Friday, April 17, 2015

Prices Slashed On Camillo Road Twin Carbuncle Castles

The Carbuncle Castles at 319 and 321 Camillo Road have now seen their initial price offerings slashed. Why is that? Rather simple. Despite all the specious claims of cutting edge modernity and sustainable energy efficiency, nobody seems to want to buy the weird looking two story things. Money talks, the buyer balks, and Long Dragon walks.

Pictured above is 319 Camillo Road, and the price of this cutting edge wonder wickiup has now been hacked from $1,650,000 to $1,480,000. Its 'buncled brother next door at 321 Camillo Road has also plummeted in price, from $1,750,000 to $1,588,000.

When walking on Camillo Road, please wear your safety helmet. Certain things are falling very quickly there.

Nobody seems to want to buy the heavily plastic hogans. And considering that these houses went on sale in February, this is quite a rapid and radical decline in price for them. Especially when you consider how both had hit the market with so much fanfare.

Here are the "price modification" notices for these twin lulus.

The big question that remains unanswered at this point is can homes that remain unsold be considered sustainable? If not in the environmentally friendly sense, at least in a financial sort of way? Because that is certainly the kind of sustainability the individuals who built these things were interested in. Electric car plug-in stations and all.

You know, maybe if these two houses had gone before the Planning Commission, rather than being given an E-Z quick over the counter ole' by City employees who couldn't care less, the developer might have gotten some good advice and these places would have been sold by now.

Instead they didn't, and are today being roundly ridiculed on The Tattler.

The Realtor for these failed miseries, Robert Ho of Long Dragon Realty fame (or, as their competition calls them when they are not around, "Short Snake"), originally described the double 'buncle houses this way:

Featuring 2 energy-efficient contemporary homes in beautiful Sierra Madre in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Adjacent to the coveted Arcadia Highlands Neighborhood, these sustainable homes are on a quiet neighborhood street surrounded by mature oak trees and have an amazing view of Angeles National Forest.

Both double story homes feature an open floor plan with large atrium spaces to maximize the flow between both levels. Additionally, large sliding doors, which connect indoor and outdoor living spaces. Carefully placed windows allow air circulation, let in optimal natural light, and frame the outstanding views. 

Secluded backyards with native and drought tolerant landscape are maintainable, generous spaces for play and entertainment. Both homes are equipped with solar system, top of the line appliances, Scavolini Cabinet from Italy, security cameras, and delicate circuit for plug-in electric vehicle charging station.

Whatever, dude.

Here are my observations about some of the claims made for the Carbuncle Castles:

1) They might have an amazing view of the Angeles National Forest, but some of the other homes on Camillo Road now only have an unappealing view of the backsides of a couple of weird looking space station buildings.

2) I have electric car charging stations in my house. They were installed by the late Ed Clare shortly before his passing. And I have never heard the term "delicate circuit" before. The whole thing, including the specially designed cables needed for my two 240 volt stations, cost me about $1,900. Relatively cheap when you consider what Short Snake is asking for the same kinds of so-called sustainability accouterments.

3) The reason why being adjacent to the Arcadia Highlands is so desirable is because it's a neighborhood that, up until now at least, has not yet succumbed to the cancer of mansionization. Apparently, and like Camillo Road itself, this may soon no longer be the case. And it is the same predatory developers that are responsible.

4) There were supposed to be people in this world stupid enough to swallow all of the above boutique blather and pay $1.7 million for these lulus. Guess what? No dice, dude. All sustainable meant in this case is that they have solar panels and a place to plug in a godforsaken Prius. That hardly makes them worth the additional money you would have had to pay for all this pretentious and common nonsense. They have houses like these down in Venice. You can sit in your atrium and watch as the garbage floats by on the canals. Move your stupid self there.

5) The security cameras discussed here are the kind you can hot wire into any smartphone. International buyers from certain cultures use this kind of technology to keep an eye on their young mistresses. Trust me, it's all the rage in Arcadia. In a town with as many handsome men as Sierra Madre, this would be considered a must.

