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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Final update, Measure J results


 These are the final results, posted this afternoon by the Los Angeles County Registrar. Measure J needed two-thirds approval, leaving it .56 percent short of passage.

In terms of actual votes, Measure J is a little more than 14,000 votes behind what it needed to pass.

As we noted the other day, turnout was less in 2012 than in 2008 when Measure R was approved with 67.9 percent of the vote.

In 2008, a total of 3,001,783 votes were cast in the Measure R election. The final numbers this year show that 2,863,951 votes were cast for or against Measure J.

At the polls, Measure J received 64.72 percent of the vote.  Among just the late absentee and provisional ballots, J got roughly 70 percent of the vote.

Here is the Registrar’s news release:

November 6, 2012 Presidential General Election FINAL BALLOT COUNT RESULTS
Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) Dean C. Logan announced the following Final Election Results as of today, December 2, 2012.
Today’s update included 35,565 additional precinct ballots. This brings the total ballots cast to 3,236,704, which accounts for a 70.46% voter turnout. For vote totals on specific contests, please visit lavote.net.

Certification of the Nov. 6, 2012 General Election is scheduled to be reported to the California Secretary of State on Tuesday December 4, 2012.

The mission of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk is to serve Los Angeles County by providing essential records management and election services in a fair, accessible and transparent manner. For more information, visit www.lavote.net.

Megabus.com to start service from Union Station on Dec 12, tickets go on sale today

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Starting Dec. 12, Megabus.com will be running bus service to/from Union Station to San Francisco and Las Vegas with tickets starting at just $1. And to celebrate the start of service, ALL tickets will be $1 for the week of Dec. 12 – 19. Ticket sales begin today.
Buses will be leaving from Patsaouras Plaza Bus Bay 1. Read the full press release from Megabus.com after the jump.
Megabus.com expands service to/from Los Angeles
Daily express, city-to-city bus service with free Wi-Fi from $1
All seats for travel during Dec.12-19 to/from newest cities will be $1
Company returns to California and Nevada based on customer demand
NEW YORK, NY (November 28, 2012) – Megabus.com, the first city-to-city, express bus company with fares from $1, today announced expansion to California and Nevada with services to/from Los Angeles.

Los Angeles residents can now travel to/from San Francisco, Las Vegas, Oakland, Calif. and San Jose, Calif. for as low as $1. Service will begin Dec. 12, and customers can begin booking travel at www.megabus.com today.
Megabus.com will offer frequent daily departures from its arrival/departure location at Los Angeles Union Station’s Patsaouras Transit Plaza, Bus Bay #1, near the Plaza entrance from Vignes Street.

Fares start as low as $1 every day and increase gradually as the traveling date gets closer. Customers are encouraged to book early to secure $1 fares.

“Express bus service from our new hub in Los Angeles is another way megabus.com keeps Americans connected,” said Mike Alvich, megabus.com’s vice president of marketing and public relations. “As California residents continue to look for ways to stretch their dollar, megabus.com is committed to safe, affordable travel during this holiday season and beyond.”
To celebrate the new service, during the first week of travel, Dec. 12-19, all tickets will be $1. After Dec. 19, megabus.com will continue to offer fares as low as $1, with many other affordable fares on all of its services.

“Megabus.com, which previously served Los Angeles in 2007-2008, has returned based on customer demand,” said Alvich. “We’ve seen impressive growth throughout North America and are confident that our 21st century double-decker buses with Wi-Fi and power outlets combined with our outstanding prices will be a success among Los Angeles residents.”

The company’s new service will make it possible for 247,000 travelers to visit the Los Angeles metro area during the company’s first year of serving the region. Additionally, more than 80 new jobs will be created with megabus.com’s expansion into California and Nevada.

“Tourism is a leading industry in Los Angeles that has enjoyed solid visitation growth over the last two years,” said Don Skeoch, Chief Marketing Officer, Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.  “There is tremendous demand for the LA experience and megabus.com provides travelers with an affordable and accessible transportation option.  We look forward to welcoming more visitors through the new, convenient hub at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles.”

