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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Sure, We May Bail On You Without Warning … but That’s Because We’re Too Damned Busy Supporting You.


By Joe Matthews, May 31, 2013

 CONNECTING CALIFORNIA - As a rule, Californians shouldn’t have too many East Coast friends, and we should never listen too closely to the ones we do have. East Coasters know little about California but fancy they know a lot. In their eyes, we are sun-bathing, Kardashian-marrying airheads. Above all—and this slur has been popular for almost 50 years—we are flakes. 

We all know this is nonsense. Most of us have only dated a Kardashian. But strictly between you and me and the other 38 million of us, let’s admit that, when it comes to claims about flakiness, it’s true we don’t always show up on time—if at all. Just because we RSVP’d for the event or bought a ticket to the game doesn’t mean we’ll actually attend. Heck, I tried to skip writing this column. Since I’m a Californian writing about California, wouldn’t it be fitting?

Well, no. It’s true that in our personal lives, Californians can tend toward the unreliable. But in our work lives, we have never been flakes. If we’re social flakes, we have a good excuse: It’s because we’re working too damn hard.

While the federal government doesn’t break out productivity by state, academics have found California to be among the top places in the country in worker productivity, right up there with New York. If you want to find flakes in the workplace, try Alaska or Louisiana—or the big slacker, Texas. (No wonder Texans find so much time to criticize our business climate).

In many ways, Californians do for the country what Kobe Bryant does for the Lakers: We carry Team America.

Our state attracts more venture capital than the rest of the country combined. We lead in agriculture revenues, high-wage services, fastest-growing companies, patents and inventions (more than 20,000 a year), job creation (at least recently), initial public offerings, and (by any measure you want to use) in innovation. We’re paying more in taxes, and getting back less, than virtually every other state. If you’re reading this in another state, odds are we’re subsidizing your flakiness.

We’re also not the sort of folks who run off. A big majority of those us who were raised here end up settling here; the loyalty percentages are highest for our younger, more diverse generations.

Life here is more of a struggle, and, far from flaking out on it, we participate in it. We have to work harder than almost anyone else to afford a home. We spend a lot of extra time getting to work. We endure long, slow commutes on buses and trains. The Bay Area is second among the 50 largest American metro areas in use of public transit. LA, you might be surprised to learn, is ninth.

Californians flaky? No. Except in one respect: we too often neglect ourselves and our neighbors.

According to the most recent California Civic Health Index, the percentage of Californians who
reported having worked with neighbors to fix a problem is below the national average. We also pay less attention to politics, consume less news, and discuss current affairs with friends and family less than other Americans.

We ranked 39th among states in the percentage of residents who do volunteer work for public service organizations. Our rotten state governance system has also diminished our commitment to education. (Even so, virtually every other state is less generous—which is to say, flakier—when it comes to helping the poor.)

So how can we do better?

One simple way: to flake more.

I’m lucky to have a great job, but I have endless responsibilities (this column is just one of them), a boss who calls a lot of meetings, and a commute that can take two hours each way. I leave early, get home late, work seven days a week, travel the state, and spend what little remaining time I have with my wife and two small children. I don’t know my neighbors.

So here’s what I suggest: Let’s spend less time on work and more on our communities. Let’s stop making up for the laziness of Americans elsewhere and start making life better for ourselves. Let’s rediscover our inner flake.

In that spirit, maybe I will blow off next week’s column.

How Garcetti Sold Out Even Before He Was Sworn In


By Ron Kaye, May 29, 2013 

It took Antonio Villaraigosa all of six weeks after taking the oath of office in 2005 to destroy all hope for his time as mayor by approving raises of up to 6 percent a year for five years for the overpaid and underworked DWP employees.

With just over a month to go before he takes the oath of office as mayor, Eric Garcetti already has shown his true colors by approving of the merger of the Planning and Building and Safety departments under the unqualified Michael LoGrande.

Although absent for the unanimous vote, Garcetti issued a statement:

“Making it easier to open a business in L.A. is key to our economic recovery, and I’m hopeful consolidation can result in significant savings of time and money. I want to send a clear message that customer service — red tape — will be the priority at City Hall.”

What else would expect from someone who declared the day after winning election that the recession is over and the city’s problems solved.

Read where the slave to the rich and powerful Planning Director LoGrande explained three weeks ago in the Planning Report how he will destroy the quality of life for millions with this new power.
Read how the stooge carrying this piece of devious dealing, Mitch Englander, gutted all safeguards and standards today from his motion.

Read the Council file and see how little time and effort went into adopting a revolutionary change that allows every project to be put up for sale to fund political corruption.
Read how their evil intent is couched in this mission statement as assuring the preservation of the quality of life in the neighborhoods when it is the exact opposite:
The mission of the Department of City Planning and Development is to create, implement and enforce policies, programs and codes that realize a vision of Los Angeles as a collection of healthy and sustainable communities and neighborhoods. The Department strives to ensure that each community and neighborhood has a distinct sense of place, based on a foundation of mobility, economic vitality, and improved quality of life for all of its residents.
Not that it matters much or that the 2,000 members of the moribund Neighborhood  Council system or the thousands of others involved in myopic homeowner and resident groups are going to do anything about this but you might note that the PLUM Committee only wants officials to hold “meetings with various industry organizations (DIAC, CCA, AIA, BIA, BOMA, VICA), Plan Check Neighborhood Council, and Chambers of Commerce.”

