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, February 6, 2013



Move LA, February 6, 2013

Thanks to all 528 of you who participated in our 5thannual transportation conversation with labor leaders, CEOs of chambers and business federations, environmental and community leaders, and elected officials from cities, the county and the state.
Major take-aways:
  • There is keen interest across the board in accelerating construction of our transit system, and all 4 mayoral candidates supported this.
  • Everybody is on board to go back to Congress to secure financing tools to accelerate construction, including America Fast Forward bonds.
  • There is keen interest in lowering the voter threshold – LA County voters have shown this twice with more than 66% voting for both Measure R and Measure J (71% voted for Measure J in the City of Los Angeles).
  • There is keen interest in re-inventing redevelopment – utilizing tax increment financing within a half mile of high-frequency transit to pay for affordable housing, bike/ped projects and  improvements such as parks and plazas.
  • Residents of the City of Los Angeles applaud LA Mayor Villaraigosa for creating a Transit Corridors Cabinet to focus resources, policy and improvements along transit corridors.

Poor Wendy, Shallman Hung Her Out to Dry and She’s Feeling So Bad


Ron Kay L.A., February 6, 2013


It’s like watching somebody jump out of an airplane and their parachute doesn’t open and you’re looking on in horror, wincing as you wait for the splat.

Poor Wendy, she’s got all these smart and important people around manipulating her this way and
that and she doesn’t know which way to go so she jumps into the mayor’s race pretending she has the record of Laura Chick for aggressively digging into the gross mismanagement, financial incompetence and political corruption at City Hall.

She claims she identified all of $160 million in waste, fraud and abuse out of the $28 billion the city has squandered in the last four years – not counting the DWP, Harbor and Airport waste fraud and abuse – and her numbers don’t even come close to adding up.

That’s a big problem for the city’s financial controller who rests her entire case on her role as watch on the management of city departments and finances – yet never found anything broken that wasn’t already known in a government which botches just about everything.

You made have heard Wendy and arch-rival Eric Garcetti mumble and whisper how they oppose yet another sales tax slug that punishes the poor and working poor and the businesses that serve them – yet neither has the courage to denounce the outrage and admit it does nothing at all to fix the streets or sidewalks or reduced library and parks services.

You haven’t heard a word from them about how offensive it is for the Police Chief and Fire Chief going around town saying they are going to put our lives at risk if we don’t vote to tax ourselves to help the city meet its inflated payroll, pensions and benefit costs.

You know 500 fewer cops and slower paramedic and firefighter response teams.

And now Wendy — without batting an eye or engaging those claimes — comes out with a plan to hire 2,000 more cops and 1,000 firefighters and it won’t cost anyone a penny but city revenue is going to explode in the coming economic boom that will solve all our problems and make the quality of our lives second to none.

What’s the secret of Wendy’s specious promise? Union concessions!

“She’s gonna sit down at the table with the parties, open up the books, and shine a big light on it.” says her political consultant John Shallman, whose expertise in money matters comes from collecting 13 tax liens from the state and federal governments over the last six years.

It should be clear that Ms. Greuel has been taking a beating from all directions for quite some time now while Garcetti has been far shrewder by avoiding all controversy by saying absolutely nothing about anything – tough to beat someone who stands for nothing and never has.

I can only tell you that anyone who votes for anyone other than Jan Perry or Kevin James deserves to live in a city that can’t pay its bills or solve its problems and has a civic, business or political leadership with no sense of purpose that goes beyond its individual and collective egotism and greed.

How A Community Fought The 710 Expansion And Won: What Happens Next? 


By Kristin Yinger, February 5, 2013 




The 710 signs are not coming down anytime soon on Ave. 64 (Kristin Yinger/Neon Tommy).

                                          The 710 signs are not coming down anytime soon on Ave. 64

 UPDATE: Alternatives Anaylsis for the SR-710 Project has been released on the Metro website. Read the executive summary here

On a sweltering Sunday in November, Susanne Vaage sits outside on the wide front porch of her green, wood-paneled Craftsman style home while her small terrier Mallory patrols the porch in a bright orange sweatshirt. The porch offers a vantage point of the quiet neighborhood along Avenue 64 in northeast Los Angeles. Glancing up and down the street, there is no sign of a battle for the land—no ravaged landscape or camped-out protesters. But there are, literally, signs. “No 710 on Avenue 64” signs are in front of every house on the block. For as long as Vaage can remember, the life-long Avenue 64 resident says the threat of the 710 expansion has been in her life. “30 years ago it was a good idea [to expand] but not now,” Vaage said. “How much money have they spent on prospects and studies? They’re wasting millions on millions of dollars. They haven’t moved the freeway two inches.”

The “they” in this situation is the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, the caretaker of local freeways. The fighting spirit of residents along Avenue 64 and other areas threatened by the potential freeway extension have for decades prevented Metro from following through on extension plans. A block over on Avenue 63, avid neighborhood walker Janice Constancio’s “No 710” sign sits in the front window of her 1914 Craftsman home. She too remains skeptical of Metro’s plans. “I have a feeling that Avenue 64 was smoke in mirrors for the actual route because they wanted to get everyone riled up,” Constancio said. In August, Metro announced 12 route options, including one through Avenue 64 either as a highway or below as tunnels. Outraged residents attended meetings, started online discussions and wrote letters to the mayor, governor and city councils. Both Pasadena and Los Angeles City Councils voted unanimously against the 710 extension options proposed in their cities in August. By the end of that month, Metro’s 710 Environmental Study team recommended only five viable options, none of which included an Avenue 64 route. Metro officials said the route was one of the build alternatives that was “seen as low-performing and/or most environmentally damaging,” and that further study of these alternatives “is not merited.” The route being taken off the table coupled with the city council votes were seen as signs of the plans’ defeat.

Now that Metro has eliminated the Avenue 64 route, the neighborhood’s focus has shifted to a ‘no build’ stance and helping other communities still on the line for the 710 expansion. Now, “for Avenue 64, it’s a joke to bring up the route,” said Constancio. “Most people have shifted to ‘no build,’ which seems to be the winning theory now. Everyone is focusing on that, no matter where you live. No freeway to run through here.”

