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, December 19, 2016

Caltrans Begins Selling Off Homes Along Proposed 710 Freeway Extension


December 19, 2016

PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — Caltrans has started to sell off 42 homes it bought decades ago in anticipation of the planned State Route 710 extension through Pasadena, South Pasadena and Alhambra.

“The selling of these properties — that have been owned by the state for six decades — is about keeping our promise to the community to help it create a neighborhood they can be proud of,” said California State Transportation Agency Secretary Brian Kelly.

The properties were purchased to be demolished, as part of the plan to clear the area and extend the 710 Freeway from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in Pasadena. Decades of delays and legal challenges derailed the freeway extension, and Caltrans is now exploring other options, including a tunnel, a light rail system or a busway.

The properties going up for sale are among 460 the department owns along the proposed State Route 710 Corridor but are outside the scope of any current plans under consideration, Caltrans officials have said previously.

Notices of conditional offers were mailed Friday to the current occupants of the 42 residential properties that will be sold as part of the Affordable Sales Program.

Eligible occupants will have the opportunity to purchase the homes at discounted prices. The department will also provide affordable rental options for eligible occupants and establish a trust fund for future affordable housing programs.

“This is a major step toward returning these properties to both the community and to the families who may have a chance at being a homeowner for the first time,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What’s at stake for Pasadena voters in the November election


By Jason Henry, October 28, 2016

 *** STAFF FILE PHOTO *** Metro Gold Line train traveling to Irwindale Station with cars transitioning to from (605) Freeway to (210). Train and track testing Wednesday, February 24, 2016, on the Gold Line extension which opens on March 5, with the new Gold Line Stations in Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and Azusa. The Gold Line will be the longest light-rail train in Southern California, at 31 miles. It is also the farthest east Metro has ever gone. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Pasadena Star-News)

 Metro Gold Line train traveling to Irwindale Station with cars transitioning to from (605) Freeway to (210). Train and track testing Wednesday, February 24, 2016, on the Gold Line extension which opens on March 5, with the new Gold Line Stations in Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale, and Azusa. The Gold Line will be the longest light-rail train in Southern California, at 31 miles. It is also the farthest east Metro has ever gone.

While Pasadena’s local election won’t occur until March, several races and issues on the November ballot could have reverberations in the Crown City.

Perhaps the most relevant is the race for the 25th Senate District, where Republican Michael Antonovich and Democrat Anthony Portantino are vying to take over the seat held by state Senator Carol Liu.

But both regional and state measures, such as transportation-focused Measure M and even the recreational marijuana initiative Prop 64, could also have boons and banes for Pasadena.

The Democrat-leaning Senate district stretches from Tujunga to Rancho Cucamonga, with the largest concentrations of people in Burbank and Pasadena.


Voters will have to decide between Antonovich, a soon-to-termed out county supervisor, and Portantino, a former assemblyman and La Canada Flintridge councilman.

Both have pet projects in mind if elected. Portantino wants to reform California’s education system into K-14, with community colleges providing the final two years. Antonovich wants to push for better services for the homeless and the mentally ill.

The seat would put either man in a position to advocate or oppose one of the most controversial topics in Pasadena: the 710 freeway extension.

Portantino strongly opposes the 710 and a proposed 5-mile long tunnel alternative; Antonovich has supported previous attempts at completing the freeway, but has so far declined to weigh in on the tunnel project, saying he is waiting for more information.


Los Angeles County’s Measure M is a one-half percent sales tax increase for the county and is expected to generate $860 million a year to help with traffic and the rail network.

In Pasadena, some of the money will go toward expanding the Gold Line from Glendora to Claremont.

Though its gained bipartisan support, opponents have criticized Measure M for never sunsetting, essentially guaranteeing the tax stays on the books unless voters remove it via another ballot measure.
Pasadena’s City Council has voted to support Measure M, because they say it will improve traffic flow, repave local streets and keep fares affordable.


Proposition 64 legalizes the sale and use of recreational marijuana throughout the state.

Pasadena already prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within the city, but the city’s staff has recommended creating strict regulations that would allow retail sales if Prop. 64 passes. Otherwise, Pasadena would have to follow the rules created by the state through its proposed Bureau of Marijuana Control.

The city’s recommendations include a 1,000 foot separation from schools, parks and churches and a cap of 7 — one for each district — on the number of dispensaries.

Medical marijuana dispensaries already operating illegally in the city would be barred from opening a retail store, according to a staff report. The operators of those dispensaries have pledged to bring their own ballot measure forward, to force the city to allow them to stay open.

“They would have the ability to regulate it and make sure its done properly, but they wouldn’t have the right to ban it,” said Shaun Szameit, president of the Golden State Collective, on Mentor Avenue.


While parks in some parts of Pasadena are abundant, a study by Los Angeles County found more than 30 percent of people in Pasadena and Altadena had a high to very high need for parks in their neighborhoods. A priority list for park projects in two areas studied in Pasadena and our unincorporated neighbors included more than $200 million in work.

Measure A, supported by the Pasadena City Council, will provide additional funding for parks throughout the county through a levy that amounts to about $22.50 cost per year for the average homeowner of a 1,500 square foot home

It’s expected it would raise about $94 million annually.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

SR710 Fact Sheet

September 19, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Donut Hole in the City of Sierra Madre's Argument Supporting Measure M


October 24, 2016

Mod: I haven't been bagging on Sierra Madre City Hall very much lately. There is just so much else going on in the world right now. But when it is something as unfortunate as what follows below, well, it has to at least be noted. Here is how this week's City Council meeting staff report on the Measure M question inadvertently reveals what this unhappiness is all about (link).

Remember, the City of Sierra Madre has already spent a lot of money in the effort to defeat the 710 Tunnel. $50,000 is the number that comes to mind, though it could be more. Which in my opinion was a very good thing to do. It was money wisely spent.

However, here is the problem as I see it. While Los Angeles County authorities such as Metro and CalTRANS, along with such regional deplorables as SCAG, have worked very hard to assure people that Measure M funds will never be used in any way to help plan - or God forbid build - the 710 Tunnel, there is nothing at all about any restrictions on the already existing funds that this new sales tax revenue will likely free up. We're talking about Prop R and other similar money pots.

By using new Prop M moneys to pay for some of the things these other funds have been covering until now, couldn't that quite possibly free up some ready cash elsewhere to help push forward the 710 TunnelOf course it could. It would merely be a matter of shifting around some of those already existing revenues. And what control would you have over that?

Unlike with Measure M, there are no such restrictions in place for already existing fund sources such as Props R. Measure M will raise an additional $121 billion dollars. Wouldn't that free up a lot of cash from any previous propositions and tax money streams, money that could then easily be used in other ways?

And there is absolutely nothing anywhere that says any freed up funds from those other propositions and tax resources will never be used to help pay for the 710 Tunnel.

Better to just Vote NO. Why take the chance?

Saturday, October 22, 2016


From Sylvia Plummer, Octoiber 22m 2016

They have also been endorsed by the Chinese American Political Action Committee.  Nisall, Toh for Alhambra City Council


From Sylvia Plummer, October 22, 2016

Before you vote be sure to check out the Voter Information page of the No 710 Action Committee website. Listed are the names of candidates for various positions who oppose the SR 710 tunnel alternative as well as those who support the tunnels. Be sure to read the quotes from these candidates by clicking the link on the left side of the page. There is much at stake. Successful supervisor candidates will take a seat on the Metro Board of Directors -- the Board that will determine whether or not ot proceed with the tunnels. It will be very important to have anti-tunnel state senators and assembly members representing us in Sacramento to insure that CEQA is upheld and that the tunnels are killed forever, These are positions where issues become more important than following party line.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Public Weighs in at Metro’s Cost/Benefit Analysis Meeting


Commentary by Bill Sherman, September 29, 2016

There was an informational meeting at the Pasadena Convention Center last Thursday, September 22, to discuss the Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA) of the SR 710 North Study. The meeting was the result of a bill introduced by State Senator Carol Liu to inform the public about what the SR 710 tunnel extension will cost to build and what the supposed benefits will be to the public. The Metro Board had also passed a motion for a CBA study in June of 2010. It should be noted that this tunnel is a State Route (SR) not an interstate highway.

