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

Monday, December 17, 2012

What Could Possibly Happen in a Tunnel?


No 710 Action Committee Press Release 12-11-12 (Re: Ara Najarian's Confirmation Blocked)



Concerns from the Beginning
From 1947 through the 1990s, communities opposing the extension of the 710 freeway were focused on preserving the character of their neighborhoods and solving their transportation issues through other projects. Carving up the beautiful historic homes and small town businesses to send more vehicles through the area just doesn’t make sense. These communities already have more than one freeway. Why add more?

Feasibility of Using a Bored Tunnel
In 2002, after years of litigation with the City of South Pasadena and others, Caltrans and Metro shifted their plans and began to explore the feasibility of using a bored tunnel to extend the freeway. This concept raised new concerns for the communities: huge costs, concentrated pollution emissions, but more importantly, safety. Los Angeles is well known for its high incidence of earthquakes and other natural disasters. The public now had to consider the danger of being inside a 5-mile long tunnel during a substantial earthquake, rising flood waters, or a natural or man-made fire.

Dangers Come from within a Tunnel
Modern tunnels are built with safety features incorporated into their design. Some earth movement is expected and planned for so that the passageway is able to “flex” with a shifting environment. The amount of “flexing” that a tunnel is able to do without damage, depends on many factors. An earthquake will not collapse a well-built tunnel. The greatest risk comes from cars, trucks, and busses filled with passengers and gasoline, shaking inside the tunnel.

Tunnel Safety Measures
Every large tunnel has 24 hour monitoring of events inside, typically two, stationed control rooms, one at either end of the tunnel that are responsible for systems maintenance, observation of problems, and collection of tolls. Emergency escape exits and phones are located at intervals along the route. Most of these require a person to be “able bodied” to use. Emergency response time can vary greatly depending on the severity of the problem and level of communication between jurisdictions and training of first responders.

The Longest Road Tunnel in the United States
Los Angeles does not currently have any long road tunnels. There are some short tunnels intermittently on area freeways where the freeway meets a rise in elevation, such as the SR-110 freeway near Dodgers Stadium or through long underpasses. The closest modern road tunnel, the Caldecott Tunnel near Oakland California, consists of three tunnels, just about 4,000 feet long. If the 710 Extension was built underground, it would have two 60-foot diameter tunnels between 4.4 and 5.4 miles, the longest road tunnel in the United States. Even the Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, also known as the Big Dig, is only 3.5 miles long. Ours will be an even Bigger Dig.


Big Rig Accident on I-5 Freeway
Locally, in 2007, an accident involving five big rigs in a small 550-foot long underpass tunnel on the I-5 freeway, just north of the SR-14 connector, resulted in a fireball so hot that the vehicles burned down to their cores and concrete exploded off the walls.  The Los Angeles Times reported, that “fire, police and Caltrans officials spent the day trying to assess damage to the concrete but were hampered by a continuing blaze in the tunnel's center, and heavy smoke and high concentrations of carbon dioxide, particularly on the tunnel's north, or uphill, end. They could not get very far past the mouths of the tunnel.” Sadly, 3 people lost their lives and 10 others were treated at area hospitals. It was estimated that 10 to 20 people were able to flee the short tunnel on foot. This accident is a very small example of the type of emergency that can happen in a road tunnel. A longer tunnel with a higher number of trucks carrying cargo, would increase the potential for fire and death exponentially.

Mont Blanc Tunnel, Margarine and Flour Fire
The Mont Blanc Tunnel between France and Italy became the focus of an investigation in 1999, when a truck carrying margarine and flour caught fire midway through the 7-mile tunnel. Apparently the driver did not notice the smoke coming from his vehicle for about a mile as opposing cars waved at him. When he finally stopped to inspect, the truck ignited, sending smoke and dangerous levels of carbon monoxide throughout the area. The drivers in the vehicles behind the truck became trapped, unable to turn around, as the smoke was drawn uphill from the grade and overcame them. The truck’s cargo of margarine volatized and fed the fire that burned at about 1800OF for 53 hours. A total of 38 people died within 15 minutes of the incident, although it was believed prior to that day that food cargo posed no transport risk; it was considered combustible but not flammable under normal conditions. However, investigators who examined this accident began to consider that even innocuous food goods and road pavement materials could become flammable when heated by fuels and other flammables, causing them to emit dangerous chemicals when burned in a contained space.

