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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beijing to control urban expansion: mayor


March 13, 2013

BEIJING - Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun on Wednesday said the capital will work hard to cool down rapid urban expansion in order to address traffic congestion, pollution and resource scarcity.
"We will make efforts to control Beijing's scale through economic, legal and administrative means," Wang said, without elaborating his plan.
"The conflict between rapid population growth and limited resources is our city's growing pain," Wang said at a panel discussion held during the annual parliamentary session in Beijing.
Premier Wen Jiabao has said in his government work report on Tuesday that megacities and large cities should be kept at an appropriate scale. "This offers us a guideline for city management," said Wang, who is also a national lawmaker.
Beijing's population has reached 20.6 million and is growing by about 600,000 people annually. The capital now has 5.2 million motor vehicles and the number is expected to reach 6.5 million in five years, the mayor said.
These have resulted in many "city diseases" such as traffic congestion and air pollution. "The city can not expand in an uncontrolled way," Wang said.
Heavy smog has repeatedly hit the capital since January, causing dismay among the public and prompting authorities to issue health warning.
Beijing introduced the lottery scheme in January 2011 to reduce car ownership and traffic congestion. One out of 10.6 received a plate after the first draw on Jan. 26, 2011.
The number of applicants rose from 187,420 in January 2011 to 1.42 million in February this year. Only one out of 77 applicants were awarded car registration plates in February.
Beijing pollution fight 'greater than for Olympics'


By Zhao Huanxin, March 13, 2013

A leading figure of the Beijing Olympics said the capital is doing more to ensure blue skies than it did for the historic event.

"We went all out to improve the environment and had 'truly exceptional Games' in 2008," said Ji Lin, who was head of venue construction for the Olympics.
Beijing pollution fight 'greater than for Olympics'

"Now we are addressing air pollution on a larger scale and with more investment than was possible when we prepared for the Games."

In addition to capping coal consumption in Beijing, the city is seeking to get neighboring Tianjin, Hebei and Shanxi to rally behind the fight against pollution, Ji, chairman of the capital's top advisory body, the Beijing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, told China Daily.

The conversion to gas of coal-burning boilers, each producing less than 20 metric tons of steam per hour, was completed in the capital last year, he said.

These boilers supplied heating for about 200,000 households, the Beijing News reported in January.

"By the end of next year, we'll have transformed the remaining 33 larger coal-burning boilers, which, together with last year's effort, means an additional use of 600 million cubic meters of natural gas and a reduction of coal by 900,000 tons a year," said Ji, a member of the National Committee of the CPPCC, the country's top advisory body.

The transformation will slash sulfur dioxide by 3,500 tons a year and nitrogen oxide by 2,250 tons, Ji said. Both are major pollutants tainting Beijing skies.

"We were not ready to do this before, or in, 2008, since we didn't have the resources - natural gas, for one thing, was not in ample supply," he said.

Experts have blamed Beijing's smog-inducing fine particles, known as PM2.5, on emissions from coal-burning power plants, heating stations and vehicle exhaust.

The capital experienced one of the longest stretches of smoggy days in years last month. And again last week, Beijing residents gazed into the sky only to see a blanket of suffocating smog.

"In tackling air pollution, it's fair to say that we've attached great importance to the issue, and we'll lay more emphasis on it; we've worked hard, and we'll work harder," Ji, a former vice-mayor, said.

The government is launching four mega-projects to set up periphery power generation and heating centers on the four sides of the city, he said.

These projects, fueled by natural gas, will be built by relocating or upgrading existing coal-burning plants and will be completed by 2015, he said.

"Money pooled to the projects may amount to several billion yuan each, and the cost of operation will be higher than using coal," he said.

In addition, the city will replace traditional coal-burning stoves with electric radiators for 44,000 families. The efforts will go some way toward making Beijing free of coal, he said.

"I can tell you the scale and multitude of investment in anti-pollution measures exceeds that for the Beijing Olympics," Ji said.

With the service industry contributing 76 percent to the local economy, Beijing is endowed with a solid foundation to pursue a healthier development model, according to Ji.

"Combating air pollution and protecting the environment will also contribute to GDP growth."

In recent years the city has used more electric buses and has promoted new-energy cars.