Now that seems a simple thing, but it is not. Metro put out for public comment the Cost/Benefit Analysis in June of 2015, a month after the Draft Environmental Impact Report, but there was never an opportunity for the public to weigh in at a public meeting to ask questions and make comments. The study included all five alternatives and several variations of the alternatives, including: Transportation Systems Management and Transportation Demand Management (TSM/TDM), tunnel single bore, tunnel dual bore, bus rapid transit, and light rail transit).

Even though there are five alternatives still on the table the tunnel is the only real alternative. The tunnel cost was presented as two options, a single bored tunnel with four traffic lanes and a dual bored tunnel with eight traffic lanes which has been challenged as not being accurate. Note that the dual bore tunnel will carry 180,000 vehicles per day and the single bore tunnel 90,000 vehicles per day. The dual bore tunnel was estimated to cost $5.6 billion and the single bore tunnel $3.86 Billion.

These figures are presented without an itemized listing of the components of the cost. How they came up with these figures is a real mystery. The study anticipates tolls. The amount of the tolls for this study was set at an amount that would attract 75% of the physical capacity of the tunnel and operate at a speed of 45 mph or greater. So the tolls will be set to limit the use of the tunnel by people of lower income. They plugged all their data into something called the California Benefit/Cost (Cal-B/C) model.

south pasadena review 09-29-2016 commentary bill sherman 002

This model is something that can only be understood by traffic engineers. Carol Liu had prepared a detailed analysis of the use of this model and believes it was not used correctly. Marina Khubesrian, City Councilperson for South Pasadena, in the Q & A segment of the meeting, brought up these defects and the panel listened, but made no comments were made on their validity. These are very technical points understood by few. The benefits came in many categories: travel time, capital expenditures (construction and right of way costs), vehicle operating costs, system and maintenance costs, safety effects, emissions effects, employment benefits, and residual values.

The results of the CBA were simplified to a single table:

Alternative/Variation; Present Value of Costs; Present Value of Benefits; Net Present Value
Tunnel single Bore; $1,951-1,997 Million; $ 3,429-3,587 Million; $ 1,478-1590 Million
Tunnel Dual bore; $3,227-3374 Million; $3,337-3,733 Million; -$37-506 Million
Bus Rapid Transit; $510 Million; $879 Million; $ 369 Million
Light Rail Transit; $2,163 Million; $1,293 Million; – $870 Million
TSM/TDM; $255 Million; $599 Million; $ 344 Million

So the winner is the single bore tunnel! The key to this table is the Net Present Value (NPV). The NPV is your best bang for the buck and the single bore tunnel is the best with a value of $1,478-1,590 million.

Questions and Answer period

Many questionable assumptions are made along the way and some of these were brought out in the Q & A segment. The Sepulveda Pass Tunnel was estimated at one Billion/mile. The 710 tunnels are estimated at ½ Billion/mile.

The Alaskan Way Tunnel in Seattle was also about one billion/mile. The discrepancy was not explained. The monetary benefit for tunnel users, aka drivers, was $22/ hour while for transit users it was $6/hour. It was asked, since the air pollution studies were inadequate per the United States Environmental Protection Agency (no analysis of hot spots like Old Town in Pasadena), if the CBA will be redone to reflect the health costs due to the increased pollution in Pasadena, La Cañada, and other areas seeing increased vehicular traffic. In my mind, this was not really answered.

The next step in the process to build the tunnel is to analyze the 8,000 comments submitted regarding the EIR/EIS. This will be done some time in 2017. After this is done, a preferred alternative will be selected. Michelle Smith, Metro’s lead representative, said that when the preferred alternative is presented to the Metro Board there will be a funding plan. They plan on funding this project by creating a Public Private Partnership (PPP). This means that they will have to sell this project to someone and their numbers and assumptions cannot be as vague as presented in this CBA.

Background Provided by Metro

On June 19, 2015, Metro and Caltrans issued an Analysis of Costs and Benefits (CBA) for the State Route 710 (SR-710) North study alternatives for public review. The CBA was prepared in response to direction by the Metro Board and is a means of applying an economic value to alternatives being evaluated for the SR 710.

The CBA is one of many technical reports that will be used to evaluate the alternatives in the SR 710 North Study Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS).
Editor’s Note: Metro provided the background for this commentary.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

WATCH THE FORUM: "The Pasadena Way...or Their Highway"

 From Steve Madison, City of Pasadena Councilperson, September 21, 2016

We had a great turnout for the 710 Tunnel Forum (even though thre were several other events the same evening).  The focus was information-sharing about alternatives to the 710 Tunnel project which would be catastrophic for Pasadena and the Region.
Our esteemed presenters—Paul Moore, renowned transportation and traffic expert,  public policy and transportation guru David Grannis and highly respected architect and urbanist Stefanos Polyzoides—were terrific.
If you were unable to attend the forum, please know that the program in its entirety has been uploaded to the District 6 website http://ww5.cityofpasadena.net/district6 (Scroll down to Featured Stories and click on the image.)  
Please feel free to share any thoughts you may have after viewing the Forum.  I look forward to hearing from you.
Finally, please forward this information to others.  The 710 Tunnel project is an important regional issue that is of great concern to us all.

Is Alhambra ready to elect councilmembers who oppose the 710 Freeway tunnel?


By Christopher Yee, September 23, 2016

 Alhambra council candidates, Mark Nisall who is against the 710 Freeway tunnel option pointing to the traffic and potential area for the underground 710 freeway tunnel on Fremont Avenue in Alhambra. Is Alhambra ready to elect city councilmembers who don’t support the completion of the 710? With the surface freeway option off the table, the only other option to complete the freeway is an underground tunnel, but two Alhambra council candidates, Mark Nisall and Ken Toh, oppose the tunnel, bucking tradition in Alhambra.

Alhambra council candidates, Mark Nisall who is against the 710 Freeway tunnel option pointing to the traffic and potential area for the underground 710 freeway tunnel on Fremont Avenue in Alhambra. Is Alhambra ready to elect city councilmembers who don’t support the completion of the 710? With the surface freeway option off the table, the only other option to complete the freeway is an underground tunnel, but two Alhambra council candidates, Mark Nisall and Ken Toh, oppose the tunnel, bucking tradition in Alhambra.

ALHAMBRA >> For more than half a century, the battle over whether to complete the 710 Freeway from its terminus in Alhambra north to Pasadena has been divisive for San Gabriel Valley residents.

Many people often boil down the battle to Alhambra versus South Pasadena, with the former in favor of completing the freeway and the latter opposed. All five members of Alhambra’s current City Council support Metro and Caltrans’ tunnel proposal and make that opinion known by hanging banners over Fremont Avenue that read “Close the gap” and even closing Fremont once a year on July 10 to host a street festival centered around completing the 710.

After 51 years, are Alhambra residents ready to shed the pro-710-extension mantle as they prepare to elect two new City Council members, with Vice Mayor Steven Placido and Councilman Gary Yamauchi terming out?

Both seats are being contested by candidates who oppose the 710 tunnel, but it remains unclear whether Alhambra voters are ready to move in that direction.

Council candidates Mark Nisall and Ken Toh, running for the seats in districts 3 and 4 respectively, both said they started out supporting the tunnel but changed their opinions after learning more about the project’s cost, which has been estimated at $5 billion-$10 billion, and a 10- to 15-year construction estimate.

