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, November 6, 2014

Arrogant Metro Board Rejects Mediated Settlement Agreement For Westside Subway Extension


November 6, 2014

In an effort to resolve pending litigation regarding the proposal to route the Westside Subway Extension beneath Beverly Hills High School, representatives from the City of Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hills Unified School District, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and Metro recently participated in a full-day mediation session led by a senior mediator and retired judge.

After almost 10 hours, the mediation session ended with an agreement acceptable to all parties present, including Metro representatives.

Efforts to implement the agreement came to an abrupt end, however, when the Metro Board later voted to reject in principle the agreement reached by its own representatives at the mediation.

“We feel the agreement brokered by the mediator was both reasonable and fair to all sides,” said Beverly Hills Mayor Lili Bosse. “We were very excited at the conclusion of the mediation that we had reached a framework for settlement and equally disappointed by its later rejection by the Metro Board.”

BHUSD president Noah Margo, who also participated in the mediation session, said “Although we have at times been unfairly portrayed in the press as unreasonable, we were willing to work with the mediator to broker a solution that represented a true compromise. We continue to be committed to working out a solution that allows Metro to fulfill its goals, while protecting our school’s future.”

“We have always preferred a negotiated solution to litigation,” Margo added. “The mediator, along with the representatives from Metro, FTA and DOJ did a good job of listening and working things out. It is our hope that the Metro Board, which now includes new members, will also come to the realization that a mediated settlement is in the interest of the entire region.”

L.A.’s Past and Future Railroad Heydays

Trains Built Southern California, Then Angelenos Rejected Rail. But According to Tom Zoellner and Ethan Elkind, a Comeback Is Afoot.


 By Sarah Rothbard, November 4, 2014

 Ethan Elkind (left) & Tom Zoellner (right)

“Can you think of a city in the United States that was more determined by the railroad” than Los Angeles? Chapman University English scholar Tom Zoellner, author of Train, opened a discussion of the future of trains in L.A. by presenting this question to a standing-room-only crowd at Grand Central Market. L.A. may be famous for its car culture, but “railroads were an integral part” of the “great civic experiment” that is L.A., said Zoellner.

Yet connecting Southern California to the rest of the country by rail was an afterthought, he explained. In the late 19th century, L.A. was first simply a railroad-created appendage to the nation’s gold rush capital in Northern California. Then, railroad tycoons Collis Huntington and Leland Stanford decided to punch through the Tehachapi Pass to run their Southern Pacific Railroad line all the way to California instead of to Arizona, as originally planned. Once here, Huntington got a concession to build rail all the way to San Pedro—and put in his own stations along the way in places like San Fernando, Burbank, and Tropico (now part of Glendale. As a result, L.A. evolved “as a series of interconnected villages connected by the railroad.”

UCLA and UC Berkeley legal, business, and environmental scholar Ethan Elkind, author of Railtown, picked up L.A.’s train history there, explaining that in the early 20th century, L.A. had the largest streetcar network in the world. A great deal of nostalgia for that system remains, said Elkind, but at the time, the streetcars weren’t all that popular. People had the same complaints then about streetcars as they do today about driving in L.A.: too slow and expensive. So the city embraced cars and started heavily subsidizing automobile infrastructure. By the mid-20th century, however, all the negative impacts of car culture—sprawl, traffic, pollution—came to a head, said Elkind. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that rail finally began making a comeback in Los Angeles.

Elkind says he credits Mayor Tom Bradley—who made rail a campaign issue—for bringing trains back to L.A. A number of ballot measures to fund big rail projects failed to pass in the 1970s. But on 1980 (the same day Ronald Reagan was elected), thanks in part to a marketing campaign led by L.A. County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, Angelenos approved a sales tax measure to build rail here.
Why the delay? “It took decades of perseverance and a lot of consensus-building to get a county this large to come to agreement about what a rail system would look like,” said Elkind. He explained that pleasing people from Palmdale to Palos Verdes in order to achieve over 50 percent approval at the ballot box was a tremendous challenge.

And, added Zoellner, there was also hostility from vested interests across the city, including the Los Angeles Times, which “never met a rail measure it didn’t oppose for many years.” Zoellner asked Elkind if he thinks there might be “something in the Los Angeles DNA that’s inherently hostile to rail?”

