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 20, 2013

Check out LAX’s first art walk and live performance Everywhere Nowhere


By Anna Chen, September 20, 2013

Cynthia Minet's "Packing (Caravan)" at LAX. Photo: PanicStudio LA
Cynthia Minet’s “Packing (Caravan)” at LAX. 

If you haven’t found an excuse to visit the newly renovated LAX yet, here’s a good one. LAWA is presenting the first-ever art walk next weekend, with a live performance taking place at 7:30 p.m. both nights. The event is free and open to the public. To get to LAX via Metro, take the Green Line to Aviation Station and hop on the free shuttle, or Metro Bus 40, 102 to the LAX Transit Center.
Here’s the press release from LAWA with more details on the event:
For the first time, the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Art Program will present an original performance work at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), entitled Everywhere Nowhere. Directed and choreographed by Sarah Elgart, with an original score composed by Yuval Ron, Everywhere Nowhere is a site-specific, multi-sensory spectacle of movement, media, and color. It was commissioned as part of the Influx: Art at LAX, an ongoing public art festival featuring the work of 45 Los Angeles-based artists and 11 original, site-specific installations located throughout LAX. Prior to the performance of Everywhere Nowhere, LAX is hosting its first-ever Art Walk, inviting the public to take self-guided tours of the various Influx installations located in the airport’s public spaces.

WHAT: First-ever Art Walk at LAX, followed by world premier of Everywhere Nowhere, a site-specific, multi-sensory spectacle of movement, sound, and color, directed by Sarah Elgart and featuring an original musical score by composer Yuval Ron, projections by director Kevin Kerslake and artist Stephen Glassman, and costume design by Swinda Reichelt.

WHEN: Saturday, September 28 and Sunday,  September 29

Art Walk, self-guided tours of Influx: 5 – 7 p.m.

Everywhere Nowhere, live performance: 7:30 – 9 p.m.

WHERE: Influx Art Walk: Maps for self-guided tours will be available at the Art Walk Welcome Table at the Terminal 1 Arrivals level, as well as online. Influx installations are located throughout LAX.

Everywhere Nowhere performance: the outdoor courtyard located on the Arrivals level in between Terminals 1 and 2 at LAX.

INFO: Both the Influx Art Walk and the live performance of Everywhere Nowhere are free and open to the public. For more information, visit: http://www.lawa.org/welcome_lax.aspx?id=1602 or send an email to art@lawa.org. .



September 20, 2013

Holden says bill is “critical first-step to restoring peace and security to neighborhoods”
The state Senate approved a bill expediting the sale of state-owned houses no longer needed for a proposed State Highway Route 710 extension in Los Angeles, Alhambra, South Pasadena, and Pasadena, Sen. Carol Liu announced Tuesday (September 10, 2013).

Liu authored SB 416, which streamlines the California Department of Transportation process for selling as surplus property houses that were purchased more than 50 years ago for the extension route. The Senate passed the bill on a 38-0 vote and sent it to Governor Jerry Brown, who has 30 days to sign or veto the legislation.

“This bill gets Caltrans out of the real estate management business, generate revenues for local transportation projects, and returns these properties to our local tax rolls,” said Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge. Assemblymembers Mike Gatto, D-Burbank and Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, co-authored the legislation. “I want to thank Mr. Gatto and Mr. Holden for their support of this important measure,” Liu said. SB 416 passed the Assembly 77-0 last week.

The 4.5-mile, uncompleted portion of Route 710 transects neighborhoods and communities. Caltrans owns over 500 properties within the originally proposed surface route corridor. About 400 homes are occupied by tenants for whom Caltrans serves as landlord, but many houses remain vacant and in disrepair.

The originally proposed North 710 surface route segment has been eliminated from further consideration by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is preparing the Environmental Impact Report and Statement on Caltrans’ behalf. SB 416 will codify this determination, clearing the way for properties to be declared excess and sold.

Current law, known as the Roberti Bill, establishes terms and conditions for the sale of properties to current tenants and affordable housing entities before offering them for sale at fair market value to the public. Single-family residences must first be offered at an affordable price to present occupants who qualify as low income. SB 416 enables those properties to be sold “as is” upon agreement with the buyer thus, relieving Caltrans of the need to make costly repairs prior to a sale. The bill further revises the definition of “fair market value” to reflect the “as is” condition of the property, taking into account any needed repairs, and gives current tenants priority to purchase residential and non-residential properties at fair market value.

Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) issued the following statement after SB 416 – authored by Senator Carol Liu and co-authored by Assemblymember Holden cleared the Assembly on Friday.

“This bill will ensure the timely sales of the ‘surplus homes’ currently owned by Caltrans. Thanks to Sen. Liu’s SB 416, Caltrans’ decades- long mismanagement of the ‘surplus homes’ will finally come to an end. This bill is a critical first-step to restoring peace and security to neighborhoods long threatened by Caltrans’ poor property management and an ill-advised surface extension of the 710.”

How a Federal Law Trumps Cost-Effective Transit


By Charles Chieppo, September 19, 2013

Economic security is increasingly elusive in an era of uncertainty. That is, unless you happen to be a transit worker. You see, federal labor law gives transit workers unprecedented protections, including up to six years of full pay and benefits if they are displaced.

The problem is that the federal requirements are killing cash-strapped states.

Want more management news and commentary? Click here.

Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Law requires that employee protections must be certified by the Department of Labor and in place before federal transit funds can be released to a mass transit provider.

California is the latest state to get smacked by 13(c). U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez is threatening to withhold $4.3 billion in mass transit funding if the state's pension reforms are applied to transit workers because the benefit reductions included in the law were not arrived at through collective bargaining. The reforms require current state workers to pay more toward their retirement plans, limit pension amounts for new hires, and raise the age at which most workers can collect a full pension.

California's is hardly the only example of 13(c) landing a state government entity firmly between a rock and a hard place.

To comply with Federal Transit Administration competitive procurement requirements, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) put the contract for operating its commuter rail services out to bid in 1999. To maximize competition, the MBTA broke up its commuter operations into three segments. When bids were opened for train cleaning and maintenance -- the smallest of the three segments and the first to be procured -- every bid but one came in between $175 million and $199 million for the five-year contract. The fourth, from Amtrak, then the incumbent operator, was $291 million.

