To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Sunday, December 30, 2012

More on the Mont Blanc Tunnel by Joe Cano

Unintended consequences are never part of any business equation. Variables are frowned on because they provide uncertainty and no guarantee of return. I call them gremlins. The safest tunnel in the world under Mont Blanc in Switzerland was undermined by margarine, human error, design flaws and lives were lost.
Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire Video

Posted by Joe Cano on Facebook, Dec. 30, 2012

Here is something to dispute any notion that just by banning 'flammable' materials from entering a tunnel that tunnel is safe. With all the safeguards, all the guarantees, a truck carrying margarine to market proved all assurance to be lies. First blood spilled & all involved in building this tunnel will be on extended vacations in 'non-extradition' countries. Brazil anyone?

Seconds From Disaster - S01E02 - Tunnel Inferno


The Last Tattler Sunday News of 2012


 Sunday, December 30, 2012




 "Will you just look at the time!"


 Where did the year go? Same place all those other years have gone, I suppose. I'm just not certain where that might be. And I have been looking for a couple of them. Personally I think we put a lot of faith in chaining everything to the time it takes this planet to revolve once around the sun. There could have been other criteria, you know. Like maybe the length time it takes an oak tree to reach 25 feet. Or perhaps how long it takes your son to grow a decent beard. Some never do. However, I am going to have to let this go, at least for now. The calendars are already printed, the parties are planned and the caterers have ordered the cases of champagne. It is too late to change things. Maybe next year.

So here is the last news. At least for 2012. Hopefully I'll get this "year thing" all worked out and we won't have to have another one of these for a while.

China Requiring People To Visit Their Parents (click here): Visit your parents. That's an order. So says China, whose national legislature on Friday amended its law on the elderly to require that adult children visit their aged parents "often" - or risk being sued by them.

The amendment does not specify how frequently such visits should occur.

State media say the new clause will allow elderly parents who feel neglected by their children to take them to court. The move comes as reports abound of elderly parents being abandoned or ignored by their children.

A rapidly developing China is facing increasing difficulty in caring for its aging population. Three decades of market reforms have accelerated the breakup of the traditional extended family in China, and there are few affordable alternatives, such as retirement or care homes, for the elderly or others unable to live on their own.

(Mod: Now that is frightening. Given the rate new laws are passed in California, someone in Sacramento is likely to hear about this and there go our perfectly good Thanksgivings at the bowling alley. Look at it this way, this could halt the westward migration of young people to California. Think about all the people who moved here just to get away from their folks in New York. And here is something even more scary. What if they're living in the Kensington? Perhaps all of those planned store fronts will end up being rented by lawyers.)

All the new laws enacted in Sacramento for the year 2012 (click here).

(Mod: There are 56 pages of these newly "enacted bills," with approximately 8 to 12 listed on each page. It must have cost millions of taxpayer dollars just to to pass all these damn things. I do have a favorite, though. AB 2274, "vexatious litigants." As opposed to civil litigants, I suppose?)

Pet chicken alerts family about house fire (click here): They say heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and now species. When Brad Krueger raised this chicken on his farm, he never knew it would one day grow up and save his neighbors. "I've heard animals waking people up but not a chicken," he said.

It all started Thursday morning when the fire department says a huge fire broke out at a home in Alma Center. The smoke detectors were not working, the people inside were asleep. That is, until the chicken sensed something was wrong.

"She said she heard the commotion of the chicken and all that stuff," Krueger added.

The people inside the home also told Krueger the cat started making noise. They smelled fire, opened the garage door, and it was full of smoke.

"We were halfway into town and you could look into town and all you could see was an orange glow," said Jeff Gaede, the Fire Chief in Alma Center.

He says the home and everything inside is a total loss. Because the house sits up on a hill beyond a private driveway, we were are not able to show you video of what is left. But even Gaede is surprised how the family got out. "I guess at first I was really amazed, we've never run into a chicken before," he said.

(Mod: Perhaps we were entirely too dismissive of Mayor Moran's efforts to amend our chicken ordinances.)

Caltrans to raise rents on tenants living in the path of 710 Freeway (click here): Caltrans mailed letters out Friday notifying 310 tenants of the homes it owns in the Long Beach (710) Freeway extension path that their rents will increase starting next year.

