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, December 6, 2012

Caltrans to fix 605-10 freeway interchange 


(I've been wondering for at least the last 40 years when Caltrans was going to upgrade this dangerous transition. Well, better late, very late, than never.)

 By Maritza Velazquez, Staff Writer
Updated:   12/06/2012 07:42:43 AM PST
 Traffic flows through connector from the southbound 605 Freeway to the eastbound 10 Freeway in Baldwin Park on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Caltrans is construction a $66 million direct flyover connector from the southbound 605 freeway to the eastbound 10 Freeway to improve traffic flow in the area, commuters currently are given a very short distance to merge from the 605 to the 10. (SGVN/Staff photo by Watchara Phomicinda)

BALDWIN PARK - Work is under way to correct a notoriously problematic interchange at the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, where commuters attempting to merge within a few hundred feet leads to traffic snarls and driver confusion.

Local, state and federal officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate the start of construction on a $66 million one-lane flyover ramp that will provide a direct connection from the southbound 605 Freeway to the eastbound 10 Freeway, which accommodates more than 182,000 vehicles daily, according to Caltrans.

"This connector will provide a fluid transition and eliminate confusion for motorists by removing the weave and a point of conflict between these two freeways," said Shirley Choate, Caltrans District 7 acting deputy director of program and project management, during the press conference at Baldwin Park's Barnes Park, located adjacent to the 605 Freeway.

Design of the project is nearly completed and construction should begin within the next couple of weeks, said Mehdi Salehinik, project manager.

"(The interchange) has been a plague for many of us and certainly there's some frustration because we know that there is the potential to move traffic more fluidly if we were able to enjoy the kind of

infrastructure that you see elsewhere in the state of California," Assemblyman Roger Hernandez said.
The project is funded by the State Highway Operation and Protection Program, with a combination of state and federal monies, Caltrans officials said.

The funding comes after the San Gabriel Valley failed to receive a portion of the Prop 1B voter-approved transportation bonds in 2006.
However, local, county and state leaders collaborated to garner funding allocations to get the job finished.

Baldwin Park Councilwoman Marlen Garcia said she and her colleagues on the City Council, in addition to elected officials in West Covina attended a California Transportation Committee meeting in Sacramento to lobby for Prop 1B funding for the project, but were ultimately denied, she said.

"We really thought that we always were the stepchild and everything was focused on L.A. and the westside and we got the short end all the time," Garcia said. "We said we need to go up and rattle some cages."

Although the state denied Prop 1B funding, they told the elected officials that they would search for another funding source, Garcia said.

The ramp will be erected 70 feet above the freeway so that those driving along the southbound 605 freeway will have their own ramp to connect with the eastbound 10 freeway without having to make lane changes that interfere with other drivers also merging on the interchange.

According to Caltrans, there will be construction closures, with the bulk of the work being performed during evenings. The agency will inform the public when the closures occur.


 Pasadena City Council to Take on 710 Freeway Extension Issues on December 10

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 | 12:20 PM
The Pasadena City Council is scheduled to take up the issue of the 710 freeway extension. The Council will meet on Monday, December 10 at 7:30; note that the meeting will take place at the Pasadena Convention Center. The City has obtained a legal analysis from outside counsel to further analyze the impact and relevance that Measure A has today and to determine if the Council can take a position that might oppose the F-7 Tunnel Alternative. I understand that the outside attorney will be present at the meeting and the agenda report will include his conclusions.

The agenda and reports will be available on the City’s website by late Thursday afternoon (tomorrow). Check www.cityofpasadena.net. Search City Council Agenda.

You will recall that there were problems with the live broadcast from the Convention Center. Staff is working on a solution to accommodate live broadcast of this meeting. If successful, the weblink will be included on the agenda on Thursday.

In any event the meeting will air on KPAS (Charter Channel 3, AT&T Channel 99) on Tuesday, December 11 at 2pm and will replay throughout the week. The schedule will be available on-line at www.pasadenamedia.org. The meeting will be available on the City’s website by Wednesday morning.

