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, March 6, 2013

No Clean Sweep for Dirty Money & Sleazy Pols — Measure A Tax Hike Rejected Despite Pathetic 16 Percent Voter Turnout, $13 in Contributions Per Voter


By Ron Kaye, March 6, 2013

It seems fitting somehow that on an election day that saw the triumph of sleazy career politicians and $40 million in mostly dirty money from special interests, voters soundly rejected a tax hike that solved nothing — and news arrived that the centerpiece of City Hall corruption, Farmer’s Field, is all but dead.

First the news: Yahoo Sports’ Rick Cole who has been on top of the story all along while the local
writers were bought off by Tim Leiweke reported the NFL has decided AEG’s numbers for a downtown stadium don’t work: Either the team goes broke or whoever buys the entertainment/sports company goes broke.

On the issue of going broke, the 292,760 voters who cast ballots — 16.11 percent of the 1,817,107 who are registered — showed a wisdom rarely found in L.A. elections by rejecting the regressive, job-killing Measure A tax increase that solved nothing 55 to 45 percent. Unions, developers and others who live off of City Hall or were blackmailed into contributing because they need city approval put up $1.5 million for Measure A versus ZERO for opponents led by civic activist Jack Humphreville.

The defeat leaves City Hall in fiscal quicksand without a rope, a $200 million hole this year that gets deeper  year after year.

For No. 1 mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti ($5.5 million campaign, including $667,000 in taxpayer money) and runner-up Wendy Greuel ($7.2 million, including $667,000 in taxpayer money), the failure of money and threats to fire cops to frighten the electorate provides an opportunity to immediately call a summit meeting of community, civic, business and labor leaders to find a permanent solution to the unending fiscal crisis.

Full Election Results here. Full Campaign Funding reports here.

For Dennis Zine, the $300,000 traffic-cop-pensioner-turned Councilman, and Carmen Trutanich, the outsider who became City Attorney, the election results suggests they will be looking for new careers come July 1.

Zine, who has utterly no qualifications to serve as Controller, finished a fraction of a point behind attorney-businessman Ron Galperin, both at 37 percent, heading into the runoff. Politicians like Zine who have name recognition advantages and more money — $1.1 million vs. Galperin’s $600,000 — in the primary generally lose runoffs.

Trutanich ($900,000)has a different problem in a runoff against knee-jerk liberal Assemblyman-former Council Mike Feuer($1.3 million). Feuer won the primary 44 to 30 percent so he doesn’t need many votes to win although turnout seven weeks from now will be even worse.

In the Council races, failed legislators had a great night.

2JobBob Blumenfield, the state budget disaster creator, and “California’s worst legislator” Felipe Fuentes in Valley district 3 and 7 both won election outright — barely with 51.6 and 51.3 percent of the votes.

Blumenfield had nearly as much money at his disposal as the five other candidates combined and an unlimited reserve if he needed it while Fuentes had $300,000 to spend, a fifth of it from taxpayer matching funds that his three challengers didn’t even qualify for with barely $30,000 between them.

Elsewhere, Paul Koretz ($200,000) easily won re-election in CD5 against Mark Herd ($217.98, see his ad in the upper right corner) as so did ex-cop Joe Buscaino ($350,000) to challenger James T. Law’s ZERO in CD 15.

Mike Bonin, chief of staff to Bill Rosendahl, with three times as much money ($500,000) as his three opponents, won easily in CD11.

In Ed Reyes’ CD1, long-time legislator Gil Cedillo ($800,000) came up just short of a majority and faces a runoff against Council staffer Jose Gardea ($500,000).

In Jan Perry’s CD9, state Sen. Curren Price ($650,000) faces a runoff against Council staffer Ana Cubas ($300,000) in a closely contested race that left Assemblyman Mike Davis out in the cold.
In Eric Garcetti’s CD13, with a dozen candidates, Council staffer Mitch O’Farrell ($160,000) with 18.4 percent of the vote faces a runoff against labor union darling John Choi ($675,000) who got 16.5 percent of the vote.
What (else) is there to say?

Doug McIntyre: Los Angeles voters went AWOL


March 6, 2013

On election night, normal people sat home brushing the cat or cleaning the lint filter on the clothes dryer, but I was a man on a mission. Somewhere in America's second-largest city there were people who cared.

 I was determined to find them.

With a pathetic 16 percent turnout I had a better chance of finding "The Real Killer" than actual voters, but try I must.

Rumor led me to a pod of Kevin James supporters gathered for early and frequent cocktails at Rockwell's on Vermont. With the video screen showing 0.00 precincts reporting, optimism ran high.
James, a political first-timer, was always a long shot in a city famous for electing sure shots. As the first declared candidate for mayor, Kevin spent more than a year meeting, greeting and articulating many of the systemic problems plaguing Los Angeles. These Herculean efforts netted James 16 percent of the 16 percent who bothered to vote.

One bright note from the James gathering: I gambled and parked in a BofA lot across the street and didn't get towed. Yes!

No such luck at the Wendy Greuel bash.

TV satellite trucks hogged all the good parking so I had to shell out five bucks for a spot on level three in a parking garage at 7th Street and Broadway, downwind from Skid Row and a KFC.

 The Greuel party featured brightly costumed mariachis and enough union bosses to fill the Rose Bowl, but, intermingled with the City Hall insiders and insider wannabes, I met the same kind of idealists I found at the James party, drawn to Greuel out of a sincere desire to see competence and integrity restored to City Hall.

And I'm pretty sure most of them were sober even though the party was in a beer hall.

Eric Garcetti, the evening's top vote getter, drew the evening's biggest crowd.

Avalon is a swanky Hollywood nightspot on Vine whose bouncers would normally tase me if I even dreamed of approaching the rope line.

But on this night I was on the list. Finally, I was on somebody's list.

Being a stranger to hip Hollywood events I thought the Garcetti crowd more subdued than the Greuel or James' parties, but that could have been on me - I was still smarting from the 10 bucks I had to fork over to the shysters running the lot near Capitol Records.

While various D-list political figures tried to catch KCAL/KCBS reporter Dave Bryant's eye, hoping for some TV face time, the crowd roared to life as Garcetti took the stage.

Meanwhile Los Angeles slept soundly - blissfully or deliberately ignorant of the evening's proceedings.

