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

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Pasadena, Rose Bowl sue fired general contractor over renovation work


By Ben Gazzar, May 17, 2013


 Renovations continue on the Rose Bowl Tuesday, February 22, 2011.

PASADENA -- The Rose Bowl Operating Co. and the city filed suit against a general contractor who had worked on the stadium renovation project, according to court documents.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Delmac Construction & Development, Inc. and Great American Insurance Co. It was filed last week in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Although Great American has paid $1.7 million in a partial settlement for Delmac's failure to meet contractual obligations, city and stadium officials say they believe more money is owed to them.

The goal "is to recoup some of the increased costs that the RBOC incurred as a result of the errors that Delmac made in some of the work they undertook" and delays caused by the contractor, City Manager Michael Beck said. "They were not performing as required under their contract."

Neither Delmac Construction nor Great American Insurance Co. could be reached for comment late Friday.

For its part, Delmac, which helped build the foundation for the Rose Bowl's new premium seating pavilion, filed a claim - a precursor to filing a lawsuit - against the city in January. Delmac stated in the claim that it was wrongfully terminated from the project, that its contract was breached and that the RBOC failed to make payment to Delmac for work performed. The two parties were formerly in talks to avoid litigation.

The city and RBOC's lawsuit alleges that Delmac, which was fired less than five months after starting work, failed to supply an adequate number of properly skilled workers and skilled supervisory personnel, failed to perform the work according to set milestones and had unreasonable delays.

As a result of these breaches, the stadium "has suffered and continues to suffer damages including, but not limited to, additional costs to complete the work, administrative and other costs, and other consequential damages in amounts to be proven at trial," according to the lawsuit.

The total Delmac contract was for between $3 million and $4 million, officials have said.

Councilman Victor Gordo, president of the RBOC, said the lawsuit has nothing to do with the bidding or estimating of the renovation. The determination to sue was made after an independent review of the Rose Bowl renovation was done by Heery International Inc.

"The Rose Bowl Board of directors takes seriously its responsibility as stewards of the stadium and stadium's resources, and the people of Pasadena have a right to the first-class Rose Bowl and a right to know we carefully guard Rose Bowl expenditures," Gordo said.

City officials cited in February the threat of potential litigation by a fired general contractor in their refusal to release certain documents related to Heery's review. The review found in part that deficiencies in the original project budget resulted in the renovation's estimated cost being undervalued by more than $40 million from the outset.

Assistant City Attorney Theresa E. Fuentes, who represents the Rose Bowl, formerly said the Heery documents deal with matters that can lead to litigation and are protected under attorney-client privilege and work-product protection.

Open government advocates, however, said they couldn't understand why officials couldn't first redact these documents and then release them.


Pasadena electric workers say system is aging, understaffed

Amid labor negotiations, PWP workers ask for more resources
By Lauren Gold, May 17, 2013
 The Glenarm Power Plant in Pasadena, including the Glenarm building, rear right, on Thursday, January 16, 2003. Pasadena Water and Power electrical workers have asked the City Council to allocate more resources to aging infrastructure.

PASADENA -- Electrical workers asked the City Council this week to allocate more resources to what they say is an understaffed department working on an aging and dangerous system.

Pasadena Water and Power workers represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18 union, accused the city of not hiring staff members to replace retirees, using contractors instead of training new employees and failing to replace old infrastructure.

"I've been bringing this up for three years, but Pasadena doesn't seem too concerned about it," said Gus Corona, a business representative for the union. "Everybody sees Pasadena as this jewel city, but you pull back the veneer and you have a utility infrastructure that is falling apart and they don't have the people to deal with it."

IBEW members filled the council chambers Monday, at the council's annual budget hearing, hoping to encourage the council to consider more funds for the department.

Brad Secreto, who has worked for PWP for 25 years, said he has been concerned for his safety because broken cables and aging wires in underground electric vaults pose a safety threat to workers.

"The other day I was going down into a vault and I wondered is this the day I'm going to die" Secreto said, adding that he knew the three workers who died in a vault explosion in Pasadena in 1990.
"When you see cables broken ... equipment from the '70s, it doesn't make you feel good. ... It is something that needs to be looked at."

