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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Rose Bowl renovation expenses soar $42 million as UCLA waits patiently


By Jack Wang Staff Writer
Updated:   12/22/2012 06:34:39 PM PST
 A small, bronze plaque embedded in the Rose Bowl's concrete wall greets visitors to the legendary stadium.

It's the first thing Darryl Dunn, the Pasadena stadium's general manager, points to as he walks through, explaining why an ambitious $152 million renovation project has swelled dramatically in both cost and duration.

The plaque, measuring less than a foot in either direction, stands as a humble symbol for uncommon prestige: a spot as a National Historic Landmark.

Only three other stadiums in the country share that designation: Harvard Stadium, the Yale Bowl and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Walk inside, though, and the history shows. In one section, the red paint on rows of seats is fading. In another, the concrete is stained with rusty orange-brown streaks.

"What we're trying to do - what we've been doing, not trying - is making the Rose Bowl viable for the future," Dunn says.

That goal has been delayed by fiscal reality. A gap had opened up even before construction began, as fears of inflation depressed an initial bond sale that brought in nearly $19 million less than expected.
That goal has been delayed by fiscal reality. When the stadium renovation project first began in early 2011, it had a $152 million budget and a three-year, three-phase timeline. The
 plan bought 30-year lease extensions for both the Tournament of Roses, which hosts the annual Rose Bowl Game, and UCLA's football team, ensuring both tenants will remain in Pasadena through 2042.
Nonetheless, since its inception, the cost of the renovation climbed to more than $180 million, according to stadium officials. That doesn't include $15 million in originally-planned elements that will no longer be built, which would bring the overall cost to around $194 million.

That full version won't happen until around 2015 - well after the 2014 BCS Championship and the 100th edition of the Rosebowl Game.

None of that seems to bother Dunn on this particular
morning, as the Southern California sun shimmers on grass that's just a week old. Manicured lines on the field curve in gentle waves. As Dunn looks out, his voice is dipped in optimism.

"This isn't just a football stadium," he says. "In many ways, it is hallowed ground."

Even the Sistine Chapel needed a restoration. As the Rose Bowl aged, officials feared that it would be left behind in the stadium-building rat race. When talks of other grand blueprints sprung up in other corners of Los Angeles County, Pasadena didn't want to risk losing its clout or historic pride - a fate that had snared other venues.

The Orange Bowl, the longtime home of the University of Miami, was demolished in 2008. The Cotton Bowl still stands, but lost its game three years ago to Cowboys' Stadium, 20 miles west.

If the Rose Bowl hadn't renovated, Dunn fears it might have lost out on the BCS bowl rotation, and
eventually even UCLA home games. Its history as the site of Super Bowls, World Cup championships, Olympic soccer gold medal games and outdoor concerts featuring the Rolling Stones and U2, would be soon forgotten in the crush.

Newer Los Angeles stadiums - if built - would eventually get the business - possibly even the Rose Bowl Game itself.
"You have to give credit to the city to continue to invest when temptations are across the country to scrap the original stadium for more modern ones," says Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck. "I think there's been a creative balance."

Tournament of Roses president Sally Bixby said her organization maintains strong ties to the storied stadium and wants to see those ties continue.

"The Rose Bowl is an iconic facility," she said. "We're invested in preserving it."

Renovation proceeded with five main goals: ensuring public safety; enhancing fan experience; improving facility operations; developing revenue streams; and maintaining national landmark status.

The problem was that no one foresaw a litany of increased costs. From bid overruns to increased labor costs to missing historical construction drawings, the Rose Bowl Operating Co., which Dunn heads, saw its bills quickly multiply. Two months ago, the RBOC even discussed potential litigation against a fired contractor.

The stadium's national landmark status presented particular challenges. For example, the berm beneath the press box was considered part of the historic landscape; extra time and money was spent on trying to figure out ways to preserve it. After further analysis, unstable soil conditions forced the project team to dismantle the berm and work directly from the concourse level.

Dunn says that while he does not regret pursuing the project, he wishes they had established greater contingency.

"Pretend you have a 90-year-old house," he says. "Imagine all the behind-the-scenes stuff you have to do. It's huge."

Dunn believes in the project and urges patience.

