To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Small firms cut out of $1.3 billion Seattle tunnel project


By Susannah Frame, October 2, 2013

Comment by Jan SooHoo on Facebook:  Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. The next time someone from Metro or SCAG or a politician tells you about how much the F-7 tunnel will do for local economy and how many jobs it will provide, cite some of the data from this article! Pay special attention to the track record of Tutor Perini and Dragados USA.


 Shawn Vinson said he's had to lay off workers after none of the promised street-cleaning work came through from Seattle Tunnel Partners.

Small businesses have received just a fraction of the $90 million Washington state hopes to steer their way from the $1.36 billion Seattle deep-bore tunnel project.

With the project more than half-way complete, small and minority-owned construction companies have signed contracts potentially worth $25 million to complete tunnel-related work. But to date, just $7 million has been paid out to these small firms.

The Washington State Department of Transportation awarded the huge contract to Seattle Tunnel Partners in 2010 with a federally mandated condition: sub-contract a certain percentage of the work to small and minority-owned construction companies. If that condition isn’t met -- or at a minimum, if the prime contractor can’t show a good faith effort was made to meet the condition -- federal dollars for the project can be withdrawn. For the bored tunnel contract, the U.S. Department of Transportation is kicking in nearly $500 million.
WSDOT set the goal at 8 percent of the total contract value, or $91 million. Records obtained by KING show that currently $25 million in contracts have been signed with women and minority owned businesses, but to date, only $7 million has been paid to the small contractors. It’s unclear if STP will be able to make good on fully executing the contracts signed.

One small firm that does have a subcontract with STP is still waiting for work assignments. STP signed a $630,000 contract for street sweeping near the tunnel project with Seattle-based company DHD Trucking.
DHD owner Shawn Vinson said he was thrilled to get the security of work with a signed contract.

"This is history, we thought we were going to be part of history," he said.

Vinson signed the paperwork in June, but since that time he said he hasn’t been called once to do any street sweeping. Instead, STP bought its own street sweepers.

Prior to signing the contract, DHD Trucking had received full-time sweeping work from STP, but once the prime contractor acquired its own equipment -– the same time the contract was signed -– all the work dried up for the small company. Vinson said he believes STP cut him out of the process in order to keep more of the lucrative project money.

"We had six full-time, 40-plus-hour workers and now we're down to no employees. I'm the only one working. Because there's no work for the employees I had to lay everybody off," said Vinson. “They’re taking food off our table.”

Bob Armstead, president of the Washington state chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors, said his organization has worked diligently to get its members work on the mega-project without success.

“(I would give this project) an F-minus,” said Armstead. "It's totally bad for the local economy. It's mean, spiteful, hateful, it's damaging to the community."

Todd Trepanier, Alaskan Way Viaduct project administrator, said WSDOT is increasing its efforts to include small, local businesses.

"We are putting a lot of emphasis on this," said Trepanier.

"To be at 7 million [in payments] at this time, we would like to see that number higher. There's some things that probably could have been done differently, but at this point we're very pleased with how much attention DOT is putting forth on this and that STP is putting forth."

Ultimately, WSDOT is responsible to follow federal highway regulations and make sure the prime contractor, STP, makes a good faith effort to attain the goal of including small businesses on this project.

Members of the minority contracting community told KING 5 that WSDOT isn’t providing the leadership needed to make that happen.

"They're trying to get all of the money and WSDOT is not policing them (STP) so they're just letting them do what they want to do," said Vinson.

“There are businesses available to do the work, that are ready, willing and able to the work but they’re not getting the opportunity,” said Armstead. “The huge problem is that WSDOT is not enforcing the (minority contracting) regulations.”

WSDOT said one of the ways the agency is showing its renewed commitment to small local businesses is by hiring Bruce Watts, a Portland-based consultant who has a track record of helping government agencies meet goals of giving a fair portion of mega project work to small, struggling construction firms.

"We are turning over every stone possible to try to find opportunities at this point. I can't tell you how much ground they can make up but I can tell you they are becoming, they are extremely attentive to trying to make up as much ground as humanly possible," said Watts.

Watts was hired in August, more than three years into the project. His contract is worth $73,000 for six months of work.

KING 5 asked Watts if he was brought in too late to fix the problem.

“I can’t say too little too late. Ideally I’ve always been at the beginning of a process. That’s where you have the most bang for your buck. That didn’t happen this time. But I can tell you that when I’m done here WSDOT will be a lot more attentive to this piece in the very beginning (of projects),” said Watts.