With an MBTA cleaning and maintenance workforce of 552, Amtrak used more workers per passenger car and per locomotive than seven comparable North American commuter-rail systems.

The winning bidder, Bay State Transit Services, planned to hire existing Amtrak employees, but it only needed 415 workers. Even at that level, the MBTA still would have had a higher ratio of workers to equipment than any of the comparable commuter operations except for the New York area's Metro North railroad. The other non-Amtrak bidders anticipated using a similarly sized workforce.

The Bay State jobs were all to be unionized with salaries comparable to what workers were earning from Amtrak. In addition, the MBTA identified 55 other jobs that could be filled by displaced commuter rail workers, gave other former Amtrak employees priority for future MBTA jobs, and offered a $10 million severance program.

But the Labor Department decided that the only way to satisfy 13(c) and maintain the MBTA's federal funding was for all existing employees -- regardless of need -- and all collective bargaining agreements to be carried over to the new employer. Not even the full pay and benefits for up to six years that the law calls for would suffice.

The MBTA was ultimately forced to sign a three-year extension with Amtrak that cost tens of millions of dollars more than it would have paid Bay State Transit Services. Lest you think things have gotten better in the interim, California's transit workers will be exempted from the pension reforms until at least the end of next year while a lawsuit to determine whether they should be subject to the new law is pending.

In an era of massive unfunded pension liabilities and unmet transportation infrastructure needs, state taxpayers can no longer shoulder the burden of special-interest legislation like 13(c) that should go the way of the dinosaurs. Until that happens, the labor department and the courts would do well to show states some mercy by reining in ever-broader interpretations of this ill-considered statute.

Beverly Hills versus Metro


By Steve Hymon, September 20, 2013

 Beverly Hills versus Metro 

(Beverly Hills Weekly)

Three stories in this pdf. The first, on page 2, describes a new complaint filed by the city of Beverly Hills in their ongoing lawsuit against Metro and the Federal Transit Administration that alleges the environmental study for the Purple Line Extension was not sufficient. The new complaint against the FTA alleges that seismic work done by Beverly Hills High School on their campus should have triggered a supplemental environmental review.

The second story on page 3 is about the Beverly Hills City Council voting to approve work permits for Metro to perform geotechnical work near the intersection of Wilshire and La Cienega. At the meeting, Councilwoman Lili Bosse said that Metro’s requests for work permits are being handled differently than others who seek work permits in the city — i.e. Metro’s must be approved by the City Council, which is a very irregular arrangement. The article also quotes from a letter sent by Metro to Beverly Hills asking for a master agreement for work permits for the subway project. Councilman Willie Brien in the article also tells his colleagues that restricting hours could lead to project delays and lengthier construction times in the city.

The bigger story here is this: Metro is only seeking permits for the first phase of the subway project, which ends at Wilshire and La Cienega. This part of the route has never been in dispute and in the past Beverly Hills elected officials have maintained they support the project — they just don’t want the subway to tunnel under Beverly Hills High School.

The third article, also on page three, is about the hiring of a new law firm by Beverly Hills Unified School District to handle its lawsuit against the FTA over its approval of the subway project. The new firm includes former Senator Joe Lieberman, who is giving the BHUSD a 23 percent discount — he’s only charging them $924 an hour. BHUSD President Jake Manaster says that Lieberman will be used to talk to people who may not understand the school district’s position on the subway project.

How green is that new car you’re eyeing? This site is the easiest way to find out


By Sarah Laskow, September 19, 2013

Americans may be driving less, but there are still more than 230 million cars cruising around the U.S. And sometimes those cars break down or get old and their owners want to buy a new one. Getting a greener car saves money on gas, and minimizes your contribution to global warming, but how do you know which green car is best? A new site called RideNerd makes figuring out which car to buy much, much easier.

Basically, you can just plug in two cars that you might be deciding between, and RideNerd will tell you which rates better on their scale — which takes into account metrics like affordability, fuel economy, and climate friendliness.

Just for example, here’s how the Prius c, the cheapest Prius on the site, compares to the Honda Civic.
Click to embiggen.
Click to embiggen.
And then if you want to scroll down, there’s all sorts of clearly laid out information about details like total annual costs, methane per mile, reviews from other websites, and technical specs. The picture gets a little muddier as the details pile up: The Civic gets slightly higher ratings from other reviewers, and is a little bit bigger. But the Prius c is cheaper, both up front and over time, and does consistently better on all the green criteria. You can guess which one we’d choose.

We chose a relatively budget-friendly comparison to make. But you can get fancy on this site, too. And if the “popular comparisons” column is to be believed, there are plenty of RideNerds out there who are dreaming of buying a Tesla and trying to figure out if they can’t just justify buying a BMW or Audi instead.

This bike light is super bright, theft-proof, and nearly indestructible


By Sarah Laskow, September 20, 2013


The first bike hardware project that Slava Menn Kickstarted was a bike light that no one could steal. He’s provided thousands of them to bikers, all over, and so far, only 0.2 percent of them — about 10 total — have been stolen.

Now he has a new Kickstarter project: an even better bike light.

What is better than a bike light that no one can steal? A bike light no one can steal that’s so sturdy it will outlive your bike.

This new light has the same sort of “proprietary set screw” as the anti-theft one. But it’s also got aluminum casing, better waterproofing, a battery that pops out and recharges through a USB line, and a really, really bright light. Menn and his team, the Fortified Bike Alliance, say it’s indestructible. And if they’re wrong, well, no skin off your back — they’ll give you another one for free.

The only question we had was about the battery. I mean, it’s great if no one steals your light, but it’s less great if they steal the battery that powers the whole thing. The FBA says:
We purposely don’t require a tool to take out the batteries, instead there’s a “trick” to open them, like a pill bottle. If you know the trick, it’s easy. If you’re a thief, it’s hard.
We can’t open pill boxes half the time anyway, so we’re reasonably convinced by this.

They’re making a front light and rear light, in normal and “boost” (with a really, really, really bright light). A pair of the boost lights is $129 on Kickstarter right now. Get ‘em! Because if you wait for someone else to get them so that you can take them, you’re going to be S.O.L.