UCLA is exercising patience as well. Athletic director Dan Guerrero says that if stadium construction doesn't reach substantial completion by a certain time, the school would receive financial remedies. UCLA and the Rose Bowl are still negotiating what that would entail. With features like the new press box, scoreboard and video screen already in use, Guerrero doesn't anticipate that happening.

UCLA is exercising patience as well. Athletic director Dan Guerrero says that if stadium construction doesn't reach substantial completion by a certain time, the school would receive financial remedies. UCLA and the Rose Bowl are still negotiating what that would entail. With features like the new press box, scoreboard and video screen already in use, Guerrero doesn't anticipate that happening.

"We don't believe we're going to be in that situation, based on discussions that we've had," Guerrero says. "We're working together to come to an agreement that will benefit both parties."

The slow pace of construction hasn't hurt ticket sales. This year, the Bruins saw a 21-percent increase compared to last year. The turnaround success of Jim Mora's nine-win football team certainly helped that mark, one bested by just two other teams in the country.

In a move that symbolically cemented the school's relationship with the stadium, the new press box was renamed Terry Donahue Pavilion, after the winningest coach in program history. Without a stadium on campus, the Bruins were never keen on moving elsewhere.

"There aren't a whole lot of options in Southern California right now," Guerrero says. "This is a place that's been our home."

The new press box pavilion has a control center and broadcast room. Four tunnels each on the north and south ends have already been widened from roughly 6 1/2-feet wide to nearly 15 feet. Work still remains, such as removing rows of unused seats and installing a hedge and field-level entrance for fans in lower-level seats to use.

Beck said the stadium currently has $134 million on hand designated for construction. An incoming short-term $6 million loan from the city still leaves a funding gap of more than $40 million. Some money will come from fundraising by Legacy Connections, a private group of community members, as well as miscellaneous revenues such as $4 million from the BCS Championship.

Legacy expects to raise $20 million. So far pledges total $8 million, officials said.

Hope for progress is largely dependent on a plan to borrow from a $30 million bond, which the City Council will vote on Jan. 7. If it doesn't pass muster, no new construction can begin. That would leave the new pavilion, scheduled to complete its remaining floors in April, unfinished.

Even if that money comes through, not all of the other renovations will be complete in time for the BCS Championship and the Rose Bowl Game's 100th anniversary - a missed opportunity, to say the least. Obvious signs of construction will be gone, but a planned return to the stadium's historic elliptical shape may not yet be complete. Neither would an expanded concourse.

On college football's biggest stage, a day when ESPN will pan its cameras over Arroyo Seco, the Rose Bowl will still be a little short of what it eventually hopes to be.

"We would love to have had everything done by the BCS game," Dunn says. "But I think the people who come here, they'll be impressed."

Adds Beck: "The original vision is still going to be achieved. Just on a different timeline."

 A move by an NFL team into the stadium - still opposed by many neighborhood groups - would be a boon to the Rose Bowl's bottom line, but isn't being factored into the budget. That income could go to building deferred features as well as elements that were discussed but never planned: a timeline that wraps around the concourse, a grand entrance, a museum.

"We don't anticipate NFL revenue as part of the financial plan, but it would give us an opportunity to continue to invest in the stadium and help resolve some of the funding shortfalls," Beck says.

Renovation by the numbers
Started: Jan. 10, 2011
Bulk of project to be completed by: Jan. 1, 2014
Original Estimated Cost: $152 million
Current Estimated Cost: $194 million
Original Funding Gap: $20 million
Current Funding Gap: $54 million
Private fundraising goal: $20 million
Pledges toward that goal: $8 million
UCLA has agreed to play its home games at the Rose Bowl through 2042.
The Tournament of Roses Association has agreed to stage the Rose Bowl Game there through at least 2043.
Rose Bowl timeline
1897: City of Pasadena purchased 10 acres of land in the Arroyo Seco area.
1921: Tournament of Roses Association commences construction of Rose Bowl stadium.
1922: Stadium construction completed. First football game played in the Rose Bowl.
1923: Rose Bowl is officially dedicated.
1929: The south end of the stadium is enclosed.
1931: Wooden sections of the Rose Bowl are removed and replaced with reinforced concrete. The addition of 10,000 seats increases total capacity to 83,000.
1949: Stadium is enlarged to seat 94,410, a $335,000 improvement.
1969: Wooden benches are replaced with aluminum seating.
1991: Tournament of Roses Association accepts the city's request to renovate the press box, tripling capacity to more than 1,000.

