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

Friday, November 7, 2014

Longshoreman Accused of Sabotaging West Coast Ports

Businesses say that the union is ‘crippling’ operations over contract dispute


By Bill McMorris, November 7, 2014

 cargo ships waiting to be loaded with soybeans and corn at nearby Pier 86 are anchored in Elliott Bay, and in view of the Olympic mountains behind, in Seattle

 Cargo ships waiting to be loaded with soybeans and corn at nearby Pier 86 are anchored in Elliott Bay, and in view of the Olympic mountains behind, in Seattle.

Business groups are accusing the longshoremen’s union of causing a log jam at two Washington state ports over a contract dispute.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents 70 shipping companies, says that the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) is “crippling” the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle, which handle 16 percent of all imports.

“We have been told that ILWU business agents sent the slowdown orders out late last week,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a Monday release.

PMA said the union has “orchestrated” the slowdown and that productivity at the ports has plummeted in the last few weeks. The ports are running 40 to 60 percent slower than normal business operations, according to the PMA. The union has also purposefully failed to meet the labor needs to run the ports, according to PMA allegations.

“ILWU is not filling orders for skilled workers, including straddle carrier operators who are critical to terminal operations. This is like sending out a football team without the receivers or running backs. You can’t run the plays without them,” Gates said.

The ILWU called the allegations a “bold-faced lie” in a release. While the union acknowledged the slowdown, they said that it reflected changing business models for shipping and a shortage of equipment and personnel necessary to quickly unload containers.

“Congestion at key ports is the result of three factors—some of which is from employer mismanagement, according to industry experts,” ILWU spokesperson Craig Merrilees said in a statement.

The ILWU, which represents 13,600 workers at west coast ports, and the PMA have been engaged in a six-month contract dispute, focusing on wages and work conditions. The ILWU’s existing contract expired in July.

The PMA is not the only business group affected by the port performance. The National Federation of Retailers and more than 100 businesses and interest groups are calling on the two sides to hash out a deal. The NRF sent a letter to the Obama administration on Thursday calling on the White House to prevent “a full shutdown of every west coast port.”

“The threat of a west coast port shutdown is creating high levels of uncertainty in a fragile economic climate which has forced many businesses to once again undertake contingency plans that come at a significant cost to jobs and our economic competitiveness,” the letter says.

Business groups learned the hard way that port conflicts touch every facet of the economy. The west coast port shutdown in 2002 “cost the U.S. economy $1 billion a day.” The NRF says that the costs would double to $2 billion per day as America enters the holiday season.

“We believe immediate action is necessary and the federal government’s use of all of its available options would be helpful in heading off a shut-down and keeping the parties at the negotiating table. This includes encouraging the parties to begin working with a federal mediator,” the letter says. “The impact this would have on jobs, down-stream consumers, and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, transportation providers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders would be catastrophic.”

The union said that PMA’s public statements jeopardize the chances of reconciliation.

“The union has consistently come to the table in good faith despite PMA’s early pressure tactics,” ILWU said in a release. “Today’s unilateral media blitz by PMA will only delay progress at a critical point in the contract negotiations. Delays at the negotiating table are also reflected in the growing congestion problem at major West Coast ports.”

The PMA said that a temporary contract would speed up the process, but that can only happen if the union does not sabotage productivity.

“It is extremely difficult to have meaningful negotiations under the current conditions in which the ILWU is deliberately slowing productivity in order to pressure our member companies. We urge the ILWU to re-think their slowdown strategy, which has the potential to cause great damage to the local, regional, and national economies,” Gates said. “It is essential that we resolve our differences at the negotiating table, rather than on the job site.”

A Plea to the Beverly Hills City Council: Give Up the Anti-Subway PR Campaign


By Damien Newton, November 7, 2014

 Metro ##https://www.facebook.com/purplelineext/photos/a.10150672477261778.390611.270944186777/10152456823176778/?type=1##posted this picture to Facebook## of the shovels ready for today's groundbreaking ceremony.

 Metro posted this picture to Facebook of the shovels ready for today’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Today is a great day for L.A. County. After decades of stalling, Metro is finally breaking ground on the Westside Subway extension from Wilshire/Western to Westwood.

Well, maybe it is not a good day for everyone. The NUMBY’s (that would be “Not UNDER”) in Beverly Hills are still so upset about the subway, they are still crusading against a train route that’s now already under construction.

Having exhausted the $3 million budgeted to fight the planned route of the Westside Subway extension of the Purple Line, the Beverly Hills Unified School District decided last month to double down.Perhaps buoyed by the pandering of Supervisor-Elect Sheila Kuehl, the BHUSD voted to allocate another $3 million (up to $6 million) in school construction bonds to wage a public relations, legal and political war of attrition against Metro.

Source: BH Weekly.
Source: BH Weekly.

So here’s a plea to the BHUSD. Give up. It’s over. The subway route is going to run under a portion of the Beverly Hills High School Campus. Please, stop spending Measure E construction bond funds to fight the subway. You’re just throwing your money away. It would be one thing if this were just about the legal fees needed to reach a settlement with Metro, which seems closer now than ever, but a lot of that money is also going to the communications firms to help smear the subway and alarm residents.

While I make this plea, I know it’s going to do zero good. The Chair of the School Board, David Goldberg, thinks the tunnel is going to endanger students. Despite being shut-down in court thus far, he also thinks that the School District will eventually be reimbursed its legal fees after its eventual victory. Here’s an excerpt from his fiery email defending the spending:

“By not fighting MTA, we will be taking tens of millions of dollars earmarked for classroom improvements and instead spending those dollars to reinforce foundations to striatal tunnels running under instructional buildings,” Goldberg writes.

Metro has publicly committed to mitigations in the EIS/EIR, but the exact amount of funding for other damage has yet to be negotiated. Because there are legal questions involved with BHUSD’s never-ending lawsuit, nobody is going to talk to a reporter about what Metro will and won’t commit to pay for after construction is completed. Even legal mediation can go awry.

