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, September 13, 2013

Army Corps of Engineers Unveils Options for Restoring Habitat on L.A. River

 Each of the Army Corps' plans involves re-introducing layers of natural habitat over existing concrete barriers.


By City News Service, September 13, 2013

The L.A. River (Photo Credit: Anthea Raymond)

The L.A. River

Army Corps of Engineers today unveiled four options for restoring the natural habitat on an 11-mile stretch of the Los Angeles River.

Most of the 51-mile-long river, which stretches from the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach, was paved and turned into a concrete flood channel during the first half of the last century.

While the channel kept the river from overflowing, the transformation destroyed much of the habitat for birds, amphibians and other wildlife around it.

The Los Angeles River Ecosystem Restoration Feasibility Study details the environmental impacts and costs of four options -- ranging in cost from $375 million to more than $1 billion --  designed to return sections of the river, from Griffith Park to downtown Los Angeles, to its natural state.

The Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council recently joined the new Alliance of River Communities, which is a group of neighborhood councils and community leaders that have an interest in the L.A. River.

Each of the Army Corps' plans involve re-introducing layers of natural habitat over existing concrete barriers at sites along the waterway. Sites that may be affected by the plans include Taylor Yard and the Verdugo Wash.

Engineers have tentatively recommended the second most conservative option, Alternative 13, which costs about $453 million and would restore about 588 acres of wildlife and aquatic habitat.
"The number one priority of the study is to restore the river's ecosystem while preserving the flood protection that is provided by the existing channel system," said the Army Corps' District Commander Col. Kim Colloton.

"Hundreds of ideas were explored, and the best of these were combined to come up with the final array of alternatives in the draft report," Colloton added. After studying each plan, they found Alternative 13 "most reasonably maximizes net restoration benefits."

The Los Angeles River restoration effort was one of seven picked as part of the Urban Water federal Partnership, an urban waterway revitalization program launched under President Barack Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative.

The public will have 45-days starting Sept. 20 to comment on the report before the Army Corps makes its recommendation to Congress. The public can begin submitting comments to comments.lariverstudy@usace.army.mil.

"We are asking for comments on all four alternatives, and the Corps will consider every comment before a final recommendation is made," Colloton.

A coalition of Los Angeles river advocates, however, have their eye on a more ambitious plan and are pushing for Alternative 20, which would cover the most sites at an estimated cost of $1.08 billion.
Meredith McKenzie of the Urban Rivers Institute said the Army Corps' study "does not go far enough."

Alternative 13 does not include restoration at the "Cornfields" Historic State Park and the Arroyo Seco and Verdugo Wash confluences.

"True long-term restoration of the Los Angeles River cannot be achieved" without those sites, she said.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a resolution in August back that puts the city on record as backing Alternative 20 as well.

The report is at http://www.spl.usace.army.mil. Hard copies will be available at the Arroyo Seco Regional Branch Library, Los Angeles Central Library, Cypress Park Branch Library, Atwater Village Branch Library, Lincoln Heights Branch Library, Chinatown Branch Library, Little Tokyo Branch Library and Benjamin Franklin Branch Library.

Earthquake early warning system moves forward in California


September 13. 2013

LOS ANGELES — The California Legislature approved a bill that would require development of an earthquake early warning system similar to what exists in Japan, Mexico and other quake-prone countries.

The bill advanced in Thursday’s last hours of the legislative session and was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has until Oct. 13 to act on it.

The U.S. has lagged behind other countries in creating a public alert system, which provides seconds of warning after a fault ruptures. For the past several years, the U.S. Geological Survey and several universities have been fine-tuning a test alert system that only broadcasts warnings to select users.

Scientists and public safety officials have urged for the creation of a system that would use a network of sensors to detect the start of a quake, the strength and provide useful seconds of warning.

While a few seconds may not sound like much time, supporters say it’s enough notice for trains to slow down, utilities to shut off gas lines or people to duck under a table to ride out the shaking.
Early warning can’t predict earthquakes before they happen and is useless at the quake’s origin since there’s no time to detect passing waves.

Researchers previously estimated it would cost about $80 million to build a statewide alert system. The bill would require state emergency officials to determine how to fund the system by 2016.

Electric vehicle ownership on the rise thanks to unique subsidy program, energy savings


By Steve Scauzillo, September 12, 2013

 Hao Cheng, 36, of Walnut, unplugs his EV (electric vehicle), a Nissan Leaf, at the EV charging station at the Metrolink Park N Ride/ Train Station, in Walnut, Wednesday, August 14, 2013.


Daniel Phan had the world on a string.

He drove a Mercedes Benz to his job at Fannie Mae, where he churned out housing loans until the bubble burst.

Now, he sits behind a desk for a Los Angeles city and county joint agency finding housing for the homeless, the very people the housing boon left on the curb.

“I was on the profit-making side of housing and urban development with Fannie Mae,” Phan, 50, explained. “Now I am doing the opposite. That is the beauty of this country.”

