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

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Why Freeway Fighters Support Diana for South Pas City Council


By Joanne Nuckols, November 3, 2013

How much weight should we place in the endorsements of candidates for South Pasadena City Council?  With the issue of the 710 freeway/tunnel hanging like a black cloud over our city, and our neighboring cities of LA (El Sereno) and Pasadena, for the last 60 years, a lot!  There is a reason all of the long time 710 freeway fighters, State Senator Carol Liu, former Assemblyman Anthony Portantino support Diana Mahmud's candidacy for South Pasadena City Council.  Diana is against the 710 in any form and a woman of action. We have all seen her in action and in the case of the 710, actions speak louder than words.

Diana is working with the grassroots No 710 Action Committee to oppose the tunnel alternative from being adopted by Metro and Caltrans.  Her previous legal background and her extensive construction law experience have provided valuable input which is helping to bolster our efforts to stop the tunnel project as soon as we can by exposing the flaws in Metro's EIR process, among other strategies.

With her "can do" attitude, Diana is exactly the person we need on the city council at this exact time to finally rid the city of this longtime burden.  Just as the election, two years ago, of Dr. Marina Khubesrian and Bob Joe brought a new life to our longtime 710 struggle, that ultimately lead to the elimination of the surface freeway threat a few weeks ago, we need a necessary shot in the arm now if we ever expect to win this battle and rid the city of this tunnel threat once and for all.

To keep our City's positive momentum going, please join me in voting for Diana Mahmud for City Council.

Long Beach nonprofits battle clean air issues


By Karen Robes Meeks, November 3, 2013

Emmanuel Iglesias, 5, undergoes a treatment for his asthma at the Children's Clinic in Long Beach. Family lives in Wilmington. (Mon.Oct 28, Photo by Brad Graverson/The Press-Telegram)

 Emmanuel Iglesias, 5, undergoes a treatment for his asthma at the Children's Clinic in Long Beach. Family lives in Wilmington.

LONG BEACH >> When Emmanuel Ibarra can’t breathe, the asthmatic kindergartner often seeks relief at The Children’s Clinic on Atlantic Avenue.

On a recent visit, the boy wheezed and coughed as a doctor listened to his chest and back. To loosen the mucus that filled his underdeveloped lungs, Ibarra’s cousin Jennifer Castellon tapped his back while he breathed in and out of a machine that doled out medication in mist form.

Castellon and Ibarra’s brother Christian Iglesias, both of whom have asthma, said living near refineries and the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles has aggravated their condition.

“The area doesn’t really help because of all the pollution and stuff,” Castellon said.

Iglesias agreed.

“When there’s smoke in the area, we don’t let him go outside,” Iglesias said. “We tell him, ‘You can’t go outside because it’s bad for your asthma.’ ”

Ibarra is among the 35,000 low-income children and adults treated annually by The Children’s Clinic, a Long Beach-based nonprofit founded by doctors and community members.

The clinic is among a handful of nonprofit organizations and coalitions such as the Long Beach Alliance For Children With Asthma and EndOil/Communities for Clean Ports working to fight the impacts of air pollution and improving the quality of life of those who live in proximity to the ports and the transportation system that supports them.

“We’ve created this little army of advocates, and it’s been very cool,” said Dr. Eliza Nicholas, CEO of The Children’s Clinic and project director of Long Beach Alliance for Children With Asthma. “I like to say that LBACA moms helped move the freeway because (officials) were looking at moving homes to expand the 710 Freeway.”

A pediatrician who has traveled to Africa and Haiti for public health work, Nicholas has been a longtime advocate for children suffering from asthma. She helped establish the Long Beach Alliance for Children With Asthma, a community coalition under the umbrella of Miller Children’s Hospital, also a nonprofit. The alliance, founded in 1999, was one of seven programs in the nation funded under the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation’s Allies Against Asthma and one of 12 statewide programs funded under the California Endowment’s Community Action to Fight Asthma.

“In the year that we started LBACA, there was a death in the playground of a 5-year-old with asthma, and it shouldn’t happen because asthma is treatable,” Nicholas said.