Rents will begin increasing in 10percent increments starting on March1, 2013, until they reach "fair market" rates, said Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck. Caltrans' other 250 tenants will either pay the same or less rent.

The letters come in response to a state audit released this summer that slammed the transportation agency for "poor management" of the more than 500 properties it purchased decades ago to make way for a surface freeway from El Sereno to Pasadena.

The audit, commissioned by former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, said Caltrans cost the state millions in lost rent revenue.

"The Bureau of State Audits ... noted that many of the Caltrans-owned properties along SR710 were renting below fair market value, in violation of the state constitution's prohibition on providing a gift of public funds," Shuck said. "Subsequent legal advice has concurred with the auditor's view, so the department must revise rental rates to operate the program consistent with the law."

(Mod: Caltrans being, of course, the people we are expected to entrust with the spending of $10s of billions of dollars to dig a truck tunnel under Pasadena. This when they cannot even follow the law on managing rental properties.)

Steven Greenhut: New Year's predictions for California (click here): California's Democratic leaders are giddy about the future now that they have gained everything they wanted in the recent election – voter-approved tax increases and two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, thus rendering Republicans little more than an annoying irrelevancy who can no longer block tax hikes.

Will Democrats just ramp up the taxing-and-spending spree or will some semblance of a "moderate" Democratic caucus emerge to offer a limited check on those tendencies? Either way, it's hard to find good news for taxpayers or business owners, although the state's public-sector unions ought to be stocking up on champagne.

(Mod: Of course I am a big Steven Greenhut fan, who isn't? If you go to the article you/ll see that Greenhut lists his 10 predictions for 2012, none of them particularly sunny. Which is fine with me. The underlying theme being one party government isn't going to be a good thing for our already disastrously governed state.)

Ford C-Max "Fastest selling hybrid vehicle ever at launch" says Ford (click here): Ford Motor Company says its C-Max Hybrid became the fastest-selling hybrid vehicle ever upon its launch, selling one car shy of 9,000 examples through October and November, the first two months the C-Max Hybrid has been on sale in America.

In a press release, Ford was bold enough to predict C-Max Hybrid sales through December would be more than 40% higher than the combined first three months’ sales of the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight hybrids when they were unleashed on the American marketplace in the year 2000.

C.J. O’Donnell, group marketing manager of Electrification at Ford, said, “Dealers are seeing an overwhelmingly positive response to C-MAX hybrids and are excited to finally take on Prius, with some offering comparison test drives right on their lots. Our customers also are excited to have a fresh hybrid option, with leading fuel economy that does not sacrifice driving fun, performance and technology– choices typically not offered with hybrids.”

(Mod: Thank God America now has some credible competition to the Prius.)

Joel Kotkin: California's Demographic Dilemma (click here): It's been nearly 20 years since California Gov. Pete Wilson won re-election by tying his campaign to the anti-illegal immigrant measure Proposition 187. Ads featuring grainy images of presumably young Hispanic males crossing the border energized a largely white electorate terrified of being overwhelmed, financially and socially, by the incoming foreign hordes.

The demographic dilemma facing California today might be better illustrated by pictures of aging hippies with gray ponytails, of legions in wheel-chairs, seeking out the best rest home and unemployed young people on the street corner, watching while middle-age families drive away, seeking to fulfill mundane middle-class dreams in other states.

The vital, youthful California I encountered when moving here more than 40 years ago soon could be a thing of the past – if we don't address the root causes of an impending demographic decline. The days of fast population growth have certainly passed; the state's population growth barely equaled the national average in the past decade. In the urban strips along the coasts, particularly in the Los Angeles Basin, growth has been as little or half that level.

To be sure, particularly in this region, few would want to see a return to breakneck population growth. But there's little denying that California has shifted from a vibrant magnet for the young and ambitious to a state increasingly bifurcated between an aging, predominately white coastal population and a largely impoverished, heavily Hispanic interior. This evolution, as suggested in last week's essay (click here), has much to do with what passes for "progressive" policies – high taxation, regulation and an Ecotopian delusion that threatens to crush the hopes of many blue-collar and middle-class Californians.

(Mod: We're about to become the new Florida? Probably explains the ALF and whatever it is they're about to spring on us at the British Home. Geriatopia Madre. And doesn't "Ecotopian delusion" describe the Green Committee's devious designs rather nicely?)