How is it a tiny few care enough to donate and volunteer for Kevin James, Wendy Greuel, Eric Garcetti and the other candidates for various offices while the vast majority cares not a whit?

Some suggest election fatigue or the inevitable consequences of a nonpartisan primary process in a city dominated by one party that often results in runoffs between two like-minded candidates with nearly identical voting records.

This we do know: While men and women across the globe are literally dying for the right to vote, L.A.'s political institutions are dying from neglect.

More cuts in services seen as L.A. voters reject tax hike

City officials say even the size of the police force is back on the table as they struggle to balance the budget.


 By Jessica Garrison, David Zahniser, and Ralph Vartabedian, March 6, 2013

L.A. Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana

After the failure of Proposition A, "Everything has to be put back on the table, from the size of the police force to the restoration of fire services to the paving of our streets," says L.A. Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who said he plans to deliver a menu of potential budget reductions to lawmakers within days.

A day after voters rejected a tax increase, top Los Angeles officials began preparing a new round of cuts to city services, warning that even the Police Department may not be spared.

The sales tax was seen as a last-ditch attempt to help balance the city's budget without more reductions, which already have included slashing 5,300 positions and scaling back services ranging from sidewalk repairs to 911 rescue operations.

"Everything has to be put back on the table, from the size of the police force to the restoration of fire services to the paving of our streets," said the city's Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, who said he plans to deliver a menu of potential budget reductions to lawmakers within days.

How much needs to be cut is not yet clear. But the latest projections show a shortfall of about $200 million in the next fiscal year, officials said. Larger deficits are expected in subsequent years.

The failure to win a half-cent increase in the sales tax, to 9.5%, sets the stage for what could be an impassioned debate at City Hall and on the campaign trail about the proper workforce size and spending priorities of the nation's second-largest city.

Political observers say Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the two contenders now locked in a bitter campaign to replace him will face increased pressure to identify services the city should preserve and how they should be covered.

"This outcome shines a spotlight on the difficulty of the choices which now lie ahead. This is going to be the defining task of the next mayor," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Edmund G. "Pat" Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.

Proponents of the tax increase, including Villaraigosa, Council President Herb Wesson and Police Chief Charlie Beck, said officials made difficult service cuts and won employee union agreements to reduce the city's projected deficit from about $1 billion to a little under $200 million next year. The higher tax was necessary, they insisted, to protect vital services and keep hundreds of police officers on the job.

But opponents, including mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti, said the city should do more to increase efficiency and revenues. The tax hike would have given Los Angeles one of the highest sales tax rates in the state and Greuel and Garcetti said it would fall disproportionately on lower-income families and be bad for business.

In the end, a 55% majority of voters opposed the measure.

"The more money they have, the more they'll waste," architect Mark Finfer said Tuesday outside his Brentwood polling place, in a sentiment about City Hall echoed by many voters.

Hours after the results were in, several City Council members said they had heard the message from voters.

The city is now facing "some very hard choices," said Wesson, who led efforts to get the tax increase on the ballot.

He declined to provide specifics Wednesday. But during the council's meeting he sought to assure residents that "we will do whatever is necessary to put the city's fiscal house in order." The comment prompted a catcall from the public gallery.

Kicking off their runoff contest at campaign events Wednesday, Garcetti and Greuel each sought to position themselves as the candidate best prepared to address the city's chronic financial troubles.

Garcetti said he would push for the city's labor unions — most of which are backing Greuel — to grant concessions, starting with requiring an across-the-board, 10% contribution to healthcare premiums. Some 70% of city workers pay nothing for medical coverage.

"Eighty-five percent of our costs are people," said Garcetti, adding as former council president he had led belt-tightening discussions with employee unions before. "If things are bad I'm prepared to be at the table day one."

Greuel emphasized her commitment to working with labor unions and city officials to find savings before considering layoffs or other cuts.

"We can do this without balancing the city budget on the backs of working people," she said at a press conference where she appeared with city tree trimmers and trash collectors. "We can do this by not dividing our city but in fact bringing our city together." The event took place at the headquarters of the union that represents 10,000 civilian city employees and gave Greuel its endorsement Wednesday.

One contributor to the city's budget troubles was a 2007 decision by the mayor and council members to give much of the civilian workforce 25% raises over five years. On Wednesday, Santana, the city's top budget expert, and some other City Hall leaders said officials need to "look at all our contracts again," including current labor agreements.

L.A.'s walking dead

 Most Angelenos couldn't summon the energy to cast a ballot. That doesn't have to continue.


By Steve Lopez, March 6, 2013



Poor turnout

 Olga Korn, 86, votes in Encino on Tuesday. She was among just 16% of L.A. residents who did.

On March 5, 2013, Los Angeles redefined apathy.

A measly 16% of the city's registered voters — or perhaps around 20% once all the mail-in ballots are counted — turned out in an election with the following things at stake:

How much we pay in sales tax, who controls the nation's second-largest school district, who might fill nine City Council seats and three community college board positions, and who will serve as city attorney, city controller and mayor.

This is late-night TV joke territory, as in:

"Election officials were stunned in Los Angeles on Tuesday when 16% of the city's voters cast ballots. They couldn't believe that many people knew there was an election."

You could spin it, I suppose, and say it's not that we're disengaged, we're just laid back. A whole metropolis of Big Lebowskis, dude.

But being laid back is a lifestyle that takes some thought, as well as the right sneakers. Blowing off an election is just plain lazy. Mail-in ballots are available to one and all. You can vote without ever getting off the couch.

What to do?

One idea would be to time mayoral elections so they're on the same ballot as presidential elections instead of a few months later. It seems to me that a mayor has more impact on our daily lives than a president, but national elections draw a lot more Angelenos to the polls.

Or we could switch to an instant runoff system in which you vote for your first and second choices for mayor. That makes the stakes higher and delivers a winner without the hassle of a separate runoff election.

Or we could do our voting at Starbucks and probably triple the turnout, especially if Starbucks offers a civic duty discount on your caramel macchiatto.

One problem is that polls suggest most people get their news from local television stations, which devote far more time to covering the weather — which is exactly the same 320 days a year — than to local politics and government.

