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, January 21, 2013

Highland Park Doesn't Want Transit Village Threatening Parking


January 21, 2013



It would sit near a Gold Line station, fill up three parking lots, and has already significantly shrunk in size, but some in Highland Park are still not sure about the proposed Highland Park Transit Village, according to HP Patch. The project is set to include 80 condos and apartments spread among three mixed-use buildings. At a meeting on Thursday hosted by developers McCormack, Baron, Salazar, many attendees shivered at the thought of--what else--reduced parking (225 spots would be lost). One idea floated is to give residents of the HPTV reduced rates at meters to discourage parking on nearby residential streets. While parking produced the most rage, there was also discontent over the height of the structures (three-ish stories--see their imposing exteriors in the renderings), and requests for the developers to build a community center, which they seemed amenable to. And some people did come to the meeting without their pitchforks to support the project. As far as a groundbreaking: so far there's not even an approximate date.


Questions Remain After Transit Village Presentation

The developers answered questions raised by community members on Thursday evening, but for many, concerns remain.


 By David Fonseca

January 21, 2013

The Highland Park Adult Senior Citizen Center was filled to capacity on Thursday evening as community members gathered to learn more details about the proposed Highland Park Transit Village project, which would convert three public parking lots behind North Figueroa Street into mixed use residential properties.

Among the main concerns raised by community members were the reduction of 225 LADOT parking spaces, the height of the structure and the potential impact on local business.

However, while the developers faced their share of criticism and difficult questions from the
community, several in attendance said they thought the project's scaled back design would bring much needed affordable housing to Highland Park and raise property values.

According to preliminary designs provided by McCormack, Baron, Salazar on Thursday, the three properties, comprising 80 residential units, would each offer a mix of reserved residential parking and LADOT public parking.

The concern among some of the presentation's attendees was that the public parking provided by the project would not be enough to fit the communities needs.

"My concern, during the construction, and after it's completed, is parking," said Miguel Hernandez, owner of Antigua Bread on 5703 North Figueroa St. "They have three bedroom units, with one parking spot. Where's everybody else going to park? If you multiply 80 units, by two cars, that's 160 parking spots being taken. So, I'm going to be losing customers."

Richard Zaldivar, Executive Director of The Wall Las Memorias, said that the city needs to devise a plan to allow residents of the properties to pay a reduced rate for parking at the on-site LADOT meters, so they would not be forced to park on the along the nearby residential streets.
"You're going to have a lot of parking on the side streets, simply because people don't way to pay," Zaldivar said.

Lisa Duardo, an Echo Street resident, expressed concern about the design of the properties. She noted that, while they were described as being only three stories tall, the 18-and-a-half foot tall fourth story essentially meant the properties would dwarf nearby buildings.

Daniel Falcon Jr., Senior Vice President of McCormack, Baron, Salazar, responded that the structures' A-frame designs, an aesthetic choice made by the designer, extended the height of the third stories.

There were other questions raised by attendees about what McCormack, Baron, Salazar would do to give back to the community in exchange for the potentially negative impact to business caused during the construction period.

Paul Bonsell, a member of the Historic Highland Park Neighorhood Council (HHPNC), asked if a community center could be built. Falcon responded that such a concession would likely be a part of the final project.

HHPNC member Latiffe Amado asked what plans McCormack, Baron, Salazar had plans to invest in local public services.

"We know what we do well, we develop real estate and manage real estate," Falcon said. "We are not a public service provider."

Gigi Szabo, an Avenue 57 resident, was one of meeting's attendees who spoke out in favor of the project, lauding it for bringing in affordable housing and making use of LADOT parking lots she considered a "waste of space."

According to the MacCormack, Baron, Salazar presentation, 20 of the units would be market-rate condos. The remaining units would be designated as affordable, and be priced based on prevailing incomes in the neighborhood.

For example, a household earning $24,800 to $57,500 per-year could rent a three-bedroom unit that houses 4-6 people for between $650 to $1,300 per-year.

"It's smart growth, it's next to transit, it's not high density. 80 units on three different sites is not high density. We could be getting market rate condo-development that's five stories high and costs $2,000 a month and gentrifies the neighborhood. What we're going to get is development that is beautifully designed and help maintains Highland Park as a mixed income community."

Speaking after the meeting, HHPNC Vice President Hector Heuzo said he was pleased that the developers were on hand to provide community members a more concrete plan of the project, which has been nearly five years in the making.