Two more earthquakes hit -- in La Verne and Borrego Springs


By Joseph Serna, September 20, 2013

 shake map

 A 3.9-magnitude earthquake was reported Thursday night in Borrego Springs. (USGS)

For the second day in a row, Southern Californians were rattled by earthquakes Friday morning.

After the United States Geological Survey reported a 3.9-magnitude quake in Borrego Springs after 11 p.m. Thursday, a 2.6-magnitude temblor was registered in La Verne about 2 a.m. Friday.

The quakes come after La Verne experienced a series of temblors – including two above 3.5-magnitude – just a day earlier.

More than 360 people reported feeling the Borrego Springs quake, with one person 150 miles away in Thousand Oaks feeling the shaking, according to the USGS website.

"I felt it, like a shot, quick and clean, through the house," tweeted Leann Files.
The quake was centered about 22 miles southwest of La Quinta.

More than 50 people reported feeling the La Verne quake on Friday morning, the farthest report coming from 70 miles away in Aguanga in Riverside County, according the USGS.
Borrego Springs residents also felt a 3.3-magnitude quake earlier this month.

On Thursday morning, more than 600 people reported feeling two earthquakes that shook residents in Pomona and La Verne.

It began with a 3.7-magnitude temblor that was soon followed by the even larger aftershock, the USGS reported.

The first quake occurred about 4:43 a.m., more than a half-mile below  Bonelli Park Trail in La Verne, according to the USGS.

“Never have I ever gotten out of bed so quickly at like 5 am, well I'm going to be on time for school!” tweeted Ashley Sibrian.

“It was pretty crazy. We felt the first one, it wasn’t too bad,” said Elizabeth Price, a shift leader at a Pomona Starbucks just down the street from the epicenter. “The aftershock was worse. It shook us pretty good, but nothing fell.”

According to the USGS website, more than 200 people reported feeling the initial 3.7-magnitude quake, with responses coming from as far away as North Hollywood. 

More than 400 people went to the USGS website and reported feeling the second quake, a 3.8-magnitude temblor that occurred about 20 minutes later. Residents some 90 miles away in La Jolla reported feeling that one.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

Moody’s Warns of Rising Debt Load for Toll Roads


By Tanya Snyder, September 20, 2013

Despite increased toll rates, toll roads saw their debt per roadway mile increase by a third last year, from $14.3 million in fiscal 2011 to $18.9 million in 2012.

The average toll per transaction rose from $1.82 to $1.96 over the course of the last year. Moody’s warned in a press release last week that they expect toll roads to continue seeking higher rates, but that politics could get in the way:
Steady toll rate increases will be necessary to support a growing debt burden, says Moody’s, although the unfettered ability to increase toll rates could face mounting political pressure in an economy that is growing slowly. One reason Moody’s continues to have a negative outlook for the US toll road sector is the weak and uneven pace of the economic recovery. Moody’s expects a rise in the number of toll roads and toll-supported projects.
The inability on Capitol Hill to make the Highway Trust Fund solvent will lead more states to embrace tolling. But as the Moody’s report indicates, there will still be political battles over paying for individual roads.

New toll roads aren’t what’s spiking the overall debt burden for tolling companies. Of the 42 U.S. toll roads rated by Moody’s, just three are considered “start-ups,” meaning they’re less than 10 years old, and those are examined separately. One of those start-ups, SH-130 outside of Austin, saw its credit rating downgraded to “below investment grade” earlier this year when only half the projected volume of traffic materialized.

A Reuters review shows that most states’ tolls are less than $0.10 per mile.

TollRoadsNews has questioned Moody’s numbers, saying it’s not possible to have such a big jump in debt per mile if debt per toll transaction “remained relatively stable,” as they report it did. Moody’s communications director David Jacobson said he hadn’t heard that TollRoadsNews had called their numbers “screwy” but told Streetsblog he would address the critique. He did note that the higher debt numbers reflect simply that some toll roads issued more debt.

Jacobson notes that Moody’s official outlook on the tolling sector has been negative for the last five years. “That doesn’t mean everybody’s going to get downgraded,” he explained. “It just means there are more negative credit pressures than positive credit pressures.” He cited the still-weak economic recovery and the significant possibility of continued high fuel prices and toll rates. He also noted that many states use toll roads as a piggy bank, as Ohio Governor John Kasich is doing now, to borrow money to build more roads.

Fitch Ratings, another of the Big Three credit rating agencies, warned investors in June that it was concerned about the future profitability of toll roads, given that “Americans have driven less each year since 2004 and those ages 16 to 34 have reduced their driving more than any other age group.”

They went on to say that they thought economic factors were only part of the reason for the change in driving behavior, and that they expected it to be lasting.

Video: SR-710 Update 9/18/2013

Video by Joe Cano:

Published September 20, 2013.  

Dr. William Sherman at South Pasadena City Council


L.A. City Council OKs efforts to curb hit-and-run incidents


By Jean Merl, September 17, 2013


 One person died and over a dozen people were injured after a hit-and-run driver crashed his car into a Greyhound bus at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood.

Heeding the police department's call for help in reducing hit-and-run traffic incidents, the Los Angeles City Council approved a series of recommendations on Tuesday.

The council agreed to support state legislation to increase penalties for those caught after leaving the scene of an accident and expand the use of the police department's crime tracking network to evaluate hit-and-run incidents.

The council also asked the department and its oversight board to include  hit-and-run incidents in department crime tallies and require police reports on all such incidents, even if they are limited to property damage.

Councilman Tom LaBonge asked for several years of data that would show  whether hit-and-run incidents have increased.

LAPD Commander Mike Williams told the council that  more than 14,000 hit-and-run incidents have occurred in the city so far this year, a 3% rise over last year. "It is truly a crisis," Williams said.
Just last Friday night, a 16-year-old was killed in a marked crosswalk on Normandie Avenue as he walked home from church.

The driver of the white four-door sedan that struck the youth sped away northbound without stopping, police said.

LAPD to ramp up hit-and-run policies


By Rick Orlov, September 17, 2013


Los Angeles city officials agreed Tuesday to take a tougher stance on how it treats and tracks hit-and-runs, dropping the perception that they are accidents and voting to adopt a longer statute of limitation for serious ones.