Gotthard Tunnel Fires, Smoke Caused Fatalities
Road tunnels all around the world have inherent danger and a disturbing history of fatalities. A tunnel full of vehicles contains an average of 15 gallons of gas per vehicle.  Add to that, some trucks and busses have larger 150-gallon tanks with potentially flammable cargo and plastic that becomes flammable when heated. One accident can cause a chain reaction of explosions to all of those tanks. In 2001, the 10-mile St. Gotthard Tunnel in Göschenen Switzerland had a blazing inferno that killed 11 people. The accident was a collision between a truck and an empty minibus that caused gasoline to pour onto the floor of the tunnel. The result was a blaze so hot that it melted the vehicles causing them to be fused together. It was determined that the fatalities were caused by smoke and gas inhalation and that the ventilation system had not been working properly or was not adequate for such conditions. This tunnel suffered three major accidents in three years.

Caldecott Tunnel, Gasoline Fire
The Caldecott Tunnel as previously mentioned, had a fire in 1982 that caused 7 deaths.  A gasoline tanker crashed into a stopped car and gas spilled into the gutter and ignited.  Smoke travelled uphill, choking the victims who didn’t have a chance to get out the emergency exits. The ventilation system was not even on at the time although it would have been totally inadequate under these circumstances. The same tunnel in 2010, had to close during an intense rainstorm due to flooding. A drainage pipe had filled with debris from runoff and storm water backed up in the tunnel.

Big Dig Tunnel, Shoddy Construction
Sometimes the danger in a tunnel comes from an unexpected cause. The Central Artery Tunnel in Boston, the Big Dig, was damaged when ceiling tiles cascaded to the ground below because an inadequate glue was used to secure the 4,600-pound panels. One woman lost her life when a tile fell directly on her while riding as a passenger in a vehicle, also injuring the driver, her husband. The project manager, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff as well as others, were accused of cutting corners and doing shoddy work. There was also a great deal of discussion on whether the glue manufacturer or the glue installer were to blame for the tiles falling. The tunnel fully reopened 11 months later.

Flood Water Hazards, Diversion of Traffic
Flooding is a concern for Los Angeles area residents as it is common throughout the rainy season. At a public outreach meeting conducted by Caltrans during the Geotechnical Study, a question was asked about how flood waters would be managed in heavy downpours in and around the tunnel. Earlier in the week, television news coverage showed that the southern end of the 710 was evacuated due to rising waters. The response by Doug Failing, Executive Director of Highway Programs at Metro, was that the 710 freeway is supposed to flood to keep water out of the area neighborhoods. He stated that it was designed that way. However, one might argue that building a tunnel at the end of a freeway that is designed to flood, could create an inescapable hazard. There are no exits in a tunnel. In addition, unlike the average freeway, when an entire tunnel section does close down for weather, maintenance or accidents, the resulting overspill of cars and heavy cargo trucks into the local communities is devastating.

Soft Target for Terrorists
As we look to Los Angeles in the future, we must consider that a large tunnel could become the ultimate target for terrorists, as was the case in London in 2005. In a road tunnel, since tolls are collected electronically and there are no stops for inspection, it would be easy to trigger an explosion with just a flare and a can of gasoline. An act such as this would yield catastrophic loss of life and property. Let’s be sure that the supposed benefits of this project far surpass the tremendous risks.

Compiled by Susan Bolan, La Crescenta Resident, Updated 8-10-12

Thomas D. Elias: Expect changes to state's environmental law, CEQA, in 2013


By Thomas D. Elias
 Posted:   12/11/2012 05:45:38 PM PST
 NO law annoys California developers more than the California Environmental Quality Act and they figure to win at least some changes to its strict 42-year-old rules next year.

They almost sneaked through a major softening of the state's premier environmental law last September in the waning moments of the last legislative session, but were forced to back off in the face of heavy objections to doing so without any public hearings at all.

CEQA requires sponsors of any building project or other development that will have a significant effect on the environment to write an environmental impact report assessing the effects of even its smallest aspects. Signed in 1970 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, the law was intended to supplement the National Environment Policy Act of 1969, signed by President Richard Nixon. That law demands an environmental impact statement for every significant action by any federal agency.

The national law, for just one example, is the reason why the U.S. Navy cannot practice gunnery on the western side of the military-owned San Clemente Island without first making sure it won't affect migrating whales.

The state law has been used by environmentalists and others to obstruct countless projects, with legal challenges to the adequacy of EIRs often adding months and years to the planning cycle of projects as diverse as sports arenas and apartment buildings.

Business and development interests maintain they respect the way CEQA provides the public with information about the effects of projects large and small. Effects measured by EIRs include everything from public health considerations - would a new freeway create health risks from vehicle exhaust? - to increased traffic and potential danger to wildlife. Once identified, adverse impacts must be mitigated, often adding large sums to project costs.