You could stop this but you won’t any more than Wendy Greuel would conduct audits for “waste, fraud and abuse” or Garcetti will denounce how the Planning Commission without hesitation  two days after the election approved a 96-unit condominium project in Winnetka in the Valley for felonious developer Chuck Francoeur.

You might remember Greuel made a big deal about Garcetti taking money from a felon and a few days later looked ridiculous when it was exposed she took money from Francoeur and supported his development deals.

She compounded her own political folly by calling for rules requiring developers to reveal their
criminal backgrounds when seeking taxpayer money for their projects — whatever good that would do.

Nah, fahgettaboudit, the sun is shining and happy days are here again. I just couldn’t help myself, couldn’t stop from pointing out the game is over before it began.
LADOT approves NELA bike lanes after lengthy contentious battle. But don’t declare victory just yet.


By Ted Rogers, May 31, 2013

Update: City Planner Claire Bowen sends word that the determination sent out yesterday was merely a procedural matter, and should not be read as a final decision in the matter. The city is still accepting input and no decision has been made.
So much for that.

The announcement, when it broke yesterday, came without warning, potentially declaring an end to one of the most contentious battles on the streets of L.A.

Since late last year, both supporters and opponents of planned bike lanes in Northeast L.A. have phoned, written and emailed their elected leaders, lobbied local businesses and attended a seemingly endless stream of often angry meetings on the subject.

Yet both sides were surprised when LADOT General Manager Jaime de la Vega unexpectedly made an official determination that the lanes would be built.

The decision includes plans to install 5.1 miles of bike lanes, combining both standard and buffered
bike lanes, on North Figueroa Street from San Fernando Road to Colorado Blvd in accordance to the 2010 Bicycle Plan. However, due to construction associated with replacing the Riverside Drive Bridge over the Los Angeles River, the initial section will end at Avenue 22, rather than San Fernando; whether or not the second phase will be completed likely will depend on additional outreach efforts in Council District 14.

In addition, the plan call for a three-mile combination of buffered and standard bike lanes on Colorado Blvd between the Glendale and Pasadena city limits. Again, however, a portion will be delayed pending repair sections of the concrete roadway east of Figueroa.
Imagine that — actually fixing a street before installing bike lanes.

Opposition to the plans to remove traffic lanes on North Figueroa and Colorado Blvd has been small but determined, apparently lead by Boulevard Sentinel publisher Tom Topping and Galcos owner John Nese, who claims to support bike lanes in theory, but not at the expense of traffic lanes.
And not always accurately.

The Sentinel claimed to have collected 565 votes in opposition to the lane removal on its website, with only three votes in support. However, the survey was criticized as a classic push poll, in which the question is formed in such as way as to lead to the desired response. And even that number paled in comparison to the more than 1400 signatures gathered by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition in favor of the bike lanes.

The opposition criticized those signatures, and many of the people who came to meetings to speak in favor of the bike lanes, as coming from outsiders who did not live or work in the area, suggesting they should not have a voice in the matter. Even though no one would suggest that the many drivers who pass through NELA on their way to and from other areas should have no say in the matter.

Other efforts focused on garnering opposition from local business people, some of whom responded by posting signs opposing the lanes in their storefront windows. But rather than respond negatively, supporters, including a group lead by Flying Pigeon LA bike shop owner Josef Bray-Ali, rode through the area to visit — and spend money at — some of those businesses run.

The importance of those positive efforts to support the bike lanes, lead primarily by Bray-Ali, the
LACBC and the groups Figueroa for All and Take Back the Boulevard, cannot be overstated.
According to Alek Bartrosouf, LACBC Policy and Campaigns Manager,
These bike lanes wouldn’t have happened without overwhelming community support from local groups like Take Back the Boulevard and neighborhood councils. LACBC’s Neighborhood Bike Ambassadors showed up at each and every community meeting — and there were many — to show their support. Local voices make all the difference.
Meanwhile, the LACBC’s Eric Bruins, Planning and Policy Director for the coalition, shared credit with the council members who represent the area.
With this determination, Northeast LA will be the first neighborhood to get a truly robust bike lane network since the 2010 Bicycle Plan, making it easy to do daily errands by bike.  Councilmembers Reyes and Huizar deserve a lot of credit for seeing the Los Angeles of the future and actively promoting it within their districts.
Not everyone is happy with the process, though. Or trusts that this seemingly final decision actually is.

Responding to an email requesting comment, Flying Pigeon’s Bray-Ali complains about L.A.’s obtuse planning process, which resulted in what he described as propaganda war with a “local newspaper owner who has pulled out all the stops short of physical violence and death threats” over the proposed bike lanes.
The way this city makes transportation decisions is broken. It is an information-free zone, which isn’t a surprise given how blindly those at the top fly as they deign to manage our city…
The community in NELA continually surprises and energizes me and I wish I could say

that all the hard work so many have put in to get the project to this point was worth it — but I really can’t. I had no idea that this letter was coming despite speaking with the principal staff working on the project at least once a month (at public hearings) since February. I still don’t know if this means the lanes will be installed this year. Is there money set aside? What about this meeting on June 3rd?