Measure E is a $334 million construction bond proposal passed in 2008, ironically the same election as the County-wide sales tax Measure R which made the subway possible.

The language of the bond states that, “Funds received from the sale of the bonds shall be used for the specific purposes set forth in this Measure including modernizing school facilities; making structural seismic repairs; upgrading, repairing and reconstructing classrooms, infrastructure, multi-use, gyms, libraries, science and technology labs, roofing, plumbing, heating, ventilation and electrical systems.”

I would call tripling down on the subway fight gambling with other people’s money, but it is so obvious they will not win that it is only gambling in the same way that betting my son’s lunch money on the Utah Jazz to win an basketball championship would be gambling. The good news is, that BHUSD is spending its bond money so quickly they’re going to have to go back to voters to extend or increase the tax paying for the bonds. Voters will get a chance to weigh-in on how BHUSD is spending their money.

The bad news of course is that no matter what, $6 million of it won’t be spent on students.
So how is that money being spent? Mostly on public relations and lawyers.

The original Public Relations team of Sitrik and Company, who’s primary goal seemed to be to stop the BHUSD members from saying insane-sounding things in public, has been replaced by Endeavor Communications. Sitrik was clearly missed when the debate briefly turned to whether or not ISIL would use the subway to launch a terrorist attack against Beverly Hills High School.

Oddly, Endeavor has scrubbed every mention of BHUSD from its website in recent weeks so thoroughly that even the cache option comes up blank. Maybe the School District did not like being associated with Darrell Issa, the firebrand Congressman who is still investigating Benghazi who is the firm’s largest client. At least you can still find the old links on google.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 2.02.06 PM
Endeavor sent around the press release for a report slamming Metro’s fault studies in Beverly Hills. However, less than a month later there is no mention of the BHUSD or subway on their website. You can also see the release at Prime Source, the management firm that released the report which is run by Tim and Karen Buresh.

But you can’t argue that the money being shoveled to Endeavor that was supposed to pay for shovels for construction is being mis-spent. The public relations firm was able to change the editorial direction of the right-wing opinion website Breitbart in just eleven days. On May 10 of this year, the website seemed angry at the mis-appropriation of school funds to fight the subway. Just 11 days later, it was parroting BHUSD talking points.

Good work, Endeavor! Totally worth the $400,000 that the school district appropriated to the Washington, D.C. firm earlier this month.

Of course, in the end it’s always easiest to spend other people’s money.

Angelinos Favor Rail … for Everyone Else


By Wendell Cox, November 7, 2014


LA-GETTING THERE FROM HERE-A few years ago, the satirical publication, The Onion ran an article under the headline "98 Percent of US Commuters Favor Public Transit for Others." The spoof cited a mythical press release by the American Public Transit Association (APTA), in which Lance Holland of Anaheim, California said "Expanding mass transit isn't just a good idea, it's a necessity," Holland said. "My drive to work is unbelievable. I spend more than two hours stuck in 12 lanes of traffic. It's about time somebody did something to get some of these other cars off the road." 
The Onion spoof said that APTA would be kicking off a new promotional campaign using the slogan "Take the Bus... I'll be Glad You Did." The Onion spoof singled out Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials as saying that public support for mass transit will lead to its expansion and improvement." 

"Transit for Others" characterizes three decades of transit in Los Angeles County. 

Despite its massive $10 billion rail program. MTA bus and rail services carried fewer riders in 2012 (latest Federal Transit Administration data) than were carried by the buses in 1985 (MTA was formed in the early 1990s from a merger between the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission and the Southern California Rapid Transit District). 

The Birth of Modern Rail-The history of the modern Los Angeles rail revival began with a special meeting of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission on August 20, 1980. I was to play a principal role. 

I had the honor of being appointed to LACTC by Mayor Tom Bradley to three terms and was the only principal commissioner who was not an elected official. The other members, under state law, were the Mayor of Los Angeles, a Los Angeles City Council Member, the Mayor of Long Beach, two city council members from other cities, the five county supervisors and an additional member appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles (which was me). 

The special meeting had been requested by legendary county Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, who proposed a 5-year reduction of the bus fare to $0.50 to be financed by a sales tax increase, which would be submitted to the voters at the November election. Any money not needed for the bus fare reduction would be used for unspecified transit  purposes. 

The original motion by Supervisor Hahn was amended by Gardena Mayor Edmund Rusk, who proposed a "local return program," which would dedicate 25 percent of the funding to municipalities (and Los Angeles County for unincorporated areas) on a population basis, to be used for transit services. At that time, local operators provided less than 20% of the bus service, with the overwhelming majority of services provided by the Southern California Rapid Transit District (SCRTD).  

I was concerned that the proposal by Supervisor Hahn failed to provide funding for a rail system. I believed at the time that a rail system would reduce the intractable traffic congestion in Los Angeles. I was also concerned at the rapidly rising unit costs of bus operations and was convinced that unless there was a "firewall," no money would be available for rail. 

As a result, on the spur of the moment, I introduced an amendment to direct 35 percent of the proceeds to rail. This motion was seconded by Supervisor Baxter Ward and was incorporated into the final package Supervisor Hahn accepted a shortening of the reduced fare period to three years. The measure, Proposition A was placed on the ballot and was passed by the voters in November. 

Transit Since Proposition A-The impacts of the three programs approved in 1980 had varying results on transit in Los Angeles. 

Three Year Fare Reduction (1982-1985): Between 1982 and 1985, there was a flat $0.50 fare for transit services in the county. SCRTD experienced an increase from 354 million to 497 million annual passengers. At 40%, this may be the largest three year relative increase in any large transit agency's ridership in decades. Ridership fell after subsequent fare increases. 

Further, the fare reduction was cost effective. The cost per new rider was less than $1.00 (2012$), a small fraction of typical projected costs per new riders on proposed rail transit systems around the country. By comparison, the cost per new rider on the east extension of the Gold light rail line was projected at more than $30 (2012$, $24.19 in 2003). This is more than 30 times the cost per new rider of the low fare program. 

