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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Opinion: Three of My Colleagues Let Us Down Last Night…


By PASADENA CITY COUNCILMEMBER STEVE MADISON Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 | 5:16 PM


 Three of my colleagues let us down last night. I moved to formally oppose the disastrous tunnel proposal for the 710 freeway extension, but my motion failed by a 4-3 vote; even though our Council only has seven members presently because of Chris Holden’s election to the State Assembly, five votes are still required for Council action. (You may recall that on August 13, I made a motion that the Council oppose three alternative routes around Avenue 64 in West Pasadena, and on that occasion my motion carried unanimously.)

Before the roll call vote, I implored my colleagues to support my motion on the grounds that a huge 6-mile underground highway tunnel would have devastating consequences for Pasadena, would disrupt our quality of life and threaten historic neighborhoods, be unsafe and be deleterious to the health of all of us (particularly seniors, school-aged children and those with health problems such as patients at Huntington Memorial Hospital and the clinics and medical offices around the hospital).

I asked my colleagues to follow the advice of virtually all the community members and groups and experts who have weighed in on this, as well as our friend and former Assembly member Anthony Portantino who spoke eloquently in favor of my motion last night. I reminded them, too, that I convened a forum at the Convention Center on 9/18, at which a panel of experts all described the tunnel as a major threat to our community’s health and safety, and hundreds of residents turned out to oppose the tunnel.

I explained that Measure A presented no impediment whatsoever because of the three “T’s” — tunnel, trucks, and toll — which were not on the table when Measure A was voted on in 2001. I told them that we needed to be clear and unambiguous with CalTrans and Metro, the agencies that will make the decision about the scope of the EIR for the 710 freeway extension, that the tunnel is a non-starter.

All we needed last night was one more vote. Mayor Bill Bogaard, Councilmember Victor Gordo, Councilmember Gene Masuda and I voted yes. Regrettably, Vice Mayor McAustin, Councilmember Jackie Robinson and Councilmember Terry Tornek voted no.

Councilmember Tornek led the group unwilling to oppose the tunnel, stating that most of his constituents with whom he has spoken support the 710 extension! He said more study was needed, and that an environmental impact report should go forward on the tunnel project. I responded that we do not need an EIR to know the tunnel would be disastrous for our community. In and of itself, a lengthy EIR process including the tunnel as an alternative could severely impact property values in West Pasadena and move the tunnel closer to adoption.

I asked the three dissenters to focus on leadership not arithmetic (i.e., politics). I told Terry and the others that one could not say he opposes the tunnel but not vote to oppose the tunnel. I said now was no time to get weak in the knees. All to no avail.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Terry was the lone vote in opposition to an EIR commissioned by the Rose Bowl Operating Company regarding the potential temporary use of the Rose Bowl for professional football games on a short-term basis (I will be posting a more lengthy message about this issue soon). At the time he said he thought the mere approval of the EIR would negatively impact property values in the neighborhoods around the Rose Bowl. So the hypothetical possibility of additional football games in our football stadium for a season or two will diminish property values, but the construction and operation of a 6-mile tunnel under historic neighborhoods, schools and hospitals won’t? Ironic to say the least.

I intend to raise the issue again, perhaps after Chris’s seat (Council District 3) is filled. Those interested in the threat of the tunnel proposal would be well served to pay close attention to the March municipal elections and where the candidates–and incumbents–stand on this important issue.

P.S. –You can watch the meeting, our deliberations and the vote at: http://cityofpasadena.net/District6/ (Below the bio you will see information about last night’s meeting, including a link to the video.) [My note: I cannot find the video.]

Here are some of the officials who are handling the 710 freeway extension; I encourage you to share your view with them:
Board of Supervisors, chaired by the Honorable Mike Antonovich:
Supervisor Antonovich
Transportation Deputy Michael Cano
Full METRO Board list available here: http://www.metro.net/about/board/executives/
Executive Director Doug Failing
Administrative Offices: (213) 922-6000
Director Malcolm Doherty
District 7 (LA & Orange County) Director, Michael Miles
(213) 897-3656
Office of Governor Jerry Brown

Portantino's future in question

Termed-out assemblyman embraces family while eyeing a further life in politics.



