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 20, 2013

Metro Diary: Three Trains, a Tourist, Some Eager-Beaver Sheriffs, and a Former Foster Child…All in the Space of an Hour 


By Sahra Sulaiman, February 20, 2013

 The Willowbrook Station, looking South.

Whenever I travel in and out of LAX, I do my best to Metro my way there.

It requires a forty-minute walk, three trains, and an airport shuttle ride for me to go one way. But, it’s cheap and, remarkably, it all goes down in less than two hours. And, it is never dull.

For one, I get to watch new arrivals stumble their way through the TAP machine at Aviation.
This time, it was a lawyer from Toronto who hung back from the crowd that lunged for the single TAP machine near the elevator, where we were dropped off.

I hadn’t actually taken a look at this ticket-vending machine (TVM) before because I always reach the platform via the stairs at the east end of the station, where the shuttles usually stop. This TVM had none of the semi-helpful maps and informational posters (if you are an English speaker) present by the base of the stairs.

The lawyer hoped that watching other people go through the motions, he’d figure it out.
He didn’t.

He reassured me later that he would have gotten the hang of it with a little more time. He rides public transit a lot, he said.

Having watched him try to navigate the system, I wasn’t so sure.

He was going to have to take three trains (Green, Blue, Purple) and maybe a bus in order to get himself close to LACMA, and didn’t realize that meant that he would need to pay several separate fares. That part wasn’t in the directions his friend had sent him.

He stared at the screen and looked back at the directions on his phone. Buy a card or add a fare? He looked at me.

It dawned on me that while Metro has made it somewhat easier for frequent riders to navigate the system with recent changes to the menus, those shortcuts may make it more challenging for newbies.

As found during a recent Metro-run focus group, people don’t look at the information on or around the machine itself, they focus on the screen and the menus, assuming those will provide answers at some point. It would therefore make sense if the first screen greeting users also had a static list of fun, helpful tips such as “Each Train Requires a Separate Fare!” “ALWAYS Touch Your Card to the Blue TAP Circles at the Turnstiles or Validators Before Boarding!” or “Seniors Get Discounts!” It would also help if the “help” option was, instead, an interactive “information” option that took you to a list of things you could get more specific information about, such as transfers, fares, maps, passes, basic how-to stuff, timetables, and so forth (instead of the achingly slow and not particularly helpful scrolling screen it is now).

Things got fun at the Rosa Parks station, where we descended into the bottleneck that is the stairs to the Blue Line Platform to find a couple of Sheriffs waiting for us. They checked everyone that came through, making people anxious because the delay meant they were going to miss the train or buses they could see waiting below. At least they didn’t have the canines with them.

For me, missing the train turned out to be a good thing. Because of the traffic jam created on the midpoint landing in the stairwell, I couldn’t linger at the turnstile even though it refused to read my TAP card. So, I went through and on down the stairs, circled around the platform, lugged my suitcase back up the stairs, and passed through the turnstile again (it was faster and safer than leaving the platform, crossing the tracks, finding the validator near the TVM, and crossing back over the tracks), this time successfully. And just in time to catch the next train. Thanks, Sheriffs!

As the Canadian and I moved to the front of the train car to stand with our luggage, a thin, sweet-faced young man in shorts and a t-shirt motioned for me to sit down next to him.

I told him I preferred to stand since I had just been sitting for the last 6 hours.

Looking at him, I noticed he was hunched a bit and cradling his awkwardly bent left arm in his lap.

“Are you OK?” I asked, a little concerned. “Did you hurt yourself or are you just cold?”

He had had a stroke at age 17, he said, and was partially paralyzed on his left side. He had gotten some physical therapy at the time but now, at age 18, he had aged out of the foster care system (which he had been in and out of since age 2) and had lost both a place to live and the insurance that previously covered those costs. When he went to Skid Row looking to get access to services, his phone and some of his belongings were stolen. So, he was just riding the trains, trying to stay warm.

“But I got a ticket,” he said, pulling a crumpled up ticket out of his pocket and handing it to me. “The Sheriffs stopped me and I tried to tell them my story, but they just gave me a ticket and told me to tell it to the judge and hope for mercy.”

The ticket was from 3:30 that afternoon on the Red Line in Hollywood. It was now 7 p.m. and we were in Watts.

“You really have been riding all day, huh?” I said.

“Yeah, I gotta stay warm. With all the rain, that’s been kinda hard,” he said. “Somebody gave me this paper ticket and told me to try to show the Sheriffs that if I got stopped, but it didn’t help me.”

Of course it didn’t. It was one of Metro’s old paper tickets.

At that moment, the Sheriffs walked past the windows at the Florence-Firestone platform with a youth in handcuffs.

The Canadian gave me a WTF is this place?? look.

Don’t you people have health care or social services, he wanted to know. And is this level of police presence typical everywhere?

Police presence and the aggressiveness of policing tends to depend on the neighborhood, I told him. With regard to services, I said, they do exist but foster youth are the least equipped people to navigate them. They are (generally) rather abruptly turned out into the world at age 18 instead of being transitioned through programs that might assist them with housing, education, or accessing of services. Even Metro had begun a pilot program last year to give passes to foster youth to ease their transition, but Clarence had obviously never heard of it.

Even if he had known about it, I don’t know how easily he could have accessed the pass, anyways. Clarence was bipolar, among other things, according to him, something which seemed to be affecting his ability to accomplish basic tasks, like find shelter using the 211 services hotline. Apparently, he had been calling the number from a payphone but had either gotten impatient trying to make his way through the menus or waiting for an extended period to be patched through to an actual person.

“Nobody answered when I called,” he said, staring down at the 211 flyer in his hands. “So, I’m riding the trains.”

People sitting around him seemed to take him seriously and nodded sympathetically.
I gave him my card and told him to call me the next day.

“I’ll call them and see what I can find out,” I said. “I know there must be services for youth like you, but I can’t tell you what they are offhand and everything will be closed up tonight.”

“Thank you so much!” he said. “It would just help so much to have someone just try to find something. I don’t know what to do except keep moving and hustling. But I’m a good person. I’m no gang-banger and God is on my side. I’m alive and I’m thankful for that. Nuthin’ else I can do.”

“Do you think he’ll actually call you?” the Canadian asked, worried, when we got off at the 7th St. Metro Center.