Nisall and Toh both said the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Nisall said he supports increased light-rail options, adding rapid bus lines, improving traffic signal synchronization and the construction of an above-ground north-south boulevard that lines up with the 710 terminus. Toh said he supports increased light-rail and rapid bus lines.

Nisall also is concerned with the potential environmental impacts that boring a tunnel below people’s homes may have.

“I couldn’t support it after looking at the cost, the time it would take to construct and the environmental dangers ahead,” he said.

Nisall said his position isn’t making him any friends, but he’s hoping voters will take time to consider the alternatives to the tunnel and, ultimately, not just make their council decisions based on the 710.

“I hope people won’t decide to vote for or against me or any other candidate only on this one issue,” Nisall said. “I hope they look at our positions on other issues as well.”


For several years, a group calling itself Alhambrans Against the 710 has been trying to rally locals to fight efforts to complete the freeway, including the tunnel.

The group protests at Alhambra’s 710 Day and marches alongside the “No on 710” coalition in the South Pasadena Fourth of July parade.

The group has grown from 40 members to 90 in the past two years, which may sound low but illustrates a shift in philosophy among residents, said member and 10-year resident Melissa Michelson.

“It’s time for nonestablishment candidates to come up,” Michelson said. “People are sick of the old guard. To me, it’s historic that we finally have candidates willing to speak against the 710.”

Michelson said November’s ballot results will tell just how ready the city is for that change.


Nisall and Toh are being opposed by Jeff Maloney and David Mejia, respectively. While neither said they are specifically supporting the tunnel, both said they would support whatever option Metro and Caltrans deems most effective.

Mejia lives just off of Fremont near Valley Boulevard and said he has to deal with the traffic every day.

“The other candidates don’t see what I see every day,” said Mejia, an investigator with the Los Angeles Police Department. “We have families trying to walk around here with cars zooming through. (Traffic navigation mobile app) Waze loves my block, unfortunately.”

Maloney said he is ready to support Metro’s best solution to reducing traffic, gridlock, air pollution and damage to the streets created by the 710 emptying into Alhambra.

“It looks like they will end up recommending a tunnel,” Maloney said. “If that’s the case, I would support it.”

But Maloney also said that, ultimately, Alhambra won’t be the one deciding to dig a tunnel; Metro and Caltrans will decide the 710’s future.


Metro and Caltrans may be leading the conversation right now with the 710 alternatives under environmental review, but the positions cities take on the matter still bear weight, said Sam Pedroza, mayor of Claremont and vice chair of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments’ transportation committee.

“The environmental review process is out of the cities’ hands,” Pedroza said, “But the advocacy for or against the project is still largely in the cities’ hands.”

In 2018, Alhambra Mayor Barbara Messina and City Councilmen Luis Ayala and Stephen Sham will term out of their council seats, which leaves open the possibility of a new majority opinion on the council.

Viola Rippon, president of the Alhambra Democratic Club, said she isn’t sure residents care anymore.
The club held a candidates forum in August and endorsed Nisall and Toh, but not because of their views on the 710. In fact, Rippon said she wasn’t aware until recently that Toh opposed the tunnel.

Instead, Rippon said residents are more concerned with overdevelopment and accompanying traffic buildup in Alhambra.

“Right now, the 710 is an antiquated issue,” Rippon said. “It could come up again once Metro makes a final decision, but I think after 50 years most people around here have moved on.”

In Measure M, L.A. County transit plan goes the distance this time: Guest commentary


By Michael Antonovich, October 2, 2016

Measure M would extend the route for the Metro Gold Line train, shown here in 2013 at the Del Mar Station in Pasadena. (File photo)
 Measure M would extend the route for the Metro Gold Line train, shown here in 2013 at the Del Mar Station in Pasadena.

It is vital that any ballot measure addressing our county’s transportation needs provides a comprehensive, regional solution to reduce congestion and improve air quality. Previous transportation measures were created from the top down and failed to guarantee a fair share for, or consider the needs of, Los Angeles County’s 88 cities and 134 unincorporated communities. Those measures also failed to develop a truly regional, interconnected transportation system.

Measure M, the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan” corrects these failures.

In 2013, as chairman of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board, following the defeat of Measure J, I sent letters to each of the county’s 88 cities and their regional Councils of Government asking them to identify their local and regional transportation priorities. This set into motion a first-of-its-kind, bottoms-up approach to assess the transportation needs of our county, which was supported by subsequent Metro chairs, Diane DuBois, Eric Garcetti, Mark Ridley-Thomas and John Fasana. Hundreds of public meetings were held with the cities, community organizations, business groups, experts and advocates.

In contrast to previous measures, Measure M creates a regional transportation system which is fair to our county’s local communities because it was developed from the bottom up. It is subject to tough accountability measures with an oversight committee and annual audits posted online. Further, all funds generated are for local use only on transit projects in Los Angeles County — and cannot be siphoned away by the state.

Funding from Measure M will be used in each of our county’s 88 cities and unincorporated communities to repair and build new transportation infrastructure — from filling potholes to paving roads to synchronizing signals to improving intersections. Measure M will fix bottlenecks on freeways including the 5, 14, 405 and 605. Relieving traffic congestion, it will improve freight and goods movement by supporting the development of the High Desert Multi-purpose Corridor, upgrading Metrolink, enhancing passenger and freight rail corridors, and constructing critical grade separation projects.

Enhancing regional transit, it will extend the Gold Line through the San Gabriel Valley to Claremont, connecting with existing stations in Pasadena, Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa. Dubbed the “Brain Train,” the Gold Line is connecting educational institutions including the Pasadena Arts Center, Cal Tech, Pasadena City College, Azusa Pacific University, La Verne University and the Claremont Colleges.

Measure M will also provide a vital connection between the Gold Line and the Red Line, from Pasadena to North Hollywood via Glendale and Burbank, on a dedicated bus line, which I proposed to further connect the county’s transportation system. It connects the San Fernando Valley to the Westside and will bring multiple lines to LAX. In addition, it will fund improvements to the Orange Line, ultimately transitioning to light rail, and build a 20-mile rail line from Downtown L.A. to Artesia.

Under the leadership of CEO Phil Washington, Metro will continue to be proactive and inclusive of the needs of our communities through the region and Measure M will provide the resources to meet those needs into the future. It will keep student, senior and disabled fares affordable while funding critical earthquake retrofits of our bridges and overpasses. It will also create over 465,000 jobs and has bipartisan support from labor, business, chambers of commerce and public officials.

On Nov. 8, Los Angeles County voters will have an opportunity to develop a comprehensive and interconnected transportation system which will relieve congestion and gridlock, improve air quality and quality of life for the residents of our County’s 88 cities and unincorporated communities.
Measure M will modernize our aging transportation system and provide a 21st century transportation network which accelerates transit lines and ties them together into a comprehensive system with improved freeway and local road networks. Vote yes on Measure M.

Michael Antonovich is a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, representing the 5th District.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Who Is Lining Up to Fight Measure M


By Damien Newton, September 1, 2016

So far, most of Streetsblog L.A.’s coverage of Measure M, Metro’s sales tax proposal that will be on the fall ballot, has been positive. With our eyes fixed on graphics showing the growth of our rail and rapid bus network, a robust active transportation funding program, and some flexibility in the language allocating highway funding; there’s a lot to like in the proposal.

Photo: Jose Escobar/Fans of Los Angeles Metro Rail on Facebook

But no ballot measure, especially one of this size, is perfect and there are many groups fighting the ballot measure for a variety of reasons. Here’s a list of some of the main opponents of Measure M, along with a few others that might join the fight in the future.