The strong ridership increase in response to the low fare program is consistent with the relatively low incomes of Los Angeles transit commuters. In 2013, the median income of Los Angeles County transit commuters was approximately one-half that of the national, 60 percent below that of the six metropolitan areas with transit legacy cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston and Washington) and even lower than the other 45 metropolitan areas over 1,000,000 population (Figure 1)


Local Return Program: Since 1985, when the bus fare reduction program ended, by far the greatest impact on ridership was from the Local Return program. In 1985, the existing local bus operators carried approximately 55 million annual passengers, a figure that rose to more than 130 million in 2012 (a nearly 40 percent increase). This ridership increase is more passengers that were carried on all the bus and rail systems of Dallas (DART), Salt Lake City and St. Louis in 2012, according to Federal Transit Administration data. 

Urban Rail Program: Many miles of urban rail have been built in Los Angeles County, including two subways and five light rail lines (determined by route termini from downtown). But the hope that others would leave their cars for transit, as expressed in The Onion has not occurred. By 2012, Federal Transit Administration data indicates that MTA (formed by a merger of LACTC and the Southern California Rapid Transit District, which operated the system before) bus and rail system was carrying 475 million annual riders, down from the 497 million carried on buses alone in 1985. 
This is despite constructing billions  in subway lines, light rail lines, and rapid busways and the addition of approximately 2 million residents to Los Angeles County.

Dupont-Walker, Community Press Metro on Surprising Changes Slated for Mariachi Plaza, Demand More Outreach


By Sahra Sulaiman, November 7, 2014

How can we ensure stakeholder input has value and is incorporated into planning? And, in so doing, help the community feel comfortable in trusting Metro to make sure that happens?

The queries, posed by Metro Board Member Jacqueline Dupont-Walker to Metro CEO Art Leahy during Tuesday’s Planning Committee meeting were in response to Boyle Heights residents’ complaints that Metro had failed to seek adequate community input on a potential development at Mariachi Plaza that would fundamentally transform the area.

She was right to ask.

Despite promises made in 2012 that, “prior to seeking Metro Board approval [for projects at Mariachi Plaza and other area sites], staff will be conducting a meeting to update the community regarding th[ese] development site[s],” no notice seems to have been given — either to the community or the advisory committee for the Eastside Access project — about Tuesday’s motion to allow Metro to enter into an 18-month Exclusive Negotiation Agreement and Planning Document (ENA) with Primestor Development.

An ENA grants Primestor — one of four applicants who submitted proposals for Metro’s RFP to develop the Mariachi Plaza parcels — the space to further develop their plans, work out the terms of a Joint Development Agreement (JDA), work out ground leases with Metro, and pull together the appropriate construction documents.

According to Metro, Primestor won out over the other applicants because of their track record with financing, commitment to job creation, “well-conceived proposal,” “attractive, transit-oriented design,” and expanded development footprint, made possible by their decision to “partner” with a neighboring property owner.

The new footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro
The expanded footprint of the plaza project. The green represents private property Primestor would acquire. Source: Metro

Specifically, that means that the buildings now housing J&F Ice Cream, Santa Cecilia restaurant, and Libros Schmibros (in green, above) will be turned into “retail and commercial office space that could provide a combination of food and beverage retail opportunities [and] a fitness center.”

The vacant lot at Bailey (the grey square below, at right) will be converted into an 8-story office building with 6 floors (528 spaces) of parking and 2 floors of medical offices, helping address the spillover demand for medical services from White Memorial Hospital (which sits across the street from the lot).

Together, the two buildings would provide 120,570 square feet of commercial space and be called “La Plaza del Mariachi.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 2.29.19 AM

Mariachi Plaza, is that you? An 8-story structure at Bailey (the grey square) will boast 6 floors of parking and 2 of medical offices. A 3-story fitness center and retail space could crowd the western end of the plaza. (Source: Metro presentation)

If that design comes as a surprise to you, either because of the notion that six stories’ worth of parking falls under the definition of “transit-oriented design,” because retail space appears to be built on the plaza itself, or because the murals that speak to the culture and history of the area and help define the space would be forever lost, you are not alone.

When Metro held meetings on the future plans for several properties along the Gold Line corridor in December of 2012 (see background here) and February of 2013, much of the community’s attention had been focused on fighting A Community of Friends’ (ACOF) plan to put affordable housing at 1st and Lorena. Residents believed they had been promised a pocket park there by Metro and objected to the added congestion and chaos 53 units could invite into the area.

Proposed development sites/Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights. Source: Metro
 Proposed development sites/Metro-owned properties in Boyle Heights. Source: Metro

Discussions about what to do with the Mariachi Plaza parcels were notably absent.

“That’s what was amazing tonight,” Greg Angelo, Metro’s Director of Real Property Management and Development had told SBLA writer Kris Fortin after the December 2012 meeting, “The bulk of the conversation was about [the] Lorena [and 1st site]. And nobody said anything about Mariachi [Plaza], which shocked me.”

My best guess for why that might have been the case was that the plans being tossed around at the time were quite vague and did not have anywhere near the scope (or footprint) that they appear to have now.


How Metro presented plans for Mariachi Plaza to the community in early 2013. Source: Metro

How Metro presented plans for Mariachi Plaza to the community in early 2013. Source: Metro

Even as of January, 2013, the footprint seen above indicated only the plaza, the Bailey lot, and the small parcel across from the plaza as being eyed for development. (Not pictured is the southwest corner of 1st and Boyle, where Metro has planned ~80 one-, two-, and three-bedroom affordable units and ~4000 square feet of retail space.)

The Conceptual Development Guidelines Metro set forth for the Mariachi Plaza parcels were oriented toward promoting transit use, enhancing and maintaining the existing residential neighborhood, creating a sense of place, providing a secure environment, providing spaces for the community to come together, and supporting the goal of the community to make the area a cultural hub.

The poster board presented at that meeting (above) described the potential for the spaces to be turned into a mixed-use project combining housing and retail and/or having a use compatible with the plaza and the neighborhood.