“Oh, shit, don’t forget to TAP the card again,” I said as we jostled our way through the crowd toward the validator awkwardly placed along the railing leading to the stairs.

“Geez,” he said. “Is this the only one? I would never have seen it. Or even thought about looking for one, I guess. Thanks.”

“If Clarence was lucid, he’ll call,” I said. “But he’s bipolar at the very least, and he’s probably deteriorated a lot since being on the streets. Even though I think a lot of what he told us was true, I don’t know that he will remember much of this conversation tomorrow.”

The Canadian looked bummed out.

“I know,” I said sympathetically. “I’m sorry. It’s a real shame. That kind of thing happens all too often here, unfortunately. Um…welcome to Los Angeles?”

Measure TT takes central role in District 7 Pasadena School board election


By James Figueroa, February 20m 2013

PASADENA - In the bruising election race for the District 7 Pasadena school board seat, both candidates only agree that they don't agree on anything.

Two-term board member Scott Phelps expected a tough challenge in his re-election bid, particularly after getting an official reprimand in 2011 from an opposing faction of the Pasadena Unified School District board. Several of those board members are now backing challenger Luis Carlos Ayala.

"I've gotten on the bad side of a lot of people," Phelps said of his opponents. "I like unvarnished truth, and they don't like that."

A science teacher and numbers maven, Phelps has gained support from some parents for his open government views, but that also led to the reprimand when a superintendent candidate dropped out of consideration.

Phelps also has backing from individual charter school directors because of his position that charter schools shouldn't be blamed for PUSD's declining enrollment, in sharp contrast to other board members. Each of Pasadena's charter schools serve their own niche, he said.

Ayala, an immigration attorney, has hammered away at Phelps' record from the start, also focusing on controversial topics such as the Measure TT construction bonds program.

The school board is dysfunctional "because the current incumbent creates animosity among the board members," Ayala said at a Feb. 6 forum sponsored by the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association and the Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association.

The Measure TT program is still embroiled in a contractor overbilling probe that started in December, and among Ayala's ideas to address it is bringing in auditors who can supplement the program's citizens oversight committee.

"We cannot have the standard operating procedure," Ayala said, noting during the forum that PUSD shouldn't have to rely on whistleblowers.

Phelps is not part of the Facilities Committee that vets the Measure TT program, so he takes exception to Ayala's argument that he bears responsibility for the program's problems.

"As chair of the Finance/Budget Committee, which studies budgets and reductions in order to balance the budget, I have nothing to do with TT, whereas Luis' supporters have a lot to do with it," Phelps said in an email. "I noticed in Luis' mailer he is hoping the voters don't know the difference."
Ayala called that statement "dodging the bullet."

"He's chair of the Finance Committee and that's his responsibility to know what's going on," Ayala said.

Ayala has faced his own share of criticism, including his decision to send his two children to private schools rather than PUSD.

According to Ayala, his family opted for private schools after the closure of Linda Vista Elementary School and subsequent denial of their three top alternative choices.

He would consider enrollment at PUSD again, but only on his daughters' terms.

"My wife and I want to empower our girls to make their own decisions," he said.

Both candidates want to balance PUSD's upcoming $8 million budget cuts while preserving programs that could draw students, such as international baccalaureate.

Phelps advocates an equal mix of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students in schools.

While enrollment could stabilize in coming years at the elementary level, the district is struggling to keep students in secondary schools, which the district is already working to fix through academies and magnet programs, Phelps said.

Ayala is a fan of dual-language immersion, and even suggests adding more languages such as Japanese. He also wants the district to add more public-private partnerships, something that gives him an advantage over Phelps because of his small business experience.

"I think people saw two styles of approaching these issues," Ayala said. "One that is very indifferent to working with other members, that's Scott, and me. I believe the only way to bring quality education to the students of PUSD is if board members trust each other, respect each other and collaborate."



February 19, 2013

Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times praises Beverly Hills Mayor Willie Brien because he “has touted the subway alongside L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.”  Brien told The Courier he will support the Westside Subway Extension even if Metro’s decision to route it underneath Beverly Hills High School.  The subway route supported by the Times runs underneath Beverly Hills High School.The L.A. Times thinks this is the right approach “. . . Beverly Hills, for your own sake and L.A.’s.”  That’s a direct quote.
The Courier wishes to thank the Los Angeles Times for expressing its opinion confirming The Courier’s reporting that Brien thinks being a “regional player” is more important than protecting Beverly Hills’ only high school.   We note that the Times is “Los Angeles.”  The Courier is “Beverly Hills.”  The Times does not “live in Beverly Hills.”  The Courier lives in 90211.  (We also note that our Beverly Hills High School Academic Decathlon team just defeated EVERY Los Angeles high school in competition last week.)
Last Friday, after weeks of delay, Brien finally agreed to authorize the City of Beverly Hills to file suit against the Federal Transportation Administration to block funding the subway under Beverly High.  His decision came after weeks of pressure by The Courier and community groups.  The L.A. Times extensively criticized and continues to criticize Beverly Hills for opposing the “bait and switch” route under Beverly High instead of the original route underneath Santa Monica Boulevard.  
The Times erroneously claims that Metro conducted “voluminous studies assessing the safety and feasibility of different routes.”   The actual studies performed by Metro were cursory, involving a few core samples, and failed to identify any active faulting underneath Santa Monica Boulevard.  A copy of the independent engineering report by Exponent analyzing Metro’s “analysis” is found on www.bhcourier.com.The City of  Los Angeles concurrently approved a 40-story high rise at 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard right where Metro alleges two faults converge.  Trenching by the Beverly Hills Unified School District revealed so such faulting.
However, the L.A. Times makes it clear that Mayor Brien is its choice for Beverly Hills city council – “for the sake of L.A.” (to paraphrase).
Transit News Shorts from Around the Region: FlyAway Fare Hike, Najarian v Antonovich, LOSSAN and More…


By Dana Gabbard, February 20, 2013 

  Van Nuys Flyaway Terminal

Here are tidbits and some updates on transportation happenings in our region.

