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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

New Glossy Subway Hats Top Pershing Square, Civic Center


By Neal Broverman, January 30, 2013


After a year of work, the new subway canopies for the DTLA stations are now complete, reports Brigham Yen. The cover for the Civic Center station, smack dab in the middle of the new Grand Park, was installed late last year and now Pershing Square has its glassy hat on too. Many of Metro's underground stations will get the covers, which feature "elliptical laminated panelized glass roofs with a steel ring beam and steel structure providing weather protection, lighting, new iconic identity element, and information systems," according to the project's architect, New York-based STV Incorporated. The canopies will not only make the stations better lit, but also prevent people on the very lengthy escalators and stairs from getting drenched in inclement weather.


New Modern Subway Station Canopies Help Elevate Transit in Los Angeles


By  Brigham Yen

January 30, 2013

 Pretty much exactly a year ago, we learned that two subway stations in Downtown LA were getting new modern station canopies (courtesy of Metro) that would make the portals both more visible to riders (especially visitors unfamiliar with LA’s transit network) and to help protect the escalators and entryway from the elements. A year later, the two downtown stations — Civic Center and Pershing Square — have now completed construction on the new oval-shaped glass canopies.

Designed by New York-based architect firm STV Incorporated (collaborating on the new WTC transportation hub), the new canopies provide a stronger identity for LA’s subway stations, giving them not only a practical purpose, such as providing ample illumination at night for higher visibility and safety, but also elevating the status of LA’s burgeoning rail network at the same time. As many now know, LA has big transit ambitions with current rail construction projects totaling almost $12 billion (including the $6.3 billion Westside Subway Extension). That puts us at #2 in the entire country only behind New York with $20 billion in rail construction.

A view of the city through the new glass canopy as one ascends up the escalator

 A view of the city through the new glass canopy as one ascends up the escalator


 A view of the new station canopy at Pershing Square

 The new canopies help make the station more visible to riders


710 Expansion Planners Advise NOT Advancing Draft Enviro Impact Report As It Stands, Recommend Recirculating Sections -- Including Zero-Emission Aspects -- With New Assumptions, Refinements And... 


 January 30, 2013

  • Project consultant tells LB Council I-710 Committee only 8 gen'l purpose lanes (+ four freight lanes), NOT 10 (+4) might be needed south of 405 (and perhaps up to 105) depending on assumptions/modeling if proposed railyards (SCIG + ICTF) are considered

  • Extended colloquy on zero-emission truck system (with overhead wires)...including moving forward on pilot project to test it here 
  •  LBREPORT.com has learned that a key Committee guiding plans to expand ("modernize") the I-710 freeway is now recommending that the draft Environmental Impact Report released on the project by Caltrans last summer -- which sparked questions and criticism from grassroots activists as well as Long Beach City Hall -- NOT be advanced for final certification as it stands.
    In a memo obtained by LBREPORT.com, the I-710 Project Team (names not indicated in memo) says its Technical Advisory Committee voted (on Jan. 16) to recommend issuing a Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental EIS (RDEIR/SDEIS) that will focus on three I-710 alternatives -- two of which include a zero emission freight corridor and include different assumptions.

    "The focused RDEIS/RSEIS would update the technical analyses and the draft environmental document for one or two candidate preferred alternatives along with a No Build alternative," the memo states, citing changes in the project since 2008, new data and concerns expressed in comments received to the draft EIR/EIS.

    The recommendation to Recirculate portions of the draft EIR/EIS is contained in an undated draft memo from the "Project Team" to the I-710 Corridor Project EIR/EIS Committee...which is scheduled to meet on Thursday, Jan. 31.

    The memo indicates that on Jan. 16, the I-710 Technical Advisory Committee approved recommending to MTA's Board of Directors and Caltrans that a Recirculated Draft EIR/Supplemental EIR (RDEIR/SDEIS) be developed using a new set of assumptions and [memo text] "will refine and analyze" the following alternatives as generally outlined in the memo (full draft text linked below):
    • No build
    • Alternative 6C modified (zero emission freight corridor + 10 gen'l purpose lanes)
    • Alternative 6D (refining Alternative 6C to provide zero emission freight corridor + 8 gen'l purpose lanes)
    Under this revised process, a recirculated version of the draft EIR/EIS will be prepared, released and public comments will be received and responses prepared. Only then will the document be advanced to the MTA Board for its choice of a project alternative.
    The reciculation process is currently expected to add roughly 12-18 months to the timeline, I-710 project consultant Jerry Wood told the Long Beach City Council's I-710 Oversight Committee (Councilmembers Al Austin (chair), James Johnson & Steve Neal) at its meeting on Tuesday Jan. 29.

    In addition -- in a disclosure potentially affecting the width of I-710 expansion in Long
    Beach and possibly some areas to the north -- Mr. Wood told the LB Council's I-710 Oversight Committee that only eight general purpose lanes -- not ten -- would be needed in Long Beach south of the 405 under a new set of assumptions that might include analysis of two proposed container transfer railyards (BNSF's SCIG and UP's ICTF, pending proposals that have drawn opposition from neighborhood groups). [The initial I-710 draft EIR/EIS didn't assume/didn't analyze the effects on 710 truck traffic if the two rail facilities were built.]
    Mr. Wood: We don't know right now, until the modeling is redone with a new set of assumptions -- that's why it says "up to 10 general purpose lanes" -- we don't know now with this new set of assumptions which might include a sensitivity analysis of the SCIG and ICTF go forward -- whether we need 10 general purpose lanes. I will tell you at the south end of the project, south of 405, we don't need 10 general purpose lanes, especially with this new set of assumptions. As you go further north you accumulate traffic, and the TAC was fairly comfortable with 8 general purpose lanes south of the 105. North of the 105, we're not sure. You just start building up as you go north.
    Long Beach Council Committee chair/Councilman Al Austin said after hearing Mr. Wood's report: "I am encouraged by the fact that we are recirculating this draft EIR. It's something that we as a city requested in our comment letter dated Sept. 28 [2012], so that is I guess a small victory for our city as many of the concerns that we had weren't addressed in the original draft EIR, but I think many of your recommendations are going to move us in the right direction."

