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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Waste bins thrown at cars from top of Santa Venera tunnels


By Neil Camilleri, December 12, 2013

A number of large plastic waste bins, as well as refuse bags, were thrown on top of passing cars as they entered the Santa Venera tunnels on Tuesday night.

An eyewitness told this paper that the incident happened at around 1.15am. “The entrance to the tunnel in the direction of Marsa was closed off and around four plastic bins and a number of garbage bags were strewn around the road. Cars couldn’t go through.”

The eyewitness said that he was informed by another driver who had managed to stop just in time that the plastic bins were being thrown down from the road on top of the tunnel. The driver said that the car that was being driven in front of him was hit by one of the bins, however it did not stop. “The incident could have had fatal consequences,” the eyewitness said.

A man who was a passenger in the first car climbed up the flight of stairs on the side of the tunnel to make sure that those responsible had left the area. He signaled that the coast was clear and a number of waiting cars could finally drive through the tunnel.

This paper yesterday contacted the Santa Venera and Hamrun Police Stations as well as the Santa Venera Local council but was informed that no reports had been made.

Over the past number of years the UK has experienced an increase in similar incidents, and a number of people have been seriously injured.

A number of people have been killed worldwide in similar incidents over the years, and many others injured. In 2004 a 20-year-old UK man was jailed for six years after being found guilty of causing the death of a lorry driver. The man had thrown a brick from a foot bridge. Around that time, Surrey Police were dealing with around 30 cases a month. The number of incidents has since decreased, but a few were reported this year.

A number of cases had also been reported in Malta over the past few years with objects having been thrown at cars from the December 13 Street bridge in Marsa. Fortunately no one has been seriously injured. The footbridge that crossed over Aldo Moro Road in Marsa has metal netting on each side – presumably to prevent missile throwing – however such measures seem to be lacking in areas overlooking busy roads, such as the area above the Santa Venera tunnels.

Union Station’s Pilot Program Aimed at Moving the Homeless, But Does It Create Two Classes of Transit Rider?


By Damien Newton, December 12, 2013

hollywood locations

Earlier this week, Metro announced a new “pilot program” to restrict access to the public seating area except for those holding passenger tickets to Metrolink or Amtrak trains that would be departing within the next two hours. The policy is aimed specifically at the homeless, many of whom sleep and rest in Union Station’s seating area, but impacts many groups of people including the homeless, people waiting for family and loved ones, and Metro passengers and customers.

“All this really comes down to this question: who does Union Station really serve?,” writes Ken Pratt, the director of Union Station Property Management at The Source. “Our customers were being accosted and couldn’t even use the restroom at times because people have been camping in there. We really are trying to do this on two fronts — not just enforcement, but with outreach to homeless in the area surrounding Union Station to bring people to services they need and services to individuals.”

Putting aside the issue of whether or not this is a good policy for Los Angeles’ homeless population, a topic which is well outside my wheel house; Pratt raises another question…who does Union Station really serve? How does a policy make sense that treats actual Metro passengers as second class citizens to those riding other rail services.

I understand that a Metro ticket is far less expensive than one for Metrolink or Amtrak, and that a TAP card with a single fare could be used as a “ticket to sit” if it were just restricted to people with valid fare. But, if the goal is to stop people from sleeping in the station what is stopping metro from just creating a policy that it’s against the rules to sleep in the station?

The level of controversy this policy creates will likely depend on how the policy is enforced. If the policy is little more than a Source article and some signage, there will likely be little difference. If security is regularly removing people who they profile as homeless while people that appear more likely to be passengers are allowed to stay, it will likely also be less controversial than it could be.

However, if instead of private security Los Angeles Sheriff Department is checking tickets and they regularly focus on everyone, then the outcry will probably be louder. Since this is a pilot program, it will be interesting to see if it becomes a permanent one.

Metro notes that over the summer, in excess of 135 people were sleeping in Union Station each night. While the number has dropped somewhat, the building does not have the facilities to accommodate that many overnight guests. Metro tried bringing in homeless intervention specialists during the summer, with little impact.