PortantinoAnthony Portantino, who for the past six years has represented La Cañada Flintridge in the state Assembly, enters this holiday season with a new task: Figure out what to do next.
Portantino’s job ended officially on Dec. 1, when the new legislative year began. Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D- Silver Lake) now represents La Cañada, while new Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) represents other parts of Portantino’s old district.

At Zeli Coffee Bar in La Cañada on Tuesday, Portantino said that with his mother in his native New Jersey facing declining health and his youngest daughter, Bella, growing up, he’s grateful for the chance to step back.

Anthony Portantino is taking a break from politics, but may seek elected office again in the future. "Down the road I do have a passion to be involved," he said. (Times Community News / December 12, 2012)

“I think the good news is I get to go home,” Portantino said. “My daughter is 11, and for six years of her life I’ve been out of the house. And I’ve only got one mom.”

  Yet Portantino doesn’t plan on staying out of government for long, and is looking to find a position involving public policy and government reform.

“There are some local government organizations and academic institutions I’ve been talking to,” he said. “There’s been probably a dozen nonprofits that have asked me to be on their board. I’ve told them all the same thing, I have to decide what I’m going to do, to see what my time commitment is going to be.”

Portantino is an advisory member of the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy board, and in January will join the La Cañada Chamber of Commerce board as a residential member.

When the opportunity arises, he may again seek elected office. State Sen. Carol Liu (D- La Canada Flintridge), his former colleague on the La Cañada Flintridge Council, will be forced out of the Legislature by term limits in 2016. Portantino briefly challenged her for the Democratic nomination to the seat this year, and his Portantino for Senate 2016 committee holds nearly $77,000, according to state records.

“I think there’s some more things we need to do in relation to the high schools and community colleges,” he said. “The Legislature still doesn’t comply with the California Public Records act... I think it’s important to have somebody that asks questions, that doesn’t just say yes to the leaders.

“I’m at peace with my decision [not to run for state Senate in 2012],” he said. “The district has been great to me, people have been very kind. Down the road I do have a passion to be involved.”


Now is the time to adjust Prop. 13

California's Democratic legislators, with their new supermajority power, can take steps to lower the two-thirds vote requirement for tax measures.



When nearly two-thirds of the citizenry vote to tax themselves to expand transit but don't prevail, then democracy has gone cockeyed.

If a small minority can thwart the will of the vast majority on a routine local tax issue, it's absurd.

This, of course, is what happened last month when Los Angeles County voters overwhelmingly supported Measure J to extend a half-cent sales tax for transit. But the vote fell roughly a half-percentage point short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

Ordinarily — except in California's dysfunctional government financing system — that would be called a landslide victory.

The same thing happened in two other counties, Alameda and Lake, where tax measures for transportation and waterworks drew landslide support but fell short of two-thirds.

The two-thirds vote barrier creates a paralysis that Democratic legislators, with their new supermajority power, will have the ability to help remedy in the next two years.

There'll be several proposals to place measures on the 2014 ballot to lower the 66.7% vote requirement to 55% for taxes and bonds.

Even the 55% threshold is undemocratic. But it's a supermajority that the public may accept, polls suggest. And it's in line with what Californians concluded in 2000 was a high enough requirement for school bond issues.

The political problem is that anti-tax icon, Proposition 13, which not only dramatically lowered property taxes but created several unintended consequences. Chief among them was shifting of much citizen control over local government spending and taxing to the state Capitol.

When Prop. 13 slashed property tax revenue for schools and local governments, the state — led by Gov. Jerry Brown 1 — rushed in with a $5-billion bailout. State spending soared, and the locals became addicted to Sacramento's largess.