PWP General Manager Phyllis Currie said the department has 145 positions, 24 of which are currently vacant. Ten of the vacant positions are represented by IBEW.

She said she thinks the union's issues have largely stemmed from contract negotiations, which began last month. In the negotiations, the department has proposed a new job classification that would expand training for each worker to be able to do more than one type of job. The new classification would only apply to new hires.

"We are trying to move more toward what some other utilities have in terms of broad classification," Currie said, adding that the department originally proposed the idea three years ago. "Right now we've got groups of employees who are more specialized and we think it is a more effective way of using our staff."

Corona said the proposal would mean creating a "jack of all trades and a master of none."

"In this type of work you have to be a master of what you do, because if you're not, you're going to wind up getting killed or killing somebody," Corona said, adding that the union is asking the city to invest in a specialized apprenticeship program for high school graduates.

If the city doesn't continue to employ highly trained specialists, he said, he thinks the 2011 windstorm and recent voltage issues in Hastings Ranch are only the beginning of the electricity problems that could plague the city.

But Currie said the department is "very stable" financially and has been working on a capital improvement plan since 2004. She said the department plans to spend about $60 million next year on system upgrades, including projects in Hastings Ranch and at the Glenarm Power Plant.

"You will never get to a point where you can stop focusing on the state of your system," Currie said. "We monitor safety. That's a foremost concern. If we know of unsafe conditions, we will deal with it immediately."

Currie said the windstorm issue was an extenuating circumstance because of fallen trees, and that the Hastings Ranch outages were largely due to unusual hot weather in May and will hopefully be prevented with the new upgrades there, which will be completed in a few weeks.

Councilman Victor Gordo stressed the importance of retaining the quality of the city-owned utility and asked City Manager Michael Beck on Monday to come back to the council with a report on the status of the department.

"There is no question that the city's financial situation as a result of the recession has caused some strain on the utility's ability to hire and staff," Gordo said. "I just want to ensure that we do our due diligence and ensure that complaints or concerns raised by employees are immediately addressed in order to make absolutely certain that our utility is properly staffed, continues to provide the services that the residents of Pasadena deserve and that employee safety is protected and not in any way compromised."

L.A.'s next mayor to have regional impact


By Andrew Edwards, May 18, 2013


 LA/Ontario International Airport had once been projected to serve 30 million passengers by 2030.

 Related: Union money looms big in L.A. mayor's race
  MTA Gold Line train approaches Lake Avenue station in Pasadena.

The next mayor of Los Angeles - City Councilman Eric Garcetti or City Controller Wendy Greuel - can be expected to have political influence well beyond their city's limits.

"Anything that happens in Los Angeles city is of interest to the region," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

Whoever ends up elected as mayor of Los Angeles immediately becomes one of the most visible public figures in the state, and a de facto spokesman for the surrounding region. Tuesday's mayoral election may also demonstrate how voters' opinions and demands are shifting in and around Los Angeles. Politicians seeking or holding office in other Southern California cities may adjust their platforms and governing strategies based on what they see happening in California's most populated city.

"The mayor of L.A. can be a huge leader on local issues," said Douglas Johnson, a fellow at The Rose Institute for State and Local Government.

"For example, Richard Riordan set the tone and was an example for much of the state."

Johnson credited Riordan, who was the city's mayor from 1993 to 2001, with placing an emphasis on charter reforms and attempting to improve Los Angeles' bureaucracy to make the city more responsive to  businesses.

The city's mayor also plays a key role in transportation policy - controlling three or four seats on the Metropolitan Transportation Agency's board of directors - and also has influence on issues such as goods movement from the ports through the Inland Empire as well as airports such as Los Angeles International and L.A./Ontario International.

Observers have credited outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, along with then Pasadena City Councilman Chris Holden, of leading the efforts to put Measure R on the ballot and including such projects as extending the Gold Line light rail system eastward through the San Gabriel Valley's foothill communities.

"Villaraigosa was really the key to it. It's a pretty major achievement," Sonenshein said.

Voters approved Measure R by a two-thirds majority, deciding to raise sales taxes in the midst of a recession in return for promised relief from traffic congestion.

Measure R is projected to raise about $40 billion over three decades. Besides the Gold Line, the MTA's project list calls for that money to be spent on road and highway improvements throughout
Los Angeles County as well as funding for bus lines and Metrolink.