“We understand that accidents happen,” Councilman Joe Buscaino said. “But if you are in an accident and run away, you are a coward and a criminal. I’m tired of us having to vote to offer rewards because of hit-and-runs.”

The Los Angeles Police Department has estimated there are 20,000 hit-and-runs in the city each year, many involving property damage.

Cmdr. Mike Williams believes there need to be stronger penalties. “We are just as tired of seeing these hit-and-runs on the news as you are,” Williams said. “It is a crisis.”

He noted that the department is paying closer attention to the incidences to make sure officers investigate all cases.

The city will begin seeking the revocation of driver’s licenses for those involved and the forfeiture of their vehicles, Buscaino said. In addition, thanks to a new state law, the statute of limitations on hit-and-runs will be extended for six years.

The council also went on record in asking the state to have hit-and-runs always be declared a crime and never an accident.

Councilman Gil Cedillo said he believes the new law giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants will help reduce the number of hit-and-runs.

“No doubt the collision between our immigration policy and our driving policies resulted in the increase we have seen,” Cedillo said. “I think we need to look at the nexus between those two of a lack of immigration policy and the driving policy.”

 Councilman Mitch Englander believes the most important thing is that the city will begin tracking hit-and-runs through its CompStat crime-mapping program, which will allow officers to focus on areas where there might be a higher ratio.


Spring Street: A Park(ing) Day Success Story.


By Damien Newton, September 20, 2013


“Over the past few years, the  community along Spring Street has  become much more tightly woven.  The ‘bump’ factor happens all the  time now. If not daily, then at least  several times a week, I will happen across not only people that I know but  that occasional person that I forgot I even once knew! … As a place that brings people together, Spring Street has become a thriving neighborhood spot and an attractive regional destination for other Angelenos seeking a brief reprieve in our little small-town urban oasis we like to call DTLA.”

– Will Wright, AIA-LA Government  and Public Affairs Director and Spring Street Resident

Click to read the report.

In 2011, City Council Members Jose Huizar and Jan Perry used Park(ing) Day to announce a pilot program to make everyday Park(ing) Day in Northeast and Downtown Los Angeles. The duo announced that four parklets would be built, two of them on Spring Street in Downtown Los Angeles, as part of a pilot program. The parklets are now the only ones of their kind in city limits, although Long Beach built a couple of them too.

Park(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. A parklet is basically a permanent Park(ing) Day space.
Thanks to UCLA  and Parklet Studies, there is hard data on how the two Spring Street Parklets are performing. In short, they’re doing pretty well. The parklets were opened to the public in February of 2013. Researchers conducted their interviews a month later, and their report was released late last month. Both Downtown parklets are on the 600 block of South Spring Street.

“More and more, Downtown Los Angeles is becoming an increasingly vibrant and dynamic place to live, work, shop and entertain. The Spring Street parklets will add to Downtown’s unique urban atmosphere, encouraging and supporting a pedestrian-friendly, local experience…we are creating a model that can be used throughout the city,” promised Huizar at the parklets opening.

Reclaiming the Right of Way: Evaluation Report, is a 52 page report based on surveys and first-hand observations by researchers. Huizar must be pretty happy, because the data proves his words from last year to be true. The report looks at everything from how people use the parklets to how people perceive the parklets. For example, people feel that Spring Street is cleaner, they feel that their neighborhood is something special, and they’re more likely to start a conversation with someone they don’t know as a direct result of four parking spaces being turned over to the public.

Foosball and exercise bikes make people feel better about their community. Who would have guessed?

Research can’t put a dollars and cents value on such feelings, but even if that is the measure of success, the Spring Street Parklets are doing well.

Businesses along Spring Street, even those supportive of the parklets, were concerned about the impact that losing four street parking spaces on one block would have on their bottom line. However, the study shows that there was virtually the same amount of empty parking spaces before the parklets were put in than afterwards. When you consider that more and more people are walking on Spring Street every year, and the parklets are just one reason that is true, even businesses that weren’t seeing more business one month after the installation believed they would soon. The concerns of 2012 proved to be gone shortly after the parklets were put in.
 Overall, business along Spring Street would recommend parklets to other communities looking to improve customer flow, although not everyone was keen on having the parklet outside their front door. Of the two businesses that did, at least one enthusiastically recommended it to anyone looking to increase their customer base.

Some other findings and recommendations from the study:

  1. The majority of the people in the parklets and on the street live in the area, and the highest rates of parklet use and pedestrian volumes are during weekend afternoons.
  2. One common concern is that  parklets may attract more nuisance  activities to the area. This was not found to be the case on Spring Street. While pedestrians’ concerns concentrated mostly around pet waste, this was not found to be a real issue at the parklets themselves. Additionally, incidents of public drunkenness, panhandling or public sleeping were more present on the street than in the parklet.
  3. The quality of maintenance and the perception of safety in a public space can influence its use. The Spring Street parklets are perceived to be well-maintained and safe, and these feelings contribute to their appeal and use.
  4. Pedestrians, parklet users, and business operators interviewed for this study emphasized  the importance of locating parklets on streets that are already well-visited by pedestrians  and cyclists.
  5. A number of interviewees referred to the good quality of parklet materials. Maintenance  and up-keep in the parklets is therefore important for their continued and increased use  since their materials will age over time.
  6. The study found an over-representation of young, white, and male users in the Spring  Street parklet. It is important that parklet initiatives emerge from diverse stakeholders,  who develop design and programmatic elements that are appropriate to the local context.

Coalition of L.A. and Pasadena residents wants a safer and slower Avenue 64


SBy Brenda Rees, September 17, 2013


 Southbound car on Avenue 64

The wide roadway of Avenue 64 is a well-used commuter route through Garvanza, Highland Park and Pasadena for drivers either getting onto or coming off the 110 Freeway. The downward slope from La Loma Road in Pasadena to York Boulevard in Los Angeles naturally speeds up cars heading southbound. But, now, some residents in both cities want to slow down traffic and make Avenue 64 safer.