Officials at the clinic began changing their focus as they received more asthma cases, and started designing programs and education materials. Everyone at the clinic was trained in treating childhood asthma, even those working in finance, Nicholas said.

Gisele Fong, executive director of End Oil/Communities for Clean Ports, became involved with the Long Beach-based nonprofit in 2007 after she became a mom.

“I started having kids and learning about the air quality in Long Beach, and I wanted to learn more about the environment and work upstream to effect change,” said Fong, a Bixby Knolls resident.

The group works in partnership with others to rally for alternative energy sources and reducing port pollution. Their latest campaign is protesting the Southern California International Gateway project, a 153-acre facility planned by BNSF Railway in an industrial area near the Terminal Island Freeway.

Opponents say the $500-million project, which would allow trucks to load containers and put them on trains closer to the ports, will adversely affect Carson, Long Beach and Wilmington residents.

“It’s an environmental injustice that these communities bear the brunt of these projects,” Fong said.
Those communities are often low-income families, Nicholas said. “It’s an equity issue, so it’s really important for us that we try to make sure we clean up the emissions as much as possible and that they’re putting in more monitoring systems.”

Air pollution is a side effect of handling much of the country’s cargo in the Long Beach/Los Angeles harbor area, home to the nation’s two busiest seaports.

Pollutants such as burning fuel, gases and particulate matter from truck and ship emissions cause increased respiratory illness, worsen asthma, affect lung function and can cause cancer and premature death, according to LBACA.

“Clearing up the air is imperative,” Nicholas said.

It’s something port officials such as Heather Tomley, acting director of Environmental Planning for the Port of Long Beach, are trying to do.

“The concerns that were being shared by the local community were that the growth in cargo was moving really rapidly and not enough was being done to address the impacts associated with growth and trade,” Tomley said.

That outcry prompted both ports to be more environmentally friendly, including the adoption of the Clean Air Action Plan, the implementation of the Clean Trucks Program and the development of a grant program that would fund air filtration systems for schools, mobile care clinics and other community projects.

Nonprofits and other organizations such as The Children’s Clinic have used these funds to further their work.

The greener approach appears to have a dent in fixing the problem. In August, the ports’ annual emissions inventory — a report that measures air pollution generated by ships, trucks, railroads and other port-related operations — showed declining pollution numbers.

The Long Beach port saw pollutants such as sulfur oxides plummet by 88 percent, diesel particulate matter fall by 81 percent, nitrogen oxides drop by 54 percent when compared with 2005, the baseline for measurement established by the San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Plan.

Los Angeles set records with its numbers, showing “an unprecedented 79 percent drop in diesel particulate matter,” while nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides fell 56 percent and 88 percent respectively since 2005, according to the Port of Los Angeles.

Nicholas said things seem to be getting better but that more needs to be done.

“It’s a true shift at the port,” she said. “But it took a lot of people raising the issue and some lawsuits to get us there.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s more to go,” she said. “I think the public awareness is much higher, but we’ve got to keep raising the awareness and start changing policy.”

Holden to Co-host Transportation Oversght Hearing Monday

The Gold Line Foothill Extension and the Alameda Corridor East projects are included on the list of items to be discussed.

By Melanie C. Johnson, November 3, 2013

Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, will host a transportation oversight hearing Monday in partnership with Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, according to Holden's website.

Quirk-Silva is the chair of the Select Committee on Regional Transportation Solutions.

The hearing will be at 10 a.m. at the San Dimas City Hall Chambers. Those who can't physically attend can watch the hearing on a webcast.

The committee plans to hear presentations on and discuss the following topics:

Southern California Transportation Assets and Regional Transit Plan
Gold Line Foothill Extension
Alameda Corridor East
Ontario Airport and Rail Connectivity

Visit Holden's website to access the webcast.