If I were to jump into the mayor's race as, say, a write-in candidate, the first thing I'd do is hijack a car, plaster it with "Believe in Steve" signs, and lead police on a very slow televised chase.
Some slackers try to go high-road on you to explain their civic indifference. They're in the know, see, and they're not going to waste their time voting for ideologically indistinguishable characters like Eric Garcetti or Wendy Greuel, both of whom are neck-deep in City Hall dysfunction and equally unlikely to shake things up.

Some truth in that, sure. But one's a man, the other's a woman. One's a lefty at heart, the other was once a Republican. One's a Silver Lake city boy, the other's a working suburban mom in the San Fernando Valley. One is endorsed by public employee unions, the other by Jane Fonda and Salma Hayek.

And one of these candidates is about to become the mayor of nearly 4 million people in one of the world's most loved and hated cities, a Pacific Rim Ellis Island with staggering riches and overwhelming challenges. One of them will make decisions on traffic, public safety, housing, economic development, and dozens of other issues that will have a direct impact on you, your kids and your grandchildren for years to come.

Speaking of which, I'd like to have a word now with the candidates.

Mr. Garcetti? Ms. Greuel?

If you're out of breath from the primary, I don't know why, because neither of you had much to say. Spare us the prattling in the runoff, please.

The Downtown Los Angeles Streetcar Loop is Officially a Go


By Eve Bachrach, March 6, 2013


The Downtown streetcar is getting its finances all lined up: the City Council approved an operational plan today that commits up to $352 million of Measure R transportation tax money over 30 years to cover the operation and maintenance of the system. Which means? The streetcar is happening, people! The vote also instructed the Department of Transportation and Bureau of Engineering to work with LA Streetcar Inc. and Councilmember Jose Huizar's office (whose district the streetcar primarily runs through) to report back with a project management plan in 30 days. The two city departments were also instructed to look into the feasibility of a wireless streetcar, like the one in Bordeaux, France.

The streetcar will be a four-mile fixed rail line that will run on city streets in a loop from the Civic Center to the Convention Center, running down Broadway through the Historic Core before heading into the Fashion District and South Park, and hitting the Financial District on the way back--it'll travel on Broadway, Eleventh, Figueroa, Seventh, and Hill. Half the cash for construction of the streetcar will come from the local tax Downtown voters approved in 2012, and today's vote also authorized LADOT and Metro to start applying to federal programs for the other half. The environmental review is currently underway, and the project still needs to be fully designed and engineered. If all goes according to plan, construction could start in late 2014 and the streetcar could be operational by 2016.

Census Bureau data tells the story: while room for improvement in many ways, L.A. County has typical commutes when compared to U.S.


By Steve Hymon, March 6, 2013


 Click above to see larger.Click above to see larger.

Click above to see larger.

 The U.S. Census Bureau released some new data sets yesterday, although some of the numbers have been around for a while or will be familiar to some readers.

I don’t think there’s anything shocking about the number of people driving into Los Angeles County to work — not exactly surprising to anyone who has been on an area freeway at 8 a.m. But it’s certainly very interesting to see that our region was ranked fifth in terms of long-distance commuters. The Bay Area ranked first followed by three other areas: New York, Washington D.C. and Trenton. The top four all have robust transit networks.

The Bay Area, in particular, certainly has its share of transit — buses, streetcars, light rail, subway (BART) and commuter rail (Caltrain). But it’s also sprawled relentlessly due in part to an expensive housing market and many people are driving into San Francisco, the East Bay and San Jose from distant suburbs in the San Joaquin Valley. I feel like the city/county of San Francisco has parallels to our Westside: lots of jobs, not nearly enough housing.
As for the numbers for our region, I think they argue for better transit connections between Orange County and Los Angeles County. I’m not sure the numbers on long-distance commuting are anything San Bernardino or Riverside counties should be proud of — they’ve basically created one-dimensional bedroom communities without the more of quality jobs people need.
Perhaps something to think about before rubber stamping the next distant subdivision, Inland Empire? Those homes impact roads many miles away, of course — something I doubt gets much consideration.http://lametthesource.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/cb13-13_los_angeles_county.jpg

 Here is how our numbers on percent driving alone and commuting time compare to other counties or parts of cities:
Manhattan (New York City): 6.6 percent drive alone to work, 30.4 minute average commute.
Washington D.C.: 33.1 percent drive alone, 30.1 minute average.
San Francisco: 37.6 percent drive alone, 29.6 minutes
Philadelphia: 50 percent drive alone, 26.2 minutes
Cook County (Chicago): 62.2 percent drive alone, 31.9 minutes
King County (Seattle): 67 percent, 26.5 minutes
Denver County: 70.4 percent, 24.1 minutes
Fulton County (Atlanta): 73.4 percent, 26.2 minutes
Harris County (Houston): 80 percent, 26.8 minutes
Below is the Census Bureau release on L.A. County and here’s a link to many other Census Bureau news releases on commuting and data:
Los Angeles County, Calif., has among the highest number of commuters coming from another county in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today in new estimates released from the American Community Survey. Nationally, 27.4 percent of workers commute outside the county where they live.

Among workers in Los Angeles County, 471,345 live outside the county, according to 2006-2010 estimates from the American Community Survey. For example, 178,681 workers commute in from Orange County, 126,642 from San Bernardino County and 66,832 from Ventura County.

Meanwhile, 335,676 residents of Los Angeles County leave the county for work, with 181,744 going to Orange County (which was not significantly different from the number of workers coming in from the county), 57,390 to San Bernardino County and 36,602 to Ventura County.

“It is well known that Los Angeles County draws a lot of commuters to work. The detailed information in the American Community Survey tells us where Los Angeles County workers are coming from, where its residents work, and how its commuting patterns compare to those of other large counties,” said Brian McKenzie, a Census Bureau statistician who studies commuting. “This information shapes our understanding of the boundaries of local and regional economies, as people and goods move across the nation’s transportation networks.”

The American Community Survey also provides annual estimates about how commuters in Los Angeles County travel to work and how long it takes them to get there.