    Committee member Councilman James Johnson noted that the project has changed over the years and said "the number one purpose of this project is to improve air quality and I can tell you on behalf of the City of Long Beach I will not be support of anything that doesn't improve air quality and I'm very pleased that we have been moving forward with the zero emissions lanes that will get that job done."

    Councilman Johnson said that a second purpose of the project is safety and every year that the 710 isn't modernized, "people are getting killed on this freeway, and we know that. We know that these people are more likely to be low income...to be minority communities because those are the folks that take the 710 freeway. I would say that every year we're not building this freeway, we're not modernizing it, someone is going without a son...without a brother or a sister...those are people dying unnecessarily on this very dangerous freeway, one of the most dangerous in the nation, and we know it's dangerous. And I do think we have an ethical responsibility to mitigate those harms."

    Regarding zero-emission transportation methods, Councilman Johnson noted that as part of SCAG's Regional Transportation Plan, the City of Long Beach has proposed building a zero-emissions pilot project along the Terminal Island Freeway or Alameda Blvd.
    Councilman Johnson: ...Wouldn't it be prudent before embarking on a $6 billion, 30 mile plus extension, to invest in a pilot project, and wouldn't it be best to do that pilot project right here next to the Port where we have the greatest impacts?...It seems to me if we could spend $40 million, work out the engineering kinks today, figure out the challenges while we're in the EIR, reduce the total costs so that we can bring the ultimate solution I'd have to say of moving goods and people without ruining quality of life?. Wouldn't that make some sense? And finally on that note: wouldn't it make sense to use some of this early action money to invest in that project, get this thing going while we continue the multi-year process of the project?
    Mr. Wood replied: "I agree with you" and added that Councilman Johnson could recommend to the 710 Project Committee and the TAC to use some early-action money to participate in a zero emission demonstration project.

    Councilman Johnson pressed further: is it a money issue, or a science issue, what's
    holding this back? Mr. Wood replied: "It's both." He said the engineering for a catenary system for trucks [overhead wires similar to used with a trolley] is tricky, and would also involve commercializing study [to explore the future of building trucks that could use such a catenary system.] Mr. Wood noted that work also has to be done with Edison on delivering the substantial amount of electrical power needed for the system.

    Mr. Wood suggested that Councilman Johnson could request from the 710 Project Committee on Thursday night (Jan. 31) is to ask MTA as part of their zero emissions truck collaborative come back with a specific proposal, bringing all the agencies together, and come back with a specific proposal to do a demonstration project. "We have all the players at the table," Mr. Wood said..."and see what kind of funding people are willing to bring to it...and then we can move that ball down the field but we need a preliminary design which Siemans is going to work out..."

    The memo indicates that the recirculated document will include discussion of previous alternatives 5A, 6A and 6B that the DEIR/DEIS analyzed and won't be carried further into the recirculated document (RDEIR/RSEIS)...and the recirculated document will also include comments and responses on the DEIR/DEIS.

    During the Council Committee meeting, Angelo Logan of the Coalition for Environmental Health and Justice delivered a presentation on their favored "Community Alternative 7" (which includes no 710 widening, a comprehensive public transit element, a committed zero emission freight corridor, a public-private partnership for an employer operated freight system, river improvements, a comprehensive pedestrian and bicycle element, and community benefits including expanded open space and other enhancements.

    The Council's I-710 Committee voted to encourage the Project Committee to analyze the components of "Alternative 7" that are feasible within the recirculated DEIR.

    The draft memo indicates the RDEIR/SDEIS will include comments received on the DEIR/DEIS and responses to those comments. The TAC also recommended that the RDEIR/SDEIS be prepared [memo text] "with continuation of the robust I-710 Community and Agency participation framework..."

    The memo indicates almost 3,000 comments were received with over 300 official comment letters or statements, which are now being analyzed.

    Developing...with further to follow on LBREPORT.com.
  • 710 Freeway Coalition faces growing efforts against linking the route to 210

     Tunnel backers keep up the fight


    By Daniel Siegal

    January 30, 2013

    Just as Los Angeles County transportation officials embark on an environmental study of options for closing the freeway gap between Alhambra and Pasadena, the lobbying group that supports the controversial tunnel option finds itself trying to regain its footing in an uphill public relations battle.

    After more than two decades of lobbying for a connection between the Long Beach (710) and Foothill (210) freeways, Nat Read retired in September and passed leadership of his group, the 710 Freeway Coalition, to Harry Baldwin, a former mayor of San Gabriel who works out of his home.

     Paul Talbot, city manager for Monterey Park, said that with Read out of the picture, the 710 Freeway Coalition was essentially starting over.

    “Well, we had a relationship with Read Communications for many years,” he said. “Now Harry just took it over, so it's early, but they're trying hard.”

    Together with his daughter, Kendall Flint, and her communications firm, Flint Strategies, Baldwin is trying to continue Read's advocacy, but they now face an opposing lobby that in the last year has grown in size, organizing power and fervor.

    The No 710 Action Committee, which wants to see the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority summarily shut down any effort to extend the freeway, claims about 60 volunteers, many of whom have a personal real estate and quality-of-life stake in the outcome. They organize, exert political pressure on local elected representatives and make their voices heard at public hearings.

    “It's hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours. Everybody is on a committee, and we have meetings,” said committee member Joanne Nuckols.

    Add to that the mass of elected officials in Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La CaƱada Flintridge and Los Angeles who have all issued public statements opposing the 710 Freeway extension. State and federal representatives have also come down against the tunnel proposal.

    Nuckols said the No 710 Action Committee doesn't receive financial support from the cities, but their staff members, as well as attorneys at the Natural Resource Defense Council, have provided assistance.

    “We're just working on a shoestring and the donations from our people,” she said. “[Passion] is what's in the end is going to win this thing.”