San Rafael Neighborhoods Association General Meeting


The mission of the San Rafael Neighborhoods Association (SRNA) is to enhance and maintain the character and quality of all San Rafael neighborhoods through advocacy and an ACTIVATED community. 
S R N A  
General Meeting
November 6
7 PM

California Prison Reform (AB 109)
"Early Release"
Neighborhood Safety

Justice Deputy


 "Early Release" (AB 109) 
 Safety in neighborhoods
▪ Offender accountability ▪ Recidivism
▪ Costs
▪Crime Trends 


Please join SRNA Neighbors for this important meeting at the beautifully restored
**Hillsides Education Center Auditorium**
940 Avenue 64 
(up the drive from the 
Church of the Angels Church Hall)

(Movie shoot at church)
Please try to carpool or walk.  
Follow signage to parking and auditorium.

Wednesday, November 6 
7:00 PM
All members of the public are welcome to attend the next SRNA General Meeting.  






Seating is limited.
Light refreshments will be served.

The San Rafael Neighborhoods Association is registered with the City of Pasadena Neighborhood Connections.

Dirty air affecting your health? Pedal harder


By Alex Hutchinson, November 3, 2013

 A cyclist pedals along in traffic on Danforth Ave. near Woodbine in Toronto on Oct. 21, 2013. A study presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology in Toronto in October suggested an increase of exercising benefits when pushing harder and breathing polluted air more deeply. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

When University of British Columbia exercise physiology researcher Luisa Giles noticed some tightness and wheeziness in her chest a few years ago, she quickly zeroed in on a possible culprit.

“I’m an avid cycle commuter and really, really embrace physical activity and its importance,” she says. But she couldn’t help wondering whether her daily rides, an hour each way along Vancouver’s busy streets, were doing more harm than good. So she decided to look into it.

The results of her study, presented at the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology in Toronto last month, offer a surprising twist in an ongoing debate. When it comes to mixing the benefits of exercise with the health risks associated with breathing polluted air, you may actually be better off when you’re pushing harder and breathing more deeply.

No one doubts that clean air is better than dirty air. Breathing particulate-laden air triggers a cascade of inflammation and oxidative damage that spreads from the lungs throughout the body.

You can track the daily rise and fall of air quality readings by looking at the number of people admitted to hospital for respiratory problems and other serious issues such as stroke and heart attack.
On the surface, exercise takes that bad situation and makes it worse, because you’ll be sucking in more bad air. But trade-offs in the real world are often less clear: exercising in dirty air versus not exercising at all; or commuting by bike versus sitting on a bus travelling along the same traffic-clogged roads.

One question that Giles and her adviser, Dr. Michael Koehle, at UBC’s Environmental Physiology Lab tackled was the effect of prior exposure to polluted air before exercising in clean air – a situation that might occur if you respond to an air-quality alert by driving or busing to a gym instead of exercising outdoors.

They found that pre-workout exposure to polluted air raised heart rates during the workout by six or seven beats, showing that the body was still struggling with after-effects of the pollution.

Another important consideration is the fact that exercise itself has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that accumulate over time – something that short-term experiments miss if they simply evaluate the effects of a single bout of exercise in polluted air.

For example, in a study published last year in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Brazilian researchers exposed mice to diesel exhaust particles for five weeks. Those that didn’t exercise showed high levels of lung inflammation and oxidative stress, as expected. But those that exercised five times a week in the diesel fumes were almost completely protected from the negative effects.

Of course, not all exercise has the same effects. In her latest study, Giles had 18 healthy volunteers cycle in an environmental chamber for 30 minutes at a time, at either low or high intensity, while breathing either clean air or air containing levels of diesel exhaust you might experience when cycling along a busy road.

At the lower exercise intensity, diesel fumes increased the amount of energy needed to maintain pace and forced the subjects to breathe more heavily. The total volume of air inhaled per minute increased from 39.9 litres in clean air to 44.5 litres with diesel added. But at the higher exercise intensity, which corresponded to a moderate but sustainable effort, there were no differences in respiratory or metabolic response between the clean air and the dirty air.

Why would pollution cause problems during easy but not hard exercise? The study isn’t able to answer this question, but Giles suggests that different patterns of airflow within the lungs may play a role. Heavier breathing may speed the diesel particulates past irritant receptors in the central airways without triggering them.

