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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

$500 million SCIG rail yard approved for Port of Los Angeles, setting stage for lawsuits

 City Council approves BNSF project, rejecting appeals for a delay


By Rick Orlov, May 8, 2013

Setting the stage for a legal battle between two of the nation's busiest ports, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved plans for a $500 million railyard project near Wilmington and Long Beach neighborhoods.

In a series of votes following a more than three-hour hearing, the Los Angeles City Council rejected appeals from the city of Long Beach and others to delay approval of an environmental impact review as well as the 50-year lease for the 153-acre site planned on Port of Los Angeles property in an industrial area near the Terminal Island Freeway.

"We have worked together on a number of major projects," Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster said before a packed crowd of more than 500. "Regrettably, this proposal is different from our recent successes and, frankly, these communities deserve better. "

Foster complained that the Southern California International Gateway project, near several schools and other facilities, has the potential to increase pollution and displace more than 1,200 jobs. Many of the job losses could happen if businesses near the project are forced to close and do not reopen.

"It is hard to believe this council values the quality of life in your city as opposed to the kids in my city," Foster said. "This project might be in your city, but the real impacts are in the city of Long Beach. "

Long Beach officials say they're particularly concerned about adverse environmental affects on west Long Beach. There's considerable criticism of the project in nearby Wilmington as well, despite the fact the project is officially supported by Los Angeles city leaders. An advocacy group, East Yard 
Communities for Environmental Justice, recently staged a protest at the home of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Foster asked that the contract be delayed so further negotiations can take place.

However, Port of Los Angeles officials said the SCIG project with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. is the most environmentally enhanced project of its type in the nation and will serve to benefit both ports.

Port of L.A. Executive Director Geraldine Knatz said Los Angeles is working to have on-dock rail facilities but that there will be a need for an off-port facility to handle all the cargo.

Knatz said the new project will reduce truck traffic on freeways and includes proposals to require transitioning to the latest technology in terms of low- or zero-emission trucks and locomotives.

In addition, the agreement has a reopener clause for every five years to discuss the technology that is available, Knatz said.

But Barry Wallerstein, director of the Southern California Air Quality Management District, came out against the project, saying his agency questioned the number of trucks that will pass close to homes, bringing potential increases in nitrous oxide emissions. He also isn't sure about the port's commitment to use more modern equipment.

"We ask that you send this back to develop an acceptable project," Wallerstein said.

An attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council also challenged the project, and vowed a lawsuit over potential violations of the state Environmental Quality Act.

Los Angeles Harbor officials said they stood behind their reports and estimates, as well as their commitment to bring in environmentally friendly technology.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, the city's representative on the AQMD, also asked for a month's delay in the project to try to work out the areas of disagreement.

"I support the project and its goals, but I want to make sure we have mitigations in place," Perry said. "I think we can strengthen the language and reduce the impacts with a better time line. "

Also, Councilman Bernard Parks said he was concerned about the number of jobs that could be displaced, and the health impact in neighboring communities.

"I don't know how we can convince the 30,000 or 40,0000 kids in this area that they will be safer," Parks said.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents the Harbor Area, urged approval of the project.

"With a $500 million investment, this is a good project from both an environmental and economic point of view," Buscaino said. "This will be the cleanest rail yard ever built in this country and will mean a reduction in air pollution through better cargo handling and eliminating 1 million truck trips a year on the freeway. "

In a statement, South Bay Rep. Janice Hahn said she supports the rail project but noted she was disappointed the City council was not more willing to work with Long Beach leaders.

"We need the jobs, efficiency and environmental benefits provided by the SCIG now, not years of litigation later," Hahn said. "We know a lawsuit will only force us to do what we already know is fair. We must ensure that all neighboring communities receive reasonable protections.

"I hope that the City Council's approval does not lessen the chances of all sides coming together in the hopes of avoiding litigation. "

L.A. council approves controversial rail yard for port complex

Action sets stage for possible court challenges alleging environmental and civil rights violations. Backers say the project would bolster efficiency and create jobs.