“I live on Avenue 64 on the Highland Park side and when we moved in, we didn’t realize how crazy the traffic was,” said Pilar Reynaldo. “At first I thought it was me, but talking to neighbors and people I have met out walking, I discover this is a problem that has been going on for 45 years. Now is the time to finally fix this for everyone in Pasadena and Highland Park.”

Reynaldo is a member of the Avenue 64 Coalition, which made a presentation last week before  the San Rafael Neighborhood Association in Pasadena to garner support for their effort to make Avenue 64 a safer street. The coalition will be making a similar presentation to the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council on Thursday, Sept. 19  from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Highland Park Senior Center, 6152 N. Figueroa St.

Traffic engineer Sam Morrissey  at Avenue 64 presentation

Sam Morrissey of the Avenue 64 Coalition led the evening discussion on what he and his fellow members see as problems and possible solutions regarding the roadway that bisects the boundaries of Pasadena and Los Angeles.

A traffic engineer for the City of Santa Monica, Morrissey worked with the coalition earlier this year to draft a presentation that outlined issues and offered ways to slow down traffic and potentially save lives.

“In 15 years, there has been six documented deaths on the street and numerous collisions at the intersection of Avenue 64 and Church Street,” he said at the San Rafael meeting, citing frequent speeding violations and unsafe vehicle maneuvers such as passing on the medians and in parking lanes.

Morrissey then described the environment of Avenue 64 which includes  homes as well as two community hubs: the Hillsides School and Church of the Angels; limited parking at both results in churchgoers and school staff and families parking on the west side of the street and walking across at Church Street – which has proven to be potentially dangerous.

The downward slope from La Loma to York and a confusing stop sign at Church Street has been a problem for years, Morrissey said. Also, the lack of pedestrian walkways – especially for the church and school – needs to be addressed.

“As a traffic engineer, I know that people feel comfortable going fast when the roads are wide,” he said. “They drive differently when the roads are narrow.”

Narrowing the road is part of the Avenue 64 Coalition’s solutions, with Morrissey offering both interim and long term versions. Some ways to narrow the street would be to repaint lane stripes, add a center, landscaped median, add more cross walks and install a round-about at Burleigh and Avenue 64. All in all, Morrissey estimated that the cost could be as high as $10 million.

Currently, the coalition has support from Pasadena councilman Steve Madison, whose area includes Avenue 64. This week, San Rafael area residents are being asked to fill out a neighborhood traffic survey as part of Pasadena’s Complete Streets Program which would give officials a better idea on what conditions exist on area streets. No such plans are in the works to survey Highland Park residents who live on Avenue 64.

Recently, Pasadena has earmarked $750,000 in grant money to implement the Avenue 64 Coalition proposal, but L.A.’s Councilman Jose Huizar “has not made any steps toward this project,” says coalition member Reynaldo.

Back in July, the coalition made a formal presentation to the Historic Highland Park Land Use Committee to get their support for the proposal. At the upcoming Sept. 19 meeting of the general neighborhood council, Reynaldo hopes to make an impression for action to council members.

“This is a street governed by both cities and one side cannot move without the other,” she said.

“Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening” Art Train Visits Union Station Next Week


September 20, 2013

We picked up this news tidbit from The Transit Coalition Newsletter. Visit their website to sign up for the newsletter, join the coalition, or make a donation.

In New York, “Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening” art train kicked off and started its trek across the nation. This brain child of video artist Doug Aitken uses an Amtrak train to transport musicians and artists who will perform at 10 stops on the train’s trek from New York to California.

The sides of the train would be fitted with LED lights forming a very long video screen that responds to the speed of the train and surrounding weather. LACMA is one of seven museums along the route that will partner with Station to Station and receive a portion of sales from tickets sold for music performances. The train will stop at Los Angeles Union Station on Thursday, September 26.

The event is already sold out, but it’s a great example of how Union Station is rebranding itself as a destination, and not ust a train station. Follow the train by visiting the official website.

Open Thread: Improving Public Comment at Metro Meetings


By Damien Newton, September 20, 2013


 John Walsh heckles Antonio Villaraigosa during public comment as the Bus Riders Union looks on.

Metro Board Chair Diane Dubois offers an interesting motion to the Metro Board of Directors this month concerning public input to the Metro Board of Directors. The motion directs the County Council to report back to Metro at its October Board meeting with “revised Public Input rules that maximize Public Input and provide this Board flexibility in conducting meetings.”

This motion could be the first step in allowing remote testimony, similar to what the L.A. City Council Transportation Committee tried this summer, or it could be a thinly veiled plan to lesson the amount of microphone time given to uber-gadfly John Walsh. At this point, we don’t know because the wording is pretty vague.

Since the Metro Board will be hearing this motion next week, and new rules could go into place for the October meeting, this could be the best chance to weigh in. So to anyone who’s attended or listened to a Metro Board Meeting, what’s your advice? How could we make the public testimony even better?

And by better, I don’t necessarily mean more entertaining…but if that’s your definition of better feel free to get creative.

SR-710 = 10 million cubic yards of dirt and rock

Thanks to Jan SooHoo

Here's an interesting perspective on 10 million cubic yards of dirt and rock.
In this article about a project to remove dirt from the Hahamongna Watershed area in La Canada they discuss the possible removal of 4 million cubic yards of dirt from behind the Devil's Gate Dam.  According to documents about the project those 4 million cubic yards would fill the Rose Bowl ten times.  This means that the 10 million cubic yards of dirt that Metro has told us would be removed during construction of the SR710 tunnels would fill the Rose Bowl 25 times!

Crews return to Devil's Gate Dam

Sediment cleanup efforts resume as officials plan for a much larger effort at Hahamonga.


 By Joe Piasecki, September 18, 2013

 Sediment removal at Devil's Gate Dam

Los Angeles County Department of Public Works crews are removing about 4,000 cubic yards of dirt from the base of Devil's Gate Dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. It will take about one and a half weeks to complete the project.

Los Angeles County work crews returned to Hahamongna Watershed Park this week to remove mud and debris from the face of Devil's Gate Dam in preparation for the coming storm season.

The effort, expected to take about four weeks, is the third minor cleanout behind the dam since massive amounts of sediment washed into it from denuded areas of the Angeles National Forest during storms that followed the August 2009 Station fire.