I hate to end the year on such a negative note. Well, OK, not really that much. But have a Happy New Year anyway.

Year in Review: McDade tragedy, a mission on Mars, 710 stirs debate



December 28, 2012

 Pasadena residents make clear their opposition to bringing an NFL team to the Rose Bowl during a meeting on Nov. 19, 2012.

 The gunshots that took Kendrec McDade’s life on March 24 have echoed throughout the year in Pasadena.

The Azusa teen was running down Sunset Avenue after allegedly serving as a lookout in a Northwest Pasadena car burglary when he neared two police officers who believed — based on bad information from a 911 call — that they were searching for a man with a gun.

McDade was not armed, though officers say his hand hovered near his waistband as he approached a patrol car. He was shot eight times.

The tragedy occurred shortly after unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Florida, and it added to cries of racial injustice and outrage. Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson commented on the McDade case in an April appearance in Los Angeles, residents marched in his honor and Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez met with clergy and the public to answer questions.

One difference between the Florida and Pasadena incidents was the role of a third party in McDade’s death. Oscar Carrillo, who saw his car being burglarized on Orange Grove Boulevard, later admitted he lied about seeing a weapon when he called 911.

In December, Los Angeles County prosecutors determined that officers Jeff Newlen and Matthew Griffin had relied on Carrillo's disinformation, and decided not to charge them with a crime.

Two other inquiries into McDade’s death are ongoing, as is a lawsuit against Pasadena police brought by McDade’s parents. None are likely to heal the wounds of Anya Slaughter, McDade’s mother.

“He was my world,” she said shortly after the shooting.

From Pasadena to Mars

The region’s connection to the heavens made for a sensational story in 2012, as Jet Propulsion Laboratory safely landed the NASA rover Curiosity on the Red Planet.

“Touchdown confirmed. We're safe on Mars,” JPL engineer Al Chen announced to hollers and high-fives at JPL's Mission Control Center at 10:32 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5.

The craft spent more than eight months in space and traveled 354 million miles to reach its destination near the foot of Mars' Mount Sharp, named for the late Caltech geologist Robert Phillip Sharp. Estimated expenses are $2.5 billion.

The rover has since taken its first photos and soil samples in what is expected to be at least a two-year study that may prove Mars once held water — and possibly life as we know it.

Curiosity also left a trail of good publicity back on Earth , which may have been a factor in NASA announcements to announce more Mars missions. Three more craft are slated to reach the Red Planet or its orbit in the next decade. The MAVEN orbiter will launch in 2013.

Ready for some football?

The Rose Bowl will bask in the glow of the 99th Rose Bowl Game on Tuesday, but the stadium is also a center of controversy.

Several times in 2012 leaders of the Rose Bowl Operating Co. upped the estimated costs for ongoing renovation work. The price tag is now expected to total $195 million, $43 million more than first thought.

City officials say bringing an NFL team to the stadium for a few years could help with finances. On the assumption that Los Angeles business investors are successful in luring a team to the area, Pasadena officials want the Rose Bowl to serve as a temporary home. The City Council voted in November to allow more large events at the stadium to clear the way for negotiations with the NFL.

Rose Bowl neighbors vow to fight the plan, recalling a citywide vote against having a resident NFL team in 2006. They say the noise, traffic and impact on the Arroyo Seco would be too much to bear.

Occupy Colorado Boulevard

The Rose Parade had an unscripted finishing act in 2012, as hundreds of Occupy demonstrators danced down Colorado Boulevard immediately after the last official float.

Seeking reforms to the nation's financial and campaign funding systems, Occupy activists were behind several smaller events in Pasadena and San Marino in 2011 and 2012, but made their biggest splash by carrying a giant octopus, representing Wall Street’s many-tentacled influence on politics and the economy, as they followed the parade.

Concerns that the demonstrators would interrupt the big show or clash with police were not realized.

Scandal strikes PCC

Scandal struck Pasadena City College in June when investigators with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office raided the homes and offices of two officials with the power to oversee PCC contracts with outside vendors. Neither Richard van Pelt, the former top finance official at the college nor Al Hutchings, his deputy, have been charged.

The two ran an outside consulting business called Sustainagistics LLC without the school’s knowledge, and as the criminal probe continues they are tangled in civil litigation with a lighting company officials who allege the pair tried to shake them down in a botched bribery attempt. Van Pelt and Hutchings have denied the claims.

