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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

South L.A. looks for answers from Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel


By Dakota Smith, March 31, 2013


 L.A. mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel walks with Rev. Shane Scott and Olympian Rafer Johnson near Crenshaw Boulevard. 


 L.A. mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti visits Close Up Barber and Beauty on Pico Boulevard.

Weeks after the primary election, a faded "Jan Perry for Mayor" sign still hangs outside Laura Hendrix's art gallery in Leimert Park Village in South L.A.

Hendrix is loyal to Councilwoman Perry, who shops at her store and represents parts of South L.A.

But the Perry sign will soon be swapped out with one for Wendy Greuel or Eric Garcetti, Hendrix said. Hendrix is part of a Leimert Park business group planning to endorse in the May 21 run-off.

"We're just starting to look at the candidates," said Hendrix. "I'll be reading up this weekend."

Votes and endorsements are particularly coveted by City Councilman Garcetti and Controller Greuel in South L.A., a key battleground area in the mayor's race. While she didn't make the run-off, Perry swept this region in the primary.

About 12 percent of voters in the March 5 primary were African-American, according to a Loyola Marymount University exit poll.

Hoping to win over former Perry supporters, mayoral candidates Garcetti and Greuel are focusing heavily in the area, either by putting up billboards, opening field offices or touting coveted endorsements from local leaders.

They also laid out specific policy proposals for South L.A. last week. As locals sift through the differences between Greuel and Garcetti, the candidates' ideas for South L.A. could tilt the scales. Economic growth is a top issue, local leaders and locals told the Daily News in interviews over the last few months. In Perry's district, the average resident's annual income is $16,499. Unemployment rates in parts of South L.A. are among the highest in the city.

"Jobs are crucial," said Saundra Bryant, head of All Peoples Community Center, a social services center in South-Central. "We want businesses to come, we want opportunities for local employment."

Bryant pointed to the arrival of Fresh & Easy at Central Avenue and Adams Boulevard in 2010. The store helped provide local jobs in South L.A., which is key, since locals often rely on public transportation to get to work. The store also provided fresh vegetables and fruit in an area known as a food "desert."

But with more than 20 distinct neighborhoods, South L.A., a 50-square mile region, has varying needs. In Leimert Park Village, store owners say they want city grants to let them market the area. In South Central, locals hope a Target moves in. And in Watts, leaders say arts programs funding is needed.

"I would hope the next mayor would understand the diversity of South L.A.," said Bryant, "And listen to our concerns."

Given South L.A.'s importance in the election, Garcetti and Greuel are sharpening their pitches to local residents.

Standing outside the YMCA on 28th Street on Thursday with Perry, Garcetti said he'd create a citywide program for youth employment. He earned the endorsement of Perry, as well as City Councilman Bernard Parks, who also represents South L.A. last week.

"Every young person in South L.A., and East L.A., and the San Fernando Valley (should) have a summer job, if they want one," Garcetti said, outlining his ideas. "Like they used to be able to. I am committed to building that as mayor."

Bringing businesses to the Exposition Line corridor is another goal, he said. The new light rail line, which goes through the edge of South L.A., is seen as a future job hub.

At a competing press conference at West Angeles Church of God in Christ on Thursday, Greuel outlined her own South L.A. proposals. Following the demise of the Community Redevelopment Agency, which used to pay for affordable housing in South L.A., Greuel said she would seek funding alteratives for redevelopment.

Standing next to Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who endorsed Greuel last week, the controller also pledged to convince big box stores to move to the area. Chain corporations are often hesitant to put stores in low-income area, but the arrival of new retail stores provides jobs, which in turn can deter crime and improve neighborhoods.

"We need to go to these national retailers and make sure they move into these communities," Greuel said.

For frustrated residents, change can't happen quickly enough. Taking a break from loading grocery store carts at Family Farms Market in South Central, South Central resident Juan Reyes, 24, complained about car thefts in the store's parking lot. "We need more police officers," said Reyes. "We hardly see them."