1992: Construction completed on $11.5 million three-level structure at the Rose Bowl providing state-of-the-art facilities for news media and spectators in the Executive and Club Suites. The seating capacity increases from 330 to 1,200.
1992: The Rose Bowl is designated as an engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. After many renovations, the Rose Bowl seating capacity is 104,594.
1993: $2 million renovation of the Rose Bowl is a gift from World Cup USA 1994 Inc. to the city of Pasadena. The field is widened to 224 feet and lengthened to 345 feet. Permanent ramps are installed for the disabled. New seating capacity - 100,184
1996: The Rose Bowl undergoes a $21.5 million renovation including a new sound system, scoreboards, video board, elevator with field access and restrooms.
2011: The Rose Bowl begins a $152 million renovation, including a new premium seating pavilion, widened tunnels, and new LED video board. It is the largest investment in the history of the iconic structure. The majority of improvements are slated for completion before the 100th Rose Bowl Game and the next BCS National Championship game in January 2014. When complete the stadium will seat about 88,500.

710 Tunnel: The Pasadena City Council Decides to Write a Letter Instead


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

 It was an interesting and rewarding experience, I'll say that much. A lot of very impassioned and deeply concerned citizens showed up to express their outrage that such a destructive enterprise might actually get built, and straight through their own slice of our California paradise. Despite all of the evidence that the 710 Tunnel would be a nasty public health hazard the likes of which this area has never seen before, and that it would pack toxic truck and auto traffic into our valley in previously unheard of numbers, the bureaucracies that support it somehow have all the power they need to actually push the project through.

And even if all of the cities in the San Gabriel Valley voted in unison to oppose it, the power given to Metro and Caltrans by Sacramento is such that they could just brush it all aside and continue with their plans to funnel thousands upon thousands of diesel burning trucks out of the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and right into our lives every single day. You can only wonder how things ever got so bad.

You'd think that in a Democracy the will of the people and their elected officials would actually mean something. That in situations such as this one it doesn't is a very sobering thought. We live beneath the heel of vindictive state bureaucracies that are sustained by our own tax money. It is like paying the executioner for the bullet he plans to shoot you with.

Long story short, in 2001 the bamboozled residents of Pasadena voted for something called Measure A. And what this measure said was that the citizens of Pasadena support the completion of the 710 Freeway. That might or might not be how people feel now, and there is a move to put something akin to this Measure A back on the ballot soon so a new and hopefully more positive reading can take place. But what this meant at last night's Pasadena City Council meeting is that it could have very well been a violation of a voter enacted law for them to vote against the 710 Tunnel.

At the insistence of Mayor Bill Bogaard (a very calm and thoughtful man who really knows how to conduct a meeting), it was decided instead that a strongly worded letter would be written expressing the misgivings that all 7 Pasadena City Councilmembers have about this thing. Surprisingly the letter, once it is completed, will also express their displeasure at the less than honest way that Metro has conducted their "process." Particularly on the matter of truck traffic. It is something they have apparently been caught lying about more than once.

Around 30 or so speakers got up to talk, including outgoing Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and our very own Councilmember John Harabedian. Good to see John taking something he believes in on the road like that. And it will be interesting to see the Pasadena City Council's letter to Metro once it gets written. I'm sure all seven members truly are against the building of the 710 Tunnel
. And I'm also certain they would have voted against it had their hands not been tied by something the voters foolishly approved 12 years ago. So they're writing a letter instead.

Caltrans homes in limbo

South Pasadena city manager says he has no interest in joint powers authority.



 Caltrans home

 A home owned by Caltrans at 1199 Pasadena Ave. in Pasadena is vacant. Caltrans bought homes in the area in the 50s to 70s to make way for the 710 Freeway extension into Pasadena. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / February 23, 2011)


 The forecast is running lukewarm to cold on the prospect of local cities managing the hundreds of residential properties Caltrans owns in South Pasadena, Pasadena and Los Angeles.

A state audit in August blasted the transportation agency for mismanagement of the properties it acquired decades ago as it prepared to extend the Long Beach (710) Freeway from Alhambra to Pasadena. The proposed 710 extension has been mired in controversy, and work has not begun.