Also known as the Long Beach freeway, which runs north-south, the 710 was built in the 1940s along with other Southern California highways; it was never completed, leaving a gap through Pasadena to Alhambra. People now use Avenue 64 as a connection to the east-west-running 134 or 210 freeways in lieu of an actual freeway connection. The street serves as a route from Pasadena to the Highland Park and Garvanza areas of northeast Los Angeles. Metro and pro-710 leaders contend that by finishing the freeway and thus connecting the port in Long Beach up to the 210, it will be easier for trucks carrying goods from the port to get elsewhere in California. Sensitive environments nearby such as the Arroyo Seco, a seasonal river and canyon, led to the route being discarded because of concerns about air pollution and unstable soil. Historic areas and buildings on both the city of Los Angeles and the city of Pasadena sides of Avenue 64 also would have been affected.

Avenue 64 “was a low performing alternative in terms of providing positive transportation benefits, and had the most community impacts,” said Metro Media Relations representative Rick Jager. “Many of the comments received during scoping pertained to seeking solutions that did not involve freeways. This feedback led to the development of a broad range of multi-modal alternatives and potential solutions.”

For all of the apparent unsound reasoning behind the Avenue 64 route, everyone in the area who would be affected felt that the plan was a real concern—and the residents waged a battle against it. At the end of July, residents heard about the possibility of an Avenue 64 route being researched. The Pasadena City Council voted on August 13 against routes proposed through the city. Other meetings followed, including a meeting held on the lawn of the historic Church of the Angels on Avenue 64 in early September and a 710 Forum with a panel of experts, organized by a Pasadena Councilman on September 18. The sudden possibility of the neighborhood’s consideration shocked and spurred residents to action. “They had it in writing,” said community organizer and Garvanza Improvement Association co-chair Tina Miller. “It came from Metro. This was the real deal. No one would know it was smoke in mirrors. We took it very seriously.We wrote letters to Jerry Brown, to the mayor. People lost their minds over this.” Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes the areas of Garvanza and Highland Park and also serves on Metro’s Board of Directors, faulted Metro on “a process that creates more concern and alarm than anything,” he told The Los Angeles Times in August.

Much outrage stemmed from the little outreach done by Metro about the planned routes, to the residents of the areas around Avenue 64 in Highland Park and Garvanza as well as in Pasadena. So Miller and her husband Charles decided they would start the community outreach themselves. In August, they started a Twitter feed and three Facebook groups—two in English and one in Spanish—to use as discussion forums and information sources. Currently the ‘No 710 on Avenue 64’ Facebook group has 613 members and the regional group ‘No 710 Freeway Expansion’ has 743 members. Their Twitter feed, @Metro710PR, has 253 followers so far. “Metro thought ‘we’ve got the head of a beast we didn’t expect,’” Miller said. “We bridged a lot together and we connected people. We started organizing the outreach because no one else was doing that.” At a recent art show titled ‘Que Te Vaya Bien,’ which means good riddance in Spanish, Miller unveiled a No 710 altar. Combining her passion for defeating the 710 with her love of art, she exhibited the altar, which held photographs, newspaper clippings, skulls and signs donated by people on the Facebook page. She felt the altar was a creative way to show what was happening.

In August, the “No 710” signs also appeared on people’s lawns along Avenue 64. Down the block of North Avenue 64 from Church Street to Burleigh Drive, every home has a sign protesting the 710 expansion, even on the lawn of the Church of the Angels. Billy Jenkins, a teacher at Pasadena High School, has lived four years on Avenue 64 across from the church. “There was this period of July, August and September, this three-month period, that’s when people were going to meetings and it was getting intense,” Jenkins said. Now that the meetings have ended, though, the signs will not be coming down. “Everyone is so irritated with Metro that they are keeping their signs up. They left such a bad taste in our mouths,” said Jenkins. “It says something that [Metro] retreated. No one has taken their signs down to make Angelenos more aware.”  Jenkins lives a few houses away from the oldest house in Garvanza, a blue 1864 Gothic Revival-style cottage lifted from its original place in Chinatown by preservationist Brad Chambers. This house as well as a few more historic homes line this side of the street and receive protection under the Highland Park Overlay Zone.

Across the street, the 1889 Church of the Angels, founded by the Campbell-Johnston family, sits on three acres surrounding the church that it has owned for generations. Its brownstone exterior and stained glass window have made it an ideal location for movies and television, like Heathers, The Office and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The rector, Father Robert J. Gaestel, known as Father Bob, remembers the September meeting at the church clearly. “There were 350 people in attendance for an evening rally and meeting,” Gaestel said.  “Some members of the congregation attended the early information meeting and others have been writing to Metro since they made their plans public.” The church’s website also features a news page with links about the 710 expansion.

The disappointment about outreach and “bad taste” left by this battle between residents and Metro now fuels activist-residents to continue to fight 710 expansion through offering their voices and support to other areas. The alternatives being considered further in the next stage are no build, transportation system improvements like traffic signal and street improvements, a rapid transit bus line from downtown LA to Pasadena, light rail alternatives from East LA to Pasadena and a freeway tunnel from the stub of the 710 north of the 10 to the 710 stub south of the 210 anfd 134 interchanges in Pasadena. All options are being refined and Metro is exploring what combination of alternatives would be the most effective.

None of the highway alternatives were deemed to perform well and are not being investigated further.

“We got our message across. This is still an ongoing problem even though these routes are off the table,” Miller said. “The life of the Facebook page is not going away because the life of the 710 is not going away. The conversation will still keep going.” Residents of Avenue 64 agree: their No 710 signs remain up.

Secret report on $195 million Rose Bowl project says officials underestimated cost 


By Brenda Gazzar, February 6, 2013

  Construction crew working before groundbreaking ceremonies at Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl officials had a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday, to commemorate the $152 million renovation of the Rose Bowl Tuesday, January 25, 2011.

PASADENA - When Rose Bowl stadium officials pitched their ambitious renovation plan to civic leaders, the Tournament of Roses and UCLA in 2010, they low-balled the projected cost by more than $40 million, according to a consultant hired to review the project.