Another South L.A. residen, Murphy Ordell, 67, pointed to the trash-strewn sidewalks outside home at 20th and Central Avenue in South Central. He wants the next mayor to focus on clearning up the streets and sidewalks. "It's just nasty," he said.

Former Congresswoman Diane Watson, who used to represent South L.A., said Garcetti and Greuel need to show leadership that local leaders can "attach themselves to." She's already asking Garcetti to intervene in a neighborhood fight over a Leimert Park gun store.

'We're a community, and the community needs to dig in and help," said Watson, who isn't endorsing in the race. "But we need the leadership."

Metro frowns on food and freeloaders


By Shi Yingying, April 1, 2013

Shanghai Metro has released plans to increase penalties for fare-dodgers and people eating on trains.

The draft of the new Shanghai Rail Traffic Regulation is open for public comment until April 30.
If approved, all food and drinks will be banned from carriages and platforms, although no details on fines were offered.

Shanghai included a "no eating" proposal in its 2009 metro regulation, but it was never adopted owing to difficulties with implementation.

Zhang Shouqian, 29, who spends an average of 40 minutes on the metro every weekday morning, said the food ban is "too cruel" for those who don't have time for breakfast.

"They could catalogue the food," he suggested. "For example, spaghetti and instant noodles 'no', but 'yes' for simple snacks," he said.

"There are vending machines on station platforms selling drinks. Get rid of them if they want the ban," he added.

Snacking commuters are a familiar sight on trains, especially during morning rush hour.

"The smell makes me feel uncomfortable and I'm scared people may drop food or spill a drink on me every time they eat breakfast next to me because it's far too crowded," said Wu Yizhong, a regular Shanghai Metro commuter.

Wuhan in Hubei province became the first mainland city to ban eating and drinking on its subway last May. Violators face a fine of 200 yuan ($32).

The metro assigned 222 staff members to enforce the regulation.

Meanwhile, the proposed Shanghai Metro regulation states fare-dodgers will be fined between five and 10 times the price of the ticket. The harshest fine at the moment, according to the metro authority, is 55 yuan.

"The maximum fine is five times the most expensive fare in Shanghai, which is 11 yuan," said Lan Tian, a spokesman for Shanghai Metro's operation management center.

The subway authority will also have the right to hand turnstile jumpers over to police, according to the draft.

Bao Chenglin, deputy director of Xujiahui Station of the Shanghai urban rail and bus police, said each station has a police officer in case of disputes between freeloaders and staff.

The draft regulation also reports violations to the city's upcoming credit-rating database system in serious cases.

Zhou Guoxiong, a Shanghai legislator and Party chief of the city's economy and information commission, said violators are likely to find their credit damaged in future, making it harder to get a loan.

He said the database has been in the making for three years and the official launch is expected in June.

Shanghai Morning Post reported that people riding free cost the metro system about 10 million yuan a year.

An estimated 0.16 percent of the 6 million daily passengers never pay for tickets, while the percentage of freeloaders in Shanghai's large metro stations such as People's Square and Xujiahui reaches 2 to 3 percent, the newspaper reported.

Skateboarding, roller-skating and bicycles (including folding bikes) are also banned in the draft.

Wrangling over an early warning system for earthquakes


 By Jon Healey, March 29, 2013

 Earthquake drill

 Margaret Vinci from Caltech briefs participants ahead of a functional exercise for first responders in a simulated 7.8 magnitude earthquake drill at the Office of Emergency Management in Los Angeles. This year's exercise featured the California Integrated Seismic Network's Earthquake Early Warning Demonstration System, as seen on screens pictured here. 

 Two different approaches to alerting the public about earthquakes are vying for the state's support, one based on a network of government-operated sensors, the other built around a private company's equipment. In a move that may shed some light for policymakers, the California Emergency Management Agency has pulled together a group of experts to make recommendations on how to implement an earthquake early warning system.

Then again, maybe it won't. The Cal EMA working group includes representatives of both factions, and their diverging views may prove impossible to reconcile.