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners (who oversee Los Angeles World Airports, the
Los Angeles city agency that operates LAX, Ontario and Van Nuys airports) at its February 19th meeting approved implementing a one-dollar increase (to $8) to the one-way fare between the FlyAway Van Nuys bus terminal and LAX. The new fare becomes effective July 1, 2013. The agency justified the increase due to increased costs to offer the service. BOAC also decided the new service between the Expo light rail La Brea station and LAX that I have written about previously and is due to start this spring will have a one-way passenger fare of $7 BUT to jumpstart the new service it will have an introductory fare of $6 for at least the first six months of operation.
Has Antonovich's gambit to remove Ara Najarian from the Metro Board turned this into a public test of his political clout in the era of term limits?

Thanks to Jim Newton of the Times we now know the City Selection Committee meeting where the fate of Ara Najarian’s seat on the Metro Board will be be decided will be on March 7th . And with Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich’s role in this drama now out in the open the stakes really have skyrocketed as many openly wonder if the bid to keep Najarian off the Board falters is it a sign that Antonovich (who is termed out in 2016 after 36 years as a Supervisor) is becoming a lame duck and no longer the king of the northern county. And will aspirants to his seat start maneuvering which would further signal the end of his influence over events in his domain is drawing near (much as several national figures have already signaled their plans to run for the seats of Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky as they also will soon be termed out).

OCTA is inaugurating an ongoing series of Customer Roundtables and is soliciting applications from riders. They plan on holding three roundtables a year approximately 3 weeks after scheduled service changes (February, June and October). The agency will review the applications and select participants for each roundtable. And for those not selected initially they promise to keep applicant information on file for future meetings.

March 19th Omnitrans (which provides bus service to the western portion of San Bernardino county) is holding a public hearing — this agency blog posting has more details on the proposal. It will be held from 11:30am – 3:00pm at the agency’s main offices in San Bernardino, 1700 West 5th Street.

The Coast Rail Coordinating Council reports the Coast Daylight proposal (for daily passenger train service on the coast route between San Francisco and Los Angeles) is making progress in the negotiations regarding track access with the host railroad for most of the route, Union Pacific. Discussions are also underway with Caltrain for service into San Francisco. Plus passage of Proposition 30 means the state is in a slightly better position to fund operations and renting equipment to start up the service.

The situation in re the local takeover of administering the Surfliner which I written about in several previous postings may be coming to a head today at the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor Agency Board meeting being held at Metro from 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. (Union Station Conference Room, 3rd floor). The minutes of the Jan. 16th meeting (see “STATUS OF MEMBER AGENCY APPROVALS OF LOSSAN JOINT POWERS AGREEMENT” pp.7-8) makes clear North County Transit District’s initial vote against the proposed Joint Powers Agreement has caused tension. The status report of the effort shows most of the other LOSSAN members have approved the agreement and the tweaks some of the other San Diego agencies besides NCTD have requested are being sent via a further amended agreement to the governing boards of the various members to be adopted. NCTD in January acknowledged some of their concerns are about actions that have not yet or until certain steps in the process even can be taken. Board Member Salud Carbajal, a Santa Barbara County Supervisor, in January went so far as to suggest that it would be in LOSSAN’s best interest to look at other options for moving forward with the creation of the new Joint Powers Authority (JPA) without NCTD if differences cannot be reconciled. The sense I get is there is a sincere attempt being made to address NCTD’s concerns but that if an impasse is reached the effort will go forward without them.

Lastly, I am sorry to note that local activist (and chair of the Metro San Fernando Valley Service Council) Kymberleigh Richards is discontinuing her blog that reported on doings at Metro Committee and Board meetings from the perspective of a longtime agency observer. She explains her action in her last post:
Having failed to write and post my report on the November/December [2012] meeting, and having heard from absolutely no one about the absence of same, I have to conclude that the number of readers to this blog is somewhere between small and none.

Accordingly, I’ve decided to discontinue my reports and spend the time I was using to write them for other pursuits. I’ll leave the archive here for as long as Blogger lets me, but I won’t be updating.

Thanks to the few of you who were reading my posts.
As a friend once told me, having a blog can be like rolling a stone Sisyphus-like up a hill–an endless, thankless task. So it is no surprise when someone decides to go fishing and have a life instead…

Larry Wilson: Finding the color purple in the San Gabriel Valley 


February 19, 2013

  DEMOGRAPHICS by geography - especially when geography is the man-made kind defined by ZIP code - is a tricky thing.

As in, you can't always believe it even or especially when the demographers are stroking your own neck of the woods.

But for those of us who think that being creative is even better than being, say, rich, it's always pleasant enough when an urban studies theorist such as Richard Florida - author of books such as "The Rise of the Creative Class" and "Who's Your City" - praises where you live. Or where you want to live.

It's the Austins and the Portlands, the Berkeleys and the Santa Monicas, the Palo Altos and the Brooklyns of this world where, no surprise, the creative classes gather. Or no surprise right now. Cliches, even. But from that list, which I throw out at random, just a generation or two ago Austin was a sleepy cowtown, if one where an increasingly great university was based. Now, just as Manhattan is not really part of America as we know it but is an almost entirely international city, Austin is not part of Texas as we know it. And it's by no means just a college town, meaning full of creative but transient people - it's the Silicon Valley of the Southwest, home to many more entrepreneurs than English professors.

But that's precisely because entrepreneurs want to live around English professors - or, rather, around good food, great music, things and places that are funky rather than Big Boxy. It's why beards and
bow-ties, berets and bachelor's degrees in math flock together, not apart. The soul-killing suburbs where CEOs of the `50s found themselves don't work for your contemporary creatives. That's why it can make a San Gabriel Valley person feel good about himself to peruse Florida's map of our neighborhoods here and see how many of them are the color purple.

Purple is not, as it is on America's political maps, places where Democrats and Republicans are more or less equal. And the creative classes aren't just painters, poets and banjo pickers. It's where Florida says that people who work in science and technology, business and management, the arts, cultural institutions, media and entertainment, law and healthcare live.

So, yes, to a certain extent, some upper-middle-class enclave where everyone is a doctor or a lawyer, which is not necessarily a bohemian hot spot, would by this rubric be called creative. Perhaps it's more like highly educated.

Still, it's fun to go through L.A. County's Top 10 list from Florida's research, and see that South Pasadena is right behind "North of Montana, Santa Monica," which is where all the screenwriters and "The Simpsons" illustrators live - with 77 percent of South Pas residents falling into the creative territory.