The findings may be particularly important for people with heart and lung conditions that prevent them from exercising at higher intensities, Giles notes. People with breathing problems also tend to be the most sensitive to pollution, and should consider minimizing outdoor exercise when air conditions are bad.

For healthy people, Giles’s research adds to an increasingly complex picture that doesn’t lend itself to absolute statements about when you should or shouldn’t exercise in polluted air.

The best approach, she emphasizes, is to minimize your exposure to pollution during workouts whenever possible. For example, the air tends to be cleaner early in the morning than later in the day, and on parallel side streets even just a block away from major arteries.

But if you find yourself biking down a busy street and wondering whether you should stop, don’t panic. The best option of all, it turns out, may be to pedal even harder.

New command center will protect L.A. infrastructure from cyberattacks

Mayor Garcetti's Cyber Intrusion Command Center will unify and strengthen public works departments against cyberattacks.


 By Michael Finnegan, November 2, 2013

 Mayor Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a news conference in October to unveil a new city website that lets the public see graphs and charts that grade agencies' performance on trash collection, street repairs, ambulance response time and other city services.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has set up a new command center to minimize the threat that hackers, terrorists or foreign enemies will disrupt water, power, transportation and public safety systems.

In an executive directive creating the Cyber Intrusion Command Center, Garcetti cited warnings from the Obama administration that computer attacks aimed at crucial infrastructure could cause panic and destruction and effectively paralyze the nation.

Working with the FBI and U.S. Secret Service, the command center will serve as a "rapid reaction force" to respond to cyberattacks, Garcetti said.

"The command center will identify and investigate cyberthreats to city assets, ensure any intrusion is immediately addressed and will constantly work to reduce security risks and prevent unauthorized access," he said during a news conference Wednesday. "It will also plan for continuity for recovery in case of a severe attack on our city."

The city's computer networks offer attractive targets to attackers. Its harbor and international airport are among the busiest in the world, and both are widely seen as vulnerable to terrorist strikes. And the L.A. Department of Water and Power is America's largest municipal utility, with a vast network of electricity plants and water lines that extend far beyond the city's borders.

As Garcetti has often pointed out, much of the technology used by the city is outdated, a problem he has promised to fix. The most glaring troubles include frequent breakdowns in the computer systems that connect 911 callers to Fire Department rescuers, which delays emergency responses.

The city's technology networks are a complicated patchwork of systems. The DWP, airport and harbor agencies each run their own networks separately from the Information Technology Agency that oversees most of the city's other computer systems.

Garcetti said the new command center would serve as an "umbrella" to coordinate security. He announced the plan at the Police Department's emergency command center downtown, where he appeared before a wall of monitors showing live city traffic scenes, cable TV news and maps of the city. At his side were Police Chief Charlie Beck and FBI and Secret Service officials.

"One of my top priorities is to make sure that we bring our city government into the digital age," Garcetti said. "New technology can make City Hall run cheaper, faster, more efficiently. But if we don't do it right ... critical city services that we provide are vulnerable through viruses, hacking, privacy invasions and security breaches."

Bay Bridge project problems to be investigated

After a decade-long delay and massive overspending, Sen. Mark DeSaulnier has promised a probe into Caltrans' Bay Bridge project.


 By Lee Romney, November 2, 2013

 The Bay Bridge

 After nearly 12 years of construction and an estimated price tag of $6.4 billion, the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge finally opened to traffic in September.

The new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is open to traffic, and motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians have expressed approval of the single-tower suspension span's elegant beauty.

But then there are these facts: The project was completed a decade later than promised and came in $5 billion over budget. It was also plagued by construction difficulties, including a batch of massive bolts that snapped, delaying the opening and requiring a costly retrofit.

Last week, state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) announced that he would lead a "comprehensive investigation" into the decision-making by California Department of Transportation officials throughout the nearly 12-year construction period.

He will also chair a series of Senate Transportation and Housing Committee hearings to explore problems plaguing all state "megaprojects" and come up with suggested improvements for Caltrans.
"The need for a new eastern span has been evident since the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and our committee will investigate the key decisions that shaped this project over the past 24 years," DeSaulnier said in a statement.