The Gold Line presently runs from East Los Angeles to Pasadena, and construction to extend the line to Azusa is scheduled to be completed by 2015. An additional phase of construction through Montclair may begin the following year, with completion by 2019 at the earliest.

Gold Line officials in March allocated about $810 million for the Azusa to Montclair portion of the rail line, but the project will probably require twice that amount to be completed.
Montclair Councilman Bill Ruh said extending the Gold Line is critical for his city and other foothill communities, but also lamented that transportation officials have not chosen to fully fund the rail extension.
A Hyundai container ship docked at Pier 400 in the Port of Los Angeles.

"I think it (Villaraigosa's legacy) would be very mixed," Ruh said. "Yes, he was very instrumental at getting some funding for the Gold Line, but they're also looking at some of the money going to a subway to the sea, which could be better spent on the Gold Line."

The MTA's project list includes more than $4 billion to build a subway line to stops in Century City and Westwood.

Los Angeles' next mayor may also play a more decisive role than Villaraigosa in settling the long-simmering conflict over who controls L.A./Ontario International Airport.

Under Villaraigosa's tenure, airport policy and the controversy over who should control ONT has been largely left to city bureaucrats, said Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at University of La Verne.

Godwin expects that either Garcetti or Greuel would take a more active role in airport policy given her sense that both candidates are building their campaigns, in part, on promises of a more efficient city government. Godwin was not ready to predict, however, how either candidate may spend newfound political capital on the airport issue. The city's next mayor may choose to seek improvements within Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that manages Los Angeles International Airport and ONT, or may move toward the local control option favored by politicians and business leaders in Ontario and other Inland Empire cities.

"I don't have a good sense of which direction it's going to go, but I do think it's going to get more attention," Godwin said. "Either one is going to want to get away from the lawsuits and litigation, which is where we're at."

Garcetti has said he may end up supporting local control, whereas Gruel has not opined on the airport controversy while her city and Ontario are in negotiations.

 Ontario has threatened to sue over the airport issue, having filed a claim that could lead to formal litigation. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has adopted a motion supporting local control of ONT, but Los Angeles administrative officer Miguel Santana has warned Ontario's shift toward a legal battle could delay any airport accord between the two cities.

The Port of Los Angeles is another vital aspect of Southern California's infrastructure in which the mayor and city of Los Angeles can affect and have conflicts with those in other cities.

The city of Long Beach is suing Los Angeles over the latter city's approval of BNSF Railway's plans for a 153-acre rail yard near Wilmington and Long Beach communities. Long Beach officials had asked Los Angeles to delay their approval due to potential environmental problems in West Long Beach.

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

In addition to policies in which the mayor would shape by his or her own direct decisions, the election may signal shifts in the region's political climate, Godwin said.

For example, Greuel is perceived as being friendlier to public employee unions than Garcetti, Godwin said. Many cash-strapped cities in Greater Los Angeles and the Inland Empire have struggled with the costs of retirement plans of police, firefighters and other city workers and whoever wins in Los Angeles may inform other local politicians as to whether voters want their civic leaders to support city workers or take a tougher line on employee benefits.

"Even though Los Angeles has its own public pension system, they can set the tone," Godwin said. "If she's (Gruel) not elected, others may see that as a signal to more pension reform than might have been otherwise."

Great Musical Couple at the gas pumps!

Fires Prompt Air Quality Advisory
May 17, 2013
 Due to the Grand Fire burning near Frazier Park and Lebec in Kern County, air quality is expected to be unhealthy for the Santa Clarita Valley and portions of the San Gabriel Valley through the weekend. According to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), smoke is adversely impacting the air quality for the Santa Clarita Valley and portions of the San Gabriel Valley. The Los Angeles County Health Officer, Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, recommends that all individuals take precautions when outdoors in areas where there may be visible smoke or an odor of smoke.
“In all areas of visible smoke or where there is an odor of smoke, all individuals are urged to be cautious and to avoid unnecessary outdoor activities. We are also advising schools that are in session in smoke-impacted areas to suspend outside physical activities in these areas, including physical education and after-school sports, until conditions improve,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and County Health Officer.