Also in the Top 10 is "South Arroyo, Pasadena," meaning that the neighborhood where, for instance, Bob Winter and Alice Huang and David Baltimore hang their hats is right behind Los Feliz and right ahead of Cheviot Hills in the smarty-pants department.

Almost all of Altadena is purple and all of Sierra Madre is. San Marino and La Canada Flintridge, si.
"L.A.'s class geography does not conform to a typical urban-suburban pattern, with lower-wage service workers concentrated in the urban core and the more affluent creative class at the suburban fringe," Florida writes. And we're not all at the beach. Except for Venice, the beach is for basketball and hockey players and other tycoons. The rest of us find our creativity in more creative ways.

"The real question is: Who controls the MTA board?"

Posted on Facebook, February 20, 2013
 Two upcoming elections — Najarian's and that of Los Angeles mayor — will supply the answer. Jim Newton, article LAT 2/18/13

We need Ara on the Metro Board. Let's support his campaign for reelection to the Glendale City Council.

Here's his website - you can contribute online as well:

Ara Najarian for Glendale City Council

slider twoGlendale City Council Election

ara-najarianOn April 2, I am asking for your vote in the Glendale City Council election. As a young child growing up in Ohio, I learned that a community is only as strong as its residents. Giving your time and efforts to make the community stronger benefits everyone. My parents instilled this in me at a young age and my community reinforced this concept. As soon as I graduated from occidental College and USC Law School I began to give back to the community, as a volunteer judge, as a city transportation commissioner, as a member of the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees and for the past eight years, as a member of the Glendale City Council. As a council member and two time mayor, I have always made my decisions after asking only one question, “what is best for Glendale?” If re-elected to city council, I will continue to tirelessly serve you and work with you to make Glendale one of the best cities in California and the U.S.A. I will work with you to make Glendale a “premiere” city!


Ara Najarian : MTA Accomplishments

Transit improvements under Ara's tenure as Chairman of MTA.
Dear Neighbors ~
This is a terrific opportunity to do a test run and see just how well you would do during a major earthquake!  During that time, our old water mains may not deliver the water we are used to having, or most likely deliver no water at all!
Take special note of how you use normally use water, and what you can do to lessen your water consumption. 

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Wednesday February 20, 2013, 7:36 AM

Pasadena Police Department - CA

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Advisory: Additional info re water shutdown and repairs
Hi Carla Riggs,
ADDDITIONAL INFO sent on behalf of City of Pasadena and Metropolitan Water District.

Contacts: Bob Muir, Metropolitan, (213) 217-6930; (213) 324-5213, mobile

Valerie Howard, Pasadena Water and Power, (562) 298-2947, mobile

Nina Jazmadarian, Foothill MWD, (818) 790-4036; (213) 709-9142, mobile

FOR RELEASE: Feb. 11, 2013


Upgrades to major regional waterline to begin Feb. 21,
affecting imported supplies for up to 250,000 consumers

Consumers in the city of Pasadena and three adjoining Los Angeles County foothill communities are requested to reduce their water use—including refraining from outdoor watering—while a major imported water pipeline is taken out of service for eight days beginning Thursday, Feb. 21.
Officials from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California joined with Pasadena Water and Power, Foothill Municipal Water District and local retail water agencies in making the water-saving request as Metropolitan prepares to upgrade its Upper Feeder pipeline. The outage is scheduled to last until Feb. 28.
In addition to Pasadena, consumers in Altadena, La Cañada Flintridge and La Crescenta are asked to contact their local water supplier to determine water-use restrictions for their area. Supplies for about 250,000 people in the affected communities will be limited during the shutdown.
Starting Thursday, Feb. 14, residents can visit www.mwdh2o.com and www.bewaterwise.com for the latest information on the planned shutdown as well as water-saving tips. During the shutdown, regular updates on the upgrade work will be posted on the websites.
One of the oldest water lines operated and maintained by Metropolitan, a portion of the Upper Feeder delivers treated drinking water from the district’s F. E. Weymouth Water Treatment Plant in La Verne to foothill cities and communities in eastern Los Angeles County from Pomona to Glendale.
In preparation for the shutdown, the Pasadena City Council last week declared a Level 4 water shortage during the outage. The action bans outdoor watering and requires other water-use restrictions throughout the city, which faces up to a 40 percent supply shortage during the shutdown.

“Even though this temporary cut in our supply is severe, we are confident Pasadena will once again rise to the challenge and cut back on daily water use, so that we all have enough water for drinking and vital indoor uses,” said Phyllis Currie, Pasadena Water and Power general manager.
Nina Jazmadarian, general manager of Foothill MWD, which serves La Cañada Flintridge and portions of Glendale as well as the communities of Altadena, Montrose and La Crescenta, said some local agencies will access groundwater, stored reservoir supplies and other sources to meet retail demands during the shutdown.
“Conservation by residents and businesses in the affected areas will be essential in helping complete the repair work without additional water service impacts,” Jazmadarian said. “Because this is a critical upgrade, we all need to do our part to reduce water use while the Upper Feeder is out of service.”
Debra C. Man, Metropolitan’s chief operating officer and assistant general manager, said the district routinely schedules shutdowns of its facilities in the winter and early spring, when temperatures usually are cooler and demands are lower, to complete inspections and perform maintenance and upgrades with the least impact on consumers.
“One of the biggest challenges to ensuring reliable deliveries is the constant need to repair and upgrade aging facilities,” Man said, noting that more than 40 percent of the district’s water system is more than 60 years old. Construction of the Upper Feeder—which alternates between tunnels, mortar-lined pipelines, and buried steel pipelines—started in 1933 and ended when water was first delivered to Pasadena in November 1941.
In preparation for the shutdown, residents and businesses are asked to do their part to ensure reservoirs and local supplies aren’t drawn down. Depending on the availability of local supplies, water conservation steps include no outdoor watering, hand-washing vehicles, filling swimming pools or spas, or hosing down driveways and sidewalks. Other water-saving measures include running only full loads in washing machines and dishwashers, not leaving the tap running when washing dishes, keeping showers to a maximum of 5 minutes and not leaving the water running while brushing your teeth or shaving.
With the start of spring nearing, gardeners are asked to delay planting new landscaping—which typically requires continual watering to establish plants, shrubs and trees—until after the shutdown. If the weather warms prior to the shutdown, residents may want to deep-root water plants to help keep them healthy. Deep-root watering, however, should be done before the shutdown begins Feb. 21.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving nearly 19 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs. For full details, view this message on the web.
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207 N Garfield Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

By-Passing Tomorrow for Easy Implementation Today


By Howard Blackson, February 18, 2013

 Chuck Marohn, and his Strong Towns message, is revolutionary in that he is a credible transportation professional who is single-handedly taking on the transportation profession. And winning.

