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People Power: How Ordinary Citizens Are Making Quality of Life the Issue — Not Enriching the Transportation Lobby

Proving they are a force to be reckoned with, opponents of the 710 Freeway extension filled the grounds outside Pasadena’s oldest church Wednesday night for an informational and organizing rally to protest MTA’s plans that threaten their neighborhoods.

Drawing a crowd of more than 400 people to the Church of the Angels on Avenue 64, San Rafael Neighborhood Association president Ron Paler urged the crowd to work to see the 710 extension proposal is “buried completely” once and for all.

Other speakers during the 90-minute rally included Claire Bogaard, wife of the Pasadena mayor; Bill Sherman, a South Pasadena Transportation Commissioner, and attorney John Shaffer who called the freeway plans a “20th century” solution to traffic congestion when “21st century” transit options are available that are less costly and more efficient.

“I want everyone here to remember that feeling you felt the day you learned that our neighborhood was in the path of this highway or freeway and don’t ever forget that feeling,” Shaffer said. “Because even if we manage to defeat the routes through our neighborhood, there are other families that are going to be feeling that same feeling and we have to be there for them the same way they are for us.”

Last week, more than 500 packed the house for a special meeting of the Pasadena City Council on the 710 issue that continues to come up despite more than a half century of community opposition.

The council voted unanimously to oppose various extension proposals from a 4.5 mile tunnel from Alhambra to the 134/210 — the longest tunnel in America — to turning Avenue 64 through San Rafael  and the LA neighborhood of Garvanza into a highway, destroying numerous homes and the quality of life for thousands.

Wednesday night’s rally came amid a series of events that show the anti-710 movement is rapidly gaining strength as activists reach across city boundaries and organize to block increasing the 710 freeway to 14 lanes coming out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles and stop the extension from Alhambra north.

It represents a serious threat to MTA’s efforts to Measure J in November to extend out until 2069 the 30-year, $40 billion sales tax increase that is being mortgaged over the next 10 years to fund freeway projects, the subway-to-the-sea and other transit projects.

On Friday, the LA City Council takes up a motion to oppose most extension proposals the MTA has put forth, and like many in the Northeast LA area, South Pasadena and Pasadena  calling for public transit alternatives that are less destructive.

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, a long-time 710 opponent as a legislator and La Canada-Flintridge mayor and council member, sent a scathing four-page letter to the California Department of Transportation detailing how Caltrans and the MTA have misled the public repeatedly over the years and calling for an immediate end to planning for the project.

“I have personally witnessed actions and activities by proponents of a tunnel option, which have been questionable at best, but more accurately, would be portrayed as biased and tainted,” he said. “Representatives of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have routinely misrepresented important information while hiding the true cost and benefit of this project from the public . . .

“Community after community is coming forward and speaking in a united and heated voice: ‘We don’t want this extension.’ Never before has there been this much opposition from so many communities. The public backlash has been so strong that some policy makers arc endeavoring to split the coalition or communities by suggesting that one route might be more preferable than another. This is planning at its worst.”

Portantino also jumped on the state audit released last week that was highly critical of how Caltrans management of nearly 500 homes acquired decades ago along the expected 710 right-of-way.

“The recent state audit highlighted the complete lack of trust that I have for the folks shepherding the 710 corridor and this historically massive project,” Portantino said. “If these folks can’t be trusted to fix a roof, how can we trust them to build a $15-billion tunnel.”

According to the Pasadena Sun, not everyone wants the 710 Freeway project killed.

“On Wednesday, state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) and Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) announced that they’ve amended a bill that would speed up the sale of Caltrans-owned homes not needed for a new connector. The amendment calls for 25% of home-sale proceeds to go to build sound walls along the 210 Freeway, where opposition to the 710 extension is strong.

The measure, Gatto said in a statement, “is a creative way to turn a negative, the 710 extension, into a positive: relief along the nearby 210 corridor.”

The audit, sought more than a year ago by Portantino, found Caltrans “lost $22 million in rent from the homes between July 2007 and December 2011. During the same period, the agency spent $22.5 million to conduct repairs on some of the 499 properties it owns, but only collected $12.8 million in rent,” the Pasadena Sun reported.

Among the beneficiaries as tenants were 15 state employees who paid below-market rates for rent which the audit called either a “fringe benefit or a gift of public funds.”

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13 Responses to People Power: How Ordinary Citizens Are Making Quality of Life the Issue — Not Enriching the Transportation Lobby

  1. Vote blindly, then complain says:

    The main thrust thrust behind speeding up all physical transit projects and compress everything into 10 years is that within 10 years, we will realize that we do not need one more inch of freeway and certainly not any more subways. These mega construction companies are desperate to suck as many billions of dollars out of taxpayers as fast as possible. Their panic is needless; the voters are far dumber than the crony capitalists can imagine. Here’s the main reason we need no more freeways or subways in the greater LA area.