There is no way in hell I am declaring victory and heading back to my mechanics bench. Not until the disgusting “NO BIKES” signs Tom Topping and his anti-bike fans have spread around the community are torn down and certainly not until I am riding in a quality bike lane on North Figueroa Street.
That’s a comment many others have made over the past 24 hours.

The promise of traffic calming and bike lanes on two of the city’s iconic streets is great. But as the determination states (see below), it does not become official for another two weeks. And there are still opportunities for opponents to gum up the works before any rubber hits those buffered lanes.
In fact, as Bray-Ali touched on, a previously scheduled meeting with CD 14 Councilmember Jose Huizar will be held on Monday, June 3, 2013, at the Eagle Rock Center for the Arts to allow LADOT to present the adjusted designs based on input from the community.

While Huizar has long been supportive of bicycling and complete streets in his district and around the city, supporters of the NELA bike lanes should make a point to attend the meeting. Because the opponents certainly will, especially after this announcement.

The battle may be won.

But until we actually see paint on the street, the war is far from over.
Colorado Blvd. Bike and Traffic Improvement Plan
7 p.m., Monday, June 3, 2013
Eagle Rock Center for the Arts
2225 Colorado Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90041

Make Music Pasadena and Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia make for full weekend downtown

Free music festival and bike race offer endless entertainment options this weekend

By Lauren Gold, May 31, 2013

The crowd watches Matt & Kim perform on the Main Stage of the Make Music Pasadena Saturday evening, June 19, 2010.

PASADENA - Downtown Pasadena will transform itself into one giant party this weekend. Two major events, Make Music Pasadena and the Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia, will grace downtown streets on Saturday and Sunday.

Mayor Bill Bogaard said the busy weekend events are great for the city, and have become community traditions.

"I think that these events add significantly to the excitement and enjoyment of being part of Pasadena," Bogaard said. "I'm really thrilled to see Giro d'Italia come a second year, ... and Make Music Pasadena has ... taken on such a significance here with the number of participating bands and the number of people who come out to have fun."

The sixth annual Make Music Pasadena, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, offers more than 150 concerts at 40 different venues throughout downtown. More than 100 bands from all music styles will play at major stages, including one at the Levitt Pavilion, Vroman's Bookstore, Paseo Colorado, City Hall and the Playhouse District, as well as many local restaurants and even aboard the city's ARTS buses, which will offer free transportation throughout the festival.

Twin Palms restaurant will host a special "sneak peek" grand opening under its new ownership in conjunction with the festival Saturday, offering musical performances, appetizers and drinks from 12-10 p.m.

"This year we have more bands than ever, more venues than ever," said event director Kershona Mayo. "It's a day to celebrate music in all its forms and people take to the streets and listen to music all day long."

The festival is inspired by the French music festival Fete De La Musique, which began in Paris in 1982 and has since expanded all over the world. Mayo said Pasadena was the first to bring the festival to the West Coast. Mayo said organizers expect more than 30,000 people to attend.

This year, Make Music will feature more than 100 different musical artists, including many well-known performers like We Are Scientists, Young Blood Hawke, Robert DeLong and Las Cafeteras, along with local artists like Dustbowl Revival and Salt Pearl and international groups from France, Brazil and Mexico.

"You have bands you are going to hear on KROQ, bands you are going to hear on KCRW and also bands that you are going to discover that you've never heard of before — literally every genre of music," said Eric Lilavois, record producer and owner of Pasadena-based Crown City Studios. "It's not as mainstream, it's much more cultural with a touch of what you're familiar with — and it's not $400 and in the middle of the desert."

For a preview of some of Saturday's bands, visit Crown City Studios' YouTube channel.
In addition to the concerts, the event offers food vendors and local shops with booths along Colorado Boulevard, as well as some food trucks.

The event is free to the public, although for the first time this year event planners are asking attendees to contribute a $5 donation to help with costs. Donations must be made online at makemusicpasadena.org. The website also offers a full schedule of Saturday's performances and other event information.

On Sunday, the city will be full to the brim once again — this time on two wheels — with more than 1,000 cyclists coming in from all over the globe to participate
Courtney Bird, 24, of Highland Park dances at the 2012 Make Music Pasadena event in Pasadena, June 16, 2012.

in the second annual Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia bike ride.

The bicycle event will kick off its two-day bike expo, offering merchandise, food and wine, as well as three concerts of its own at 1, 2 and 4 p.m. to tie in with Make Music Pasadena.

The ride begins at 7 a.m. Sunday in front of City Hall, with three different route options — 25, 69 or 94 miles — for various biking abilities. Spokesman Matteo Gerevini said organizers moved the event back to June from last year's July date and changed the route to avoid mountain areas so as to avoid the heat that caused many of last year's riders to require medical attention.

The ride will conclude with an Italian-style party at City Hall, featuring a fresh Italian meal cooked by Season 5 "Top Chef" contestant Alex Eusebio.