However, he still had some lingering questions about the project's environmental impact and it's impact on parking and traffic.

"There are still a lot of questions left to answer," he said.

Work on the 8.5-mile Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line set to begin later this year

By Nick Green Staff Writer
Updated:   01/19/2013 
  Work on the 8.5-mile Metro Crenshaw/LAX Line that will connect Inglewood, Hawthorne and El Segundo with the newly built Expo Line is poised to begin later this year.

The Expo Line runs to downtown Los Angeles and, by 2016, to Santa Monica. Today it ends in Culver City, enabling a rider who starts a trip there to reach downtown in under 30 minutes.

A contract to build the $1.76 billion Crenshaw/LAX light rail line is scheduled to be awarded in May, with construction beginning soon after, said project director Rob Ball.

"We'll start work as soon as the (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) board gives us an award," he said. "We have a lot of support for this project."

The project will create as many as 1,000 jobs during construction - expected to conclude in 2018 - and many more after that in the anticipated economic revitalization along the transit route.

As work on the project draws nearer, interest is rising in the communities that will benefit from it, Ball said.

As a result, a quarterly meeting of the Metro Crenshaw/LAX Transit Corridor Project Community Leadership Council - a group representing the various constituencies in the neighborhoods the line will pass through - is expected to attract a larger than usual crowd Thursday in Inglewood.

The 6 p.m. meeting at First Church of God, 9550 Crenshaw Blvd., will include a Google Earth presentation of the route.

"Using Google Earth, we were able to superimpose the project (on a map) and we walk from one end of the project to the other," Ball said.

The project includes at least six new stations and three new park-and-ride lots.

There also will be two train tunnels between Exposition Boulevard and 48th Street and 59th Street and Victoria Avenue in Los Angeles.

And commuters will ride on four bridges over roads, including one at La Cienega Boulevard and the San Diego (405) Freeway.

A related, but separate project is a new maintenance facility near Los Angeles International Airport.
LAX officials also announced in December that they may make land available at the airport so Metro can build a train station to tie in with the line. But that's not within the scope of the current project.

An estimated 30,000 riders a day are expected to use the line when built, although the figure includes an extension of the Green Line to Torrance. However, that extension isn't expected to be built for at least a decade.

Still, light rail boosters such as Tunua Thrash, co-chair of the leadership council and executive director of the nonprofit West Angeles Community Development Corp., are eagerly looking forward to the economic dividends from the project.

With the end of redevelopment agencies in the state, the transit project provides a rare economic development tool Thrash sees being parlayed up and down the route.

The nonprofit, together with the 25,000-member West Angeles Church that it's affiliated with, own about a dozen acres of land on the proposed transit line.

"It's the heart of the African-American community and it's a retail center waiting to be a part of the economic framework of the city," she said. 

Estrada to end City Council campaign


January 21, 2013

 Joe Piasecki, Times Community News

Pasadena City Council candidate Israel Estrada announced Monday that he is suspending his campaign against incumbent Victor Gordo and will drop out of the race.

Estrada, 36, is founder and lead organizer of the Pasadena Marathon and executive director of the nonprofit group Pasadena Forward. He is also a Marine Corps veteran.

Estrada made the announcement in a Facebook message to campaign supporters that cited health and other personal reasons.

Estrada did not attend a political forum last Thursday at Pasadena City College because he was ill, according to event organizers.

“Should I be elected, my devotion to the post would have been less than what it requires,” he wrote. “[I] will be contacting the city clerk to bring the campaign to an end formally.”
Estrada also thanked supporters for their help.

“It has meant a lot to me to see … how many people I can count on and can call friends,” he wrote.
With Estrada no longer in the March 5 ballot picture, Gordo will not face an opponent in Northwest Pasadena’s Council District 5.

Councilman Terry Tornek is also running unopposed in District 7, to the city’s southeast.

Summit Evangelical Church Pastor Nicholas Benson, Los Angeles Urban League executive John Kennedy and businessman Ishmael Trone are seeking the Council District 3 seat in Northwest Pasadena left vacant by Chris Holden’s election to the state Assembly.