But the job represents only a fraction of the work that may be needed to keep the 93-year-old flood control structure in the upper part of Pasadena's Arroyo Seco watershed functioning smoothly, according to county engineers.

In October the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works is expected to release a study that contemplates hauling as much as 4 million cubic yards of dirt out of the basin behind the dam, said spokesman Kerjon Lee.

That's enough to fill the Rose Bowl, located about two miles downstream from the dam, roughly 10 times, according to documents.

By contrast, this season's cleanout involves only about 5,000 cubic yards.

The maximum potential work area could involve removing some 50 acres of woodland that has grown over sediment deposits that were building up for years before the Station fire unleashed another 1.3 million cubic yards into the area.

“This is a massive cleanout of the basin that is going to dramatically impact the habitat, stream characteristics and even the recreational uses of the Hahamongna basin,” said Tim Brick, managing director of the Arroyo Seco Foundation, an environmental preservation group.

Though apprehensive about the project, Brick also acknowledges that at least some of the dirt behind the dam must go.

But he's hoping for a plan that will allow some sediment to pass through Devil's Gate and replenish waterways below.

About a half-mile of concrete channels in the Arroyo may be converted to natural streambeds as part of an effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to naturalize parts of the Los Angeles River and its tributaries.

County workers initially removed 15,000 cubic yards of sediment from behind Devil's Gate in 2011 and installed debris barriers on the dam as a temporary measure to prevent clogging.

Sediment removed by workers has been and will continue to be stored at a former groundwater spreading basin in Hahamongna northeast of the dam, Lee said.

Also in keeping with previous years, green waste will be trucked out to the Scholl Canyon Landfill along Windsor Avenue in Altadena and the Foothill (210) Freeway.

Truck traffic will be restricted during this year's cleanout to no more than 10 trucks per day to limit impacts to park neighbors, Lee said.

County officials have previously said removal of up to 4 million cubic yards of sediment could involve hundreds of truck trips in or out of the park each day over a span of several months.

Agenda on line: Supervisor Antonovich meets with South Pasadena

Wednesday, September 25 @ 8:00 am

Arroyo Seco Golf Course
1055 Lohman Lane (lower arroyo)

What is happening?

The South Pasadena City Council will hold its annual meeting with Supervisor Antonovich .  Meeting is open to the public from any city.
There will be a discussion of SR-710 Freeway extension.  (see item 5 of agenda)
The meeting will be similar to the one held in Pasadena 6 months ago.  So if you want to ask questions on the 710 issue this will be your chance.  


Driverless cars programmed for rude too?


By Frazgo, September 18, 2013

 Google Self Driving car

Just about a year ago CA allowed driverless cars.  Google has a few out there, mostly in the Bay Area.  Or so I thought. Coming back from the desert yesterday I spotted this one on the 10 somewhere around the 15.  It was in the slower lanes and well, I wasn’t so I lost sight of it and continued my trek into the city.

Imagine my surprize as I was merging onto the 57 North when it suddenly appeared to my left and behind me.  It was coming fast and passed me with signal on and the damn thing cut me off.  I had to brake to keep a decent following distance, then it braked and moved over one more lane.  WTF.  Can’t they program it to keep decent following distances and not cut others off too?

Gawd as my witness,it happened. I even have a witness, my daughter Kari was with me and she grabbed the picture.  All I gotta say is watch for them. They have giant spinning thing on top and look kinda dorky.

Two (motorised) wheels better

Sales are booming, but large-scale urban hire schemes remain some way off


September 21, 2013


 Downhill all the way

 BICYCLE fairs come thick and fast at the end of summer in Europe. Eurobike closed on August 31st in Friedrichshafen, Germany; the Salon du Cycle in Paris on September 16th. And how the market is changing: for all the hype over the latest rugged mountain bike, the whirr of electrically assisted wheels is clearly audible. Although electric cars have struggled to gain purchase (their sticker price is unalluring and they stop dead if not recharged), sales of cycles using batteries to augment a rider’s own efforts are growing quickly. Faster ones with more sophisticated electronic controls, a bit like those popular in China, may also be gaining ground.

In the Netherlands one bicycle in six sold is an e-bike. In Germany the cycle industry expects electric-bike sales to grow by 13% this year, to 430,000 (the most sold in any European country), and to account for 15% of the market before long. In France sales of traditional bicycles fell by 9% in 2012 while those of e-bikes grew by 15%.

 E-bikes are catching on as people move to cities and add concern about pollution and parking to worry over petrol prices and global warming. Frank Jamerson, who produces the Electric Bikes Worldwide Reports, estimates sales at around 34m this year and perhaps 40m in 2015. China buys most of them and makes even more, with European sales of 1.5m in second place.

So it seems strange that there is not yet a large-scale e-bike-rental scheme in Europe like Vélib, the non-electric bicycle-hire programme started in Paris in 2007, or Autolib, the electric-car version launched in 2011. One of several small trials suggests the limits of the genre.

Monaco began testing an electric-bike-rental scheme in 2010, increasing it to ten stations and 55 cycles now. It works, says Roland de Rechniewski, head of the bus company that runs it, because theft and vandalism of the sort that bedevilled Vélib in its early days is largely thwarted by the principality’s police. Clean Energy Planet, the French firm that helps Monaco run the scheme, hopes that Luxembourg, no doubt similarly secure, will sign a contract in the coming months. But a big e-bike scheme for Paris still looks some way off.

A French firm seeks new roads to profit from electric cars


September 21, 2013

 Blue car, grey car, green car

GROUPE BOLLORÉ is one of those family-owned European firms that seem to have jumped like mountain goats from foothold to industrial foothold down the decades. For more than a century it specialised in making paper, before branching out into plastic films for condensers and then advanced batteries. Now it is taking the electric-car market by stealth, if not yet by storm.