Not a massive parking structure.

And not a plan that included the razing of buildings that are home to both businesses and murals which reflect the culture and character of the community, including Juan Solis’ 1994 mural, Castellanos (which can be found on the west side of the bldg. pictured below).

The J&F Ice Cream Shop at Mariachi Plaza. The inside also has a lovely mural depicting some of their family members. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA

The J&F Ice Cream Shop at Mariachi Plaza. The inside also has a lovely mural depicting some of their family members.

Such a massive transformation of the space into something that no one seemed to have been asking for had residents worried Tuesday.

Arturo Ramirez, a mariachi musician who finds work at the plaza and relaxes there with other musicians after gigs, told Metro in Spanish that he feared they would lose the small businesses that had always supported the mariachis. Worse still, he was afraid it would change the character of community altogether.

The plaza is a center of community where neighbors can come together…the developments would take away that vision of the plaza and its culture, Ramirez said. We are not in agreement with the destruction of the culture…The mariachis are integral to the plaza and we want to continue to be a part of it…It gets its name from us.

Carlos Ortez, whose restaurant Un Solo Sol stands directly across the street from Mariachi Plaza, asked that any businesses displaced by the development of the area be assisted both during the construction period and with setting up shop in the new site or in a comparable site nearby.

“We represent the community, historically, for over 50 years or more,” he said describing the long ties many of the owners have to the area and the relationships they’ve built up with the community. “It would be very shameful to destroy [all] that.” 

And being forced to move or pay a higher rent in a new site could be a terrible blow to a small business like J&F Ice Cream. Owner and long-time resident Minerva Villa had chosen to set up shop at the plaza just as the Gold Line opened five years ago, anticipating a massive influx of customers that never really came. When her husband lost a fingertip in a workplace incident three years ago and was subsequently fired from his job, making the business work took on a new urgency.

My life, my home now depend on this business,” she told me once, while describing the rhythm of the 13-hour days she works, six days a week.

Other residents commenting on the plans questioned the need for six stories’ worth of parking.

“Who is it for?” they wanted to know.

There wasn’t going to be any housing attached to the project, and the parking “rascacielos” (skyscraper), as one commenter called it, wouldn’t necessarily be for the public (a long-standing request of local business owners). It thus appeared to some of the speakers that it was a ploy to bring in “outsiders” while effectively dismantling the most important cultural symbol and gathering place in the community.

“Please develop a community advisory board so that we can be informed,” said Teresa Marquez, president of the Boyle Heights stakeholders association and long-time community member. “Think about us.”

La Abuelita de Boyle Heights is not pleased by the idea of an 8-story parking structure at Mariachi Plaza. Sahra Sulaiman/ Streetsblog LA
La Abuelita de Boyle Heights is not pleased by the idea of an 8-story parking structure at Mariachi Plaza. 

“We are thinking about you,” seemed to be the message that Vanessa Delgado, the Director of Development at Primestor, wanted to convey to the residents.

Saying she had been born at White Memorial and gone to school in Boyle Heights, she reiterated the commitment of Primestor — a developer with extensive experience working in lower-income Latino communities — to finding ways to foster small business development and give qualifying non-profits or entrepreneurs spaces in the new sites.

They had done it in six past projects, she said, and she understood the importance of bringing hundreds of jobs into the community.

Moreover, they hoped that their design of the space would provide a kind of “amphitheater, protecting and enhancing the plaza,” creating even more space for the mariachis. Although how exactly this was supposed to happen was not made clear.

Jenna Hornstock, Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning and Development at Metro, who gave brief presentations about the Mariachi Plaza project and plans for 2 other sites, spoke favorably about Primestor’s plans. But, she said, Metro felt that 528 parking spaces was excessive.
Primestor had anticipated that 140 of those spaces would be handed over for use by Metro (at a cost of $3 million). For its part, Metro didn’t want them and asked that Primestor work on downsizing its parking plans accordingly.

The timeline over which proposals were submitted and approved for the Mariachi Plaza project. Source: Metro
The timeline over which proposals were submitted and approved for the Mariachi Plaza project. Source: Metro

Hornstock also said that they hadn’t done much in the way of outreach prior to the Planning Committee meeting because they had been in a “blackout” period until very recently, reviewing proposals and interviewing prospective developers (above). But that they had apparently shared the plans for the plaza with 18 people prior to the meeting and would work diligently to form an advisory group going forward.

CEO Leahy went on to reassure both Dupont-Walker — who was asking more questions about community engagement — and those present that there would be extensive community outreach and an intensive design charrette process for the project. Saying that they were committed as a staff to making that happen (and also that they really had no choice, as the projects were joint developments and they would therefore have to follow city planning dept. procedures), Leahy asked that people give Metro a chance to prove they would do this one right.

Seemingly unconvinced, Dupont-Walker pressed him on the matter of small business displacement, asking whether there was a willingness to help protect and support small businesses in the area, too.

“There has not been a policy to include [disadvantaged businesses] and small business aid in our projects,” he said finally, trailing off into an awkward silence.

Concerns aside, the motion to grant Primestor an ENA was approved.

Mariachi Plaza serves as an important gathering space for the community. Here, students participate in discussions about displacement at the Activarte event this past September. Sahra Sulaiman/Streetsblog LA
Mariachi Plaza serves as an important gathering space for the community. Here, students participate in discussions about displacement at the Activarte event this past September.

Affordable Housing Projects: Cesar Chavez/Soto, 1st/Soto, 1st/Lorena

The other projects up for approval were somewhat less controversial, both because affordable housing is in high demand in Boyle Heights and because the interested parties had brought supporters to stand up and call for more affordable housing at the meeting.

Comments on these projects were therefore more geared toward making sure local people would have access to the housing, that it would be truly affordable, that small businesses would be protected, that new businesses would be things the community needed (theaters, healthy markets, etc.), and that adequate parking would be provided (even at Metro station projects) so that surrounding residential streets didn’t get overly impacted by the increased density.