Ultimately Gerevini said the event aims to bring a taste of Italy to the streets of Pasadena.

"It's one of the biggest bicycle events in the world," he said. "The idea was to bring around the world the Italian spirit."

For more information, visit gfgiro.com.

For Make Music Pasadena, Colorado Boulevard between Fair Oaks Avenue and Arroyo Parkway and Raymond Avenue between Union Avenue and Green Street will be closed from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Madison Avenue between Colorado Boulevard and Green Street will be closed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. On Sunday, no streets will be closed for the ride, but cyclists will be escorted by police throughout the course.

Residents fear cancer, asthma risks from Metrolink train emissions


 By Dan Weikel, May 30, 2013Metrolink emissions

Rail passengers arrive at the Angels Stadium Metrolink station in Anaheim.

A local congressman on Thursday called on Metrolink to assess the health risks of air pollution on neighborhoods surrounding the commuter railroad's central maintenance yard north of downtown Los Angeles.

At a press conference, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) made the request on behalf of residents and community groups that have long been concerned about diesel exhaust coming from the commuter system's locomotives when they are serviced.

Diesel emissions have been linked to cancer, asthma and other respiratory illnesses, especially in neighborhoods near major transportation corridors that are heavily traveled by trains and trucks.

"We need to give the communities the answers they deserve," said Schiff, who has been requesting a study for about a year. "A health risk assessment needs to be done now. I call on Metrolink for what I hope will be the final time."

Located next to the Los Angeles River north of the 110 Freeway, Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility is surrounded by the neighborhoods of Elysian Valley and Cypress Park. Eight schools with almost 3,900 students are in the area.

Schiff, community activists and Los Angeles City Councilman-elect Mitch O'Farrell spoke in a residential area at the foot of Gatewood Street across from the Metrolink yard where there was a steady drone of locomotives.

"My 6-year-old daughter needs to breathe safely and so do the other 3,846 school children," said Blaire Lennane, president of Partners of Dorris Place Elementary.

Metrolink officials said they have been working on the issue with the South Coast Air Quality Management District, Schiff, local elected officials and the community.

Railroad spokesman Jeff Lustgarten said Metrolink is trying to run locomotives on electric power in the yard and is in the process of buying 20 low-emission engines to begin replacing its 55 locomotives.

Lustgarten said the railroad and local air quality regulators are planning an assessment of emissions at the maintenance yard -- work that could lead to a health risk study.

Southern California transportation interests ask Congress to improve freight network


By Andrew Edwards, May 30, 2013


 Transportation interests asked a special congressional panel, comprised of members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, to support a new funding source to improve the movement of freight through Southern California and the rest of the United States.

SAN BERNARDINO -- Transportation interests asked a special congressional panel to support a new funding source to improve the movement of freight through Southern California and the rest of the United States.

The panel, comprised of members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, met Thursday at Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, the city's historic train station adjacent to the BNSF Railway yard, which is part of the network of rail lines and freeways linking Southern California's ports to destinations across the country. The panels' members are charged with recommending plans to improve freight movement from coast to coast.

sbs-l-freightThe day's discussions were fairly general, but boiled down to a handful
Janice Hahn (Kevork Djansezian)

of Southern California officials and executives from Union Pacific and Fox Transportation, a Rancho Cucamonga-based trucking firm, asking for Congress to create a special trust fund to pay for infrastructure improvements to rail lines and roads connecting ports with Inland Empire destinations. But beyond the relatively easy consensus that better infrastructure is a good thing lies the more difficult aspect of drafting a national freight policy — deciding who has to pay for it.
"I think there's a sense that we have to invest in our nation's infrastructure to create this seamless freight infrastructure," Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, said after the conclusion of the day's talks.

"Everyone was struggling wit: How do we fund this?

Hahn suggested U.S. Customs Revenue or Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund dollars as potential funding source. Another panelist, Jerrold Nadler, D. N.Y., emphasized that a proposal to raise federal gasoline taxes would meet heavy opposition.

The Southern California interests who spoke before the panel said it's not fair for the region's taxpayers to pay the full costs of improving freight networks when the rest of the nation benefits from the goods being
Hasan Ikhrata (SCAG)

shipped from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

"What everybody is asking for is for the federal government to recognize that goods movement is a national issue," Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of Southern California Associated Governments, said after the conclusion of the hearing.

"The rest of the nation is bearing the benefit, and you need to be bearing some of the costs," he added.

In his testimony to the congressional panel, Ikhrata said 40 percent of shipping containers that reach the United States arrives via the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

Southern California Associated Governments is a transportation planning agency for the region. The agency's 2012-35 transportation plan includes proposals for dedicated lanes for clean trucks along key goods movement routes, capacity increases at marine and intermodal terminals and improved road access to seaports and airports, according to Ikhrata's testimony.

Another issue facing the panel was the environmental issues associated with building new infrastructure and the day-to-day activities of the trucking, rail and shipping industries. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga, mentioned during the meeting that current environmental laws can often delay projects.