Elkind said that the central parts of Los Angeles supported rail for many years; the opposition was always centered in suburban areas. Plus, a lot of transplants from the East Coast came to Los Angeles to escape dense urban life; their idea of transit was New York City’s dark, dank subway.
Politics and jostling among different districts also impeded rail development in Los Angeles. The Wilshire corridor, said Elkind, is the “great tragedy” of the story of rail in L.A. Wilshire Boulevard is the most densely populated corridor west of the Mississippi. When the Wilshire line is built, it will be one of the most heavily utilized rail lines in America. But a 1985 explosion at a Ross Dress-For-Less store on Fairfax Avenue caused by methane gas became a major obstacle to the subway’s expansion. Congressman Henry Waxman, who represented the area, used the threat of another explosion to keep the subway out for decades.

Elkind said that local opposition is the reason the Gold Line preceded rail construction in other parts of Los Angeles with a greater need for train service. He was told that it’s never a good idea to propose a rail line in a neighborhood with home ownership above 50 percent; people who own homes organize and put more pressure on their elected officials to prevent rail construction than renters.
Politics also affect development around stations. If you want people riding trains, you need to put train stations where a large population lives, works, and shops. But homeowner groups often hinder development in precisely those places. However, if you build a station in an undesirable place where there’s not a lot going on, developers aren’t going to want to build there. The solution? Public investment to jump-start private investment, said Elkind.

In the question-and-answer session, the panelists were asked to look ahead to both the short-term and long-term futures of rail in L.A.

Will we ever be able to take the train directly to the airport?

Elkind said that the Crenshaw Line will take riders to the outskirts of LAX, where they’ll get on an automated people mover, in a setup similar to what you see in many cities. He doesn’t view this as a big issue, however, because a lot of people—especially families traveling with a lot of luggage—don’t want to take the train to the airport.

Zoellner disagreed: “I think direct service to the airport is an accouterment to a great city,” he said—and should be on offer in L.A. “just as an externality.”

Will Elon Musk’s “Hyperloop” to transport people from L.A. to San Francisco in 30 minutes pose a hurdle to California’s current high-speed rail plans?

No, said Elkind. High-speed rail is “a tried and true technology.” Musk is proposing something that has never been done for human beings.

In response to a question about whether services like Uber and Lyft, and driverless cars, might make rail obsolete in L.A., Zoellner echoed Elkind’s faith in rail.

The railroad is a basic technology that has not changed much since 1825. “A train is sort of like a broom or a hammer,” said Zoellner. “You can only improve it so much.” He doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.

Where should L.A.’s next trains go—beyond where they’re already slated to arrive in the coming decades?

I’d love to see West Hollywood—a great neighborhood for walking and biking—get some real access, said Elkind.

I’d love to see a train back to the state of Wyoming, said Zoellner.

And wouldn’t high-speed rail from L.A. to San Diego be nice? Elkind said it would be his first move if he built high-speed rail. It’s inconvenient to drive from L.A. to San Diego but too short to fly—the sweet spot for high speed rail. Can you imagine, he asked the audience, getting to San Diego in just 45 minutes?

Full Video


UCLA and UC Berkeley legal, business, and environmental scholar Ethan Elkind, author of Railtown
The crowd at Grand Central Market
Chapman University English scholar Tom Zoellner, author of Train
It was a standing-room-only crowd
Audience members enjoy the reception
View More Photos

CA Local Ballot Measure Results: Transportation and Land Use Propositions


By Melanie Curry, November 5, 2014


 The elections are over, we can take the signs down now.