Officials spent $67,000 for an independent review of the project, which has grown from $152 million to an estimated $195 million.

The review, conducted by Heery International, Inc., said original cost estimates presented to the public were unrealistic. The review was presented in secret to both the City Council and the Rose Bowl Operating Co.

City Attorney Michelle Beal Bagneris refused to provide a copy of the document.

Heery International Project Director Daniel Adams declined to be interviewed, stating his work is "confidential under attorney-client privilege and work product protection."

Bernards of Bernards/Barton Malow, the joint venture team serving as the renovation's project manager, created the initial $152 million estimate pitched to the public by Mayor Bill Bogaard, City Manager Michael Beck and Rose Bowl General Manager Darryl Dunn.

Michael Cawlina, principal of the Bernards/Barton Malow joint venture, could not be reached Wednesday.

Stadium officials said they considered a peer review of Bernards' work by C.P. O'Halloran as validation of the estimate.

Heery officials cited several planning deficiencies in their secret report, according to RBOC internal documents obtained Wednesday.

The consultant said the stadium maintained an inadequate contingency fund to account for:

Incomplete construction documents when the budget was being prepared;

The existing condition of a 90-year-old historic facility;

Phased construction of an occupied stadium and;

Officials' insistence that the project be complete by Jan. 1, 2014 for the BCS Championship game and 100th anniversary of the Rose Bowl.

The secret report also found that the RBOC created additional risk in generating separate contracts for the project architect, structural engineer and its mechanical engineer.

Other problems presented themselves because the stadium used multiple prime contractors rather than investing a single architect with overall design responsibility and having the work done by a single general contractor, according to the RBOC's internal documents.

In response to a public records request for the entire Heery report, Bagneris said the RBOC subcommittee report was the "only public document responsive" to the request. The Jan. 3 subcommittee report, she said, did not reference a written report but an oral one.

Open government advocate Terry Francke of Californians Aware said if sued, he doesn't think the city's work product defense would succeed.

"Putting the entire report into an attorney work product classification seems hard to explain other than as a means of frustrating public scrutiny of what the consultant found," he said.
City Councilman Terry Tornek said large projects can involve a great deal of uncertainty and there's little incentive to be precise with estimates.

"If there is an overrun, ultimately it gets covered because it's a public project and it's for the public good and there is no real penalty," Tornek said. "In the private sector, if you underestimate that badly, you go broke."

Tornek said he doesn't believe there is any indication of fraud.

But it does undermine public confidence, he said.

"The larger question is how the city, the RBOC managed this process and I think there is plenty of blame to go around," Tornek said. "We all share in that but it's the process I'm concerned about. What have we learned from this process?"

City Councilman Victor Gordo, president of the RBOC, said the renovation path chosen by stadium officials during the course of the renovation was well planned out.

"We picked that strategy on the advice of professionals who are in the business and with open eyes," Gordo said. "At the end of the day, it didn't work out quite the way we anticipated."

Officials continue to promise they will not tap into the city's General Fund to pay for the costly renovation, which is slated to be paid for with stadium dollars and private contributions, Gordo said.

According to the internal RBOC documents, Heery's recommendations as the project lumbers toward completion are:

More rigorous construction reviews;

The implementation of a pre-construction process and procedures manual;

Requiring two cost estimates for all design work before bidding.

An implementation plan is being created and will come before the RBOC board, Dunn said.
Gordo said there was a "silver lining" in the findings.

"The report establishes a combination of incorrect estimating, timelines that were too aggressive, and a very complex project caused us to have a budget that was inadequate," he said. "If there is a silver lining, it's two things. We're getting a very good product, and, number two, these aren't overruns. This was always a more expensive project."


Edison to give 10,000 trees to cities hit by 2011 windstorm 


By Steve Scauzillo, February 5, 2013


More than a dozen of power polls knocked over in the 9900 block of Live Oak Ave. in Temple City on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011. Winds gusting up to 80 miles an hour whipped through the west San Gabriel Valley overnight causing trees to snap and power lines to fall.

"We fell short ... We failed to communicate effectively and we've certainly learned our lessons," said Southern California Edison President Ron Litzinger.

His contrite words, spoken at the Jan. 17 San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments meeting, referred to SCE's unsatisfactory response after the Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2011 windstorm that left 440,000 local customers without power for several days, some for a week, and destroyed thousands of trees causing $34 million in damage.

But Litzinger's apology didn't move the mayors whose cities were left in the dark with few answers from Edison crisis managers. Not until he put his money where his mouth was.

"To help with replacing the trees, we will make a donation of at least 10,000 trees to help restore your parks and communities," Litzinger offered.

Edison is growing the trees from seed in both Ventura and Fresno counties, said Glen Becerra, project manager. The trees will be delivered to local cities hardest hit by the storm starting in spring, he said.

"We thought there was no better place to deliver these trees than the San Gabriel Valley, which was most impacted by the storm," Becerra said.

While most COG members called the offer a gesture of good will, details of SCE's tree replacement proposal are still trickling down to local city halls in Alhambra, Arcadia, South Pasadena, Pasadena, 
Temple City .

Two of the hardest hit cities - Arcadia and Temple City - said nearly three weeks after Litzinger's announcement they haven't been contacted by Edison.

Becerra said Edison has worked through the COG staff to assess each city's tree needs. Edison's partner is the Los Angeles nonprofit group, TreePeople, which has worked on urban reforestation for 30 years. TreePeople will help with soil preparation, planting and maintenance, he said.

However, Edison will be following efforts already put in motion by Supervisor Mike Antonovich as part of a $2.5 million grant program from the Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District. Monrovia, Arcadia and Temple City - three of the hardest hit cities in terms of tree loss - have already received checks from the county for replacement trees.

"Supervisor Mike Antonovich's office had promised us county money to replace the trees. That process has already started," said Arcadia City Councilman and COG governing board member Peter Amundson.

Arcadia lost about 2,000 trees, including 433 public trees from parkways and parks. Amundson said the city is working on replacing those with the money from the county grant.