The California state auditor, citing failure to collect adequate rents and poor oversight of repair work, called for Caltrans to identify options for shedding the properties.

But Caltrans is not ready to sell. An environmental review is underway to determine the feasibility of building a 4.5-mile tunnel connecting the 710 to the Foothill (210) Freeway, as well as other options for easing congestion in the area. Caltrans officials have said the agency shouldn't sell the properties until it knows for sure it won't need them. The study will be completed in 2014.

In response to the audit, Caltrans brought in a private consultant to analyze three options to improve management of the properties: hire a private management firm, transfer the properties to a local transportation agency or establish a joint powers authority that would include the cities of Pasadena, South Pasadena and Los Angeles.

Of the 449 habitable properties, 239 are in Los Angeles, 117 are in Pasadena and 93 are in South Pasadena.

Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said the analysis is ongoing.

But South Pasadena and Pasadena officials aren't thrilled about the prospect of managing the homes, particularly those reputed to have a long history of maintenance problems.

 “We are absolutely not interested in a JPA [joint powers authority],” South Pasadena City Manager Sergio Gonzalez said. “The only option we're interested is for Caltrans to sell for private ownership.”

Gonzalez said during an exploratory meeting with Caltrans on Oct. 11 the city made it clear its position is that the homes should be sold, with Caltrans tenants getting first shot at ownership and the proceeds from sales helping state and local agencies.

Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said if Caltrans doesn't move forward with a plan to quickly sell the homes, the city would be willing to get involved.

“I think we would be interested in looking at ways the properties can be maintained in a fashion that is conducive to a neighborhood environment,” Beck said.

Los Angeles Department of Housing Executive Officer Rushmore Cervantes said that Caltrans has not reached out to city officials, but that the city is interested in acquiring properties for the creation of affordable housing.

The audit also recommended that Caltrans consider working with a local transportation agency to manage the properties, but Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials said there are no active discussions between the two organizations.

Chris Sutton, an attorney who represents the Caltrans Tenants Assn., said as long as Caltrans is in charge, the tenants will suffer.

“Unless the rents that are paid are used to maintain the properties, any structure — whether it's a private entity or a JPA or to have the tooth fairy do it — will be unable to accomplish anything,” he said.

In the wake of the audit, Caltrans promised to take steps to improve maintenance of the homes and oversight of repair work. Caltrans also plans to begin raising rents in March, in response to the audit's criticism that it lost an estimated $22.5 million in recent years by undercharging tenants.

Travel: Rolling along in style on Amtrak's Coast Starlight train


By Jay Berman
Updated:   12/22/2012 12:50:13 PM PST
  Every day at 10:10 a.m., Amtrak's Coast Starlight eases out of Los Angeles' Union Station and begins its scheduled 34-hour, 27-minute run that will end at Seattle's King Street Station at 8:37 p.m. the following day.

Just a few minutes earlier, also every day of the year, its southbound counterpart pulls away from the Seattle station and starts a 35-hour, 15-minute journey that ends in Los Angeles.

Each train, usually 11 to 14 cars in length depending on demand, is likely to include four sleeping cars, three coaches, three baggage cars, a dining car and a parlor car - Amtrak favors the British "parlour." It will stop in cities as large as San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento and Portland and as small as Chico and Dunsmuir,

Amtrak's Coast Starlight train. (Photo by Jay Berman)
Calif.; Chemult, Ore.; and Centralia, Wash.
There is Wi-Fi, but only in the parlor car and thus only accessible to sleeping-class passengers, and there are dining car meals with a wider choice of entrees than many might expect.

There is nothing quirky or retro about Amtrak passengers, if there ever was. They don't wear engineer caps or talk about the "Ol' 97" and they aren't necessarily fans of vintage train films.

Many simply don't like to fly, show up at an airport two or three hours before takeoff, put their shoes and belts in a plastic tray, zigzag through security lines and put up with TSA's sometimes surly attitude.

Others, who might once have considered driving to their destination, don't like paying nearly $4 for a gallon of gasoline. And so they turn to the train in increasing numbers.