California government became a Byzantine mishmash of the state dictating to locally elected officials how to administer community services, and often not providing enough money. For three decades there has been a disconnect between who mostly pays (the state) and who mostly spends (the locals).

All this is aggravated by two-thirds vote requirements for taxes in the Legislature and in local entities, mostly stemming from Prop. 13 but also from subsequent court rulings and ballot measures.
Prop. 13 is 34 years old and long past due for updating.

But anytime a thoughtful politician has had the courage to suggest tinkering, there have been howls from homeowners — egged on by anti-tax pros — who fret that their low property assessments are going to skyrocket.

Let's be clear: There has never been a serious thought of hiking Prop. 13's residential property rates. No politician is that dumb.

"No one is interested in a frontal attack on Prop. 13," Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told me. "There is absolutely no desire to touch residential property rates."
Not even a proposal by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) to change the method of taxing commercial property is receiving a warm reception in the Capitol.

The liberal lawmaker would impose a so-called "split roll" — long feared by business leaders — that would tax commercial property at market value. That property has benefited from Prop. 13 even more than owner-occupied homes because it changes hands — and therefore is reassessed — much less often.

Ammiano contends that Prop. 13 is no longer "the untouchable third rail" for politicians. "It's more like the bad guy with the mustache who has tied California to the rails with the fiscal train wreck coming."

But few of his colleagues want to test that thesis.

 "I'm not sure [a split roll] should be part of our near-term agenda," Steinberg says.

"We need to focus on the essential problem. And I think the essential problem is that the [state] government that raises the money is not responsible for providing the [local] service, and the government that provides the service has little authority to raise revenue."

Not only courage but also caution is required when venturing near anything that smacks of Prop. 13.

A "split roll" move undoubtedly would draw strong opposition from business interests.

However, business conceivably could support making it easier to pass local taxes if the funds were used for building infrastructure, such as transit and roads.

"We believe that infrastructure should be one of the biggest legislative issues for 2013," says Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. "The funding mechanism is something we want to be involved in discussing."

Business leaders, in fact, were warming up to supporting a hike in the car tax to finance highway construction. But a Democratic senator, Ted Lieu of Torrance, jumped the gun with a proposal to triple the tax and was immediately asked by Steinberg to drop the unpopular idea. He did.

There'll be loads of less volatile proposals in the Legislature.

Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has proposed that parcel taxes to fund school operations be allowed to pass with 55% of the vote.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills), who is running for L.A. City Council, has been pushing legislation to lower the vote for all infrastructure bonds to 55%.

"We don't want to go hog wild," he says. "There's no appetite for a mass tax raid."

But he adds, "when 66% of the people vote for something and it loses, that embitters a lot of folks."

It also points out the hypocrisy of Prop. 13. It decreed that all these tax measures receive a two-thirds vote to pass. But Prop. 13 didn't need to hit that mark — and fell short (64.8%).

LA mayoral debate to air live on ABC7 on Saturday, Dec. 15



ABC7 is proud to broadcast the Los Angeles mayoral debate live from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, December 15.

The debate is hosted by the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters in partnership with the League of Women Voters. ABC7 Eyewitness News anchor Marc Brown will moderate the debate, with questions generated by the League of Conservation Voters.

The four candidates leading in fundraising will participate in the debate -- Councilman Eric Garcetti, City Controller Wendy Greuel, Councilwoman Jan Perry and former assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin James.

The event at the Aratani Japan America Theater is free and open to the public, however there is limited seating. If you want to attend the debate, you must register at lalcv.org.

Orange County toll roads under review by California

 With ridership and revenue on Orange County's toll roads falling short of projections, the state of California has launched a formal inquiry into their economic viability.


