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, June 12, 2014

Breaking News: Deal Reached on CA’s Cap-and-Trade Spending Plan


By Melanie Curry, June 12, 2014

Earlier this evening, the bicameral Budget Conference Committee  approved a compromise between state legislators and Governor Brown on how to spend $850 million in revenues from the state’s cap-and-trade system for the next fiscal year.

The new plan largely stuck to the Governor’s original proposal for the first year of the expenditure plan, but it adds set-asides for transit and affordable housing, two important parts of the Senate’s proposal. The compromise also incorporates an allocation method for funding in future years.

Despite Republican opposition, California High Speed Rail will still receive one-quarter of the funds generated by the state'd Cap and Trade Program
Despite Republican opposition, California High Speed Rail will still receive one-quarter of the funds generated by the state’d Cap and Trade Program

The compromise proposal sets aside $250 million for high-speed rail, which is what the Governor proposed, but future year allocations for the bullet train would be 25% rather than the 33% he requested. The Senate had proposed 15% for high speed rail.

The agreement would split the $50 million Brown proposed for intercity rail, giving half to transit capital and construction costs and dividing the other half between transit operations and intercity rail. Future revenue streams would give 5% to each of the three categories, giving transit a solid, predictable source of funding for at least the next five years.

Brown’s original proposal had no set aside for local transit, but the Senate, under the leadership of Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), had countered the governor’s plan by calling for $200 million for transit operating and capital expenses.

Steinberg’s plan called for 20% of raised funds to be spent on affordable housing near transit and sustainable communities planning. This would have amounted to about $170 million the first year. The current agreement would give this category of projects—which could include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and planning as well as other projects—about $130 million in the first year, with future allocations at 20%.

“This plan is good for California,” said committee co-chair Mark Leno (D- San Francisco). “With this proposal we will continue to not only lead the state but also the nation on this important issue of greenhouse gas emission reduction, when time is running out.”

Senator Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo) objected to funding high-speed rail with cap-and-trade revenue, pointing to the recent decision in the House of Representatives to “defund” the project. He also complained that the greenhouse gas reduction resulting from the compromise would be “insignificant.”

The plan will be voted as part of the entire state budget within the next few days, perhaps as late as Sunday. Everyday after Sunday that the budget is not passed results in a salary penalty to law makers that they appear eager to avoid. The new budget goes into effect on July 1.

Welcoming 710 Freeway houses back to the tax rolls: Editorial


June 12, 2014

The good news on the 710 Freeway extension front is that Caltrans is trying to get out of the property-management business, which the transit agency has never claimed to be adept at.

Caltrans’ charge is the freeway business, and however well you think it does at that, it must be acknowledged that in Los Angeles County, where the freeway was invented, it’s a full-time job.

But half a century ago — when it was first seriously proposed that the long-planned extension of the 710 Freeway from its terminus in Alhambra at Valley Boulevard north to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena actually get under way — Caltrans bought upward of 500 homes and businesses in the route’s path.

Recognizing it might take a few years to get its act together and take it on the road, the agency leased out the homes. Fifty years later, what a nightmare that has been, first because of lax state maintenance, then because of wild overpayment for shoddy fix-it jobs.

No freeway was ever built, thanks at first to feisty little South Pasadena, a lone rat terrier with Caltrans pants’ cuffs in its teeth for decades. But that city has now been joined by Pasadena, Sierra Madre, La Canada Flintridge and Glendale in opposition to the freeway, along with every preservationist in Southern California. That’s because of more good news: Some of the grand Craftsman-era and even earlier houses owned by Caltrans include some of the best residential architecture and solid construction techniques in the West.

But the surface route, whatever Caltrans keeps insisting because of its legal need to pretend that “alternatives” are still being studied, is entirely dead as an option.

The tunnel route is another matter for another time.