6) "Secluded backyards with native and drought tolerant landscape are maintainable." That means you can plant cactus and aloe plants in your backyard. You can plant cactus and aloe plants in a maintainable trailer park, too. Or even a landfill.

7) I knew someone who had Scavolinis. The remedy for the itching is calamine lotion.

We'll be keeping an eye on this story. My advice to you is once the price falls below $500,000 per 'buncle, buy them. You can then demo these Carbuncle Castles and build single story, 1,700 square foot ranch homes. Be sure to include a white picket fence and a detached garage with a swinging barn door that squeaks when you open it.

Here is some Good News

The Henry A. Darling house has a buyer. Hopefully the primary Realtor explained to the persons purchasing the place that there are certain responsibilities that come with owning a Sierra Madre legacy home.

Barry Gold's Letter Thanking the Planning Commission

(Mod: This e-mail made the rounds yesterday and I thought I should reprint it here. The Planning Commission did a great job on the needed changes to the R-1 building codes, and this is a well-deserved shout out from Barry.)

Dear Planning Commissioners,

I am out-of-town and cannot be at the Planning Commission meeting tonight, so I write to you instead of speaking to you in person to thank you all for sending to the City Council the recommendations to change the R-1 codes concerning lower allowable floor area, lower CUP threshold, and second story CUP reviews.

These well thought out changes will be an enormous step forward in the preservation of the unique character of our precious town.  You are all to be commended for you efforts on behalf of all who live in and love Sierra Madre.

I especially commend Chairman Desai and Commissioner Frierman-Hunt for their most courageous appearance at this week’s City Council meeting to urge the council members to approve your recommendations.  I believe that their comments were instrumental in getting the council to narrowly pass the changes.  I cannot tell you how proud I was of these two commissioners for speaking with conviction and an expert knowledge of the subject.  They are truly both treasures of Sierra Madre.

Cities all over the country are waking up to the destruction uncaring developers are doing to their communities.  Judy and I were at the Grand Canyon Tuesday.  The residents in the small town just outside the Park were complaining about over development there.  We are now in Sedona and here too the complaints are the same.  We saw a 14,000 square foot house with bright green lawns, trees, indoor pool, and an observatory with a telescope that rivals most universities.  All on the side of the most beautiful red rock mountains you will ever see.  The residents just shake their heads and cannot tell you how this happened.

IT IS EVERYWHERE.  Except Sierra Madre. Thanks to our Planning Commission, the Preserve Sierra Madre Coalition, three of our Council Members, and the many residents who support the preservation cause, Sierra Madre will not be destroyed like so many other cities.

Respectfully, Barry Gold

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Transparent California: The Economics Of Charter Schools Vs. Public Schools (PUSD, LAUSD and San Diego)

I got a note from Robert Fellner yesterday. Robert, who created and maintains the Transparent California website that has caused so much excitement in certain California governmental circles (Sierra Madre's City Hall being one), has now added a few Charter Schools to their site. Apparently Charter School data has been a little harder to get, and even now only 22% have complied with TC's request.

So what are Charter Schools? And what makes them different from traditional Public Schools? I went to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools website to find out (link).

What Are Public Charter Schools? Charter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement. 

Charter schools were created to help improve our nation’s public school system and offer parents another public school option to better meet their child’s specific needs. The core of the charter school model is the belief that public schools should be held accountable for student learning. In exchange for this accountability, school leaders should be given freedom to do whatever it takes to help students achieve and should share what works with the broader public school system so that all students benefit. In the early 1990s, a small group of educators and policymakers came together to develop the charter school model. Minnesota’s legislature passed the first charter law in 1991, and the first charter school opened in 1992.

How Do Charter Schools Work? Charter schools foster a partnership between parents, teachers, and students. They create an environment in which parents can be more involved, teachers are allowed to innovate, and students are provided the structure they need to learn.

The Wall Street Journal published the following article back in November of 2013. It details some of the labor struggles Charter Schools have faced (link).

Teachers Unions vs. Charter Schools - The Beginning With Children charter school in New York City announced that it will close next year because operating under union work rules has made it impossible to provide students with a decent education.