 San Joaquin Hills toll corridor

 A view looking west from Aliso Viejo at the San Joaquin Hills Transportation corridor toll road where it crosses El Toro Road and snakes up the hill in Laguna Beach towards Newport Beach and Irvine. The photo was taken in 2004. (Don Kelsen/ Los Angeles Times / February 19, 2004)


When it opened during the 1990s, Orange County's $2.4-billion tollway system was touted as an innovative way to build public highways without taxpayer money.

Today, the roads offer smooth sailing for gridlock-weary commuters willing to pay the price. But far fewer people are using the turnpikes than officials predicted, which means the highways generate far less revenue than expected to retire their debts.

There have long been questions about the long-term financial viability of the San Joaquin Hills and Foothill-Eastern corridors. But those concerns have now heightened, and a government oversight panel chaired by state Treasurer Bill Lockyer has launched a formal inquiry into whether the roads can cover mounting interest payments to private investors who purchased tollway bonds.

The review was prompted by former Orange County Assemblywoman Marilyn Brewer, who questions whether the debt-laden toll road agency is “viable as a going concern.”

“I think they are in trouble,” Brewer said. “I don’t believe there is malfeasance, but it’s no way to run a railroad or a toll road.”

The roads, which rely on motorist tolls and fees from new developments in the area, have been battered by economic recessions, lower-than-expected population growth and competing public highways, such as Interstates 5 and 405, both of which have been widened and improved by Caltrans.

Wall Street ratings agencies have reduced the San Joaquin Hills toll road's bonds to junk status and the notes for the Foothill-Eastern corridor to the lowest investment grade.

To meet expenses and debt payments, the corridor agency has refinanced the San Joaquin Hills bonds, raised tolls more than originally planned, slashed administrative costs and obtained repayment concessions from bondholders. Early next year, officials plan to refinance about $2.4 billion in notes issued to build the Foothill-Eastern tollway.

In 2011, ridership on the San Joaquin Hills, which has never performed as predicted, was only 43% of original forecasts, and its revenue was 61% of projections. The road parallels the Orange County coast, slicing south from Irvine through Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo to the San Diego Freeway.

Motorists on the Foothill-Eastern last year numbered 33% less than projected, and revenue was 75% of forecasts. Previously, the part of the corridor between Yorba Linda and Rancho Santa Margarita had a revenue surplus and ridership that was often 8% to 10% ahead of projections. The extra money was used to help shore up the finances of the San Joaquin Hills road.

Last year, the San Joaquin Hills restructured about $2.1 billion in debt and pushed back the retirement of its bonds to 2042, meaning motorists will have to pay tolls for an additional six years before the road becomes a free highway. It is the second time the original deadline of 2033 has been reset.

"Extending the payment time to make sure we can make our debt payments is a necessary step," said Amy Potter, the Transportation Corridor Agencies' chief financial officer. "We have to be flexible."

Overall, the agency has borrowed about $4.4 billion for the two roads and faces at least $10.5 billion in debt payments by the time its bonds mature, according to financial statements.

Despite the roads' sagging ridership, the agency has increased tolls repeatedly to keep pace with expenses and debt payments—at least 12 times since 1996 on the San Joaquin Hills alone.

The tolls on both corridors are now among the highest in the nation per mile. A round trip at peak travel times on the San Joaquin Hills costs $11, almost three times what it was in 1996. The maximum toll for a round trip on the Foothill-Eastern has roughly doubled to between $3.40 and $4.90 during peak times, depending on the section.

Tollway officials acknowledge the financial duress but say that they have never missed a debt payment and that the latest traffic figures show revenue has been increasing this year, though less than had been hoped.

"We have a responsibility to make sure this works," said Lisa Telles, acting chief executive of the Irvine-based toll agency, which operates 51 miles of highways. "Tolling is being talked about more and more throughout the country as a way to build infrastructure. People still look at us today as a model, but we have had to adjust with the times and the recession, which has hit everybody."

In addition to being reviewed by the California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission, the toll roads also are receiving scrutiny from a major Los Angeles law firm that helped to defeat plans to extend the Foothill-Eastern corridor through San Onofre State Park.