No governor since CEQA passed has seemed more receptive to loosening its requirements than the current version of Jerry Brown, ironically taking a very different approach than he did in his first gubernatorial incarnation from 1975 to 83.

In a news conference last August, Brown allowed that "I've never seen a CEQA exemption I didn't like." Later he remarked that "CEQA reform is the Lord's work." It was no surprise, then, when developer allies in the Legislature quickly sought to push changes through.

Among the alterations attempted then and likely to return next year was an exclusion from CEQA for
projects that already comply with local land-use plans previously certified as consistent with CEQA.
Brown's turnaround on this law stems from his experience as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007, a time when several projects he saw as bettering blighted areas of that city were delayed or stymied by challenges under CEQA.

In his first year back as governor, Brown signed one bill fast-tracking legal review under CEQA for a proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles and another speeding up big projects (costing at least $100 million) that incorporate high environmental standards. But he pulled back on a push to exclude high-speed rail construction from CEQA. There has also been talk of excluding proposed water-transporting tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta.

The entire picture dismays environmental leaders and excites development interests. "It would be really devastating for California and probably the rest of the nation for the kind of precedent this would set," Jena Price, legislative director of the Planning and Conservation League, told a reporter.

On the other side, the CEQA Working Group, a coalition of business, labor and affordable housing interests, claims that other laws like the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and a panoply of anti-smog laws make CEQA at least partially redundant, forcing developers to spend time and money going over similar sets of facts in excessive paperwork. This outfit maintains it wants to eliminate duplication and provide even wider environmental disclosure than CEQA now does.

"Duplicative and overlapping processes often result in lengthy project-permitting delays and uncertainty," said Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., in a letter to lawmakers.

But environmentalists point to a 2005 study by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California indicating only one project in every 354 is ever delayed by CEQA-related actions.

They contend business interests don't really want to modernize the landmark environmental law, they want to gut it and deprive the public of an opportunity to force changes that have often cut many stories out of high-rises and created numerous small wildlife preserves.

The strong arguments on both sides here make it obvious that changing CEQA should not happen in secrecy, but only with plenty of public input. But even at that, some softening of CEQA seems inevitable during the next legislative session.

December 2012  
Vol 1, Issue 3
The mission of the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA) is to enhance and maintain the character and quality of all San Rafael neighborhoods through advocacy and an activated community.


In This Issue
Rose Bowl/NFL Update
710 Update
San Rafael School Update
Fire Station 39 Update
San Rafael Park Update
Public Safety in San Rafael

SRNA General Membership Meeting

Wednesday,  January 2


7 PM 

1100 AVENUE 64

  San Rafael

Game Day Avenue 64/Colorado Blvd.

By Ron Paler

  • On November 19, a Public Hearing concerning the Amendment of the Arroyo Seco Public Lands Ordinance that would allow the temporary of use of the Rose Bowl by the NFL was held at Pasadena City Hall.
  • The Amendment of the Arroyo Seco Public Lands Ordinance would allow up to 25 major events per year at the Rose Bowl
  • The San Rafael Neighborhoods  Association (SRNA) joined with the Linda Vista Annandale Association (LVAA), the East Arroyo Preservation Committee, and the West Pasadena Residents association in either opposing the NFL entirely and/or the associated FEIR (Final Environmental Impact Report)
  • SRNA President Ron Paler presented the opposition of SRNA to the proposed amendment and perceived fatal flaws in the FEIR to the City Council
  • SRNA remains opposed to the use of the Rose Bowl by the NFL
  • SRNA joins with our sister neighborhood association, the Linda Vista Annandale Association (LVAA), in opposing the use of the NFL.
  • SRNA's position is congruent with the recommendation of the Urban Land Institute study (ULI) in recommending that the Rose Bowl NOT be used by the NFL
  • The residents of Pasadena overwhelmingly voted against the NFL in the Rose Bowl previously
  • SRNA filed a formal letter of concern with the City of Pasadena concerning the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR)
  • Key points of concern expressed by SRNA included the following:           
    • o   Inadequate Fire and EMS Protection with the NFL residing in the Rose Bowl for residents of West Pasadena.
    • o   Inadequate study of current Fire and EMS services in the FEIR and the impacts that 25 major events at the Rose Bowl will have on surrounding neighborhoods
    • o   Failure to study Avenue 64 in the FEIR despite its designation as a main arterial by other governmental agencies such as Metro
    • o   Failure to study the Avenue 64/Marmion Way exit from the Pasadena Fwy as key point of ingress into West Pasadena
    • o   Failure to study the effects of traffic exiting at Figueroa from the 134 Fwy and concurrent use of West Colorado Blvd as a point of ingress to the Rose Bowl

The full letter sent by SRNA concerning errors of omission or inadequate examination in the FEIR can be seen on the City website.  Please scroll to "Letter 10".
  • City Council voted 7-1 in favor of amending the Arroyo Seco Public Lands ordinance
  • District 7 Councilman Terry Tornek voted against the proposed amendment
  • District 6 Councilman Steve Madison voted to support the amendment.
  • District 1 Councilperson Jacque Robinson voted to support the amendment.
  • Mayor Bill Bogaard voted to support the amendment.