Means of Transportation
  • In 2011, 72.3 percent of workers in Los Angeles County drove to work alone, compared with 76.4 percent nationally.
  • Meanwhile, 10.5 percent of Los Angeles County workers carpooled in 2011, while 9.7 percent in the nation carpooled to work.
  • In 2011, 7.3 percent of all workers in Los Angeles County used public transportation — excluding taxicab — to get to their job, compared with 5.0 percent in the nation as a whole.
  • About 0.8 percent of all workers in the county biked to work in 2011, compared with 0.6 percent nationally.
Travel Time to Work
  • In 2011, the average one-way commute to work for people living in Los Angeles County was 29.4 minutes. The average commute nationally was 25.5 minutes.
  • About 11.9 percent of all workers had a commute of 60 minutes or more in 2011, compared with 8.1 percent in the nation as a whole.
View more commuting statistics for Los Angeles County online:

The American Community Survey provides a wide range of important statistics about people and housing for every community across the nation. The results are used by everyone from town and city planners to retailers and homebuilders. The survey is the only source of local estimates for most of the 40 topics it covers, such as education, occupation, language, ancestry and housing costs for even the smallest communities. Ever since Thomas Jefferson directed the first census in 1790, the census has collected detailed characteristics about our nation’s people. Questions about jobs and the economy were added 20 years later under James Madison, who said such information would allow Congress to “adapt the public measures to the particular circumstances of the community,” and over the decades, allow America “an opportunity of marking the progress of the society.”

Why Angelenos didn't give a damn about this election


By Mark Lacter, March 6, 2013

 Even by L.A. standards, turnout was pathetic. Just 16 percent of registered voters cast ballots, one of the lowest showings ever recorded in Los Angeles. Guess all those mailers and TV ads didn't do the trick. Same with the 40-odd debates (aka The Sleeping Channel, which is coming soon to your local cable company). Actually, I feel kind of sorry for the folks running for mayor - they all meant well, and goodness knows, they've worked hard. But they're not exactly natural born leaders. Hell, let's just say it: This was the dullest, most unimaginative group of candidates I can ever recall following. They focused on platitudes instead of solutions. They burrowed into topics that Angelenos don't understand or care about. Structural deficits? Pension reform? The gross receipts tax? I follow this stuff all the time, and even I was bored by the patter. We should be honest with ourselves: The people of L.A. are a highly diverse, largely self-involved bunch and in the final analysis they have only three common interests:

3)The weather

Now, there's nothing these candidates can do about the Lakers or the weather, but why on earth didn't they spend more time on our number one woe, traffic? No big policy proposals, no out-of-the- box ideas - just the same babble about a future subway in the year 2086 and isn't it nice that so many people are using their bikes? A long-shot like Jan Perry could have used traffic as a dominant campaign theme. She could have asked a simple question: Why can't attention be paid to congestion NOW, not as part of the outgoing mayor's pandering vision, a vision that will never be realized? Why has the city collectively given up on easing the burden on commuters? Why has City Hall foolishly aligned itself with a small minority of bike riders, even to the point of taking lanes away from harried motorists? Whatever the takeaway, the dialogue would have been a lot more substantive and relevant than diving into the wacky worlds of departmental performance standards and pension investment returns. Not that those topics aren't important - at some point, when the city has no more money to pay its cops and firefighters, stuff like that might actually begin to sink in. But for the moment, like it or not, it's really all about traffic, the Lakers, and the weather.

Steve Lopez: Switch local elections to national cycle?


March 6, 2013



PHOTOS: Los Angeles voters go to the polls


 This should settle it. Time to switch local election day in Los Angeles to the national cycle, in November, when voter turnout is higher.

So we don't keep embarrassing ourselves.
A turnout of 16%?
With a tax increase, contested school board races, nine City Council seats and the job of mayor on the line?

RESULTS: Los Angeles primary election

Eighty-four percent of L.A.'s registered voters didn't bother to vote, and thereby relinquished their right to moan and whine about anything, although I'm guessing they're the biggest moaners and whiners and probably can't be stopped.

Do you know how easy it is to vote?

They send a packet to your house. You can check the box that says, "Hey, I'm too lazy to leave my domicile for anything but a latte," and they'll send you a mail-in ballot. You don't have to get off the couch to vote.

INTERACTIVE MAP: How your neighborhood voted

There's always been a theory that low turnout is a good sign --- it means everything's OK. But everything's not OK.

The city has a budget hole that will keep eating the services people demand.

The rec center might close. The paramedics might get to a heart attack victim too late.

People keep saying the candidates for mayor were too boring to generate much interest, or the campaigns were too negative and turned voters off.

FULL COVERAGE: L.A.'s race for mayor

Some truth in that, but those are the lazy man's arguments. One of these people -- Eric Garcetti or
Wendy Greuel -- is going to make decisions that affect nearly 4 million residents, and millions more who visit Los Angeles, in hundreds of ways for years to come.

Do you think we can top 20% in the runoff?

LA Election Day: Low turnout signals voter  

ahttp://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/politics&id=9018717pathy amongst AngeleBy 

 Elex Michaelson, March 6, 2013 


Apparently unhappy with the candidates on the Election Day ballot, Silver Lake resident Ben Silverman wrote in a mayoral candidate. It was Handsome "Pepe" Pepper, his cat.

"I think there's a chance" his cat would do a better job as mayor of Los Angeles, Silverman said. "He's not in the pocket of the unions, I figured."

Voter turnout was extremely low for the election, despite important decisions at the ballot box. The Pat Brown Institute says cities like New York and Chicago often see voter turn off in the 40s. But in Los Angeles, a city of 4 million residents, the top vote getter for mayor didn't even clear 100,000 votes.

Ballots are still being counted and certified in downtown Los Angeles. The clerk says voter turnout was in the teens citywide. Turnout was between 16 to 18 percent. That's comparable to the last mayoral election in 2009.

"It's tough, it's on an off year, so a lot of people are just recovering from the November election," said Councilman Eric Garcetti, who received the most votes for mayor with more than 93,900.
Councilwoman Wendy Greue, who came in second place with a little more than 83,308 votes, agrees.

"There's a lot of fatigue based after the November election and others and I think also it's a sense of frustration by the public," she said.

Living in the sprawling city may appears to be a factor, said Dr. Raphael Sonenschien of the Pat Brown Institute said.

"In Los Angeles, the culture of the city doesn't really pay that much attention in this hugely scattered community where people live so far from each other," Sonenschien said.

Sonenschien also said the low turnout was driven by a lack of differences among the top candidates. He said Garcetti is a democratic City Hall veteran who's pro-union, and so is Greuel.

However, gender is the major difference between them. If elected, Greuel would be the city's first woman mayor.