Fight for the Soul of the Cities and the Bus Riders Union – The BRU has fought tooth and nail against Measure R in 2008 and Measure J in 2012. Their arguments, both then and now, focus on two points. First, they argue that Metro cannot be trusted with such a large infusion of funds because of a poor civil rights record. Second, they feel the measure’s focus on automobile flow and rail expansion instead of more robust growth for the bus network and greater fare subsidies won’t actually do anything to improve mobility or the environment. Read more details on their arguments, here.

Carson, Torrance, Rancho Palos Verdes, Signal Hill, Santa Fe Springs, Commerce and Norwalk – These seven southeast cities argue that because the main project for their corner of the county, a freeway widening, isn’t scheduled for construction for decades that they are being forced to subsidize the rest of the county’s transportation plan. A recent lawsuit filed against the project also alleges lies in the approved ballot language.


The City of Beverly Hills – John Mirisch isn’t just a commenter at The Source, he’s also the Mayor of Beverly Hills. Given the city’s opposition to one of Metro’s signature projects, the Purple Line Extension from mid-town to the V.A. Hospital, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the City renewed its opposition to a Metro proposed sales tax. Beverly Hills was a key member of the coalition that narrowly defeated Metro’s Measure J in 2012. Mirisch recently authored a long piece on the Huffington Post outlining why, in his view, a vote for Measure M will benefit Metro staff and developers and be bad for everyone else.

The Crenshaw Subway Coalition – In 2012, the Coalition was also a key member of the No on Measure J campaign mainly because there was not enough funding going to fun a full-grade-separated Crenshaw Line through South L.A.’s black-owned business districts.

At an anti-J rally, executive director Damien Goodmon argued “We are all opposed to…the crony capitalism, we are opposed to MTA becoming an ATM for the 1%, the developers and the contractors. We stand across the street from View Park Prep School (at Slauson and Crenshaw) where a proposed light rail line will be endangering the safety of children. It’s a common thread throughout the region…in Beverly Hills, in South LA, in East LA… and we see an agency that can simply not be trusted with our tax dollars.”

While the Crenshaw Line is under construction, an infusion of funds might not be enough to do the grade separation the coalition wanted four years ago. The organization is still active and is doubtless not happy with Metro.

“Taxpayers Rights” Organizations – There are a handful of organizations that oppose every newly proposed tax including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Even if they haven’t taken a position on Measure M yet, they almost certainly will.


No on 710 – The No on 710 Coalition is widely believed to have fought Measure J because its imagery appeared at No on Measure J events and the issue of the proposed highway tunnel extension was brought up by opposition. However, when I reached out to one of the leaders of the organization, they stressed that they were not in opposition to Measure J in the past nor Measure M today.

“First, let me say that the our organization, the No 710 Action Committee did not oppose Measure J. The issue of the tunnel was used by other opposition groups, so there was some confusion about our official position. As far as Measure M is concerned, Metro has included language in the ordinance that precludes the use of Measure M funds for construction of the tunnel alternative. The No 710 Action Committee does not oppose Measure M. We have always supported good projects such as the extension of the Gold Line to Claremont, and in fact strongly recommend that the remaining $700 million dollars (approximately) targeted by Measure R for the SR 710 be used instead for the very worthy Gold Line Extension.”


Familiar faces.
Familiar faces.

The Coalition to Preserve LA – The organization which is fighting to pass the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative in March of 2017 has yet to take a position on Measure M and quite possibly never will. However, some of the Coalition’s highest profile backers are vocal opponents of Measure M and some of Measure M’s highest profile supporters are opponents of the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative. Will this lead to opposition on Measure M? Probably not, but stranger things have happened.

Did I miss someone? Let me know in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New Hotels, New Recreation Centers, New Ideas, Highlight Councilmember Kennedy's Community Meeting

Lower crime rates, bike sharing program also presented


By Eddie Rivera, August 31, 2016

 Scenes during the Councilmember John Kennedy's community meeting on Tuesday, August 31, 2016.

New hotels, a bike sharing program and a plan to re-imagine the Northern “stump” of the 710 Freeway highlighted Councilmember John Kennedy’s District 3 community meeting Tuesday evening, as nearly a hundred residents gathered in the Donald Wright Auditorium at Pasadena Central Library for a wide-ranging update from the Councilmember.

Poet Gerda Govine Ituarte added a soupçon of literary culture to the evening, reading from a poem which told the tale of her arrival in America as a young child in New York City.

Following Ituarte’s evocative poem, Kennedy honored newly retired Director of Library Services Jan Sanders, commending her for her 11 years of service in Pasadena.

Kennedy then began his presentation with a report on the city’s five new hotel projectss, highlighting the new and controversial proposed Kimpton Hotel/YWCA project, in Pasadena’s Civic Center, which would if approved convert the 1922 Julia Morgan-designed building at 79 North Marengo Avenue into a 179-room two-to-six story luxury hotel.

That project is one of five new hotel projects in the city, in various stages of planning or construction.
Kennedy also praised the new Heritage Square senior housing project being built north of the intersection of Orange Grove Boulevard and North Fair Oaks Avenue. Kennedy said the project has already received 1,500 pre-applications for the 70 apartments being planned.

Reporting on the city’s 2014 embezzlement case, Kennedy revealed that $5 million has been recovered through various insurance policies and the City hopes to recover the balance following the disposition of the case. A former management analyst in Pasadena’s Public Works Department, Danny Wooten, along with two other suspects, faces more than 60 counts of fraud, embezzlement and tax-related charges. No trial date has been set yet.

The new renovations and rehabilitations at Jackie Robinson Park are also getting underway, Kennedy reported, and a number of classes and activities will be moved temporarily to the Jackie Robinson Senior Center across the street to accommodate the work. While construction dates are still pending on the four-year old project, construction documents were completed and submitted to the Building Department in February, 2016.

The City’s Recreation Department will also be working directly with the Pasadena Unified School District in an effort to re-locate more activities during the construction process.

According to Kennedy’s update, the Renaissance Plaza on Orange Grove at Fair Oaks may also soon undergo some changes. As the original loan for the project is about to be paid off, Von’s Market, the current tenant, may be relocating.

“We are hoping to find a quality market for that location, who can provide fresh and healthy food for this community,” said Kennedy of the proposed change.

Kennedy also reported that 12,000 feet of city sidewalks have been repaired this year, and reaffirmed the City’s commitment to repairing as many feet of sidewalk as possible this year.

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez delivered updates on two recent shootings, but continued to bemoan the lack of community participation in providing information to police regarding crimes.

“Without your support,” Sanchez told the meeting, “We can’t close that loop, so we are constantly seeking information from anyone who might know anything.” Sanchez also noted that during or after previous District 3 community meetings, he has received information on crimes, either by phone or e-mail.

“That information stays confidential,” Sanchez emphasized, “so if you know anything, or you know anyone that is involved in that kind of behavior, please give us a call.”

The Pasadena Police Department to date, said Sanchez, has seized over 1,300 guns, with “150 guns seized this year alone.” According to Sanchez, the various guns were seized in search warrants, or from armed individuals, or surrendered by community members.

Finally, hammering home a familiar theme at community meetings, Sanchez told the group, “ I don’t want to get into a discussion about the Second Amendment, but I will say this. If you own a gun, please be a responsible gun owner. That means watching the gun, and keeping that gun in an approved safe.”

In addition to the project updates and safety reminders, Conrad Viana, principal engineer from the Transportation Department, reported that the City is moving closer to the full implementation of its proposed bikeshare plan, first proposed in 2014, making bicycles available for short-term rentals and commutes.

The idea, explained Viana, is to ideally provide bikes for short commutes to Gold Line or bus stations, and then bikes for the commute to work from public transportation.