The development planned for Cesar Chavez/Soto. Source: Metro
The development planned for Cesar Chavez/Soto. Source: Metro

The development at Cesar Chavez and Soto (above), to be built as part of a JDA between Metro and Abode Communities, will have 77 family-oriented units (54 2-bedroom/1-bath units and 23 3-bedroom/2-bath units) and 8000 sq. ft. of commercial space divvied up between two four-story buildings that will be connected by a skybridge. Another Metro-owned parcel across the street (in light yellow, at right) is slated to be the home to a new grocery store. (See more specifics here and here).

Rendering of the final product at Cesar Chavez and Soto. Source: Metro
Rendering of the final product at Cesar Chavez and Soto. Source: Metro

The development at 1st and Soto (below) will include two buildings and be a joint project between the East L.A. Community Corporation (ELACC) and Bridge Housing Corporation. The developments will be joining a third affordable housing project on the block currently being built by ELACC (listed below as “not a Metro project”).

The two yellow sites south of 1st St. are slated for affordable and senior housing. Source: Metro
The two yellow sites south of 1st St. are slated for affordable and senior housing. Source: Metro
The building adjacent to the Metro station will feature 49 affordable units in a 4-6 story structure with 12,500 sq. ft. of commercial space. The building across the street from the plaza will house seniors in a two-story structure with 39 units and 3900 sq. ft. of commercial space (more about the projects can be found here and here).
Affordable housing at the Soto station. Source: Metro.
Affordable housing at the Soto station. Source: Metro.
Rendering of senior housing planned for 1st and Soto. Source: Metro
 Rendering of senior housing planned for 1st and Soto. Source: Metro

Both motions to grant ENAs on these projects were approved easily.

The last of the housing motions — to grant the request for an extension of ACOF’s ENA at the 1st and Lorena site — generated much more discussion, including a heated exchange between the committee members and an agitated young woman.

The project has long been controversial for a number of reasons, one of many being the fear that ACOF had not planned to have the proper resources and safeguards on site to assist the “special needs” residents (the mentally ill, chronically homeless, etc.) they hoped to house there.

The proposed Lorena Plaza development. Source: ACOF.org
The proposed Lorena Plaza development.

But there were other reasons, too.

Councilmember Jose Huizar’s office opposed it once again, directing Planning Deputy Kevin Ocubillo to cite ACOF’s previous changes to the plans (reducing retail space from 6000 to 5000 sq. ft. and eliminating some parking while adding 10 housing units) as failing to adequately address the community’s housing or economic development needs.

Residents, still hoping for a park instead, cited the congestion on the weekends — the site sits next to El Mercadito — and argued adequate parking was key to minimizing the impact on the community.
CEO Dora Leong Gallo acknowledged they had struggled to get the ratios right, explaining that a change in the constraints on the site had forced them to adjust their plans. And that they hoped to be able to offer up to 10,000 sq. ft. of commercial space and 49 units, with some of those being specifically reserved for homeless veterans instead of a wider range of people with special needs.
They would hold another meeting to talk with the community if they got the extension, she promised.

They got it.

The proposed Lorena Plaza apartments would sit at the corner of 1st and Lorena, next to el Mercado de Los Angeles. Sahra Sulaiman/LA Streetsblog
The proposed Lorena Plaza apartments would sit at the corner of 1st and Lorena, next to el Mercado de Los Angeles. 

So what’s next?

During her presentation, the Primestor representative seemed to indicate that community meetings on the Mariachi Plaza design would be held sooner rather than later. No dates were given, but I’ll be sure to post that information here when it is made public.

Americans Aren’t as Dependent on Cars as You Might Think


By Angie Schmitt, November 7, 2014

Americans drive a lot. About 90 percent live in a household with a car. Among adults, 89 percent are licensed to drive. Overwhelmingly, most people get to work by driving alone.

Younger people are more likely to leave the car at home. Photo: Wikipedia
Younger people are more likely to leave the car at home.

But those statistics obscure some important nuances. A new study by Ralph Buehler and Andrea Hamre in the journal Transportation looks at Americans who are “multi-modal” — people who get around not only by driving but also by walking, biking, or taking transit.

A majority of Americans don’t use a car for every trip: According to National Household Travel Survey data from 2001 and 2009, 65 percent of Americans report taking at least one walking, biking, or transit trip each week, in addition to driving. Of these, a wide majority — 80 percent — reported that walking was their only other mode of travel.

Meanwhile, 28 percent of Americans typically never make any trips outside of a car — they’re “mono-modal.” And about 7 percent don’t drive at all in a typical week.

Rather than classifying drivers, transit riders, or cyclists as distinct groups, the authors suggest thinking about people’s travel behavior along a continuum, from those who drive exclusively to those who never drive, with many gradations in between.

Buehler and Hamre found several relationships between demographics and the “multi-modality” of American households, some more obvious than others. There’s no definitive explanation for some of these correlations, but they’re interesting food for thought. Here’s a look.

1. Age

People age 16 to 24 are 50 percent more likely than people over 65 to take at least one non-driving trip per week and are 3.4 times more likely to be completely car-free during a typical week.

2. Income and education

Surprisingly, respondents in the lowest quarter of the income spectrum are about 9 percent less likely to take a single non-driving trip during a typical week, compared to people in the two middle quartiles. At the same time, the poorest 25 percent of Americans are also 7 percent more likely to be totally car free during a typical week than middle-income Americans.

Meanwhile, the wealthiest quartile are 19 percent more likely to be multi-modal and 22 percent more likely to be car-free in a given week than middle-income people. The researchers hypothesize that more affluent people might be better able to afford to live in walkable communities that provide options other than driving.

People with less education are also more likely to drive for all their trips. People with some education beyond high school are 39 percent more likely to take at least a single non-driving trip per week and 35 percent more likely to be completely car free than people who have no education beyond high school.
3. Employment status
People with jobs are 16 percent less likely to have taken at least one walking, biking, or transit trip over the past week, and 54 percent less likely to make every trip without driving, than people without jobs.