On the one hand you've got the early warning system being developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, the California Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley, which piggybacks on the sensors used in the earthquake-detecting California Integrated Seismic Network. On the other hand is Seismic Warning Systems, a Scotts Valley company that uses its own sensors to alert customers -- typically large businesses, institutions and first responders -- about quakes.

The idea behind an earthquake early warning system is to take advantage of the time lag between a quake's initial, relatively mild shockwaves and the later ones that inflict all the damage. Seismic sensors can detect the first waves a few seconds or more before the severe shaking begins. The challenge, though, is to determine from the first waves whether a) it's really an earthquake and not just a big truck rolling by, and b) how intense the shaking may be.

Patterned after Japan's early warning system, the CISN approach typically takes readings from several sensors in the state's network to determine whether the vibrations are coming from a quake large enough to cause damage. (It could use the readings from a single sensor, but some scientists in the program worry that this approach would generate too many false alarms.) The plan is to use that data to trigger alerts that could be publicized by broadcasters and phone companies, while also being transmitted to transit systems, manufacturers and other entities that could program their control systems to respond automatically.

The March 11 temblor in Riverside County gave the CISN team the chance to demonstrate the capabilities of its system, which is still in its formative stages. It alerted seismologists in Pasadena 30 seconds before they were hit by the stronger waves of the quake, which measured a moderate 4.7 magnitude. By the time the warning went out, however, those waves had already been propagating for 12 seconds, extending about 25 miles from the epicenter.

That's not necessarily a problem for earthquakes that start in a remote stretch of the high desert. But a delay that long for a quake in Northridge would leave millions of people and much of Los Angeles in the warning-free "blind zone."

Seismic Warning Systems has an array of sensors in the Coachella Valley, not far from where the March 11 quake struck. In an interview this week, Michael Price, the company's chief technologist, said its alerts went out before the more damaging waves had even hit the surface. The first stations it's working with in the valley received an alert three to five seconds ahead of the shaking, Price said; by contrast, the entire area was in the CISN system's blind zone.

The company's speed advantage stems from its ability to use two sensors at a single site to calculate a quake's intensity and trigger a warning, rather than having to pool data from sensors at multiple sites. It also contends that it could partner with Sacramento on a statewide warning system that would cost far less than what the CISN's backers have proposed.

Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) has introduced a bill that would have the CISN develop a "comprehensive statewide earthquake early warning system." There's no cost estimate in the bill, but supporters say it could cost $80 million to finish developing and deploying the system.

Price said Seismic Warning plans to build its own statewide sensor array for the sake of selling its alert services to manufacturers and institutions. It has offered to operate and maintain an alert system at its own expense if the government picks up the tab for the equipment needed to deliver the warnings effectively to schools, fire stations and other public facilities.

Doug Given, national coordinator of the U.S. Geological Survey's earthquake early warning efforts, said the agency intends to build a warning system for the West Coast, and is looking for more help from the private sector to accomplish that. So is the state of California, which is "under a lot of pressure to not spend any new money," Given said.

So what's not to like about Seismic Warning's proposal? Given said his team is trying to get some independent validation of the company's claims about its technology. So there's that. But there's also some resistance on the CISN team to entrusting the crucial function of triggering a public alert to a private company. You can only imagine the liability issues involved.

Seismic Warning executives also have expressed skepticism about sending alerts to the general public, arguing that it would do more harm than good because many people wouldn't know the safe way to respond. But they softened their stance on that issue this week. "We have taken a step back a little," said Scott Nebenzahl, the company's director of government affairs. When it comes to warning the general public, he said, "we will work with the state to achieve its goals and objectives."

In addition to the USGS and Seismic Warning Systems, the Cal EMA working group includes representatives from the California Geological Survey, the state Seismic Safety Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, UC Berkeley, Caltech and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which has helped fund development of the USGS system. Greg Renick, a spokesman for Cal EMA, said the group's assignment is to develop "recommendations regarding the implementation of an earthquake early warning system" based on the "technological, legislative, organizational and managerial" issues involved.

The group has held one meeting so far, Renick said. Nebenzahl said that one more meeting is expected late next month, then "it will be completing a policy paper and a path for the governor and the Legislature."