The Metro bikeshare program is part of the City’s Bicycle Transportation Action Plan, with bikeways eventually located in 12 miles of collector and arterial roadways in the city. When fully implemented, the program will be located at 34 kiosks around the city, providing a total of 411 bicycles. The city is currently evaluating 120 potential kiosk sites.

Meanwhile to date, over 200 new bike racks have been added citywide to further promote bicycling
The evening also featured a dramatic presentation led by architect Stefanos Polyzoides on the “Connecting Pasadena” project, a plan to fill the trench at the Northern end of the proposed 710 extension and create a brand-new new community flanked by Pasadena Avenue and the freeway.

“Freeways are the bane of our existence,” said Polyzoides. “No sane person thinks that freeways are a good transit idea,” he said as he outlined two plans from his group’s presentation.

The first plan would leave the ditch of the 710 freeway in place and work around the existing topographic conditions, he explained. A main parkway would be placed in the center and at the bottom of the existing 710 right-of-way. All thoroughfares would be reconnected and turned into two-way circulation. With this plan, said Polyzoides, the volume and manner of access to the 134 and 210 Freeways is maintained and neighborhood traffic is slowed down and dispersed.

There would be development blocks located on either side of the parkway, according to the plan.

The second alternative would fill the entire ditch and re-establish the topographic level of the site as it existed before the construction of the freeway. A major boulevard, similar to Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue, would replace Pasadena Avenue, and serve to both direct traffic going into and out of the freeway, and disperse traffic to the neighborhoods to the south, east and west through reestablished two-way streets.

The proposed community would also locate housing close to public transit, and establish new green spaces as well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Caltrans may begin selling 710 Freeway extension properties this fall


By Steve Scauzillo, August 29, 2016

 Nellie Herrera, 91 has lived at 5513 Atlas Street in El Sereno for 54 years and will be moving to live with her daughter in La Puente because Caltran is selling this home. Caltrans is preparing to sell the first 42 homes that were along the surface route of the proposed 710 Freeway extension in about one month. Two key things have fallen in place: release of a final Environmental Impact Report for the North 710 in El Sereno (LA), South Pasadena and Pasadena surplus properties a few weeks ago and simultaneously the finalization of a list of regulations on how to go about selling the homes. The sales of surplus properties that were supposed to be standing in the path of an extended freeway (surface route) will begin at the end of September, said Caltrans. The EIR says these will not be impacted by any potential extension , such as a 4.5-mile tunnel. There are 460 potential properties that Caltrans has identified for sale. The final EIR says they will be selling off properties in a five-year period, from September to 2020. They will be sold to housing entities, previous owners, current tenants or other private individuals or organizations. (Photo by Walt Mancini/Southern California News Group)

 Nellie Herrera, 91 has lived at 5513 Atlas Street in El Sereno for 54 years and will be moving to live with her daughter in La Puente because Caltran is selling this home. Caltrans is preparing to sell the first 42 homes that were along the surface route of the proposed 710 Freeway extension in about one month. Two key things have fallen in place: release of a final Environmental Impact Report for the North 710 in El Sereno (LA), South Pasadena and Pasadena surplus properties a few weeks ago and simultaneously the finalization of a list of regulations on how to go about selling the homes. The sales of surplus properties that were supposed to be standing in the path of an extended freeway (surface route) will begin at the end of September, said Caltrans. The EIR says these will not be impacted by any potential extension , such as a 4.5-mile tunnel. There are 460 potential properties that Caltrans has identified for sale. The final EIR says they will be selling off properties in a five-year period, from September to 2020. They will be sold to housing entities, previous owners, current tenants or other private individuals or organizations.

Under orders by both the governor and the state Legislature, and after a years-long push by both cities and tenants, Caltrans will soon begin selling houses along the path of a scuttled surface route of a north 710 Freeway extension,

The state transportation agency, often criticized as an absentee landlord dragging its feet, will begin taking first offers on 42 properties this fall, said agency spokeswoman Lauren Wonder on Monday.

Wonder pointed to a list of 39 single-family and three multi-family properties on the agency’s website that will be put up for sale. The residential properties — most of them occupied with tenants — are located in El Sereno, a neighborhood spanning Los Angeles, South Pasadena and Pasadena.

“That is what we are getting prepared to sell,” Wonder said, referring to the list. “We will go out and start taking first offers.”

After years of challenges, rewrites and delays, Caltrans on July 26 approved a final, state-required environmental report on the sale of surplus properties along what would’ve been the buildout of a surface freeway route from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the 210 Freeway in west Pasadena.

On the same date, Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty signed off rules allowing the sale of 460 properties in the same north-south strip under a state program.

With a new surface freeway route ruled out, Caltrans is still considering other projects for the area: a dedicated busway, a light-rail line, traffic management systems or a 6.3-mile freeway tunnel with or without trucks, according to the agency.

The first homes being sold will lie outside “the scope” of those transportation options, according to Caltrans.

Properties closer to the new routes will be sold later, as will properties considered excess if alternative routes are built or the project is killed.

Any decision on a freeway tunnel or another alternative won’t be made until next year, she said.

Caltrans said the approval of the reports will allow the agency to move forward with the sale of the homes at appraised, fair-market value. Homes with residents living there for more than two years will be sold at an “affordable price,” according to Caltrans documents.

Sergio Gonzalez, city manager of South Pasadena, said the city is “very excited about getting these properties back into private ownership.”

Of the 42 properties listed, three are in Pasadena, six in Los Angeles and 33 in South Pasadena.

Gonzalez said in the past, many of the Caltrans properties along the route were shuttered or marked with graffiti. Many fell into general disrepair.

A recent bill by state Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Canada Flintridge, required Caltrans to remove itself from its landlord role and sell the homes as is. But the opening of bids is likely to bring even more questions about the properties and their residents.

Some wonder whether the rent-paying tenants will be able to afford the asking price for their homes. If not, advocates worry that they’ll be forced out.

But some residents, like Nellie Herrera, 91, who has lived in the same home in El Sereno for 54 years, said it might be time to move on. If her house is sold, she said she’ll go live with a relative.
“It is a nice home. I like it,” she said. “I take good care of my house. But it is too big for me.”

Chris Sutton, a Pasadena attorney who has represented tenants of Caltrans’ homes located along the surface route for decades, was skeptical about the sales moving forward. Caltrans has broken promises in the past, he said.

Sutton is also worried that the formulas Caltrans proposed for setting the selling price may leave low and middle-income tenants out on the street.

“We are hoping that the EIR will suggest mitigation measures to allow people to buy as many properties as they can,” he said.

Gonzalez said South Pasadena wants to see the homes sold so the owners can pay full property taxes, a source of revenue for the city, county, school and water districts. But he also said the city wants to see tenants buy the homes from Caltrans. “They are our residents,” he said.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, the date Caltrans planned to sell the homes was incorrect. Caltrans plans to sell the homes this fall, but has not specified an exact month.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Forum on Alternatives to the 710 Tunnel

Pasadena City Councilmember Steve Madison invites you to a Forum on Alternatives to the 710 Tunnel.  Everyone is invited, you do not have to live in Pasadena.

When:  Thursday, September 15, 2016
Time:    6:30 - 8:00 pm  (doors open at 6pm)
Where:  Pasadena Convention Center Ballroom
              300 E. Green, Pasadena

Message from Steve Madison: 

We hope that you will attend this important forum on alternatives to the 710 tunnel.  The forum will address the preferred Pasadena plans and demonstrate how they fit into regional transportation plans.  We think this is an important beginning for providing information to the public about a better way to move people and fix traffic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

f Metro Can’t Manage Rail Expansion, Why Should We Trust Them to Manage Another Tax Increase?