4. Gender

Men are about 12 percent more likely than women to have taken a non-car trip in the last week and 40 percent more likely to go without driving at all. This could be explained by the fact that men are more likely to bike for transportation. Another factor could be women’s typically larger role in childcare duties, which tend to demand more driving.

5. Parenthood

Households with children are 22 percent less likely to refrain from driving than couples without children.

6. Neighborhood

People who live in neighborhoods with a population density above 10,000 per square mile (a threshold resembling the densest parts of Detroit and Cleveland) are 17 percent more likely than residents of more spread-out areas to take one non-driving trip per week and 3.5 times more likely to be completely car free.

“Dense areas typically have higher levels of traffic congestion along with car parking that is more expensive and in shorter supply, all of which make car use less attractive,” the authors reasoned.
People who live in metro areas with rail were also less car-dependent that those who live in areas without rail. They were 6 percent more likely to take one non-driving trip per week and 72 percent more likely to be totally car-free during a typical week.

The Netherlands Gets the World's First Solar-Powered Bike Lane

Leave it to the Dutch to make cycling even greener.


By John Metcalfe, November 7, 2014


It's tough to make cycling any greener, but the Dutch have done just that with a bike lane that powers street lights and even houses.

What's being billed as the world's first solar-powered bike path will officially open on November 12 in Krommenie, a town northwest of Amsterdam. Riders will be able to hop on at one end and then, after a few seconds of pedaling, dismount at the other. Being a pilot project, the lane is only 230 feet long (though it'll stretch to 328 feet when finished).

The so-called SolaRoad is the result of a collaboration among the private sector, government, and academia. Here's a brief description of how it works:
The pilot road of just a hundred metres consists of concrete modules each of 2.5 by 3.5 metres. Solar cells are fitted in one travelling direction underneath a tempered glass top layer which is approximately 1-cm thick. There are no solar cells on the other side of the road and this is used to test various top layers. In time, the solar power from the road will be used for practical applications in street lighting, traffic systems, electric cars (which drive on the surface) and households.
Visually, the SolaRoad kind of looks like the glassy cooking element on an electric stove. It's outfitted with a friction-granting surface, though, so riders won't careen around on it like pinballs:
The green pathway has its drawbacks. Because it can't be angled toward the sun, it's less efficient than solar panels. And it's hugely expensive at an expected cost of $3.7 million. But as the technology advances these problems might diminish, allowing for some wild new uses to take center stage, reports the BBC:
Dr. Sten de Wit from SolaRoad, the consortium behind the project, envisages that solar roads could eventually be used to power the electric vehicles that use them.

"Electric vehicles are on the rise, but are not really a substitute until the electricity they use is generated in a sustainable way. Roads can generate power right where it is needed," de Wit explains in a publication for the contract research organisation TNO.

"Sensors gathering information about traffic circulation can help improve traffic management, or even allow automatic vehicle guidance," de Wit added.

Car Emissions vs. Car Crashes: Which One's Deadlier?

The answer actually surprised us.

By Eric Jaffe, November 7, 2014


The ever-thought-provoking David Levinson posed a question at his Transportationist blog earlier this week that's worth a longer look: Are you more likely to die from being in a car crash or from breathing in car emissions? If your gut reaction is like mine, then you've already answered in favor of crashes. But when you really crunch the numbers, the question not only becomes tougher to answer, it raises important new questions of its own.

First, let's look at U.S. traffic fatalities at the national level. For consistency with the pollution statistics (more on that in a moment), we'll focus on 2005. That year, there were 43,510 traffic crash fatalities in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That's a fatality rate of roughly 14.7 per 100,000 Americans.

Now we turn to deaths attributable to air pollution—more specifically, to particulate matter produced by cars. A research team led by Fabio Caiazzo of MIT, who appears from his university profile to be an actual rocket scientist, recently quantified the impact of air pollution and premature death in the United States for the year 2005. They reported that about 52,800 deaths were attributable to particulate matter from road transportation alone. (Road pollution had the largest share of any individual pollution sector, at around a quarter of all emissions-related deaths.) That's a mortality rate of roughly 17.9 per 100,000 Americans.

By that estimate, road-related particulate matter was responsible for about 19 percent more deaths, nationwide, than car crashes were in 2005. And keep in mind that particulate matter isn't the only air pollutant produced by cars (though it is the most significant type). Caiazzo and company attribute another 5,250 annual deaths to road-related ozone concentrations, for instance. In other words, the true health impact of auto emissions may be much greater.

At the city level, this broad conclusion remains the same. Here are the mortality totals and rates attributable to road-related particulate matter in five major metro areas tracked by Caiazzo and colleagues: New York (3,615 / 28.5), Los Angeles (2,092 / 23.3), Chicago (1,379 / 28.4), Dallas (374 / 23.2), Washington, D.C. (533 / 28.6). The rates are well over 20 per 100,000 people in all five places.


Now here are the fatality totals and rates from car crashes in the same five metros, via the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Granted, these figures are from 2009 instead of 2005, but even taking that inconsistency into account, the difference is striking: New York (986 / 5.1), Los Angeles (848 / 6.6), Chicago (565 / 5.9), Dallas (611 / 9.8), Washington, D.C. (408 / 7.5). In no case does the fatality rate even reach double digits.

These straight fatality figures make a strong case that car emissions are deadlier than car crashes at both the national and major metro levels. But death is only one measure of these health impacts. Age of death matters, too, especially since younger people tend to be involved in fatal car crashes. In 2012, for instance, about 55 percent of the people who suffered motor fatalities were under age 45. Caiazzo et al. report that emissions tend to cut lives short about 12 years, whereas crashes cut them short about 35 years.

Levinson tries to adjust for age through the Global Burden of Disease database, which includes a measure called Years of Life Lost. In 2010, there were 1,641,050 years of life lost attributable to particulate matter, against 1,873,160 years of life lost to road injuries.