    The answer was first called telecommunity. In 1993, the City of Los Angeles’ report on telecommunity found that 1990′s style telecommunting would reduce traffic by 30% and reduce the need for new high rise office space in L.A. by 30%. Mayor Riordan deep 6′ed the study, and the CRA and subway building boom geared up. The densification of Los Angeles was underway. Voters, being members of the perpetually ignorant class, do not know that LA is already the most densely populated city in the nation with 7,000 people per sq mi. Don’t bother voters with facts; just show them some pretty pictures.

    Twenty years later and more “computer” generations later than I can count, Telecommunity has become Virtual Presence and TelePresence (CISCO trademark). We already have the technology to reduce our physical trips by far more than 30% — but the USA is way behind the rest of the world in its internet capabilities, and the real estate developers and their political henchmen plan to keep us barefoot and pregnant when it comes to Virtual Presence.

    Virtual Presence uses wall size 3D monitors and interactive software so that Skype is more outdated that a 10 inch round TV screen from 1949. The time and money Virtual Presence saves is endless.

    For example, each day thousands of attorneys scurry all over LA County to attend court hearings that last maybe five minutes. An attorney may have to wait through 10 or 20 other cases for his five minutes, and then after court, drive to his office. The attorney may live in West LA, but have his appearance in Pomona and his office in Beverly Hills. That can easily cost a client between $500.00 and $1,000.00. [Now attorneys can sometimes make a telephone appearance, but face time with a judge can be very valuable).

    With Virtual Presence, the attorneys all stay home, stand or sit in front of an office mock up. When their case is called, the judge can see each one on her huge monitor and each attorney can see the judge and the other attorneys. If some paper needs to be handed to the judge, it can be pdfed to her as fast her bailiff can walk it up to the bench. Every one has face time with the judge and a five minute appearance become a five minute appearance — not a two hour ordeal. Thousands of miles are not driven, pollution is much less, and the clients pay for only a few minutes rather than a couple hours.

    There is Virtual Shopping — not the little lists we now use, but complete Virtual Stores where a mother in the Palisades can stroll down the aisles of Bloomingdale’s with her daughter in London and her other daughter in Atlanta. They can select items, turn them around to view them from all angles, discuss everything as if they were physically together and even try on the clothes in their 3 D world.

    Virtual Presence allows one to go to Ralphs down the block or to a fashion boutique in Paris in the same amount of time — the speed of light. Let’s see a subway or freeway do that!

    Naturally, our entire lives need not be lived in Virtual Presence. The point is that so much can be done in Virtual Presence, that the number of physical trips is slashed so dramatically that we do not need more freeways or more subways. A secretary can sort and file a company’s mail and proof read 20 letters before she does drive 5 miles to the office — after rush hour.

    In fact, Virtual Presence would end rush hour traffic. When so much can be done via Virtual Presence, the old 9:00 to 5:00 routine is obsolete. People may go to the office only once or twice a week. Meetings in Virtual Presence are so close to physical proximity, there is no real need to “reach out and touch somebody.”

    Productivity increases. If one counts only the hours not spent driving, productivity increases.

    Virtual Presence, however, is an unmitigated disaster for New Urbanists like Garcetti who want us to live in stacked prison cells along subway routes. When I can live in Woodland Hills and I drive to Hollywood only once or twice a week on a freeway that moves at 70 mph, I am not going to force my family to live in a Garcetti rabbit hutch next to the pollution of the Hollywood Freeway. The Crony Capitalists who dominate the LA City Council are no different than the crooks and thieves who crashed the economy in 2008. The quality of life for Angelenos counts for less than Zero as long as they can shovel public money into the pockets of their developer buddies.

    America has fallen so far behind the rest of the industrialized world, it is doubtful we will ever catch up. During Garcetti’s tenure as Council President, people fled Hollywood and the entire city was the tops only in bad things — the worse roads in the nation. We don’t even have snow, ice, and salt on our roads, yet Garcetti made certain that sunshine filled LA had the worst roads in the nation. Then he attacked the LAFD and stole another $200 Million from the LAFD while giving hundreds of millions to developers. As a result, living in LA is extremely dangerous if you ever need a paramedic. But the money never stopped flowing into the pockets of the corrupt developers.

    You will never hear a peep about Virtual Presence from any of the crooks — because they make their money off subways, high rises and pouring concrete over people’s homes.

    • MissAnthrope says:

      First, I want to commend you for not reducing Virtual Presence to a vapid two-letter VP.

      Years ago I said if I owned a company there would virtually be no travel or expense accounts, because the same thing could be done via computer. Even in its infancy, telecommuting was preferable to getting in ones car or on a plane.

      Some said,” But it’s so important to meet face-to-face”. No it isn’t! It’s much safer and far more sanitary with less chance catching something or getting food poisoning, and there’s no jet lag. Click a few buttons to talk with someone in another part of the country or the world.

      You might have to get up a little earlier or stay up a little later, but you don’t have to get in your car or hop on a plane.

    • LA Moderator says:

      I like to cadge the Telepresence room…even when it’s for a meeting where we don’t use the camera’s…we’ll do a screen share/Live Meeting too maybe, but often its easier than trying to find who has the PC Projector…

      Virtual Presence…is that like what they shut down in Van Nuys and San Pedro?