An audience member, who identified himself as Jesse Marquez of the Wilmington-based group called Coalition For a Safe Environment, shouted at the panelists that logistics firms would not have to worry about having projects delayed by litigation if they bothered to do proper environmental reviews in the first place.

"This was a farce because they did not address environmental justice issues," Marquez told reporters before being escorted out of the building by security.ask-congress-improve-freight#ixzz2UthUiNCF

Transit: LA Deserves Kudos … and Condemnations


By Ken Alpern, May 31, 2013


 TRANSPORTATION POLITICS - A few great things are happening in the City and County of Los Angeles with respect to transportation,
yet the City of LA is still risking the specter of throwing it all away and turning off a generation of pro-transit advocates because of their pro-overdevelopment and anti-mobility policies.

The compromise of Councilmembers Bernard Parks, Bill Rosendahl and Eric Garcetti to come up with a leading, precedent-setting $55 million motion of the City to come up with local Measure R funds to fully fund a Westchester station, and to partially fund a Leimert Park station, for the future Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, can't be praised enough. 
It was tough and visionary, and some will suggest that the money was too much or not enough, but it showed LA leadership at its best.

Metro came up with another $80 million, and the promise of financial reserves in case of cost overruns and change orders, for a fully-underground light rail station at Leimert Park that is truly located in Leimert Park.  There is little to no chance that there will ever be another $200-400 million for a Park Mesa tunnel to completely underground the line on Crenshaw Avenue because no Metro engineer or planner has ever supported that.

While Metro guidelines for underground grade separation don't allow for a Park Mesa tunnel they do, however, allow for underground tunneling of the line to either the Wilshire Subway in the north, or to LAX in the south, should the planning, consensus and funding be available to do just that--and if/when we do establish these necessary measures, we'll see a north-south light rail line from the South Bay to the Wilshire corridor with > 100,000 riders/day.

And the County is doing its part, having meetings and discussions in the San Gabriel Valley and the Southeast Cities to extend the MetroRail network to the eastern half of the county while the Expo Line, Wilshire Subway, Crenshaw/LAX and Downtown Connector teams work to extend it to the western half and Downtown.

Unfortunately, the City of Los Angeles does things that would never be done in other cities like West Hollywood, Culver City or Santa Monica.

In particular, while it's meritorious that the Expo Line is now being properly viewed as a transit corridor, and an opportunity to create Transit-Oriented Development, the efforts of the Planning Department to promote a policy for this corridor.  The LATPN appears to be more politically motivated than an exercise in proper Planning that respects impacts on local and regional environment, infrastructure, mobility and quality of life.

The most recent exercise in Planning behaving more like a Politburo than a proper and professional
civil service is  its politically-driven effort to promote a nebulous and likely toxic Casden Sepulveda development that would result in exposure of children and seniors to freeway fumes at a location currently (and appropriately) zoned for industrial use.

 Unfortunately, Mr. Casden and his team of developers are as adept at election contributions, money laundering and political payoffs as they are clueless about what the hell transit-oriented development is, and how it should be created.

With one favorable vote (Reyes) and one neutral vote (Englander) and one no-show (Huizar), the City Council PLUM Committee has sent the Casden Sepulveda joke-of-a-project to the full Council (currently scheduled for June 12th).

One favorable vote and it goes to the Council...nice.

This project, so huge and car-oriented and inappropriate for this transit-adjacent location, zipped through Planning and the CPC in a manner that will virtually kill Westside desire for road and rail improvements and expansions in Los Angeles.  It's corrupt, involves violating environmental, CEQA and Brown Act laws that should appall anyone, and (along with the Hollywood Millennium Project) is iconic of what is wrong with the way our City does business.

Outgoing City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and his deputies, Jane Usher and William Carter, have recommended this Casden/Sepulveda travesty go back to Planning, and transit-friendly incoming City Attorney Mike Feuer needs to follow suit.  

 It's illegal, stinks of a lack of transit planning, proper urban planning, and obeying the law with respect to Community Plans.

And the recent efforts by Downtown to combine Planning and Building/Safety (LINK:

Otherwise praiseworthy, but in the City of L.A. it's downright frightening, because the engineers and law-respecting Building/Safety professionals will be under the thumb of new uber-czar Michael LoGrande of Planning.

Every time the residents and Neighborhood Councils raise an issue to the new combined department about infrastructure overutilization, environmental impacts and sustainability it'll be the same response:  nothing to see here, move along, etc.

So kiss any future Measure J's or road repair bond measures good-bye if this goes through, unless of course you think you can do these measures without Westside and other regional support.  Other developers will follow Casden's lead (with all the electioneering/money laundering and influence he has done for many years) if this illegal travesty goes through, and Planning will turn the City into a Wild, Wild West of laissez faire development.

Leadership is tough, and it's hoped that Eric Garcetti will be much more credible, available, and
reasonable than his predecessor.  New commissioners and department heads will have to be in place that allow Neighborhood Councils and Downtown to work as a team, rather than at constant loggerheads.

But if the City of Los Angeles is to succeed in its quest to create a first-rate 21st Century metropolis, it has to know when to move forward with bold ideas...as well as when to throttle back dangerous (if not corrupt) practices than alienate and infuriate the electorate who has to pay for all this.