For many people, Union Station is their first taste of Los Angeles. It’s going to send a strange message when one of the first thing a visitor experiences is being shooed out of what appears to be a public seating area.

 We’re actively looking for someone whose ticket is checked at a Union Station seating area. Drop me a line at damien@streetsblog.org. We’d love to hear from you.

California Transportation Commission Meeting

 Held December 11, 2013, in Riverside, California

Posted on Facebook, by Anthony Portantino, December 12, 2013:

I thought I had witnessed everything in my day but today takes the cake. After spending the better part of the past 7 years fighting every proposed cost benefit analysis and feasibility study for the 710 tunnel, a former Caltrans and current MTA staffer proclaimed that "he had pushed for such a study." The entire 'No" 710 crowd was aghast at such posturing before the California Transportation Commission. Here we are years into and millions of dollars spent and we have no fundamental understanding of the cost of the largest public works project in California history. It's almost like these folks want to put the 710 in the same conversation as Boston’s Big Dig or the recent debacle of the bay bridge. Come on folks, just tell us how much it's going to cost and stop the nonsense.


An example of what Prof. Bent Flyvbjerg refers to as "strategic misrepresentation."

  Those two making that presentation did themselves and their respective agencies no favors yesterday. I loved how you incorporated his comments about having essentially nothing new to report since he last appeared before them a year ago. 40 million dollars later, and yet nothing new to report? It got even better after you left.

 This certainly is contrary to MetroTrans posture that all options were being considered equally. Something we all knew but now it cannot be denied.

It's a boondoggle any way you look at it. The real "gap closure" would be connecting the 2 Freeway to the 405, underneath Santa Monica Boulevard as was originally intended. You talk about traffic calming...

Photos by Joe Cano:

 Doug Falling of Metro.



Barbara Messina with Leeland Dolley.

Dario Frohmer, CTC Commissioner,

Anthony Portantino on the left.

Malcolm Dougherty cornered by No710.

Harry, Richard, Joanne.

 Richard Schneider, So Pasadena.

No710 Joanne, Harry, Diana, Richard.

Feds shuts down 52 'unsafe' coach operations


December 2, 2013

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) put 52 bus companies and 340 vehicles out of business as part of Operation Quick Strike, an eight-month intensified effort to shut down unsafe motorcoach companies.

"Bus travel is increasingly popular because it is a convenient, inexpensive option for students, groups and families," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "But, it must also be safe. Through Operation Quick Strike and our regular enforcement efforts, we’re shutting down companies that put passengers at risk and educating the public on safe motorcoach travel."

The intensified effort was part of FMCSA's three-phase Motorcoach Safety Initiative to raise the bar for safety in the motorcoach industry and to strengthen the agency's oversight methods. More than 50 specially trained investigators were dispatched from April through November to conduct in-depth reviews into the patterns and practices of the 250 most at-risk motorcoach companies, identified using roadside inspection and safety data.

As a result:
  • 214 top-to-bottom compliance investigations were completed (More than 30 companies had since transitioned to intrastate-only service, which FMCSA does not regulate, or had gone out of business).
  • 20 motorcoach companies were immediately shut down for violations and posing an imminent hazard to the public.
  • 32 companies were issued "Unsatisfactory" safety ratings and shut down after failing to remedy critical and acute violations.
  • 28 companies took corrective action to fix the safety violations investigators uncovered to avoid being shut down.
  • 340 vehicles, of the more than 1,300 vehicles that were inspected during the investigations, were put out-of-service for safety and maintenance violations.
Company-wide failures to adequately maintain their buses, inadequate drug and alcohol driver testing programs and widespread hours-of-service violations were among the reasons companies were shut down.

In addition, inspectors assessed the levels of safety for more than 1,300 carriers that had minimal inspection history or data with the agency. More than 240 have been targeted for follow-up investigations.

"This year we evaluated and enhanced our investigation methods to dig deeper than ever before and uncover dangerous patterns of unsafe behavior and business practices," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Now, we are training all investigators to utilize the new tactics we employed during Operation Quick Strike and encourage everyone who travels by bus to 'Look Before You Book' using the safety information on our website."