That might seem like a near wash, but in fact the gap is much wider, because the these data reflect all air pollution, not just road-related air pollution. If we figure (based on Caiazzo*) that 25 percent of all deaths attributable to air pollution come via car emissions, then road injuries account for more than four times as many years of life lost as particulate matter from cars—1,873,160 to 410,288.
 such they're convenient (and perhaps even comforting) to ignore. A road death, meanwhile, is stark and tragic and undeniable—in political terms, a much stronger platform.

But what should cities do about it? Well, they can start by drawing more attention to the problem. A true Vision Zero campaign, for instance, would acknowledge that even a New York without road fatalities wouldn't be a New York without car-related deaths and illnesses. (That's not to criticize this initiative; just to make a point.) As a stronger step, cities can follow the likes of London, which recently announced an additional tax on emissions-heavy cars, and start charging these drivers the true cost of their social impact (or something closer to it). A few drivers can pay now, or general public health can pay later, but everyone pays eventually.

* It's worth pointing out that the Caiazzo study and the GBD reach vastly different conclusions about how deaths are attributable to total emissions in a given year: roughly 200,000 for the former to roughly 103,000 to the latter.

Brown brushes off GOP opposition to bullet train


Long wait is over: groundbreaking ceremony today for subway extension under Wilshire Boulevard


By Dave Sotero, November 7, 2014

Ground was broken about 10:15 a.m. today on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Ground was broken about 10:15 a.m. today on the first phase of the Purple Line Extension. Photos by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Photo by Steve Hymon/Metro.
Shovels waiting for their moment in the sun.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday at LACMA. From left, Rep. Henry Waxman, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony on Friday at LACMA. From left, Rep. Henry Waxman, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Here are renderings and maps of the station locations for the first phase of the Purple Line Extension:

The quick guide to things you should know about the project:

•The groundbreaking is for the 3.9-mile first phase of the project between the Purple Line’s current terminus at Wilshire/Western and Wilshire/La Cienega in Beverly Hills with new stations at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega. Metro forecasts the first phase will open in 2023.

•The project is finally moving forward because nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County voters in 2008 approved the Measure R half-cent sales tax increase that provided the local funding that is being combined with a $1.25-billion federal grant and $856-million loan to pay for building the project.

•The project has been literally talked about for decades and has shown up in a variety of transit plans over the years. A pair of groundbreakings were even held in 1962 in hopes of raising funding for the project. Nice try, but it didn’t work. It’s also worth noting that our region’s celebrated streetcars never ran on Wilshire Boulevard despite it being one of the region’s busiest and most densely developed streets.

•Please see this construction pamphlet to learn more about construction methods and plans for the Purple Line Extension project. Here are the most recent construction timelines:

•There is a wealth of information about the Purple Line Extension on the project’s web page on metro.net, including FAQs, community presentations and all the environmental studies and other technical reports for the project dating back to 2007. You can also receive updates about the project on Facebook and Twitter or emailing your contact information to purplelineext@metro.net.

•Metro is working on securing a federal grant and loan to help pay for the second phase of the Purple Line Extension to downtown Beverly Hills and Century City.

•Four other Metro Rail projects are under construction: the Expo Line Phase 2, the Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Crenshaw/LAX Line and the Regional Connector. Metro has never before had more than two rail projects under construction simultaneously.

We’ll add more photos and video from the event later today.

The news release from Metro:


Los Angeles, Calif. – Leaders of the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) today joined federal, state and local elected officials in the Mid-Wilshire District of Los Angeles to break ground on the long awaited Metro Purple Line Extension Project, the largest, most ambitious public works project in the Western United States.

In July, Metro’s Board of Directors approved  a contract with Skanska, Traylor and Shea (STS), a Joint Venture, to construct the Purple Line Extension Project. Construction of the subway extension will connect West Los Angeles to the region’s growing rail network, making it possible to travel between Downtown Los Angeles and Westwood in 25 minutes.  The first subway segment will extend the Purple Line 3.9 miles from the existing Wilshile/Western Purple Line terminus near Koreatown into Beverly Hills.  Three new underground stations are planned at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax and Wilshire/La Cienega, providing fast, frequent, high-capacity transit service farther west along busy Wilshire Boulevard.

“The Purple Line will ease traffic along the congested Wilshire corridor and will make traveling from the westside to downtown faster and greener.” said Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles and Metro Board Chair. “When it comes to infrastructure, L.A. is on the move. We are right now investing 36 billion dollars in our transportation infrastructure to ease congestion and create thousands of jobs. All together, this is the largest public works project in the nation. In the car capital of the world, we are looking to reduce traffic and cut air pollution by giving people car-free options to get to work and play.”

The Purple Line Extension is a critically important rail project that is partially funded by the 2008 Measure R sales tax that was overwhelmingly approved by two-thirds of L.A. County voters. The first segment of the subway is expected to be completed in 2023 with a project budget of $2.821 billion. In addition to this local funding, Metro received a $1.25 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) from the Federal Transit Administration to help pay for the first segment. The U.S. Department of Transportation also granted Metro a low-interest loan of $856 million from a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) to complete the funding package for the project’s first phase. Combined, these nearly $2 billion in project commitments represent the biggest federal transportation investment for a single construction segment in the history of Los Angeles County.

The remaining $821 million in project funding for the first segment includes Measure R, City of Los Angeles local funding, and other existing local and federal funds.

“Today we launch the construction of the first subway segment along the Wilshire corridor to West Los Angeles,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor and Metro Board Member Zev Yaroslavsky.  “No transit corridor in our region is in greater need of mass rapid transit.  The area to be served is one of the most dense employment centers in the county and is plagued by some of the worst traffic congestion in the country.   This groundbreaking is long overdue and will be well received by people who work and live in the Westside.”

“Breaking ground on the Purple Line extension is an important step toward completing this key transit option for Angelenos, which will help relieve congestion and boost the local economy,” said U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein. “I applaud the efforts of everyone who helped us reach this point, but we have work left to do. The federal government is committed to providing $1.25 billion of the $2.8 billion cost for phase one, but future phases will require an estimated $3.5 billion. I will continue to strongly support federal funding to complete this important transit project.”