The transformation didn’t stop there. He garaged his gasoline-thirsty Benz and leased a 2013 Nissan Leaf, a battery-powered electric car that he charges at one of 64 new solar charge ports at the Metrolink train station in Industry. With his car charging, he rides the clean-diesel train to his office; when the train glides into the station around 6:07  p.m., he walks to his reserved parking spot, unhooks the charger and drives to his home in Walnut on battery power.

The entire commute is nearly pollution free.

“I strongly believe in the electric vehicle and anything that can bring green sustainability and profitability,” said Phan. “It comes down to choices. This is the better choice.”

Phan is one of a group of 59 Nissan Leaf owners who were nudged into a sustainable lifestyle through a one-of-a-kind program offered through the city of Industry and the regional South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The generous, $13  million program supplies each lessee with a $2,000 down payment and pays about half their monthly payments.

Slowly but surely, it is turning a car-oriented suburban town like Walnut in the eastern part of the county into an unlikely green living spot with a modicum of consciousness raising sprinkled in for good measure.

In short, these 59 electric car owners — also required to take the train 14 days out of the month — are experiencing an environmental awakening normally reserved for planet-conscious celebrities on the Westside munching on organic produce and tofu.

For example, Hao Cheng, 36, also of Walnut, has suddenly familiarized himself with all the public charging stations. And not just those in California, but in the entire Pacific Northwest. Cheng has become a bit of a fanatic in less than a month.

The Leaf goes about 100 miles per charge, but when traveling the freeway that dips to 60 to 80 miles at most. Like many all-electric car owners, he carefully planned his trip to Palm Springs, finding a 480-volt super charger at a McDonald’s on University Avenue in Riverside, about halfway there.
His Leaf comes with a quick-charge port.

“I refilled my battery there in 36 minutes. Otherwise, I cannot make that trip because it is about 100 miles,” Cheng said.

Cheng found a website that maps out all quick-charge locations in the U.S. “In Oregon and Washington, they have a lot of fast-charging station along the freeways. California needs more investment in those facilities if they want to increase the number of EVs,” he said.

Southern California Edison counted 12,000 plug-in vehicles in their service area as of Aug.  6, according to its report “Charged Up.” They represent 10  percent of the plug-in vehicles operating in the nation, making California “a launch state” for electric vehicles, the report stated.

Of those, 65  percent are cars that also have smaller gasoline engines to extend the range, such as the Chevy Volt, the Ford C-Max Energi and the Fusion Energi; 35  percent are all battery, such as the Leaf, the Honda EV, the Chevy Spark EV and the new Smart EV.

In about six years, SCE estimates the number of plug-in vehicles in its service area will reach 350,000.

To meet electric charging demand, SCE recommends electric and partial-electric vehicle owners designate the end of the charge time on their car’s on-board computer, so that charging start and end times vary, so as not to overload the grid. Most plug-in vehicle owners who charge at home do so after 10  p.m., when rates are lower and electricity more plentiful, the report stated.

SCE’s report concludes that plug-in vehicle owners are more likely to live in suburban areas where garages are equipped with 220-volt chargers or standard 120-volt plugs. Only 5  percent of multi-unit residents owners or condominium associations surveyed said they would consider installing such infrastructure.

Most if not all of those in the Industry-SCAQMD program live in Walnut, a town with a majority of single-family homes with garages. This, and the fact that Industry and the SCAQMD paid for 64 charging stations using solar panels, makes the program fit well with commuters who work in Los Angeles.

While most public charging stations, found at city halls, in Walgreens and at Ikea, can charge a car in about four hours, Blink is building quick chargers. Two super chargers exist at the SCAQMD in Diamond Bar. But very few are available to the public, hampering the range of all-electric cars.
SCE is concerned about an increase in high-voltage chargers and cars that accept the quick charge. “This could create new implications for grid reliability  ...” according to the report.

The report also lists the top three questions EV owners ask: How much will it cost to charge their car? Where are the public charging stations? What are the environmental benefits of these non-gas guzzling cars?

Nam Huyn calculated that it costs less than half in “fuel” to drive his Nissan Leaf than his mini-van.
Huyn, who works in the Los Angeles Controller’s Office, pays attention to numbers. Since each participant went out and got their best deal at a local car dealer, each monthly lease payment is different. Huyn said he was one of five to receive an introductory $180 per month lease. With the $125 per month subsidy from the program, his monthly cost is $55.

“I think this is a wonderful program,” Huyn said. “If somehow, all cities and other organizations can figure out a way to promote electric vehicles, it would be a win-win for all.”

Merci Adams, 51, of Walnut, had her car payment reduced from $375 to $250 with the subsidy. Even though that’s more than some in the program, Adams is not complaining. She believes driving the electric car and taking the train to her job in a law office in L.A. is better than driving her old car, a Mercedes Benz.