Below are the “semi-official” results from local voter registrars after last night’s count. Vote-by-mail ballots are still being counted, and with the low voter turnout (29.9 percent statewide), this means in some places a third or more of the ballots have not yet been counted. For some measures, this means the tide could yet turn, which is why these are only “semi-official” results.
  • Alameda County: Measure BB: PASSED. The Alameda County Transportation Commission has declared this a winner, with almost 70 percent of the vote (it needed 66.67 percent to pass). The last time this measure was on the ballot, two years ago, it failed by less than half of one percent. That time, it started below the 2/3 threshold and climbed towards it as the vote count came in, but never quite reached high enough. This time, the vote count started above the threshold and is staying there. Although vote-by-mail ballots—nearly half the total ballots cast in Alameda County–are still being counted, supporters are calling it a victory. Measure BB will increase the existing sales tax by ½ cent to fund a panoply of transportation infrastructure measures, including the crazy uncontrolled intersection at Gilman and Highway 80, where the long-studied solution of a double roundabout now has funding.
  • Berkeley, Alameda County: Measure F: PASSED (74.9 percent of the vote, with 66.67 percent needed). This measure would create a parcel tax to fund parks.
  • Measure R: FAILED with a healthy 73.87 percent of the vote so far. R would have rewritten the city’s Downtown Plan, changed some requirements for taller buildings, increased parking requirements, created a downtown historic district, and required a popular vote to approve some developments.
  • Placerville, El Dorado County: Measure K: PASSED. The measure only needed a majority vote; “semi-official” results are 58.2 percent of the vote. It prohibits the city from constructing any roundabout or traffic circle without first submitting it to a popular vote. Pity Placerville, and its transportation planners, who now have an uphill battle to fix the town’s seriously constrained intersections.
  • In addition, three measures in El Dorado county that would have prevented development, rezoned much of the county from “Community Region” to “Rural,” and extend slow-growth restrictions  that would have changed all failed, as did a parcel tax for road improvements in Cameron Estates Community Services District (it needed 2/3 of the vote and so far has only 59.67 percent).
  • Los Angeles County: Measure P, parcel tax for parks funding: FAILED. It received 60 percent of the popular vote, but failed to garner the 2/3 threshold needed.
  • Malibu, Los Angeles County: Measure R, requiring voter approval for any commercial project over 20,000 square feet: PASSED
  • Santa Monica, Los Angeles County: Measure D, prohibiting  development and other changes to Santa Monica Airport property without voter approval, FAILED. But Measure LC, written in reaction to D and exempting parks and related facilities from the requirement for a popular vote, PASSED.
  • Monterey, Monterey County: Measure P: PASSED with a healthy 74.48 percent of the vote (it needed 2/3 plus one to pass). This measure imposes a one-cent sales tax to “address significant deferred maintenance by fixing streets, sidewalks, and potholes; improve related access and safety for senior citizens, disabled residents, and others” as well as repair the city’s storm drain system.
  • Monterey-Salinas Transit District, Monterey County: Measure Q: PASSED with 72.45 percent. Measure Q supports transit services for seniors, veterans, and disabled people with a 1/8-cent sales tax.
  • Blythe, Riverside County: Measure Y has 57.19 percent of the vote currently. This advisory measure  directs the city to use revenues from a proposed hotel tax for a list of services that include street and sidewalk repairs—but the hotel tax in question, Measure X, is failing, with only 55.11 percent of the votes so far counted.
  • Atascadero, San Luis Obispo County: Measure E is passing with 69.13 percent of the vote—as an advisory measure, it only needs 50 percent. E directs the city to use revenues from Measure F, a proposed sales tax, for neighborhood road repair. Meanwhile Measure F is passing with 59.03 percent of the vote. This sales tax measure only needs a simple majority to pass because it’s a general tax, with no dedicated purpose; it’s the accompanying advisory measure that dictates its use.
  • Grover Beach, San Luis Obispo County: Measure K is close at 66.34 percent, but it needs 66.67 percent to pass. K would have authorized $48 million on bonds for road repair and maintenance, including pedestrian and bicyclist safety.
  • San Francisco, City and County: Proposition A: PASSED. A authorizes a bond for $500 million for transit, road, and safety improvements.
  • Proposition B: PASSED. B will increase the base amount of funding the city gives to transit operator Muni.
  • Proposition L: FAILED. This pro-car measure would have required the city to adopt regressive parking policies.
  • Turlock, Stanislaus County: Measure B: FAILING. So far it has garnered only 61.02 percent of the vote and it needs 2/3. Measure B would have imposed a 0.5% sales tax to fund road repairs, including bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
  • Marysville, Yuba County: Measure W: FAILING, with 53.5 percent of the vote. This measure would  have added a penny to the local sales tax for a variety of purposes, including improving traffic safety and increase street and sidewalk repair.
The three measures that would have banned fracking in particular counties met with different fates, passing in Mendocino and San Benito, but failing in oil-rich Santa Barbara County.