"Because the school converted from a traditional district school to a charter school in 2001, the board was bound by the [United Federation of Teachers] contract with the Department of Education," reports the New York Post. In a letter to parents notifying them of the decision, the board wrote, "We had to carry many of the burdens of being a DOE school, but we could not enjoy the benefits and flexibilities that charter status normally allows."

To understand how union work rules can impact the quality of a school, consider this passage from Steven Brill's "Class Warfare," in which he compares the teachers' contracts at Harlem Success Academy, a high-performing charter school in New York City, and a traditional public school that share the same building space and teach kids from the same socio-economic background.

"The Harlem Success teachers' contract drives home the idea that the school is about the children, not the grown-ups. It is one page, allows them to be fired at will, and defines their responsibilities no more specifically than that they must help the school achieve its mission. Harlem Success teachers are paid about 5 to 10 percent more than union teachers on the other side of the building who have their levels of experience.

"The union contract in place on the public school side of the building is 167 pages. Most of it is about job protection and what teachers can and cannot be asked to do during the 6 hours and 57.5 minutes (8:30 to about 3:25, with 50 minutes off for lunch) of their 179-day work year."

In 2010, 29 percent of the students at the traditional public school were reading and writing at grade level, and 34 percent were performing at grade level in math. At the charter school, the corresponding numbers were 86 percent and 94 percent.

What Transparent California adds to the mix here is information showing that in addition to their comparative academic successes, Charter Schools are also a lot more cost effective (link).

So how do Charter Schools stack up economically against Public Schools in the Pasadena Unified School District? The information on the first chart below is expanded beyond teachers and includes the impact of administration as a percentage of the overall payroll. Here charters have a much lower admin presence, whereas at traditional public schools the hit is far larger.

Or, to reverse that information, admin costs make up 60% of PUSD payroll costs, 29% at their Charter School counterparts. Something that allows charters to prioritize teaching. This next chart shows that teacher salaries are markedly different as well.

One of the more remarkable Charter School successes in the Pasadena area is Learning Works, run by Sierra Madre's own Mikala Rahn. NPR ran a great piece about Mikala's school called "Former Dropouts Push Others To Reach Finish Line," which you can link to here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Harabedian Lawyers Really Hard For Big Houses - And Comes Up One Vote Short

Not a good night for Johnny Process.
"Free people do ugly and dangerous things sometimes and you've got to roll with the punches." - Gene Goss being really strange.

The City Council was prepared to cast its collective vote for the Planning Commission's McMansion busting recommendations on such things as lowering the CUP (Conditional Use Permit) threshold, lowering the Floor Area Limits (how big a home you can build on a given sized lot) and making a CUP mandatory for all new 2-story homes or additions. All Planning Commission approved changes to the R-1 building regulations for the City of Sierra Madre. Things seemed properly set up and ready to roll. After a lot of time and hard work it was all about to come together. The fight to stop any additional mansionization in Sierra Madre was about to take a big step forward.

That was until John Harabedian began a seemingly endless stream of completely unabashed lawyering on the behalf of, well, somebody. Which, when you consider all of the resistance he was receiving from the three more competent members of the City Council, two folks from the Planning Commission, the City Attorney and almost everyone else in the room, came off as being a little bizarre.

What exactly was Harabedian fighting so hard for? Who were these mysterious people he kept referring to? Who exactly was he lawyering for? Was there even a point to any of this?

That John Harabedian (along with his sidekick Gene Goss) lost their big house gambit by a 3 to 2 vote is fortunate. Because Johnny worked very hard to stop it.

One particularly unfortunate moment from (thankfully) outgoing Mayor Harabedian was his gratuitous claim that if you oppose mansionization in Sierra Madre, it's because you are paranoid and delusional.

Why the insults, Mayor? After all the glad handing and grinning assurances about the need to save this town from Arcadia's troubling fate over the last year, is this how you really feel about the fight to preserve Sierra Madre? That it is the product of people suffering from paranoia and delusional behavior? Is that what you really think?