Evacuee: Chaos in Sasago Tunnel


(The 710 tunnel is planned to be 4.5 miles long. This article illustrates how much time is needed to walk out of a tunnel of smaller length and the danger of smoke inhalation in case of fire.)

 The Yomiuri Shimbun

A 64-year-old man who was on a tour bus inside the Chuo Expressway's Sasago Tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture when concrete ceiling panels fell on Sunday, leaving nine dead, told The Yomiuri Shimbun about the chaos after the accident.

Hisao Watanabe, a farmer from Koshu in the prefecture, was on his way to the Dogashima hot spring resort in Nishi-Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, with 17 friends from his primary school. The bus entered the expressway at the Katsunuma Interchange at about 8 a.m. and was running smoothly through Sasago Tunnel.

However, at 8:10 a.m., when the bus was about three kilometers into the tunnel, a car in front of them stopped and turned on its hazard lights. After waiting a few minutes inside the bus, Watanabe saw a burning car about 200 meters ahead.

At first, Watanabe thought a car fire had broken out. He and his friends got off the bus and started walking back toward the Kofu entrance of the tunnel.

It was crowded with people moving in the same direction.

When he heard someone say the ceiling appeared to have collapsed, he thought they should evacuate immediately.

However, the people walking on the road were in danger of being hit by cars turning around or backing up, and someone suggested walking on the sidewalk.

There is a walkway about 1.2 meters above the road with handrails for safety inspectors along the side of the tunnel.

Watanabe climbed to the walkway and walked for about 50 minutes to get out of the tunnel, along with parents carrying their children.

Soon after Watanabe exited the tunnel, a massive amount of smoke came out of the tunnel. "If the tunnel was filled with smoke earlier, my life could have been in danger," he said.
(Dec. 7, 2012)

An N.F.L. Team at the Rose Bowl? Not if Some Neighbors Have Their Way


Front page of the New York Times! 


PASADENA, Calif. — For nearly two years, the battle over bringing the National Football League to Los Angeles has been fought between two business titans competing to build a stadium in either downtown Los Angeles or the nearby City of Industry. No ground has been broken. The N.F.L. has not signaled whether it would approve a new franchise. There is not even a team clamoring to come.

 But no matter. The mere prospect of an N.F.L. team returning to Southern California has set off an ancillary brawl 15 miles away, in this gracious and historical community that is home to the Rose Bowl. Pasadena, pressed for money to cover overruns on its $150 million renovation of the Rose Bowl, has offered the 90,000-seat stadium as a temporary home for a team until a final home is built.

That move has set off a storm of protest — with threats of legal action and a recall drive against a City Council member who supported it — reflecting this community’s ambivalent relationship with an iconic stadium that has long defined it, but at a price.

For up to 12 weekends a year designated for big events, like U.C.L.A. football games and the actual Rose Bowl extravaganza, the fields, parking lots and golf course that surround the stadium in the Arroyo Seco are overrun with parked cars, tailgaters, party tents and rowdy celebrators.

Joggers, kite-fliers, soccer teams, picnickers and bicyclists are displaced, in the official vernacular of the weekend upheaval. People who live on the gorgeous slopes of Linda Vista, with sweeping views across the Arroyo Seco and the July 4 fireworks display over the Rose Bowl, are all but trapped in their homes by an invasion of 25,000 cars.

“We just can’t have the Arroyo being shut down virtually every weekend from August to January,” said Mike Vogler, a leader of the opposition. “It’s detrimental to our home values. There’s an element of the N.F.L. that brings crime, drunk driving and fights that we’ve seen all over the nation.”

Nina R. Chomsky, the president of the Linda Vista/Annandale Association, described the proposed expansion as an assault on a treasured part of this community. “We love and value the central Arroyo: it’s our Central Park,” she said.