NYC commuters get 'late notes' when subways are delayed


By Lauren O'Neil, December 10, 2013

If you're a regular public transit user, chances are you've been late to work at least once thanks to a bus, subway or streetcar delay. It's also likely that your boss didn't buy your excuse, especially if you've used it more than once.

Fortunately for commuters in New York City, this isn't a problem thanks to city-certified "late notes" available to those affected by subway delays.

 More than 250,000 "Subway Delay Verification" notes have been issued by New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority since 2010, according to the New York Times.Designed to be presented to bosses, teachers or clients, the forms are essentially the equivalent of a doctor's note for transit delays.

The only problem is that they can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days to materialize.

To get a late note, passengers must first fill out an online form indicating which subway lines they were riding, when they got on and off the train, and if they made any transfers.

If everything checks out, the MTA will send an email to the passenger verifying that their subway train was, in fact, late, and provide a reason for why.

An example of one such email given by the New York Times reads

"There was a disruption in service, specifically signal trouble, sick customer, brakes in emergency and track circuit failure, which caused massive service delays, reroutes and/or trains to be discharged on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, A, B, C, D, F, J, L, M, N, Q and R lines. As a result, any one delay lasted up to 82 minutes.”

As it turns out, New York isn't the only city offering some sort of consolation to passengers affected by public transit delays.

The Times reports that in Tokyo, delay certificates are issued to passengers right at the ticket gates and have been known to include messages of apology. In London, passengers are simply refunded for delays exceeding 15 minutes (for reasons within the transit authority's control.)

As news of New York City's Subway Delay Verification system spreads today, tweeters are commending the MTA for the program and asking their own transit authorities for something similar.

People in China are beating the smog by sticking cigarette filters in their nostrils


By Jess Zimmerman, December 11, 2013


Beijing’s smog is legendarily bad — on some days, stepping outside is kinda like trying to breathe in an ashtray. So it’s not that surprising that someone on Sina Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, decided to deal with the pollution problem by shoving cigarette filters up his nose.
Rumors have spread over the Internet in China that taking cigarette filters and inserting one into each nostril can block the tiny PM2.5 particles of pollution that make breathing difficult and cause respiratory ailments. Some people have posted pictures online demonstrating the technique, although it was often unclear whether the pictures were in jest or in earnest.

“A magical fix for coping with the haze,” said one message that has been repeated many thousands of times on Sina Weibo, a microblog site that is China’s most popular equivalent of Twitter. “Take two cigarette filters, strip away the wrapping paper, and insert them in the nostrils.”
This definitely seems like it might be at least partly a joke, but the photo and concept went so viral that Beijing Youth Daily consulted an expert on whether the method would work (verdict: “unreliable”). And the Changsha Evening News warned that it could even be harmful: “Doctors have stated that this technique will definitely obstruct air entering the nasal cavity, and will affect normal breathing.” On the other hand, you’re kind of damned if you don’t: “There’s no doubt you die if you don’t breathe, but constantly breathing amounts to slow suicide,” said a Sina Weibo commenter.

If you’re going to go with this method of smog suppression, may we suggest that you use the entire (unlit) cigarette instead of breaking off the filter? That way even if it doesn’t work — and it won’t — you can still pretend to be a walrus.

 Novel Tactics for Dealing with Pollution


By Chris Buckley, December 10, 2013

Some sensible medical advice: Jamming cigarette butts up your nostrils will not ward off the acrid smog enveloping China, and is positively risky for your health. Thus some Chinese newspapers have told readers, in the most giddying example yet of how chronic air pollution is forcing citizens to desperate inventiveness.

Rumors have spread over the Internet in China that taking cigarette filters and inserting one into each nostril can block the tiny PM2.5 particles of pollution that make breathing difficult and cause respiratory ailments. Some people have posted pictures online demonstrating the technique, although it was often unclear whether the pictures were in jest or in earnest.

“A magical fix for coping with the haze,” said one message that has been repeated many thousands of times on Sina Weibo, a microblog site that is China’s most popular equivalent of Twitter. “Take two cigarette filters, strip away the wrapping paper, and insert them in the nostrils.”