    On the pro-tunnel side, Baldwin and Flint have the support of Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead and San Gabriel, which have all signed one-year, $6,000 contracts with Flint Strategies to lead the 710 Freeway Coalition. San Marino officials will likely vote to come onboard on Feb. 13, according to City Manager John Schaefer.

    In the past, Read Communications was receiving roughly $36,000 a year from Alhambra alone, according to Deputy City Manager Jessica Keating.

    Alhambra has paid $1.5 million to former city attorney Leland Dolley over the last six years, but that has been for advocacy on a range of transportation issues, which may include the 710 Freeway issue, Keating said.

    Flint said the coalition also receives support — be it financial or manpower — from a number of unions, including the Iron Workers Local 433 and 416, Bricklayers Local 4, Electrical Workers Local 11, Boilermakers Local 92 and Plasterers Local 200.

    But Hart Keeble, business manager for the Ironworkers Local 416, said the union's support has been limited to putting together mailings and attending meetings. And Jay Rojo, office manager for Boilermakers 92, said the union had provided only a “moral support” donation of $120 a year to the coalition for the last 15 years — or a total $1,800.

    Representatives for the other unions could not be reached for comment.

    At the same time, Baldwin said that because he's working out of his home — and Flint from her business — the 710 Freeway Coalition has very little overhead. Support funds are used to put together monthly newsletters and ensure that the coalition has representatives at MTA open houses, informational meetings and board meetings when the project is on the agenda.

    Besides, Flint said, the purpose of the new coalition wasn't to advocate for any specific outcome, but simply to complete the MTA environmental review process, which is evaluating five options for alleviating traffic in the area, including the freeway tunnel.

    “Let's at least let [the EIR] finish the process,” Flint said. “This initiative is only to have the conversation.”

    Baldwin, however, said the group supports the tunnel option “because we feel that's the one thing that addresses the transportation needs not only in our area, but all of Southern California.”

    Comments to

    Letters to the Editor: No PR types at the Metro meeting


     (posted earlier today)

    Mr. Quon seems to be unfamiliar with the rights afforded to folks under the free speech provisions of our Constituition. His assertion that someone expressing their views is somehow "threatening" is simply nonsense. Such an expression simply threatened the staged dog and pony show that Metro had set up.


     I would like to respond to Metro's Frank Quon's assertion that there were no Metro PR types at the Pasadena meeting. The public outreach is being handled by a public relations firm whose employees were present at the meeting. Certainly technical personnel were present to provide information, however, some of the information was not accurate, and in some cases was illogical. Specifically, two Metro representatives stated that the traffic on the 210 freeway would DIMINISH after the tunnel is built, even though the tunnel is supposed to be diverting traffic from the 5, 605, 10 and 710. That makes no sense at all. Another instance a Metro rep asserted that most people would be willing to pay the toll as evidenced by how well Orange County toll roads are doing. That is a factually inaccurate statement. The toll roads have seen a sharp decline in revenue, leading auditors to study the problem and come up with solutions, such as money from the Federal government. So Frank Quon, please don't try to tell us something opposite from what we know to be true.


     Mr. Quon, the transparency of Metro is in question. There has been no outreach worth speaking about. We, the community, informed each other of this disaster waiting to happen. Metro did not have any effective opinion-gathering outreach meetings with stakeholders. Your "open houses" are one-sided -- Metro's side. Information Metro is attempting to shove down our proverbial throats does not jive with the facts we have gathered from deep within Metro's own website, Federal Government studies, along with doctors and scientists from CalTech, USC, UCLA, and other well-respected institutions. All of this to the tune of millions of dollars and in the end, billions of dollars, to fund the tunnel and a toll of $5.00 to $15.00 per trip (that's each way, folks). (Since others will be reading this, there are about 21 work days in a month. Do the math folks.) You did not expect this backlash. Now you have to justify your tollway tunnel, but you can't. Do you really expect us to sit back like good little circus monkeys for their master, Metro? You show us boards that remind us of our own kindergarten classrooms. That must be what you think of us; children who don't know much. This is the problem: One-sided "meetings" with Metro expecting us to sit quietly equals the communities affected standing up and demanding to be heard. It's not like we have not tried other avenues, but we have been stonewalled by Metro's employees and consultants. Mr. Quon, we will be heard one way or another; therefore, two-sided meetings with Metro taking us seriously, not just going through the motions, is imperative. Metro is used to building freeways through communities, through no fault of their own, have been misinformed and feel disenfranchised and helpless to fight "city hall." Mmmmm, can you say, "Chavez Ravine?" You did not expect us to align ourselves from poor to wealthy to anywhere in between. No more, Metro. Enough is enough. You want to be a hero to the people of our region or a hero to Spain or China? Meet with us and listen to us. We have good ideas (along with the good idea from the south 710 folks, their own Alternative No. 6 that you have ignored. I am challenging Metro to hold two-way meetings by the end of Spring 2013 so we may be heard and taken seriously.


    Mr. Quon, you seem to keep presenting to the stakeholders, us, only your conclusions without backing them up with the studies or data as to how you reached those conclusions. We don't know the names or the qualifications of the people you have collecting data and conducting those studies or the names and qualifications of the people approving the conclusions of those studies. We don't know what possibly very important data has not been considered before you came to your conclusions. We seem to have the right to know only your end results and not the specifics of how you arrived at them. Without your being transparent, we will have to assume that you and Metro do not care about our health regarding the pollution the tunnel will cause, the resulting traffic jams after the tunnel is built, how safe the tunnel will be during a major earthquake, etc., etc., etc. Metro seems to be saying, over and over again, just trust us, but the way you are going about it, the effect you are having is for us not to trust you.


    L.A. judge postpones decision on whether ex-COG executive director Conway will stand trial 


    By Steve Scauzillo 
    Updated:   01/30/2013 07:07:06 PM PST
     Nick Conway, who is charged with four felony counts of conflict of interest while he headed the San Gabriel Valley COG, begins his preliminary hearing today Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles. Conway who is out on bail is charged with four felony counts of conflict of interest relating to his work with the regional government agency. In July, he pleaded not guilty. He was also placed on paid administrative leave by the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments governing board.