We haven't heard that kind of insulting talk from a sitting Mayor in quite some time. It is like we are back in the DSP - Measure V days all over again.

What's next, the resurrection of the Cumquat?

It is important to point out that this discussion has been going on for 9 years now, back when Arcadia was still a quaint ranch home community. Paranoia and delusional behavior would need to have been mixed with clairvoyance for Mayor Harabedian's unfortunate aspersions to have any validity.

One of the strangest moments of the night came about when Harabedian and Goss refused to identify the people who are supposedly upset with these planning code reforms. Apparently they are people who don't go to meetings, won't speak up in public, only talk to two City Councilmembers and don't want anyone to know who they are.

A very mysterious constituency. Yet these are the people Harabedian and Goss put it all on the line for last night? Something just is not right about that. It does make you wonder.

Thank you Councilmembers Arizmendi and Delmar, and Mayor Pro Tem Capoccia, for hanging tough for the preservation of Sierra Madre.

Personally, I think that 3 to 2 vote was great. It got a little exciting there for a while, but it was also a reminder of how quickly things can go south at City Hall. Especially when certain elected officials somehow decide to work against the interests of the people who put them there.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that has happened.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Tattler Preview Of Sierra Madre's City Council Meeting

"That's it, I'm suing!" said a visibly upset Richie.
Tonight is different from all others this week because it is a City Council meeting night. And while about 90% of this community has no idea that so momentous an occasion is taking place, we the 10% (or so), highly aware and deeply concerned, are enrapt with anticipation. So let me bid you welcome to the Tattler Preview of the singular most important event of April so far. That being the first of two vibrant City Council meetings this month.

There are a few things on the menu that are rather crucial this evening. At least in my freely given opinion. The first being a meeting with the City Attorney, which sadly we are forbidden from attending. And that is a shame because it appears those mean stinkers from CETT are suing Sierra Madre. Which would not be big news in itself because who doesn't sue Sierra Madre? Even I tried that once, though I was only asking for $1. I didn't get it, either.

No, this lawsuit is a big for two reasons. The McMansions at One Carter issue is one, and the sheer volume of money at stake is the other. Here is how CETT's evil treachery was described in last week's always informative and oftentimes true City Manager Report.

They're totally daffy, of course. But I suspect the lawyers involved are telling the CETT people they're going to win and, being clueless outlanders and all, they are going for it. There is also the possibility that CETT intended to sue all along, and those bizarre shenanigans we witnessed in Council Chambers were just preliminaries for what they always believed would be the main event.

After that wraps up the City Council will step before the TV cameras and, once the rituals are completed and the blood of those sacrificed to honor the Gods mopped up, they will together delve into the Consent Calendar. Most of which will seem hideously boring to anyone still among the breathing, but there is one thing that needs to be noted. They will be spending over $1.2 million dollars tonight.

Apparently even though the city claims it is slipping into the red and needs to raise taxes every two years, they still have the potential for the odd million dollar spend every once in a while.

However, not to get too dramatic here, it is two previously discussed items that are driving so mighty a figure. One of which was funded by Measure R. Here they are:

The balance comes due someday.

The first of two main events on tonight's agenda is up next, and this one is of great importance to anyone hoping to stop the kinds of atrocious and predatory development exemplified by that pair of wincing warthogs on Camillo Road.

But rather than attempt to explain all of that myself, here is how the good folks at Preserve Sierra Madre described it in their Sunday e-mail.

Dear Supporters:
Some of you may remember that a month or so ago we congratulated the Planning Commission which, after extensive discussions and two public hearings, reached agreement on important changes to the R-1 single family zoning standards as found in Sierra Madre's Municipal Code. 
Those changes include such things as lowering the CUP (Conditional Use Permit) threshold, lowering the Floor Area Limits (how big a home you can build on a given sized lot) and making a CUP mandatory for all new 2-story homes or additions.  Preserve Sierra Madre attended all those meetings and wholeheartedly supports these changes.  You can find the entire Agenda Report for this issue linked here.