The city plans to phase out at least 180,000 outdated automobiles this year and encourages more government organizations and public transport service providers to use new-energy cars and buses, he said.

With hazy skies usually shrouding vast swathes of northern China and wind sweeping pollutants from place to place, Ji said it is important for the capital to work with its neighbors in tackling the issue.

The excellent air quality during the 2008 Olympics was partly brought about by neighboring cities working together with Beijing to curb pollution under a coordinating mechanism, he said.

"There should have been an authoritative department invested with the power of making trans-regional anti-pollution strategy," Ji said.

Beijing's Vice-Mayor Li Shixiang was quoted by the Beijing News as saying that on average a quarter of Beijing's PM2.5 pollutants came from its neighbors.

The proposed authority to coordinate anti-pollution measures in Beijing and neighboring areas could be designated by the State Council. For example, such an authority could be delegated to the National Development and Reform Commission, or the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Li said.

Zhang Qingwei, governor of Hebei, said his province is keen to cooperate with Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region to reduce air pollution.

"We've been very successful in controlling PM10 particles in the air; we are stepping up surveillance and control of PM2.5 particulates," the governor said.

Autism And Pollution Study Links Autism With Prenatal Exposure To Traffic Pollution 


 March 12, 2013

Autism Pollution Study

Babies exposed to air pollution when in the womb are more likely to have autism, according to a UCLA study published Mar. 1, 2013,in Environmental Health Perspectives. 

Babies exposed to air pollution in the womb are more likely to have autism than those whose mothers spend pregnancy in clean air, according to a new study.

In the largest study of its kind, UCLA researchers compared levels of air pollutants, mostly related to
vehicle traffic, during pregnancy gestation periods of 7,603 children with autism and 75,635 children without autism, born from 1995 to 2006 in Los Angeles. The study was published March 1 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Babies at the 75th percentile of exposure to toxins had 8 percent to 10 percent higher risk of autism than babies at the bottom 25th percentile, the study said. Ozone and fine particulates had the strongest association with autism.

"These findings are of concern, since traffic-related air pollution is ubiquitous," said Dr. Beate Ritz, chair of UCLA's Department of Epidemiology and the study's senior author. She said she was reluctant to advise expectant mothers to leave LA or polluted cities, because that's not an option for many. "We can't tell them to not breathe or not go outside or not go to work," she said. She did recommend avoiding sitting in traffic, when pollutant exposure is worst.

Using government air monitoring stations, researchers estimated average exposures during pregnancy to carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, ozone and particulate matter. The study adjusted for factors that include maternal age, birthplace, race and education. Using birth certificates, researchers compared control children with non-control children who had matching birth year, sex and gestational age at birth.

This is important because the highest rates of autism tend to be among children of older, more educated and white parents. Also, there is a higher likelihood of autism in a mother's first child, probably because parents of autistic children often do not continue to have more children, Ritz said.
Autism is a spectrum of disorders ranging from a profound inability to communicate and mental disability to milder symptoms seen in Asperger's syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that autism affects one in every 88 children born in the U.S., a 25 percent increase from 2006.

Research on autism and exposure to chemicals has been limited. Studies from 2006 and 2010 found an association between autism and air pollutants from industries and other sources.

A study in 2010 was the first to look at autism and toxins specifically from auto exhaust. The study, based in California, reported that children born to mothers living within 9/10 mile of a freeway during pregnancy were more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children whose mothers lived more than 1/4 mile from a freeway. However, the sample size -- 304 autism cases and 259 controls -- was much smaller than the just-published UCLA study.

The UCLA study is first to suggest a link between autism and ozone. The ozone level in LA is the highest in the nation and violates federal health standards an average of 137 days a year.
Research has found various environmental factors that appear to affect brain development, including pesticides, nutrition, flame retardants and parent's occupational exposures. Other factors that have been tied to autism specifically include drugs used decades ago to treat morning sickness, bipolar disorder and ulcers.

With about 80,000 chemicals available for industry use, most untested for toxicity, children's health experts and advocates urge Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act, which currently awaits a Senate vote. A study by the advocacy organization Environmental Working Group found an average of 200 industrial chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies born in U.S. hospitals in 2004.