     LOS ANGELES - Saying she needed more time, Judge M.L. Villar de Longoria on Wednesday postponed a decision on whether to order the former executive director of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments to stand trial or throw out criminal charges brought by the District Attorney's Office.

    The unexpected delay reflects on the complexity of the case presented by the Los Angeles County District Attorney against Nick Conway, 60, of Pasadena.

    Conway ran the regional planning agency for 17 years as part of his consulting company, Arroyo Associates, until he was charged with four felony counts of conflict of interest after DA investigators raided his residence last June.

    De Longoria concluded the two-day preliminary hearing held in the Clara Foltz Criminal Courts Building after listening to impassioned final arguments from both sides. But while many expected a determination, the judge said she hadn't read the hundreds of pages of documents submitted as evidence.

    "It would be unfair to rule without having the opportunity to read each and every document," she announced. "I want to give it my full attention."

    She ordered both sides back in court on Feb. 14, when she is expected to make her ruling.

    "We think we put forth all the evidence we felt was important to the case," said Assistant District Attorney Dana Aratani. "We stand by the charges."

    But despite his brave front, the delay, preceded by the judge questioning Aratani as to why felony charges should be applied, seemed to favor the defense.

    Kenneth White, Conway's attorney, left no stone unturned in questioning the validity of every document entered as evidence and cross-examining every witness for the prosecution.
    "I think we've demonstrated the evidence is insufficient," White said.

    White argued that all charges be dismissed because the contracts Conway secured for the planning
    agency were approved by a governing board and the board's attorney.

    "This is a man who did what his board instructed him to do - in the open," White said. "It is not the way someone (who) knowingly violates the law acts."

    White also asked the judge to consider a fallback position: To lower the charges from felonies to misdemeanors. It was something the judge seemed willing to consider. She questioned Aratani from the bench on the issue of felonies vs. misdemeanors. A felony conviction could bring jail time, while a misdemeanor conviction may just bring a fine.

    "It is Kafkaesque to say someone who followed the direction of a body he worked for, under the supervision of general counsel, should face a felony under these circumstances," White argued. "I say, dismiss all charges or only hold Mr. Conway to answer to misdemeanor charges."

    Aratani strenuously objected to lowering the charges, saying too much money passed into Conway's hands, specifically from four grants he helped obtain roughly from 2008 to 2011.

    "He is a very smart man. He wields a lot of power. He could channel various projects certain ways," Aratani said in court. "These were large grants that came into the COG."

    In three instances, after Conway proposed a new grant program that was approved by the COG board, an amendment to the contracts that the COG paid Conway and his consulting firm would follow.

    For example, in 2010-11, the COG's budget was about $1 million. It was required to pay Conway's Arroyo Associates $416,279 per year, Aratani explained. "That kept going up," he said. After that, three separate service agreement attachments paid Arroyo the following additional annual amounts: $105,000, $21,896 and $21,573, according to testimony and documents.

    Grants in question included: a watershed coordinator grant of $223,819 from the state Department of Conservation; an Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan Implementation Contract to help cities; an Energy Upgrade Contract and an Energy Wise Leadership program. Some of the energy contracts were with Southern California Edison, according to testimony.

    Aratani argued that Conway would only go after grants and contracts that would increase monies to his company, Arroyo Associates, which was hired by COG to manage the agency.

    Aratani said Conway would use his power as both president of Arroyo Associates and executive director of the COG to funnel money and grants to his business. This is the essence of a conflict of interest under Penal Code 1090.

    "He is getting a revenue stream because of his position as executive director (of COG)," Aratani concluded. "If we don't stop there, he could get a fifth grant, a sixth grant, and hire more people at Arroyo and then his business would be much larger.

    "Mr. Conway and Arroyo were truly in the driver's seat," he said.

    Walnut Councilman Tom King testified that during his tenure on the COG governing board he grew concerned about conflicts of interest stemming from Conway procuring contracts that resulted in more money going to his company. King served on the board in 2007, then in 2008 to 2011, with some of that time as president of the board.

    "This was becoming a grant producing unit organized for him to take on more money. You can't do that. As an elected official, you can't get a cut of everything," he told the judge during his testimony.
    King said he initially refused to sign an amendment giving Arroyo more money that was part of the watershed coordinator grant. He testified he brought the matter to the Walnut city manager, Walnut city attorney and even sent a letter to the state Attorney General's Office.

    However, when the controversial contracts came to the board, King voted with the rest of the board in favor, White noted.

    "Mr. King was for the grants before he was against them," White retorted.

    Diamond Bar city council member and current COG board member Carol Herrera testified Wednesday that when she was president of the COG, Conway and former COG president Dave Spence, a councilman from La Canada Flintridge, harassed her and told her to quit. King said Conway threatened to sue him and Herrera.

    Herrera said Conway told the board not to support Diamond Bar in its efforts to get funding for widening of the 57/60 freeways interchange as a way to get back at her, while Conway would support projects in cities from supporters on the COG board.

    White said King and Herrera didn't like the way Conway would question the excessive spending and cost overruns from the Alameda Corridor East, a railroad underpass building entity with a budget of $1.4 billion that is overseen by the COG. He said these underpasses would benefit Walnut and Diamond Bar, so King and Herrera had an ax to grind.

    He impeached King's and Herrera's testimony as part of the "hurly burly of local politics - more about grudges and disputes."

    Today, the ACE is attempting to split from the COG and form its own joint powers authority. King and Herrera, Industry and San Gabriel are in support of the separation.

    The COG fired Conway on Oct. 31. The COG has since hired Andrea Travis-Miller, the acting city manager of San Bernardino. She starts as executive director on Feb. 17.


    New SR 710 E-tool


    Have you used the new SR 710 E-tool? Visit http://sr710etool.com/ to learn more about the SR 710 Study. Learn about the five alternatives under review by the Study Team, evaluate transportation options based on your priorities, review details about the routes and alignments for the build alternatives and don’t forget to leave comments.

