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, December 8, 2013

Valley air district urges truckers to attend truck-rule workshop


December 8, 2013

•  December 12 event to detail grants available plus new rules coming down the road
•  Fresno event also available on video in Bakersfield and Modesto

With the Jan. 1, 2014 compliance deadline of the California Air Resources Board’s truck rule fast approaching, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has a workshop December 12 to explain the changes.
“We are very pleased that the Air Resources Board sees the importance of allowing additional time for these small trucking operations to receive critical funding that allows them to go beyond what is required by this regulation,” says Seyed Sadredin, the Valley Air District’s executive director and air pollution control officer.
The Valley Air District has made an additional $10 million available and broadened its eligibility criteria for the Valley’s 15,000-plus single-truck owner/operators and small fleets to receive funding that reduces nitrogen oxides emissions, a major source of the air basin’s pollution.
This funding can provide truckers with assistance that further reduces emissions beyond mere rule compliance. To date, the local air district has awarded more than $114 million in truck funding, replacing more than 2,000 trucks.
The Thursday workshop is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Valley Air District offices, 1990 E. Gettysburg Ave. in Fresno.
The public can also attend the workshop by video conference at the Valley Air District’s regional offices in Bakersfield and Modesto.

Public Invited to Fire Station 39 Rededication Saturday, Dec. 14


December 4, 2013


 From Top Left clockwise: Mayor Bill Bogaard, Fire Chief Calvin Wells, Councilmember Steve Madison and City Manager Michael Beck.

The public is invited to join Mayor Bill Bogaard, Councilmember Steve Madison, Fire Chief Calvin E. Wells and other Pasadena officials on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, to celebrate the rededication of Fire Station 39 following its $2.9 million seismic retrofit and renovation.

Light refreshments and tours of Fire Station 39 at 50 Avenue 64 will be available after the program, which begins promptly at 11:30 a.m.

Fire Station 39 is one of the oldest of the City Fire Department’s eight stations and was originally constructed in 1949. The seismic retrofit and extensive interior remodel work was completed to comply with California earthquake and ADA (Disability Act) standards.

Improvement work retained the brick exterior of the two-story, 4,400-square-foot building to maintain the building’s historical significance. Other work increased the building’s energy efficiency; installed new fire sprinklers and alarm systems; new interior living, office and kitchen spaces and a new emergency generator room.

The facility will be operational beginning Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 with Engine 39 and four firefighters. The temporary station on Glen Summer Road with Rescue Ambulance 39 will be taken out of service.

The City worked with Pasadena Heritage, www.pasadenaheritage.org, to develop a sensible project that retains the building’s historic brick exterior using state historic preservation guidelines.
Project funding came from the city’s Capital Improvement Project Fund. The construction project was managed by Pasadena’s Department of Public Works and work was completed by local general contractor Mallcraft, Inc.

For information about the dedication ceremony, contact Yesenia Alvarado at (626) 744-7033 or by email to yalvarado@cityofpasadena.net.

For information on the Department of Public Works, visit www.cityofpasdena.net/publicworks. For information about the City of Pasadena, visit www.cityofpasadena.net or follow us on Twitter@PasadenaGov.

Californians deserve to know how a bullet train will be financed

The rail authority's chairman has some ideas, but we haven't heard from Gov. Brown.


By George Skelton, December 8, 2013

 High-speed rail

 Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to journalists on board a high-speed train in Beijing in April. He has called bullet-train skeptics “declinists.”

SACRAMENTO — Let's stipulate that a bullet train zipping between Los Angeles and San Francisco would be grand and groovy. But to quote a great movie line, "Show me the money!"

That's what the pro football wide receiver (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) tells the sports agent (Tom Cruise) in the flick "Jerry Maguire."

And it's what a judge, former bullet backers and many citizens have been trying to tell an obstinate Gov. Jerry Brown.

It's astonishing that a seasoned governor who fancies himself a prudent spender refuses to recognize the need to secure financing before embarking on the largest public works project in California history.
It's like a middle-class family starting to build a mansion before obtaining a loan.

All we hear from the starry-eyed governor is that skeptics are "declinists" who "sit around and mope and navel-gaze.... We have to suck it up."

