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, December 10, 2015

Good News, Bad News: Change is Coming in Car Culture Land


By Richard Risemberg, December 11, 2015


BIKING … THE VIEW FROM HERE--Good news for anyone who believes in the future of cities and humanity; bad news for the Neanderthals on the LA City Council who grunt nostalgically for the bad old days of traffic jams, road rage, sprawl, and blood on the streets. (And anyone who believes that road rage is a new phenomenon need only watch the 1950s Disney cartoon, Motor Mania,” written at the height of the Car God Cult’s worldwide jihad.)

Yes, somehow Congress managed to vote on and actually pass a transportation bill, known as the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,” acronymed down to, of course, the FAST Act. But it’s not so obsessed with speed as those among LA’s city council members who would kill any number of constituents as long as putting the pedal to the metal is still possible between pile-ups.

As Next City reports, the act includes language “allowing local governments to use alternative road and street design manuals” (such as the NACTO guide) “in designing federally assisted construction and repair projects.” This amounts to official permission to build Complete Streets with Federal cash.
The FAST Act also contains support for transit, Amtrak, and transit-oriented development. Though the bill has flaws, spelled out in the latter half of the Next City article, overall it represents a genuine step towards healthier, wealthier cities.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports on How Cyclists Are Causing Cities Worldwide To Rethink Bike Safety.  In an interview with Fredrik Gertten , director of the film “Bikes vs. Cars”, HuffPost examines what Gertten learned during his explorations of urban cycling in Los Angeles, São Paulo, and Copenhagen, as well as other cities.

As Gertten observes, “It’s not about left or right. It’s not even about having money or not having money. People make the choice: I don’t want to sit in the car. It’s boring, I lose my time, I get fat, I feel unhappy, I feel trapped. On a bike I feel free, I’m more flexible.

“About eight bikes equal a car in space. It’s amazing to see here now in San Francisco, with a traffic light, with 10, 15 bikes waiting for a green light. If that had been 15 cars, that would be a very long line.”


“If you can make that little equation in your brain, you will start to love bicycles, even if you will never go on a bike. Even if you will be in a car for the rest of your life.”

Let us hope we won’t be, and that soon we’ll live in an LA that makes more room for human culture than for motorized isolation chambers in our public spaces.

‘Deconstructing’ Arrogrance: The Truth about Beverly Hills and Metro


By John Mirisch, December 11, 2015


MUSING WITH MIRISCH --The Jewish Journal's quote of the week of Nov. 26, in reference to Beverly Hills's conflict with Metro, was former county supervisor (and Metro macher) Zev Yaroslavsky's zinger: "Fighting Metro is not a construction project, it's a destruction project."

Oy gevalt.

There is so much arrogance and ignorance rolled up into Yaroslavsky's statement, it could easily give rise to a new portmanteau word to describe the chutzpah: arrogrance.

It is hard to know where to begin, though correcting a major deficiency in the article from which the quip was lifted would probably be a good start. Beverly Hills is not trying to stop the subway.

Beverly Hills has never tried to stop the subway. The sole issue for the City of Beverly Hills, along with the school district, has been the routing, which was originally planned to run down Santa Monica Boulevard, but which mysteriously was re-routed to Constellation under the city's only high school when a well-heeled developer and a major political donor snapped its fingers and the Metro Board, led by Yaroslavsky, asked "how high?"

Yaroslavsky once famously described the county board of supervisors as "Five Kings" but the lack of factuality, transparency and logic behind his statement regarding the entire Purple Line extension seems more befitting of the Politburo. Trying to make sense of his statement is neither a construction project nor a destruction project, but rather a deconstruction project.

The JJ's article rehashes Metro's argument that a fault along Santa Monica Boulevard makes it unsafe to build a subway station at the original site on Santa Monica and Avenue of the Stars. Seismologist-to-the-stars, Lucy Jones, is quoted suggesting that evidence of a fault on Santa Monica Boulevard is "compelling." One must ask if this citation is pre- or post- the trenching which the school district performed. Of course, trenching is considered to be the gold standard of seismological evidence and the trenching the school district performed along putative fault sites turned up absolute bupkes.

Dr. Jones is also serving as LA's "earthquake czar," and if, despite the new evidence provided by the trenching, she truly believes a dangerous fault impedes the ability to build along Santa Monica Boulevard, one needs to wonder why she hasn't sounded the alarm about the 40 story condo tower at 10000 Santa Monica Boulevard currently under construction right next to the high school, or the major Westfield Mall addition on the other side of Avenue of the Stars, also directly on Santa Monica Boulevard.

What the article also leaves out is that last year the school district, the City of Beverly Hills, the FTA, the Department of Justice, and key Metro staff members entered mediation in an attempt to achieve a global resolution of the conflict. In fact, after a full day of negotiations, all sides actually agreed on a mediated settlement, which would have addressed the school district's concerns, while allowing Metro to keep the revised route -- despite the fact that it will cost the taxpayers hundreds of millions more than the original Santa Monica alignment, add to travel time, and result in reduced ridership.

Importantly, the mediated settlement would have included additional trenching along Santa Monica Boulevard, which would have provided the major public benefit of ending speculation, once and for all, about any potential existence of a fault.

Ironically, while the deal was recommended to the Metro Board by Metro staff, it was Yaroslavsky himself who took the lead in killing the mediated settlement, which had been brokered by a retired superior court judge. Being a "king" evidently has its privileges.

While it's true that many members of the Beverly Hills community, including myself, have been concerned with some of the financial decisions made by the current school board, the concerns are much broader than funds spent on lawyers in the Metro case. Newly elected board members Mel Spitz and Isabel Hacker, both of whom oppose Metro's route under the high school, rightly pointed out, for example, the former school board's much graver fiscal mistake in linking the district's teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values.