"The fact that he (Litzinger) was at our (COG) meeting tells me they are getting it. But the proof will be whether they actually come through," said Amundson, who said many residents did not get straight answers from Edison staff during the weeks after the storm. Even he had to fire up his generator to keep the lights on at his home, he said.

In Temple City, Parks and Recreation Director Kathy Burroughs said the city lost 500 public trees from the powerful storm. The entire city was without power for days due to snapped power poles and a downed substation. Some residents lost power for more than a week while communication from Edison was sporadic.

Temple City received $70,000 from Antonovich's grant program, Burroughs said. The city will begin this month replacing about 300 lost trees. New trees come in a maximum 15-gallon pot, she said, far smaller than the specimen pine, oak and sycamores destroyed.

"It is interesting they (Edison) offered that after the county put their money out there," Burroughs said. She said the city was still looking for more help.

Monrovia Mayor Mary Ann Lutz said her city also received a $40,000 grant from the county. The money will be used to buy and plant 159 new trees, she said. Home Depot also donated a cedar deodar tree to replace the city "Christmas tree" in Library Park which blew down.

"We are hoping to augment that effort," Becerra said. Edison is growing pine, oak and magnolia trees, he said, which will be donated to cities to use as they see fit.

Litzinger apologized to the mayors of COG, saying an independent review estimated Edison could've restored power at least two days sooner. The California Public Utilities Commission report criticized the public-private utility, saying it destroyed evidence of the disaster.

An internal review found 70 recommendations for improvements. One of those included better estimates of power restoration times for affected customers, and "enhanced partnership with ... state, local and community leaders."

 Beverly Hills Courier vs. Metro


February 6, 2013

 The BH Courier Writes a Goofy Editorial. Metro Responds Via The Source Courier Responds Again with Goofy Editorial.

 Editorial, Beverly Hills Courier, January 31, 2013

The pay and pension issue is serious, as is the battle against the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s two tunnels underneath Beverly Hills High School.  The outcome of both issues will determine the fate of our City.   Unfortunately, we have some paid lobbyists in and around our City who keep attacking those who defend us while they promote those who would sell us out.  (Just look at who paid for what.)

The Metro tunnels are not an issue for Beverly High only.  Just this past week, neighbors of the proposed La Cienega and Wilshire station – touted by Mayor Willie Brien as being “without controversy” – are now learning that their very existence is threatened by the massive excavation planned by Metro at that location.  According to Metro, an open trench nearly 2,000 feet or more long and nearly 100 feet wide will take all of Wilshire for up to seven years.  Plus, the big dirt haulers 24/7 in and out.  How will our signature “Restaurant Row” fare?  How will the adjacent medical buildings fare?  How will the historic Fox Wilshire – now the Saban Theater – survive?  Metro told these people there would be no open ditch, no damage to foundations – that it will all be just fine.  That is not true, as they are now learning.

With Metro, when certain council candidates say: “Oh, pooh, pooh, there’s nothing wrong,” you need to look at who is supporting them.  Where does their campaign money come from?  Are they running to represent Beverly Hills or running “for the greater good of the region”?  These are fair questions. 
The Courier endorsed Vice Mayor John Mirisch last week because we know for a fact where he stands.  We also know where at least one of his opponents stands on this, and it is not with Beverly Hills.  That conclusion will be obvious to all readers in the next few weeks, if not already obvious, based on that candidate’s own statements and votes. None of this will be spun, invented or made-up by The Courier.

What we can expect, however, is that the paid mouthpieces of Beverly Hills will chime in.  What you will not see, however, is any facts coming from them to back up the pandering.

Our City faces these two controversies that will determine our future as a City.  The Courier asks that you truly look at the facts.

 From the Source:

Beverly Hills Courier publishes erroneous information on Westside/Purple Line Extension construction impacts

 By Steve Hymon, February 5, 2013

In its most recent edition, the Beverly Hills Courier published incorrect information about construction impacts of building the Westside/Purple Line Extension:
The Metro tunnels are not an issue for Beverly High only.  Just this past week, neighbors of the proposed La Cienega and Wilshire station – touted by Mayor Willie Brien as being “without controversy” – are now learning that their very existence is threatened by the massive excavation planned by Metro at that location.  According to Metro, an open trench nearly 2,000 feet or more long and nearly 100 feet wide will take all of Wilshire for up to seven years.  Plus, the big dirt haulers 24/7 in and out.  How will our signature “Restaurant Row” fare?  How will the adjacent medical buildings fare?  How will the historic Fox Wilshire – now the Saban Theater – survive?  Metro told these people there would be no open ditch, no damage to foundations – that it will all be just fine.  That is not true, as they are now learning.
The correct information:

•Station boxes for the Subway Extension will each be about 1,000 feet long, not 2,000 feet long as wrongly reported by the Courier.

•There is certainly a lot of dirt that will have to be hauled from the stations but there is no plan to haul dirt from the station excavations 24/7, as the Courier wrongly reported.

•The stations for the existing Red and Purple Lines were not built with trenches that were open for the duration of construction and there is no plan to build stations for the new line with permanently open trenches, as the Courier also wrongly reported.

•There will be temporary street closures for the current subway project during initial station excavation. The excavated area will then be covered by concrete decking that will allow traffic to flow on the streets above the station, while construction work continues below ground. When the decking is removed at the end of construction, there will again be temporary street closures.
Decking over Hollywood Boulevard at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland. Photo: Metro.
Decking over Hollywood Boulevard at the intersection of Hollywood and Highland during Red Line construction in the 1990s. Photo: Metro.

•Street closures, truck haul routes and times, work hours and the like are subject to the approval of the city where there work is located. Construction mitigations will be guided by the Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Plan that was adopted as a part of the Final Environmental Impact Statement/Report.

•And here is previously published construction information from a Metro FAQ that elaborates on some of this:
23. Will traffic on Wilshire Boulevard and other major streets be disrupted?