The Pasadena City Council is expected on Tuesday to appoint a temporary District 3 representative to serve until the winner of that race takes office on May 6.
The snowman behind the candidates 

By Best Blogs

 710bf0e544 snowman The snowman behind the candidates  photo

 It’s hard to appear like a serious-minded candidate running for public office when decorative stars dangle overhead and the giant figure of a snowman is looking over your shoulder. That was the scene on Saturday at the Montecito Heights Recreation Center during a candidates forum for the upcoming Council District 1 election.  “I would have removed the snowman,” said Martha Benedict, who snapped the photo above of the candidates (from left to right) William Morrison, Jesse Rosas, Jose Gardea and Gil Cedillo. “However he adds some local charm, as do all the overhead holiday decorations. The snowman made no comment, but seems to be backing Jesse Rosas.”

Why 3D Modeling Will Play a Huge Role in Tackling Rapid Urbanization


 Why 3D Modeling Will Play a Huge Role in Tackling Rapid Urbanization


The above image, which looks like a modern-day Thomas Cole painting of the Seattle skyline, in fact was grabbed from a three-dimensional model of the city that has datasets embedded in it. These datasets reflect everything from the downtown’s geological terrain, to its road networks, building heights and flight paths above them. So this image imperceptibly contains much of what a city planner would need to know to begin to model the energy use of all those skyscrapers, or the wind dynamics of a summer storm passing between them, or the effects throughout town of a cataclysmic earthquake.

The first generation of 3D models of cities were used as visual tools for illustrating ideas, like how a new building might alter a skyline. “This prompted the idea that OK, we’re using it only for visual impacts, but what if we used it more for design purposes?” says Jay Mezher, who worked on the Seattle model for the engineering and construction firm Parsons Brinckerhoff. 3D simulations of cities have the potential to help engineers and planners anticipate natural disasters and population growth, and to better plan for them in a way that goes far beyond rendering cityscapes as if they were in a video game.

The Seattle model, Mezher says, is really more of an information database than a visualization, and one to which more data can constantly be added. “It’s a living document,” he says, “and it’s still evolving.” Want to layer on real-time traffic data to study road improvements? Or subsurface utility infrastructure to anticipate flooding damage?

“Some of these ideas start to feel very abstract when you’re just thinking about them in your mind, looking at various reports, 2D plans, and diagrams,” says Andrea Barry, a Parsons Brinkerhoff program manager who also worked on the project. “For everyone, even somebody trained as a professional, its starts to become a little blurry and hard to wrap your mind around.”

One constantly evolving 3D model of a city, though, could knit all of this data into one tool, while enabling interactive simulations that would be readily understandable by engineers and the public alike. This video used the model of downtown Seattle, developed with software from Autodesk, to simulate the potential impacts of a massive earthquake on the Alaskan Way Viaduct during a time when the Washington Department of Transportation was planning to fortify it (the real damage kicks in at the 1:00 mark):
 Alaskan Way Viaduct - Earthquake Simulation


 That’s obviously a powerful tool for presenting plans to the public (and for making the case for why the public needs to spend money fortifying viaducts). And it’s a vast departure from how most plans are today presented to approval boards and the public.

“We have people standing up and pointing to aerial photographs that are taped onto a blackboard,” says Terry Bennett, a senior industry manager in Autodesk’s Infrastructure Group. “You have prints of plans highlighted in various colors and people pointing to these things laid out onto a table.” No wonder, he says, that it takes so long to get projects approved. “You spend most of your time trying to understand what’s on the paper, and not enough time on ‘is this the right approach to help the city become more sustainable, or to lower our footprint?’”

A decade ago, Barry says, these more sophisticated citywide models would have cost millions of dollars to construct. But automated technology has become easier to use, and datasets and applications are now more compatible with each other. Given advances in cloud computing, a thousand computers can today run a simulation that it once would have taken a big computer a week to process. As a result, 3D simulations could potentially expedite the process of rolling out new projects, whether they involve reinforcing a viaduct, or rerouting traffic flow, or retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. All of these outcomes could be simulated ahead of time, avoiding the cost of constructing untested concepts and revealing the ripple effects of, say, a new building on transportation demand.

In a future world with 9 billion people, Bennett argues, we can’t afford to scale up our existing infrastructure, and there wouldn’t be time enough to do that anyway. “We know that design, and the way we approach design has got to change,” he says. And he predicts that within a decade that most cities will rely on models like this to do that.

“If you look at the generation that’s really going to use these cities we’re designing today, it’s the Millennial generation who have grown up in a 3D, virtual-environment world, who utilize social media and cloud-based applications,” Bennett says. “This type of media is custom-built for this generation to better understand how they’re going to contribute their ideas.”