So now, thanks to a bill by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, that passed the Legislature last year after a state audit slammed Caltrans for poor property management, Caltrans is required to begin selling the homes it no longer needs to demolish for the freeway project. The agency has selected 56 houses, outside the footprint of any of the remaining five supposed options, that can be sold right away.
Of course the po
or little bureaucracy can’t catch a break, because everyone is an expert, and everyone has an angle. Current longtime tenants of the Caltrans houses understandably say they not only should have right of first refusal on buying the homes, but also shouldn’t have to pay market rates because they’ve been maintaining the old places so long. The state more or less says fine — but in a move aimed at stopping the former tenants from then turning around and flipping the properties, wants to impose a 30-year moratorium on then selling the homes.

Realtors in Southwest Pasadena and South Pasadena are desperate for inventory in two of the hottest Southern California markets for real estate. But they also note that putting dozens of properties for sale at the same time could flood that market and greatly influence pricing.

We understand Caltrans’ desire to not get ripped off by giving a price break to tenants and then see them capitalize on it. But 30 years is too long. What about a decade? And the sooner all these houses get back in private ownership on the tax rolls, the better for us all.

Here's How Many Hours Of Your Life You've Lost To Traffic


By Carly Ledbetter, June 10, 2014

Morning and evening commutes can be a frustrating experience, but we've got something that will make you cringe even more than the sight of brake lights ahead. We've tallied up the total number of hours you spend on your way to and from work, depending on where you live.

And the numbers may surprise, or even horrify you.

Take a look at the infographic below, which shows the average number of hours you lose in a year while commuting.

See full-size graphic here.



 If you thought your commute was awful, just be thankful you're not in Los Angeles. And if you are, you should really try to find a way to turn all those road miles into airline miles...

U.S. House adopts amendment to allow ‘local hire’ policies for transit agencies


By Steve Hymon, June 10, 2014

The amendment was authored by Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles). It’s still not the law of the land, but is significant. The issue is that receiving federal funding for projects comes with strings attached in terms of restrictions on local hiring preferences.
Here is the news release from her office:
WASHINGTON–The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation today authored by Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) that would allow local transit agencies like Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prioritize hiring local residents for highway and transit projects. The amendment was adopted as part of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.
Currently, federal regulations bar transit agencies that receive any federal assistance from implementing local hire policies for construction and operations projects. If signed into law, state and local transit agencies will also have the flexibility to focus their hiring in low-income and underemployed neighborhoods by applying geographically targeted preferences.

“Chambers of commerce, local government officials and economists all agree that allowing transit agencies to adopt local hire policies just makes sense,” said Rep. Bass. “Local taxpayers are funding the majority of transit projects, like the Crenshaw-LAX Lightrail Line. This policy will ensure that local tax dollars are creating local jobs in the communities that need them the most.”

“Metro is extremely appreciative of Representative Karen Bass for championing this amendment.  This amendment would allow transportation agencies, like Metro, to establish local hire programs to build transportation projects with significant non-federal funding, to help create jobs by incentivizing the development of non-federal projects by leveraging the federal investment,” said Arthur T. Leahy, Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “With Los Angeles County voters repeatedly voting to direct a portion of their local sales taxes to be used for transportation projects, Metro would welcome the ability to establish local hire programs on partial federally funded projects to build a better, stronger and more mobile Los Angeles. We also believe that passage of this amendment will incentivize other metropolitan areas in the country to follow Los Angeles County’s self-help transportation model, a model that is bringing mobility and tens of thousands of good-paying jobs to our region.”

Currently, federal regulations bar transit agencies that receive any federal assistance from implementing local hire policies for construction and operations projects. As the economy continues its recovery, transit agencies have the potential to spur job creation in their local communities. Limiting these transit agencies from being able to adopt local hiring policies when making hiring decisions hinders their ability to generate job growth, which is detrimental to local economies across the United States.

In his 2015 Budget, President Barack Obama proposed changing this policy to allow for local hiring practices by transit agencies.

To see Rep. Bass presenting her amendment on the House Floor, click here.