There is no way to build the subway without some impact to traffic. Traffic impacts will mostly be concentrated at station areas and occur primarily at the beginning and end of station construction. In these areas, detours and temporary lane closures will be required for initial station excavation and to install the temporary street decking. These same measures will be required toward the end of station construction to remove the decking and reconstruct the street. In the approximately five years in between, while the station is being constructed under the decking, impact to surface street traffic will largely be limited to trucks hauling construction materials and excavated soil on designated haul routes. Between stations, tunneling will have little if any impact to surface traffic. Please see our Construction Fact Sheet for more information.
Below is the entire fact sheet, complete with drawings that show how station construction work will be done.
Westside Subway Extension construction factsheet by sourcemetro

From the Beverly Hills Courier: 

Courier Flushes The Truth Out Of Metro — Again

Updated Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 – 5:34 PM

Last Friday’s editorial in The Courier warned of Metro’s coming trenching, disruption and excavating at the intersection of Wilshire and La Cienega (the site Mayor Willie Brien tells us is “without controversy”). The editorial flushed out more of Metro’s true intentions.

Metro revealed itself today via its own PR spin site, The Source, where it tried to excoriate The Courier for getting our facts “wrong.”

Keep in mind that the editorial is an editorial, not a news report. So – a bit of exaggeration is OK and well-within journalistic norms. The fact is, we did not exaggerate. We just described more completely what Metro must do in order to dig its huge excavation. That said, this is what Metro conceded:

1. The open trench – when finished — will be at least 1,000 feet long and 70 feet wide. The Courier wrote “2,000 feet long and 100 feet wide.” Metro’s reply never mentions that its dimensions are the finished size, not the added space for excavation around the trench.

2. Metro provided its own diagrams and drawings to show the digging – which match exactly what The Courier wrote. Open trenching, closed up at some point. Metro also failed to mention that the temporary coverings to be used by Metro are not the nice, clean borders without surface evidence of massive digging underneath. When Metro opens a trench and then covers it up, typically massive I-beams stick out of the ground all the way around.

3. Metro disputes that its trucks will haul dirt “24/7” during the process. So, how many hours will they haul the dirt? 20/7? 18/6? 14/5? What’s the difference? The fact is that the fewer hours the trucks haul the dirt, the more months and years it will take to finish the project. Remember, the vaunted Metro Expo Line finally opened after years of delays and tens of millions of dollars of cost overruns. Metro has never brought in a project on time or on budget in modern history.

4. Metro also failed to dispute the fact that buildings along the route will be damaged. The Courier specifically mentioned the historic Fox Wilshire – now the Saban Theater – and famed Restaurant Row. Metro wrote not a word about the Saban or Restaurant Row.
The Courier suggests our readers look at the Metro posting – linked below – and really study Metro’s drawings and language.

The final page on Metro’s posting is the most damaging to Metro – its confirms that Wilshire and La Cienega will be an active construction site for NINE years (not seven as The Courier wrote). And if Metro says nine today, will be be ten, twelve, fifteen, twenty? Think Boston’s “Big Dig.” Decades.

But don’t take our word for it – look at Metro’s own “fact sheet.” Here is it: http://thesource.metro.net/2013/02/05/beverly-hills-courier-publishes-erroneous-information-on-westsidepurple-line-extension-construction-impacts/

This is EXACTLY what Metro itself says:

”Clearly, subway construction cannot be accomplished without impacts. Some of the impacts from subway construction could be: Noise, dust vibration or the visual appearance at construction sites; noise and vibration from below-ground construction activities; traffic impacts from temporary street closures; impacts to merchants near constructions sites; or traffic or other impacts from trucks hauling equipment to or dirt from constructions sites.”

Isn’t this what The Courier wrote?

We flushed them out – again.

Elysian Valley Residents Speak Out About a Silent Threat


By Carren Jao, February 5, 2013

 Pollution from Metrolink's Metrolink Central Maintainance Facility easily travel to Elysian Valley | Photo by Carren Jao

 Pollution from Metrolink's Metrolink Central Maintainance Facility easily travel to Elysian Valley

Unlike eyes that can close, our ears cannot choose not to hear, nor can our noses choose not to breathe.
Ever since Tuyen Dinh moved into a Los Angeles River-adjacent home in Elysian Valley ten years ago, he had made a practice of guarding his children from the sinister effects of air pollution stemming from the Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility (CMF), also known as Taylor Yard, little more than 400 yards away from where we sat one afternoon.

"If I smell any diesel fume coming this way, I have to keep my children inside the house," said Dinh, who has a background in mechanics and understands the possibly harmful effects of diesel engine emitted by these trains, if left unchecked. Noise was also a problem. Trains would pull in, horns would go off at odd hours, waking residents.

Last year, the World Health Organization elevated diesel to a "known carcinogen" level. A 50-year study undertaken by the National Cancer Institute showed that nonsmoking miners heavily exposed to diesel fumes had seven times the normal lung cancer risk of nonsmokers. It could also increase the risk of heart attacks. The EPA has found that diesel fumes aggravate asthma, bronchitis and can cause premature death. Most worrying of all is that its effects are felt even more by children, the elderly, and those that already have pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular conditions.

It was a strange juxtaposition, to see an idyllic neighborhood by the river jostle for space alongside an industrial behemoth such as the CMF. Ducks laze around the pool, as cyclists with determined expressions zip past every so often on the Los Angeles River bike trail. In the meantime, large locomotives trudge on metal rails inching their way toward the maintenance facility, their engines inevitably giving off harmful diesel particulate matter (DPM).
United States High Speed Rail System


By Robert Cruickshank, February 4, 2103

The fine folks at California Rail Map, led by Alfred Twu, have put together this amazing route map of a North American high speed rail network:

This is an ambitious map. And that’s exactly as it should be. It’s based on existing proposals from HSR advocacy groups across North America, as well as on existing HSR projects from the Amtrak Acela to XpressWest to the California High Speed Rail Authority.

Some may argue that this is a pie-in-the-sky approach, that we need to build out regional corridors first. Which is fine. But before the Interstate Highway System was authorized, it had to first be conceptualized on a map. This map gets us closer to the goal of an interstate high speed rail system by showing us what it looks like. And envisioning such a system is the first step toward building it.

Traffic costs regional commuters 61 hours a year, study says

 The study, released Tuesday, ranks the Los Angeles region among the nationĂ¢€™s worst for traffic, but Washington, D.C., is even worse.