710 plan stirs debate

The freeway that doesn't exist sparked growing outrage in 2012. Regional transportation planners studying whether to complete the long-planned extension of the Long Beach (710) Freeway from Alhambra to Pasadena already face implacable opposition from cities including South Pasadena, and unwavering support from cities including San Marino. Then in August, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority planners awoke a sleeping giant when they briefly proposed making Avenue 64 through Pasadena a freeway alternative. Hundreds of Pasadenans came to subsequent meetings to shout down the plan. The Avenue 64 idea was withdrawn, but a proposal for a 4.5-mile tunnel under the original route lives on. The study is expected to wrap up in 2014.

San Gabriel Valley makes national headlines in 2012 


 By Maritza Velazquez and Frank C. Girardot, Staff Writers 

Updated:   12/29/2012 08:01:20 PM PST
 Some of the San Gabriel Valley's biggest stories in 2012 attracted national attention.

Headlines summed up tales of political corruption, inept bureaucracy, brutal police officers and changing times. But they also told stories of triumph, historical legacy and artistic achievement.

Locally the most significant story was the officer involved March 24 shooting of unarmed teen Kendrec McDade by two Pasadena police officers.

Police were called to the scene of an alleged armed robbery on East Orange Grove Boulevard. In the course of their short investigation they encountered two black men running near the area. A pursuit began. When officers reached Sunset Avenue, just North of Orange Grove, they encountered McDade. Believing he was reaching for his waistband, the officers - one on foot and the other in a patrol car - opened fire killing McDade.

Fall out in the community led to several investigations of the event, including one by the FBI. A D.A.'s investigation found the officers acted legally.

Separate probes of the city's homicide bureau resulted in the suspension of an officer whom is alleged to have been involved in incidents of false arrest, evidence suppression, beatings and bribery. That probe continues.

Here's a recap of the Valley's other top stories this year:

Conquest of Mars

Back in March, the future of NASA's Mars exploration program was on extremely shaky ground as federal budget cuts threatened new missions. Then Curiosity landed in August, capturing the public's attention and inspiring plans for a twin rover, possibly one that would store Mars rock samples to bring back to Earth.

Curiosity's mission isn't easily understood. It's searching for signs of life, but only the organic matter that organisms may have left behind billions of years ago; it can't detect anything biological. Just doing that is exciting enough for scientists and other observers, and the ancient riverbed it landed in provided further evidence that NASA was looking in the right spot.

"This is the first roving analytical lab we've sent to any planet," said Michael Meyer, NASA's lead scientist for Mars exploration, just before the landing. "It's amazing that we can do chemistry and we can do mineralogy there on the surface. Any geologist would die to have something like this when they're out in the field. It's a tremendous asset."

Gangnam Style

The city of El Monte found the spotlight when it fired 14 lifeguards for filming a spoof of Psy's "Gangnam Style" Korean Pop music video in their city-issued uniforms at the El Monte Aquatic Center. The move created a media storm and resulting public backlash. Even the man behind "Gangnam Style" - Psy - made a plea to El Monte officials to rehire the ousted mostly college-age city employees.

There were also several local stories that made a huge impact on the region, from political scandals to major transit improvements.

Head of COG arrested

Nick Conway, who served as executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, was arrested in June on four felony counts of conflict of interest. Conway has maintained his innocence and later pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors allege Conway's personal business, Arroyo Associates, Inc. - which was contracted by the COG to serve as its staff - gained financially from contracts and grants obtained for the COG, amounting to a conflict of interest.

The agency's governing board in October parted ways with Conway, paying him $155,000 in severance pay and cutting all contracts with his firm.

Rep. David Dreier retires

After three decades representing the San Gabriel Valley and portions of San Bernadino County in the House of Representatives' 26th District, Rep. David Dreier, R-San Dimas, announced his retirement in February.

The decision came after the redrawing of Congressional maps in the summer of 2011. Those new maps placed Dreier in the 32nd district, which had a majority of registered Democrats.

As California voters were casting their ballots in newly-drawn districts in November, they were also introduced to a new primary system in which the the top two vote-getters in each race, regardless of party affiliation, advanced to the November general election.