Among other things, SNR Denton found that the tollway agency renegotiated an agreement with San Joaquin Hills bondholders in 2011 that lowered by almost 23% the amount of revenue the agency had promised to take in for every dollar of debt.

In exchange, the agency agreed to increase debt payments to bondholders by more than $850 million based on the deferral of $430 million in principal payments for up to 19 years.

"It is hard to see how they can grow their revenue to keep up with the rapidly increasing levels of debt service," said attorney Tom Vandiver, a public finance expert at the law firm.

Vandiver described the toll road's situation as "a time bomb waiting to happen," adding that the economic problems could lead to a default on bond payments or a potential bankruptcy.

Retired professor G.J. "Pete" Fielding, formerly of UC Irvine's Institute of Transportation Studies, blamed the financial problems on inaccurate revenue and ridership forecasts by private consultants, resulting in six- and eight-lane highways that were larger and more expensive to build than necessary.

Fielding predicted in the mid-1990s that the San Joaquin Hills, for example, would suffer from a lack of motorists. He suggested that a four-lane road would have been adequate for many years as long as tolls were raised and lowered based on demand — so-called congestion pricing.

Given the current situation, Brewer and the Denton firm question whether the toll road agency can afford to extend the southern end of the Foothill-Eastern corridor — a proposal the agency is still pursuing despite years of political and legal setbacks for a route through San Onofre.

The revised project would cost an estimated $200 million and run five miles between Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita and Ortega Highway east of San Juan Capistrano.

Denton's investigation notes that if the Foothill extension cannot be built, the San Joaquin Hills might have to return a $120-million payment from the Foothill-Eastern corridor made in 2005. The money was compensation for the possibility that the new road would siphon traffic away from the San Joaquin Hills.

"An assessment needs to be done before further debt is incurred and the citizens of Orange County are made to suffer serious consequences," Brewer stated in her letter to Lockyer.

Should the agency be unable to cover its debts, Telles, the acting chief, said interest and principal payments to bondholders might have to be reduced and spread out over more time. Tolls also could be adjusted to increase revenue, and further budget cuts might have to be made.

"We will be monitoring things," Telles said. "If we get close to that point, obviously we will look at possible solutions."

Related previous articles: 

 Studies contradict forecast for O.C. tollway benefits

The controversial Foothill South route proposed through a state park would not greatly ease congestion on Interstate 5, according to new figures.



New traffic studies contradict optimistic predictions that a proposed tollway through San Onofre State Beach would eliminate much of the congestion on Interstate 5 in South County.

Most of I-5 in South County will be "consistently congested" at rush hour by 2030 even if the controversial Foothill South toll road extension is built, according to the Orange County Transportation Authority's long-range transportation plan for 2006.

 The forecasts assume construction of the tollway, a carpool lane each way on the I-5 and some interchange improvements. If only the tollway is built, the study suggests, the situation will be even worse, with motorists on the interstate seeing "severely congested" conditions.

Environmentalists and other tollway opponents have seized on the long-range plan as a sign that the benefits of the proposed six-lane tollway do not justify sacrificing one of the state's most popular parks.

The Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies, which operates a 51-mile network of tollways in Orange County, plans to build the
Foothill South through the northern half of San Onofre. The park's campgrounds, wildlife areas, panoramic views and world-renowned surf spots attract about 2.7 million visitors a year.

The controversy has raged for more a decade and is unlikely to end soon. Environmentalists and the state attorney general are pursuing lawsuits to halt construction of the tollway, and it still requires state and federal approval.

"Why are we building a project with a stated purpose that won't be achieved, at the expense of our parkland?" said James Birkelund, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.
Opponents say the toll agency's forecasts have been unreliable in the past, leading to financial problems for the San Joaquin Hills tollway and a downsizing of the Foothill South project from eight lanes to six.