By Doug Irving, February 6, 2013 

Article Tab: Cars on the northbound 405.

                                                       Cars on the northbound 405.

Commuters in the Los Angeles megalopolis that includes Orange County waste an average of 61 hours a year stuck in traffic, a national study released Tuesday said.

That ranks among the biggest traffic time drains in the country, but drivers in San Francisco have it just as bad, and those in Washington, D.C., have it worse. The Los Angeles area, long vilified as the nation's traffic quagmire, no longer ranks as the single worst place in that and several other measures included in the Texas A&M Transportation Institute's annual study.

Congestion here costs the average rush-hour commuter $1,300 a year in wasted time and gasoline, the study found, making it second worst in the nation. That adds up to more than 200 million wasted gallons of gas (second worst) and more than 500 million lost personal hours (also second worst).

The study estimated that the Los Angeles region's rush hours add 37 percent to the time it takes to get from one place to another. That was the biggest swing between peak and non-peak travel times in the nation.

It also tried to measure how unpredictable traffic can get by looking at a worst-case scenario – bad weather, a freeway crash, maybe some construction blocking lanes. It found that a Los Angeles trip under those conditions would take nearly five times as long as one made when freeways are clear. Only Washington, D.C., had a bigger difference.

Washington drivers spend an average of 67 hours a year stuck in traffic, wasting close to $1,400 in gas and time, the study found.

And drivers in Honolulu topped the study's "commuter stress index," a measure of how much worse traffic gets when you're stuck in rush hour and trying to go the same direction as everyone else.

The Urban Mobility Report released Tuesday measures traffic problems in nearly 500 U.S. urban areas, using data from 2011. It ranked Washington as the most congested city, followed by Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland, New York-Newark, Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle.

It found that traffic has started to worsen in some places as the recession eases. But the Los Angeles region's traffic remained "essentially pretty flat," said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer at the transportation institute and one of the study's co-authors.

TTI Urban Mobility Report Bungles Congestion Analysis Yet Again


By Tanya Snyder, February 5, 2013


Check it out, congestion is getting better! Source: TTI

Their 2012 Urban Mobility Report (using 2011 data) just came out [PDF]. Like every year, they tout their “improved methodology,” but the authors still haven’t made the changes that would make their congestion rankings meaningful in the real world.

Not only that, they continually sound the alarm about how much worse congestion has gotten in the last 30 years, but they fail to note (except in the chart above) that we must be doing something right these past six years because congestion is down significantly from 2005. It probably has something to do with the fact that Americans are driving less.

TTI’s Travel Time Index measures congestion based on how much longer it takes to drive a road in congested conditions than free-flowing conditions. They’ve now upgraded to a Planning Time Index, which appears even less useful. The PTI is a measure of the extra time a traveler would need to allow for to arrive on time for “higher priority events, such as an airline departure, just-in-time shipments, medical appointments or especially important social commitments.”
Extra time to make important trips. Source: TTI

If the PTI for a particular trip is 3.00, a traveler would allow 60 minutes for a trip that typically takes 20 minutes when few cars are on the road. Allowing for a PTI of 3.00 would ensure on-time arrival 19 out of 20 times.

PTIs on freeways vary widely across the nation, from 1.31 (about nine extra minutes for a trip that takes 30 minutes in light traffic) in Pensacola, Florida, to 5.72 (almost three hours for that same half-hour trip) in Washington, D.C.
That number earned DC the nation’s worst congestion ranking this year.

I don’t know how realistic this PTI is — who really allows for nearly three hours to make a half-hour trip? But more important: If you had to budget three hours for a trip that would only take half an hour driving in good conditions, wouldn’t you start to look for other transportation options? However far that “half-hour” trip is (they don’t give mileage) you could probably bike it in less than three hours.

One useful change the report authors made this year was the inclusion of carbon emissions attributed to traffic congestion. They calculate congestion’s toll on the ozone layer at 56 billion pounds – about 380 pounds of carbon per car commuter. A total of 2.9 billion gallons of fuel is burned in these traffic jams.

Of course, that’s not the whole story. If they’re trying to get at unnecessary emissions and fuel use, they should include all the automobile trips that are made alone that could have taken on passengers; all the trips made by car that could have been done by transit, foot or bike; and all the trips made longer by the fact that poor street design and land use decisions have spread residences, amenities, and services so far apart that every trip requires a car. If they want to figure out the carbon emissions that are cooking our planet without reason, TTI would be well served to start with those.

And that’s the problem with TTI’s rankings, and it’s what we say every year: To rank cities’ congestion based on nothing but freeway speed misses the point and risks incentivizing terrible transportation decisions. The Washington, DC region has excellent transit options, so its citizens don’t have to sit in three hours of traffic. We have miles of useful bike lanes, on- and off-road, inside and outside the city limits. We even pioneered the use of slug lines, which allow car-free commuters to catch rides with strangers who want to use carpool lanes.

How long will it take you to reach your destination using those travel options? What if you move to a first-ring suburb or, god forbid, the city? TTI doesn’t say. It doesn’t rank cities based on the multiplicity of alternatives to sitting in mind-numbing, air-smogging traffic.

TTI does do lip service to need for transportation options, recommending a “balanced and diversified approach to reduce congestion – one that focuses on more of everything.”

Some areas might be more amenable to construction solutions, other areas might use more travel options, productivity improvements, diversified land use patterns or redevelopment solutions,” they write.

And buried inside the report, with no mention in the press release, is their annual report on the benefits of public transportation – for drivers, that is. If your metro or bus commute saves you time, makes you happy, gives you time to read or sleep, and gets you to work on time – well, bully for you but that doesn’t figure in to TTI’s index. All they care about is how much it helps motorists for you to have your behind on a subway seat instead of the driver’s seat.

Last year, transit saved 56 billion vehicle-miles and 865 million hours of delay for drivers. That’s 450 million gallons of fuel and $20.7 billion. The great majority of that savings was in just 15 “very large” urban areas. Americans who are driving less, or not at all, sure are helping those who haven’t kicked the habit. 