Last year, Walt Chambers of Great Streets San Diego, and I brought Chuck to San Diego for one of his now ubiquitous Curbside Chats. In short, the Strong Town message is to be cognizant of the long-term ramifications of short-term infrastructure investments, especially ones that simply support auto-oriented lifestyles.

Here in Southern California, we suffer from a local medical condition I’ve coined our Infrastructure Deficit Disorder (IDD).

My city is falling apart. Sewers leak into stormwater outfalls during every rain event. Then our ocean is polluted for days afterwards. Our sidewalks and overly wide streets are crumbling, and our parks have been deficient since John Nolen identified the problem in his 1926 Comprehensive Plan for San Diego. Our Community Plans are 30 years old, doing little to provide predictability in the development process, meaning every new project of any scale is seen as a threat to a fantastic, yet precarious, quality-of-life. And, because we still measure traffic by the archaic Average Daily Trips generated by singular Land Uses, all new mitigation for mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods ends up being signalized intersections to facilitate the wider, faster streets required to avoid the feared LOS F (traffic traveling slower than 30 mph) performance rating.

The net result: We’re keeping our neighborhoods from ever being mixed-use and walkable.
As we enter year five of our economic malaise, our city is finally digging into our Capital Improvement Plan process in relationship to trying to solve for an acute case of IDD. Today, short-term politicians are looking to long-term infrastructure investments for short-term successes, thereby making bad decisions inevitable. I recommend leaders look in two places:

First, to generate revenue: Last November, the citizens of El Paso successfully passed a neighborhood-focussed Quality-of-Life bond with an amazing 70% voter approval. This percentage is noteworthy as California necessitates a Super Majority to raise taxes. The El Paso story started with a public-private partnership to fund the initiative, linked with a visually compelling Vision Plan, and new TOD framework to be implemented by more predictable place-based policies and FBC tools that we here at PlaceShakers recommend, well, constantly.
Plan El Paso. Image credit: Dover Kohl & Partners.

Second, to be fiscally responsible: We should maximize our prior investments and revisit standardized Street Classifications, Level of Service thresholds, and Average Daily Trip generation assumptions. Our urban neighborhood street and park infrastructure deficits are based upon suburban assumptions. 1 acre of park per 1,000 people is an arbitrary measurement and Street Classifications and ADTs are based upon separated Land Uses to be calculated; all while we are trying to build more humane, walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented and drivable standards right now… rather than our out-dated 20th century auto-oriented crap.
Anywhere/Nowhere, USA.

Case Study: A recent court decision struck-down a $65 million auto by-pass bridge to be built on our 98-year old iconic Cabrillo Bridge in Balboa Park. A local city council member is working hard to circumvent the decision. However, I notice that only a select few of my professional colleagues are terribly disappointed, as the alternative unfairly trades altering the beautiful Cabrillo Bridge in order to fix the Plaza de Panama, which is currently an atrocious parking lot about 300 feet away.

A beloved local philanthropist, billionaire Dr. Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm, is poised to up $45 million to construct the by-pass leading to a grade separated stroad feeding a parking garage. We all know the political will to get the by-pass built, despite the ruling and public opposition, is a political decision to both honor Dr. Jacob’s philanthropic past and access future financial favor. However, the long-term maintenance of the grade-separated auto by-pass is unfunded. The ‘free’ money is simply to construct the new by-pass.

Short-term pleasure. Long-term pain.

Bottom line, Cabrillo Bridge should be closed to automobiles, plain and simple. The only reason it is not today is due to the local neighborhood’s fear of people parking on their streets. Meanwhile, the Millennial generation is eager to bike, tram, bus and walk into the Plaza de Panama from the west (and continue to drive, bus, tram, bike and walk from east as well). However, if the Jacobs by-pass is built, cars will remain in the heart of Balboa Park for another generation or two. Therefore, in this legal lull, Mike Stepner and I designed this short-term plan to open the Plaza de Panama to pedestrians so we can await the dedication of Cabrillo Bridge and ultimately the entire plaza to peds, bike, buses, trams and whatever else we come up with in the future. To quote John Nolen from his 1926 Plan, “Among the wrong methods of getting action in planning… is the attempt to carry out too big a scheme at one time.”

To quote Chuck Marohn: “Our expectation to pay only a portion of the full costs of growth has led to a scarcity of resources.” If we limit the potential for a mixed-use, walkable future with mid-century, conventional ADT counts, auto-oriented by-pass bridges, and separated Land Use planning, then we are destined to remain in IDD intensive care.

Comment> Think Small
Peter Zellner espouses the value of fine-grain development for Los Angeles.
By Peter Zellener,  February 18, 2013
 Mural in Los Angeles' Arts District.

Los Angeles sits at a fork in the road: a proverbial decision point that will determine whether it will replay the cycle of development, decline, and redevelopment that characterized it at the close of the 20th century, or evolve into a more cultivated, connected, and egalitarian version of itself.

The city is poised to move beyond its misrepresentations and embrace its recent achievements. For many Angelenos, the day-to-day experience of life is far removed from anyone’s memories of life in LA in the late ‘80s and mid-’90s. There is less smog; and it’s easier than ever to find a sophisticated meal and see a great play or attend a world-class opera.

And yet it feels as if something is missing. Los Angeles remains a city subject to the diurnal rhythms of its traffic patterns. LA, especially downtown LA, remains disconnected, and its over-arching and under-addressed ethos of urban disengagement has yet to be adequately challenged.

Broadway as it once was.

LA has recently been visited by big buildings by star architects, various proposals for megamalls and mixed-use projects like L.A. Live and, perhaps, the Grand Avenue Development. It’s still proposing mega-stadiums, giant parks, and plans for big river and transit renewal programs. For this city, the abiding urban-redevelopment logic seems to be that if you build it big and make it iconic, then the private funds and presumably the public incentives will find their way to the table.