Metro now has a new CEO and new board members, and it is to be hoped that the institutional bullying which is Yaroslavsky's legacy will soon be a thing of the past.

Of course, in addition to the hundreds of millions of wasted taxpayer dollars on the Century City station, that legacy includes the so-called "UCLA/Westwood" station which is not in the "center of the center" of Westwood, but actually closer to the Purple Line's terminus at the VA than to the UCLA campus itself. Sad that UCLA will have a station in name only, but nice, I guess, that the VA will effectively get two subway stations.

Of course, it would be even nicer if Metro would actually finally get the VA's permission to place a subway station on its property - something which never happened under Yaroslavsky's reign, but which hopefully can happen now.

Who knows, with the possible elimination of arrogrance, we may even find Metro looking to the future and embracing the revolutionary new transit opportunities provided by automated vehicles; heck, we may even finally get a Green Line which actually connects with LAX...

And wouldn't that just be a mechaya?

(John Mirisch is the Vice Mayor of Beverly Hills and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)

LA’s Transpo Evolution: Some Good, Some Bad


By Ken Alpern, December 11, 2015


TRANSPORTATION POLITICS--Compared to the world of the 1990's, and even compared to the year 2000, LA City and County have made considerable progress towards confronting, consensus-building, and construction of transportation projects.  No longer is this priority being shunted to the side, and no longer are our elected officials ignoring the problems inherent in transportation and related infrastructure.  But there are problems ... big problems.

To be sure, the wind is much more on the backs of transportation advocates than it was 10-15 years ago, when marching uphill against the wind was the order of the day for anyone who dared bring up infrastructure.
Former President Bill Clinton was probably the greatest champion of this priority over the past several decades, but he had to face a Congress filled with Republican non-spenders and Democratic over-spenders--the former who ignored transportation/infrastructure and the latter who would spend on transportation/infrastructure ("T/I") only after other priorities and their lobbyists were "fed" first...leaving precious few dollars for transportation.

Yet the word got out, slowly but surely, that the voters wanted both parties to spend more on transportation/infrastructure and less on other priorities.  Certainly the liberals wanted less military spending and more taxes, and certainly the conservatives wanted less social welfare spending and a budget neutral process.

But the answers lay somewhere in-between, because more spending but appropriate revenue-raising, and more responsible spending for government in general will both allow for better transportation funding in the federal budget as well as better make the case that a gas tax, or a sales tax, or some other form of revenue raising, will be accepted as a way for voters to see a better 21st Century America with respect to "T/I".

Certainly, LA City and County have led the way with respect to transportation funding--they've taxed themselves at the county level multiple times and are embarking on one of the greatest transportation spending works in American history.  And to some degree, Los Angeles has both inspired and shamed Washington (and Sacramento, to boot) to get to work in rebuilding transportation/infrastructure strength here and throughout the nation.

The Expo Line, once a project that will "neeeeever happen" in the Westside, is entering pre-revenue train testing all the way from Culver City to Santa Monica in mid-December (that's like...now) and transfer of the Expo Line from the Expo Construction Authority to Metro is under way.

The San Gabriel Valley is no slouch, either, despite being given short shrift by the rest of the county (particularly Downtown leaders) for far too long, is on its way to a Foothill Gold Line that will open before the aforementioned Expo Line, and will almost certainly someday find the funding to build it all the way to Claremont.

And that LAX-Metro Rail connection that has proven elusive for so many decades?  It's gonna happen, as sure as Mayor Garcetti and LA County wants a 2024 Olympics.  The Crenshaw/LAX and Downtown Light Rail Connector lines will be build well before 2024, as well as the first phase of the Wilshire Subway to La Cienega.

Even the long-fretted 405/101 intersection and 405 widening projects are in our rear-view mirror, although the era of big freeway projects are done being built in the center of the county for now.

Similarly, the I-710 North project, which includes a tunnel under South Pasadena is being shunted aside for environmental, political, and fiscal reasons.  The congestion and pollution benefits weren't there, and the EIR has been roundly attacked by all sides.  Certainly the repair and renovation of the I-710 south project between the ports and Downtown has support overall, but the funds for the South Pasadena tunnel will go somewhere...else.

But the biggest problems remain both financial and political.  Will our recession cycle commence again (hate to say this, folks, but world events and economic reality dictates we're due for another downturn of some sort), and will that affect federal and state funding for transportation?  Will we need more money shunted to military endeavors if the world catches fire (as it frighteningly appears to be doing)?

More importantly will that oh-so-pesky pension problem, and the manner in which public sector unions--led by hyperpartisan, hyperlobbying cretins who live in their own little bubble of a universe where the taxpayers are bottomless ATM machines--destroy the ability of the City (and its voters) to ensure proper transportation funding and budgeting ...

... and threaten support of City residents to pass Measure R-2 if they see their taxes (AGAIN!) go from the roads, sidewalks, rail projects, DASH lines, buses and bicycle paths they've wanted their money to go to for years.

Decades, even.

The leadership of Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin for LAX reconstruction and Metro Rail/LAX connections?  Great.

The leadership of Mike Bonin for a sweeping parking reform package?  Great.
The ability of Eric Garcetti and Mike Bonin to get past the dunderheads who think that the pension crisis is anything but a crisis?  Not so great, although Garcetti and Bonin have to be both pressured and pitied that they've got such an uphill climb on this issue.

So we've got a lot to crow about with respect to transportation...but the possibility that the wind will cease to be at our backs with the unhappier potential winds of change to come bodes ill for a mobility/infrastructure effort in a City and County of LA that still hasn't recovered fully from the Great Recession of 2007-09.