On September 12th Bolloré and Renault said they would collaborate in the field of electric vehicles. The idea is to extend urban car-sharing schemes and perhaps to produce Bolloré’s existing electric Bluecar at Renault’s factory in Dieppe, as well as a new, smaller version. The French carmaker claims about half of the meagre European market for electric cars but competition is hotting up, with big rivals such as BMW and Volkswagen piling in. Arnaud Montebourg, France’s minister for industrial recovery, welcomed the accord as just the sort of French-French partnership that is needed to restore his country’s fading economy to global greatness.
Bolloré is not yet as big a star as Tesla, a ten-year-old Californian maker of high-end electric cars led by Elon Musk, a serial entrepreneur. Boosted by the success of its glamorous Model S car, Tesla declared its first profit earlier this year, and now has a stockmarket value several times that of PSA (Peugeot-Citroën). Instead Bolloré, a big, diversified company nearly two centuries old, has been beavering away in a less flashy bit of the market: the management and storage of energy.

The company believes its lithium-metal-polymer batteries are more powerful and more resistant to external temperatures than the lithium-ion ones in common use. In 2007 it went into business with Pininfarina, a designer and manufacturer, to produce battery-powered Bluecars in Italy. Almost all of them have been deployed in Autolib, a successful electric-car-sharing scheme launched by Bolloré and the Paris authorities in December 2011. Similar schemes will start in October in Lyon and by year-end in Bordeaux. Indianapolis in America is due to take 500 Bluecars in 2014.

Vincent Bolloré, the group’s boss, likes to describe himself as a “stubborn Breton”, and Bolloré has yet to make money on its big battery bet. It has spent at least €1.7 billion ($2.3 billion) on battery-related development over the past decade or so, and will spend more expanding capacity at new plants in Brittany and in Canada. In October Bolloré plans to float 10% of “Blue Solutions”, which groups its various battery activities other than Autolib itself, on NYSE Euronext—not so much to raise capital, says Mr Bolloré, as to expose the division to the marketplace. New sources of financing are nonetheless likely to emerge.

The deal with Renault may allow Bolloré to increase its production of Bluecars at a time when Autolib-style schemes are growing fast. It is clear that one of Bolloré’s big attractions for Renault is its mastery of car-sharing, right down to running recharging-point networks and tracking electronically the whereabouts of the vehicles. But it is unclear if Renault will use Bolloré’s batteries in its own line-up, instead of, or in addition to, those currently supplied by LG, a South Korean firm, and Renault’s Japanese partner, Nissan.

Renault is careful to make clear that the relationship is at an early stage. The French carmaker also has a chequered reputation where visionary battery partners are concerned. It once agreed to collaborate with Better Place, an Israeli firm developing a swappable-battery approach; in May Better Place declared bankruptcy, apparently unmourned and certainly unrescued by Renault. However, Bolloré may be made of sterner stuff.

The broader question is where electric cars, notoriously slow to gain adherents, are heading. Sales in the first half of 2013 were up in most rich countries. The European Commission has recently proposed common standards for recharging plugs, which would help. And regulations forcing manufacturers to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions are encouraging them to take the electric option seriously.

But carmakers are also cleaning up internal-combustion engines and producing more small, low-consumption conventional cars, notes Daniel Schwarz, a motor-industry analyst at Commerzbank. Electrics and hybrids account for a tiny fraction of car sales; Mr Musk’s prediction that they will make up half before long raises eyebrows even among his fans. Electric cars may make most sense in cities where noise and pollution are big concerns and recharging networks can be dense. Small wonder that urban electric-car-sharing schemes like Bolloré’s are taking off.

All Transit Routes Shouldn't Make Us Go Downtown


By Jim Smith, September 20, 2013

GETTING THERE FROM HERE - From the mountains to the sea, nearly all transit routes lead to downtown Los Angeles. This includes subways, light rail and many bus lines. Now comes a new streetcar which will be located, you guessed it, in downtown L.A. Yet, in Los Angeles County, downtown is of less importance, economically and as a major worksite, than in most other major metropolitan areas. However, planners and politicians at the MTA tend to orbit around the same small area of skyscrapers known as Los Angeles. The MTA headquarters is downtown. Both city and county officials meet and have their main offices downtown. 

But for most of us peons, downtown is a faraway and forbidding citadel. According to a U.S. Dept. of Transportation survey, the average car trip length is 5.95 miles and 70 percent of all trips are for household purposes such as shopping, dining and other predominately local activities. Yet our transportation geniuses want to channel us into downtown LA. Because of this strategy, most people don't have good alternatives to continued private auto use in their local area.

The system today which makes us go through downtown LA is very different from the old Pacific Electric Red Car lines. In the early days of the 20th Century it was possible to go from Santa Monica to Long Beach in a more or less direct line. Today, one must go to downtown LA and then take the Blue Line to Long Beach. A day at the beach, any beach, could be enjoyed by almost everyone via the Red Car. Multiple lines meant that short trips to the grocery store, local movie theater and restaurant could be enjoyed without having a car.

In recent years, intra-community transportation, as opposed to inter-community transit (via downtown) has been neglected except for random bike lanes or sharrows. Bus service still doesn't serve the needs of most residents, according to the Bus Riders Union. Some of the more successful bus lines are run not by MTA, but by independent cities such as Santa Monica with its Big Blue Buses.

How can we create non-automobile transportation that does serve our need to get around our community? Only by studying what those needs are and raising a stink with the downtown crowd that now decides where and when the next transit project will be built. Let's start a transportation revolution in Southern California.

My community, Venice, is typical of the lack of transit options available in the greater Los Angeles area. Here are some suggestions that might work in Venice, as well as other communities:
The recent successful fight against pay parking in Venice brought to the fore the problem of too many cars in Venice. Not only are there more than 21,000 vehicles in zip 90291, there are many thousands more parked here by beachgoers and Abbot Kinney Blvd. thrill seekers. Clearly, our beautiful coastal zone is overrun by cars, pollution, asphalt and related auto detritus.

Instead of going to war with each other over permit parking, let’s find another way to solve this problem. How about reducing the need for cars by demanding at least the level of public transportation we had 100 years ago. At that time, the Red Car trolley system went everywhere. Most of the thousands of beachgoers rode to Venice on these fast, cheap and convenient rail lines.

Since the city of Los Angeles took over Venice in 1925, it has been nearly impossible to secure improvements, or even preserve the meager public services that we have.