Rumors about the do-it-yourself remedy recently became widespread enough that a couple of newspapers have forcefully warned readers not to take to the streets with cigarette ends poking from their noses.

“Doctors have stated that this technique will definitely obstruct air entering the nasal cavity, and will affect normal breathing,” the Changsha Evening News, a paper from Hunan Province in southern China, said on Tuesday. Threads from the filters might also enter users’ lungs, creating more complications, the report said.

To overcome any doubts, the intrepid reporter tried the technique.

“This reporter tried the advice from Internet users and discovered that after inserting cigarette filters into his nostrils, breathing was affected and there was also the odor of tobacco,” the report said.
On Monday, the Beijing Youth Daily gave similar advice from a respiratory doctor at an air force hospital: “Just from the effects on breathing, this method should not be used,” he said.

But some of the messages on the Internet about the method appeared to be rueful satire, rather than serious advice.

“There’s no doubt you die if you don’t breathe, but constantly breathing amounts to slow suicide,” said one comment on Sina Weibo. “Seems I should meekly stick two cigarette filters up my nose.”
Serious entrepreneurs have also spied a market in the goop of dust, vehicle exhaust and smoke from coal plants mixed with fog. One Beijing company has developed an “invisible mask” that offers fashion-conscious residents a way of filtering their nostrils without cigarette butts, Tech in Asia reported.

The smog is likely to hang over much of China throughout the winter, and experts have said that a real respite could be many years off. But a report in the People’s Daily, the main newspaper of the ruling Communist Party, on Wednesday offered a kind of solace: it told readers that rumors of a link between the haze and impending earthquakes were untrue.

“Current research has not found any necessary or clear link between haze and the occurrence of earthquakes,” said the paper. Phew.

Developers see Pasadena as an inland version of Silicon Beach

Entrepreneur David Sacks and Rising Realty have bought three century-old buildings in Old Pasadena and plan to transform them into a hub for tech start-ups.


By Roger Vincent, December 12, 2013
 Christopher and Nelson Rising
 Christopher, left, and Nelson Rising purchased a three-building complex at Raymond Avenue and Holly Street in Pasadena. “We’re bringing density of tech use to Pasadena,” said Nelson Rising, CEO of Rising Realty. “There’s not a lot of density there now.”

Historic Old Pasadena, a restored section of the city's downtown bustling with shops and restaurants, is getting more high-tech.

Three older buildings at a busy intersection on Raymond Avenue will be transformed into a hub for budding technology firms in a real estate development backed by a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor.

David Sacks, who was instrumental in the launch of two $1-billion Internet companies, has joined Los Angeles developer Rising Realty Partners in a project to turn three century-old buildings into offices for tech firms.

The builders hope to spur more young tech businesses to set up shop in Pasadena, which has a long history as a center of science and technology but trails the Westside's Silicon Beach as a magnet for high-tech start-ups.

"We're bringing density of tech use to Pasadena," said Nelson Rising, chief executive of Rising Realty. "There's not a lot of density there now."

Rising Realty and Sacks paid $10.4 million for the three-building complex at the southwest corner of Raymond and Holly Street. The sellers were Cambra Realty and Angelo Gordon & Co.

The buildings in the complex formerly known as Old Pasadena Plaza were erected between 1895 and 1914 in the city's original commercial center.

There is one nine-story tower and two smaller structures that house restaurants Cafe Bizou and Chado Tea Room.

Past uses of the buildings include an automotive repair shop and a mortuary, according to Rising Realty. The tall tower was a storage facility for decades.

The yet-to-be-named tech center is set to open next summer after a multimillion-dollar renovation to substantially boost the property's Internet capacity and speed. Wi-Fi service will extend across Holly Street to Memorial Park so tenants can work outdoors if they wish.

There will also be a "co-working" office where individuals can rent space to work in a shared environment.

"The basic idea is to make it as easy as possible to get entrepreneurs started and then graduate to their own space," Sacks said.