  2. Teddy says:

    Ron, this is what “highway robery” is, isn’t it?

    I am so proud of the crowds of people who are
    not going “to take it anymore” and will share
    this information with everyone I know all over
    our country.

  3. Teddy says:

    Rather than be facetious about this very serios affair, I wanted to read the references in Ron’s excellent article.

    The problem is huge. MTA

  4. Teddy says:

    When I first moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1966, there was a big discussion going on aboout whether we should have a freeway at about Saticoy Street going

    That would have put about three miles beween the Ventura , Saticoy and the
    newest fwy planned and already under construction – the 118. Then it was recog-nized that air quality would be so bad that people would just have to leave. That meant that all the homes under construction and those in existence would leave unpaid mortgages and somebody would never get paid for them!

    The information was printed in the Green Sheet. Result: no Saticoy freeway.

    Quality of life is way more essential than money-generating proposals to be paid
    for by taxpayers. Anyone agree?

  5. LA Moderator says:

    I was just thinking this morning that this would be the Waterloo for measure J, which would in terms be the bellweather for any thoughts of Zev, the Boondoggle Slayer for mayor.

    Like the high-speed rail, he’d need to jump tracks (like some others who supported the project until they didn’t) and start voting thumbs down….

    Looks like one set of dominoes is falling, at least (at last)….

  6. Wayne back from Pasadena says SCREW THE 710 EXTENTION! says:

    I drove from the 10 East today to Alhambra. from there I went to a street called Rosemead Blvd. It takes you north all the way to the 210. From there, going West you can drive all the way to the 101 or take the 134 into to the valley. Places in between the 710 and the 210 would be DESTROYED by any freeway THE WAY THE CORRUPT PIGS DO IT! If it were done with an elaborate underground tunnel system like I drove in Europe, it would be fine. But the problem we have here is CORRUPTION, UNION HOGS, AND CONTRACTOR PIGS ALL TRYING TO FEED OFF OF HUMAN TAXPAYERS! The People are beginning to get this point deep down. And we’ll see a big NO vote on all these taxes in November as a further result.
    AND THE GREAT NEWS—SULTAN ZEV I. of Malibu (aka Zev Yaroslobsky) decided not to purchase the L.A. Mayor’s office for 8 years. So that leaves Cruella-Gruella, Garslutti, and Jan “Hamburger” Perry in the way OF MAYOR KEVIN JAMES! I think Hamburger Lady and the Vine St. Boy will bow out or finish very low. It may be a May 2013 runoff between Gruella and James. If Zev took his ill-gotten millions of campaign cash in, it would of been a Zev-Gruella runoff.
    Last night, AM Radio hit a new low (like it has a bottom to reach?) Tim Conway Jr. kissed up to Dummy ReZine like it was no tomorrow! Timmy actually ENDORSED the West Hills CLOWN-COP for CONTROLLER!! And he wanted to get Wendy Cruella ON THE AIR TO ENDORSE ZINE! Zine has about as much qualifications to be a City Controller as a Dog trying to fly a jet! There are two other guys running for the Controller job that have the $$$ raised and the qualifications. Yet Timmy never gave a mention to any of this.
    My opinion of the Tim Conway Jr. is the same as my opinion of the CHP cops writing those cell phone tickets. NOW FOR THE WORST PART—-ZINE SAID ON THE KFI SHOW—HE HAS ONE MILLION BUCKS CASH IN HIS “OFFICE HOLDER ACCOUNT” and he wants to use it FOR HIS DISTRICT NOW as they “deserve it!” He waited 11 1/2 years TO OPEN THE RESEDA POOL!!! He waited 10 years to do the Tampa Ave and Corbin St. Bridge improvements!
    What an arrogant, bloated, sneaky BAFOON! He hoards the million bucks TO DO ALL THESE PROJECTS JUST TO PROMOTE HIMSELF TO THE NEXT 8 YEAR CASH COW WORTHLESS SEAT!
    NOTE TO KFI—-FIRE TIM CONWAY JR. for being a bigger A-HOLE than Zine!

  7. Anonymous says:

    MTA already has more money than they can handle. We don’t want this incompetent bunch with their high-cost studies that rarely result in sensible solutions to get more money. 30 years projects should not be built in ten. They will be grossly mismanaged and will require another measure to vote the sale tax into perpetuity.

  8. Ratepayer Advocate's Antagonist says:

    From the get go I was opposed to a ratepayer advocate. Why? Because I knew that whoever appoints him and approves him is who he will advocate for—and be a front for. ‘Seems to be exactly what’s happening.

    Whether such a position is voted for by the people (which equals bought and paid for by the unions) or appointed by the Mayor and Council (which equals bought and paid for by the unions)–it is a protective layer between the elected officials who vote for the increase and it’s another layer of government waste.

    What are the chances of getting another ballot measure to eliminate the position?

    • anonymous says:

      you are correct…
      just another bureaucratic position…
      protects the corrupt-elite-power-structure…
      ensnares the people in the dysfunctional process…
      same can be said about neighborhood councils…

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