TTI also measures the savings from “operational treatments” (though the report buries the definition in a footnote 50 pages after the first mention). The treatments include freeway incident management, freeway ramp metering, arterial street signal coordination, arterial street access management and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. These systems save drivers 374 million hours a year, and could save another 468 million hours if they existed on all roads.

4 Reasons the U.S. Trails the World in Road Safety


 By Eric Jaffe, February 6, 2013

4 Reasons the U.S. Trails the World in Road Safety

Americans pay a great deal of money for their roads — from taxes on their gasoline to parts of their general income — but they don't get a whole lot of road safety in return. A report [PDF] from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, released last month, compared road fatality statistics in the United States with those in Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Guess which per capita fatality rate was about three times greater than the others.

With so much love for roads, what is the United States neglecting when it comes to road safety? To find an answer, researchers Juha Luoma and Michael Sivak dug a bit deeper into the numbers. They found several contributing factors, including relatively loose speeding, seat belt, and drunk driving enforcement, but the biggest reason was staring everyone in the face: Americans drive a lot more than others.

From 2006 to 2010 there were an average of roughly 37,600 annual road deaths in the United States. (On the positive side, the figures declined each year.) The annual averages in Sweden (387), the Netherlands (659) and the U.K. (roughly 2,650) were considerably lower, but of course so are those populations. In the measure of fatalities per million people, however, the United States didn't fare any better: that rate was about 124, compared to roughly 40 in the other nations.

By other fatality measures the United States holds up slightly better. The rate of 146 deaths per million cars is only about double that of the leading European countries (a bit above 70 on average). Meantime the rate of 7 deaths per billion kilometers traveled is maybe a point and a half above the other countries, which hover just below 5 on average. To the chart:

Much of the problem, according to Luoma and Sivak, is how much Americans drive. The average vehicle distance per person in the United States during the time period studied was roughly 15,500 kilometers. The United Kingdom, by comparison, averaged a bit more than 8,300 kilometers, with Sweden (8,800) and Netherlands (7,700) in the same ballpark.

A closer comparison with England found that the greater driving distance per licensed driver in the United States was the "main factor" in the safety disparity. For 2009, if America had the same fatality rate as the U.K., then nearly 23,000 lives would have been saved. Of these, a little more than half (12,345) were the result of distance driven per licensed driver.

Urban roads played a significant role. About half the distance driven in 2009 came on city roads and streets. All told they accounted for nearly 12,500 deaths — a little more than a third of the yearly total. (Limited-access highways, in contrast, proved rather safe.)

Of course there are many factors at play when it comes to road fatalities. Luoma and Sivak also considered a number of road safety laws and found the United States a bit behind the curve on these too. Americans tolerate blood-alcohol levels a bit higher than some comparison countries, have slightly worse rates of seat belt use, and drive a lot faster. (One survey of 30 states from 2006 found that three-quarters of drivers sped on urban arterial roads — compared to just 8 percent of drivers in the U.K.)

So where does that leave things? Luoma and Sivak offer a few humble recommendations: lower the acceptable blood-alcohol levels a bit, reduce speed limits (especially in cities), and improve seat belt laws. Above all, to address the larger problem of driving distance, they suggest implementing stronger urban planning measures (presumably increasing density and mixed-use development) and building better mass transit systems:
The countermeasures to be recommended would lead to only limited restrictions on driver behavior or privacy, but would likely result in substantial benefits in terms of human life saved, suffering avoided, and expenses avoided.
These are modest proposals, to say the least, but they come with a big catch: whether or not you think they're acceptable probably depends on how much you drive.
 Email from U.S. Representative Judy Chu

From Sylvia Plummer:

I received this email yesterday 2/5/13, we already knew Judy Chu's position because she's from Alhambra:

Hi Sylvia,
I sent a letter to Judy Chu so long ago that it is no longer in my sent box, must have been months ago. Today I got this. As we knew already, she is not our ally.  Her semantics, that the 710 has "been incomplete" says it all.

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Congresswoman Judy Chu" <ca32jcima@mail.house.gov>
Subject: Responding to Your Message
Date: February 5, 2013 1:06:35 PM PST

February 5, 2013

Dear Jan,
Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns about the 710 freeway gap.
I fully recognize your concerns on this issue.  We must find a solution to the 710 freeway that is fair to all Los Angeles County residents.

It starts with getting the information that we need to make an informed decision, and that is why I feel the environmental study is key.
This environmental study is important for helping us thoroughly identify and explore the actual environmental consequences of this project. It will provide a complete a comprehensive review that examines all of our options. Only one freeway alternative will be studied. In fact, several of the options studied offer alternative solutions to solve the 710 gap, such as new bus routes and light rail. 

As you may know, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure R in 2010. This voter initiative provides $780 million to help explore how to best close this gap. After Measure R passed, the Los Angeles County Metro Board voted 11 to 2 to use some of this money to conduct an environmental study on this issue.  I believe we have a responsibility to Los Angeles County residents who voted to explore solutions to the 710 gap in Measure R.

The gap between Alhambra and the 210 Freeway has been incomplete for more than 55 years. This gap continues to have wide-reaching consequences, including traffic jams, pollution and lost economic productivity. We need a fair and equitable solution, and I hope this study will help us do just that.

I hope you will never hesitate to contact me any matter of concern. Democracy works best when we stay in touch, so please sign-up for e-mail updates at chu.house.gov/signup to see how I am working for you.

In Friendship, 

Judy Chu, PhD
Member of Congress
Harry L. Baldwin's 2009 Campaign Biographical Highlights

From Sylvia Plummer: Take a look at this link for Harry Baldwin's Biographical Highlights which include: 

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) - Sector Representative
San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (COG) - Board Member/Past President
Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) - Vice President

What's wrong with this picture??