The toll agency, which is planning to build the Foothill South by 2011, has predicted that the road would help create congestion-free driving conditions on much of southern Interstate 5 by 2025. Traffic relief has been one of the project's main selling points.

Without the Foothill South, tollway officials say, travel times on I-5 from the San Diego County line to Oso Parkway — roughly 16 miles — would be an hour during peak periods in 2025 instead of 25 minutes.

"We know there's going to be more traffic on the 5 Freeway in the future," said Lisa Telles, a tollway spokeswoman. "If you don't build the toll road, there will just be more congestion."

TCA officials say that although most of their assumptions are the same, the two agencies' studies are different and thus can't be compared directly.

Now estimated to cost $875 million, the tollway extension would run from Interstate 5 at Basilone Road south of San Clemente to Oso Parkway in Rancho Santa Margarita. It would connect with the Foothill toll road after coursing through San Onofre State Beach and the Donna O'Neill Land Conservancy, a 1,200-acre open-space preserve set aside as mitigation for housing development.

Tollway officials have concluded that the route — one of eight options studied — would do the least harm to the environment and avoid the cost of condemning hundreds of homes and businesses in South County.

Dubbed the "green alignment" by the agency, the Foothill South would handle 24,000 to 52,000 daily trips by motorists in 2025 depending on the section of highway, the toll agency predicts.

"Green means Go!" the agency's promotional materials state. "Foothill-South: Your road map to traffic relief."

Like OCTA's, the corridor agency's own forecasts assume the tollway will be built as well as other improvements made to Interstate 5, including a carpool lane each way.

Tollway officials estimate that vehicle trips on I-5 would be reduced from 290,000 a day to 267,000 in the Dana Point-San Clemente area. The least benefit would occur in the Lake Forest area, where traffic would be reduced from 413,000 trips to 406,000.

The agency's studies predict that the number of congested I-5 segments would be reduced 70% during the evening rush hour, usually the busiest time of day.

Federal officials struggle to maintain order at toll road hearing

Raucous crowd of thousands of supporters and opponents packs a hot, stuffy hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for Monday's hearing.


Federal officials hoping for decorum laid down the rules at the outset of Monday's public hearing on whether to build a toll road through a state park: no booing, no cheering.

The public's response: Boos and cheers reminiscent of February's raucous marathon public meeting here in which the California Coastal Commission turned down the proposed road through San Onofre State Beach.

A crowd estimated at more than 6,000 over the course of the day packed a hot, stuffy hall at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for Monday's hearing before three representatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce, to which the Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies appealed the California Coastal Commission's ruling.

Acoustics were bad in the cavernous, corrugated-roof hall. Speakers at times couldn't be heard clearly, and the noisy crowd exasperated the federal attorney presiding over the hearing.

"Please keep the yelling down so we can hear the speakers," said Jane Luxton, general counsel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is part of the Commerce Department. The department has jurisdiction because the project falls under the Coastal Zone Management Act, a federal-state partnership that regulates development.

Advocates say the proposed $1.3-billion extension of California 241, which would slice through San Onofre State Beach and connect Rancho Santa Margarita with Interstate 5 in San Diego County, is needed to ease traffic congestion in growing south Orange County.

They also argue that it would create jobs and provide an alternative transportation link in the event of wildfire or other disaster.

"This project is essential to Southern California. It's key to the economic well-being of Southern California," said Art Leahy, chief executive of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

Opponents say the six-lane road would spoil one of California's most popular parks, endanger animal species and ruin the world-famous Trestles surf break.

"The immense harm from this road would far outweigh any alleged benefit," said Jim Moriarty, chief executive of the Surfrider Foundation.

In the muggy hall, opponents fanned themselves with "Save Trestles" signs and waved dollar bills when politicians spoke in favor of the project.

When a demonstrator in colorful board shorts toting a handmade sign that read "If you want more freeways, move to the East Coast" wandered to the front of the hall, security officers turned him back.