"Ridership has increased over the past years," said Vernae Graham, Amtrak's media relations manager for 11 Western states. "Our fiscal year is October to September. In Fiscal Year 2012, nearly 455,000 passengers rode the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle, and nearly 427,000 in Fiscal Year 2011, a 6.5 percent increase over the previous year."

To be sure, Amtrak can't compete with airlines in terms of speed. But it can in price, and it surpasses air travel in comfort. The basic fare between Los Angeles and Seattle is $106 each way, but that can increase on weekends and at peak times. As Graham explained, "Fares fluctuate much like the airlines.

"The further the advance, the better the rate, and there are often last-minute deals," she said. "The sleeper fares all fluctuate."

Those looking to keep the price down may find a coach seat the way to go. Amtrak bills it as a "wide, comfortable seat," and it is, but sitting up all night is still sitting up all night. It reclines somewhat, but not like a bed. It has decent legroom, far more than in coach class on any airline, but nearby children have been known to pick 4 a.m. as a good time to begin crying.

That leaves the room options, and they can more than double the cost of the ticket, with a basic charge of $362 for a roomette, $781 for a family bedroom and $813 for what is called the superliner bedroom.

The roomette consists of two facing chairs in a small, private room. They convert into an upper and lower berth with individual reading lights and a more than satisfactory heating system, even when the train is snaking through Oregon's mountains at night. It does not have private toilet facilities, but there are toilets in each car, and Amtrak keeps them well-maintained. There are also showers in each sleeper car. They aren't minuscule, as in some budget
Passengers check luggage on Amtrak's Coast Starlight train. (Photo by Jay Berman)
motels, and they work well.

The family bedroom sleeps two adults and two children. It has a sofa, two reclining seats that convert into a bed and a fold-down table, but it also lacks toilet facilities. The superliner bedroom offers a sink, toilet and shower. It sleeps two adults.

Those last two options can boost the cost of a train ride into major investment status, but the cost is per room, not per passenger, and that includes the five meals (two lunches, two dinners and one breakfast) served between Los Angeles and Seattle.

The prices must not seem expensive to some, as the sleeper rooms frequently sell out.

Speaking of selling out, those compartments and seats on the left side of the train going northbound are booked far sooner than those on the right. Jim Morrison most likely didn't have that in mind when he wrote "the west is the best" in the Doors' classic "The End," but the west-facing seats allow an unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean for several hours, from Ventura until the train heads inland toward San Luis Obispo.

The parlor/parlour car may be the best perk for sleeper passengers. It has the only Wi-Fi service on the train, and even that is problematic when passing through Oregon's mountainous interior. But Graham said Amtrak hopes to expand and upgrade Amtrak Wi-Fi service to all trains during 2013.

The parlor car is also the site of the afternoon wine and cheese tastings. A nice side to those sessions is the emphasis on local producers. The attendant pours generous samples of two red and two white wines each day and provides a few cubes of cheeses from the same region.

On the first day of the northbound train journey, both are from California. On the second day, they are from Oregon and Washington. My wife and I liked the Rabbit Ridge Zinfandel from Rabbit Ridge Winery in Paso Robles and the Hogue Genesis Syrah from Hogue Cellars in Prosser, Wash. All are available for purchase by the bottle.

The panoramic parlor cars were built in the mid-1950s and all but abandoned decades later, before Amtrak began to turn things around. Fewer than 10 remain, and all are on the Coast Starlight. The last was refurbished in 2007, when parlor car service was relaunched, Graham said. The parlor car has comfortable swivel chairs and more room to move around than found in the roomettes. It's a good place to read a book or check email, but not necessarily to use a cellphone.

Amtrak has designated what it calls a "quiet car" on some of its East Coast runs, but there is no such designation on the Coast Starlight. Still, some parlor car attendants take it upon themselves to forcefully shush passengers who have broken the informal rules by making or receiving a call.

The train may go all the way from Los Angeles to Seattle, but many passengers do not. Portland to Seattle is a popular run, but Graham says Los Angeles to San Jose is "the most popular city pair - any destination that hugs the coastline."

As passengers board or disembark, Amtrak can add or remove cars, not during a specific run, but before it leaves Los Angeles or Seattle. Said Graham: "Reservation projections determine the number of cars placed in the lineup, with room for last-minute purchases. So, yes, it builds. We can anticipate how many passengers will ride during peak seasons based on past numbers."