Assuming, of course, it can agree on what that path might be.

(Peggy Drouet: I heard Margaret Vinci from Caltech (in the photo above) give a talk about what to expect when the San Andreas Fault ruptures (not an "if," but a "when"). The scenario was for a 7.8 quake, I believe for fracturing from south to north, but it could even be a more damaging if it fractures in the opposite direction. This talk was several weeks ago and I am still frightened by the scenario.  The worst part of the talk was a video of the monster seismic waves coming from the desert, through the mountains, and into the Los Angeles basin.

We are now being told that we need to be self-sufficient for two weeks. It previously was for three days--quite a difference. Also, don't expect any of the fire engines to help you immediately as they ride by even if you need help--they will first be surveying the damage. I assume that goes also for a 710 tunnel--even if they see that the portals have collapsed, they will report it but take no action.

With an early warning system in place, we can then take action to protect ourselves--get under a desk or a table and hold on or move to the side of the road if we are driving--cars have been reported to jump lanes during a major quake--but even with an early-warning system, vehicles in a 4.9-mile tunnel without any exits will just have to hope for the best.)

Minority of L.A. County voters quashed transit tax extension

 Measure J fell just 0.6% shy of the required two-thirds approval as support fell in upscale enclaves. Some politicians are pushing to cut the requirement. 


 By Ari Bloomekatz and Ben Poston, March 31, 2013

Measure J foes

Lisa Korbatov, right, of Beverly Hills joins Rosa Miranda of the Bus Riders Union holding blank checks highlighting Measure J's corporate sponsors and beneficiaries during an October rally against Measure J on Crenshaw Boulevard. The Coalition to Defeat Measure J included the Bus Riders Union and Beverly Hills Unified School district.

A minority of voters living in a daisy chain of small, suburban and relatively upscale enclaves around the county's outer rim were largely responsible for last fall's razor thin defeat of a $90-billion transit tax that received lopsided ballot box support, a Times analysis shows.

The review comes as several of Los Angeles' senior politicians have joined state lawmakers to push for a reduction of the threshold for passage of such measures, arguing that the current two-thirds requirement is undemocratic and hinders the region's growth.

The transit tax extension, known as Measure J, was approved by 66.1% of some 3 million voters but fell 0.6%, or just 16,000 votes, shy of the required two-thirds supermajority.
Regions such as the South Bay, with higher concentrations of staunchly anti-tax voters, played a decisive role in defeating the proposal.

Elsewhere more than two-thirds of voters did approve the measure, which would have extended a half-cent sales tax for at least three decades, allowing borrowing that could have accelerated expansion of the county's rail network.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and other elected officials have bemoaned the ability of a slim margin of voters to block the will of the majority.
"Only in California can 66% be considered a loss," said Yaroslavsky, who supported Measure J. "It's an absurd threshold that's been imposed on us."

Villaraigosa has said that after he leaves office in June, he will continue his campaign to complete 30 years' worth of transit projects in a decade. Villaraigosa has tried various as-yet unsuccessful strategies to fund his so-called "30/10" program — including Measure J, partnering with the Chinese government and advocating fiercely in Washington.

The mayor recently told The Times he was working with state legislators on a proposal to reduce the approval threshold for transportation projects to 55% — an idea that has faced stiff resistance in the past. He said he would continue to pursue the local sales tax extension.

"I intend to bring it back on the ballot whether or not I'm mayor," Villaraigosa said. "It's critical."
MoveLA, a pro-transit group that supported the tax extension, also is promoting a lower approval threshold.

Since Measure J's defeat, eight bills have been introduced in the state Legislature to reduce the passage threshold, said Denny Zane, executive director of the group.

Some apply to parcel taxes for schools and community colleges, and others would affect special taxes to fund libraries, according to a MoveLA analysis. "But five of the eight would reduce the threshold for 'special taxes' for transportation projects," the group's website notes.

But at least one influential group that fought Measure J — the county's Bus Riders Union — also opposes lowering the approval threshold for transit taxes.

Both candidates vying to replace Villaraigosa — City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel — supported Measure J and say they also plan to continue pursuing Villaraigosa's stepped-up transit construction strategy if elected in May.

The incoming mayor will face a powerful minority of political leaders who have been critical of recent transit tax measures, including Republican Supervisors Don Knabe and Michael D. Antonovich, who sit on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board.

Antonovich opposed Measure J and its 2008 predecessor, Measure R, which increased county sales taxes by half a cent. During one tirade on the issue, Antonovich infamously compared Villaraigosa's campaign tactics on Measure R to "gang rape."

The Times analysis suggests that similar tax increases could face narrow swaths of steadfast voters that can hold considerable clout. Chuck Anderson, a Manhattan Beach accountant, said he has voted in every election for more than four decades.

"I vote no on every single thing dealing with taxes. I don't care what it is," said the 68-year-old registered Republican. "I work my tail off."

Kris Vosburgh, Los Angeles-based executive director of the statewide Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., said the two-thirds requirement is necessary so voters like Anderson are protected from politicians determined to fund pet projects.

"These people who want more of the public's money are always saying this. The whole idea behind the two-thirds vote is to give a little added protection to those who are going to have to pay the tax," Vosburgh said.

The Times analysis found that coastal city support for the proposed sales tax extension had eroded significantly from four years earlier when county voters approved Measure R by a two-thirds majority. That sales tax increase is helping to fund projects such as a Westside subway and a key rail connection under downtown L.A.

Measure R expires in 2039. The failed November proposal, Measure J, would have extended the added tax until at least 2069, allowing officials to borrow billions of dollars to speed up rail construction.

In Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Rolling Hills, the analysis found, support for Measure J dropped between 6 percentage points and 10 percentage points compared with Measure R. Several other areas on the edges of L.A. County showed drops of more than 10% in support for Measure J, including Malibu and Agua Dulce.

Overall, support for Measure J dropped by more than 6 percentage points compared with Measure R support in 34 L.A. County communities.

The lingering effects of the recession and low voter turnout were probable factors, some observers believe, but there were other issues at work. In Beverly Hills, support fell 16%. Metro critics there have been fighting a proposed subway alignment that calls for tunneling underneath the city high school. Construction would probably have accelerated if Measure J had passed.

A number of communities pivotal to the November vote, some represented by Knabe and Antonovich, have voter profiles that are more fiscally conservative than the county as a whole. For example, in the South Bay, 39% of registered voters in Manhattan Beach are Republican — nearly twice the countywide average. Thirty-six percent of Torrance voters are registered as Republican, as are about one-third in Redondo Beach.

"What was Measure J?" asked 46-year-old Redondo Beach investor Jay Markham, drying off next to his silver Audi after an afternoon surf. "Anything with a tax, I don't think I voted on it.

"I was pretty much thinking there's probably too much waste, or there's not enough oversight to see where that money actually goes," he said.

Several South Bay voters expressed similar sentiments, but one, attorney William Joseph Thesing, said he voted for the transit tax extension.

Parking along a popular stretch of restaurants and boutiques, the 50-year-old Lomita resident hopped out to grab lunch at an upscale Manhattan Beach cafe.

"I actually am in favor of things like that," he said, "that collectively help the community.

Support for Measures R and J

Measure J, a transit tax extension reportedly worth $90 billion, failed by less than 1% of the vote in November. The narrow defeat was driven, in part, by 34 neighborhoods where support dropped by more than six percentage points compared with 2008's successful Measure R, which increased the county sales tax by half a cent for 30 years for transportation projects. Now, some political leaders would like to see the two-thirds approval requirement for tax measures similar to Measure J lowered to 55%.
Measure R
Measure J

Measure J support, 2012
Nov. 6, 2012

More than 72%
Two-thirds to 72%
62% to two-thirds
Less than 62%
No data
Source: Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder

(See the website for an explanation of the map colors and also for a specific by area count by moving your mouse over the map. Pasadena's votes: 2008, 69.2%; 2012, 64.4%; change, -5 points. Easy to attribute the negative change to Metro's plans for a 710 tunnel.)