In addition, megabus.com has partnered with Clean Air-Cool Planet, a national nonprofit organization that works to reduce carbon emissions and help create a sustainable environment. For every new Facebook friend and Twitter follower added on Nov. 28, megabus.com will donate $1 to Clean Air-Cool Planet; megabus.com will present a check to Clean Air-Cool Planet in December.

Megabus.com, a subsidiary of Coach USA, launched in April 2006 and has served more than 22 million travelers. In addition to affordable fares, megabus.com offers customers state-of-the-art, green-certified double-decker buses with free Wi-Fi, power outlets, seat belts, restrooms and are wheelchair accessible.
 Visit www.megabus.com for additional information about the service, schedules, arrival and departure times and fares. 

Megabus.com is one of the largest privately funded providers of city-to-city express bus transportation and serves more than 120 cities in North America, including routes operated by other Coach USA subsidiaries.

Megabus.com is the first express bus line to offer high-quality travel for as low as $1 via the Internet. Megabus.com operates service from 10 hubs in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Texas Triangle (Dallas, Houston, San Antonio), Washington D.C. and Toronto – creating more than 1,000 new, professional jobs. Visit www.megabus.com for a complete list of cities served.

Service for megabus.com operates daily. Fares shown are one-way and include all government taxes. Since its launch on April 10, 2006, megabus.com has served more than 22 million travelers. For the latest news and travel deals, follow megabus.com on Twitter at @megabus and Like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/megabus.com.officialpage.

Megabus.com is a subsidiary of Coach USA, one of the largest transportation companies in North America, and maintains the highest safety compliance rating (Satisfactory) from the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Paramus, N.J.-based Coach USA owns and operates 30 local companies in North America, some that have been in business for more than 70 years, which operate scheduled bus routes, motor coach tours, charters and sightseeing tours.

Caltrans tenants face higher rent


 Agency responds to mismanagement charges by seeking market rates for properties along proposed 710 route.


 A home owned by Caltrans at 1200 Pasadena Avenue. Caltrans bought homes in the area in the 50s to 70s to make way for the 710 Freeway extension into Pasadena. Now, they are preparing to raise rents. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / February 23, 2012)

Caltrans is preparing to raise rents on many of the nearly 500 homes it owns in Pasadena, South Pasadena and Los Angeles, in the wake of the state audit that blistered the agency for mismanaging the properties.

In August, the California State Auditor found Caltrans failed to collect $22.5 million in recent years by charging below-market rents, had inadequately overseen repair work and otherwise neglected properties originally acquired in preparation for building an extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway.

In October, the agency responded with a letter promising to fix the oversights by the end of 2012 while preparing longer-term plans to turn over management of the homes. Caltrans said it would request financial information from some tenants to see if they qualify for below-market rents, and would put in place a program to raise rates incrementally where appropriate.

The effort has drawn an angry response from some longtime tenants, who fear the moves will force them out of their homes and undermine a 1979 law requiring Caltrans to give them first dibs on acquiring the properties

John Kvammen, who has lived in a Caltrans-owned home in Pasadena for 39 years, said one reason he has stayed under poor management for so long is to exercise his right when Caltrans finally sells.

“If Caltrans starts raising the rent and prices me out, they are basically taking away 40 years of my tenancy in anticipation of buying this house,” Kvammen said. “ I think it’s criminal.”

Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said the agency must act on the audit's findings, but that it is not trying to throw anybody out.

“It is not our goal to displace tenants nor to deny anyone the opportunity to purchase a dwelling they inhabit when and if it is available for sale,” she said.

Wonder said tenants would receive at least 60-day notice of any rent changes, and that the increases would begin no earlier than March 1.

Local lawmakers question whether it is fair for Caltrans to charge market-rate rents even as residents and auditors say it has been a delinquent landlord.

