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, December 21, 2013

Pasadena council, residents take stand against Los Angeles County plans for Devil’s Gate Dam


By Lauren Gold, December 17, 2013

 The Devil’s Gate reservoir basin including the Devil’s Gate Dam and Hahamonga Watershed Natural Park in Pasadena, Monday, Sept. 14, 2009.


The spillway at Devil’s Gate Dam in the Hahamongna Watershed Park in Pasadena flows with water from the latest storms on Thursday, December 30, 2004.

PASADENA>> City leaders and local residents are gearing up for a fight in Hahamongna Watershed Park.

Faced with a series of options from Los Angeles County Public Works for sediment removal in the area behind Devil’s Gate Dam, those who cherish the park fear that the project will be the “end of Hahamongna.”

“This is the most insidious project I have read, it will destroy Hahamongna,” resident Lorie Paul said at Monday’s City Council meeting. “It’s just a massive behemoth of a project. We are facing the end of Hahamongna as we know it.”

In a draft environmental report released in October, the county laid out five separate proposals to deal with the removal of 2.4 to 4 million cubic yards of dirt and debris that has piled up behind the dam.
Much of the sediment has settled in the area behind the dam since it was last removed in 1994.

County DPW spokesman Kerjon Lee said the project has become even more important since the 2009 Station Fire caused more sediment than normal to wash into the watershed.

“This is a difficult project and there are certainly impacts that affect a number of different areas, habitat, transportation, air quality,” Lee said. “The plan we have indicates we are doing our best to try to mitigate those impacts. ... We look at this in terms of sustainability, how can we maintain flood risk management in the community so we don’t have to come in the future?”

City officials expressed concern that the project would negatively affect Pasadena.

“The last time anything was removed was in 1994. The station fire only deposited 1 million cubic yards of sediment and now their proposal is removing 4 million cubic yards,” Councilman Victor Gordo said. “That tells me (the county hasn’t) been maintaining this reservoir. ... They are trying to play catch up now and they are trying to play catch up at our expense and in a way that potentially destroys an ecological resource, not to mention the recreational aspects of Hahamongna.”

Lee said the county’s goal is to reduce the negative impacts of the project as much as possible. If nothing is done, he said, it could lead to flooding in the area and even effects further down to the Los Angeles River.

Even so, city officials worry that the project could be potentially detrimental to the area. The City Council instructed staff to prepare to fight against the county proposals. The council also authorized city staff to create a task force on the issue, hire a private environmental consultant to conduct an independent analysis of the county plans, and even suggested that lawyers be hired.

“I think we should consider engaging legal counsel to work with the staff and our efforts in this regard day to day as we go along so that we both protect the inadvertent forgoing of any rights or discretion we have and so we build a strong a case as we can should we find ourselves ending up in court in the future,” Mayor Bill Bogaard said.

Both the public and the council also agreed to ask the county for an extension on the commenting period for the environmental report. Lee said the county has already extended the comment period from 30 to 70 days and held three community meetings to get public input.

The public comment period for the draft environmental report ends Jan. 6. The sediment removal project is scheduled to begin in 2015 and will last for at least five years.

For more information, visit http://dpw.lacounty.gov/wrd/Projects/DevilGate.

MTA bans homeless from Union Station in Los Angeles


December 21, 2013

 A general view of Union Station at the Amtrak National Train Day at Union Station on May 11, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The homeless are being pushed out of Union Station under a program that limits seats in the downtown transportation hub to ticketed train passengers.

The Los Angeles Times reports the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority began the crackdown Dec. 9 as the agency embarks on a major renovation of the historic structure.

MTA officials said about 135 homeless people were staying in the terminal per night last summer and passengers were complaining of transients occupying bathrooms, sprawling across seats and panhandling.

The agency tried closing the station in the wee hours for thorough cleaning but bedbugs, scabies and other unsanitary conditions persisted, said Ken Pratt, who oversees property management of the station.

“We saw people removing insects from themselves and dropping them on chairs next to them,” Pratt said.

Critics said the move blocks public access to one of the city’s most elegant building and pushes people with nowhere else to go out into the cold. The 1939 structure, with its distinctive blend of Spanish revival and Streamline Moderne touches, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Los Angeles is not going to solve this problem by going halfway,” said Don Petrosky Garza, who claimed Union Station security guards rousted him when he tried to sit down with a sandwich. “They don’t accomplish much of anything except to make it look pretty.”

Outreach workers from the L.A. County Housing Services Authority have been visiting the station to get the homeless people to shelters and other services.

Current signature count for NO710 Tunnel Petition: 1,681

From Sylvia Plummer, December 20, 2013

Goal: 5,000

Recruit friends, family and neighbors to sign the petition!!
1.  Go to www.NO710.com

2. Click on the words "Sign the Petition" that appear in the yellow oval. This will take you to a page that shows all the officials who will be contacted each time the petition is signed.