While it would be churlish to deny the value of ambitious public buildings in the urban context, LA’s grands projets (proyectos grandes?) only worked well… in the last economy.
And therein lies the rub. As long as our cities, like our states, and to a degree the nation, remain mired in the current economic doldrums, our large-scale urban redevelopment plans for old but demographically expanding cities like Los Angeles seem like ineffective and outmoded models.

The mega-project approach to remaking the city is capital- and labor-intensive, while generating too few long-term job gains regionally. It’s high risk, single shot, and ultimately touristic and brand driven. Indeed, the predominant, disconnected mega-project approach is hard to build, hard to finance, and likely to produce monolithic environments. And although we cannot refute the value of large-scale civic works, cities must develop organically, through incremental means but with raised expectations. Anything else is unsustainable.

There is another model of redevelopment that is native to LA and the region. It suggests both a better ethos for remaking the city center, and a path forward for the reconnection and reconstruction of LA’s more dispersed neighborhoods. It takes advantage of the facts on the ground, not in a report, and it is organic and intuitive. And it’s likely to work.

Several successful examples of such an approach are already at work in LA: the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District, Culver City’s Arts District and Hayden Tract (much of it by architect and SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss) as well as other, more boutique commercial strip transformations (the Sunset Triangle in Los Feliz/Silverlake and Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard).

There is the notable work Michael Maltzan has completed for the Skid Row Housing Trust and Inner City Arts, an after-school program. Finally, there has been much to praise in the city’s successful small-lot subdivision ordinance, which has given teeth (and a protocol) to LA’s pressing need to move toward higher density on a manageable scale.

In an era of tightened financial opportunities, city governments need to stop relying on redevelopment plans that will inevitably fail. Sites for mired mega-projects, if they are to be developed at all and not sit stalled in financing agreements, should be parceled up and handed out competitively to smaller teams of architects and developers. Incentives should be provided to these teams, to lower risk but demand greater responsibility and higher design values. Multiple players on multiple sites means shared risk and diminished scale, but also a realistic agenda for where we are now.

Will this approach lead to the micro-Balkanization of the city? Perhaps it will. Is this approach Pollyanna-ish? Hardly: it has worked elsewhere. Beijing’s smarter big-block redevelopments, Mexico City’s sophisticated Condesa District, Melbourne’s CBD, and Barcelona’s extensive work for its (1992) Olympics facilities are all good examples of locales that have marshaled the political courage and financial means to try to grow intelligently.

A clear distinction to the top-down approach promulgated during the boom years in LA should be made: the current approach should be cumulative, collective, and bottom up. Redevelopment in LA on the micro scale should be experimental, innovative, and attuned to community involvement and outreach. While it’s important to acknowledge that demographic pressures to add density to Los Angeles will require a continued commitment to large-scale transit improvements, and these transit projects may in turn spur or require the occasional mega-project, these projects will be connected and not isolated.

Imagine start-ups on an urban scale. Imagine temporary environments. Imagine strategies for incremental, not monumental, change. Imagine the next Los Angeles as an urban stage formed of multiple, tangentially-related set pieces, each uniquely shaped by inimitable means, yet still involved in a dialogue with other urban characters. This approach will re-introduce a nuanced grain to the city, as opposed to its foundational and tract-oriented logic of uninspired repetition and customization. This approach to civic design envisions well-managed but radical shifts in scale across the city. It marks the end of over-manicured districts and a challenge to the Byzantine rules that have built this city alongside capriciously arbitrary administrative fiat, and the quest for short-term financial gain.

This approach imagines a process for the rebuilding of LA along the lines of the city’s best virtues: its informality, an enviable climate, and its convivial arrangements of social and private spaces. This approach imagines LA as a city of plurals, as a city of many Davids, not just Goliaths.

To build it and move it forward will take a communal effort led by unique voices. There are two, indeed more than two, future city models for Los Angeles, and we must pick one. On the one hand there is the LA of the big and spectacular (the rest remains ordinary). On the other hand is the LA of new forms of collectivity, new aggregations of social and cultural variety, and experimental architectural innovation. The choice is ours to make.

Downtown's Worst Ideas, Concepts and Plans of the Last 40 Years


By Ryan Vialliancourt, February 20, 2013


  Downtown's Worst Ideas, Concepts and Plans of the Last 40 Years

   DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - There is a lot to like about Downtown Los Angeles. There is also a lot that makes you shake your head and mutter, “What were they thinking?”
Sometimes, Downtown projects, developments and movements stand out not for their qualities, but for their stunning lack of forethought or how poorly conceived they were. From concrete “fortress-style” buildings to the needless demolition of historic structures, Downtown has seen its share of unfortunate concepts. Since 1972, these failures are tops.

The Triforium
Rising from the plaza above the subterranean Los Angeles Mall is a six-story structure with a kaleidoscopic blossom of neon prisms that is supposed to play music. The 1975 sculpture known as the Triforium, by the late Joseph Young, may be the most maligned piece of public art in a city with plenty of uninspiring works. To some it resembles a giant ladybug. It was once famously likened it to “three wishbones in search of a turkey.” Nearly 40 years after its dedication, the Triforium still confounds.

Skid Row ‘Containment’
In what is perhaps the most ill-conceived unofficial land-use policy in Los Angeles, city operatives for decades have treated Skid Row as a “containment” zone for the homeless and the social services that support them. While the area has a long history of serving transient laborers, the city’s moves to concentrate shelters and other services for the poor in an urban hideaway has proven costly. As the homeless capital of the country, Skid Row is a black eye on Los Angeles, all the more visible today since it abuts a thriving residential and commercial community in Downtown. The concentration of shelters, food banks, clinics and supportive housing in one small area has also reduced pressure on other communities in the region to provide their own resources. And no matter how much lip service politicians in far-flung districts give to being open to taking on more of these facilities, they rarely come through, worried about constituent blowback. The situation continues to give Skid Row a concentration of the types of vices that go hand-in-hand with poverty, from drug use to petty crime.