    For a quick tutorial on how to use the tool visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO63NKlloA0 to watch the “how-to” video. Let us know what you think!

    Letters to the Editor: No PR types at the Metro meeting

    Updated:   01/30/2013 12:20:12 PM PST


    Your Jan. 24 editorial about the first of Metro's three All Communities Convening open houses concerning the Alternative Analysis for the SR 710 North Study makes reference to a freeway opponent shouting from atop a chair and then being escorted out of the meeting, and then draws a conclusion that: "The public was supposed to be seen and not heard, in other words, except in quiet one-on-ones with Metro PR types."

    Respectfully, the conclusion reached is incorrect. First, disruption of this nature is potentially 
    threatening to other participants in this kind of forum. Second, participants were invited to an informal open house meeting and not to a formal public hearing (many of which will come later in the environmental process). Even at this early stage in the environmental documentation process, there is a wealth of information to share, and we've learned that many stakeholders appreciate the opportunity for one-on-one interaction with the experts about the subject/topic of their choosing and at their own individual paces. Third, all of the information stations pertaining to technical analyses were staffed not by "PR types," but by 18 engineers, environmental analysts and transportation planning professionals, who provided answers and clarifications in interactive dialogue with community members.

    Throughout the course of the SR 710 North environmental documentation process, Metro is committed to continuing to keep the channels of communication open. The development of the SR 710 North Study needs to be accomplished in collaboration between community stakeholders and agencies to develop solutions that address a local and regional transportation problem.

    Frank Quon
    Executive Officer
    Metro Highway Programs

    Bill would hike or extend $2.3 billion in car fees


    By Jon Coupal, January 29, 2013 

    One would think that the passage of Proposition 30 -- giving California the highest income tax and sales tax rates in America -- would have momentarily satiated the appetite of our governing political class before they continued their assault on hardworking California taxpayers. But there is no rest for the wicked. In a matter of days, our Legislature will launch a new attack on all Californians who drive a car.
    In an unusual procedural maneuver, Assembly Bill 8 (by Henry Perea, D-Fresno) has already been set for a committee hearing. This is odd since it is so early in the legislative session and strongly suggests to us that the skids are greased for this pernicious piece of legislation.

    The bill would increase or extend $2.3 billion of fees on car owners until 2023. These include smog abatement fees, air quality management district fees, vehicle and boat registration fees and new tire fees. Cumulatively, the impact to citizen taxpayers will be at least $20 per vehicle annually.

    Many of these fees were originally approved in 2007 for the purpose of funding technologies to limit air pollution, including the construction of a hydrogen highway. But here's the real insult: Like Proposition 30 revenue itself which we were told - ad nauseum - would be going to schools, money from this car tax hike are likely to end up in the black hole of the general fund. (Translated, that means government employee pension benefits).

    Politically, our fear is that "the fix is in." This same bill was only narrowly defeated last fall, despite the fact that five Republicans voted for it. But why would any legislator who is a member of the party which holds itself out as the fiscally responsible player in the room support a multibillion tax increase? Simple: In the naive belief that something positive - regulatory relief for industry - is worth the trade.

    AB 8 would remove some of the most outlandish and counterproductive regulations on the diesel trucking industry. If regulatory reform was all that AB 8 was about, this would be the classic no-brainer. But political deals in Sacramento -- especially now that the tax-and-spend interests control both houses by a two-thirds margin -- don't come without a price.

    And so the victims here are citizen taxpayers who don't have nearly the lobbyist firepower (or campaign contributions) as do specific special interests.

    Even if this "deal" were worth it as a matter of policy, the majority party has a horrible track record in keeping its promises and shouldn't be trusted. For example, these very fees were supposed to disappear by 2014.

    But now we're being told they should be extended until 2023. And who's to say that, once the tax hike is in place, the harmful diesel truck regulations won't be immediately reinstated. After Democratic leadership reneged on the deal with Republicans to put a spending limit measure on the ballot in 2012, any Republican who even considers supporting AB 8 is delusional.

    Let's be clear. The diesel regulations which are crushing the trucking industry and inflicting enormous harm on the California economy need to go.

    But hitting citizen taxpayers -- who are now leaving California in record numbers -- is not the answer.
    With the beginning of the legislative session, 120 lawmakers have a new opportunity to start doing the right thing by reducing job killing regulations without charging car drivers in return.

     Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Contact him through the organization's website, www.hjta.org.

    A Pay-Per-Mile Road Tax Could Target Transpo Funding — But It’s Years Away


    By Martin Di Caro, January 29, 2013 

    As federal and state governments struggle to adequately fund their transportation networks, a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax has potential to increase revenues — but the establishment of the tax is probably years away.

    To cite one example, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s major transportation funding proposal would eliminate the state gas tax and replace it with a higher sales tax. There is no mention of VMT.

    In fact, no state currently charges drivers a VMT tax, which tracks all miles traveled and charges a fee based on distance.

    “The technology is generally there but there are an awful lot of political, institutional, and general public policy concerns that we still have to deal with,” said Rob Puentes, a transportation policy expert at the Brookings Institution.

    One big concern may be privacy. A study by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Planning Board released last week found that 86 percent of area commuters oppose having a GPS device installed in their vehicles to track all their miles traveled.

    “There are lot of measures that can be put in place to insure that personal information is not being used or exploited, but you really have to do a good job of convincing the motoring public that privacy concerns are going to be dealt with in a very clear way,” Puentes said.

    At a time when governments are looking for dedicated revenue streams for transportation systems and projects that often run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, VMT offers an opportunity to direct money to the most troublesome roads, said Puentes, who said a VMT tax would mark a fundamental change to transportation funding.

    “If you are driving on the Beltway during rush hour consistently adding to the traffic on those highly congested roads, you’d be paying more, and then those revenues would go back to the road you are using,” he said.  Under the current gas tax system, revenues are placed into central transportation funds and allocated more evenly.

    Politically, few politicians have shown the willingness to try to convince drivers of the merits of VMT.