"Of those people it does bring to the polls, it certainly will improve Wendy Greuel's chances," Sonenschien said. "Either cause, though, I think this is going to be a very, very close election."

Public Policy on Rose Bowl Game Days & Alcohol Norms

From Carla Riggs, March 6, 2013

Thank you to Ron Paler for passing this along to us... Day One is a non-profit group involved in health concerns of the community.  They will hold this lecture on Tuesday afternoon; please RSVP if  you will attend.

Day One will host a public presentation on the nexus between public health, community event policies, traditions and alcohol use norms of event tailgating at the Rose Bowl.   

What: Day One Presentation: The Big Game - Public Health, Policy, and Alcohol Use Norms on Rose Bowl Game Days
When: Tuesday, March 26 (3:30-5pm)
Where: Flintridge Center, 236 W Mountain St Pasadena, CA 91103, Room 115 
RSVP: Please RSVP by March 23rd (wesley@dayonepasadena.org626-229-9750) or via Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/events/619154454778114/ 

The presentation will cover a range of topics, including alcohol use norms on game days, existing collegiate/NFL tailgating policies and "best practices" from around the United States, health impacts of binge/underage drinking, and the results of Day One environmental scan and surveys conducted at two UCLA football games in fall 2012. 

We hope you will be able to join us.

Best regards,


Wesley Reutimann
Environmental Prevention Director, Day One
175 N. Euclid Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103
(626) 229-9750 Fax (626) 792-8056
Email: wesley@dayonepasadena.org

Proposition A sales tax hike defeated by Los Angeles voters


By Eric Hartley, March 6, 2013

UPDATED: Los Angeles voters said no to a proposed half-percent sales tax hike Tuesday, voting down the ballot's Measure A 55 percent to 45 percent.

The increase, which would have brought in about $200 million a year, was dubbed the "neighborhood public safety and vital city services funding and accountability measure."

It had the support of Police Chief Charlie Beck and outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In a television ad, Beck said Measure A would help police keep the city safe.

Villaraigosa said it would help police and fire departments hit by years of layoffs and service reductions.

But the leading mayoral candidates opposed it, as did most candidates for other offices.

Councilman Bernard Parks called the measure a regressive tax that would hurt seniors and the poor the most and would mean the city would not make the reforms he believes are needed to get to a balanced budget.

Parks also complained the measure was put on the ballot without any real study by city staff, neighborhood councils or others.

Some voters interviewed at the polls Tuesday complained that Measure A would hurt business in Los Angeles.

Rudolph Gintel, 65, who owns a retail business, called the tax increase "ludicrous."

"It's destroying the brick-and-mortar businesses in the city," he said, adding his sales have already fallen 20 to 30 percent recently.

In a report to the City Council, City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana warned that without the additional revenue from the sales tax, the city might be forced to lay off up to 500 police officers and make further cuts in the Los Angeles Fire Department and other popular programs, such as anti-gang efforts.

The Primary Is Over, What’s Next and What do the Results Mean? 


By Damien Newton, March 6, 2013

 Wendy and Eric, just a water bottle separate them on most issues.
With the primary election behind us, it’s time to look ahead at what this all means for Los Angeles and the Livable Streets movement going forward. Some City Council races were decided, while others were narrowed down to just the top two vote getters. None of the top of the ticket races were finalized and Proposition A to raise more funds for city services failed.

Here’s a short breakdown on each of the races and what it means for the city’s cyclists, pedestrians, transit riders and the rest of the Livable Streets community.

Mayor’s Race

Despite the excitement surrounding Emanuel Pleitez, Jan Perry and Kevin James, the candidates at the top of the polls throughout the cycle emerged from the primary victorious. As expected, on May 21 it will be Garcetti v Greuel. Based on last night’s results, Garcetti has a small lead, but each candidate has a long way to go to get to 50+1% to capture the city’s top job.

Garcetti’s primary victory is already being lauded on social media by many Streetsbloggers, and with good reason. As City Councilman, Garcetti’s office took the lead in creating new open space for a park starved area of the city, pushing the city’s Sharrows program out of the political morass and onto the streets, experimenting with the Polka Dot Park on Sunset, and even backing CicLAvia. The Council Member has shown command of regional issues pushing for better transit between the Valley and the Westside, stating clearly his preference for a Constellation Avenue Station for the Westside Subway, and promising monthly CicLAvias.

Garcetti is also lauded by Livable Streets advocates as a true believer in the issues and positions often discussed on this news site. As a result, he’s appeared in more Streetfilms/Streetsblog L.A. films than any other person except myself or Joe Linton. “Who’s Streets? Our Streets!” is a chant he led at the 2008 ArtCycle event in East Hollywood. Heck, he’s even found explaining his love of CicLAvia in Spanish in our first Spanish Language Streetfilm.

Greuel certainly has less flash on transportation issues than Garcetti, but when she chaired the City Council Transportation Committee, she helped lay the groundwork for a lot of the successes and changes we’ve seen in past years. “All the stuff we talked about five years ago, it’s all happening,” she beamed at me (off camera), when we interviewed her for her Streetsblog L.A. video. Also, she’s a big fan of bike share.

But what unnerves some advocates is a lack of specifics in her transportation policy. Her statement that “The drivers and residents of Los Angeles have to realize it’s the dawn of a new day,” is certainly encouraging. But while Garcetti is willing to give specifics (I support this subway station, I support this project), Greuel’s is more a promise of support for better bicycling facilities, interconnected transit, and support for Measure R projects. Of course, there’s two and a half months until the election, so there’s plenty of time to spell out more specifics in the platform.

City Attorney
Image of L.A. Weekly via Los Angeles Dragnet

Four years ago many Livable Streets advocates were happy to vote against Councilman Jack Weiss’ campaign for City Attorney because of his support for the Pico-Olympic mini-highway plan or his desire to rip up traffic calming on some Westwood residential streets. However, Trutanich hasn’t done much, if anything, to change a culture in the City Attorney’s Office that traffic crime, especially hit and runs, aren’t a top priority for the department.

While many hope that Trutanich’s opponent, Asm. Miek Feuer, there hasn’t been much talk of traffic crime in this year’s debate thus far. There is good reason to put faith in Feuer, the Assemblyman who authored the legislation that led to 2008′s Measure R Transit Tax and the 2012 Measure J Sales Tax Extension, not only on the policy front but also because he is a recent victim of a traffic crash.