By Dan Weikel, May 8, 2013

 Container trucks
 New container trucks move along South Harbor Scenic Drive to and from the Pacific Container Terminal at the Port of Long Beach. The L.A. City Council has approved construction of a $500-million rail yard near the harbor complex.

The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a controversial rail yard serving the harbor, setting the stage for possible court challenges alleging violations of environmental and civil rights laws.

The proposal to build a center for trains hauling freight from the largest port complex in the nation has raised questions about environmental justice, particularly for minority and low-income neighborhoods in west Long Beach, which would bear the brunt of the effects.

Council members voted 11 to 2 to approve the Southern California International Gateway and certify its environmental analysis, saying that the $500-million project would bolster efficiency in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, create jobs and improve air quality in surrounding communities.

"We are at a beginning point to make things better," Councilman Ed Reyes said. "If we don't move, two, three, four years from now, we could lose our competitive edge."

Council members noted improvements at other West Coast harbors and the current widening of the Panama Canal, which could allow the largest container ships from Asia to bypass the West Coast and deliver goods to ports on the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

Council members Jan Perry and Bernard C. Parks voted no. They said stronger agreements are needed to ensure that environmental effects are adequately reduced in nearby neighborhoods, which include schools, parks, homes, day-care centers and housing for homeless veterans.

"It doesn't look like we've done our best to deal with these issues," Parks said. "I don't see how we can assure 35,000 to 40,000 residents that they will be safer. There are still fundamental issues that need to be resolved."

Approved by the city's harbor commission in March, the planned freight yard would be built by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. in Wilmington next to California 103, between Sepulveda Boulevard and California 1 and east of Alameda Street. The 153-acre project would be capable of handling up to 2.8 million 20-foot shipping containers a year by 2035 and 8,200 trucks a day.
The project is widely supported by chambers of commerce, labor unions, regional planning organizations, local elected officials and civic organizations.

Railroad and harbor officials say the facility will be the "greenest" of its type in the nation and employ low-emission diesel trucks, cranes, yard hostlers and locomotives. More than 1 million truck trips a year, they say, would be eliminated on the Long Beach Freeway, reducing harmful emissions, while other measures, such as sound walls and a landscaped berm, would cut noise and light pollution.

"The residents will be pleasantly surprised when they see how it operates," Roger Nober, an executive vice president at Burlington Northern, told council members.

Before the vote, David Pettit, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, threatened to sue over possible violations of state civil rights laws and the California Environmental Quality Act. The law requires thorough environmental reviews of projects and all feasible mitigation measures for adverse impacts.

Pettit said after the hearing that the National Resources Defense Council and other environmental groups also are considering filing an administrative claim with the U.S. Department of Transportation, alleging violations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Opponents contend that the project will erode the quality of life in neighborhoods that have already been seriously degraded by port operations. Research shows that area residents, particularly children, now have abnormally high rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, including lung cancer.

They cite the project's environmental impact report, which acknowledges that some low-income communities could be harmed.

Barry Wallerstein, the executive officer of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, disputed the project's environmental analysis and its conclusions that air quality would be improved in surrounding neighborhoods. He told the council that nitrogen dioxide from some truck and auto engines would double and exceed federal standards.

Wallerstein, who noted that he was the first AQMD official to appear before a government agency to oppose a specific project, said more measures to reduce air pollution were necessary. His views were supported by a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health representative.

Christopher Cannon, the port's director of environmental management, said the analysis showed a reduction in nitrogen dioxide if the project were to be built. Though the report indicated that the pollutant would slightly exceed federal standards, Cannon said he doubted whether nitrogen dioxide emissions would ever violate the limit.

 New container trucks move along South Harbor Scenic Drive to and from the Pacific Container Terminal at the Port of Long Beach. The L.A. City Council has approved construction of a $500-million rail yard near the harbor complex.