That translates to an average of 700 Coast Starlight passengers per day and a maximum of about 1,100.

A companion train, the Amtrak Cascades, operates between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., but - as the route takes less than 11 hours - doesn't offer sleeper cars. That train has carried nearly 1.7 million riders in the past two fiscal years.

Coast Starlight passengers can link in Los Angeles to trains continuing south to San Diego. There also are Amtrak-run buses in Oakland that take riders into San Francisco in less than an hour. Another bus, under contract to Amtrak in Seattle, crosses the border and deposits them in Vancouver in about three hours.

Jay Berman is a Manhattan Beach freelance writer.

To book a ride on Amtrak's Coast Starlight, and for more information on its route, go to www.amtrak.com/coast-starlight-train or call 800-872-7245.


California bullet train doesn't stop here, but it could be delayed: Opinion


Updated:   12/20/2012 12:47:03 PM PST
 Another complication for California's bullet-train project? You don't say.
The latest, reported by The Bakersfield Californian, is a proposal to call "time out" on building the portion of the Bakersfield portion of the new rail system and instead use existing non-high-speed tracks until there's money to do that part.

This might help avoid Bakersfield lawsuits that could hold up the whole project.
But, as the Californian's Lois Henry points out, the California High Speed Rail Authority "would have to acknowledge that it only has enough money to build the line from south of Fresno to somewhere north of Bakersfield."

Some of the funding remains in doubt for the projected $68 billion system to connect the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas at 220 mph by 2033.

That's only one of the ways expectations for the project have changed since voters approved initial funding in 2008.

Maybe more than the Bakersfield portion needs a "time out."

-- Opinion staff



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Posted by Joe Cano on Facebook

December 22, 2012

This has always been about truck traffic and a tunnel. Here are the corporate cabalists confirming what we have know all along. Also, note the cities of San Marino & Alhambra(Messina?) conspiring with Metro, Scag, & Caltrans. They even had the Spanish drilling company ACS- Dragados there with his shovel itching to destroy the people of El Sereno. Note the 'BIG LIE' that the freeway ends in
'So. Pasadena'. El Sereno and its people are not even considered. We just don't exist, our homes don't exist, our lives don't count, these people have given The big 'F' YOU to El Sereno. I repeat, its is always easy to unleash a Genocide on a people when they are 'DE-HUMANIZED'. This demonstrates just that. Reckless indifference to another's suffering & human greed in the of pursuit of profits through PUBLIC PARTNERSHIPS.

Please read this excerpt from page 3 & 4

USC Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy Financial Planning Charrette 710/210 Tunnel ConnectionDecember 5, 2007

The University Club University of Southern California The meeting opened with introductions, and a statement from California State Assemblyman Mike Eng, representing district 49 including much of the San Gabriel Valley including Alhambra and San Marino. Assemblyman Eng offered his support for legislative action. Tracy Arnold, Director for Jobs and Economic Growth of the Office of the Governor, expressed support for the project and stressed Governor Schwarzenegger’s commitment to leveraging public money through private sector partnerships. Dan Farkas, representing California State Senator Gil Cedillo, confirmed their interest in seeing construction underway, and Senator Cedillo’s willingness to sponsor needed legislation. Senator Cedillo represents Senate District 22, including much of Los Angeles as well as South Pasadena, Alhambra, and San Marino.
Robert Huddy of the Southern California Association of Governments began discussion with an overview of the history of the project. Mr. Huddy is a senior transportation manager who has been involved with the 710 connector project as a representative of SCAG for nearly two decades. Mr. Huddy emphasized the on‐going local opposition to the project. He described how the environmental review process has been a critical obstacle to progress, as legal challenges create long delays and result in significant cost increases. He expressed optimism that the new proposals for tunneling combined with greater awareness of the regional importance of the project, including for environmental quality and for congestion relief, would continue to alleviate concerns. He noted that the South Pasadena city council, in particular, has moderated their stance on the facility.
The historical overview presented by Mr. Huddy was followed with data on current traffic estimates and cost estimates. Traffic estimates indicate that the tunnel would immediately attract significant traffic between the port area and Los Angeles heading toward major national distribution centers in San Bernardino County. It would alleviate traffic congestion for commuters and trucks on surrounding freeways, in particular Interstate 5, Interstate 10, and Highway 101 and also eliminate the current bottleneck where I‐710 currently ends in South Pasadena. The MTA was represented at the meeting by Linda Hui, Transportation Planning Manager of the San Gabriel Valley Area Team, and Caltrans District 7 was represented by senior engineer Abdi Saghafi, route 710 corridor manager, both of whom contributed informal assessments of current prospects and progress.
Michael Liikala, representing ACS‐Dragados, followed with a detailed presentation on major engineering aspects of the tunnel project. He emphasized the savings in costs and time that have been made possible by recent advancements in tunneling technology utilizing TBMs. He mentioned several construction projects currently underway in Europe, including subway expansion projects as well as the A‐86 tunnel in Paris, France and the M30 motorway in Madrid, Spain........