In the Controller’s race, Councilman Dennis Zine and Ron Galerpin will face off for the final nod.

As a Councilman, Zine’s record is somewhat mixed. He supported bike trail projects in his area, but also tried to stop the city’s anti-harassment ordinance for car drivers harassing cyclists. Of course, he also famously called 911 when Justin Bieber sped past him on the 101. No word if he was using a hands-free device.
Galerpin is something of an unknown in the Livable Streets community, although he has a strong track record of political support.

We’ll have more on the City Council races this afternoon.
California is Least Improved in Highway Conditions


By Isabel Angell, March 6, 2013



 The I-880 freeway in Oakland, Calif.

California has the worst track record in improving its highways, while spending twice the national average per mile.

That’s according to a new study by the Reason Foundation. The libertarian think tank studied improvements to the nation’s highway infrastructure over a 20-year span, contrasted with money spent per mile. They looked into seven categories that represent the state of the highway system: fatalities, deficient bridges, percent of urban and rural interstate highways in poor pavement condition, percent of urban highways that are congested, percent of rural primary roads in poor pavement condition, and the number of rural primary roads flagged as too narrow. The study noted how much each state improved –or worsened– in each category between 1989 and 2008. It turns out that overall, most of the country has made big improvements in highway conditions over the last 20 years.

Lead author Dave Hartgen says he’s not ignoring the problems with the national highway infrastructure, which he admits are plenty. (In its last report card for the nation’s infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country a “D.”) But he says the results prove the United States highway system isn’t “crumbling.”

“The overall condition of the state-controlled road system is getting better and you can actually make the case that it has never been in better shape,” he said in a press release. “The key going forward is to target spending where it will do the most good.”

While the study shows the country is improving, California noticeably lags behind. California was the only state that improved in just two categories: fatalities and deficient bridges. In contrast, 37 states improved in five out of the seven categories and 11 improved in all seven. California fared particularly badly in urban congestion and urban interstate road conditions. The state has two of the most congested metro areas in the country– the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. And the condition of its California’s urban Interstate roads, like the Bay Area’s hated I-880, have declined by more than 20 percent since 1989. Only Hawaii is worse. Over the twenty years covered by the study, the state spent $5.84 million per mile of highway– more than twice the national average of $2.85 million per mile.

But there is a silver lining: California has reduced its fatality rate by 1.1 fatalities per 100 million miles of highway. That’s the 13th best improvement in the country.

To learn more, check out the full study here.
Caltrans Awards $1.2 Mil. to City for Eastern Entry
By Leon Worden, March 5, 2013
 The California Department of Transportation awarded $1.219 million on Tuesday to the city of Santa Clarita and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to beautify the eastern entry into the city. Coupled with $631,000 from other funding sources, the state money is earmarked for landscaping along Sand Canyon Road and the 14 Freeway interchange at Sand Canyon.

The project, called “Route 14/Sand Canyon Gateway Beautification,” is intended to “improve existing blighted conditions by installing drought tolerant landscaping and drainage to minimize runoff that may cause unsafe driving conditions,” according to a Caltrans document.

The award was included in an announcement of $333 million for 91 transportation improvement projects up and down the state. Some of the biggest are $28.3 million for Phase 2 of the Exposition Light Rail from Culver City to Santa Monica; $14.7 million for Interstate 110/State Route 47 Interchange Improvements; and $10.5 million for Phase 2 of the Port of Los Angeles Alameda Corridor Terminus/West Basin Rail Yard – Berth 200 Rail Yard Track Connection Improvements.

Most of the money – $233 million – comes from Proposition 1B transportation bonds authorized by voters in 2006.
Proposition 65:  Port Exhaust Warning Website

From Sylvia Plummer, March 6, 2013

Looks like the creators of the diesel exhaust have issued their own "warning label" website.  

One purpose of Proposition 65 is to provide information to the public about exposures to listed chemicals, such as diesel engine exhaust,  so that individuals can make more informed choices. 

If the 710 tunnels get put through, are the ports or METRO going to tell us "here's your warning": "Close your windows and don't inhale the fumes"? Or "enter tunnel at your own risk."  

Thanks to Jim Miller for this find: 

Diesel exhaust from operations at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach can cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm

Take Action page:

 "If the amount of particulate matter in your local area is high on a given day, keep windows and doors closed and use air conditioners or fans."

About This Warning:

"Diesel engines produce smoke as a by-product of the combustion of diesel fuel. The smoke contains gas compounds and fine particles (called "soot" or "particulate matter"). On October 1, 1990 the State of California listed diesel engine exhaust as a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer pursuant to Proposition 65, also known as "The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986". In 1998, the California Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment ("OEHHA") added diesel engine exhaust to the State's list of toxic air contaminants." 

In 2008, pursuant to Proposition 65, the Attorney General of California reached an agreement to provide warnings to the community with the operators at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles listed here. Proposition 65 requires a "clear and reasonable" warning be given for listed chemicals, such as diesel engine exhaust, and the components of that exhaust, that cause cancer or reproductive harm. 

Pro-710 freeway advocate Chris Holden asks: Got a Gripe?

Call to Action
From Sylvia Plummer, March 6, 2013

Pro-710 freeway advocate Chris Holden now is our 41st Assembly District representative (South Pasadena, Altadena, Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, Upland and Alta Loma (part of Rancho Cucamonga), perhaps we should all post a comment about how we feel about the freeway and send Holden an email:

Got a Gripe? Holden Wants to Hear It


Send email to Holden by going to his website:

Click on Contact Chris...    
Select an Issue:  There is no choice to select on this issue
UCLA Advancing the Complete Streets Dialogue 

By Gary Kavanagh, March 5, 2013

 Janette Sadik-Khan addresses the UCLA Complete Streets Conference.