The City Council voted to move ahead with the plan — approving an environmental impact report and expanding the permitted number of so-called displacement events to 25, from 12, to accommodate 13 N.F.L. home games — after a raucous four-hour debate that has rolled on even after the last gavel was dropped. The measure was described by supporters as a critical, but not binding, step to position the city to take advantage of badly needed revenues.

“We have an obligation to keep an open mind to the N.F.L. or any potential tenant because there aren’t that many tenants interested in a stadium this size,” said Victor Gordo, a city councilman who is president of the Rose Bowl Operating Commission. “We should not prematurely pull ourselves out of consideration. The decision to remain in the hunt is simply a business decision.”
The measure was opposed by only one council member, Terry Tornek.

“It wasn’t even a close call as far as I was concerned: I don’t think it’s worth it,” he said. “We’ve betrayed the community. And the fact that we may or may not approve the contract later on doesn’t fix that.”

The council member who represents Linda Vista, Steve Madison, faces a recall for supporting the proposal; a Web site — recallstevemadison.com — is devoted to his ouster.

“His constituency is so clearly against the N.F.L.,” Mr. Vogler said. “People feel betrayed by Madison.”

Mr. Madison disputed that, saying there was a long way to go — starting with the N.F.L. approving a franchise here — before anything might happen. 

In many ways, this is a battle of a hard-pressed City Hall versus a wealthy neighborhood. For the city, the prospect of a team renting the space solves a politically embarrassing problem: The ballooning cost of the overhaul, which includes building high-priced skyboxes and new press boxes and widening exit ramps.

The cost has grown to about $190 million, and estimates of annual rent receipts range from $5 million to $10 million a year.

“We are just trying to stay viable and stay successful,” said Darryl Dunn, the general manager of the Rose Bowl. He said stadium officials were sensitive to the problems of big events for people who live nearby.

“Whenever we have a big event, there are impacts to the communities,” Mr. Dunn said. “We do the best we can to minimize the impacts. But on Jan. 1, we are going to have the Rose Bowl. We are going to have over 90,000 people down here. If you live in the neighborhood, it’s going to be pretty tough to get around.”

The city’s mayor, Bill Bogaard, said officials had anticipated the objections from the neighborhood. “There’s no question that activities at the Rose Bowl on this scale imposes a burden on the neighbors, and I am grateful to them for their willingness to accept that activity,” he said. “But there would be significant benefits to the city and strong efforts to mitigate the impact on the neighborhood.”

As much as Pasadena might be identified with football — the Rose Bowl game is played there every January, and it has been the host of five Super Bowls — there has always been a limit to just how much football it wants. Residents voted overwhelmingly in 2006 against a referendum to court an N.F.L. team.

The stadium, a national historic landmark built in 1922, is best known for football but is valued as well for more local events, from soccer matches to once-a-month flea markets with a famously impressive selection of antiques.

For all the noise and anger, this is in many ways a battle of shadows: Should one of the two stadium ideas win approval, and should the N.F.L. approve the moving of a team here, and should there be a team that wants to relocate to Los Angeles, and should that team decide it wants to use the Rose Bowl as its temporary headquarters — and not, say, the Coliseum, which is just blocks away from the proposed site of the downtown stadium.

“All common sense is suspended when it comes to the Rose Bowl,” Mr. Gordo said.

Rethinking Prop. 13--Editorial


 California's landmark tax measure is back on the table. And it should be.


 Howard Jarvis, one of the authors of Proposition 13. (Los Angeles Times)

 December 6, 2012

You knew this was coming. Now that Californians have approved Proposition 30 to temporarily raise sales and income taxes, and now that voters have elected a supermajority of Democrats in the Assembly and the state Senate, a lawmaker has introduced a bill to require only 55% voter approval rather than the current two-thirds margin to adopt parcel taxes to pay for local schools. Advocates of Los Angeles County's Measure J, a sales tax extension for transportation funding, are frustrated that they fell just short of the required two-thirds in November, and they also are discussing a change to 55%, perhaps just for transportation sales taxes, or perhaps more broadly.