Seattle Tunnel Partners is actually a joint venture of two out-of-state powerhouse contractors -- Tutor Perini of California and the New York based Dragados USA.

The federal government has charged both companies with breaking minority contracting regulations on other projects. In 2009 Tutor Perini paid $9.7 million to the federal government for allegedly cheating minority contractors out of work in New York. Last spring, Dragados USA paid $7.5 million for the same sorts of allegations.

The Association of Minority Contractors said WSDOT shouldn't have hired companies with that kind of track record.

"It's horrible, worse than horrible," said Armstead. "To me it's a criminal act. If someone has a history of not performing, why would they believe that they would perform here.?"

DHD's Vinson said he still hopes he’ll get a phone call from STP to begin sweeping streets on the tunnel project again, but at this point he thinks the six-figure contract he signed is a meaningless pile of paper.

"It's really worth about 15 cents. It's not worth nothing but ink and blank paper. That's all it is. It's $630,000 worth of hope and false dreams," said Vinson.

Semi-truck crashes into Oxnard car dealership, causes fire


By Melissa MacBride, October 5, 2013

For a video:


A semi-truck crashed into a CarMax dealership in Oxnard Saturday morning, causing several cars on the lot to catch fire. 

The crash occurred shortly before 7:30 a.m. right off the 101 Freeway south of Rose Avenue.
Winds in the area are very strong, but it's not clear if that caused the semi-truck to veer off the freeway and into the lot.

Several of those parked cars caught fire. Nine vehicles were destroyed and seven others were damaged including Porsches and Range Rovers.

The damage was estimated at $1.2 million.

Firefighters had to spray water and foam on the flames. There was also gasoline on fire and the truck was loaded with tissue paper, making it very flammable.

The female driver of the big rig was transported to Ventura County Medical Center. Her condition remains unknown.

No other injuries were reported.

CarMax employees were on site when the incident took place but the dealership was not yet open at the time of the accident.

 Fire crews from Ventura County and the city of Oxnard were on scene working to clean up the mess and debris.

CHP is handing the investigation.

Why is L.A.'s port boss stepping aside?


By Mark Lacter, October 4, 2013


Wish I knew. Here's another case where the embarrassing dearth of news coverage about the port leaves a big hole. The Long Beach Press-Telegram suggests that Geraldine Knatz was pushed into "retirement," but for reasons not at all clear. Maybe it involved having to rollback portions of the Clean Trucks Program, which was aimed at reducing the number of polluting trucks operating at the facility (though other parts of the law remain in place). Or maybe it was a controversial rail yard that would make it easier to transfer cargo - but which has gotten environmental groups up in arms. Or maybe it was just the traffic - through August, cargo shipments at the Port of Los Angeles were down 5.6 percent compared with a year earlier, while the Port of Long Beach's numbers are up sharply. Did that have anything to do with it? What's stunning is how little we know about the executive director of the nation's busiest port, which handled more than $273 billion in cargo last year and is responsible for 3 million jobs. Knatz has worked at the L.A.-Long Beach port complex her entire career, and from my limited vantage point, appeared to be effective (not to mention being one of the few women port managers in the world). If the mayor is so keen on greater transparency, why the pro-forma announcement about Knatz's departure? And why aren't local business reporters giving this a look? Like I said, embarrassing. By the way, here's what I wrote about port coverage after the strike last December. Doesn't seem like much have changed:
Very few reporters have a handle on these questions because news organizations have next to no presence at the ports. Shipping, you see, is simply too much of a hassle to cover. Sources are uncooperative, the industry itself is extremely secretive and nearly impossible to follow, the stories aren't all that exciting, and, don't laugh, San Pedro isn't easy to get to. So aside from rewriting port press releases and covering Harbor Commission meetings, it's basically ignored - until there's a strike.

Tesla's Elon Musk defends Model S electric car after fire


By Jerry Hirsch, October 4, 2013

 2013 Tesla Model S

 2013 Tesla Model S 

Tesla Motors Chief Executive Elon Musk moved Friday to put out the financial fire that resulted from when one of the electric car company’s expensive Model S hatchbacks burned up on a roadway near Seattle this week.

Writing on Tesla’s website, Musk explained how a big chunk of metal that fell from a semi-trailer impaled the undercarriage of the car and started a fire that was contained to the front battery module.

“Had a conventional gasoline car encountered the same object on the highway, the result could have
been far worse,” Musk wrote.