3. Click on the words "Sign the Petition" in the yellow box on this page and you will taken to the petition at Change.org.

4. Fill in the information at the right to sign the petition, and if you wish, leave your comments on why this is important to you.  You can also uncheck the box under your information to opt out of receiving more petitions from Change.org.
5. Finally, click on the red box that says "Sign".

What's blocking Bertha? Answers elude engineers


By Lindsay Cohen, December 20, 2013

  What's blocking Bertha? Answers elude engineers »Play Video

"Bertha," the massive tunnel boring machine, is drilling a two-mile tunnel to replace the 60-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct.

SEATTLE -- Want to know what's blocking Bertha? Grab a New Year's party favor - and wait.

State transportation officials said Friday it will likely be several more weeks before they know what's in the way of the world's largest tunnel boring machine, which ground to a halt Dec. 6 after hitting something.

"The contractor can create a space in front of the cutting head and the ground - through proper means - and then the workers would be able to look in front of the cutting head," said Matt Preedy, deputy program administrator for the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Program.

Crews are in the process of building 10 wells which will help alleviate pressure in the space in front of Bertha. Once the wells are complete and operational - likely the end of next week - workers will be able to inspect the space in front of the machine.

One of the ways to get to that spot involves going through a manlock, or a passageway between spaces of different air pressure. There are manlocks at the front of Bertha's bulkhead, Preedy said, which would allow workers to see what is stopping the 7,000 ton machine.

With no swift answer to what's blocking Bertha, speculation continued Friday as to what might be in her path.

"I really do hope it's something in a way unnatural because it's a more fun story that way," joked David B. Williams, a geologist and author who has studied the topography of Seattle.

Williams points out that the first settlers to the Emerald City used anything they could find - sawdust, timber, even garbage - to fill in the land around Elliott Bay.

"Anywhere you go in Pioneer Square, you're basically on 'made' land. You find old shoes, newspapers; there's a boat buried in downtown. So you name it - it could be down there," Williams said.

Historic records show that a boat called The Windward ran aground on Whidbey Island and was towed into downtown Seattle, Williams said. The ship eventually became part of the landfill beneath city streets.

"As the city grew, they just covered up that boat and it's still there to this day," Williams said. "We don't know exactly where it is because they haven't found it. We think it's probably in an intersection somewhere."

For now, Bertha remains stuck about 60 feet below South Jackson and South Main streets. The tunnel contractor said it's too early to say if the blockage will impact the overall cost of the project or the projected completion date, but that engineers are looking at what other work can be done while Bertha takes a break.

"The only real option is to remove (the object) and hopefully we can do that with mechanical means," said Chris Dixon, project director for Seattle Tunnel Partners. "You can't really change the route. You can't back the machine up because you have the segmental lining behind you, so all you can really do is proceed forward."

Metro rail stations are being planned with design in mind

The stations of three new Metro projects will give the rail service a uniform identity, rather than current stations' varying designs.

By Laura J. Nelson, December 20, 2013
 A rendering of the Purple Line station at Fairfax/Wilshire, scheduled to open in 2023.

The London Underground logo is instantly recognizable. So are the entrances to the New York City subway.
But in Los Angeles?

"It's all over the map," said Martha Welborne, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's executive director for countywide planning. "People rarely know what a station will look like."

The system's 80 train stops play host to more than one thousand design variations, from architectural differences to a range of trash cans and paint colors. In Chinatown, Gold Line riders see pagodas; in Highland Park, chairs that resemble dice. The Norwalk Green Line station is bee-themed, including honeycomb tiles.

As a part of the county's nascent rail boom, which over the next decade will double the number of Metro train stations, officials have adopted one signature look. The aim is to eliminate the previously scattershot approach to design and make the system feel more sophisticated and durable. The template, which staffers call "a kit of parts," calls for simple, even utilitarian, elements that can be rearranged to fit underground, ground-level and elevated stations.

"The philosophy is, 'Less is more,'" said Brian Knight of Johnson Fain, the architecture firm that drafted the plans.

The new design marks the first truly cohesive look in the 25-year history of Los Angeles' modern rail network. It should appear by 2023 in three key projects: the Crenshaw Line, the Downtown Regional Connector subway and the first phase of the Purple Line extension.

Most recognizable will be a paneled canopy of fused ceramic and glass, hanging at the entrance to each station. Previously, entryway design ranged from circular, space-age structures in downtown Los Angeles to a band-shell-like design in North Hollywood.

"There's a lot of visual chaos in Los Angeles transit," Welborne said. She said the agency's 80 existing stations won't be changed. Nor will the lines already under construction: the Gold Line extension and the second phase of the Expo Line, which are both scheduled to begin service in 2016.