"They're building so they can get the developer money. They're not building it so they can improve traffic," said San Clemente resident Glen Frohlich, 50, who wore a T-shirt reading "Save the park / stop the toll road."

Outside the hall, where vendors sold kielbasa and falafel, members of local unions wore T-shirts with a different message: "Less traffic, more jobs."

"People that have families down here need to eat," said Rick Baptist, 49, a heavy-equipment operator. And "instead of being caught in congestion and traffic, you [will] have easy access to where you want to go."

Federal officials say they have received more than 35,000 written comments on the issue. More than 650 people registered to speak Monday; federal officials estimated that only 150 would have a chance.

Members of the public were allowed three minutes each to make their case, while elected officials were allowed four minutes.

The rules allowed for the "greatest voice for the greatest number," said Jeff Dillen, a federal lawyer.

"What we're facing here is a large amount of interested folks and a limited amount of time." 

Southern California's toll road to nowhere

The Foothill South project serves neither the state nor the nation and should be rejected by Washington.


The U.S. Commerce Department came, it saw (or at least heard), and now it gets to decide whether to allow the Foothill South toll road to be built even though the project was rejected by the state.

The Bush administration has displayed a generally hostile attitude toward public parks and environmental protection. So let this serve as a reminder that federal officials are not supposed to act as a second Coastal Commission in deciding the merits or demerits of the Foothill South. Their role is to determine solely whether the road is in the national interest.

This one's easy. The Foothill South is a toll road to nowhere through San Onofre State Beach in northern San Diego County, a particularly popular state park that despite its name also includes a large portion of undeveloped inland canyon. The road would traverse the length of this rustic canyon and cut through a private nature preserve in south Orange County and an ancient Native American village that is still used for ceremonies. Because the toll would be costly and the road would divert commuters away from the employment centers to which they most commonly drive, its ability to substantially reduce traffic on a chronically congested section of Interstate 5 is questionable; on the toll road most similar to this project, the San Joaquin Hills, ridership remains low. What about this is in the national interest?

True, Interstate 5 is a key north-south artery for commuter and international freight traffic. But drivers would be better served by a direct route, widening the I-5 through San Clemente with toll lanes. Residents of the city understandably deplore the idea, but this freeway already has been successfully widened through most of the rest of Orange County.

Despite arguments by the Transportation Corridor Agencies, the toll road would serve no significant purpose for Camp Pendleton, nor is it likely to provide a life-saving escape in case of an accident at the San Onofre nuclear plant. The plant has operated for decades and is scheduled to go out of service in 2022, just nine years after the earliest anticipated opening date for the toll road. Besides, why would San Clemente residents drive south toward San Onofre in order to pick up a road to get away from it?

The proposed Foothill South toll road is a throwback to outdated models of growth that have locked this region into a pattern of killer commutes, reliance on foreign oil and the production of pollutants that foul air quality and contribute to global warming, at the expense of precious open spaces and endangered species. It serves neither the state nor the nation well.


State of Montrose: 710 Tunnel, Downtown Glendale Expansion (Video) 


Glendale City Councilmembers Laura Friedman and Ara Najarian spoke on the state of Montrose on Nov. 28, however, the main focus of the evening turned to the 710 Tunnel Expansion Project and discussion of expanding Glendale's business community in the downtown area.

Najarian, Glendale City Councilmember and Metro Board Chair, spoke against the proposed 710 Freeway Extension Tunnel:
  • "This is something we have to stop and I am committed to stop," Najarian said. 
  • Najarian suggested a light rail between Pasadena and the ports to place shipping containers to head on the Alameda Corridor East. 
  • Expects the tunnel will directly impact Foothill communities, including Montrose, La Crescenta, La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Altadena and South Pasadena. 
  • "Once you get on this tunnel, you are on it for five miles... It's a catastrophe waiting to happen if a truck flips and starts on fire. It makes no sense at all for you and me," Najarian said.