We should start a discussion among Venetians about what we want and need, and when consensus is reached, take our demands downtown. Venice attracts people from around the world who spend money in our little community, much of which is gobbled up by our overlords in city hall. Some of that revenue should come back to Venice, or L.A. should let us go our own way as an independent city.

Here are some of the transportation improvements I believe are needed to reduce the number of vehicles in our town and improve our quality of life.

1.  Extension of the Expo Line down Venice Blvd. to the beach. This was the route of the old Red Cars. That’s why Venice Blvd. is so wide. It wouldn’t take much money to lay tracks down the middle of the street, yet the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is not even talking about it.

2.  Build a streetcar down Pacific Avenue from the Ballona Channel to the Santa Monica border. The streetcar would serve the purpose of distributing beachgoers up and down our beautiful Venice beaches. There should be no fare charged to ride the streetcar. New streetcars in many other cities are free to ride. A streetcar shares the road with cars, making installation cheaper than light rail or subways.

The always downtown-centric Los Angeles City Council is supporting a streetcar in hopes of revitalizing the city center. Yet, it would only carry 5,000 to 13,000 riders a day, at best. Compare that with the enormous crowds in Venice that would love to hop on a tram. By the way, when I arrived in Venice in 1968, there was a motorized, wheeled tram that ran up and down Ocean Front Walk. That’s no longer possible due to the crowds on the Boardwalk, but the need continues, especially for families and seniors.

The cost of a streetcar could be shared with Santa Monica, if that city decided to continue it north from Venice along Neilson Way to the Pier and the Promenade. The streetcar would make it feasible for beachgoers to park their cars in the large beach lots in Ocean Park and spend the day in any part of Venice’s beaches.

3.  Expand the number of bike lanes and make them safe by separating (buffering) them from cars. Legalize bike-pedaled jitneys or pedi-cabs. I’ve previously written about London-style double-decked shuttles to help residents and visitors get around Venice without a car (Click here, see page 7). Make Venice a true walking city by repairing and widening sidewalks.

4.  Establish a congestion fee for cut-through traffic. In the last few years, the amount of traffic on Lincoln, Abbot Kinney, Pacific, Main, Venice, Washington and neighborhood streets has vastly increased. Much of this traffic is made up of people who have no intention of taking part in coastal recreational activities. They are simply going from one place to another, and Venice is in their way.

A number of cities, beginning with London, have established a congestion fee to drastically cut down on traffic. It can be argued that Venice, and indeed, the entire coastal zone should be a natural preserve, and not a quick drive home. A fee could be charged for each car cutting through the Venice coastal zone. If a car enters and leaves the coastal zone in less than 30 minutes then it is fair to assume that the driver is not here for recreational purposes. If the car is in the zone for more than 30 minutes, no fee would be charged.

If the experience of other cities applies then we would see an immediate and drastic reduction in the amount of cut-through traffic. Once again, a restored city of Venice would likely be necessary to have the political clout to pull this off.

Up until now, the LA City Council and the MTA have been much more interested in providing transportation to pull people into downtown Los Angeles by creating big projects (like the solid-gold subway) which reward their development friends with lucrative contracts.

Mike Bonin, the newly elected City Councilmember for District 11, which includes Venice, has been appointed as the Chair of the Council’s Transportation Committee. He should be approached to help us find ways to improve non-auto transpiration within our community. Most of Venetians’ trips are around Venice, except for the small minority who work in downtown Los Angeles. We need all the help we can get to develop environmentally-friendly local transportation that will benefit most of us in our daily rounds.

Venice was created at a time when the car was not yet king. Anyone familiar with our street pattern knows it is not made for automobile convenience. If we can once again dethrone the automobile, we can turn parking lots into community parks, vegetable gardens, kids' playgrounds and other non-polluting uses that will increase our quality of life. And, isn’t that what it’s all about?

A Fantastically Clear, Concise Explanation of Why Traffic Happens


By Eric Jaffe, September 20, 2013

 A Fantastically Clear, Concise Explanation of Why Traffic Happens

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic, gave a great 20-minute overview on the counterintuitive science of congestion at the Boing Boing: Ingenuity conference in San Francisco last month. Turns out a lot of the problems we ascribe to poor roads or other drivers are really our own fault. "[T]he individual driver cannot often understand the larger traffic system," says Vanderbilt.

The talk is worth a full watch — especially if you're parked in gridlock — but we've plucked out a few nuggets most relevant to metro area commuters.

Executing the "zipper" merge. Road work often reduces two lanes of traffic down to one. In these situations, American drivers typically merge into the right lane as soon as possible and form one long line. The main reason they do this is because people think it's bad behavior to stay in the left lane and merge late.

In fact, says Vanderbilt, traffic would be much better off if cars stayed in both lanes then merged at the very end, one by one, like a zipper. It's safer (fewer lane changes), it reduces back-ups (often up to 40 percent), and it quenches road rage (still on the rise).

The zipper merge is used in Germany but can't overcome its bad reputation in the United States. A trial in Minnesota failed because drivers wouldn't stay to the left. They were too nice.

Maintaining a steady speed. A big reason for traffic is that too many cars are trying to occupy too little space on the road. But that's not the only problem. A human inability to maintain a steady speed and following distance on the highway makes traffic a lot less smooth than it could be.

A few years back a group of Japanese physicists gathered drivers on a closed loop course and asked them to keep a certain speed and following distance. They couldn't do it. After a while the system broke down and a reverse shockwave rippled back through the whole line of cars.

"You're not driving into a traffic jam," says Vanderbilt. "A traffic jam is basically driving into you." He thinks autonomous cars will reduce this problem considerably.

Getting drivers onto transit. So relatively small flaws in driving behavior have a major impact on congestion. But the biggest problem may be that people just can't seem to give up driving, no matter how much they hate traffic. (This irrational bias toward driving has recently been called the "car effect.")

"You can't just assume that as bad as traffic gets that people are automatically going to migrate to mass transportation," says Vanderbilt.
That's too bad, he says, because even a small drop in driving would improve congestion dramatically. One recent study of metropolitan Boston found that getting 1 percent of commuters off the road would enable the rest to get home 18 percent faster. Vanderbilt ends his science of traffic talk without suggesting ways to target this 1 percent. Fortunately there's also a science of mass transit on the case.