As the Agenda Report by staff noted, these changes were done  "… to encourage development that preserves the small town character of the community, to promote architectural diversity while maintaining neighborhood consistency, and to protect valley and mountain views of residential properties."

In order for these changes to take effect however, they must now be ratified by the City Council at their meeting on Tuesday, April 14th.   If you agree with these changes, we would urge you to email the City Council by hitting "reply all" to this email and briefly let them know your thoughts.  Of course, it's also effective to speak at the public comment portion of the meeting and tell the City Council in person. 

We might add that these are the kinds of improvements that not only preserve the Sierra Madre we all know and love, but save everyone a lot of time in having to battle projects that do the opposite.  Over-development is not the only challenge facing Sierra Madre in the future.  The more we can do to put reasonable rules and regulations in place that prohibit what we don't want, the more time can be spent on solving some of these other challenges.

Thank you for your support.
Steering Committee
Preserve Sierra Madre

Strongly reasoned and realistic stuff from the PSM folks. As always. Be there and do speak up.

The other item I would like to point out to you is this one:

As we all know, the voters of Sierra Madre let it be known two times that they want this City's utility taxes to sunset back to 6%. It now falls upon the City Council and its hired staff to somehow make that twice resident approved revenue reality work.

However, I am not completely sure they are up to it. Especially after Mayor Harabedian vowed in his State of the City address that he was planning to go out into the community and ask the residents what they want to do. Which is not what I'd call leading the charge.

It seems obvious that, having already voted twice to cut their utility taxes, the residents have made their wishes quite clear on this matter. Sunset the UUT and live within the resulting budget.

We'll have to wait and see if City Hall can handle that.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Occidental College Professor Peter Dreier, Noted $15 An Hour Minimum Wage Advocate, Outs Himself For Paying His Student Researchers $10 An Hour

Dreier gives the odds of him making any sense.
I have to confess something that is a little bit uncomfortable. The Tattler has a stalker, and yesterday on the Pasadena News website it seems that this individual had it in for me over an opinion piece I'd contributed there. Posting under the name of "Sam Dimas," this lost soul had all sorts of unpleasant things to say about my earnest efforts. Which is actually a great thing. Nothing drives web traffic like a good brouhaha. That is why the Star News brought me on. Controversy moves the needle.

It is my semi-educated guess that this "Sam Dimas" fellow was none other than Occidental College's very own Professor Peter Dreier. Politically quite the left wing fellow, and an old school Socialist by personal persuasion, Peter often insinuates himself into our local elections. Especially those involving the Pasadena Unified School District. This despite the fact that he has never once cast a vote in Sierra Madre.

Obviously Dreier never once met a tax he didn't want us to pay, or a Tattler post that didn't ruin his lunch.

All of which happily reminded me of a recent conversation about the $15 an hour minimum wage that took place on a Facebook page called Pasadena Politics. Fortunately I saved some screen shots of this mirth-filled chitchat, and thought this would be as good a time as any to revisit that conversation here. Just for the fun of it.

This was a bit of audacious hypocrisy on Professor Dreier's part, but certainly not atypical for the fellow. Below is how the conversation began. Note Peter's strong advocacy for the $15 an hour minimum wage.

At this moment I jumped in and asked if the Occidental College student researchers he employs to do some of the heavy lifting for his many tedious books are being paid properly for their blood sweat and tears. The rather haughty Professor Dreier took umbrage at the suggestion that he is exploiting oppressed college students, and left us with the following commentary.

It took former Sierra Madre City Councilmember Chris Koerber just a minute to tease out the necessary math.

For context, here is a Huffington Post article (link) where Peter Dreier advocates willy-nilly for the $15 minimum wage. Something he personally chooses not to pay.

The conclusion I will draw here is for Professor Dreier that $15 an hour minimum wage is a responsibility for capitalists, while those engaged in liberating the oppressed classes (even at extravagantly priced Occidental College) should only have to pay the proletariat two-thirds of that amount.

Of course, it might also be some plain old hypocrisy. There is that.

Sierra Madre City Council Meeting Tomorrow!

