tax increase, would bring us relief from our traffic congestion problems. 
They conned us into approving Measure R. However, Metro’s own 2008 Long Range Plan, which was used to justify Measure R, shows that even after spending the $150 Billion to be raised by the higher sale tax, county average freeway speeds are expected to be 32% slower and arterial travel speeds 27% slower than in the base year. 
All the higher sales tax will do for existing residents is prevent average freeway speeds from further declining by another 3 mile per hour on freeways and another 2 MPH on arterial streets. So, Metro, “Where’s the relief?” 
How does making us pay $150 Billion for new transportation infrastructure end up making congestion worse? Simple. Any additional money they can extract from us is looked at by city and county politicians as justification to approve more traffic generating projects for their land speculator-developer friends who fund their political campaigns. 
Unlike the area’s original developers who built all the original roads and passed that cost on to their buyers, today’s land developer aren’t required to pay for the infrastructure required to accommodate the additional commuters their projects add to the area. 
Although I can’t speak for other cities, the last time I looked at LA City’s internal traffic impact assessment and mitigation policies, developers could build over a hundred general-market condos and over 500 so-called “Senior Living” condos and not pay a dime to mitigate the impact of all that additional traffic on the rest of us. 
Even when a project is large enough to  require payment of a traffic impact assessment fee, they are only charged a nickel for every dollar it cost to accommodate the commuters their project add.
But traffic congestion would not be solved even if we are willing to pay the other 95% of the cost because cities habitually approve more traffic-generating development than can be accommodated on the streets and transit systems that will exist by project occupancy. 
I have seen projects approved where traffic demand will be 185% of infrastructure capacity, almost twice what the streets and transit systems, both existing and planned, will accommodate. Only a fool (or a paid-off politician) would do something this irresponsible. 
So regardless of how much tax money we were to give Metro, until cities and the county stop approving more traffic-generating development than can be accommodated, it won’t be enough the bring any meaningful “traffic relief” to those of us paying the [tax] bill. 
If you own property, you have already paid a very inflated price for the existing roads because the cost of those roads was included in what you paid for your property. Measures R is now making you pay for the mass transit systems to accommodate some (but not even most) of the next wave of people moving here. 
And Measure J would have required you to pay even more. So until city and county politicians start being responsible to they their constituents rather than responsive to their developers friends, don’t give them another dime. 
PS: The traffic assessment and mitigation policies and practices being used internally in the City of Los Angeles at least as of 2010 are contributing to the above problems.  Those policies are in violation of the City’s State-mandated General Plan Policies, which probably makes the City in violation of State law. 
If any sharp lawyer wants to pursue a class action suit on behalf of damages being suffered by commuters, or a wrongful death claim resulting from emergencies services being stuck in grid-lock, I will be happy to send you the evidence.