Purpose

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

Monday, March 16, 2015

710 Freeway extension forum back on at Cal State LA

http://www.contracostatimes.com/news/ci_27723019/710-freeway-extension-forum-back-at-cal-state

By Steve Scauzillo, March 16, 2015


A forum on the 710 Freeway extension is back on.

The Pat Brown Institute and the League of Women Voters/Pasadena Area along with Cal State Los Angeles are hosting a forum on the proposed extension of the freeway, including the contents of a recently released Draft Environmental Impact Report which looked at a tunnel, a light-rail system, traffic and street enhancements and a dedicated busway.


The discussion will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., March 30, at Cal State LA’s Golden Eagle Ballroom located on the third floor, at 5151 State University Drive.


Those listed as appearing on the panel are: South Pasadena City Councilman Michael Cacciotti; Duarte City Councilman and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board member John Fasana; Alhambra City Councilwoman Barbara Messina and Glendale City Councilman Ara Najarian.


 
 
The panel discussion will be moderated by Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute at Cal State LA.


The forum “will be packed with emotional supporters on both sides,” said Robert Lopez, director of communications for the college, in an email.


Organizers had originally planned to hold a forum on March 9 but rescheduled it to this date. They said the event was rescheduled “because of intense time pressure following the release of the EIR” just three days before the scheduled forum.


Event organizers add this disclaimer: “This is not a political rally. No pro or con buttons, signs, shirts, etc. may be worn in the forum room. Please come prepared to respect all points of view and behave accordingly by holding your applause, no whistling, etc. There will be an opportunity to ask written questions.”

The Persistent Dreams of the Tunnel Builders

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lionel-rolfe/the-persistent-dreams-of-_b_6873578.html

By Lionel Rolfe, March 16, 2015


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 2015-03-15-1426446935-1171925-images.jpeg

Some of the people seated around the long table in the elegant dark wooded South Pasadena home have been fighting the idea of a five-mile long tunnel nearly 200 feet beneath their feet for decades. To them, that tunnel is the multi-headed hydra that they beat down, but only for a while, and then it pops up again. It's like a cancerous tumor that can never be removed.

About the time Caltrans and Metro recently released a new Environmental Impact Report which once again advanced the notion of building the tunnel, this group of veteran tunnel fighters were meeting to take stock. The report also suggested alternatives to the tunnel, ranging from realignment of existing streets, or putting in a lot of light rail or doing nothing.

As far back as the '70s and some say even back to 1939, Caltrans' intention to complete the Long Beach (710) Freeway's from Long Beach to Pasadena was always part of the plan. But for years, the plan has been foiled in court by the No 710 Action Committee, acting in alliance with cities like South Pasadena and the Sierra Club. In other words, the people here in the room.

It has proven terribly galling to the freeway builders that they have not been able to complete that last leg to Pasadena in all these years. The freeways were pretty much built in the '50s, during America's flirtations with fascism in the form of McCarthyism. Freeways came out of that era, when Ronald Reagan declared that those who opposed building the Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine were communists -- because they wanted to preserve poor people's housing rather than play baseball. It was a period that allowed little dissent.

Yet activists fought Caltrans to a standstill. The freeway system that came in the aftermath of World War II was not without its doubters.

The Arroyo parkway built to link downtown Los Angeles and the Pasadena area opened in 1940 and was L.A.'s prototype freeway, inspired by Hitler's famed Autobahn. It was also about the same time that General Motors, Standard Oil and Firestone tires acquired the rights of way to the old Red Car lines, tore the tracks out and opened up the way for the freeway builders. The effort to remold the Los Angeles basin with freeways after World War II held sway for years.

When efforts to extend the 710 on a surface route through South Pasadena were abandoned, Caltrans' engineers seized on the idea of a tunnel -- it would be the longest traffic tunnel ever built in the United States.

To the opponents, the idea of such a long tunnel was a worse nightmare -- a financial nightmare and a dangerous misadventure of the grandest proportions. The fact that there would be no egress once you entered the tunnel from either its southern or northern entrances, provokes images of many potential tunnel catastrophes for these activists. One even suggested the tunnel would prove to be an irresistible target for terrorists.