He has experience getting tech companies started. Sacks was the founding chief executive off Yammer, which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2012 for $1.2 billion. He was the first chief operating officer of PayPal, which was acquired by EBay Inc. in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

He was also an early investor in such notable tech companies as Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc., Uber, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Palantir Technologies, Houzz Inc. and Airbnb Inc.

A mutual friend introduced Sacks to Nelson and Christopher Rising, a father-son development team that is also transforming the historic PacMutual office complex in downtown Los Angeles into a center for creative businesses.

Sacks' role in the Pasadena project will be investor and co-developer.

"It's fun to have a vision of what a building could be and then transform it," he said. "That's what we do in the start-up world as well — have a vision of something that doesn't exist and then try to create it."

Pasadena is a tech hot spot but doesn't really compete with Silicon Beach for businesses, said real estate broker Tom Majich of Industry Partners, who was not involved in the deal.

"The Westside has a lot of consumer tech" companies such as Google Inc., Snapchat Inc. and YouTube, he said. "Pasadena is more industrial tech with research coming out of JPL, Caltech or the Art Center College of Design."

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech and tech incubator Idealab have already helped spawn more than 311 companies in Pasadena, according to local advocacy group Innovate Pasadena.

With those institutions and the shops, restaurants and housing, Old Pasadena is poised to incubate more start-up businesses, Majich said.

"A lot of people say Pasadena is a bit disconnected from Westside tech as a negative, but it's a totally different market," Majich said. "The goal is to not drag Snapchat from Venice. It's to develop new firms."

Christopher Rising said monthly rents at the new complex will run from about $2.35 to $2.50 a square foot, which is similar to rates charged at other office buildings in Pasadena.

He plans to expose the old brick walls and ceilings, moves that are popular with a lot of technology and creative companies that don't like traditional office space.

The complex is near a stop on the Gold Line rail service, which connects Pasadena with downtown Los Angeles and is set to be extended east to Montclair. Work is also underway on extending rail service from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica.

"By 2015," Rising said, "you will be able to take the train from Pasadena all the way to Silicon Beach."

Update — 37-year old cyclist critically injured in Westside dooring


December 11, 2013

Word is just coming in that a bike rider suffered severe injuries after being doored last night.
According to an email from LAPD West Traffic Division bike liaison Sgt. Laszlo Sandor, a 37-year old bicyclist was riding south on Barrington near the intersection with San Vicente in Brentwood at 6:46 pm when he came in contact with the open door of a parked car.

No word on whether the victim, whose name was withheld due to privacy restrictions, was hit by the door as it was opened, or if he collided with it after the door was opened in front of him.
Barrington is a narrow, two-lane street on both sides of San Vicente, with substandard-width lanes that legally allow riders to take the lane in order to avoid the door zone. However, heavy traffic and impatient drivers encourage many cyclists to ride in the door zone, where passing cars can leave them trapped with nowhere to go if one of those doors should open.

Sgt. Sandor reports the rider is in critical condition and was in surgery last night for head trauma.
No helmet was found at the scene. This is exactly the sort of relatively slow-speed impact helmets are designed to protect against; however, there’s no way of knowing whether one could have made a difference in this case.

He was also using a headlamp and tail light, so he should have been visible to the driver.
And no word yet on whether the driver was cited. Drivers are almost always at fault in a dooring; CVC 22517 clearly requires that drivers only open car doors when it is safe to do so.
22517.  No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open upon the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
Head trauma is never a good thing; if not life-threatening, it can often be life-changing, sometimes permanently. So prayers, good thoughts and/or best wishes for the rider are definitely in order.
More details when and if they become available.

Update: I was just forwarded the following email, which went out as part of a community crime report from a Brentwood-area homeowner’s association. 
Unfortunately, an accident occurred last night on the 600 block of Barrington involving a cyclist and a vehicle. My partner and I were the first responders at scene.  The severity of the accident moves me to encourage all cyclists to PLEASE wear helmets — even for short trips. The cyclist is in critical condition and sadly, it doesn’t look good for him. 
A man sitting in his parked vehicle opened his door just as the cyclist passed and the cyclist clipped the door sending him head first onto the pavement. Does everyone know that it is the driver’s responsibility to look behind them before opening their door? The driver was incredibly shaken and upset and did not realize, until the traffic officers gently explained to him, that he was the party likely at fault. 