Brown equates critics of the bullet train with initial opponents of the transcontinental railroad, the Panama Canal, the Golden Gate Bridge, the interstate highway system and the State Water Project, among other ambitious endeavors. But that's distorting history. Those projects were paid for by dedicated revenue streams — fuel taxes, water fees, bridge tolls — or the federal government.
If European and Asian countries can build high-speed rail lines, the governor asserts, there's no reason California can't. But they're countries. We're a state. No state has ever created a bullet train. And unlike Washington, Sacramento can't print money.

California's 500-plus-mile rail project is projected to cost $68 billion, double what voters originally were told. But we only have roughly $13 billion — less than $10 billion in state borrowing authorization and $3 billion-plus in federal grants — with no other funding in sight.

Regardless, Brown plans to begin initial construction early next year, laying 130 miles of track from Madera to Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, then extending the line over the Tehachapi Pass into Palmdale and continuing to the San Fernando Valley at a total cost of $31 billion.

But he'll need to clear it with a court. A Sacramento judge ruled recently that the California High-Speed Rail Authority could not tap into the state money because it had failed to comply with requirements of the 2008 voter-approved bond act. They include identifying all the funds needed to complete the first fully operational segment into the San Fernando Valley.

Shortly afterward, federal regulators rapped the state's knuckles, rejecting its request to exempt a large chunk of initial construction from lengthy environmental review. Ann Begeman, vice chairwoman of the federal Surface Transportation Board, also called for a thorough analysis of the project's "financial fitness."

I phoned Dan Richard, Brown's hand-picked chairman of the rail authority, to ask where he planned to find all the needed construction money — so we wouldn't wind up stuck with just a short line connecting some farm burgs.

"Well, I don't know," he replied, refreshingly candid. "The best answer" he could give, he said, was that he had a good sense of where to look.

First off, said the former Bay Area transit official, retired utility executive and infrastructure financier, that $68-billion figure is adjusted for future inflation. In today's dollars the cost would be around $52 billion.

"Every high-speed rail system in the world, once built, covers their operating costs from the fare box," he continued. "Because of that, it becomes a very attractive investment opportunity. We'll ask, 'Who wants to come in and operate this and make money?'"

There are no takers so far, and that shouldn't surprise anyone, he said. The private sector "won't take that kind of risk early in a project. We need some ridership first. Then they'll bid on the right to operate the train. And that will help build the next leg. That's fully a third of the cost."

There'll be "lots of revenue opportunities," Richard insisted. "There's all kinds of stuff that we haven't scratched the surface."

He envisions leasing rights-of-way beneath and alongside tracks for such things as fiber-optic cables — and land around stations for real estate development.

"Let's take it a leg at a time," he said, referring to the financing.

And once the track-layers come within striking distance of Palmdale and the L.A. Basin, he predicted, there'll be a great desire to complete that segment. Local governments might kick in money. Congress could even shake loose more.

But Richard said there's no thought of asking California voters for additional bond money. Polls have shown that if voters had another shot at the project, they'd derail it.

"Once we've connected the [San Joaquin] valley to L.A." around 2020, he said, "we can start running full-scale high-speed operations. And start building from Madera to Gilroy to San Jose."

Richard objected to my referring to this as a financing "concept." That sounds weak, he insisted. "We're looking at revenue models that have been demonstrated around the world. It's a playbook that works. It's stronger than a concept."

"I don't want to sound Pollyannaish," he added, "I don't have all the answers. But I do have a sense of vision. We're going to take it in stages. We're building a critical infrastructure system. And I think it's going to transform this state in ways that people haven't even thought of."

But he won't be showing you the money. Neither will the governor. They can't.

Brown, however, could learn from Richard. He could seriously address doubters' legitimate concerns. Stop insulting them. Try selling rather than slurring.

Proposed rules for self-driving cars drafted by California regulators

The Department of Motor Vehicles' proposed regulations govern testing procedures that automakers would use to develop the cars as early as a year from now.