The men and women gathered around that South Pasadena table also seriously dispute the estimate of $5 billion for the tunnel as well -- pointing out that similar projects in Seattle and Boston for tunnels not as long had similar estimates, but by the time cost overruns were figured in, $5 billion tunnels had morphed into $20 billion tunnels.

No doubt the people at the table all shared a belief that freeways have been a disaster from the beginning -- slicing and dicing communities and creating miles and miles of wide swaths of concrete ghettoes.

In all the years that the freeway builders have determined the shape of the Los Angeles basin since World War II, there have been only two successful efforts to stop them. One was the opposition that arose to the 710 extension, and the other was the effort to stop the Beverly Hills Freeway, which would have wreaked terrible havoc on Los Angeles if it had been built from downtown Los Angeles through Hollywood and into Beverly Hills.

The only other place where the freeway builders were also decisively defeated was when San Francisco residents successfully fought to stop the any further construction on the Embarcadero Freeway, which would have destroyed the city's fabled waterfront.

The world views of the proponents of freeways and the opponents are like parallel universes. It makes perfect sense that opposition to more freeway building would have come from those cities like Pasadena and South Pasadena created in the craftsman era, which with their emphasis on light and air and wood, proudly standing on the human side of the equation. To this group at the table, it's a constant theme that the purveyors of the notion that the Los Angeles basin should be a concrete megapolis, are propelled by hubris, money and power.

Each of the activists at the table had their own reasons for opposing the freeway. Take Jane Soo Hoo, who left an academic career in biology to raise a family. She credits a lot of her perspective to the work of Bent Flyvbjerg, whose Harvard lecture, "Follies of Infrastructure: Why the Worst Projects Get Built, and How to Avoid It" says it all. The founding Chair of Major Programme Management at Oxford University, Flyvbjerg also wrote an article in The New Scientist, "Mega delusional: The Curse of the Megaproject." He was one of the experts hired to untangle Caltrans' mishandling of the recent upgrading of the Bay Bridge.

SooHoo believes that the engineers and road builders obsessed with paving over the Los Angele sbasin is more than just an obsession, it's a pathology.

To my left sits Jane Ervin, who is the one who brought me here. Ervin retired from many years as a top administrator at Los Angeles City Hall (she is the one who presided over President Clinton's bailout to the city after the 1994 earthquake). She happened to read a piece I wrote some years ago in the Pasadena Weekly about the insanity of freeways as a means of transportation and also remembered me as a classmate from the first grade at Westwood Elementary School.

She took me to dinner with an earlier set of anti-710ers. I was impressed by the folks who attended -- I particularly remember a couple who were professors of engineering at CalTech and had lots of trenchant observations.

But I didn't write anything at that point. The 710 extension was dead, seemingly abandoned even by Caltrans. But as Ervin pointed out, that was only a false lull. Here we are, back again, fighting the freeway builders with their obscene dreams of a concrete future, she seemed to be saying.

I was moved to ask the group, "Do any of you think we are dealing with a conspiracy here?"
"Follow the money, yes it's a conspiracy," adamantly pipes in Mary Ann Prada.


Prada likes to say she's"only a housewife" (nine children), nonetheless she has served has served as the anti-710s archivist for years. She began collecting material in the '60s, although some of it dates from way before then.

Playing the rube works well for Prada. With considerable relish she tells of the time she sat in a meeting with the "project manager" of the 405 Armageddon project.

She engaged in a surrealistic conversation with the gentleman who didn't know who she was -- since she was merely a housewife in the crowd. "You know this isn't going to solve any traffic problems," she said. "This won't end traffic on the 405."

She said he said, "I know."

"You know," she replied incredulously.

It was this same meeting at which some of the freeway types were talking, with great excitement, about a plan that would dwarf the 710 extension -- they were talking about putting more traffic in tunnels underneath the existing Carmageddon lanes.

"Build it and they will come," Prada quoted him as saying.

Clara Bagaard, the wife of the current mayor of Pasadena, contemplates her own opposition to the 710 extension. She thinks the question comes down to health -- is it better to live in a Los Angeles basin that is mostly concrete because that's what big money dictates? Especially if you realize that living in a concrete jungle is both dangerous and unhealthy. "We're doing everything for the automobile by making the basin uninhabitable for humans. That's what bothers me -- it's as if human lives don't matter, just the dollar -- and the egos of the engineers."