    “Oregon is generally considered to be the state that’s pioneering most of the research and the policy analysis around this. A state law requires them to look at this,” said Puentes, referring to a state pilot program.

    A University of Iowa study examined VMT on a pilot basis in Oregon and 12 U.S. cities. In
    Congress, Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer is pushing a bill that would mandate that the Treasury Department study VMT.  In 2009 a national commission recommended VMT as one possible solution to the nation’s transportation funding crisis.

    But pay-as-you-drive is gaining acceptance in other circles. In 2010, California approved it as a method of pricing car insurance, and now State Farm is using it.

    Report: Bike Lanes Will Slow Traffic on Figueroa, Colorado 


    January 29, 2013



    A review of the City of Los Angeles' Master Bike Plan predicts that most intersections along major thoroughfares in Highland Park and Eagle Rock would experience significant traffic delays as a result of installing new bicycle lanes.

    However, business owners and bicycle advocates are split on the issue of whether those delays would be harmful to local communities.

    The graph below shows the current wait times for vehicles at major intersections along Figueroa Street and Colorado Boulevard as calcuated by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and the level of service grade for each of those intersections. According to the LADOT, "level of service" is a qualitative measure used to describe the condition of traffic flow, ranging from excellent conditions at LOS A to overloaded conditions at level of service F. Level of service D is recognized as the minimum acceptable level of service in the City of Los Angeles."
    Street Intersection Current Grade A.M Current Time at Intersection A.M. Current Grade P.M. Current Time at Intersection P.M
    North Figueroa Colorado C 25.7 C 20.6
    North Figueroa York C 24.9 C 28.8
    North Figueroa Pasadena B 19.7 B 13.2
    North Figueroa Avenue 26 D 54.1 D 38.9
    North Figueroa San Fernando B 15 B 16
    Street Intersection Current Grade A.M. Current Time at Intersection A.M. Current Grade P.M. Current Time at Intersection P.M.
    Colorado SR-2 NB Ramps B 17.2 B 16.7
    Colorado Broadway B 13.2 B 17.1
    Colorado Sierra Villa C 29.4 F 246.6
    Colorado Eagle Rock D 37 F 264.4
    Colorado SR-134 Ramps C 23.3 B 14.7
    Colorado North Figueroa C 25.7 C 20.6
    The following two charts show the increase in traffic stop times along North Figueroa and Colorado, and the change in level of service grade.
    Street Intersection Potential Grade After Bike Lanes A.M. Potential Time at Intersection After Bike Lanes A.M. Potential Grade After Bike Lanes P.M. Potential Time at Intersection After Bike Lanes P.M.
    North Figueroa Colorado E 56.2 D 40.1
    North Figueroa York E 66.4 D 46.1
    North Figueroa Pasadena C 25.3 B 13.4
    North Figueroa Avenue 26 F 149.3 D 45.7
    North Figueroa San Fernando B 14.3 C 21.6
    Street Intersection Potential Grade After Bike Lanes A.M. Potential Time at Intersection After Bike Lanes A.M. Potential Grade After Bike Lanes P.M. Potential Time at Intersection After Bike Lanes P.M.
    Colorado SR-2 NB Ramps B 17.3 B 16.7
    Colorado Broadway B 12.8 B 17
    Colorado Sierra Villa F 94.7 F 471.5
    Colorado Eagle Rock F 111.4 F 453
    Colorado SR-134 Ramps B 19.4 B 19
    Colorado North Figueroa E 56.2 D 40.1
    According to report, which was released earlier in January, the installation of bike lanes on North Figueroa Street would result in "potentially significant" traffic impacts at the intersection of Colorado Boulevard, York Boulevard and Avenue 26.

    The LADOT data shows that all but one North Figueroa intersection--San Fernando Road--would experience at least some increase in traffic stop times as a result of the bike lane installation. Many of those intersections, including Colorado, York, Pasadena and Avenue 26, would see their level of service grades drop as a result of the bike lane installation.

    Colorado Boulevard would also experience delays. For example, the intersection at Eagle Rock Boulevard would be downgraded from a D to an F grade. However, the report also predicts some improvement along Colorado, with bike lanes leading to minor decreases in stop times at Broadway and the SR-134 Ramp.

    Data in Dispute

    Mark Vallianatos, a professor of law and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, said that the data provided by LADOT appeared to be flawed in at least two instances in the EIR’s “Transportation, Traffic, and Safety” section.

    “They’ve clearly made some mistakes on two intersections on Colorado,” said Vallianatos, pointing out that that the average delay during peak rush hour in the evenings on Colorado and Sierra Villa Drive (near Eagle Rock Plaza) is 246.6 seconds (4.11 minutes), and the delay on the Colorado-Eagle Rock Boulevard intersection is even higher: 264.4 seconds (4.40 minutes). The figures Vallianatos refers to are in bold above.

    “To me that’s clearly an error because you don’t have to go through four lights to go through Eagle Rock and Colorado,” said Vallianatos. “It’s just incomprehensible. We think they messed up and moved up a decimal point.”

    In fact, two hours after Vallianatos received a stakeholders’ copy of the draft EIR from the Department of City Planning on Jan. 17, the professor e-mailed David J. Somers, of the department’s Policy Planning and Historic Resources Division.

    “Is there is an error in table 4.5-2 for Eagle Rock Blvd. and Sierra Villa Drive in the PM peak hours?” Vallianatos asked Somers, according to the e-mail correspondence that the professor forwarded to Patch.

    “The stated delays of 246 and 264 seconds are ten times higher than the rest of Colorado Blvd. delays and almost ten times higher than the AM peak delays for those intersections,” Vallianatos added in his e-mail. “They also do not make sense based on experience driving on Colorado for more than a decade. Perhaps the figures are supposed to be 24.6 seconds and 26.4 seconds?”

    Although Vallianatos has not heard back from Somers, the professor said that Jeff Jacoberger, a consultant with Eagle Rock’s Take Back the Boulevard initiative, has been in touch with the Department of City Planning to see if it can “clarify the figures because they seem to suggest that Colorado is more horrendously backed up than many places in West L.A., which is not the case.”