Pershing Square’s Redesign
The eggplant and canary walls. The odd geometrical shapes. The 10-story Modernist clock tower with a massive concrete ball inside it. The wide expanses of hardscape with minimal grass. The redesign of Pershing Square in 1994 remains one of the most regrettable acts of urban design in Los Angeles. Today, local stakeholders have a near universal reaction when they see pictures of the old park, the one that had an expanse of green surrounded by shade-producing trees: Why can’t it be like that today? The current design by Ricardo Legorreta and landscape architect Laurie Olin was driven by safety concerns. The park had become such a homeless hangout that most other people avoided going there. But in obscuring much of the park from pedestrian view, and by using so little grass, the design never succeeded in activating Pershing Square with the Downtown masses. The well-intentioned concerts and events staged by the city Recreation and Parks Department have done some good, but mass use and enjoyment is still hampered by the endemic homeless presence.

Fort Downtown
Pershing Square isn’t alone when it comes to awkward design. Instead, it’s one example of a period when architects sought not to embrace the public, but to shun it. The result is that Downtown was peppered with buildings that could double as military defense posts. Consider the 1973 Macy’s Plaza (then Broadway Plaza). The brick behemoth housed an indoor mall, a hotel and an office building, and yet it seemed designed to keep pedestrians away. Then there was the 1976 Westin Bonaventure Hotel, which put its series of glass cylinders above a concrete foundation that walled the structure off from the ground level. It also came with a series of pedestrian bridges to navigate across Flower Street, so visitors could avoid, gasp, walking on the street. It’s as if those for-profit projects inspired the LAPD’s 1977 Central Area station on Sixth Street. The windowless brick edifice commands an entire block. The trend didn’t stop there. The 1980s brought the Little Tokyo Galleria, a gray concrete box at Third and Alameda streets that is so off-putting that many Downtowners have no idea that it houses a mall and a full-size grocery store. Finally, there’s the Ronald Reagan State Building, which critics took to calling Fort Ronnie when it opened in 1990. The pink granite complex was supposed to enliven the Historic Core. Instead it gave Spring Street a block-long bunker.

Red Line Construction
Today, the Metro Red Line is the most used rail line in the county’s transit system. But building the underground route was a major drain on the Downtown economy, especially for merchants and property owners on Seventh Street. From 1987 to 1990, the street was a near constant construction zone. To find the shops that existed at the time, pedestrians had to walk through narrow sidewalk alleyways. Many businesses folded and office building owners saw their occupancy rate tumble as tenants fled the dust, noise and snarled traffic. It took years to effect a recovery.

Graffiti Pit
The north side of First Street, between Broadway and Spring Street, was once the address of a handsome state office building. However, the 1931 structure was irreparably damaged in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and was razed five years later. Since then, the fenced-off site, which still includes the concrete foundation and an underground parking structure, has had multiple unofficial uses: skate park, homeless encampment, graffiti canvas and, most recently, feral cat colony. It has been perhaps the most deadening Civic Center eyesore, in part because it stands across the street from City Hall. State officials say they’re in talks to sell the site to the city or county, both of which have indicated a desire to convert the property into park space. But longtime Downtown observers could be forgiven for remaining skeptical that the site known by some as the “graffiti pit” could finally have a bright future.

SRO Conversions
In the early days of the Historic Core renaissance, developers smelling profits started eyeing residential hotels. The properties that lined Main Street were occupied by low-income residents long before the loft craze started, and although some observers decried them as drug dens, they were a key part of the city’s fragile affordable housing fabric. The loft craze led to situations like the illegal renovation of the Frontier Hotel, now known as the Rosslyn Lofts. The former owners tried to move out low-income tenants to convert the building to market-rate apartments (the owners were ordered to halt the process after they had already converted a few upper floors of the building to lofts). Other SROs targeted for market rate conversions included the Cecil and Bristol hotels, though neither has been turned into upscale housing. The situation ultimately prompted the city to pass rules that protect residential hotels from market-rate conversions.

Historic Teardowns
Amid all the ornate Beaux Arts architecture in Downtown, the landscape is painted with parking lots, as the second half of the 20th century saw a rash of tear-downs. Some buildings were demolished simply because parking was seen as a more viable business. Other structures, like the 1914 Italian Renaissance style Church of the Open Door at 550 S. Hope St., were damaged in earthquakes; that was razed in 1988 because seismic upgrades were deemed too costly. Then there is (make that, there was) the 1906 Los Angeles Philharmonic Auditorium at Fifth and Olive streets. It was torn down in 1985 to make way for newer developments that never happened. Today it holds cars, not people. Sigh.

Quimby Funds Fiasco
In the fall of 2007, the city eliminated a special zoning rule that allowed developers of adaptive reuse housing projects to pay a discounted rate on Quimby fees — dollars collected from developers to pay for public parks. It sparked an outcry that led to scrutiny of the Quimby program and the revelation that the Department of Recreation and Parks had no effective system for tracking or spending the funds it had already secured. Of the $120 million that the city had collected by then, nearly $77.5 million remained un-allocated. In the words of then City Controller Laura Chick, “We have millions of dollars that developers have readily agreed to pay that are sitting, collecting dust. It’s shocking; it’s dismaying; it’s depressing and it’s wrong.”

Redistricting Fights
Every 10 years, as population shifts dictate a change in the borders of City Council districts, a game of political puzzle-making begins. In Downtown, the game has been fractious and marked by conflict and naked power grabs. In 2012, the 14th District usurped most of the Downtown territory that had long been the province of the Ninth District. The changed lines came after a bitter battle between Ninth District rep Jan Perry and José Huizar of the 14th. Huizar was successful in adding Downtown territory where previous 14th District Councilman Nick Pacheco had fallen short. Perhaps the most notorious land grab in Downtown redistricting history came in 1991. That’s when 14th District Councilman Richard Alatorre took a nine-block stretch of Broadway out of the Ninth. It left lines that often confounded Historic Core constituents in need of local representation at City Hall. It came to be known as the “Alatorre Finger.”

Good times for L.A. bikers, but what about the rest of us?