He added that drafting legislation "that creates greater accountability at Caltrans, and improves the management of future projects, will be a top priority of mine during the 2014 legislative session."
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg concurred.

"The problems encountered with this project raise a lot of questions, and California taxpayers and commuters deserve answers," he said. "I'm confident Caltrans will cooperate fully with this inquiry."
The probes come as part of a larger push to reform the transportation agency. Gov. Jerry Brown this year signed a bill authored by DeSaulnier that sets standards for assembling peer review panels used in public works projects.

The price tag on the eastern span of the bridge, which opened to traffic after Labor Day weekend, has reached $6.4 billion, and Caltrans' decision-making has come under increasing scrutiny throughout the year.

Most notably, criticism emerged over the use of galvanized steel bolts to connect the bridge deck to so-called shear keys, which are designed to control movement during an earthquake. U.S. industry standards and Caltrans' own guidelines warn against galvanizing the grade of steel used because of its hardness and tendency to break under extreme tension.

The bolts failed earlier this year because of hydrogen embrittlement, in which hydrogen atoms weaken steel's crystalline structure. That may have occurred during galvanization or when the bolts sat for years untightened in casings that filled with water.

Effort to clean Hong Kong's air results in increase of pollutant


By Keith Bradsher, November 2, 2013

 Effort to clean Hong Kong's air results in increase of pollutant
This long exposure picture shows apartment buildings and office blocks clustered tightly together in Hong Kong's Kowloon district, with the famous skyline of Hong Kong island in the background.

Hong Kong:  Municipal governments all over the world, particularly in developing countries with rapidly growing fleets of cars and choking air pollution, have been rushing over the past few years to force taxis and buses to switch to burning liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas, frequently offering subsidies for those who do.

But an early leader of the trend, Hong Kong, said Friday that the city's shift over the past decade to almost complete dependence on liquefied petroleum gas, or LPG, for light commercial vehicles had produced unintended consequences. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, one of the most important contributors to smog, surged by a fifth in Hong Kong's air from 2008 to 2012, and a team of local and international scientists have traced the cause to LPG-fueled vehicles, Hong Kong environmental regulators said at a news conference.

The problem lies in the taxis' and minibuses' catalytic converters, said Christine Loh, the undersecretary for the environment. Unless replaced every 18 months for cars and light buses that are driven nearly around the clock, the catalytic converters become fouled, and the vehicles begin emitting extremely high levels of pollution.

"The LPG vehicles, which are supposed to be cleaner, are spewing out very high levels of nitrogen," she said. Although relatively few natural-gas-powered vehicles have been deployed on a large scale in Hong Kong, they would pose the same problems, she added.

As a result, the Hong Kong government will pay for the replacement of catalytic converters on the city's entire privately owned fleet of roughly 18,000 taxis and several thousand minibuses, Loh said. Pang Sik-wing, the city's principal environmental protection officer for air sciences, said the replacement effort would cost about $1,290 per vehicle.

After the first free replacement, taxi and minibus owners will be responsible for replacing catalytic converters every year and a half at their own expense. Hong Kong will deploy five mobile sensor systems next year to measure the pollution from passing vehicles and send automatic notices to the registered owners of any vehicle exceeding emissions standards, requiring them to take in their vehicles for repairs or risk losing their vehicle licenses.

"We will strictly enforce the emissions standard," Pang said at the news conference.

Large areas of northeastern China struggled a week ago with smog so thick that schools closed and motorists had to slow down to drive through the murky air. While that smog has been linked overwhelmingly to coal consumption, vehicles have also played a role, particularly diesel-burning heavy trucks.

Air pollution tends to be less severe in Hong Kong than in northern Chinese cities, but it is still much worse than in the United States or the EU. Much of the pollution in Hong Kong is generated by factories just across the border in mainland China. Referring to air quality standards set by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Loh said, "Hong Kong could shut off tomorrow: We would still not meet WHO standards because there are emissions from our neighbourhood."