The fire raised concern that the luxury car might have some sort of flaw with its lithium-ion battery system that could be costly to fix or would spook potential buyers.

Tesla shares plunged from $193 at the close of trading Tuesday to an intraday low of $168 on Thursday, a 13% decline, before rebounding to close at $180.98 on Friday. Tesla has seen a huge run-up in its stock this year as it has ramped up sales of its luxury electric cars, which start around $70,000. The stock was $35.36 on Jan. 2.

Musk wrote that the fire was contained to the front of the car by internal firewalls in the battery pack. Vents built into the battery pack directed the flames down toward the road and away from the vehicle, he wrote.

A quarter-inch of armor plate protecting the base of the vehicle and other safety features helped protect the car and stopped the fire from spreading quickly, Musk added in his defense of electric car technology.

“A typical gasoline car only has a thin metal sheet protecting the underbody, leaving it vulnerable to destruction of the fuel supply lines or fuel tank, which causes a pool of gasoline to form and often burn the entire car to the ground,” Musk wrote.

Musk said the early data for electric car use shows that they are less prone to fires than gasoline vehicles.

“For consumers concerned about fire risk, there should be absolutely zero doubt that it is safer to power a car with a battery than a large tank of highly flammable liquid,” he wrote.

On Thursday, Wedbush Securities analyst Craig Irwin told investors that he did not believe the fire would have long-term consequences for the Palo Alto, Calif., auto company and predicted that the stock would bounce back to $180.

“Most of the current Model S buyers are either technology-savvy early adopters or environmentally conscious consumers with thick wallets, and we believe both groups will already understand the risks of a lithium fire and likely calibrate this recent event as of relatively minor importance,” Irwin said.

Still, safety officials have been tracking fires in electric cars, as well as computers and other equipment, out of concern that the lithium-ion battery systems might be prone to fires.

"This points to the wide variety of crash results that can't be tested in a lab and will only be discovered through inevitable real-world accidents that occur as electric cars become more prominent on our roads," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

This year, federal regulators grounded Boeing 787 planes for four months after batteries on two of the planes overheated, with one catching fire. Boeing ordered modifications to the jets to increase ventilation and insulation near the batteries, but the company and investigators did not determine the root cause of the overheating.

Last year, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid came under increased scrutiny when a series of fires ignited after test crashes of the vehicle and its battery pack. General Motors Co. said the fires were caused by a coolant leak and short circuit that occurred when the car’s battery pack was punctured during severe side test crashes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. GM subsequently modified the vehicles to prevent the problem.

Road Closures for CicLavia October 6, 2013

CicLAvia logo
Sunday, October 6, 2013
6:00 AM - Setup of road closures begins
9:00 AM - CicLAvia event officially begins
4:00 PM - CicLAvia event officially ends
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM - Streets are cleaned and reopen by area
CicLAvia: Heart of LA returns to the streets that started it all as we explore downtown Los Angeles on bike, foot, stroller and many more creative means of locomotion. The Heart of Los Angeles route follows in the footsteps of our first five events and helps Angelenos rediscover the origins of the City of Angels. Whether you’ve ridden these streets before or are new to CicLAvia, the Heart of LA route promises something new to discover.


CicLAvia logo
Sunday, October 6, 2013
6:00 AM - Setup of road closures begins
9:00 AM - CicLAvia event officially begins
4:00 PM - CicLAvia event officially ends
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM - Streets are cleaned and reopen by area
CicLAvia: Heart of LA returns to the streets that started it all as we explore downtown Los Angeles on bike, foot, stroller and many more creative means of locomotion. The Heart of Los Angeles route follows in the footsteps of our first five events and helps Angelenos rediscover the origins of the City of Angels. Whether you’ve ridden these streets before or are new to CicLAvia, the Heart of LA route promises something new to discover.

Top executive at Port of Los Angeles will retire

Geraldine Knatz will stay on until the end of December. She is the first department head to announce leaving during the mayor's review of top managers.


By David Zahniser and Dan Weikel, October 3, 2013

 Geraldine Knatz

 Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, was appointed to the post by then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that the top executive at the Port of Los Angeles will retire at the end of the year, the first department head to announce a departure during Garcetti's review of high-level managers.

Geraldine Knatz, who has been running the nation's busiest port since 2006, will leave her post in November but stay on until the end of December. Garcetti thanked Knatz for her service and said Gary Lee Moore, now the city engineer, will be acting general manager at the harbor department until a permanent replacement is found.