So what will happen? Diana Mahmud, Helgeson's attorney spouse and mayor pro team of South Pasadena, who worked with him for the Department of Water and Power, says she thinks there's a shift coming in public thinking.

Mahmud believes that the upcoming generation is more inclined to get on a swift train rather than own a car and drive on the freeways. The newest generations are less enthralled by cars than older ones, she says. They don't want to commute -- they value highly the notion of living close to where they work.

"They don't want to just keep adding lanes to the freeways, which never solves the problem anyway," she added.

She also predicts that the tunnel will fail because of the financing. The tunnel builders need private money because they know there is no public money for the project. So the idea is to make the freeway a tollroad. The tolls would service the investor's stake.

"Nah," said Rick Helgeson, a former Los Angeles Department of Water and Power counsel, who has done lots of free legal work for the anti-710 effort over the years. "Bureaucrats just do what they're trained to do. They're not doing anything illegal" But he said he was also mindful of the words of the great Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, who rhetorically asked, "Why do we always build freeways through poor people's areas."

Mahmud describes how she was recently at a meeting where the tunnel builders met with the high-rollers. Authorities tried to keep her from coming in, but as an attorney with a knowledge of the Brown Act, they had to let her in. From what she heard, the big boys weren't that turned on. "It was clear to me they had no appetite for the project. They are concerned about litigation," she said, noting that well they should be -- because the anti-710 forces have fought them successfully at every step in the courts.

She said the big boys also don't want to deal with controversy, and "we're good at creating controversy." She said they want to be handed projects where all the arguing and litigation is over and that's never going to be the case here.

I ask who best represents the freeway builders. They all quickly agree this would be Barbara Messina, the five-time mayor and council member of Alhambra. She has led the fight for the 710 extension as vigorously as they have opposed it. Over the years, they have learned to regard Messina as a formidable opponent. But Diana Mahmud shocks the group by dismissing Messina as "small potatoes."

The others in the room are less sanguine about Messina. They note that she has a husband and son who worked for Caltrans. Messina is one of the cabal of tunnel builders. So was Roger Snoble, once chief of Los Angeles' Metro, which got a lot of money for transit because of Measure R. His was the last great voice for the tunnel. Messina suggests Measure R provided some money for the tunnel, but the anti-710 activists say the tunnel was never mentioned on the ballot box. They say the measure was sold with the promise of more rail.

Everyone at the table proclaimed that more and more people are swinging to their side. The data base has grown from a 100 or so to thousands. But still, they worry about Messina.

I chat with Messina. Yes, she admits, she favors the tunnel because it is the only plan that provides "air quality, mobility and ending congestion." She said it still had not been decided if trucks would be allowed in the toll tunnels.

And she is convinced that after a 120 or days of comments, hearings and the like, of the three scenarios proposed in the report, only the tunnel will make sense. The alternatives are more light rail and another to streamline traffic flow. Messina dismisses light rail as "ridiculous" and says traffic mitigation techniques have all been implemented In the end, she's convinced, the tunnel will be "the only logical choice."

Years ago, Messina served on the Alhambra school board, and says twice she buried students she knew who were killed by traffic, caused by the fact that the 710 extension was never built.

Messina says she can understand why people hate freeways, but says they are an "indispensable part" of existence in the Los Angeles basin. "It's not the same as back east or in Northern California. We are built totally different. It's a necessity of our way of life. They have to drive the same freeways they are opposing."

To Messina, the only reason people would oppose freeways is that they don't care about people who live in place like Alhambra, where there are many poor people who the opponents of freeways regard as so much garbage.

She's as absolutely convinced the freeway will be built as the opponents are who say it never should be and never will be built.

Beyond Freeways: Commerce, Community, and Contention along Los Angeles’s 710 Corridor

 How a freeway crushes communities, how residents are fighting back plans to make it even bigger, and what alternatives have been presented to yet more of the same….
How a freeway crushes communities, how residents are fighting back plans to make it even bigger, and what alternatives have been presented to yet more of the same…. - See more at: http://www.sustainablecitynews.com/beyond-freeways/#sthash.ubYwbvFP.dpuf
How a freeway crushes communities, how residents are fighting back plans to make it even bigger, and what alternatives have been presented to yet more of the same…. - See more at: http://www.sustainablecitynews.com/beyond-freeways/#sthash.ubYwbvFP.dpuf

http://www.sustainablecitynews.com/beyond-freeways/

April 18, 2014


For the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kn2iZ9g9C4
 
By Justin Gerdes
Photographs and additional reporting by Leila Dee Dougan
Edited and with an Introduction by Richard Risemberg
Produced by Richard Risemberg and eByline
Introduction