“It’s only a fair-market rent if Caltrans is behaving as a landlord would in the marketplace, and they are not,” said Suzanne Reed, chief of staff for state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge). “Repairs are not made in a timely fashion, some of the homes are barely habitable, there are rat infestations, asbestos in ceilings, leaks, black mold.”

In its response to the audit, Caltrans promised to clean up its repair and improvement policies by the end of 2012, with many of the changes addressing cost management.

Reed said Liu, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty and Brian Kelly, the state's secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing, will meet with tenants in mid-December.

Anthony Portantino, who during his just-ended term in the state Assembly requested the Caltrans audit, said the interests of the tenants should be preserved as Caltrans untangles its problems.

“Caltrans has not been a good landlord for decades,” Portantino said. “We had to pull the scab off the mismanagement, and the tenants are sort of caught in the middle of that.”

Pasadena may close two elementary schools


 Budget woes may also scuttle plans to revive Linda Vista campus.


Looming budget deficits and declining enrollment at Pasadena public schools may force officials to shutter two elementary school campuses in 2014 and halt plans to reopen the former Linda Vista Elementary campus, Pasadena Unified School District Chief Finance Officer John Pappalardo said Tuesday.

Parents at San Rafael Elementary School, which is projected to close in 2015 due to seismic safety requirements, advocate moving San Rafael students to Linda Vista because it is the only other public school campus in West Pasadena.

The district has not made a decision about which schools may close or about San Rafael, said spokesman Adam Wolfson. School board members are expected to discuss the Linda Vista campus at a Dec. 11 meeting.

Supt. Jon Gundry “will consult with San Rafael parents before making his recommendation to the board [about Linda Vista], and it’s up to the board to make a final decision,” said Wolfson.

The school district is bracing for deep cuts in June to balance a $12 million budget gap next year.

Enrollment, a key factor in how much state funding the district receives, has decreased by more than 500 students since last year, according to district documents. A preliminary headcount in October identified 18,029 students at Pasadena public schools.

“We’ve had a precipitous drop in elementary school enrollment this year,” Pappalardo said during a meeting of the school board’s finance subcommittee Tuesday. “We know we have excess capacity in our elementary schools, and we are targeting at least two elementary schools for consolidation” after the 2013-14 school year.

Discussions regarding which schools may close will begin next spring, Pappalardo said, but he is pushing board members to decide soon whether to put the Linda Vista campus up for lease in the hopes that revenue could soften next year’s budget cuts. Leasing out Linda Vista would preempt its consideration as a replacement for San Rafael.

But officials estimate that reviving Linda Vista Elementary would cost the district about $12 million.

School board member Scott Phelps, who lives in West Pasadena, said Linda Vista should remain an option for redirecting San Rafael students.

“I support a public school on the west side,” said Phelps. “The west side pays the most in property taxes of any area in the district. … As a board member and a taxpayer, [eliminating all West Pasadena campuses] doesn’t seem equitable.”

Emily Mencken, a San Rafael parent organizer, said removing the Linda Vista option would fly in the face of community consensus and unravel nearly six months of dialogue with school district leaders.

“We’ve had open and direct conversations. This would feel like a complete right turn,” said Mencken.

“We’re not naïve. We recognize the fiscal environment,” she added. “As we’re looking at options, we’re also working to put together a development plan to try to raise the funds.”

Homeowners near the Linda Vista campus also oppose any lease deal that would close off public access to the school’s former two-acre playground, now a city park.

Documents show 382 students attending San Rafael this year, only eight fewer than in 2011-2012.

Washington Accelerated Elementary posted the district’s greatest decrease in enrollment, from 727 to 659 students this year. Altadena Elementary dropped from 405 students to 345.

 The district’s smallest elementary schools, Cleveland and Roosevelt, are also shrinking. Cleveland dropped from 293 students to 251, and Roosevelt slid from 300 to 259.

Field, Webster, Longfellow and Jackson elementary schools posted enrollment gains.