About 1% of every Metro-project budget goes toward station artwork. Artwork will give each station a unique sense of place, Johnson Fain staff said.

"Good stations have elements that are consistent," said UCLA urban planning professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris. "Although it's OK, even fun, to have an element of surprise."

The designs are intended to help passengers find their way through the system. Every station object, from televisions to turnstiles, will have a uniform look. Like elements will be grouped together.

The changes also should make maintenance easier and cheaper, Welborne said. Currently, some stations use 10 colors of paint. Gates and tiles vary from station to station, and some art installations need light bulbs that are no longer manufactured.

Yet to be decided: color, if any. A hue can be so defining, Welborne said, that making that decision will likely be "sort of a minefield."

Latest deadline looms for state's diesel truck rule


By Ben Keller, December 20, 2013

 The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is divvying up $45 million this year ito help diesel truck operators comply with the state's new emissions rule.
 The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is divvying up $45 million this year ito help diesel truck operators comply with the state's new emissions rule.

The state’s truck emissions rule takes effect for thousands of diesel engines beginning next year, a wake-up call to some trucking companies still seeking compliance funding.

As part of the California Air Resources Board’s Truck and Bus Rule, heavier trucks with 2005 or newer model year engines will be swept in on Jan. 1, requiring them to be retrofitted with particulate matter filters or else replaced with a 2010 vehicle.

The latest deadline is the last under the regulation’s compliance schedule that first started in 2012 for engines dated 1996 to 1999. A year later, 2000 to 2004 model year engines fell subject to the rule.
Companies that took the phase-in option instead of the normal compliance schedule must have 90 percent of their fleets in compliance by January through new trucks or PM filters.

James Ganduglia, owner of Ganduglia Trucking in Fresno, started retrofitting his trucks as far back as 2006 — two years before the Truck and Bus Rule was adopted — earning credits that give him until 2016 to bring all 20 trucks in his fleet to compliance.

But with ten trucks still left to replace, Ganduglia wonders if assistance from the state’s Goods Emission Reduction Program, funded by Proposition 1B, will still be available when his deadline approaches.

The 2006 voter-approved initiative promised $1 billion to fund projects that reduce air pollution including up to half the cost of a replacement that meets 2010 emissions standards.

Although the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District is divvying up $45 million this year in Prop. 1B’s fourth round of funding, there’s no guarantee that bonds will be sold next year to support the program.

“At this point, we’re sitting here going ‘if there’s no more money, that means we have to swallow the price of an entire new truck and that could get really costly,’” Ganduglia said.

Currently costing anywhere from $120,000 to $150,000, 2010 trucks are getting pricier all the time since the Truck and Bus Rule has pushed them into such short supply, Ganduglia added.

 It doesn’t help, he said, that those with the oldest and worst polluting trucks get first priority for Prop. 1B funding. That bodes poorly for some of his 2006 models.

Quali-T-Ruck is hoping for enough funds to help replace nine more trucks after spending close to $3 million in the last four years to buy up to 22.

The company also started saving and gearing up for grant money early on to bring the now 40 or so trucks in its fleet to compliance, something a lot of others weren’t able to do.

“We’re starting to see the smaller companies that are not able to afford to be in compliance starting to dissolve themselves,” said Safety Director Bill Clyde. “The mom and pops out there, it’s hard for them to be competitive with the standards going on. My heart goes out to them.”

Besides Prop. 1B, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has made available $10 million this year from its locally funded Truck Voucher Program to cover 35 percent — or $50,000 — of the cost of a new truck. Money to help with retrofits can no longer be awarded as in years past and priority funding will be given to applicants of single-truck fleets, with only 2006 or older model year engines eligible.

According to the air district’s Executive Director Seyed Sadredin, the air district has awarded $101.8 million from Prop. 1B and $17.6 million from the Truck Voucher Program over the last five years to help heavy-duty trucks operators replace or retrofit more than 2,600 trucks, cutting diesel emissions by 17,600 tons.

But even broadening the Truck Voucher Program’s eligibility criteria for the Valley’s 15,000-plus single-trucker owner/operators and small fleets, the mission has faced roadblocks.

“Part of the problem with owner operators with this January deadline is they are hard to reach,” he said. “So even when the money was available, they have not been coming forward to take advantage of it because they had no association or connection to be able to be in the loop.”

More information about the air district’s grant programs for truckers can be found online at www.valleyair.org/grants or by calling 1-855-99-GRANT (7268). A broader overview of the Truck and Bus regulation as well as incentive money statewide is available at ARB's TruckStop website at arb.ca.gov/truckstop or by calling 1-866-6-DIESEL (634-3735).

 California is home to around 200,000 trucking business and 450,000 registered heavy-duty diesel trucks. Another 500,000 or so drive in regularly from out of state.