This is an archive of a past election.
See http://www.smartvoter.org/ca/la/ for current information.
Los Angeles County, CA March 3, 2009 Election
 Smart Voter Harry L. Baldwin Candidate for
Council Member; City of San Gabriel
The information on this page is provided by the candidate.
The LWV neither supports nor opposes any political party or candidate.
Biographical Highlights

  • Occupation: Incumbent San Gabriel City Council Member
  • UCLA Graduate - BA
  • San Gabriel Community Foundation - Chairman
  • San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (COG) - Board Member/Past President
  • Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) - Vice President
  • Alameda Corridor East Construction Authority (ACE) - Board Member/Past Chairman
  • Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) - Sector Representative
Click here for More Biography
Top Priorities if Elected

  • San Gabriel Public Safety
  • Lowering the railroad tracks through San Gabriel
  • Infrastructure including streets, buildings, and parks
Key Endorsements

  • Pasadena Star News
Click here for More Endorsements
Position Papers
Campaign Statement
Funding Obtained by Harry Baldwin for City-Related Projects
Campaign Contact Information
E-mail: hbaldwin@sgch.org
LA is One of the Least Resilient Cities in US … Here’s What We’re Going to Do about It


By Lisa Novick, February 5, 2013 

 SURVIVAL - "Get out of LA. It's one of the least resilient cities in the US." This was the advice of every scientist I spoke with at the Fourth International Eco Summit in Ohio last October.
1,600 scientists were at the Summit to exchange information about how to restore the planet's ecosystem services and build ecological resilience to cope with the effects of climate change. The scientists' advice was unanimous. No equivocation, no hedging: "Get out of LA."

Resilience is defined as the capacity of a system to absorb shock and still maintain its identity and function. Resilient systems -- business, social, ecological, you name it -- all have redundancy so that, when a shock or increased stress occurs, there will be back up. There will be some elasticity: someone or something will be able to step in and perform when the usual relationships fail.

In Nature, one can see this in the presence of a variety of pollinators -- native bees, beetles, flies, etc. -- so that the loss of honey bees through Colony Collapse Disorder is not utterly devastating to food production.

We need to take a hard look at all of Los Angeles' systems -- transportation, electricity, water and food supply -- and figure out how much redundancy we have. And at the same time, we need to make an all-out effort, akin to mobilizing for war or preparing for a long siege, to build resiliency into all our systems.

Water, particularly in the West, has always been an unreliable resource, though our dams have persuaded us otherwise. Increasing amounts of particulates in the upper atmosphere could inhibit the formation of the Sierra snow pack that gives LA much of its summer water.

Increasing our demand on the Colorado River and Sacramento Delta is simply not an option. These systems are already over-allocated. Per year, a couple million acre-feet of non-existent Colorado
River water has been guaranteed in a meaningless promise to consumers. We are pumping water out of our aquifers faster than we are replenishing them.

The vast majority of us have planted gardens that feed neither people nor wildlife and yet take unconscionable amounts of water. So, I was told repeatedly at the Eco Summit, with decreasing snow packs and drought as the norm, there is little, if any, resiliency in LA's water supply and no long-term viability to LA.

Solutions exist. We need leadership that exhibits the political will to enact them. As a start, every building should have a large capacity rainwater catchment system. Every building should be surrounded by rain gardens. Other than edibles, everyone should be landscaping with native plants, whenever and wherever possible, to decrease water use and support biodiversity.

The issue of food supply is equally scary. Every week I attend the Montrose Farmers' Market and think, "LA County should be making hefty payments to all the farmers that sell fruits and vegetables at these markets across the county."
US farm subsidies go excessively to commodity crops such as rice and cotton. Specialty crops -- fruit
and vegetables, the stuff that people need to stay healthy and avoid the processed foods that help propel the US obesity and diabetes epidemics -- are under-funded 16-to-1. And the pittance that farmers of fruits and vegetables receive is usually not in the form of direct payments, but in the indirect form of research, marketing and nutrition programs.

"In any given year, only about 10 percent of California's farmers receive direct subsidies. This money is then concentrated disproportionately in the hands of a very small number of producers of five subsidized commodities -- cotton, rice, wheat, livestock and corn -- with the vast majority going to cotton and rice growers.

Fruit, vegetable and nut producers, the so-called specialty crop growers who account for about half of the $36 billion value of the state's agricultural economy, get almost no direct support." (Farm Subsidies in California: Skewed priorities and gross inequalities, by Kari Hamerschlag, Senior Analyst, Environmental Working Group). That $36 billion figure from 2009 is now closer to $45 billion, and the same skewed priorities remain.

Los Angeles needs the fruit and vegetable farmers that supply our farmers' markets. The last thing we need is for these farmers to sell their land to developers, who are attracted to farmland near urban and suburban areas because it's flat and easier to build on than hillsides and because of the proximity to jobs.

Orange County was once a food basket; no longer. Ventura County farmland is being gobbled up by subdivisions.

You can see the change just by driving along the 101 and 126. Where will our food come from? Argentina? China? Mexico? The tenuousness of depending on other countries for our food supply should be screamingly obvious.

Again, solutions exist. We need leadership that exhibits the political will to enact them. For a resilient food supply, we need to keep our specialty farmers farming and we need to make it monetarily worth their while not to sell out. In our urban and suburban areas, we need to build community gardens everywhere. We need to replace abandoned acres of asphalt with small allotments and grow crops.

I wouldn't wish a shock to the system for LA like the one Detroit has been grappling with, but
Detroit, with its plethora of new parks, community gardens, orchards and food banks is a model for what we should be doing now, ahead of the time, and not just because it's finally an emergency we can't ignore. For the last several decades, Detroit was one of the supremely dysfunctional cities in the United States. Now, Detroit is an inspiration.

We need to convene an Eco Summit for Los Angeles for the sake of the nearly 10 million people that live here. We need to bring the best minds together, stakeholders from all areas, government and agency officials, to begin doing the analysis we need and figuring out how to build redundancy into our critical systems. The city of Stockholm has the Stockholm Resilience Center. Los Angeles needs its own think tank for resilience as well.

Los Angeles is not viable long-term even in its present form, and climate change will make it all the more imperative that we establish resilient systems that are well-adapted to our present and projected environment. It is only with such robust systems for our natural and built environments that the life and vibrancy of Los Angeles will continue. Failing this, almost all of us will have to get out of LA ... and go where?

We need to build resilience and stay. This is home.