 Posted on

The Bond Buyer published a story today saying that Metro is spearheading a nationwide push to create a tax-credit bond program to finance transportation projects. As Move LA has noted before, Measure J was actually “Plan B” for accelerating Measure R transit projects. “Plan A” was a combination of the federal low-interest loan program called TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Financing and Innovation Act), which was included in MAP-21, last year’s federal transportation reauthorization, plus qualified transportation investment bonds or QTIBs, which in the end were not included in MAP-21.

These qualified tax credit bonds are taxable bonds issued by state, local or other eligible issuers, with the federal government subsidizing most or all of the interest through granting investors annual tax credits in lieu of interest. These are the bonds that Metro is once again working to build support for, as part of a $45 billion ten-year federal program, estimated to cost the federal government $7.5 billion in lost taxes over ten years. Under the proposal, the US Treasury Department would set the maximum reimbursable rate for the bonds each day, enabling them to be sold at their face amount without interest cost to the issuer.

“The budding coalition behind the effort maintains the program makes sense because Congress has already authorized tax-credit bonds in forestry conservationb, renewable energy projects, energy conservation, qualified ozone academies and new school construction,” writes the Bond Buyer.



 What early steps were undertaken to gauge voter support and create a messaging strategy for the campaign?
There was extensive polling countywide — with a sufficient sample to ensure we were within a 3% margin of error — and three sets of focus groups to test messaging. There was also a lot of formal and informal dialogue with stakeholders around the county, much of it with subregional councils of governments (there are eight in LA County) and with constituency leaders.

What campaign strategy or tactic was most successful?
TV, definitely. Los Angeles County has more than 3 million voters and there is no other way than TV to reach that many people. Unfortunately, this is very expensive. If we had had the time we could have also raised money for subregional cable TV ads, for radio, and for targeted direct mail, but Governor Brown did not sign the bill authorizing Measure J until the very last moment, on September 30, which constrained our fundraising efforts probably by 20 percent. We also purchased positions on slate mailers — there are about a dozen in LA County and we had spots on all but one.

Do you believe the “jobs, jobs, jobs” message was effective for this campaign? Would you change anything about messaging if you could run the campaign again?
It was a two-part message: jobs and traffic relief. It was the right message, as indicated by the 66% vote, which is really a landslide — it’s just not the two-thirds majority that was required.

How did the campaign model its budget and approach fundraising? Any specific tactics prove to be more successful than others?
We had the experience of Measure R to inform us, and we had a very experienced consulting team doing the fundraising and media. Our total budget on the low end was to raise $2.2 million and on the high end to raise $3.7 million, with about 75 percent of that going for media buys, and we raised about $3.2 million. We targeted three groups for fundraising — labor, the transportation industry including engineering firms, and civic and business leaders. We targeted donors who could give $25,000 or more, and these asks were to be made by political figures including LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, LA Metro Board Member (and former California Assembly Transportation Committee Chair) Richard Katz, and state Assemblyman Michael Feuer, who authored the legislation empowering Measure J and, previously, Measure R. But there was a legal opinion that Metro board members could not ask for contributions from any contractors or others who might do business with Metro. This meant that these asks had to be done by Assemblyman Feuer and Move LA Executive Director Denny Zane.

What civic leaders, businesses or organizations had the biggest impact on garnering more than 65% voter support?
Because big media buys were a significant campaign strategy, people and organizations who were able to help us raise money were important. Major fundraisers included Museum Associates, the nonprofit organization that runs the LA County Museum of Art, businessman/philanthropist Eli Broad, the LA Dodgers, AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group), Laborers International Union of North America. Financial supporters were more or less evenly split among the aforementioned three groups: civic leaders, businesses and large employers; labor; and the transportation industry.