Voice-Operated Texting While Driving: As Unsafe As It Ever Was


Eric Jaffe, January 21, 2013


 Voice-Operated Texting While Driving: As Unsafe As It Ever Was


With the new year a new law went into effect in California that lets drivers send and receive text messages or emails so long as they communicate through a hands-free or voice-operated system. Dictating an outgoing message or listening to an incoming one while behind the wheel is now fair game. When the bill first passed its author, then-Assemblyman Jeff Miller of Orange County, said it allowed Californians to text and drive "safely and responsibly."

The evidence from behavioral science begs to differ. Years of work by psychologists, most notably David Strayer of the University of Utah, has demonstrated that people suffer significant impairment when they use a cell phone while driving. But the public's desire to do both things at once is so great that many are willing to overlook the evidence. A last-ditch plea by the National Safety Council for California to repeal the law — citing the "overwhelming amount of research" questioning the safety of hands-free technology — fell on deaf Bluetooths.

A few years ago, in a groundbreaking study, Strayer and colleagues compared the performance of cell phone users to drunks in a driving simulator [PDF]. Study participants talking on a cell phone — handheld and hands-free alike — had slower brake times and were involved in more simulated accidents than when they weren't chatting. Their cognitive impairment was roughly as great as that of participants who got in the simulator after drinking enough screwdrivers to register a .08 percent blood-alcohol content.

More recent evidence, focusing on texting, has made similar conclusions. In one study published last year, a team of researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute evaluated the performance of drivers texting on a closed road. Some texted from their handheld device, which previous research had already concluded was dangerous, while others texted through an in-vehicle system connected to Bluetooth.

No surprise that drivers who texted by hand drove very poorly: they reported greater mental demand during the drive, took longer glances away from the roadway, and steered worse compared to baseline driving performance. Those who used the in-vehicle system did a little better. They didn't have much problem receiving text messages through the in-car system, but sending them posed a problem.

Even sending a voice text as simple as "I'm stuck in traffic" led drivers in the study to glance off the road more often and longer than usual, and they too reported a higher mental demand during this part of the test:

The Brilliant, Satirical Campaign for More Parking in Michigan


by Angie Schmitt, January 18, 2013 

 They call their mission “The Cause.” And they say it’s critical to solving Michigan’s woes. Fortunately, though, the solution they have in mind is a simple one, and their name should make it obvious: “Michigan Needs More Parking.”

That's Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and major downtown Detroit property owner. The quote is real. Image: Michigan Needs More Parking

This group has taken to the pages of Facebook and the local media to share their vision for a revitalized state finally relieved of its burdensome parking problem.

“Detroit — and Michigan’s — unemployment crisis will only be addressed when we close the parking gap. More parking equals more jobs,” the group’s Chene Park told Model D media last month. “Parking now or poverty later. It’s really that simple.”

Michigan Needs More Parking says the situation is not hopeless, however. They have proposed a series of reforms they say will put the state back on track to financial health. For instance, they re-envision Mackinac Island, the state’s beloved car-free tourist destination, as “series of surface parking lots and decks” connected to the mainland by a causeway.

And in 2014, they’re planning a voter referendum to “defend the right of parking for every man, woman and child,” by enshrining it in the state constitution.

“Remember: we’re never more than one generation away from the end of parking freedom in America,” Park says.

 If it all sounds a bit frightening, the really scary thing is that the message from “Michigan Needs More Parking” isn’t all that different than what people in real positions of influence are saying.
We highly recommend reading the whole interview and hooking up with these guys on Facebook.



June 20, 2013

Congressional Quarterly reports that Metro is urging Congress to approve a new tax-credit bond program to fund transportation infrastructure — one of two financial strategies LA Mayor Villaraigosa was counting on to accelerate the 30-10 plan.  The other strategy was the robustly-funded low-interest TIFIA loan program that was adopted by Congress last year.
The bond program was dropped in conference committee but would have authorized $2 billion annually that when leveraged with private investment would have provided $50 billion in lending power every year.

Steve Hymon cites the CQ story on The Source blog, noting the article is behind a paywall. But he excerpts a quote from Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, a Wall Street research firm, who wrote in a recent analysis that “nearly any infrastructure project seriously being considered today will return more than the 2 percent the U.S. Treasury is paying on 10-year bonds. As with any business that borrows to invest in machine tools or computers, or a household that borrows to purchase a home or car, it makes sense for government to borrow to invest in an infrastructure asset that will provide returns for years.”