Port labor talks shift into higher gear, but strike continues



Strike continues at ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach
 Striking workers carry pickets outside the APM Terminal at the Port of Los Angeles. Talks aimed at resolving the 5-day-old strike were continuing on Saturday. (David McNew / Getty Images / November 30, 2012)

In a potentially hopeful sign, contract talks in the5-day-old strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went all night Friday and into early Saturday morning.

"Representatives of the harbor employers and [union] leadership have resumed negotiations today in an effort to reach a fair agreement that will end the strike," according to a statement released Saturday by the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Assn., which represents some of the world's largest shipping lines and terminal operators.

The strike, by the 800-member International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, has shut down 10 of the 14 cargo container terminals at the nation's busiest seaport complex.

In 2011, the two ports handled 14 million cargo containers. The next five biggest U.S. ports combined -- New York-New Jersey, Savannah, Oakland, Seattle, and Virginia -- moved only slightly more, at 14.6 million containers.

Even more telling of the two ports' economic impact, they last year handled 39.5% of the total value of all container imports entering the U.S. from origins worldwide, according to Jock O'Connell, international trade economist and adviser to Beacon Economics.

O'Connell and other economists have placed the impact of the strike at about $1 billion a day in forfeited worker pay, missing revenue for truckers and other businesses, and the value of the cargo that has been diverted to other ports.

O'Connell added that, based on last November's trade flows through the ports, the closures are stranding an estimated $1.125 billion worth of merchandise a day.

The union, which handles the vast amount of paperwork associated with the ports' container cargo, has been working without a contract since June 30, 2010.

Its strike has crippled the port because of support from the ILWU dockworkers, who have 50,000 members on the U.S. West Coast, in Canada and in Hawaii. The dockworkers negotiate their contracts separately, but the 10,000 members who work at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports have honored the smaller union's picket lines.

As a result, seven of the eight cargo container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles remain closed. Three of the six cargo container terminals at the Port of Long Beach are also closed.

The union says that its main issue is what it claims is the outsourcing of its jobs, which are being lost through attrition, retirements, illnesses or other reasons.

The shipping lines and terminal operators say the union's outsourcing claims are bogus and say they have offered "absolute job security."

The employers have repeatedly said the union members are the highest-paid clerical workers in the U.S., having a total compensation package of $165,000 a year, including wages, benefits, pension contributions and paid vacation. That package would be worth $195,000 a year under management's new offer, the employers have said.

On Saturday, the union offered a rebuttal, saying that the employers' claims were misleading. Wages reached $40 to $41 an hour, for an annual pay level of $80,000 to $82,200 a year, not counting overtime, retirement or benefits. The union has asked for a 2.5% raise, said union spokesman Craig Merrilees.

Since the strike started, nine ships have either diverted at sea or briefly anchored outside the ports before leaving to unload at another harbor.

But there were no new ship diversions on Saturday, said Capt. Dick McKenna, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which tracks vessel movements. McKenna said some ships inbound to Los Angeles and Long Beach appeared to have slowed down, lengthening their cruise times, in hopes that the strike might be resolved before they arrived.

Japan's Sasago Tunnel Collapses Outside Tokyo Causing At Least Five Deaths

Huffington Post UK  |  Posted: Updated: 02/12/2012 10:04 GMT


(There are many articles on the Internet on the tunnel collapse. Google "Sasago Tunnel" to find them.)

One of Japan's longest tunnels has collapsed, trapping vehicles amid reports that at least five people have died.

Sections of concrete fell from the ceiling of the Sasago tunnel, 50 miles west of Tokyo, crushing cars and blocking the road with debris, report Sky News.
smoke tokyo

Smoke could be seen billowing from the mouth of the tunnel
The tunnel began to cave at 08:00 local time (23:00 GMT Saturday), report the BBC. A fire is believed to have broken out and charred bodies have been pulled from the mouth of the tunnel by rescue workers.