“I love it. Love it. Love it. Did I say I love it?,” she said. “It is one of the best cars I’ve ever owned and I have driven some high-end cars,” including a Cadillac. She’s vowed to buy the electric car when the two-year lease runs out.

“Did I mention my boyfriend, who is 6-foot-9, loves it?” she asked.

Adams has ridden trains to her job in L.A. for 20 years. Adding the electric car fit into her lifestyle. Now, she can check environmentalist next to her description of legal secretary and mother of a teenaged daughter.

“I love passing those gas stations,” she said.

She estimates she’s saving about $250 a month in fuel. “I’m giving that to my daughter, the starving college student,” she said.

Phan said switching to an electric car from a gasoline-powered model will soon be the norm, just as more people no longer smoke cigarettes.

“Just as in those days, when we smoked, we didn’t know any better. We polluted the air and we were killing the person next to us. Now we know better. I believe in better things. Science can create better things,” he said.

This Vending Machine in China Sells Living Crabs


By John Metcalfe, September 15, 2013

This Vending Machine in China Sells Living Crabs
The first crab-vending machine in China, installed in Nanjing in 2010.

Ever get a late-night hankering for crab? That might seem like an odd question, unless you're a Baltimorean or sea otter. But many people in China do develop a craving for crustacean that must be satisfied immediately, to judge from a new vending machine in Hangzhou that dispenses crabs for about $3.27 each.

The machine appeared this week and is loaded with "hairy crabs," a delicacy that's in season right now. The creatures are immobilized with rope ties but very much alive, having been knocked into a dormant state by a potent refrigeration system. Customers deposit their cash and select the most fetching crab, then retrieve it from the machine's bottom and take it home to cook. Or perhaps if they're extra intoxicated, they'll tear into it crudo-style on the street.

The man responsible for bringing the crab-o-mat to Hangzhou, an eastern Chinese city of roughly 9 million residents, operates a seafood shack next door. He shills crabs by day but wanted to give nocturnal revelers an opportunity to indulge themselves. "Crab shops like ours, they generally close at night,” he told a local news outlet. "But what are people to do at night when their stomach starts to feel empty and they want to chow down on a hairy crab and knock back some booze?"

With vending machines around the globe coughing up fishing bait, bread in a can, hardcover books, french fries and mayonnaise, and a cornucopia of other questionable products, it should come as no surprise that China has one for crabs. Indeed, this is not the first to grace the country's street-food scene. In 2010, the media came alive with reports of a robotic provider of hairy-crabs in a subway station in Nanjing, about 170 miles northwest of Hangzhou. (It is pictured above.)

Allegedly the first in China, that machine sold about 200 living crabs a day and came with a guarantee of three free crabs if a customer received a deceased one. The technology is reportedly the brainchild of Shi Tuanjie, a lake-crab tycoon, who Quartz reports came up with idea after discovering a crab "hiding under his sofa." So that's another bit of news – China has house crabs.

Whereas Shi's get-your-crab-alive-or-the-next-one's-free promise is certainly generous, it's not clear whether these machines offer recompense if they don't actually spit out a hairy crab. The animals are so heavily sought-after that there's a booming criminal enterprise for "bootleg" crabs, says Shanghaiist:
Each fall, hairy crab pirates duplicate China's most coveted crustacean: the Yangcheng Lake hairy crab, an expensive delicacy prized for its sweet, delicate meat.
Unfortunately for the Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Association, shanzai crabs are here to stay, unlike shanzai phones which are on their way out: the counterfeit market for hairy crabs is ten times greater than that for authentic hairy crabs. Just ask local crabber Xing, who says, "Everything is being counterfeited. There's nothing you can do about it. And you can't control it."
The problem is so pervasive, according to Shanghaiist, that wholesalers have started using lasers to burn serial numbers into their catch's shells.
This is the 2010 vending machine, which operates in a similar manner to the one in Hangzhou:

Another of Our Famous Falling Trees on San Miguel Down

September 13, 2013

We have had a great problem of the City of Pasadena's Chinese elm trees planted on our parkway areas periodically falling down. Most times this was caused by our Santa Ana winds but other times for no apparent reason, though today's fallen tree might be due to the high heat we have been experiencing last week and actually through much of the summer. This tree could be at least number 30 of the Chinese elm trees that have fallen down in the last 40 years.

                                                                     Today's fallen tree.

 This homeowner was lucky: the tree didn't fall on their house, but their fence is probably broken where the tree hit it.

Five years I wasn't so lucky when a neighbor's city tree fell onto my car and also on my daughter's car, both cars parked innocently in my driveway. My car was totaled; hers was damaged but repairable, but we each had to pay $500 deductible on our automobile insurance to have hers repaired and mine totaled out. The City of Pasadena would take no responsibility for THEIR TREE falling onto our cars. Other cities will take responsibility and will reimburse people for their deductibles. It might be possible to take the city to small claims court but we didn't follow this route.

The city tree that fell onto my car. The tree just fell over--no wind, no recent rain, it just fell over onto our cars.

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