Cancer researchers looking for participants in Baldwin Park, Rowland Heights, Long Beach


By Steve Scauzillo, May 7, 2013

What causes cancer?

The residents of Baldwin Park, as well as several other Southland communities, may actually help scientists provide an answer to that age-old question.

The American Cancer Society will recruit study subjects from the working-class San Gabriel Valley community listed by the California Environmental Protection Agency as one of the Top 10 ZIP codes in the state most heavily burdened by pollution.

Baldwin Park was chosen, not because of the Cal/EPA study released in late April, but because researchers need a more diverse sample of local residents to study, said Katherine V. Row, American Cancer Society spokesperson.

"It is a great coincidence," said Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Marlen Garcia, who has led other health-related initiatives in the city such as phasing out smoking in apartment buildings. "I think we are very fortunate to have been selected. "

Garcia is urging more environmental studies examining the air in homes and schools near the 10 and 605 freeways, the dust from mining operations mostly in neighboring Irwindale, and the possible effects of polluted ground water on public health. With more Baldwin Park residents participating, the American Cancer Society study can bring much-needed attention to the city's environmental issues, she said.

In order to identify the latest factors that may cause cancer, the American Cancer Society is enrolling 300,000 diverse men and women in its Cancer Prevention Study-3 or CPS-3. Of those, about 34,000 will be drawn from California, Row said. The ACS is making a concerted effort to attract Latino men and has enlisted the city's help. It will recruit from the Relay For Life event on May 18 at Baldwin Park High School.

At the end of February, the Rowland Unified School District Office held a CPS-3 Kickoff in the School Board Room. The ACS also will be signing up Southlanders today from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Long Beach Department of Health Services, 3820 Cherry Ave., and at 600 Wilshire Blvd, Suite No. 1520, in downtown Los Angeles from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. On Thursday, recruiters will be at the City of Hope, Cooper Auditorium, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte from 1 to 3:30 p.m., Row said.

"We really need men and persons of color," said Row, who signed up herself. As a middle-aged woman, she said she represents the majority of participants so far. "We want the results to be applicable to every group in the United States," she said.

Study participants must be between 30 and 65 years old and have never been diagnosed with cancer. They fill out a pre-enrollment survey, give their waist measurement and a small blood sample. At home, participants fill out an hour-long survey that asks questions about genetic predispositions to cancer, environmental factors and diet, Row said. They are required to fill out follow-up surveys every two years for 20-30 years. Participants are identified by number, not name, and information is confidential, she said.

"CPS-3 holds the best hope of identifying new and emerging cancer risks, and we can only do this if members of the community get involved," said Ralph Galvan, a director of the Baldwin Park study.

CPS-3 builds upon two landmark ACS longitudinal studies that began in the 1950s and involved more than a million participants. The first, known as the Hammond-Horn Study, helped scientists confirm the link between cigarette smoking and lung cancer, Row said. This study rocked the advertising world which once included testimonials such as: "9 of 10 doctors who recommend Lucky Strikes," she said.

The second study helped establish the link between obesity and increased rates of death and cancer, as well as the link between air pollution and lung cancer.

Long-term health studies of people, an epidemiological approach, are considered the most trustworthy. These studies look at real people in real living conditions and require a tremendous level of participation from the public. The researchers are on a final push for participants for this study. Although the time frame is several decades, Row said scientists will release findings much sooner. "If there is an obvious finding, that will be shared," she said.

Some, such as 14-year Baldwin Park resident Bert Saavedra, who said she is older than 65 and is not qualified to participate, fear the results may be too little, too late.

"I think it is a good faith effort on behalf of the Cancer Society ... but it will take too long to tell us what already is going to happen," Saavedra said.


Airport inks marketing deal with Rose Bowl, UCLA sports


By Daniel Siegal, May 8, 2013

Bob Hope Airport is aiming for a financial touchdown with a new marketing agreement with UCLA Athletics and the Rose Bowl that will tap into the university’s millions of sports fans.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority on Monday unanimously approved spending $327,000 over the next three years on a contract that will position Bob Hope as the official airport of the Rose Bowl.

That designation includes signage at the stadium, a special logo, promotion on the video board during UCLA football games and inclusion in all print publications, such as the Rose Bowl Stadium Guide.

The agreement, which goes into effect May 15, includes three ticket giveaways to be promoted on social media and radio that will have the contest winners flying into or out of the Burbank airport.

The giveaways will feature the Rose Bowl New Year’s Day football game, a UCLA football game at the University of Oregon and the PAC-12 men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas.

The agreement is through marketing firm IMG College, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., which represents 76 universities nationwide.

The airport decided to partner with IMG College as a result of suggestions from officials at the Oakland International Airport, which entered into a similar agreement with IMG last year to be affiliated with the University of California, Berkeley for five years.

Damon Dukakis, of IMG Sports, told the Airport Authority that his company calculated there are 2.3 million UCLA sports fans in Southern California — and 1.3 million of them flew out of an airport in the L.A. Basin, which includes Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Airport, during the past 12 months.

However, only 19% of them used Bob Hope Airport.

In order for the promotion to cover its costs, the airport would have to attract from 5,000 to 10,000 new passengers annually, based on an estimated $10 to $20 earned per customer, according to Dan Feger, the airport’s executive director.

The projections vary because some customers may opt for valet parking and a meal at an airport concession while others may be dropped off at the curb, having eaten elsewhere.

Dukakis said the promotion would let the airport not only target UCLA sports fans, but encourage more business from UCLA in general.

“This is truly creating a partnership, and we envision a partnership to be much more than just what’s written on a piece of paper,” he said. “We think there are many opportunities to move above and beyond the assets we’ve presented here.”

Dukakis said the partnership would also provide an opportunity to try and convince UCLA Athletics to move chartered and commercial flights it books from LAX to Bob Hope.


Sixth Street Bridge Replacement Bringing Upgrades All Around


By Adrian Glick Kudler, May 8, 2013



Last week the city presented the latest on the Sixth Street Viaduct project, which will replace the ailing 1932 bridge with a swoopy, "iconic" design by HNTB, and add public park and plaza spaces, as well as pedestrian and bike paths. The design process is just kicking off, so the first big plans are for upgrades at 20 nearby intersections (work will start in spring 2014). According to the Downtown News, "The targeted intersections will be in the Arts District and in Boyle Heights, along Fourth, Sixth, Seventh and Alameda streets, Whittier Boulevard and Central Avenue" (check out the map above for specifics). The team is also starting to think about public art, and seem to be leaning in the "bright lights" direction. Demo on the bridge is slated to start in fall 2014 and the new bridge is supposed to be finished at the end of 2018. The full presentation from last week's meetings is here.

(More photos on the webpage.)

US Transportation Infrastructure Crisis to Be Examined at APTA Rail Workshop


May 8, 2013


FTA Administrator Rogoff keynotes Mineta Transportation Institute event June 1 
in Philadelphia 
SAN JOSE, Calif., May 8, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave a "D" grade to U.S. road and transit infrastructure.* Why is our nation now falling behind in world rankings? This issue will be examined during an opening day workshop at the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Rail Conference in Philadelphia. The June 1 afternoon workshop -- "Transportation Finance: Catching Up with the Rest of the World" -- will feature a keynote by Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff. The workshop is co-sponsored by the Congressionally-created Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), a transportation research center affiliated with San Jose State University.

(Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20100318/MTILOGO )

Former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will introduce Administrator Rogoff. The workshop will examine America's current position in the transportation world, along with ways to strengthen it. An expert panel will address the acceptability of various transportation financing options; funding successes; public-private partnerships; equity in transportation; and transportation legislative strategies. MTI also will present results from the latest national poll on transportation funding, along with trends from the last four years.