Knatz, 61, was hired by Garcetti's predecessor, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, earning $332,159 annually. Her retirement comes when both business and labor leaders are anxious about the threat posed to the L.A.-Long Beach harbor complex by a $5-billion expansion of the Panama Canal. In addition, L.A.'s port has been sued by the city of Long Beach over a controversial rail yard project, a dispute Garcetti is seeking to resolve.

When he took office, Garcetti called on the city's top department heads to reapply for their jobs and explain how they would achieve key goals. So far, he has told at least five they will get to stay, including top managers in the planning department and animal services department.

Knatz told The Times last week that she had not received a call from Garcetti saying whether she would be staying on. At that time, she gave no indication she was planning to retire. On Thursday, she issued a statement saying that she was leaving to "pursue other interests" and would help Garcetti with a smooth transition.

Garcetti would not say whether Knatz's departure was related to his review of managers, only that a "leadership change" is taking place. "My agenda for the port is focused on maximizing its economic impact and minimizing its environmental impact to build stronger neighborhoods in the harbor area and across Los Angeles," he said in a statement.

Knatz's departure news came three days after port officials announced the resignation of the harbor department's deputy executive director of operations. Retired U.S. Coast Guard Capt. John Holmes helped to develop the clean truck program, port security measures and the Maritime Law
Enforcement Training Center. But he became controversial earlier this year, after KCBS-TV reported on the growing costs of renovating the harbor department's 73-foot tour boat, the Angelina II.

City Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents San Pedro and Wilmington in the harbor area, said there were "mixed feelings" with Knatz's leadership among some overseas shipping executives, who complained that she did not spend enough time with them in person. "When you sign a deal, you want to see people face to face. You want to know the people you're doing business with," he said.

Harbor Commissioner Cindy Miscikowski, who will be replaced in coming weeks by another Garcetti appointee, described Knatz as "very, very effective" on efforts to keep the port competitive and to reduce emissions from the trucks that move through the harbor. But she also noted that "each mayor has his choice to bring in the team that they want."

City Will Crackdown on Red Flag Parking Violators


October 3, 2013

The Red Flag parking restrictions which go into effect today are notable not just because of the danger they convey but also because this is the last time violators have any hope of getting away unticketed or untowed.

City of Pasadena officials allowed for up to five Red Flag cycles after the City Council passed the resolution in 2009 to “train” the public on the safety procedure. Today’s alert is the fifth and final before ticketing will occur in earnest.

“All future Red Flag Restrictions will result in tickets being issued.  Then, after another 5 activations or 10 cumulative days, vehicles will also be subject to being towed,” a city official said.

Streets where parking is restricted on Red Flag days are posted with appropriate “No Parking” signs. If signs are not posted, that street is not affected.

Red Flag sign locations are expected to include:

1. Northbound Altadena Dr Near Veranda Ave
2. Ne Corner Of New York Dr And Sierra Madre Villa Ave
3. Northbound Hastings Ranch Dr South Of Denair St
(Near Don Benito School Field)
4. Northbound Michillinda Ave North Of Valley View Ave
5. Northbound Arroyo Blvd South Of San Rafael Ave
6. Northbound Avenue 64 South Of Burleigh Dr
7. Eastbound La Loma Road West Of Sycamore Glen
8. Southbound Avenue 64 At Glenover Dr
9. Northbound Patrician Way Near West City Limit
10. Northbound San Rafael Road North Of 134 Freeway
11. Northbound Linda Vista Ave Near Colorado Bridge Overpass
12. Westbound California Blvd West Of Grand Ave
13. Ne Corner Of Forest Ave And Lincoln Ave
14. Westbound Washington Blvd West Of Lincoln Ave
15. Northbound & Southbound Linda Vista Ave In Front Of Fire Station 38
( 2 Signs At This Location)
16. Eastbound Lida St West Of Arts Center Entrance
17. Southbound Arroyo Blvd South Of Rosemont Ave
18. Southbound Linda Vista Avenue Near North City Limit

Peggy Drouet: My workman received a Red Flag parking violation warning at 11:10 a.m. on Thursday, October 3. I received three phone messages and one email from the city that the Red Flag parking restrictions would go into effect at 9 p.m. that evening. I didn't pick these up until 1 p.m. There were no signs at either end of the street that the parking restrictions were or would be in effect. I think the City of Pasadena needs to do a better job in both notification and enforcement for workmen and others who do not receive these notifications as just notifying a street's residents is not going to work well.

You can leave comments at the end of the article.