Proposition 13 is back on the table. And it should be.

The 1978 tax limitation measure was in many ways the hallmark of a generation of Californians. It capped property taxes at 1% of assessed value. It limited annual increases in value for property tax purposes to no more than 2%, regardless of how high a property's market value jumped, until ownership transferred or major improvements were made. It banned the state from imposing any new property tax.

And, most important to the discussion at hand, it allowed local governments — cities, counties, school districts, transportation districts — to raise "special taxes" (taxes restricted for use to particular purposes) only with two-thirds voter approval.

Or did it? It took court rulings and a follow-up ballot measure in the 1990s to crystallize the tax limitation landscape that Californians now describe usefully, although somewhat inaccurately, as Proposition 13. Some supermajority requirements have nothing to do with the 1970s taxpayer revolution at all but were part of the state Constitution adopted in the 19th century. Some were imposed by the Legislature in the post-Proposition 13 world.

But it matters little whether supermajority requirements date to 1849, 1978 or 1996; the question for the current generation of Californians should be how to shape the rules they use to tax themselves to finance their government. The laws set down by their forebears in constitutional conventions or at the ballot box may be instructive, but they are not sacred.

At the time of statehood, Californians were wary of following the example of East Coast states that routinely borrowed money to finance government operations. So they set up a system under which borrowing could go forward only at the instruction of voters. For state bonds, only a majority vote was required. For repayment, bondholders would look to the state, which would in turn look to all taxpayers to make good on their collective obligation.

To finance local government, however, there were no local income taxes to repay bonds (and thank goodness). Repayment came instead from property taxes. But what was to prevent landless voters from soaking property owners for bonds to pay all the government's bills? Drafters landed upon the two-thirds supermajority requirement for local voters approving local bonds. That requirement remains in place to this day, modified only by a 2000 ballot measure that lowered the threshold to 55% solely for school bonds.

What about parcel taxes for schools, the subject of the proposed constitutional amendment coauthored by 14 Democrats and introduced on the first day of the new legislative session by Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco?

Unlike a regular property tax governed by Proposition 13, a parcel tax is a flat fee assessed against each piece of real estate regardless of big or how valuable the property is. The owner of a quarter-acre lot on the poor side of town pays the same as the owner of a 1,000-acre estate. And that goes to the nub of the issue about changing the parcel tax requirements.

Parcel taxes were a kind of stopgap measure, authorized by the Legislature (which included the two-thirds vote requirement) in the 1980s as a way to allow voters to avoid Proposition 13 problems. But the notion of equal fees on unequal parcels of property is hardly fair or sound policy. If Californians are ready to move past property tax limits, perhaps the real question should not be whether to reduce the margin to 55% for parcel taxes, but whether residents should be able to increase traditional value-related property taxes to fund their schools and keep their children well educated. If so, a statewide ban on property tax increases is getting in the way of local self-government.

And what about a sales tax increase to fund transportation, or indeed anything else? Set aside the question of whether a sales tax is sound policy and focus instead on the degree to which people of a city, a county or a special district should be able to determine for themselves how to run their government and how to pay for it. Not Proposition 13, but one of its progeny, Proposition 218, cemented the two-thirds requirement on local special taxes, even when they are unrelated to long-term indebtedness, and even when the taxes are imposed broadly across the community — for example, certain sales taxes — rather than on a narrower group of taxpayers, such as property owners. The only rationale for the high margin required in those situations is the prevalence of the no-tax philosophy that took center stage with Proposition 13 in the 1970s.

Have we moved on? Recently, local governments have shown some success in winning two-thirds voter supermajorities to pay special taxes for services that voters demand. To reach that threshold, they have had to spell out in meticulous detail how they will spend their money, and the discipline that requirement has imposed on government can only be described as a benefit. Whether that benefit outweighs the obstacles that Proposition 13 imposes is the question before Californians today.

Port strike was part of bigger fight


 "For the unions, it was an existential crisis" that focused on saving future jobs more than on boosting salaries.