As our community continues to increasingly utilize cycling as a mode of transportation, please be ever aware of cyclists maneuvering throughout the traffic. And cyclists please wear your helmets and follow the rules of the road—all the rules of the road—for your own safety and protection.

Thank you. My apologies go out to the Brentwood Homeowner’s Association board and members for missing the meeting that I was en route to when we came upon the accident. I’ll make every effort to be at the next one….
Thanks to George Wolfberg for the heads-up.

LAPD buckling down so officers buckle up


By Tami Abdollah, December 11, 2013

If you've ever been pulled over by for not wearing a seat belt, there's a decent chance the officer wasn't buckled up either.

While 86 percent of Americans now wear seat belts, an upcoming study by Cali­fornia's Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training estimates that roughly half of officers don't wear them.
Now, with traffic-related fatalities the leading cause of on-duty officer death, departments nationwide are buckling down to get officers to buckle up.

"Something that can save a person's life should be on a high priority of being enforced," said Richard Ashton, a former police chief who has studied officer safety for more than a decade with the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The Los Angeles Police Department has begun a seat belt-education effort after Inspector General Alex Bustamante found up to 37 percent of officers involved in collisions in 2012 weren't wearing them.

State laws mandating seat belt use often exclude police, but the LAPD and most other departments require them in all but certain circumstances.

And the costs of not doing so are clear. In 14 of the last 15 years, it wasn't a shooting but a traffic incident that was the leading cause of officer deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And of 733 police officers killed in a vehicular accident from 1980 through 2008, 42 percent weren't wearing seat belts.

"This is such low-hanging fruit. This fruit is on the ground, almost," said Steve Soboroff, president of the L.A. Police Commission, at a recent meeting of the department's civilian oversight board.

New recruits grew up wearing seat belts, though they often don't on duty because senior officers don't use them. Some buckle them in to disable the alarm, belt them out of the way or cut them out entirely.
Part of the problem is blamed on what experts call the myth of a "ninja assassin," an assailant whose ambush attack would leave officers vulnerable because a seat belt would interfere with their ability to reach for their gun.

"No one can tell you an actual story about it (and) I haven't been able to document it at all," Ashton said.

The LAPD is using the 25th anniversary of a tragedy to highlight the problem. On Dec. 12, 1988, three officers died after being thrown from two LAPD cruisers they were in that collided at a Skid Row intersection. One officer left behind a pregnant fiancee; another left a pregnant widow.
The sole survivor, Venson Drake, a 28-year-old probationary officer on his second day in the field, was buckled in.

Drake, who just retired at 53, said rookies often face pressure to conform and copy their training officer. Bustamante found commanders rarely disciplined officers for not wearing seat belts.
"I also blame that on the department," Drake said. "They say they emphasize seat belts, but they really don't. If they start hitting us in our pocketbooks or we start taking suspension days for it, officers are going to buckle up."

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he prefers educating rather than punishing officers who aren't wearing seat belts because usually it's a well-intentioned effort to more speedily help the public.

 To that end, the department has created a training video for the anniversary of the collision - the worst in its history - to educate its force.

"They're not listening to the training, and they're still driving out there like they're invincible," said Capt. Ann Young, who heads the LAPD's Central Traffic Division and worked on the video. "If you stop and think for a minute, you know, I've got a loved one to get home to, they're depending on me every night."

And ultimately, she noted, if officers don't buckle up and they're in a wreck, they're not able to help the public they're rushing to aid.

Over the last three years, hundreds of law-enforcement agencies in more than 25 states participated in a program emphasizing, among other safety measures, seat-belt use to keep officer fatalities below 100 a year.

The California Highway Patrol implemented the program this year and has nearly 100 percent seat-belt compliance.

"You have to write reports over and over on fatalities, and not wearing a seat belt is always a factor," said Jon Hamm, head of the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. "I mean, what other education can you have?"