By Marc Lifsher, December 8, 2013

SACRAMENTO — California regulators are speeding ahead with new rules of the road for testing and eventually operating self-driving cars — autos that can function without someone actively at the controls. Manufacturers hope these cars may be available by 2020.
The Department of Motor Vehicles last week announced it has drafted proposed rules for so-called autonomous cars. The regulations, when final in the spring, would govern testing procedures that manufacturers would use to develop the cars as early as a year from now.

"They're right on track," said state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima), the author of a 2012 law that began the process for making such cars legal. California is the furthest along of three states — the other two are Nevada and Florida — working on regulations. The California requirements deal with insurance, reporting of road-test results, safety and other issues.
The idea of self-driving "conjures up images of Buck Rogers and futuristic things," said Bernard Soriano, a DMV official in charge of the program. "But, it's not far off. When we meet with the manufacturers, we realize that technology is not the limiting factor."

Manufacturers want to test in California, he said. "We're a big state with a wide variety of terrain ... a lot of people, a lot of roads and a lot of situations that cars will have to encounter."

Greenhouse gas progress

The Golden State is gaining ground in the battle to cut greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide, that contribute to global warming.

That's the takeaway from a hearing held last week at UCLA by the state Senate's Select Committee on Climate Change and AB 32, the landmark 2006 law that requires a 17% drop in greenhouse gas pollution by 2020.
California is more than halfway toward meeting the goal, but there is much to do, said the law's author, Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills).

"It's going to require a concerted effort by the public and private sectors," she said. "And the focus should be not just on emission reductions but the adaption of people to a warmer climate."
Jobless angst

 For many of California's jobless trying to get overdue unemployment benefits as the holidays approach, the nightmare at the Employment Development Department goes on.

Just ask laid-off aerospace welder Robert Rowe, 56. He griped that phone calls and emails to the agency have gone unanswered and benefits have come weeks late. "It's insane," he said. "You feel like a dog chasing your tail."

The EDD for months has been plagued with a glitchy computer upgrade that delayed payments to about 150,000 claimants. The backup has been largely fixed, the EDD contends.

Frustrated by the bureaucracy, Rowe wrote the Los Angeles Times to say, "I am desperate." Last week, a Times reporter passed the complaint to an official of Gov. Jerry Brown's administration.
That same day, the EDD called Rowe, telling him his money was in the mail. The quick response, said an EDD official, was "coincidental."

School objects to east-west tunnel air shaft


By Alisa Dow, December 9, 2013

 Clifton Hill Primary School principal Geoffrey Warren with some students unhapy about proposed east west tunnel.

 Clifton Hill Primary School principal Geoffrey Warren with some students unhapy about proposed east-west tunnel.

(The East-West Tunnel is a proposed tunnel in Melbourne, Australia.)

Clifton Hill Primary School could suffer a mass exodus of students if a planned east-west link ventilation stack is built in the neighbourhood.

The school council has criticised the state government's comprehensive impact statement (CIS) for the road project for lacking detail on the health effects of stack emissions and called for independent air-quality monitoring at the school starting immediately.

Original east-west link designs placed the ventilating system just a block from the school grounds.
School councillor and parent Melanie White said the CIS had not examined properly the impact of air pollution on the school.

 She accused the government of being out of touch with the level of anxiety in the community.

''Really we want some scientific evidence of what's going to happen. At this stage we don't have any information, so we can't allay the fears of parents because we just don't know,'' she said.

Clifton Hill is considered among the best primary schools in the state, yet a recent poll has revealed 30 per cent of parents would consider removing their children if the road project goes ahead.

It was previously believed the ventilation stack would be 80 to 100 metres from the school, on the corner of Gold Street and Alexandra Parade.

A government spokeswoman said the ventilation structure would be near Alexandra Parade and close to the tunnel opening, but the exact location would not be chosen until the final design. ''We will have a monitoring station in place at the eastern end of the project, around Alexandra Parade, well ahead of construction,'' she said.

The school council is angry that such an important decision has been handballed, despite assurances that additional air-quality assessments would be required.

''We seek a firm undertaking that pollution levels will be carefully modelled in advance, monitored after construction and that any increase in pollution levels as a result of the project would be properly addressed,'' the school's CIS submission said. The school council also wants to know if the stack will be visible from the school and what would happen if there was a large fire in the tunnel.