I will have a preview up on this site at 5AM tomorrow morning. There are two very big items on the docket. Here is one of them:

More tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pasadena Star News: Pasadena mayoral race not quite what founding fathers had in mind

(Mod: I am now a freelance columnist for the Pasadena Star News. I will be writing a few of them every month, most of which will run on Sundays. This one is in today's paper. You can link to it on the PSN site here.) 

Pasadena mayoral race not quite what founding fathers had in mind 
I am not certain this is how the Founding Fathers saw things turning out. I believe they felt that the opportunity to actively participate in the workings of your own government would be so compelling that everyone would be clambering to take part. And judging by the tally from the most recent round of elections, a full 15% of Pasadena's registered voters agree.

Today there are two individuals in the runoff for Mayor on April 21, and both served on the Pasadena City Council during a significant portion of the years that alleged embezzler Danny Wooten was robbing the Home of the Dome blind. And, as we now know, nobody on that City Council was alert enough to figure it out.

We are talking about an 11 year period during which $6.4 million dollars was stolen right out from under the noses of Pasadena's not very vigilant elected watchdogs. With two them, Terry Tornek and Jacque Robinson, actually having the hubris to run for Mayor.

Some might believe that voters of a city that had just experienced a huge embezzlement scandal, and over so considerable a period of time, would have some doubts about the ability of their elected leaders to keep an eye on things. And that a serious "throw the bums out" consensus could have risen from the cold hard streets of an increasingly thorny Rose City.

But sadly, that is not the case. Out of the mere 12,977 votes for Mayor, those two Councilmembers, who both snoozed their way through a significant portion of that 11 year embezzlement binge, received 8,745 of the ballots cast. Or nearly 70% of the total.

During the first round of campaigning these two candidates, possibly fearing a negative political reaction to the Wooten scandal, pointed fingers at the City Manager and at least appeared to demand his head on a plate. But only in the most metaphorical sense since Michael Beck still has his gig, and his head. He will likely keep both long after Tornek or Robinson is elected.

And why not? Mr. Beck, ever the proper city employee, dutifully took the blame for things that were not entirely his fault. Which, I guess, is behavior expected of a City Hall hire. Taking the fall for the failures of elected officials being a form of job security. Especially when politicking Mayoral candidates are claiming they want to remove you.

My understanding has always been that in order for a democracy to function as the Founding Fathers envisioned, the people would need to participate in a vigorous and informed way. Otherwise something different would emerge. Rule by dueling campaign managers perhaps. Or a bureaucracy that, while actually calling the shots, also works to prop up the elected class. For decorative and entertainment purposes mostly.

Every show needs an emcee, and a Mayor who can both smile and wave at the same time. Especially on New Year's Day.

But I am being overly critical here. Maybe the 85% of those who stayed home were voting for something. At least by inference. And had any of the candidates running in this race actually said something that appealed to them, and in a way that was both reality based and worthy, the voters would have showed up.

Which might be another one of those things the Founding Fathers had assumed. Politicians who do more than mail out postcards and squabble over lawn signs.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The City Manager Report: Elaine Aguilar's Take On Jerry Brown's Draconian Water Reduction Executive Order

Bridge over troubled sand dunes
Jerry Brown's executive order demanding that Sierra Madre reduce its water consumption by the maximum level of 35% has been agendized for the April 28th City Council meeting. Which means it will be among the very first things a newly minted Mayor John Capoccia will have to deal with. The lucky fellow.

When you add in Bruce Inman's much anticipated report on our water woes in general, it should make for a most interesting evening. The discontent in this community over the lack of progress being made on the discolored water problem could come to a head at that meeting. I for one am eagerly looking forward to that discussion. Maybe we should make a special occasion out of it. I'm sure at least a few people would have something to say.

In her always incisive City Manager Report, Elaine Aguilar takes a swing at some of the same water issues we have been discussing on The Tattler these last couple of days. In particular Jerry Brown's edict over how much water Sierra Madre should be permitted to use. Or not use.