Last Thursday UCLA hosted its third annual Complete Streets Conference in Downtown Los Angeles. I was excited to have had the opportunity to attend with such a packed line up for the all day event, with a few big names in the mix including the esteemed Janette Sadik-Khan.
During the opening presentation UCLA professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris walked the crowd through UCLA’s new document and tool kit for parklet planning entitled Reclaiming The Right of Way, incorporating some of the best practices for cities that have been doing them. She remarked that s0metimes “to think big you have to start small.” and pointed to the new Spring St. parklet in DTLA as a model for creating low cost an easily accessible opportunities for physical activity.
I had my first opportunity to listen to the LADOT’s new pedestrian coordinator Margot Ocañas in a panel discussion on implemented. There is a lot of work to be done in the ped arena for LA, an understatement, but Ocañas was a refreshing voice from the agency, and her appointment has clearly been a step in the right direction. You could hear the exasperation with dealing with LA’s bureaucracy in her voice at times, but she appeared determined to foster change. During the presentation, she showed off plans for quick modular conversion of underutilized auto space to parklets and ped plazas, among the more basic work of better crosswalk striping that began recently.
McGraw_Square_pedestrian_plaza 061
Westlake Streetcar Plaza in Seattle. 

On the same implementation panel with Ocañas were urban planner Darby Watson, an Associate at Arup, who presented on complete streets projects in Seattle and Fred Dock, Director of the Pasadena Department of Transportation. Watson discussed that in Seattle they had a successful streetcar project in their downtown that was followed by a reduction in vehicle volume on a section of street at an irregular area of intersections. Planners wanted to appropriate some of the overbuilt car space into forming a large public plaza area around the streetcar stop. They were primed to go cheap and fast for a pilot first pass, but the business community there wanted something more substantial, and contributed toward more permanent infrastructure on the first go (project details).

Watson also spoke to the issue of transit & bicycling being at odds with each other,  commenting that unfortunately “sometimes your most sustainable modes hate each other.” Although touching this issue only briefly she mentioned more careful consideration in street car design and transit islands for buses and streetcars with bike lanes behind, something more common in European bikeways, and reduces leap frogging and merging conflicts at loading points. I really wish that there were more planners in the active transport world and transit planning in the US talking more closely to each other instead of being off in separate worlds.

I had a little trouble keeping up with the adjectives & acronyms per minute of Fred Dock of the Pasadena DOT, but a few points stuck with me. He emphasized that we should focus on measuring travel times, not speeds and look at trips, not just intersections. The city of Pasadena is currently in the process of rethinking it’s LOS (level of service) standards, which are typically auto-centric, to incorporate other street users and uses. This is an area where I admittedly don’t have a lot of background on the specifics, but is of significant importance to how things are planned, designed, approved and built in California.
Ron Milam presents some tough budget realities. 

In the panel on funding for capital improvements and operations maintenance, Fehr & Peers transportation consultant Ron Milam wasted no time in rattling cages with stark prognosis of the financial situation for infrastructure. Clearly Milam has been reading Strong Towns, or he has independently arrived at many similar conclusions, because it felt like Charles Marohn’s spirit was in the room.

Among serious lines he would joke about real rust as a paint color on decrepit bridges, and throwing out huge price tags on the deferred maintenance of infrastructure in Sacramento and across the state. After proclaiming “we have built beyond our means”, Miliam also threw this all in perspective by comparing the growth in spending on household television & related services with the modest & stagnant pool of money collected by the gas tax. We’re spending quite a lot more on TV these days than what gets captured in the gas tax, but I doubt anyone you talk to on the street realizes this is the case.
Kristin Eberhard, Natural Resources Defense Council

Rounding out the financing panel was LADOT Bicycle Coordinator Nate Baird, who spoke on using
highway improvement funds toward bikeway projects and gave an update on quickening pace of bike lane development in LA and Kristin Eberhard of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Eberhard sounded an alarm that complete streets advocates need to get involved in the process for defining how California’s AB32 greenhouse emissions cap & trade funds are allocated. As initially proposed, transportation planning efforts are a very small slice of the allocation pie, but as I’ve been pointing out in recent posts, transportation is the single largest source of emissions within California, and I don’t believe cleaner car standards is good enough.

To give feedback on the public record about how you would like to see AB32 funds allocated check out this page at the CA Air Resources Board website (written comments are being accepted until March 8th). Very eye opening in her presentation was also data collection on trip distances, with a solid 60% of LA area trips under 3 miles being made in cars, and more on that information can be found in her blog post here.
Pam O’Connor, Mayor, City of Santa Monica

In one of the post-lunch break out sessions, SoCal political heavyweight Pam O’Connor, the current mayor on the Santa Monica city council, as well as a Metro & SCAG board member, gave some advice on engaging with elected officials. Among her advice she urged for more young people to get involved, speaking to the tendency of over representation of folks closer to her age in the public process, and that fresh faces can help sway politicians on the fence about issues. O’Connor went on to say later it’s “not just about the numbers”, be there, be ongoing, persistence pays off.

The main event of the night was of course NYC DOT transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Sadik-Khan is a truly a gifted public speaker, which is surely an important asset in her ability to get things done, and showed off an endless supply charm, wit & enthusiasm between her facts and figures, all through her talk & the following Q&A. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak in person, I highly recommend it.

On the subject of NYC pilot project efforts, most famously the one that transformed Times Square, Sadik-Khan said “It makes a big difference to see, to feel, to touch a project.” She made a compelling case for trying out ideas in a manner than can quickly be reverted if proven unpopular, to break through the inertia and fear of new permanent changes, often revealing support for ideas no one thought would work as well as they prove to, once actually tried. Although as a counterpoint, there are risks to going with cheap infrastructure when aggro & incompetent drivers are around, something our Sunset Triangle Plaza has been finding out the hard way unfortunately.
JSK takes questions from crowd during the moderated Q&A with Marty Wachs. 

For this readership I don’t think I have to go through every accomplishment made under Jannette Sadik-Khan’s time in the NYC DOT, but there were a few things presented I hadn’t seen or heard much about before. One was showing off new signage features specifically for pedestrian way finding. She cracked a joke about 10% of people admitted to being lost at a given a time in New York City. The designs looked slick and intuitive, with various walk distance radii and showed a careful attention to the details are being given to the pedestrian experience. UCLA alumni Keri Tyler who is heading up the wayfinding program, got a shout out from Sadik-Khan. I tracked down some more details on this program in this pdf document on pedestrian wayfinding best practices featuring Tyler.

Of particular  interest to me was the leadership in the face of a drummed up backlash, which when surveyed turned out to be poorly reflective of real New Yorker’s views. The bike lane backlash & criticism of the pending bike share program, that got so much local media attention, had little sway on public opinion when actually polled, with super majority support of 67% for the new bike lanes, and 72% support for the bike share. For more on the JSK talk, Steve Hymon also has a post up just on her talk over at The Source blog.