SRNA is actively working with other neighborhood organizations  to plan next steps in the battle to save the Rose Bowl and surrounding areas from the destructive imposition of the NFL and an increase of large public events of up to 25/year.  Stay tuned for further announcements coming shortly.
710 Fwy Update
By John and Monica Shaffer

  • The SRNA continues to keep a close eye on Metro's ongoing study of the proposed extension of the SR-710 freeway into Pasadena.

  • Last spring, Metro planners revealed two SR-710 alternatives that would have cut through the heart of our San Rafael neighborhood - an eight-lane freeway along Annandale and Glen Summer Roads, and a six-lane highway following Avenue 64 and Colorado Boulevard.  Based upon the strong voices of concern from our neighborhood, the Pasadena City Council voted last August to oppose these routes.  Metro appears to have heard our message too, as Metro staff has recommended no further consideration of routes through the San Rafael area.  Metro has not yet officially adopted its staff's recommendation, but we expect the routes through our neighborhood to be more formally eliminated when Metro releases its final "Alternatives Analysis" (which is expected sometime before the New Year).

  • Our neighborhood, however, still faces a significant threat from the remaining freeway alternative on the table - the eight-lane "F-7" tunnel that will surface next to Huntington Hospital.  Metro's own projections show that the tunnel will dump tens of thousands of additional cars and trucks each day into the already congested 210/134 interchange and the freeways, ramps, and surface streets leading to it.  This, in turn, will lead to increased pollution, noise, and cut-through traffic in our neighborhood and throughout much of Pasadena.  We also have concerns about the staggering, multi-billion dollar cost and years of construction that the F-7 tunnel will require.

  •  On Monday, December 10, the Pasadena City Council again addressed SR-710 issues.  Although every member of the City Council expressed serious concerns about the tunnel and its potential negative effects on Pasadena, only four of the required five Council members voted to oppose it (Bogaard, Gordo, Madison, and Masuda).  The remaining Council members (McAustin, Tornek, and Robinson) were concerned that a ten-year old referendum ("Measure A") prevented the City from officially opposing the tunnel, and they also believed that the City had yet to receive sufficient information from Metro about the tunnel and possible alternatives, including transit and "low build" solutions.  The Council then agreed:  (1) to task the City staff (in particular, the Health and Transportation Departments) to do an independent study of the impacts of the proposed tunnel on the traffic, health, and businesses in Pasadena; and (2) to send a letter to Metro opposing any tunnel proposal that would allow trucks, opposing any tunnel proposal that would be paid for through tolls, and raising various other concerns about the tunnel and Metro's failure to provide answers regarding the details of the various alternatives still being considered. 

The San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA) will continue to actively participate in the 710 debate, and it remains committed in its opposition to ALL 710 Freeway and Highway routes through Pasadena.
San Rafael School UPDATE                                         
By Mary Dee Romney

  • Plans for San Rafael Elementary School (SRES) are ongoing.  Seismic faults found on the site have forced staff and the Board of Education to consider the relocation of the present student enrollment while growing the school's popular "signature" Spanish dual language immersion program and adjusting for budget shortfalls.

  • School consolidation/closures became an issue for PUSD following a study of school capacity released in September 2003. That study reported 2002 district enrollment at 23,300 and district capacity at 28,962.

  • Today, the District's first interim budget report (2012-13) shows ADA/student enrollment at 17,498 with $12m in cuts needed for next year.

  • PUSD began the first formal closure process in June of 2005.  A second round of closures followed.  SRES, having invested ten years in developing staff for inclusion special education programs, was not seriously considered at that time due to complications in moving special education staff and students throughout the district.

  • In very recent years the school has built a strong PTA and signature language program popular with parents.

  • Still, comments made in staff reports/board deliberations during Tuesday's (12/11/12) Board of Education meeting confirmed: "The State requires us to have a plan for San Rafael."  (John Pappalardo, PUSD/CFO).