Here are Elaine's very matter of fact observations:

State agencies are moving very quickly to address the directives of the Governor’s executive order. On April 7 the State Water Board released their Draft Regulatory Framework, describing their intent for enforcing the statewide 25% water conservation requirement (Governor’s Order #2). 

The Board established four conservation Tiers, ranging from 10% to 35% conservation over 2013 water use. Based on Sierra Madre’s September 2014 residential gallons per capita water use, the Board has placed the city in the Tier 4, 35% group of agencies. 

Ironically, the state is using R-GPCD as the unit of measurement for setting conservation thresholds; the State Board’s own website states “It is not appropriate to use Residential Gallons Per Capita Day (R-GPCD) water use data for comparisons across water suppliers, unless all relevant factors are accounted for. Factors that can affect per capita water include: Rainfall, temperature and evaporation rates, Population growth, Population density, Socio-economic measures such as lot size and income, and Water prices.”

Should the regulations be adopted (May 5/6) as described, as of June 1, 2015, the city’s water production is to be reduced to a level equivalent to 65% of the June 2013 production. The regulatory framework as presented on the 7th provides no means of appeal and does not describe a compliance schedule.

On April 9th, the state took further action, decreasing the allowable water rate of new toilets, faucets, and urinals. The new limitations take effect January 1, 2016.

In light of the Governor’s action and the flurry of state regulatory this week, staff will include in our water conservation reports a status of compliance with the state’s new mandatory 25% conservation goal, in addition to our month over month comparisons. As a point of beginning the last three full months are:

March 2015 - 21% Conservation over March 2013

February 2015 – 17.6% Conservation over February of 2013 January 2015 – 14.4% Conservation over January of 2013

For April, water use is increasing. April 1-6, Sierra Madre used over 15% more water than the same period in 2014. Nevertheless, overall water production April 1-6 of 2015 was 28% less that in 2013.

One thing I would have hoped for here is a little more detail on why Sierra Madre has been dropped into the most punitive portion of the Governor's water reduction menu, Tier 4. Or Death Row as I've started calling it. Knowing more about the reasons why this unfortunate event happened would give people a better idea of what will likely be expected of them in a few months.

That said, based on Sierra Madre's recent water conservation numbers Elaine is citing here, I'd venture to say that Moonbeam's 35% reduction demand is going to be an exceedingly tough one for this community to hit.

One of best columns on California's water crisis yet

(Mod: I don't know if you are familiar with a guy named Ed Ring, but he is one of the major players over at the California Policy Center website (link). Which is pretty much the same group of folks responsible for Transparent California and some other equally game changing efforts. His recent column on California's water crisis is a home run in my opinion. Here is a portion of it.)

Desalination plants vs. bullet trains and pensions - Current policy solutions enacted to address California’s water crisis provide an object lesson in how corruption masquerading as virtue is impoverishing the general population to enrich a handful of elites.

Instead of building freeways, expanding ports, restoring bridges and aqueducts, and constructing dams, desalination plants, and power stations, California’s taxpayers are pouring tens of billions each year into public sector pension funds – who invest 90 percent of the proceeds out-of-state, and the one big construction project on the table, the $100M+ “bullet train,” fails to justify itself under virtually any credible cost/benefit analysis. Why?

The reason is because infrastructure, genuinely conceived in the public interest, lowers the cost of living. This in-turn causes artificially inflated asset values to fall, imperiling the solvency of pension funds – something that would force them to reduce benefits.

Beneficial infrastructure is also a threat to crony capitalists who don’t want a business climate that attracts competitors. Affordable land, energy, and water encourage economic growth. Crony capitalists and public sector unions alike hide behind environmentalists, who oppose growth and development, all of it, everywhere – because no new developments, anywhere, suits their monopolistic interests. No wonder the only infrastructure vision still alive in California, the “bullet train,” is nothing more than a gigantic, tragic farce.

Urban Water Consumption is a Small Fraction of Total Water Use

Returning to the topic of water, a basic examination of the facts reveals the current drought to be a problem that could be easily solved, if it weren’t for powerful special interests who don’t want it to be solved, ever.