By Beth Cone Kramer, August 8, 2016


THIS IS WHAT I KNOW-Just when you thought the November ballot was splitting at the seams with volumes of initiatives and measures, the Board of Supervisors has stuffed in another, agreeing unanimously last week to add the MTA’s proposal, asking county voters to approve a half-cent sales tax increase that would continue indefinitely to bankroll a major expansion of SoCal’s transit network.

Back in June, MTA directors greenlighted the “Los Angeles County Traffic Improvement Plan,” which would add at least $860 million a year to expand the county’s rail network through the San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley, and the Sepulveda Pass. The funding isn’t limited to rail; the proceeds from the tax would fully or partially fund ten new highway projects, which would include a State Route 71 expansion and a new carpool-lane interchange between the 405 and 110.

What does this mean to your wallet? The county’s base sales rate would be pushed to 9.5 percent and 10 percent in cities like Santa Monica and Commerce. Ouch. And if that isn’t enough to break a sweat, the half-cent tax would double to one-cent in 2039 to replace revenue lost when Measure R expires. That one-cent increase would also continue indefinitely.

We all know that the traffic jams, Sig Alerts, and smog in these parts are among the worst in the country, especially on that parking lot otherwise known as the 101/405 interchange. Though the measure seems to have support from labor groups and municipalities, Supervisor Don Knabe expressed concern about what is now the third tax to fund Metro that does not have an expiration date.

If the measure is approved, Metro will get two cents on every dollar spent in LA County, a mighty steep allowance. However, the measure faces some uphill battles, including a ballot already jammed with a tax initiative and a two-thirds pass threshold. Other taxes on the ballot for county voters include a parcel tax for parks and a community college bond measure; LA City voters will be voting on a $1.2 billion bond measure to fund housing for the homeless.

Giving any entity unlimited access to our credit and debit cards for eternity is always a dicey move but add in the fact that the MTA doesn’t appear to be doing a bang-up job with what’s already in the coffers just further raises our eyebrows.

Getting Angelenos to ditch the Prius for a ride on the Metro is a challenge. Two months after the Westside light rail extension, riders have been waiting for hours for a train because the MTA doesn’t have enough rail cars to accommodate the Expo Line’s ridership, due to a year-long delay in acquiring additional cars. As it stands, rail cars don’t have adequate space for bikes, wheelchairs, sometimes even passengers during peak hours. Waiting twelve-minutes for the next train doesn’t make riding the Metro more of a draw to commuters who are on a schedule.

Westsiders have been turning to the Metro during the week; trips have increased by half since the trains began running in Santa Monica but logistical issues have not allowed the Metro to keep up with demand for cars.

Back in 2008, LA County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase to fund almost thirty miles of light rail tracks and rail cars; the first fifty from Italian company Ansaldo/Breda came in years behind schedule and overweight by almost three tons. The MTA deal with the company collapsed and the transit authority was left scrambling for a replacement, this time giving a $900 million contract to Japanese-based Kinkisharyo International back in 2012 for 235 new cars. Kinkisharyo delivered the first silver and yellow cars expediently but tests are taking longer than planned. Of the 41 cars delivered, 13 still need to be tested. While the goal is to run trains every six minutes by year’s end and three-car trains by 2017-2018, platform length limits trains greater than three cars, which means not everyone will get a seat.

The challenge of continuing to encourage commuters to trade in their gas cards for a Metro Card and to attract new riders needs to be balanced with the blank check sales tax proposal put up by the MTA. If the MTA is not up to the challenge as of yet, handing over the checkbook does not seem like a prudent plan.

Metro in trouble.  Lousy planning. New Westside extension short on train cars. Riders left standing at stations for hours because trains are jammed.

Our question is, if they can't -- with years to do it -- manage to prepare for the extension, then why should we trust them to handle the new sales tax they're asking for?

Obviously, they're not ready for growth. So why would people give up their cars to stand in line for hours waiting for a train?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Here’s which cities are for, against a half-cent LA county transportation tax


By Steve Scauzillo, August 2, 2016

 Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes as part of the I-5 widening construction project. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

 Students walk home after school near heavy traffic along Florence Avenue bridge over the I-5 Freeway in Santa Fe Springs on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. Florence Avenue is expected to be reduced from four to two lanes as part of the I-5 widening construction project.

Lurking beneath a unanimous vote Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors placing a half-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot to fund $132 billion in transportation improvements was some hefty opposition from cities in the southeast and South Bay.

While others praised Measure R-2’s list of rail, highway and bikeway projects as equitable, the South Bay Cities Council of Governments and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments disagree, saying the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) kicked their freeway and railway projects to the back of the line in favor of added projects for the west side of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Last month, the Gateway Cities voted 21-1 to oppose the measure, with Long Beach abstaining. The South Bay cities voted 9-0 in opposition, including Carson, El Segundo, Gardena, Hermosa Beach, Lawndale, Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Torrance, records show. Inglewood, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Rolling Hills Estates abstained.

The two organizations, representing 43 out of the 88 cities in the county, may stir up enough opposing votes that could place Metro’s ballot measure — one it has asked the county to name Measure M — in jeopardy of gaining the necessary two-thirds vote on Nov. 8.

Ballot watchers and Metro insiders say obscure regional city groups angry over missing out on local transit dollars may not sway traffic-weary motorists from voting for congestion relief. On the other hand, elected officials from tight-knit communities such as Bell, Cudahy or Huntington Park could influence voters through word of mouth and informational fliers mailed to thousands of homes from City Hall, said Karen Heit, transportation consultant for the Gateway Cities.

“In these small communities, where their councilman also coaches football or soccer teams, it could be a very real factor in the way people vote,” she said.

Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at USC, said people vote for tax measures when they believe the dollars will come home. Already, Metro is benefiting from Proposition A, approved by voters in 1980; Proposition C, approved by voters in 1990; and Measure R, approved by voters in 2008. Metro opened two light-rail line extensions this spring using sales tax dollars. The new measure would bring the total sales tax for transportation to 2 percent. It does not have a sunset date.

 “No community organization has absolute influence on these types of votes,” said Schnur, who added: “It is not determinative but it doesn’t help.”

A Metro survey conducted in May found 72 percent in favor of a permanent, half-cent transportation measure, said Pauletta Tonilas, Metro spokeswoman. Of those, 70 percent in favor lived in the South Bay and 71 percent in favor lived in southeast Los Angeles County.

Still, if Metro loses votes from these and other Gateway Cities such as Artesia, Bell, Bellflower, Cerritos, Commerce, Compton, Downey, Hawaiian Gardens, La Mirada, Lakewood, Lynwood, Maywood, Norwalk, Paramount, Pico Rivera, Santa Fe Springs, Signal Hill, South Gate and Whittier, it could doom the measure.

Because voters in many of these cities are mostly Democrats and are more likely to approve a local tax, losing them means Metro has to work harder in more conservative parts of the county to increase voter support, Schnur said.

“If community leaders in one part of the county come out against the measure, then you need to increase support to an even greater degree in areas that support it ... or in communities that are more likely to benefit,” Schnur said.

Unlike presidential politics, strategies don’t focus on race or ethnic groups but rather on location, he said. “On a transportation measure in particular, geographic considerations have a huge impact,” he said, calling transportation taxes a zero-sum game. “You either get the light-rail route or you don’t.”

The measure’s project list includes 19 of the 44 projects that are new, added since 2008’s Measure R. Eleven are scheduled for groundbreaking in the first 15 years. The Gateway Cities argue that two of their projects, the widening of the 5 Freeway from the 605 to the 710, and the proposed Eco-Rapid rail line from downtown L.A. to Artesia, were pushed aside to make room for new ones.

“We do have a problem with all these other projects marching up front,” Heit said.