"This is a wake-up call to a national problem and evidence of how much more research we need," said Matt Asner, executive director for Southern California Autism Speaks, said of the UCLA study's findings. "We have worked ourselves into a pickle. We covet technology and progress but we haven't thought about what it's doing to us."

Ondine von Ehrenstein, assistant professor at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, who did not work on this study but is working with Ritz on other research, said she hoped the work will lead to preventative measures. "If we identify environmental causes of autism, this opens a prime venue for prevention of new cases of autism in childhood," she said. "One approach could be implementing policies to regulate environmental pollutants that … may cause developmental impairments before birth."

Marc Weisskopf, associate professor at Harvard's School of Public Health, agreed that it could work to regulate pollutants found to cause autism, pointing to prior examples of regulation.

"We have set standards for air pollution in order to reduce cardiovascular and respiratory disease and have had some success with both public and personal efforts to reduce exposures and prevent cases of those diseases," Weisskopf said. "The exciting possibility is that autism might be amenable to the same types of interventions."

Alan Zorthian to lead Doo Dah Parade


 By Mark Kellam, March 12, 2013

Zorthain picked as Doo Dah Parade grand marshal

 Alan Zorthian, proprietor of the Zorthian Ranch in Altadena, is this year's grand marshal of the sometimes zany Doo Dah Parade in Pasadena.

Alan Zorthian, architect and proprietor of the Zorthian Ranch, will serve as grand marshal of the 36th “Occasional” Pasadena Doo Dah Parade on April 27.

Zorthian has been responsible for renewing the life of the unique multi-acre property in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in Altadena.

Zorthian grew up surrounded by artists and musicians and is no stranger to Doo Dah culture.

Other past grand marshals in his family include cousin Savitri D., wife and collaborator with "Reverend Billy" and the Church of Stop Shopping, who served in 2007, and his parents, Jirayr and Dabney, who each served in previous years.

Upon their passing, many have wondered about the fate of Zorthian Ranch. Alan Zorthian took leadership by building and reinforcing structures on the property, while providing an archive for the art and life of his well-known parents.

Alan Zorthain also hosts an annual international folk music festival, and has invited the Institute for Urban Ecology to create an urban farm on 22 acres of ranch property.

Alan Zorthian said he was honored to be selected as grand marshal.

"I'm flabbergasted!" he said. “I am not my parents, but I gladly accept the honor.”

Parade organizer Tom Coston says Alan Zorthian has all the qualities a Doo Dah grand marshal should possess.

"Alan has always been a big supporter and friend. He carries the Zorthian torch proudly and has Doo Dah in his DNA." he said.

The Doo Dah Parade, known for its inventive - if not zany - art cars and floats, will start at 11 a.m. on April 27 and will run along Colorado Boulevard between Altadena and San Gabriel boulevards.

The official Doo Dah after-party will be held at the American Legion, 179 N. Vinedo St., and will feature a variety of bands. Cover is $3.

For more information, call 626-590-7596.
While Amtrak Subsidies Draw Fire From Congress, Aviation Gets a Free Pass


By Angie Schmitt, March 12, 2013

There’s never any shortage of calls to make Amtrak pay for itself. Republicans deride it as a “Soviet-style monopoly,” rife with inefficiencies. But as Ed Glaeser pointed out in an article for the Boston Globe last week, another mode’s subsidies are approved year after year without a peep: aviation.
Why don't aviation subsidies provoke the same scrutiny Amtrak's do?

According to Glaeser, fees imposed on airline passengers cover just 70 percent of the Federal Aviation Administration’s budget. Aviation subsidies increase if you consider the costs of the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA’s 2013 budget is $7.6 billion, of which only $2.5 billion will come from user fees.

What does this have to do with trains? Well, subsidies for air travel and roads are funding Amtrak’s competitors. (As Streetsblog has reported, just 51 percent of road funding come from gas taxes, tolls, and other fees on driving.) Cutting subsidies to rail while maintaining the others would hardly create a level playing field.

But cutting FAA and TSA subsidies doesn’t seem to get the kind of attention as the push to cut Amtrak loose. Perhaps aviation subsidies tend to avoid public scorn because air travel is widely perceived to be critical to the economy. But rail is too, and with more investment, it could be a far more widely-used and relied-upon mode of travel. And rail subsidies wouldn’t be as regressive as aviation subsidies: According to Glaeser, those who make more than $100,000 per year fly ten times more than those who make $50,000 per year.