All in all it was a very informative one day event with some stand out speakers, and I tip my hat to Madeline Brozen, the program director for the UCLA Complete Streets Initiative, who headed up the organizing. There is a lot to be done, and the challenges cannot be understated, but it’s encouraging watching the conversation in Los Angeles come around so quickly in just the past few years, and with more projects to show for it. Let’s keep that momentum building.


Does Modern Urbanism Only Help a City’s Elites?


By Whet Moser, March 5, 2013


One of the best posts I've read in a good long while comes from Aaron Renn at The Urbanophile: "Is Urbanism the New Trickle-Down Economics?" It's challenging, interesting, and touches on critical economic development issues of importance to the city. Here's his first shot fired:

[M]odern day urbanism often resembles nothing so much as trickle-down economics, though this time mostly advocated by those who would self-identify as being from the left. The idea is that through investments catering to the fickle and mobile educated elite and the high end businesses that employ and entertain them, cities can be rejuvenated in a way that somehow magically benefits everybody and is socially fair.

For example:

The people most aggressively pushing urbanist policies like bike lanes, public art, high end mixed use developments, high tech startups, swank boutiques and restaurants, greening the city policies, etc. are disproportionately those who want to live that lifestyle themselves, or hope to someday. Like me in other words. The fact that you’re a Millennial who rides around to microbreweries on your fixie without necessarily having a high paying job yourself (yet) doesn’t matter. You are still advocating for your own preferred milieu, and that of others who think like yourself.

I'm guilty of a lot of this myself, save for the fixie, which I'm way too lazy and uncoordinated for. So it's probably with some self-justification that I offer a rationale for why these policies exist, not that Renn is opposed to them necessarily. Cities throughout the country were scarred by central-city flight and the urban blight that followed, especially in the Midwest, and the powerful mayors who ruled Chicago as the Rust Belt collapsed approached the Loop as the city's bulwark. For all his reputation as a Bridgeport ward heeler, Daley the Elder was a master at courting the city's business powers—even the Republican ones—a talent he passed on to his son. As Elizabeth Taylor and Adam Cohen write in American Pharaoh:

Daley's [1958 development plan] was almost single-mindedly focused on the downtown business district. Where Burnham had looked at Chicago as an organic whole, Daley's planners proceeded as if downtown were the only part of the city whose future mattered.... The only improvement it offered to most of the city's residential neighborhoods was a highway that would move cars more rapidly through them on the way to shopping in the Loop.

In that, Daley was quite successful, but the Loop was still far from what it is today, which is how
Chicago got its first tax-increment finance district under Harold Washington in 1984:

Begun by Mayor Harold Washington in 1984, when the Loop did indeed contain areas of blight, Daley extended the life of the Central Loop TIF to seemingly great effect. Before eventually expiring in 2008, the TIF district helped spearhead the Loop's renewal, ushering in an era of huge expansion that increased the tax base and businesses within its borders, and saw a rise in the estimated assessed land value in the district to $2.6 billion from its original $985 million. The renewed strength and vibrancy of Chicago's core allowed the city to comeback from its "buckle-on-the-Rust-Belt" lows, and become a relevant player on the Global City index.

TIFs use leverage to work, driving tax revenues created by a district back into that district. In an area with a strong foundation—lots of transportation, high density, and an existing economic base—they can change the fortunes of an area quickly. And Chicago's downtown economic development has succeeded. In a lengthy, fascinating piece for Crain's, Greg Hinz details just how the city's downtown has weathered the recession and come out strong on the other end:

In fact, the Census Bureau reported in 2012 that Chicago gained more people within two miles of City Hall—48,288, or 36.2 percent—than any other American city, including New York, in the previous decade, in both absolute and percentage terms. An outsize share of these newcomers are young, ages 25 to 34. By the city's estimate, 38,000 full-time college students attend classes in the greater Loop.

Renn argues that urbanists are no less self-interested than other forms of the urban elite: for example, Chicago's friendly spat with Seattle over stealing their tech jobs with sophisticate-friendly transit options. "What’s needed," he writes, "is a new orientation of these ideas so that we don’t end up with an explicitly elitist policy rationale and policy set that caters to the already privileged at the expense of the poor and middle classes of our cities."

But it's hard to tell where that self-interest ends and begins. Part of the reliance on policy sets that cater to the privileged, or at least areas that house the privileged, is that they've worked—those areas have a lot of economic leverage. One of the reasons that TIFs are so appealing is that they don't cost existing money. They're not free, as Ben Joravsky has documented, but diverting future tax revenues above a certain level is different than shelling out straight from the coffers. That's also why the Infrastructure Trust is also appealing, because it's not an up-front investment.

Compare that to the investment required to lift up a truly troubled neighborhood. My colleague Elly Fishman looked into Land's End founder Gary Comer's massive, long-term investment in his old South Side neighborhood, $86 million over about a decade; it's an honorable project that's done some good, but the gains have been modest. In the context of saving a neighborhood, $86 million just isn't that much. It's improved education and housing in the neighborhood, but Pocket Town has still been a hard sell for employers:

New homes can improve a neighborhood only so much, Reid points out, when there aren’t many economic anchors at hand. Pocket Town contains only four businesses: a gas station, a paper supply company, an auto salvage yard, and Reid’s real-estate company. “There’s still no new retail, no grocery store, and there isn’t even a pharmacy,” he says. Without meaningful commercial activity in Pocket Town, building houses there “is no different than building in Englewood.”

Responds Schleicher: “We tried to identify how to bring in other businesses. . . . The problem is, the neighborhood is very isolated. You can’t attract big-box retailers or grocery stores, because they won’t reach a big enough market to make money.”

Economic development on the level of Pocket Town is extremely expensive, which is why cities are looking towards private capital for development during this age of austerity. Private capital wants to minimize risk... and blighted neighborhoods are a much greater risk. It's harder, and our models for it aren't great. New York took the lead: stabilize your tax base with a wealthy industry, then take it from there. As Alan Mallach puts it, "downtowns are the low-hanging fruit of urban revitalization." It's not just Chicago; the downtown population is up in St. Louis, Baltimore, even Detroit. So it's not just self-interest; cities don't have much reach right now, and downtown is within their grasp.