The 5 Freeway project would not break ground for another 20 years (2036), well after the southern half of the 5 project is finished. But a tunnel through the Sepulveda Pass would begin in 2024, part of a $9 billion project to connect the west side of L.A. with the San Fernando Valley, most likely by rail. In addition, the last segment of the Purple Line subway under Wilshire Boulevard finishing in Westwood would break ground in 2018, while the Eco-Rapid line would not be completed until 2041.

“If you read the ballot measure, the first thing it says is that it will fix the freeways. What they don’t tell you is not for 20 years,” Heit said.

It appears the middle, north and east end of the county may favor the measure, while the southern and southeastern areas may not, creating a north versus south scenario.

The San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments voted in support of the measure last week. “From our perspective, we kind of got what we wanted from the tax measure,” said Mark Christoffels, a consultant to the SGVCOG and chief executive officer of the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority.

The east San Gabriel Valley’s next foothill extension of the Gold Line from Azusa to Claremont is scheduled to begin construction in 2019 and will receive more than $1 billion from the measure, about 99 percent of the cost.

The San Fernando Valley Council of Governments has not yet take a position but may vote in support in September. Seven Los Angeles City Council members from the San Fernando Valley, led by Bob Blumenfield, wrote a letter of support to Metro in June. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Metro board member, has ardently supported the measure.

The East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project and the extension of the Orange Line busway to the Gold Line would both begin within the first few years. A light-rail station at 96th Street that would allow a people-mover to take passengers directly into LAX would start construction in 2018.

South Bay Supervisor Don Knabe said Tuesday he believes Measure M is geographically unbalanced. Yet, conservative Supervisor Mike Antonovich praised the tax measure, saying Metro got it right by asking each COG for a list of projects.

“The proposal before us today includes input from the bottom up for a regional transportation system,” he said before the historic vote.

Supervisor Hilda Solis, whose district includes the San Gabriel Valley as well as many southeast cities, said she believed the measure includes an inclusive list of projects. “It didn’t necessarily mean a dollar would be attached to every item (cities asked for). That is impossible,” she said.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Metro faces high hurdle in persuading voters to back transit sales tax measure


By Meghan McCarty, August 1, 2017

 127934 full

When Los Angeles County voters see a measure on their November ballot asking them to approve higher sales taxes for transportation projects, they may well ask: what's in it for me?

The answer depends on where the voter lives — and that, in a nutshell, is the challenge facing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority as it seeks to convince two-thirds of the electorate to approve the measure. It's a tall order in the biggest county in the nation.

If the measure is adopted, county residents would pay a new half-cent sales tax and continue to pay an existing half-cent tax originally set to expire in 40 years.

The proposed sales tax increase would raise over $120 billion and fund train lines, buses and and highways as part of a broad vision to reduce the region's dependence on cars and connect a divided, far-flung county lacking a comprehensive network of transportation systems.

With about 10 million residents living in 88 cities and unincorporated areas, L.A. County is double the size of the next most populous county, Cook County, Illinois. A wide variety of communities characterize L.A. County, from dense urban areas to suburban housing divisions, beachside enclaves and rural ranch lands.

"It’s just a colossal thing," said Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University, Los Angeles.


A map from L.A. County's Metro shows existing transportation projects and those that would be built with funds from a sales tax increase that will be voted on this November. Slide the white bar to see the changes.

Forging any kind of political consensus in a county as sprawling as L.A., stretching from the northwest San Fernando Valley to the Port of Long Beach, is difficult, he said. To do it, Metro will need to perform an extraordinary balancing act by offering a broad range of projects that provides something for everyone, Sonenshein said.

It’s a bit like trying to cater to a giant, unruly family: keeping track of so many competing relatives at once can sometimes leave someone behind.

A broad coalition did come together in 2008 to pass Measure R, which funded the recently opened Gold and Expo Line sections.

But an extension of that tax, known as Measure J, failed in 2012 by a thin margin – falling short mostly in communities on the edges of the county where investment in transit has been minimal.

"The Valley dramatically got short-changed," said state Sen. Robert Hertzberg (D-18th District), who serves the San Fernando Valley and pushed Metro hard to make his area a higher priority with this year’s ballot measure.

When an early draft of the proposal didn't include funding for his favored projects, Hertzberg held press conferences, took out full page ads in newspapers and sent out emails campaigning against it.
"I went to war. It wasn’t gonna happen, I was not gonna support this," he said.

The effort paid off. In June, when Metro released its final project list, it included plenty for the Valley: new bus service to California State University, Northridge; streamlined improvements to the Orange Line rapid bus; a new transit line along Van Nuys Boulevard; and a subway under the Sepulveda Pass.

Hertzberg and a coalition of San Fernando Valley politicians and business groups recently announced their full support for the latest measure.

But inevitably, when one community gets attention, another ends up feeling abandoned.

For years, the Harbor Gateway Cities in the southeastern part of the county have pushed for a light rail connection between downtown L.A. and Artesia, traveling through densely populated, working-class Latino neighborhoods that rely heavily on public transit.

Metro has included funding for the rail line in the ballot measure, but the line would not be completed for at least 25 years.

"It’s a slap in the face for the Gateway Cities," said Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias.
Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias points out the future site of a light rail station. Under Metro's ballot measure proposal, it would not be completed for at least 25 years.
Huntington Park City Councilwoman Karina Macias points out the future site of a light rail station. Under Metro's ballot measure proposal, it would not be completed for at least 25 years.

"I don’t know if I will be alive or any of the majority of my residents are gonna be able to see that happen," she said of the rail line. "There’s no incentive for us to go out there and really tell our community, 'You know, vote for this and you’ll get something in return,' when in reality they’re not."

Leaders throughout the Gateway Cities and the South Bay have publicly declared they will not support the measure if Metro does not move up the timetable for projects in their areas.

Metro CEO Phil Washington said the agency made every effort to equally distribute projects through the county.

"There is something in this plan for everyone," he said. "It's not perfect, and everybody's not getting their project in the first five years, simply because we're not collecting all the sales tax in the first five years."

Washington points out officials spent years collaborating with local representatives to narrow down the projects, and ranked them based on factors like cost and impact on congestion. Each subregion was given a project or program within the first 15 years of the plan, he said.

Metro hopes it can speed up many of the projects farther out on the timeline with additional funds from the federal government or private partnerships. But there’s no guarantee of that, especially with federal transportation funding on the wane.

Cal State L.A.'s Sonenshein said the solution to the county’s fractured politics and division over transportation spending could lie in the question before voters.

"I really do think that in the long run, if we did have mass transportation, that people in distant areas would feel more connected," he said.

However, to reach that point, projects funded by the measure would need to be built and, to be built, voters would have to approve the additional taxes. Whether they do or not will remain an open question until the November election.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bertha’s woes grind on: cost rises, tunnel delayed until 2019

 Bertha’s problems will cost Washington state an estimated $223 million in cost overruns, and further delay the Highway 99 opening — until early 2019.


By Mike Lindblom, updated July 21, 2016

 The southbound deck of the Highway 99 will be built, here, between two massive walls. This is the view looking north.  (Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

 The southbound deck of the Highway 99 will be built, here, between two massive walls. This is the view looking north.

 OLYMPIA — Tunnel-machine Bertha’s two-year breakdown will further delay the Highway 99 tunnel’s grand opening until 2019 and saddle Washington state with an estimated $223 million in cost overruns, lawmakers were told Thursday.

The overruns are driven largely by the need for the state to keep its staff and engineering consultants on the project longer than expected, as well as by rising land, labor and materials costs for final road connections after the tunnel is finished.

Taxpayer costs could go higher still. The state’s figure assumes the prime contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), fails to win court battles against the state. STP’s claims exceed $200 million.

For now, Roger Millar, acting transportation secretary, told the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee he will ask for $60 million in the next two-year transportation budget, to keep enough cash flowing.