Measure TT administrators out at Pasadena Unified in wake of billing scandal


By James Figueroa, March 11, 2013

The Pasadena Unified School District is parting ways with the administrators involved in its Measure TT scandal, all of whom had not worked since December.

Facilities supervisor David Azcarraga is resigning from the district effective Tuesday, officially for personal reasons, according to a district statement.

Bond manager Robin Brown and construction consultant Peter Contis, both contractors, also will see their agreements terminated Tuesday if ratified by the board of education.

The Brown and Contis contract terminations are effective Dec. 19, two weeks after the district halted the agreements, creating public turmoil over Measure TT. At the time, PUSD said it was suspending Brown and had already terminated Contis.

PUSD attorney Nancy Doumanian said she wasn't certain whether Brown's contract termination is being applied retroactively, and didn't believe the discrepancy was significant.

A whistleblower alerted the district that several of its contractors were not working the full hours that had been billed for Measure TT construction projects, according to previous reports.

The district also ended its contracts with project assistant Arturo Arce and consultants LCC3 and Seville Group in December. An internal probe remains ongoing.

Measure TT, a $350 million capital improvement bond program passed by Pasadena district voters in 2008, is the funding source for several local school projects, including the unbuilt Sierra Madre Middle School.

Chief financial officer John Pappalardo is handling Measure TT matters in the interim.

Azcarraga was still drawing salary as a district employee on administrative leave. Brown and Contis billed their hours, and both received their final paychecks in January, according to district documents.


One Reason Federal Funding Is So Important to Transit

If you’ve been looking to Washington for a solution to the nation’s transportation funding problems, it looks like you’re going to be waiting a while.
State after state has been hammering out funding increases for transportation, while leaders in D.C. fail to even discuss the possibility of raising the federal gas tax, or any other viable source of revenue.

Given the federal quagmire, Eric Jaffe at Atlantic Cities recently explored what it would mean if transportation spending were “devolved” to local states and cities. After all, it’s really at the city level where you tend to see some real imagination in transport policy.
Today, Yonah Freemark at the Transport Politic responds, saying that eliminating the federal role would likely hit transit riders especially hard in less affluent regions of the country:

About a year ago, I reviewed data from 15 cities to evaluate how local funding affected outcomes. Because of the increasingly relevant public discussion on the issue of decentralizing transportation funding, I wanted to reexamine this issue with a larger dataset of all 65 U.S. metropolitan areas with populations of more than 800,000.* In order to conduct this analysis, I took advantage of data provided by the National Transit Database and the Brookings Institution.

The findings, to summarize them quickly, are revealing of the significant potential downside of funding transit operations only at the local or state level. The data demonstrate that increasing local and state transit operations spending is closely correlated with metro area median household income and poverty rates. This is not the case for federal aid, as minimal as it is.

A clearheaded look at the evidence indicates that Washington has used its transit operations spending to advance redistributive principles. Transit operations spending by the federal government in metropolitan areas across the country has no correlation with regional household incomes or poverty rates. The funding formulas developed by the Congress may not be perfect, but at least they are not discriminating between metro areas based on their respective incomes.
Meanwhile, Freemark also says that under the Obama administration, the proliferation of local streetcar projects and the progress on passenger rail in the Midwest, uneven as it may be, are also evidence of the potential impact of federal transportation investment. With the governors in Ohio and Wisconsin freezing out federal funding for intercity trains, the Midwest rail example also highlights the unequal results and patchwork infrastructure that would result from putting states completely in control of transportation.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Cyclelicio.us explores the concept of a “net zero” gas tax. Bike SD reports that San Diego’s city council has passed a unanimous resolution promising to”prioritize” bike infrastructure. And Suburban Assault explains “Cyclists in Suits,” Texas’s annual bike lobby day.
 Metro SR710 Study Group Deception: Video by Joe Cano
March 12, 2013 
 The above video refers to SR710 Facebook posts that have been deleted by its moderator. See discussion below that was posted on the Facebook site.
March 7 at 5:45am ·