The operation has been suspended amid fears that more sections of the tunnel could cave in. The entire road has been closed, blocking one of the major routes out of the capital.
tunnell japan

The road has been shut out of Tokyo
Survivors described how they accelerated as they saw the roof collapse ahead of the them. Some were forced to abandon their vehicles and flee the tunnel in dark and freezing conditions.

One man told NHK broadcaster how he walked for an hour to get out of the 2.7 mile tunnel after seeing "a concrete part of the ceiling fall off all of a sudden when I was driving inside. I saw a fire coming from a crushed car".

A spokesman for Yamanashi Prefectural Police told Agence France-Presse: "A number of charred bodies were confirmed inside. The number of dead is not known."

Comments to the article

How horrendous. This is one reason why the idea of travelling in a tunnel worries me, particularly the channel tunnel as there is no way out for a vast length. Poor Japanese hit again by tragedy.

 bad workmanship somewhere along the line 

 There are several other possibilities, including hidden damage from an earthquake. We do not yet know the cause, and should not be quick to condemn the design or workmanship.
No doubt the Japanese will carry out an urgent and thorough investigation much faster than we would in similar circumstances.
My sympathy to all involved and to their families.

With the greatest respect that is just an assumption. The rock above the tunnel may have developed hidden fissures over the years due to earthquake activity. If that is the case no amount of concrete in a tunnel lining would stop it collapsing.

It is not about workmanship but how much we trust our technology in the natural world.

i notice that one end of the tunnel is conventional shape and the other is worryingly square......and by the looks of the one set of internal pics from the monitor , the collapsed section, looking at the sections on the ground, seems to be square construction also..... which is a fundamental design flaw, as with their continuous seismic activity, the pressure above builds..... this is my first impression as a USAR technician..... gdp 

 In no way am I an expert at these things, but do know that a 'round/oval' shape can carry more weight then any other. I noticed the round vs square difference too.

 Pure speculation, although it is true that a circular tunnel is the strongest form.
Our own Dartford tunnels look almost square, with slightly curved sides and roof.
However the structure is circular, and is hidden by a lining. I do not know for sure but suspect that the same is true of the "Square" part of this Japanese tunnel. 

 If you look at the photos of the 'square' end again you will see that the tunnel itself is indeed a curved structure.
The tunnel comes out under a steep embankment and, in case of rock fall or landslide the tunnel is terminated in this way to prevent damage to the tunnel lining.
Notice the massive support beam over the end of the tunnel, that is there to protect the end of the tunnel from impact damage from above. The structure was probably put there when work on the tunnel first started and left in place.
Regarding the design of the tunnel it is certain that it was scrutinised by leading authorities with experience of tunnel building world wide before work started. It was an ambitious undertaking that probably cost billions, they would have taken no chances on the actual design.

a long reply: speculation or not...... it collapsed....the billions investment failed the deceased. there was and is a fundamental flaw in the design, similar to their nuclear facility... Actually i chair the UNESCO Global Task force for Building Codes..... so I speak with an intelligent eye...but agree we dont have the full design specs infront of us...... However i will now state very publically, that whilst we within the UN are concentrating upon developing resilience within multi risk developing countries, emerging with fast urban development and increasing populations....... the Developed Countries of US, Japan and the UK etc are all experinecing enormous Natural and Man enhanced disasters of structures and within their rural environments..... I believe we have become very complacent, and do not review our structures and resiliences sufficiently in the holistic approach. By Looking for the small cracks unfortunately we unfortunately miss the bigger picture. Too many assumptions and not enough investigation. I think on this occasions it is a situation of multiple accumulative small seismic events,and possibly motor traffic vibration inside, settling the ground above and around, compacting it tighter and tighter into a heavier concentration, until one day the designed tunnel casing fails. 

 Don't know, but a 4.7km tunnel in an earthquake-ridden country doesn't appeal to my highly tuned sense of self-preservation which is what we're calling cowardice nowadays.