A 2019 opening would mark a full decade since former Gov. Chris Gregoire chose the deep-bore tunnel option and lawmakers approved the tunnel bill sponsored by then-Sen. Ed Murray, now Seattle mayor. Gregoire dismissed critics such as then-Mayor Mike McGinn, who warned that a clause in the bill put Seattle taxpayers at particular risk for paying for overruns.

Nothing about that was mentioned Thursday.

The extra costs almost certainly would be paid by the state’s drivers in gas taxes, more transportation-fund debt, or by tolls and fees.

In separate discussion this week, the state toll division said it would study a peak toll of up to $2.50 each direction — higher than a past committee’s suggestion of $1.25 each way.
Millar said he doesn’t know yet where $223 million would come from, adding that state leaders have time to prepare and don’t need to make decisions in a panic.

That amounts to a 7.1 percent overrun in the state’s total budget to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct.
State losses aren’t a completely new revelation. Last fall, WSDOT disclosed that it expected to lose $78 million to delays, according to a letter in an insurance lawsuit. If the state were to recover insurance money, that could reduce Millar’s new, higher $223 million estimate.

The 1.7-mile, four-lane tunnel was originally supposed to open to drivers by the end of 2015, to replace the old and seismically vulnerable viaduct.

The $3.137billion cost included the tunnel, connecting ramps, a port-truck overpass, rebuilt Alaskan Way surface street, and viaduct demolition. On Thursday, Millar issued a higher figure: $3.374 billion. (This includes a new $14 million expected from Seattle, to compensate for utility replacements.)

State and contractor officials had refused to discuss cost and schedule figures for several weeks — saving the bombshell news for the Washington State Department of Transportation’s bosses in the Legislature.

Millar said the numbers were prepared for an annual report due this month to the Federal Highway Administration, which supplied one-fourth of viaduct replacement money.

Lawmakers mostly seemed to take the news in stride.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Curtis King thanked Millar, who became WSDOT chief only last year, for being forthright and giving lawmakers ample time to act.

King, R-Yakima, compared the pending 7 percent overrun with a study showing that megaprojects exceed their budgets by an average 28 percent. “It could have been a lot worse,” he said.

“I appreciate the fact that we are talking about $200 million, and not the ‘$2 billion’ I hear on the airwaves regularly,” added House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island. “It is not a shock that if we have a three-year delay we have some costs, and putting it out there, for the public to know that we are being very transparent about it, is great.”

Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, said the increase is still very hard for taxpayers to accept, because they were told in 2009 there wouldn’t be overruns. “How are you ever going to earn the trust of the taxpayers …?”

Orcutt later said he blames the contractors — not WSDOT — for either ordering a flawed machine, or operating it incorrectly.

As for the tunnel-boring cost, the state last year passed $1 billion in total payments toward the $1.35 billion STP contract. Chris Dixon, project manager for STP, last week would say only that “cash flow’s definitely a concern, but it’s not going to stop us from finishing.”

He spoke Thursday at the Olympia hearing about Bertha’s performance, and quickly left the Capitol campus, saying he needed to catch a plane.

Delay grows longer

Bertha has finally been digging consistently this summer, at a pace of close to 40 feet a day since April 29. It restarted Monday after a three-week maintenance stop to inspect and replace some cutting teeth.

Dixon said Thursday it would emerge at South Lake Union next summer — slipping further beyond the hope for December that his boss, Tutor-Perini Corp. CEO Ron Tutor, expressed to shareholders this spring.

The overall three-year delay includes more than two years to reach and repair the buried machine near Pioneer Square. In addition, contractors added what state officials called a more conservative pace for the remaining two-thirds of the dig from Sodo to South Lake Union, including two more maintenance stops.

Linea Laird, chief engineer for WSDOT, said the state and contractors are cooperating, and believe it’s smarter to keep working steadily on the project, rather than have a funding impasse that drives up costs in the long run for everybody.

In its claims, STP blamed a steel pipe, left over from state groundwater testing, for the damage to Bertha, which led to grit penetrating into the rotary bearing assembly. The state replies it’s far-fetched to argue an 8-inch-diameter pipe could ruin a massive machine.

STP and Hitachi Zosen, which built the giant drill in Japan, fronted the money to accomplish an unprecedented repair job and strengthening last year.

King said the 57-foot-wide tunnel could someday qualify as “the eighth wonder of the world.”
Its final costs remain an open question

Saturday, July 16, 2016

‘Beyond the 710’ has best plan to end Pasadena’s freeway stalemate: Terry Tornek


By Terry Tornek, July 15, 2016

 A 710 Freeway stub in Pasadena. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff Photographer)

 A 710 Freeway stub in Pasadena.

Last month marked the first anniversary of the public release of Beyond the 710, a proposal to resolve the nearly 50-year stalemate over the north end of the 710 freeway. The proposal (www.beyondthe710.org) could solve the problems of the current 710 configuration, improve connectivity for all the affected communities and provide exciting opportunities to better use newly freed-up land.

While there are still obstacles to implementing a vision for the 710 that works for everyone, we can celebrate that the Metro board of directors has taken a major step forward by voting to place the proposed sales tax ballot measure on the November ballot with a provision that makes clear the funds generated by the new measure will not fund a tunnel that would plow through and decimate our communities.

As leaders of the cities that are most opposed to the tunnel proposal, I and the undersigned now encourage the board to separately instruct its staff and Caltrans to add the Beyond the 710 proposal to the current 710 north study. We see this as a path forward to ending the stalemate between those bearing the brunt of the 710 Freeway bottleneck traffic and those who fear the tunnel as an existential threat to their communities.

And this fear is justified. The tunnel presents significant health, financial, engineering, seismic, water, public safety, traffic and legal problems. Studies have shown that the tunnel would create cancer hotspots at the exhaust vents. Just as important, the massive, multi-year project would have little positive effect on traffic and commute times and in fact create new severe traffic congestion and thus air quality impacts in other areas.

Further, while the cost of the 4.5-mile tunnel is estimated between $5 billion and 10 billion, we all know that if it was ever built, the costs would most likely be much higher.

At the same time, our leaders recognize that the existing freeway “stubs” present real problems for the surrounding communities. At the north end, the stub is a huge gash in the fabric of Pasadena. On the south end, the 710 freeway funnels and dumps its traffic onto Valley Boulevard and does not provide good connectivity to the surrounding communities.

But the Beyond the 710 proposal converts these problems into real opportunities. It proposes to remove these freeway stubs, replace them with four-lane great streets, and use the freed-up land to build new parks and greenspace, transit, bikeways, residential and commercial development, and affordable housing, and provide extra room for local institutions such as Cal State Los Angeles.

On the north end, this approach would reconnect and heal Pasadena. But it’s the south stub transformation that would really be magical. Replacing the stub with a grand boulevard would better disperse local traffic, making it easier to get where people want to go and relieving congestion that currently burdens Alhambra and other nearby communities. The price tag is 10 percent of the cost of a tunnel.

And that’s why our cities, along with organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, believe that Beyond the 710 is indeed a path to moving beyond the stale debate over the tunnel.

The Metro board needs to step up and direct planners to formally study the proposal. It would serve as a clear signal to voters that Metro is taking a truly balanced approach to the issue, and would encourage them to support of the ballot measure in November.

Voters must be assured that Metro works for them. By demonstrating the vision necessary to resolve this issue, we’re confident that we can move forward and ease congestion throughout the county while preserving the quality of life our residents treasure.

Terry Tornek is mayor of Pasadena. This column was also signed by mayors Paula Devine of Glendale, Jonathan Curtis La Canada Flintridge and Diana Mahmud of South Pasadena; Sierra Madre Councilman John Capoccia; Glendale Councilman and Metro board member Ara Najarian; and South Pasadena Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian.