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, May 5, 2013

Pasadena moves into environmental study phase of 2014 General Plan

 City Council approves higher development caps, adding education to 2014 plan


By Lauren Gold, May 5, 2013


Steel workers work on a project on the northwest corner of Fair Oaks Avenue and Green Street in Old Pasadena Friday, May 3, 2013. The city is working on a 2014 general plan that that has caused controversy among residents and businesses in Old Pasadena because of the proposed development caps.

PASADENA -- The culture, character and physical landscape of the city for the next 20 years took shape this past week in the first concrete draft of the city's 2014 General Plan, after years of brainstorming and community input.

The updated plan, which the City Council sent to the environmental review phase last week, contains a new guiding principle that shows the city's focus on public education, maps the land use through Pasadena's eight districts, and poses caps on development that set the pace for new projects over the next 20 years.

The city's last general plan was passed in 1994, and city staff began working on the new plan in 2009. City Manager Michael Beck said the environmental process will likely take a year and then the final plan will come back to the council for approval.

One of the major issues that came up in the process was the city staff's proposed development caps limiting building in the city, specifically in Old Pasadena.

The Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Association and the Old Pasadena Management District, along with the Playhouse District and the Chamber of Commerce, argued that the levels suggested by city staff - a maximum of 3,750 residential housing units and 2.5 million commercial square feet - were not high enough to foster adequate economic development.

Jonathan Edwards, president of the DPNA, said the general plan's "guiding principles" call for a bustling, walkable downtown, but the development caps go against it.

"If the development levels are set too low then that's like standing on the brake, the vision isn't going to be achieved," Edwards said. "Sometimes there is a propensity to focus on preserving and protecting the neighborhoods and to apply those same fears of change and fears of taller buildings and fear of more people to the city center, where that kind of thing needs to be encouraged."

Based on public input, the council voted 7-1 Monday to study the environmental impacts of a cap of 4 million commercial square feet and 5,000 residential housing units. The council can decrease the caps in the final plan but decided to study the larger numbers to keep its options open, said Councilwoman Margaret McAustin.

But Councilman Terry Tornek, who voted against the change, said a lot of work and thought went into the staff's proposed caps.

"They weren't random numbers," Tornek said. "I think what we are striving for here is that kind of magical sweet spot on the development curve that gives us the kind of additional development we recognize contributes to the local economy and the walkability of downtown ... but without allowing so much development so fast that we lose the character of Pasadena that so many of us cherish."

Beck said the caps, which are different for each district in the city, were designed to moderate growth and can be reviewed and changed by the council annually. The cap for the central district in the 1994 plan was 5,095 residential units and 6.2 million square feet of commercial space.

Another of the most talked-about issues in the general plan was a proposal from staff to change the North Lake commercial district into higher density mixed-use zoning to attract more high quality businesses. Many residents sent letters and spoke at council meetings, voicing their concern that the mixed-use projects might be too tall and overshadow the single family homes.

"One issue that stuck out for me was the difficulty of these transitional areas between residential and commercial areas," McAustin said. "How do we address those so that there is viable commercial space but the neighbors have a buffer from that commercial space and they don't have people peering into their backyard."

Beck said the council voted not to increase the density, deferring to the parameters of the North Lake Specific Plan.

Paul Little, president and CEO of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks the new general plan is ultimately "OK" but lacks a substantial and realistic vision for the city's future in broader terms.

"I think the plan is more focused on the here's what's going to happen on the corner of California and Lake as opposed to what is going to happen with the city," said Little, who was a member of a special general plan commission created by the council. "I think more of an emphasis (should be) on what is the landscape going to be and how are we going to be an attractive city 20 years from now. Things will change significantly in 20 years and I don't think the plan anticipates some of that stuff."

One piece of the plan that does propose a strong vision for the city is the addition of eight "guiding principles" focused on promoting the city's public education, said Steve Cole, board president for Invest in PUSD Kids. Cole said his organization began pushing for an education component when the general plan process began and finally persuaded city staff and the council to add it.

Cole said the move has already had positive impacts on the relationship between the Pasadena Unified School District and the city.

"What we are hoping by getting this in there is it will get it into the consciousness of our city government of actually dealing with our public schools as well as all the other municipal aspects," Cole said. "We really see this as a huge turning point in the conversation. This is a very forward thinking idea to put this into the general plan."

Vince Bertoni, director of planning and community development, said now city staff will work with hired consulting group The Planning Center/DCE to conduct a public scoping process to determine the various alternatives that will be studied for the environmental impact report. Staff will also make changes to the general plan policies to make it more current and efficient.

Once the draft EIR is released in early 2014, there will be additional opportunities for public input before the council finalizes the plan in summer 2014.

For more information, visit http://www.ci.pasadena.ca.us/GeneralPlan.


Rail project makes sense for the region: Opinion


By Dave Arian, May 3, 2013

In March of this year, I and other Los Angeles Harbor commissioners certified the environmental impact report and approved the plans for the proposed Southern California Intermodal Gateway (SCIG) railyard project. This landmark project, whose $500 million cost would come entirely from a private investment by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), is a good project on both economic and environmental grounds.

Economically, it is critical to the competitiveness of both the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, and that is important because it would help ensure that the tens of thousands of jobs supported by the cargo industry remain in this region. Environmentally, this project reduces air pollutants associated with cargo handling by taking more than one million trucks per year off the region's freeways. It also represents another step forward in our efforts to convert cargo movement in the region to zero-emissions technologies.

As the Los Angeles City Council prepares to hear appeals to the EIR, it's important to understand that extraordinary environmental measures have been adopted to make certain this is the cleanest rail project in our nation's history. As a Harbor area resident and former longshore leader, I would not have voted for this project had I not been convinced that it would be just that. Our health is too important to settle for less, but I am troubled by misconceptions floating around the project.

Apparently overlooked by some critics, the Port has imposed conditions that would require the SCIG project to use zero-emission trucks for deliveries of containers to the facility as soon as they are technically and commercially feasible. We realize there are many challenges to putting zero-emissions technologies into real-world service. None of the systems we have identified is ready to take to the field yet but we are getting closer. We have already tested an electric truck which we think can make the required number of trips on a single battery charge.

Our proposed lease with BNSF for the SCIG facility makes it a condition of approval of the facility that BNSF commit millions of dollars of its own money toward testing and demonstration programs to develop this technology as soon as is technically possible. Once there are 10 to 20 zero-emission trucks in testing, we've required port staff to report back in public meetings of the Boards of Harbor Commissioners of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at two-year intervals, at which time we will evaluate the results of those tests and decide if enough testing has been completed to require that they be put into operation.

Once we make that determination, the proposed lease imposes a requirement that BNSF must implement new zero-emission technologies using an expeditious ramp-up schedule, also to be set by the Boards, so that they can be put into operation as soon as possible. Our goal is for all trucks making deliveries to the SCIG have zero emissions by 2020. Make no mistake, this condition specifically gives the Harbor Commissions of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach - not BNSF - the authority to determine that a particular technology is technically, operationally, and commercially feasible and therefore must be incorporated into SCIG's operation. Separately, the EIR further requires BNSF to implement other emission reduction technologies as they become technically, operationally, and commercially feasible.

In practice, this means that zero-emission trucks will likely be moving containers to and from SCIG at some point in the near future. Zero-emission trucks are by far the most promising of the various zero-emission technologies that have been proposed in recent years, and the Port of Los Angeles has been a leader in promoting their development and testing. We are committed to a methodical testing and evaluation process in order to ensure that the industry gets something that actually works.

In response to concerns about businesses that would be displaced from the SCIG site, the Harbor Commission takes the potential for job loss seriously. We and our staff are committed to minimizing disruptions to the vital services those businesses, many of which are long-time port tenants, provide. Our permit with the railroad provides a 12.5 million dollar contribution by the Port of Los Angeles to assist in work the railroad must do to ready the site.

What this means is that the Port of Los Angeles, after listening to the community and the technical experts, has made sure that the SCIG project includes not only all the environmental protections and community safeguards that we can reasonably impose now, but also commitments to new, even cleaner technologies as soon as they are shown to be feasible. I, for one, am proud of our role in bringing this project forward. I urge the City Council to approve this project. It will be approving a breakthrough in cleaning up railroad operations and the goods movement industry, preserving jobs and ensuring a brighter future for the Los Angeles region.

Dave Arian is vice president of the Los Angeles Harbor Commission and former International President of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union.

Teamsters persist in drive to unionize truckers at L.A. and Long Beach ports


By Brian Sumers, May 4, 2013 

Note by Peggy Drouet: How is the unionization of truckers at L.A. and Long Beach ports an important issue in regard to the 710 tunnel? According to the retired L.A. truck driver who I have talked to, if truckers work as employees of a trucking company, the company can require its drivers to use the 710 tunnel, regardless of how much the toll is. However,  independent truckers, who own or lease their trucks, make the decision as to whether to use the tunnel and pay its toll, which they might decide not to do as the toll will be money out of their own pockets.


 Trucks back up into a virtual parking lot on the westbound Gerald Desmond Bridge in this 2009 file photo due to a new toll system that some drivers had not yet signed up for and were then turned away from terminals until they got the proper card.

For decades, the docks at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have been organized labor strongholds, dominated by the powerful International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
But as dockworkers have negotiated lucrative contracts, other workers handling imports and exports have mostly been left out. That includes most of the truck drivers who haul goods to and from port terminals to rail yards, stores and warehouses, many of them in the Inland Empire.

But that may be changing. For six years, officials with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have been quietly laying the groundwork for an ambitious truck driver organizing campaign, one that could change the economics of the industrial supply chain.

Trucks wait during the lunch hour at the California United Terminal at the Port of Long Beach for the gates to open at 1 p.m. in this 2000 file photo. 

And recently, in part because the union agreed to its first contract with an employer in January, officials have become more open about their intentions.
"These are going to be nasty campaigns," said Fred Potter, a Teamsters vice president based in New Jersey. "Workers are going to be challenged, and we want to make sure they are up for the challenge. This is no different in many cases than preparing soldiers for war. "
Bravado aside, organizing drivers is a lot more complicated than simply persuading 51 percent of employees to side with the union.

Teamsters officials estimate as many as 90 percent of drivers are considered independent contractors - not company employees - and federal law makes it impossible for contractors to form a union. (A spokesman for the trucking industry called that estimate high, saying 70 to 80 percent of drivers are contractors.)

That means before the Teamsters can achieve success, they must persuade trucking firms to change how they conduct business. Trucking companies have balked at that, with many executives saying the independent contractor model - in which drivers own or lease their trucks - is more appropriate. Teamsters officials insist most of the contractor relationships are illegal.

The Teamsters have responded by pressuring state and federal regulators to audit port trucking firms. The law requires contractors to have considerable control over when and how they work, but Teamsters officials say most drivers are not "independent" at all and can only drive for one company. They say trucking companies are willfully misclassifying workers and should be prosecuted.

"It's pretty unprecedented what they're trying," said Victor Narro, project director for the UCLA Labor Center and an organized labor ally. "This industry has been so entrenched. It has a 30- or 40-year history of misclassification.

"It's a tough battle,

Truck driver Tony Melendez hooks up an empty container at California Cartage in Wilmington in this 2011 file photo.

but one thing I admire is unions that stay in these fights for such a long time. "

Alex Cherin, executive director of the Harbor Trucking Association, an industry group, said the government audits have been disruptive, especially to smaller trucking firms. He said both California and federal investigators tend to a use a "shotgun" approach in which they blindly investigate firms, many of which have done nothing wrong. (Neither the U.S. Department of Labor nor California Division of Labor Standards Enforcements will discuss ongoing audits.)

The Teamsters also have encouraged drivers to file administrative wage actions against companies, accusing them of not paying them proper legal wages. A state deputy labor commissioner has the power to issue rulings in the cases, though trucking firms can appeal findings to state court.

"The Teamsters have been aggressive and relentless," said Cherin, adding that the trucking association does not condone illegal business models. "It's typical Teamsters tactics. "

This was not the Teamsters' first approach for this campaign. In 2008, the union backed a Port of Los Angeles policy to require drivers accessing the port to be considered employees. A federal appeals court found that provision, tucked in an environmental regulation, to be unconstitutional and the port subsequently dropped it.

But the Teamsters have persevered. The union made a strategic decision last year to engage in an organizing campaign at Toll Group, an Australia-based logistics giant. The company was a strong target for two reasons: It already considered its drivers employees and it had a long, mostly cordial relationship with unions in Australia.

In January, the Toll drivers were awarded some of the best pay and benefits in the industry, union officials say. But, more importantly for the organizing campaign, the victory has shown other drivers that it is possible to create a union. This is particularly important for port truck drivers who are already classified as employees and could form a union with a simple vote.

"Drivers want to organize," Narro said. "Once you get in the door - once you get this first union - it creates a ripple effect. "

James Love, 47, who drives for non-union American Logistics International in Carson, said news of the contract - workers at Toll now earn about $6 an hour more than before and have heavily subsidized health insurance - traveled quickly throughout the trucking community.

"It went through the ports like wildfire," said Love, a union advocate. "You see what has happened with Toll and you realize it can happen anywhere. And right now, Toll is a better company for it. "
Potter, the union vice president, said he did not want to divulge too much of his strategy. But in a recent interview, he said the Teamsters employ eight full-time organizers for the port trucking campaign, and he said they plan to lead campaigns at more trucking firms soon. He also said the campaign has plans for two or three more organizers.

But other companies may fight back harder than Toll. According to union officials, many have already hired so-called persuaders - or professional consultants who speak to drivers about the perils of unions at captive audience meetings.

Cherin, who speaks for the roughly 70 licensed trucking firms, said companies are prepared for the onslaught. He said unions have been trying to organize drivers ever since Congress deregulated the industry in 1980.

"This is just the latest chapter," Cherin said. "At some point you need to ask yourself, 'Why are they having such a hard time organizing?' "

Cherin also said member businesses stand by the legality of their independent contractor models. And he said firms will fight to maintain their business models, though he declined to compare what is happening at the ports to war.

"I don't know if it's war," Cherin said. "It's a strong difference of opinion on who determines how a business should be run. "

Note by Peggy Drouet: How is the unionization of truckers at L.A. and Long Beach ports an important issue in regard to the 710 tunnel?
According to the retired L.A. truck driver who I have talked to, if truckers work as employees of a trucking company, the company can require its drivers to use the 710 tunnel, regardless of how much the toll is. However,  independent truckers, who own or lease their trucks, make the decision as to whether to use the tunnel and pay its toll, which they might decide not to do as the toll will be money out of their own pockets.


A Kim Jong Un Edition of the Tattler Sunday News


May 5, 2013

 A pouty Un demands his Tattler News
 (Mod: Unlike most Sundays recently, today's will have the Tattler Sunday News. Done at the personal request of Kim Jong Un, the youthful dictator of North Korea and a noted devotee of the Tattler Sunday News. This had come to our attention through posted spam comments here disguised as offers for the cheapest possible taxi cab service in Delhi, India. These noted that Mr. Un - or is that Mr. Jong? - had commented about the absence of our Sunday news service recently and had wondered if it would be coming back anytime soon. We are happy to let Mr. Un know that yes, it will be coming back, and today is the day. Consider it our offering to world peace and the hope that all of our difficulties can be solved through better communication and the hopes of a newer, spicier tomorrow.)

What Happened to the Carol Canterbury Show? (click here): I haven't been listening to the Sierra Madre's Village Vine Internet radio station as much as I did when it was known as Radio Fishbowl. With the possible exception of the Barry Rich & Lisa Show things there had become too filled with the kinds of radio yakety yak that just doesn't do much for me. One more Gene Goss interview with a Gold Line trolley engineer and I swear I might have lost it.

So it was with great puzzlement yesterday, after looking at The Vine's current line up of endless talk talent on their sparkly website, that I noticed the Carol Canterbury Show (also known as the Unicorn-Rainbow Power Hour) is now absent from the station's posted programming cycle. Can anyone share with me any news they might have regarding this surprising turn of events? Was it an acrimonious break-up? We all know what a pepper pot Carol can be. Any details on this matter would certainly be appreciated.

In Ethiopia, pro-democracy blogging is deemed a terrorist act (click here): A recent court ruling for an award-winning journalist shows the terrifying truth about online life in Ethiopia: If you use the Internet to write in favor of democracy, you could be imprisoned for terrorism.

Eskinder Nega, who founded four since-shuttered newspapers, continues to serve  an18-year prison sentence for blogging on a news site called Ethiomedia—the self-proclaimed "Ethiopian people's No. 1 pro-democracy website."

According to an Ethiopian court, Nega's articles—readily available online—"incited the public to bring the North African and Arab uprisings to Ethiopia." In 2012, the court sentenced him to prison. On Thursday, a court reaffirmed that sentence, along with its corresponding charges of participating in a terrorist organization and planning a terrorist act.

(Mod: No news yet if Mayor Walsh is considering similar legislation for Sierra Madre.)

Police to beef up presence at Pasadena High after anonymous threat (click here): Police will mount an increased presence at Pasadena High School on Thursday and Friday in response to an anonymous threat of violence on the campus in the form of a note, schools and public safety officials said. The note did not specify who might commit violence and the writer appeared to be reporting the threat as secondhand information — “someone saying ‘I heard this,’” said Pasadena Unified spokesman Adam Wolfson said.

A pre-recorded telephone and email message went out to parents Wednesday night stating that "an anonymous note informing [Pasadena High School] administration about a threat of violence was recently found on campus.”

Investigators have found "no information or evidence" to substantiate the threat, but police and schools officials “are giving special attention to the matter," Pasadena police Lt. John Dewar said. Dewar said the note mentioned “some kind of possible violence on Friday” and that school district officials contacted police on Tuesday.

The department will deploy extra officers to the campus, but “I don’t think there’s been anything to substantiate [the threat] at this point,” Dewar said. The police presence is the result of “an abundance of caution,” Wolfson said, adding that the school is expected to stay open the remainder of the week.

“In today’s climate, we take everything seriously,” he added.

(Mod: The yearly tuition at La Salle and Loyola just went up another grand.)

Rolling Stones Having Problems Moving $600 Tickets (click here): The Rolling Stones are having problems selling tickets. More specifically, the beloved band is having problems moving seats for their newest tour after prices inflated to $600 a pop, and with less than a day to go before the 50 And Counting tour officially kicks off, it’s entirely possible the guys will take the stage tonight to less faces than they’d hoped staring back at them.

According to Entertainmentwise, some brokers have as many as 500 tickets available for tonight’s show in Los Angeles. In an effort to sharply reduce inventory and not be stuck with huge losses, many of those brokers have reportedly started reducing their prices to try and get the general public to bite.

If nothing else, this fiasco is a great reminder that every single gig that has ever been played has a certain price point, whether it’s the Led Zeppelin reunion gig or Neutral Milk Hotel’s reunion tour. Consequently, bands need to measure their own popularity with the market conditions and the number of gigs they’re playing to figure out what price they can offer tickets and still generate enough demand to sell out, at least if money is their primary motivator. For some, it’s not.

The Rolling Stones are too popular to be playing to partially-full arenas, and they’re too rich to be trying to stupidly suck every last cent out of a tour that should comfortably generate all of them millions. Here’s to hoping the guys and the ticket brokers figure out a way to fill up all the seats.

(Mod: In case you are not aware, this show already happened. I was waiting for the price to come down to $10, but that didn't work out so I stayed home.)

California population growth remains low (click here): The California Department of Finance's demographic unit calculated that California gained fewer than 300,000 new residents in 2012 for a growth rate of 0.8 percent. Numerically, that's about half the annual growth California experienced during the 1980s, when high immigration and birth rates hit the state, and proportionately it's scarcely a third of the 1980s rate.

Working off 2010 census data, state demographers estimated the state's population at 37,966,000 on January 1, up 298,000 over the previous year. The state's still-struggling economy may have something to do with population trends, the report indicated. The San Francisco Bay Area, whose economy is booming, was the fastest growing region last year, with Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley, growing twice as fast as the state as a whole.

Population growth last year was lowest in rural counties, where unemployment rates are the highest, and several actually lost population - Alpine, Calaveras, Del Norte, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas and Tuolumne. Although regionally the Bay Area saw the highest rate of population growth, Santa Clarita, a suburban enclave north of Los Angeles, was the state's fastest growing city at 15.4 percent, followed by Dublin in Alameda County at 6.8 percent.

Despite scant population growth, however, California saw a resurgence of residential construction last year, with a 27 percent increase in new housing units from the previous year. The amount of residential construction in 2012, 45,309 units, was, however, just a fifth of what California was building during the height of the housing boom in the last decade.

(Mod: This doesn't seem to gibe with Karen Warner's informed opinions about population growth in California. You know, the ones that we paid $50,000 to obtain, and have used apparently faulty demographics to justify transit village condo glut development in Sierra Madre? Hmm, I wonder why that is.)

High-profile group emerges in support of Pasadena City College administration (click here): A high-profile group concerned about the future of Pasadena City College has emerged, expressing its "full confidence" in the board of trustees and criticizing the teachers union for its role in the turmoil pervasive on campus.

Called Citizens for A Better College, the group placed a full-page advertisement in Thursday's newspaper as an open letter to the PCC board of trustees, urging them to put students first and move past the "behavior of a noisy few."

The ad is signed by former PCC trustees Ann Hight and Warren Weber, Arcadia Councilman Peter Amundson, former Sierra Madre Councilman Bart Doyle, former San Marino Councilman Michael Johnson and former Pasadena City Manager Donald McIntyre, among others.

Much of the letter singled out the PCC Faculty Association as the source of dissent on campus because of its ongoing impasse in contract negotiations. Its "vote of full confidence" is a direct response to faculty and student no-confidence votes in President Mark Rocha earlier this year, and to the controversy surrounding a complaint against journalism professor Warren Swil.

"I don't hear half of the faculty coming to board meetings and being disrespectful, publicly maligning the character of the president," said Nat Read, a former Pasadena Chamber of Commerce board chair, who also signed the ad. "This is going against everything Pasadena instructors stand for. I've never known a PCC instructor who would show that kind of disrespect and that kind of maliciousness."

(Mod: Nat Read, in case you don't recall, is a pay-to-play public relations consultant who used to head a Metro funded phony front group designed to create some public consensus for building the odious 710 Tunnel. That he shows up here pimping a "civility defense" on behalf of the chuckleheads running PCC should raise some eyebrows. And then there is the presence of brother Bart Doyle, so who knows what's going on. Is there a PCC bond issue coming up?)

This concludes today's Tattler Sunday News.