By Mark Lacter, February 19, 2013


The city is being divided again - this time between bikers in search of more space and motorists looking to hold onto what little space they have. Another in a series of public hearings will be held tonight to receive input on proposed bicycle lanes for portions of Westwood Boulevard and Sepulveda Boulevard, already two of the most traffic-clogged arteries in the city. Under the plan, part of a grandiose transportation scheme involving the entire city (God help us), one of the southbound lanes would be knocked out and a bike lane added, creating new delays, especially during rush hour, according to the Department of Transportation. This is not some hypothetical analysis: Check out downtown Santa Monica, where the merging of two lanes to allow for bikers always causes delays. Biking supporters are pushing for these changes, but the truth is bike lanes are frequently empty. Yet at City Hall, these initiatives have become a fashionable - and cheap - way of showing constituents that they're doing something to deal with congestion when in fact they're doing next to nothing. This is otherwise known as cynicism wrapped under the cloak of public service. Actually, increased ridership has only made L.A. streets more dangerous. Sidewalks too: As someone who walks to work, I can't tell you how many times I've been nearly run down by a speeding biker (even though there's a bike lane available). One of these days, an elderly pedestrian will be struck and killed, and the city - quite rightfully - will get its ass sued. Maybe these recommendations can be turned down (or at least toned down) before things really get out of hand.

LAX Shuttle from Expo Line to Open in Spring


February 20, 2013


 Fare will be discounted first six months

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners this week set a $7 one-way fare for the newest FlyAway bus service, which will shuttle travelers between Metro's Exposition Line at La Brea Avenue and LAX starting this spring. But during the first six months of the new Expo bus service, the rate will be discounted to $6 one-way. Airport officials say the cost of running the new service, which will make 18 trips a day, is $267,000 a year. The airport commissioners also signed off on raising the one-way fare to $8 for FlyAway bus service between the Van Nuys bus terminal and LAX. The $1 increase will go into effect July 1, and is expected to reduce an annual $531,000 deficit in the budget for operating and maintaining the Van Nuys terminal to $168,000.

Will Streetcars Invade California?


By Bill Fulton, February 14, 2013


Streetcars are the hottest thing in the downtown revitalization business these days. They’re in operation in Portland and Seattle and in planning and construction stage in places like Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City, Cincinnati, Fort Lauderdale and Kansas City. And don’t worry – California will get its share of streetcars as well, especially Southern California. The Downtown Los Angeles streetcar appears all but certain to be open by around 2016, and three Orange County cities – Anaheim, Santa Ana, and Fullerton – are exploring the idea.

At last week’s New Partners for Smart Growth conference in Kansas City, one of L.A.’s leading streetcar advocates – Shiraz Tangri, a lawyer for Alston & Bird and the general counsel for LA Streetcar Inc. – laid out the game plan for how the downtown streetcar will be built. A critical piece of the puzzle was put into place last fall, when downtown voters approved a Mello-Roos District to help finance the streetcar. It’s one of the few cases in California history that a Mello has been successfully adopted in an urban location – which, all by itself, may be a harbinger of things to come.

At first glance, streetcars would not seem to have much of a place in the 21st Century. These self-propelled single-car vehicles are much slower even than light-rail trains and they typically run in the street with regular traffic. Yet they’re catching on all over the country as a more efficient downtown circulator than the typical bus or shuttle – and one that will generate new real estate development along the way.

That’s clearly what’s happened in Portland, where the streetcar connects downtown with the hopping Pearl District and with the South Waterfront, where it connects to an aerial tram to Oregon Health Sciences University, which is located atop a nearby hill. Other cities are trying to replicate the Portland story. Virtually all streetcar projects seek to connect disparate destinations in or near downtowns. They’re all starting with only a few miles of service and compared to other rail transit investments they’re cheap -- $100 million or so on average.

But, as Tangri pointed out in his presentation in Kansas City, no city in the country is better poised to use the streetcar well than L.A. “It’s a history project and an identity project,” he said of the L.A. streetcar. “We should be the most pedestrian-friendly city in the world. We have a great climate. It is incredibly dense.”

Downtown Los Angeles is already experiencing an amazing renaissance. The opening of the Staples Center in 1999 and the city’s pathbreaking adaptive reuse ordinance shortly thereafter kickstarted a rejuvenation that has increased downtown’s population from 10,000 to 50,000. Downtown is the hub of a burgeoning regional transit system that is likely to double in size over the next decade, thanks largely to Measure R.

Even so, as Tangri pointed out in his Kansas City talk, Downtown L.A. is big – it’s a long way from Staples to the hip lofts east of City Hall – and it can be tough to get around. Furthermore, some parts of Downtown have not shared in the rebirth. For example, along Broadway – once Downtown’s premiere shopping street – the upper floors of 12-story buildings remain mostly empty even as neighborhoods all around have new life. (Tangri says there is 1 million square feet of vacant space on Broadway.) Indeed, Broadway is the focal point of the streetcar project; Councilmember Jose Huizar has assigned the same staff member to be the point person for both the streetcar and Broadway.

Like so many other streetcar projects around the country, the L.A. project is being put together entirely outside the traditional public transit structure. (L.A. Metro is supportive but has nothing to do with the project.) And as Tangri and others often point out, when business leaders promote – and pay for – a transit project, it’s going to have different a completely different goal: economic development rather than mobility. “We talk a lot about transit-oriented development,” he said, “But this is development-oriented transit.”

Though some cities around the country are relying on state and federal funds to help pay for their projects, L.A. – like other cities, including Kansas City – is relying almost entirely on what amounts to a parcel tax.  Among other things, the Mello is levied as a gradient – those close to the line pay more. And, as Tangri and other streetcar experts frequently say, you’ve got to link those places that are hot in the real estate market with those that aren’t. It’s a way of extending the hot market to new locations.

The Mello-Roos victory last November is an especially interesting and important aspect of the L.A. streetcar effort. Originally a Proposition 13 workaround, Mellos have traditionally been used only in greenfield locations because they require two-thirds voter approval. In areas with few voters, the vote is among property owners only, which means developers and local governments have typically negotiated an infrastructure finance deal and than the developer (often the sole landowner) votes the Mello district into existence. Cities have usually stayed away from urban Mellos because they fear voters won’t go for the extra tax.

In Downtown L.A., though, all those new hipsters helped the cause. Whereas many property owners may have been reluctant to tax themselves for the streetcar, the new downtown residents – the voters – were more than willing deliver the two-thirds vote for the additional tax, which of course falls in the property owners and not – at least not directly – on those residents who are renters. The streetcar vote could flip traditional California thinking about urban Mellos on its head.

Tangri said the streetcar should begin construction next year and open in 2016. This is a similar timetable for many other streetcar projects around the country.