California high-speed rail faces delays as high-stakes trial begins Friday


 By Mike Rosenberg, May 31, 2013

SACRAMENTO -- High-speed rail officials acknowledged Thursday that they almost certainly won't break ground on the $69 billion project as planned in July after hitting some last-minute bumps in the road. And even more delays are possible as a court battle begins that could wipe out voters' approval of the bullet train.

On Friday morning, opponents from the Bay Area and Central Valley, led by the former chairman of the project, will begin arguing in Sacramento Superior Court that the train has run so far off-track that a judge should take the extraordinary step of hitting the brakes on construction plans. They want to invalidate the $10 billion bond measure voters approved in November 2008 because the project has since doubled in cost while ridership estimates have dwindled and ticket price projections have shot up.

What's more, Gov. Jerry Brown and other Democratic heavyweights are hurriedly lobbying an obscure federal agency to approve high-speed rail construction -- an unexpected obstacle that also threatens to slow the bullet train. And the state must soon finish navigating a delicate process to award the first lucrative construction bid and buy out several unhappy property owners along the route.

"We certainly know that there are challenges that we're facing, but we've been able to make significant progress," said Annie Parker, a spokeswoman for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, noting that the agency has in recent months swatted away other lawsuits and identified a preferred contractor to build the first segment near Madera.

The project is already a year behind schedule. But Parker said they hope bulldozers will reach the Central Valley by late summer.

Further delays, however, could jeopardize $3 billion in funding from the federal government, which has required that the first leg of construction be finished by September 2017. More delays could also push back the start of initial Merced-to-San Fernando Valley service targeted for the end of this decade.

Opponents say they don't see construction starting anytime soon.

"It's a fiction to say, 'Oh, maybe late summer.' They don't know," said former state Sen. Quentin Kopp of San Francisco, the rail authority's former longtime chairman who has turned against the project and is the star witness in the upcoming trial. "They're going to have a heck of a time with all these legal obstacles."

The most pressing matter right now is the trial beginning Friday that questions the legality of the voter-approved bond measure, Proposition 1A.

The rail authority argues that it is carrying out the will of the voters, starting with $1 billion to lay the groundwork upon which the first
Artist's conception of high-speed train in the Transbay Terminal (NC3D)
tracks will be laid.
But there are several provisions within the voter-approved bond act that opponents argue have not been met, such as securing enough money and environmental clearances before starting to build a project that currently has a $55 billion shortfall. Also in dispute are provisions of the bond act guaranteeing the train will run without a taxpayer subsidy and that it can speed between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes.

"We want to make sure that we as Californians don't end up with something we didn't ask for," said Kings County rail opponent Aaron Fukuda, one of two people joining the county in the suit.

Opponents fear the state won't be able to find the rest of the money needed to build the full rail line, leaving the first $6 billion, 130-mile stretch of track approved last year by Brown and the Legislature as an abandoned eyesore.

The rail authority declined to comment on the case, but it has managed for five years to repeatedly sidestep other lawsuits that have focused on the negative environmental impacts of the bullet train.

Still, the Bay Area attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the latest case note that this is the first time anyone has gone to court to challenge the 2008 bond measure.

"This is not the terminator, (but) if we win on Friday, it will certainly stall this project for a while," said Oakland-based attorney Stuart Flashman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

"I think our case is ... potentially a real blockbuster in terms of testing the validity of this project," said Redwood City-based co-counsel Mike Brady.

A ruling on the latest legal showdown is not expected until next week at the earliest. But even if the state wins, it faces more obstacles.

First among them is a bureaucratic review recently filed with the federal Surface Transportation Board, made up of three presidential appointees used to dealing with small freight projects.

The board must approve all new railroad projects in the country before construction can begin and can take months or even years to make rulings. But despite the bullet train's long-planned groundbreaking, California only filed for approval in March after being prompted by opponents led by House railroad committee Chairman Jeff Denham, R-Modesto.

While 13 Republican House members have lobbied against federal approval, Brown and U.S. Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein have quietly asked for an exemption from the federal agency's lengthy review process. And a ruling is expected within the next two weeks.

Parker, the rail authority's spokeswoman, said officials aren't sweating out the federal review. "I wouldn't say there is a high anxiety level," she said.

The rail authority next week is expected to begin negotiations with Sylmar-based Tutor Perini on the
first $985 million construction contract, which is expected to take several weeks. And the authority must buy up 345 parcels along the bullet train path before building -- and property owners that refuse will force the state into an eminent domain legal process that typically takes months.

"The status of this project," Fukuda said, "is that it's fighting to keep itself moving forward."

Lawsuit challenges LAX environmental modernization plan

Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion taking on LAWA
By Liset  Marquez, May 31, 2013

A series of lawsuits challenging an environmental plan to modernize Los Angeles International Airport were filed Thursday.

The lawsuits contend that Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that operates and manages the airport, fails to provide a thorough environmental review, ignores efforts to redistribute air traffic, and raises concerns about traffic, noise and air-quality effects from modernizing the airport.