Who were the opponents of Measure J and what impact did they have?
Early opponents were conservative Republican LA County supervisors Michael Antonovich, who represents north LA County, and Don Knabe, who represents much of the South Bay — both subregions where Measure J did less well. Opponents also included communities that opposed some Measure J projects: Beverly Hills opposed the subway, and communities in the San Gabriel Valley opposed an extension of the 710 freeway (Measure J would have funded some 710 corridor improvements). Measure J lost votes in Beverly Hills but there was little impact in the San Gabriel Valley. The Bus Riders Union also opposed Measure J, but while they did get media attention their impact seemed minimal, as Measure J did very well — sometimes getting more than 70% of the vote — in almost all the middle-class and working-class communities where the Bus Riders Unions would have had the most influence.

What social media or tech tools were used to reach voters? What strategies got the biggest response?
Because the governor didn’t sign the bill authorizing Measure J until Sept. 30 the campaign started very late. The website wasn’t even up until about a month before the election, and this also made it difficult to build an audience on facebook and twitter. Again, because of the size of the voter population in LA County, money and effort was focused on big high-profile media buys on TV.
What was the biggest difference between the campaigns for Measure R and Measure J? Measure R won! The Measure R campaign got off the ground earlier. There was less “background noise” about taxes from Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which may have caused support to erode in affluent communities. There was also a lot of media about the governor’s tax hike, Proposition 30, in this election. Voter turnout was 10% lower, and new Metro Board Chairman Antonovich did not want LA Metro to send out any mailings that explained the measure to voters — as Metro had done with Measure R.

Both Measure R and Measure J were on the ballot in presidential election years. How did this impact GOTV strategy and the turnout of key constituencies?
President Obama brought out the vote both times, though the turnout for Measure J in this last election was 10% lower. Prop 30, the governor’s tax measure, and Prop 32, which would have prohibited unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes, also helped ensure that people would come out to vote in this last election.

Why do you think Measure J came up just short of victory in this campaign?
The real issue is the high threshold of two-thirds of the voters, which is a real problem, especially when 30% of voters regularly say “no” to ballot measures. The most significant adverse factor was that the vote declined in affluent communities, probably because of Proposition 30, the statewide tax, and because of the debate over taxes in the presidential campaign.

What would you change about the campaign if you could do it over?
It should have gotten off the ground sooner, though this was impossible for a variety of reasons, which would have enabled us to raise more money for targeted subregional messages through cable and direct mail. When you have to get a two-thirds majority even small things can mean the difference between defeat and victory.

What’s the most important lesson for the rest of the country from your experience in LA with Measure J?
That there is strong support among the electorate for broad-based local taxes to build local transportation projects — the 66% vote shows very strong support. We believe voters throughout the county still support smart infrastructure investment, and that California’s two-thirds voter approval requirement is an unreasonable threshold that thwarts the public will, and that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, a combination of thoughtful polling, aggressive fundraising and smart media should bring in a majority of voters in non-California cities and regions clogged with traffic.

What are next steps for Move LA and the coalition built up during the campaign? Is there another ballot measure in the near future?
We are working on accelerating Measure R projects via other means. We are encouraging Congress to reconsider the QTIB (Qualified Transportation Investment Bonds) program that has been renamed America Fast Forward Bonds, the national infrastructure bank, and possibly more robust funding for California’s state infrastructure bank and perhaps even a state version of QTIBs. We are also already at work to build a campaign to reduce the voter threshold for sales taxes for transportation to 55%. Two constitutional amendments have already been introduced — one in the California Assembly and another in the Senate. If approved this threshold could be effective immediately, meaning that any other measure on the ballot — such as a transportation sales tax — would win by 55%. We believe we will get the help of the governor, who has political momentum with the victory of Proposition 30 and because Democrats won a two-thirds majority in both the Assembly and Senate. The idea of reducing the voter threshold already has the support of non-Democratic constituencies, including Mobility 21, a coalition of seven county transportation commissions and six chambers of commerce as well as other business alliances including the American Automobile Association.