    What the Data Means for Locals

    Just what the increased traffic delays along North Figueroa's and Colorado's major intersections will mean for local commuters and business owners is still very much up for debate among bicycle advocates and local proprietors.

    Richard Risemberg, a Los Angeles based cycling advocate and the proprietor of Bicycle Fixation, said that many residents favor slower traffic on their streets.

    "Residents and business usually want traffic to go slower on their streets," Risemberg said. "It creates less noise, it creates less pollution unless it's stop and go. It allows for more possibility to see something interesting and pull over."

    He added that the increased traffic time would serve to slow down drivers who use North Figueroa Street and Colorado Boulevard as a thoroughfare to destinations outside of the neighborhoods.

    "The ones who want to speed are usually cut through drivers who want to exploit local streets as alternatives to freeways and arterial streets," Risemberg said.

    Risemberg also noted slower traffic flow would result in better safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.

    "Drivers using surface roads as if they were freeways are where the problems start," he said.
    John Neese, owner of Galco's Soda Pop Stop, who recently wrote about his opposition to bike lanes on York Boulevard, took a different stance from Risemberg. He said bike lanes have been "very bad" for business on York.

    He disagreed with Risemberg's argument that slower traffic would encourage motorists to more frequently stop at local businesses.

    "The bike lanes on York Boulevard are causing problems for business because when people see traffic backed up, they just drive on to Meridian Street to bypass it," he said.

    Neese also took issue with the lack of input business owners had in determining whether bike lanes were right for York Boulevard.

    "One day, it just happened," he said.

    (My note: I often shop, bank, and get gas on Colorado Blvd. If the bike lanes added many bikes along this route, I would consider changing where I do these items as there already many dangerous turns into and out of shopping, banking, and gasoline stations already. Adding bikes would make the situation worse.)

    These Airbags For Cyclists Might Save Your Life When A Car Slams Into You

    There is no need for you to ride around with some bulky contraption. These airbags are part of the car, and deploy right before it crashes into you, so you have a softer landing on its windshield.



    In the Netherlands, concern for biker safety has reached new heights: car company TNO has developed the world’s first exterior airbag, to cushion the road’s most vulnerable travelers--cyclists and pedestrians--in the event of a collision.

    Year after year in the Netherlands, pedestrians and cyclists make up about a third of all traffic fatalities. The airbag project came about as a way to shrink that figure, at the behest of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, who gave TNO 1 million euros to develop the technology.

     The exterior airbags cover the lower portion of the windshield, creating a softer landing for a human skull flying through the air at 25 miles per hour than, say, a pane of glass. A camera positioned beneath the rear-view mirror can determine if the car is approaching any pedestrians or cyclists, and if sensors in the car’s bumper detect contact--here comes the airbag.

    After developing the new feature for two years, TNO showed them off this November in a crash test with a dummy cyclist. The results were not bad: A car traveling at 40 km per hour, the average speed at the time of accident, ended up causing fewer brain and bone injuries nearly half the time.

    While TNO’s airbags are just beginning to make their way into car designs, Volvo beat the Dutch company to the chase. Last year, the Swedish carmaker released a V40 with the world’s first pedestrian airbag. Check out that car’s new technology here.

    Candidate Forum, Pasadena Unified School District 7

    For Immediate Release
     San Rafael Neighborhoods Association
    and co-sponsor
     Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association






    6:30 P.M.
    WHERE: Church of the Angels Church Hall
    1100 Ave 64
    Pasadena 91105


    Voters from SRNA neighborhoods will put a mark on local history March 5th when voting for the first time for a candidate for the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) to represent PUSD's new geographic Seventh District.

    PUSD District 7 encompasses neighborhoods from San Rafael and Linda Vista along with certain areas of Old Pasadena and Madison Heights.  School site facilities located in District 7 are: the Blair/Allendale Complex, Linda Vista Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary and San Rafael Elementary.

    In preparation for this historic election SRNA, joined by the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association (DPNA), will sponsor a District 7 candidate forum Wednesday, February 6th at Church of the Angels Hall on Avenue 64.

    Neighbors will be able to meet and speak with PUSD District 7 candidates Luis Ayala and Scott Phelps during the 6:30 reception followed by candidate statements at 7:00, moderator questions, and concluding with questions from the audience.

    PUSD District 7
    Church of the Angels Hall

    Wednesday February 6th
    6:30 pm

    1100 Avenue 64
    Pasadena 91105

    The church hall is located across from church, corner of Church St. and Ave. 64
    Parking is available on city streets

    San Rafael Neighborhoods Association:

    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.  
    Join SRNA--West Pasadena's newest and fast growing neighborhood organization dedicated to the San Rafael Neighborhoods Area

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

    Contact us and send check by mail to:
    San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA)
    PO Box 92617
    Pasadena, CA 91109
    or join us at our website at
    www.srnapasadena.org and click the tab "Join Us"
    Credit cards accepted

    SRNA is registered with Neighborhood Connections in the City of Pasadena

    City of Pasadena sends Letter to METRO Board

    A copy of the letter signed by Mayor Bill Bogaard, sent to Michael Antonovich and Metro Board Members, dated January 18, 2013

    Should Cities Make Drivers Pay for Sunday Parking Too


    Brittany Shoot, January 30, 2013

     "Penalizing people who just want to come and worship is more than significant."

    The story in most U.S. cities goes that on the seventh day, even parking enforcement officers rest. But thanks to slashed municipal budgets and seemingly never-ending congestion on the roads, that’s quickly and likely irrevocably changing.

    Earlier this month, San Francisco became the latest city to announce it will begin enforcing parking meters on Sundays. For now, municipal traffic cops are merely leaving warnings on windshields to let motorists know about the upcoming policy change. But on February 2, meters will start ticking on Sundays at noon and require payment until 6 p.m.
    The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority argues the change will encourage turnover, relieve the bottlenecking that comes from drivers’ endless circling in hopes of nabbing an open space, and in theory, draw more visitors to the city with the promise of easier parking. Predictably, it’s also caused quite a stir among Bay Area residents who think Sunday churchgoers are being unfairly targeted and that local residents are being priced out of their own neighborhoods.