Non-school related sports organizations, such as Little Leagues, for children and adults are advised to cancel outdoor practices in areas where there is visible smoke, soot, or ash, or where there is an odor of smoke. This also applies to other recreational outdoor activity, such as hikes or picnics, in these areas.

Throughout Los Angeles County, sensitive individuals, such as those with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory disease, should follow these recommendations and stay indoors as much as possible even in areas where smoke, soot, or ash cannot be seen or there is no odor of smoke.

“It is difficult to tell where ash or soot from a wildfire will go, or how winds will affect the level of dust particles in the air, so we ask all individuals to be aware of their immediate environment and how it might affect their health,” said Dr. Fielding.

People can participate in indoor sports or other strenuous activity in areas with visible smoke, soot, or ash, provided the indoor location has air conditioning that does not draw air from the outside and it has closed windows and doors to protect the cleanliness of indoor air. If not, it is recommended that all individuals follow these guidelines as if they were outside.

The following recommendations will help you protect yourself and your family from harmful effects of bad air quality:

- If you see or smell smoke, or see a lot of particles and ash in the air, avoid unnecessary outdoor activity to limit your exposure to harmful air. This is especially important for those with heart or lung disease (including asthma), the elderly and children.

- If outdoor air is bad, try to keep indoor air as clean as possible by keeping windows and doors closed. Air conditioners that re-circulate air within the home can help filter out harmful particles.

- Avoid using air conditioning units that only draw in air from the outside or that do not have a re-circulating option. Residents should check the filters on their air conditioners and replace them regularly. Indoor air filtration devices with HEPA filters can further reduce the level of particles that circulate indoors.

- If it is too hot during the day to keep the doors or windows closed and you do not have an air conditioning unit that re-circulates indoor air, consider going to an air conditioned public place, such as a library or shopping center, to stay cool and to protect yourself from harmful air.

- Do not use fireplaces (either wood burning or gas), candles, and vacuums. Use damp cloths to clean dusty indoor surfaces. Do not smoke.

- If you have symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to smoke exposure, including severe coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, contact your doctor immediately or go to an urgent care center.

- When smoke is heavy for a prolonged period of time, fine particles can build up indoors even though you may not be able to see them. Wearing a mask may prevent exposures to large particles. However, most masks do not prevent exposure to fine particles and toxic gases, which may be more dangerous to your health.

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: @LAPublicHealth.
Earthquake: 3.3 quake strikes near Rancho Palos Verdes


By Ken Schwencke, May 18, 2013

 A map shows the approximate location of the epicenter of Saturday morning's quake near Rancho Palos Verdes.

A shallow magnitude 3.3 earthquake was reported Saturday morning 12 miles from Rancho Palos Verdes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 2:41 a.m. PDT.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was 13 miles from San Pedro, 16 miles from Lomita and 16 miles from Palos Verdes Estates.

In the past 10 days, there have been two earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

How Did Chris Holden Became State Assembly Majority Whip? (Hint: It's Green) 


May 18, 2013

 Of course I've got my hand out

 You'd think that a legislator would need to have at least a couple of years in the California State Assembly before getting a senior post like State Assembly Majority Whip. As the sixth ranking Democratic Party position of power in our de facto one party State Assembly in Sacramento, and someone who works directly with the Speaker of the Assembly in helping to create and enact important legislation on behalf of the people of California, it is a position that most would assume could only come to someone with years of experience and seniority.

And yet Chris Holden, freshman Assemblyman from our very own 41st Assembly District, achieved the senior position of State Assembly Majority Whip only a few short weeks after being elected to the office for the very first time. Along with some other rather plum assignments. Here is how the happy news is celebrated in a press release on Chris's very own official State Assembly website (link):

Holden Named to Key Assembly Committees

Created on Thursday, 03 January 2013 16:11
Sacramento – Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) was today appointed by Assembly Speaker John Perez to several key committees. Holden, who serves as Majority Whip, will also serve on the Appropriations Committee, Business, Professions and Consumer Protection, Labor and Employment Committee and Transportation Committee.