The agencies and cities involved in the lawsuits are asking that a Superior Court judge delay the project until LAWA conducts an additional analysis, addressing the environmental impacts issues outlined in the legal filings.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $4.5 billion plan to improve LAX, which includes a controversial plan to move the runways by 260 feet to improve airfield safety, in late April.
Airport officials have said construction of the project is not expected to begin for another five years. Modernizing the nation's third busiest airport would include additional terminal space, car rental facility and transportation center connections.

On Thursday, the agency defended its environmental analysis.

"The process used to perform the necessary analysis required to assess environmental impacts, is extremely thorough and we trust that as it is reviewed it will hold up under scrutiny," said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports.

Ontario and San Bernardino County filed a joint lawsuit with Culver City and Inglewood, while the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion and the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West also filed separate suits.

The joint suit claims the project would result in an increase of air and cargo activity and significantly impact thousands of residents, schools and churches in the areas surrounding the airport.

"We support modernization of LAX but only in an environmentally responsible way that is consistent with LAX ground access limitations and the regionalization of air travel in Southern California," said Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner. "We believe the recently approved FEIR by the Los Angeles City Council will concentrate air service and vehicle traffic around LAX to the detriment of airport regionalization."

Denny Schneider, president of ARSAC, said the airport agency has been unwilling to work with the group to address its safety concerns on the project. The suits also contends that LAWA has underestimated project costs and are asking that another financial analysis be conducted.

Schneider said filing a lawsuit had always been as a last resort and that he would have preferred that the two sides could have come to an agreement.

The SEIU-USWW, which represents the contract employees at LAX, believes the modernization plan will raise issues not only for the surrounding residents but will impact the quality of life for the employees at the airport.

San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments votes for separation of Alameda Corridor East agency

Historic vote ends 14 year connection, ends bitter debate


By Steve Scauzillo, May 30, 2013

ROSEMEAD - The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments board of directors voted to give the Alameda Corridor East — an infrastructure agency that builds train overpasses — its freedom Thursday, setting in motion a separation agreement that will be final at the end of the year.

While the 31-member cities planning agency created the ACE 14 years ago as a way to muscle funds away from Los Angeles for grade separations at many major railroad crossings throughout the San Gabriel Valley, the SGVCOG made the historic decision to allow the ACE to become its own joint-powers authority after more than a year of wrangling and at times, bitter debate.

"Leadership for us would be letting it go free and claiming it as one of our successes," explained Claremont Councilman Sam Pedroza, who sits on the SGVCOG's transportation committee. "We need to support ACE but not as its parents. We need to let them go, to grow up and move out."

The board, by an 18-12 vote, rallied around Pedroza and other veteran SGVCOG members, such as Duarte Councilman John Fasana, who also sits on the powerful Metro board, and Industry Councilman Tim Spohn, a six-year COG member. The move to allow ACE to get out from under SGVCOG's oversight and fly solo is seen as a victory for the cities most affected by traffic at train crossings who have formed a new ACE. These cities: Pomona, Walnut, Industry, El Monte, San Gabriel, Montebello and Pico Rivera can better control future projects which will be built in the next 10 years.

Most of the representatives from these cities who sit on both boards said they appreciated the SGVCOG's work in forming the ACE but that the relationship was showing signs of strain. ACE's former Executive Officer, Rick Richmond, who retired May 17, made a final push for separation Thursday, saying the ACE could move projects quicker by having one less governmental hoop to jump through for approval of projects.

"I think the right decision was made," said a relieved Richmond after the vote.

Some argued that most of the 31 members of the SGVCOG are far from the train crossings that run through the belly of the San Gabriel Valley and are therefore making decisions about projects with which they are not familiar.

"For many of you, you are so removed from these project areas, it makes no sense to be involved in it," said Montebello Councilman Jack Hadjinian.

Bruce Lathrop, a councilman from Bradbury, said he worried that smaller cities would be liable should there be an accident during construction of one of the train overpasses. He said cutting off ACE would remove liability from the SGVCOG.

"Let all those liabilities go. I will cut them off. I don't want to be like Bell ... where perhaps we are not aware of what's going on, not that there is anything going on at ACE," he said.

El Monte Councilwoman Norma Macias, who chairs the ACE board, made the motion Thursday night. She said the separation of ACE from the COG will allow the agency and the seven cities to focus on the next projects. "It is as it should be," she said.

The board moved in opposition to a recommendation from new SGVCOG Executive Director Andrea Miller, namely to keep the ACE under the SGVCOG and to expand the SGVCOG's role by sharing staff and resources with the train underpass agency.

Miller's recommendation was supported by the SGVCOG's Executive Committee members, Barbara Messina of Alhambra, Mary Ann Lutz of Monrovia, and Joe Gonzales of South El Monte. These key board members voted against the separation of ACE.

At one point, Messina seemed stunned by the opposition to the SGVCOG's powerful members and asked Macias and Lathrop if they were supporting the staff recommendation. Miller quickly said no, they were opposed to it.

Some members, such as West Covina's Frederick Sykes, liked the way the ACE functioned under the SGVCOG and didn't want to rock the boat. He voted against separation. "I would have preferred COG hang on to it (ACE)," Sykes said during a break in the meeting.