By Richard Risemberg

All the physical constructs of a culture are born into nests of perceptions. For the 710 freeway in the eastern third of Los Angeles County, those were perceptions of infinities: an infinity of real estate, an infinity of air, an infinity of oil, an infinity of time to spend in traffic…an infinity of public health to absorb the poisons, stress, and dullness of life in the shadow of its roaring traffic. Of course the infinities filled up with choking smog, blanketing noise, and congested roadways, and they became instead a prison guarded by an asphalt dragon.

In the flush of a delusional lust for the automobile, we built a corridor that kills its children and depresses its economies. Sometime in the late 20th century, Lewis Mumford said that “Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Los Angeles has spent the last sixty years proving him right. Relentlessly building more streets, more highways, more freeways has led not to free-flowing wind-in-the-hair drives, but to the worst traffic jams in the country, perhaps the world: a twice-a-day stasis of inert and frustrated drivers sitting alone in their sequestering boxes, listening to hate-radio rants as they squeeze along asphalt channels…. The beast they thought they’d ride to freedom instead digests them, squeezing them out at the end bereft of human spirit.

In an era of global warming, peak oil, obesity, stress, and foundering economies, it becomes imperative to find better ways to move ourselves, and our goods, among our neighborhoods. More specifically, if we wish to keep the economy we favor in this country and remain somewhat human, we must move as much transport as possible to modes such as rail, which uses one-third the fuel and orders of magnitude less land than individual motor vehicles do to move goods and people alike.

Yet, in an era where cities from Seoul to San Francisco to New York are tearing down freeways and finding that, contrary to gut feelings, traffic flows more smoothly, economies flourish, and neighborhoods burgeon, Los Angeles finds itself almost alone in trying to extend and expand a freeway through the heart of the region.

The excuse here is freight traffic from the port. This series, by environmental reporter Justin Gerdes and documentary photographer and videographer Leila Dee Dougan, will investigate the premises and promises of differing visions for the 710 corridor and its communities, and how it grew into its present form.

Follow the links below to read Mr. Gerdes’s detailed and hard-hitting examination of the perils and possibilities being explored or ignored as the region decides the future of this vital transportation corridor.

Part I: Birth of an Asphalt Monster
Part II: The Beast that Eats Our Children
Part III: Riding to the Rescue
Part IV: The Price to Pay