"Our failing transportation infrastructure has become a serious crisis for a nation that once led the world with its innovation and strength," said Rod Diridon, executive director of MTI. "The expert panel at this workshop will address that issue -- especially the possible ways to finance the improvements that can put the US in a leadership position again."

The discussions will be moderated by Steve Heminger, executive director of the San Francisco Bay area Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Expert panelists will include Asha Agrawal, PhD, director of MTI's National Transportation Finance Center; Julie A. Cunningham, president and CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO); Mortimer Downey, former US Deputy Secretary of Transportation, first vice chair of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, chairman of PB Consult, and president of Mort Downey Consulting LLC; Michael P. Melaniphy, president and CEO of APTA; and Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), invited.

Dr. Agrawal also will present results of the 2013 national public survey on acceptability of various transportation funding options. This is the fourth in a series of annual telephone surveys to gauge public attitudes about taxes and fees. The report from last year can be downloaded at no cost from http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1128.html

* ASCE gave a D+ grade to U.S. infrastructure overall, which includes wastewater, ports, public parks, hazardous waste, and other areas. The highest grade went to solid waste, which earned only a B-. Inland waterways and levees earned the lowest grades, at D-.


MTI conducts research, education, and information transfer programs focusing on surface transportation policy and management issues, especially related to transit. MTI was established by Congress in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act and won national re-designation competitions in 2002, 2006 and 2011. The Institute is funded by Congress through the US DOT Research and Innovative Technology Administration, by the California Legislature through Caltrans, and public and private grants. In 2006 the US Department of Homeland Security selected MTI as a National Transportation Security Center of Excellence. The internationally respected members of the MTI Board of Trustees represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI is affiliated with San Jose (CA) State University's College of Business. Visit transweb.sjsu.edu

Contact: Donna Maurillo
MTI Communications Director
831-234-4009 (mobile)
donna.maurillo (at) sjsu.edu
SOURCE Mineta Transportation Institute
/Web site: http://www.transweb.sjsu.edu

Killing CEQA for the Downtown Investors Club


May 9, 2013

 It's a not quite so brave new world
 It is truly astonishing just how far Sacramento is willing to go to help promote the kinds of DSP-style development being pushed for right here in Sierra Madre. And all over the state of California for that matter. After all, if there is something that does distinguish the cabal of downtown killers in our little town, it certainly isn't originality. What they have been pushing here for years can be found almost everywhere else. Though obviously that has never concerned them all that much.

CEQA, the environmental law that has long been the friend of ecologically concerned preservationists and slow growth advocates, is now in the process of being significantly weakened by the usual venal Sacramento legislative idiots, and for a very specific purpose. To help promote the kinds of mixed used high density transit village style development that has been pushed here for years by the likes of Bart Doyle, John Buchanan and the handful of delusional suckers who thought they were going to get rich on their downtown investments back around 2006.

The "green cult of the condo," the SB 375 promoted science fiction notion that the state can somehow massively build its way out of global warming, is now ironically being used to help take down CEQA, the most effective ecological protection legislation California has ever known. All done so that one of the last truly effective tools for those remaining small cities resisting such garbage development within their borders can be taken away and destroyed.

In an article written by three attorneys from the law firm of Latham and Watkins (professional home to none other than Mayor Pro Tem* John Harabedian), here is the dirty lowdown:

Potential changes for the California Environmental Quality Act in S.B. 731(link): Many interest groups have urged that the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) needs to be “modernized”, but disagree as to the changes that are needed. As the California Legislature tackles this challenge, the most visible effort is Senate Bill 731 (S.B. 731) now sponsored by California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. As a bill sponsored by the President pro Tem there is a reasonable likelihood this legislation will pass, whether in this form or in an amended version, so its provisions are of particular interest.

S.B. 731, which faces its first legislative hearing on Wednesday May 1, 2013, was amended last week.