"I am pleased and honored to participate in these important committee assignments to improve the lives of all Californians," said Assemblymember Holden. "Many of these committees are areas in which I have some experience from my years working in the Pasadena City Council, the Burbank Airport Authority, and with Metro Gold Line. I look forward to putting that experience to work dealing with the challenges facing our district and our state."

Assemblymember Holden represents the 41st Assembly District which includes the communities of Altadena, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, and Upland.

CONTACT: Wendy Gordon, (626) 720-3409

So how did he manage to do all that? The press release doesn't say. But according to the Center for Investigative Reporting (link), Freshman Assemblyman Chris Holden apparently paid Speaker John Perez $191,000 in targeted campaign donations for his prestigious and influential positions. It would seem that this is how they get it done in our vastly corrupt State Legislature.

In an article titled "California speaker gives Assembly's juiciest jobs to biggest fundraisers," here is how the Center for Investigative Reporting describes the "process:"

In May 2012 and again in June, Speaker John A. Pérez wrote memos to Democrats in the California Assembly. He wanted millions in campaign cash to win a handful of key races.

At stake, Pérez wrote, was their party’s control of the Assembly – and, as it turned out, the perks and power enjoyed by the lawmakers themselves.

“It is critical that we band together to maximize our financial resources,” the burly Los Angeles legislative leader wrote in the memos, copies of which were obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting.

The lawmakers gave Pérez what he wanted, state campaign finance records show.

Exploiting loopholes in a law enacted to stanch the flow of big money in state politics, the Assembly Democrats pumped $5.8 million into the campaigns Pérez designated, a CIR data analysis shows. The infusion of cash helped the Democrats win a supermajority in the Capitol: two-thirds control of the Legislature for the first time since 1883.

The system also paid off for the speaker’s biggest fundraisers in the Assembly.

According to the data, Pérez gave lawmakers who raised the most money the best assignments in the new Legislature – posts on the speaker’s leadership team and seats on the powerful “juice committees.”

These are seven of the Assembly’s 30 standing policy committees. They control bills affecting the financial bottom line for the Capitol’s wealthiest interest groups: from banks, insurance companies and public utilities to casinos, racetracks and liquor distributors. For lawmakers who serve on them, the committees are a source of political campaign “juice”: abundant donations.

Pérez’s spokesman John Vigna said the speaker makes legislative assignments based on merits, not money.

“There is absolutely no connection, zero connection, between Speaker Pérez’s leadership selections and any political considerations, including fundraising,” he said.

“Speaker Pérez chooses his leadership team based on their ability to serve the people of California” and nothing else, Vigna added.

CIR’s analysis of more than 38,000 contributions to Assembly Democrats in the 2011-12 campaign shows a link between donations to the speaker’s targeted races and a lawmaker’s prospects for important legislative assignments.

Among the findings:

The mega-donors to Pérez’s targets – three lawmakers who gave more than $250,000 – obtained positions of power. Each was named to either a leadership post or chairmanship of a juice committee, along with a seat on at least one juice committee. The top donor, Toni Atkins of San Diego, was named Assembly majority floor leader – next to the speaker, the top leadership post.

Lawmakers who gave more than $150,000 were likely to get multiple important posts. All 18 got one juice committee seat, and 16 got a leadership post, chairmanship of a juice committee or a seat on a second juice committee.

Lawmakers who gave less got less. Donors who contributed less than $150,000 stood a 13 percent chance of heading a juice committee or joining the leadership. No lawmaker who gave less than $40,000 was named chairman of a juice committee.

So does Chris Holden, paid up power player in our State Assembly, give preferential treatment to those interests who fronted him the dough he needed to buy influence in Sacramento? Let me put it this way. Chances are you are not someone who gave Chris a substantial check. Have you received any phone calls from your State Assemblyman lately?

And if you had given our brand new State Assembly Majority Whip a substantial check in the last year or so, do you think that maybe you would be able to get him on the phone if there was something you needed? Of course you could. Without your money Chris'd be just be another rank and file guy with nothing to sell. He owes you.

So who helped Chris Holden buy his positions of influence in Sacramento? Thanks to Follow the Money.org, that information is only one click away (link). Just to whet your appetite, Chris has received over $1,000,000 in campaign donations from influence hungry organizations. It really is quite a list.

And who is Chris's #1 campaign donator? The California Association of Realtors.

Go figure.