Ex-mayor charged with bribery

In March, former Rosemead Mayor and then Assembly candidate John Tran agreed to plead guilty to accepting more than $10,000 in bribes from a developer in exchange for prosecutors dropping extortion and obstruction of justice charges.

But in August, just as the judge prepared to hand down his sentence, which could have resulted in Tran spending up to 10 years in prison and paying $250,000 in fines, the former politician requested to withdraw his guilty plea.

He argued that the government's central informant in the case has credibility issues - something he was unaware of at the time he agreed to plead guilty. A judge granted the request and now Tran is set to head to trial in March.

Eerie van Gogh unveiled

The Norton Simon Museum prepared a special space for an iconic Vincent van Gogh self-portrait on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.,

The piece went on public display at the Norton Simon and will hang there through March 4. The portrait will be flanked by van Goghs from the museum's own collection.

Major transit improvements

Local commuters are preparing to pay to drive as Metro works to complete new toll/carpool lanes on the 10 Freeway, from the 605 Freeway to Alameda Street in Los Angeles. The first-ever toll lanes in Los Angeles County, dubbed ExpressLanes, opened on the 110 Freeway in November.

The 10 Freeway lanes are expected to open in February.

The project is a one-year, $290 million experiment funded primarily through a $210 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to promote and study using pricing to reduce traffic congestion in major U.S. cities.

A portion of that grant money also funded the $60 million El Monte bus station, which opened in October. The modern station replaces the old facility built in 1970, and was designed to increase daily bus passenger capacity by 82 percent.

Earlier this month, Metro also completed the Gold Line Bridge in Arcadia, a vital link to finishing the $735-million, 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line extension, which will extend the light rail line from Pasadena to Azusa by 2014.

El Monte `soda tax' fails

In an attempt to boost dwindling revenues and address obesity, the city in November's election sought to become one of the first in the country to pass a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.

But the initiative - Measure H - failed by a long shot, garnering just 23.5 percent of the vote. Richmond's soda tax initiative, in which El Monte's measure was modeled after, also ended in failure, with 66.9 percent of voters striking down the measure.

Supporters of the soda tax argued that it would boost funding for health programs and curb obesity, while the opposition said that it would damage businesses in an already faltering economy.

Rock transported to LACMA

It was a huge spectacle when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art moved a 340-ton exhibit from Riverside to Los Angeles.

On its journey, the rock, part of a $10 million art installation by artist Michael Heizer titled "Levitated Mass," traveled through portions of the San Gabriel Valley, including Diamond Bar and Rowland Heights.

After an 11-day journey, the rock made it to its final destination in Los Angeles in March.

Big Rig Overturns on 710 Freeway


Saturday, Dec 29, 2012


The Long Beach 710 Freeway was closed at the San Diego (405) Freeway Saturday night after a big rig loaded with asphalt crashed into the center divider and overturned, leaving a smoky mess on the busy roadway, a California Highway Patrol officer said.

The crash was reported at 8:42 p.m. on the southbound 710 at Willow Street, according to Officer Christian Cracraft of the CHP Traffic Management Center.

Smoke from the asphalt led area residents and passersby to report a fire, but there were no flames, Cracraft said.

No injuries were reported.

All southbound lanes and Lanes 1 and 2 of the northbound Long Beach Freeway were shut down while Caltrans workers cleaned up the mess, he said.
SR-710 Study Fact Sheets, Last Revised December 24, 2012

Metro posted the "fact sheets" (links below) for the tunnel, light rail, bus, TSM, and "no build" alternatives on Monday 12/24/12. (they are generally the same five alternatives as "recommended by staff" last August 23). This is NOT the detailed "Alternatives Analysis.

The detailed "Alternatives Analysis" was supposed to be released in December. We are now being told that it's January.

Please email your cities and elected officials (Mayors and City Council Members) and ask them to request a meaningful dialogue besides Open Houses to discuss these alternatives right after beginning of year.  We cannot let this lack of public outreach and non-participation go this time.  It is a waste of public funds given the $3.7 million contract.  They are getting worse instead of better. (Sylvia Plummer)

Freeway Tunnel Alternative (F-7X) Fact Sheet


No Build Fact Sheet


Transportation System Management/Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM) Fact Sheet


Light Rail Transit Alternative (LRT-4X) Fact Sheet


Bus Rapid Transit Alternative (BRT-6X) Fact Sheet