Rather than broad-based CEQA reform, the bill focuses more narrowly on changing the CEQA process for infill and clean energy projects and makes modest changes in a number of areas. While the bill is intended to benefit infill projects that implement “smart growth” attributes, the extent to which the legislation might result in benefits or burdens to such projects will depend upon new significance thresholds that the bill proposes to be developed by the Resources Agency. The bill also contains a number of new procedural requirements that could lengthen and complicate the CEQA process for all types of projects. Opinions of observers are quite divided as to whether the bill on an overall basis provides greater benefits than burdens to project applicants.

S.B. 731 contains the following proposed changes:

Aesthetic impacts for “residential, mixed-use residential, or employment center projects within a transit priority area” would not be considered significant impacts under CEQA. (“Transit priority area” is defined by S.B. 731 as an area within one-half mile of an existing or planned major transit stop.) The language is vague about whether this would apply to all residential and mixed-use residential projects, or only those in a transit priority area.

The ironies really do pile up on this one. California's best environmental law is now being gutted so the false promise that we can somehow, through the development of massive gouts of condo sprawl, build our way out of global warming can go forward unchallenged. All done so that certain concerned interest groups can make some money at the expense of communities such as ours. Trust me, the Green Committee probably loves it.

How far has this madness gone? Check out this little piece of Orwellian magic from a related article in the Fresno Bee (link):

Another resolution affirmed the party's support for the California Environmental Quality Act. Critics of the law have launched a renewed push to rewrite that law, saying aspects are delaying development and economic growth. While their main Democratic ally, former state Sen. Michael Rubio, left the Legislature suddenly this spring, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is continuing to work on legislation that would make some changes to the law.

California Labor Federation Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski listed CEQA one example of how labor will "take the victories we had in November into victories with bills and laws in California."

"The labor movement is strongly behind working with you to ensure that we protect (CEQA) to protect our families and the environment in our great state."

You see, in the minds of those who stand to profit by it, protecting CEQA can only be achieved by destroying CEQA. And if you don't agree its probably because you hate the planet.

It's all being done to help save the world, you know. Isn't that how you sell such things in California? Tell people that actions done in your own economic self-interest are really to help save the world?

Measure A: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Measure A, the ballot initiative concocted by the PUSD Redistricting Task Force for the purpose of bringing a greater diversity to our Board of Education, has been pretty much a failure. Outside of depriving us of a Board of Education vote until two years later than most of the district, few of its known goals have been achieved.

But as with bad medication, there have been some deleterious side effects. One of them being a gridlocked PUSD Board of Ed that cannot even decide who to elect as its new president. This from the Pasadena Star News (link):

Pasadena school board fails to name president; Hampton sworn in - Deadlock in Pasadena leaves Renatta Cooper in change until seventh member appointed: Tyron Hampton became a member of the Pasadena school board Monday evening, and he could end up its president. Down to six members until a seventh person is appointed next month, the new board failed to agree on who should serve as their leader, splitting the votes between Scott Phelps and Elizabeth Pomeroy.

That left previous president Renatta Cooper in charge on an unofficial basis, and Hampton secured the vice presidency after Cooper switched her vote to end another deadlock. Cooper had backed Hampton in the election. Phelps, however, warned that without an elected president, the Los Angeles County Board of Education could step in and name someone, possibly turning to Hampton as second in command. "There are other ramifications like not being able to conduct business," Phelps said. "That could be the consequence."

The board adjourned Monday with plans to seek legal advice on how to proceed, though Cooper hoped it could wait long enough to resolve the deadlock on their own. "I have a feeling we'll have our seventh board member by the time the county gets around to making a judgment," she said.

The only official role of the county Office of Education is to call for an election when there's a vacancy, a spokeswoman said, The Pasadena school board might also wind up in a stalemate on the appointment. Cooper, Pomeroy and Tom Selinske represent one faction, while Phelps has backing from Hampton and Kim Kenne.

Here is my question. If the Board of Education is split right down the middle, and couldn't agree on who should be its next president, how will they be able to decide who to appoint to that now vacant at-large seat? Anybody know?

If anyone sees Renatta Cooper around, can you please ask her that?