Easy-to-read, mobile-friendly e-book versions of the entire report are available at modest cost from Smashwords, iTunes, and Amazon. A free PDF version of the entire series is available here.
In the interests of full disclosure, let me state that I am presently an unpaid officer of GRID Logistics Inc, a company mentioned in this series. My interest in freeways, rail, and community developed long before GRID existed, and in fact it was an editorial on the 710 freeway that I wrote for the Los Angeles Business Journal that led to a presentation to one of the grassroots groups involved in corridor issues, which itself led to contact with Dave Alba, the founder of GRID. After a couple of years of investigation, I decided formally to ally myself with GRID. However, I instructed Mr. Gerdes to show no favoritism to GRID – which he would not have done in any case.
By Justin Gerdes
Photographs and additional reporting by Leila Dee Dougan
Edited and with an Introduction by Richard Risemberg
Produced by Richard Risemberg and eByline
Introduction
By Richard Risemberg
All the physical constructs of a culture are born into nests of perceptions. For the 710 freeway in the eastern third of Los Angeles County, those were perceptions of infinities: an infinity of real estate, an infinity of air, an infinity of oil, an infinity of time to spend in traffic…an infinity of public health to absorb the poisons, stress, and dullness of life in the shadow of its roaring traffic. Of course the infinities filled up with choking smog, blanketing noise, and congested roadways, and they became instead a prison guarded by an asphalt dragon.
In the flush of a delusional lust for the automobile, we built a corridor that kills its children and depresses its economies. Sometime in the late 20th century, Lewis Mumford said that “Adding highway lanes to deal with traffic congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity.” Los Angeles has spent the last sixty years proving him right. Relentlessly building more streets, more highways, more freeways has led not to free-flowing wind-in-the-hair drives, but to the worst traffic jams in the country, perhaps the world: a twice-a-day stasis of inert and frustrated drivers sitting alone in their sequestering boxes, listening to hate-radio rants as they squeeze along asphalt channels…. The beast they thought they’d ride to freedom instead digests them, squeezing them out at the end bereft of human spirit.
In an era of global warming, peak oil, obesity, stress, and foundering economies, it becomes imperative to find better ways to move ourselves, and our goods, among our neighborhoods. More specifically, if we wish to keep the economy we favor in this country and remain somewhat human, we must move as much transport as possible to modes such as rail, which uses one-third the fuel and orders of magnitude less land than individual motor vehicles do to move goods and people alike.
Yet, in an era where cities from Seoul to San Francisco to New York are tearing down freeways and finding that, contrary to gut feelings, traffic flows more smoothly, economies flourish, and neighborhoods burgeon, Los Angeles finds itself almost alone in trying to extend and expand a freeway through the heart of the region.
The excuse here is freight traffic from the port. This series, by environmental reporter Justin Gerdes and documentary photographer and videographer Leila Dee Dougan, will investigate the premises and promises of differing visions for the 710 corridor and its communities, and how it grew into its present form.
Follow the links below to read Mr. Gerdes’s detailed and hard-hitting examination of the perils and possibilities being explored or ignored as the region decides the future of this vital transportation corridor.
Part I: Birth of an Asphalt Monster
Part II: The Beast that Eats Our Children
Part III: Riding to the Rescue
Part IV: The Price to Pay
Easy-to-read, mobile-friendly e-book versions of the entire report are available at modest cost from Smashwords, iTunes, and Amazon. A free PDF version of the entire series is available here.
In the interests of full disclosure, let me state that I am presently an unpaid officer of GRID Logistics Inc, a company mentioned in this series. My interest in freeways, rail, and community developed long before GRID existed, and in fact it was an editorial on the 710 freeway that I wrote for the Los Angeles Business Journal that led to a presentation to one of the grassroots groups involved in corridor issues, which itself led to contact with Dave Alba, the founder of GRID. After a couple of years of investigation, I decided formally to ally myself with GRID. However, I instructed Mr. Gerdes to show no favoritism to GRID – which he would not have done in any case.
- See more at: http://www.sustainablecitynews.com/beyond-freeways/#sthash.ubYwbvFP.dpuf

The Week in Livable Streets Events

http://la.streetsblog.org/2015/03/16/the-week-in-livable-streets-events-177/

By Damien Newton, March 16, 2015

The week picks up halfway through and ends with Eat, Shop, Play, Crenshaw and CicLAvia. Can’t top that!
  • Monday - If you ride a bicycle and you care about who wins the race in Los Angeles City Council District 4 — the race to replace Tom LaBonge — you should plan on attending this meeting. Get the details, here or on Facebook.
 
  • Wednesday – LADOT is re-opening the upgraded Spring Street Parklets. It seems like just yesterday they opened for the first time. Good times. Get the details, here.
 
  • Wednesday, Thursday – It’s that time again…time for the Metro Board of Directors Committee Hearings. This is where decisions are made about Metro policy before the public spectacle of the Board meeting next week. You can read all the committee agendas, here.
 
  • Thursday - “This is what democracy looks like.” CALO YouthBuild’s 2015 Issues Forum is an opportunity for youth to share their knowledge and insight with policy makers and the community at large. Young researchers and organizers will be presenting on issues related to gentrification, police brutality and environmental justice. In addition to framing the issues, these youth will be offering policy suggestions to our elected representatives and other guests.  Get more information, here.
 
  • Thursday - Join health, transportation, and social justice advocates at SLAMM South L.A.,  to network, plan, develop leadership, and identify shared funding opportunities for South Los Angeles. More info or on Facebook.
 
  • Saturday – Support local businesses at the upcoming community fest in Leimert Park for a chance to win cash prizes from Metro’s Eat, Shop, Play Crenshaw campaign! During the event you’ll enjoy food from local eateries, live music and fun-filled activities.Yum. More information, here.
 
  • Sunday – CicLAvia!: The Valley! Visit their website! Look for SBLA’s preview article in the next couple days.