    Of course, San Francisco’s Sunday parking woes aren’t remarkable. Both Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon, have charged for Sunday metered parking for several years. Chicago officials angered churchgoers forced to pay to pray when the Windy City also began enforcing Sunday meters in 2010. And San Francisco itself has, at a smaller scale, been doing the same for a while now, with meters running seven days a week amid the throng of tourists along Fisherman’s Wharf. The city also tries to take full advantage of Giants fans’ fat wallets, with meters in Mission Bay near AT&T Park operating until 10 p.m.

    Because SFMTA is an independent organization, no elected official can line item veto any part of its budget. Short of creating and passing new legislation, there isn’t much to be done about the change. That's unacceptable to people like Pappas, who see the new law as directly targeting urban communities of faith. "Penalizing people who just want to come and worship is more than significant," he argues, acknowledging that the debate may seem to favor Christian denominations but also impacts local temples that conduct Sunday classes. He cautions that the law will reach believers in every type of faith community, disrupting routine services and even funerals, if meters are enforced past 10 p.m. or 24-hours.

    A quick overview for anyone without intimate knowledge of the Bay Area’s religious topography: San Francisco alone has more than 800 congregations, some of which existed long before cars were even invented. Moreover, the city’s communities of faith are an integral part of the social services safety net. S.F. has one of the nation’s highest homelessness rates, and churches and foundations in the downtown area, like Glide Memorial Church and the St. Anthony Foundation, are among the many non-profit organizations that serve thousands of free meals every day to the city’s destitute and homeless. (In the interest of full disclosure, I live near Glide and occasionally volunteer for meal service.) Leaders like Pappas who are opposed to Sunday meters immediately seized on not just the supposed injustice to people of faith, but also the burden put upon volunteers who drive downtown to serve the city’s poorest residents.

    City officials contend that meters can be paid for up to four hours in advance, easing the burden on everyone. But Pappas counters the notion that believers should just pre-pay meters comes with myriad assumptions: that services will start and end on schedule, that time for uninterrupted fellowship should be secondary to plugging the meter, that churchgoers can afford to pay for parking, and that congregations won’t lose money thanks to lowered attendance rates. Many churches also earn supplementary income by renting out space to recovery program meetings or health and fitness instruction. Pappas wonders whether, in addition to discouraging congregants from attending Sunday services, ever-increasing meter fees lead to fewer participants in after-hours activities and an all-around revenue loss. He notes that Glide, the renowned community-oriented church best known as the safe haven for Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) in the film The Pursuit of Happyness, could be forced to dip into its annual budget to hire additional parking attendants to handle traffic.

    Pappas also can’t help but wonder: while out ticketing churchgoers, will Sunday SFMTA workers earn time and a half their normal salary?

    Maybe these questions seem overwrought and invasive. But Milo Hanke, past president and current board member of neighborhood advocacy group San Francisco Beautiful, says government agencies invite criticism and scrutiny when they act without a mandate. The S.F. Municipal Railway (Muni), the city’s trolley and bus system which is overseen by the SFMTA, has recently been under fire for negligent use of funds following reports that some mechanics worked enough overtime in 2012 to effectively earn triple their normal salary. The Sunday meter fees are projected to bring in an extra $2 million dollars in 2013—a lot, relatively speaking, but only a slight increase above the $47 million meters already bring in annually. Two million dollars is even less when you consider that the MTA’s annual budget tops out over $700 million.

    For all the hand wringing about how to boost Muni’s budget while saving churchgoers a few dollars, city officials can’t legally offer a churchgoer exemption and privilege certain private entities over others. According to the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, believers can’t demand special treatment, no matter how unfair a measure seems. “If a community can agree upon a measure and it happens to benefit churches, it’s thereby legal for a secular purpose with a collateral purpose for churches,” he says. In other words, if citizens can make a secular case for abolishing meter fees—that Sunday enforcement will diminish tourism or somehow hamper the rhythm of city life—congregations can reap the rewards as well. Otherwise, no one gets a free pass to pray.

    In order to make a policy change effective, it also has to be enforced. For an example, look no further than Washington, D.C., perhaps the city with the country’s most peculiar set of Sunday parking disputes. Back in March 2006, after long ignoring rule-breaking parishioners known to double-park during Sunday worship services, District police angered congregants by announcing that they would begin ticketing on Sundays that May. Local residents complained that suburban congregants coming into the city for Sunday services caused gridlock in residential neighborhoods, blocking driveways and making streets impassable. Believers shot back that skyrocketing rents and widespread gentrification had long since forced them out of their inner city homes and away from their beloved congregations. In the years since, the city has attempted to resolve the issue both by adding additional metered spaces and by implementing new resident-only parking restrictions. In some ways, the changes have only inflamed tensions.

    So should cities look to Sunday meters a viable solution to budget woes? Or are local officials just asking to be pulled into drawn-out debates about gentrification, car reliance, and public space? Several cities, like Chicago and Denver, have been experimenting with 24-hour meters, which can often be pre-paid overnight. Other communities—including San Francisco—are weighing the long-term viability of variable meter prices that change based on time of day and demand.

    Some of the near-term solutions like installing more long-run smart meters can be financially and logistically daunting, raising concerns about how the city’s middle class and working poor will adjust. Even in tech-savvy S.F., Pappas says, “You can’t expect a little old lady to have a pre-pay parking app on her smartphone.” But Lynn points out that for-profit companies like FedEx and delivery-based services see tickets for double parking and expired meters as part of the cost of doing business. Should city visitors and everyday commuters try to see things the same way?

    Naturally, there’s already talk of a November ballot initiative to repeal Sunday meter enforcement. Given Oakland’s success repealing a similar meter enforcement rule in 2009, advocates working to stop “meter madness” are hopeful. Hanke says that a ballot measure proves that people actually care about this issue, and about transit. “People use Muni. They love it,” he says. But they might love their cars—and their God—more.