  • The Board of Education now has directed staff to plan a process for drafting new attendance boundaries district-wide, with school size/consolidation in mind.
Fire Station 39 UPDATE
By Stan Clark   

  • A contract for renovation of fire station 39 has been awarded on Nov. 30th 2012 to Mallcraft, Inc. The contract has been approved by the city council on Dec 3rd 2012.
  • The amount of the contract is $1,781,000.00 not to exceed $1,959,000.
  • Mallcraft, Inc. was established in 1965.  Mallcraft is currently the contractor on Station 32 renovation. Mallcraft has done other projects in Pasadena including the Health Center. Mallcraft most recently worked on a Tustin Fire Station
  • Station 39 closed on April 27, 2011 and after 586 days the area is one step closer to getting Engine 39 and its crew back in service.
  • The timeline is as follows;

Contract Award :                             Dec 2012 - Completed
Final Plan Check/Permits:       Jan 2013
Construction:                                   Jan-Fall 2013
Grand Opening:                               Late Fall 2013

 SRNA will continue to monitor the progress of  Fire Station 39 every step of the way until the station is re-opened.  Restoration of Engine 39 in Fire Station 39 is essential to ensure public safety in the San Rafael area.
                                    Rafael Bridge
San Rafael Park Update
By Wendi Moffly
  • New playground equipment has been installed at the San Rafael Park.  This renovation added three new pieces of equipment and replaced the existing swing set with a larger one.  The equipment provides more choices for kids aged 5-12 and still keeps plenty of grassy area for running around.  The project also included turf, soil, concrete and sprinkler work and the addition of a wood fiber playground surface.  Currently everything is in place but there is still yellow tape around the new turf. 
  • The project was originally estimated at $55,000 but came in around $75,000, according to the city's Project Manager for Parks and Landscape.
Holiday Safety Tips
By Kathy Goodwin
  • The holidays!  This is a very busy time of year and it's easy to let your guard down but it is even more important to be as vigilant as ever.  I have a few suggestions to be aware of, and hopefully this will keep you and your family safe and sound.

     1.    Always keep your doors closed and this includes garage doors!  Take it a step further and keep doors locked while at home too.

    2.    Set your alarm every time you leave your home, and consider setting your alarm while you are at home also.  Also, display your alarm company's signs prominently, front and back!

    3.    Set lights on timers and install motion detector lights outside of your home.

    4.    Watch your trash.  Shred papers with any personal info like bills and statements, and be careful of boxes and packaging for high ticket electronics and gifts.   Break down boxes, put them in garbage bags then in the trash bin. You may want to dispose of these somewhere else, like a work dumpster or save the boxes for safe transportation of the items in the future.

    5.    Do not open your door to anyone you do not know!  If you don't recognize someone at your door let them know you are home but call your non-emergency police number and give a good description if you feel uncomfortable.  Trust your intuition.

    6.    Consider placing valuables, such as jewelry, cash etc. in your kitchen, maybe in a cereal box or freezer if you don't have a safe.

    A few things to remember when you are out
    • Park under a light at night
    • Don't park next to vans or other large vehicles.
    • Check under, around and the back seat before getting into the car.  If something doesn't feel right go back inside the building for assistance.
    • Don't over burden yourself with packages.
    • Always have your keys in your hand before you walk out to your car.
    • Don't leave expensive items or packages in plain sight in your car.  Put them in the trunk.
    • Don't walk between cars, stay in the open.

    Do keep in mind that social media is not a good place to broadcast your vacation plans or whereabouts.  We are very vulnerable to people who want what we have and you have to remember they are always watching.  Let a neighbor or two know you will be away when you travel or better yet have someone stay in your home.  Don't let newspapers or mail pile up as these are signs that your house is vacant.

    The holidays are a time of celebration and good cheer.  Keep your eyes open and watch out for each other.  Always call the non-emergency number for the police if anything seems odd or out of order.  The most important thing is to listen to your instincts and trust them, and teach your children to be aware of their surroundings too.
    For more tips on safety and security go to:


Contact us at:  info@srnapasadena.org 
Please consider joining SRNA--West Pasadena's newest and fast growing neighborhood organization dedicated to the San Rafael Neighborhoods Area.   
SRNA is registered  with the city of Pasadena/Neighborhood Connections office.

Member $20
Household $35
Sustaining $100
Patron $250
Benefactor $500

Please send check by mail to:
San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA)
PO Box 92617
Pasadena, CA 91109


Join us at our website at
www.srnapasadena.org and click the tab "Join Us"

Credit cards accepted 
SRNA is looking for people to volunteer and be a part of our organization.  Write to us if you would like to help make a difference and what your area of interest is.