The project is planned to be built in three sections. Section 2, which will include Wilshire/Rodeo and Century City stations, is scheduled for completion in 2026. Section 3, which will include Westwood/UCLA and Westwood/VA Hospital stations, is planned to open in 2035. When all three project sectionss are complete, the Purple Line will extend westward from Wilshire/Western for nearly nine miles with a total of seven new stations.

Metro is currently seeking additional federal funding that could accelerate subway construction for Section 2 in the form of a $1.1 billion grant from the federal New Starts program, and a $307 million low-interest loan from the federal TIFIA program.

“Los Angeles has made enormous strides to expand transportation options and accelerate construction of projects that will create jobs, improve mobility, and spur economic growth,” said U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer.  “The Purple Line Extension is another major accomplishment.  I am proud that the TIFIA Program from MAP-21 provided key financing of $856 million that enabled this project to move forward.”

“The Purple Line extension puts Angelenos to work building a 21st century transit system for our city,” said U.S. Congressman Xavier Becerra. “Connecting the Westside to the greater Los Angeles area by subway will create over 25,000 jobs, increase ridership and result in a boon for our local economy. This project is the right investment that will keep Los Angeles on the move.”

The full nine-mile project is projected to generate about 62,000 daily weekday boardings at the seven new stations. Today, there are 39,000 daily boardings on the Purple Line between Union Station and Wilshire/Western. By 2040, 150,000 daily boardings are expected on the Purple Line between Union Station and Westwood/VA Hospital.

During peak periods, trains are expected to run every four minutes. During off-peak periods, they are expected to run every 10 minutes. It will also create tens of thousands of jobs and generate increased economic activity for the region.

Over 300,000 people travel into the Westside every day for work from throughout the region.  More than 100,000 people leave the area for outside destinations.  These numbers will increase over time.  The Purple Line is expected to provide a much needed transit alternative for traveling to and from West Los Angeles, one of the county’s most densely populated, job-rich areas.  The area is also home to major world-class destinations.

“I’m delighted that construction on the Purple line extension is beginning,” said U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman.  “This rail link will fundamentally change how the people of L.A. get around and provide a direct route to some of the great sites in the Westside.  After section one is finished, you’ll be able to hop on the subway downtown and visit the La Brea Tar Pits, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Petersen Automotive Museum and Restaurant Row.”

The subway extension is expected to reduce reliance on automobiles, help reduce roadway congestion, reduce travel times and reduce greenhouse gases.

“The Purple Line Extension will continue to make Los Angeles a great place to work, live and play,” said U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass. “This extension is an example of what can happen when federal, state and local leaders all work together—bringing billions of dollars into the Los Angeles economy and creating thousands of jobs over the next decade, while building on a vital rail line that will benefit Angelenos for generations.”

“The subway extension project is important not just for the Westside, but for the entire region,” said Pam O’Connor, Santa Monica Mayor and Metro Board member. “Whether you’re traveling to or from West L.A. making the trip will be easier by utilizing the Metro system that connects Angelenos through virtually every part of the county.”

The Purple Line extension also will offer improved connectivity to the entire Metro Bus and Rail network, as well as municipal bus lines and other regional transportation services. It is just one of several projects designed to improve transit options and mobility in the  area. Other planned improvements include the Wilshire Bus Rapid Transit Project and Expo Phase II line to Santa Monica.

“This project’s groundbreaking is the culmination of many years of consensus-building on the Metro Board,” said Ara Najarian, Glendale City Council member and Metro Board member. “Our Board unanimously supported the design and construction of the Purple Line Extension, and we are very glad to see construction begin as we make Los Angeles County a world-class destination with rich transit amenities.”

Editorial: Will L.A.'s 'subway to the sea' finally get there?


November 6, 2014

Subway construction
 Within the next 10 years, the transportation landscape in Los Angeles will look dramatically different.

When then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa promised 10 years ago to build the long-stalled “subway to the sea,” many Angelenos probably rolled their eyes and thought, “Yeah, right. We can't even get a train all the way to the airport.” But on Friday, Metro will officially break ground on the first phase of the Purple Line extension, a four-mile segment from the existing Wilshire/Western station to Wilshire and La Cienega boulevards in Beverly Hills that should be completed by 2023. The subway will travel under one of L.A.'s most densely populated and highly trafficked corridors. When it reaches Westwood and the Veterans Administration Hospital in 2035, the line will be the backbone of the region's rapidly expanding public transit system.

Los Angeles County now has five rail lines under construction, including one that will connect to LAX by 2022, and two — the Expo Line to Santa Monica and the Gold Line to Azusa — slated to open in 2016. It's easy to forget that when Villaraigosa pitched the subway to the sea while campaigning for mayor, major transit projects were moving at a snail's pace, if at all.
To resuscitate the Westside extension proposal, Villaraigosa and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had to persuade Rep. Henry A. Waxman to change the law barring use of federal funds to tunnel under Wilshire, a measure Waxman had pushed through after a 1985 methane explosion in the Fairfax area. They also had to find a way around a 1998 county ballot initiative by Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky that prohibited the use of existing sales tax revenue to fund new subways. They did — L.A. County voters passed the Measure R half-cent sales tax in 2008, which dedicated about $4 billion for the Purple Line extension.

The full subway line is expected to cost $6.3 billion. A federal grant and low-interest loan will cover $2.1 billion of the $2.8-billion price tag for the first phase. Metro has asked the Obama administration to set aside an additional $1.4 billion for the second phase, from Beverly Hills to Century City, which is scheduled to be completed in 2025.
Looking ahead, L.A. leaders should continue to push for funding for the Purple Line, and should be willing to defend the project against lawsuits that may pop up along the way. And they should press for other transformational projects — a transit line over the Sepulveda Pass, connecting the San Fernando Valley with the Westside, and extending the Gold Line deeper into the San Gabriel Valley. Within the next 10 years, the transportation landscape in Los Angeles will look dramatically different, with lines crossing the region from Chatsworth to Long Beach and from Azusa to Santa Monica. This is what can happen when politicians actually deliver on their boldest promises.