Like others opposed to the separation, Sykes was concerned about a new, independent ACE
competing for transportation funds with the SGVCOG, a point Miller and the City Managers' Steering Committee made in its report to the governing board.

"I do believe there will be future fights for funds, especially now that money is so tight these days,"
Sykes said.

Macias dismissed the notion, saying ACE shops for federal funds for alleviating traffic from freight. Richmond was lobbying for funding at a meeting earlier in the day held by Rep. Gary Miller, R-Chino. "I don't see how that can happen."

30 things only drivers in LA understand


By Kevin Roderick, May 31, 2013



BuzzFeed gets it right about Los Angeles driving and parking. Check out the amusing listicle. Item number 5: "If you pull up to a meter that still has time on it, it feels like you’ve just won the lottery." Reality is harsher than she realizes. In Santa Monica already, and soon to sweep the city of Los Angeles, unused time on meters is wiped clean when you drive away. So the joy of finding that little surprise on the meter is going away as parking meters get "smarter."

L.A. Is Fat, Ranks Low Among America's Fittest Cities


By Dennis Romero, May 30, 2013





 L.A. is where all the fitness trends seem to start, from Tae Bo to P90X, from stripper pole workouts to marathon partying with Lindsay Lohan. Schwarzenegger started out at Gold's Gym in Venice, and the world hasn't been the same since.

But a funny thing happened to our sunny, coastal city known for its pretty people. We, like the rest of America, got fat. Now L.A. doesn't even rank among the nation's most-fit cities:
Sad to say, but L.A.'s image isn't living up to reality.

According to the latest American College of Sports Medicine American Fitness Index, Los Angeles ranks a measly 29th among America's "Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas."
And that's out of our 50 largest cities, a pool that places L.A. second in population. Why so low?
The College says L.A. has a lower percentage of physically active people, a higher percentage of people in poorer physical and mental health in a 30-day period, fewer parks and playgrounds and, yes, a higher percentage of people with diabetes.

 Nearly one out of four Angelenos is obese, according to the report.
Interestingly, we do better when it comes to "personal health indicators" such as behaviors, ranking 16th nationally, but worse on "environmental indicators" such as recreational facilities, where we come in at 38th.

(Of course, this is the private gym capital of America.)


 What does L.A. do well on the fitness tip? The College says we have a comparatively low number of
smokers and asthma sufferers and a high number of bike riders and walkers.
Minneapolis-St. Paul, by the way, took the fittest-city prize for the third straight year. Here's the top 30:

Dana Gabbard’s rules of transit advocacy (2000 version) 


By Dana Gobbard, May 31, 2013

In 2000 the industry group for public transit agencies in California, the California Transit Association, held its Fall Conference and Expo at the Westin Hotel near LAX. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about transit activists and our relationship with agencies, the legislature, regulatory entities etc. As a bonus I presented a list of 11 rules of transit advocacy.

Recently I stumbled across an old Word file where I had preserved it and for the edification of the readers of this blog present it below verbatim. How well do you think it has aged?
1) There are no magic bullets
2) Transit’s main purpose is to move people, not solve pollution, social equity, congestion, etc.
2a) Transit is a means (mobility) to an end (the destination), not an end in itself
3) Beware (and be aware) of unintended consequences
4)Things can always get worse; change should be for the better not just for the sake of change
5) The greatest challenge is changing perceptions
6) Parochialism will always rear its ugly head (aka “fair share”)
6a) Also NIMBYism
7) Never promise congestion relief resulting from a transit project
8) Always get the actual documents and studies; don’t rely on summaries or media stories about them
9) Everyone is a transportation expert, just ask them
I credited transportation professionals Jim Seal and Thomas Rubin as inspiring some of these points. They were kind enough to share their contemporary addenda to my 13 year old musings when I recently e-mailed both of them.

Mr. Seal suggested “Don’t bet that most transit governing structures will reward success and punish failure”.

Mr. Rubin had two inspirations:

“Yes, Mr. Director, the Board can vote to repeal the law of gravity, but that doesn’t mean that pigs will fly.”

“No man, women, child, or dollar bill is safe while the Legislature is in session.”

And here are brief bios of both gentleman. My thanks to them for their insights and good humor (you need a bit of that when you have been involved as long as they have with the often bewildering world of transit policy):
Tom Rubin is a consultant with over 35 years of experience in the transit industry as a senior executive of two of the largest transit agencies in the U.S. and as the founder and director of the transit practice of what is now Deloitte & Touche, LLP, which he grew to the largest practice of its type, serving well over 100 North American transit operators, Metropolitan Planning Organizations, state Departments of Transportation,  the U.S. Department of Transportation, and transit suppliers and associations.

James C. Seal is President of Jim Seal Consulting Services, headquartered in Santa Monica. He is a ground transportation consultant to private transportation companies nationwide. He specializes in competitive procurement, transit bill analysis, school bus transportation funding, public/private partnerships, and preparation of alternative fuel grant proposals.
Also my thanks to Amy J. Lai, Association Services Director for the California Transit Association, who kindly researched what year the Conference I attended was held.