Here’s a rough summary of California’s annual water use. In a dry year, around 150 million acre feet (MAF) fall onto California’s watersheds in the form of rain or snow, in a wet year, we get about twice that much. Most of that water either evaporates, percolates, or eventually runs into the ocean. In terms of net water withdrawals, each year around 31 MAF are diverted for the environment, such as to guarantee fresh water inflow into the delta, 27 MAF are diverted for agriculture, and 6.6 MAF are diverted for urban use. Of the 6.6 MAF that is diverted for urban use, 3.7 MAF is used by residential customers, and the rest is used by industrial, commercial and government customers. [3]

Put another way, we divert 65 million acre feet of water each year in California for environmental, agricultural and urban uses, and a 25 percent reduction in water usage by residential customers will save exactly 0.9 million acre feet – or 1.4 percent of our total statewide water usage. One good storm easily dumps ten times as much water onto California’s watersheds as we’ll save via a 25 percent reduction in annual residential water consumption.

California’s politicians can impose utterly draconian curbs on residential water consumption, and it won’t make more than a small dent in the problem.

(Mod: Puts into perspective how little that onerous 35% water use reduction number Sierra Madre is being socked with actually means in the grand scheme of things. That plus how things got this bad. To read the rest of Ed Ring's column, including his take on desalination technology that is already in use practically everywhere in the world except our poorly run part of it, click here.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Should The City Of Sierra Madre Offer Cash Bounties To Residents Who Turn In Water Hogs?

There is a stigma associated with turning in your neighbor for doing something wrong. Nobody ever wants to be known for being a snitch, even when doing so is the right thing to do. But with cities potentially facing $10,000 dollar a day fines from Sacramento for not knuckling under to some rather draconian water use reduction demands, the stakes are now quite high. Things have become very serious.

Plus there is also that little matter of the State of California running out of water in a year or so. Think how colorful life will get in this part of the world should that ever actually happen. I don't want to sound too scary, but my take is both civility and decorum will be among the very first things to go. Followed by what we've always known as fairness, then democratic due legal process as water rights become something only the privileged and powerful will be able to command. And what comes after that?

Your guess is as good as mine. I doubt it will be good.

As you probably know by now, Sierra Madre, along with a few other select cities, is being assigned the very maximum water rate reduction percentage by Sacramento, which is 35%. Or 10% above the statewide average. That designation is only being assigned to those cities that are among the worst water use abusers.

To be clear, this has yet to be approved by the State Water Resources Control Board (link). But since those who serve on that satrapy are appointees of Governor Brown and serve at his pleasure, and this was all his idea, it will happen.

So how did Jerry Brown come to so unfortunate a conclusion about our little city? Sacramento established a statistical snapshot for each city in California based on its water usage, with the date used for this purpose being September of 2014. The state then set a benchmark in the amount of 150 gallons per person per month. Using this standard of measurement Sierra Madre, along with Arcadia, Pasadena and some notable others, came out looking pretty bad.

This isn't to say that a lot of people in this town did not do their utmost to lower the amount of water they use. Many residents did proper things like rip out their lawns and xeriscape their yards. But apparently that was nowhere near enough to offset the effects of those who don't give a damn. Many of whom continue even today to use vast amounts of the stuff to do things like keep their little patches of lawn green. To the point where rivers of water flow out into the street and down storm sewers.

So here is my modest proposal. Instead of expecting Sierra Madre to become a city of informants and snitches, City Hall should bring back one of the great time honored traditions of the Old West. That is offer a cash bounty to anyone who turns in a water use offender.

I figure that $500 in bounty money per person turned in, paid upon verification by law enforcement that the offender truly is an authentic and true water hog, should do the trick.

Snitching is turning in people for free. It seems like there never has been much honor or profit in that. But a bounty would change everything. Bounties are what was given back in wilder times to those brave souls who helped to fight frontier lawlessness. It helped to civilize the west during desperate times.

These are desperate times. Maybe it is time for City Hall to bring back the bounty.

Time to face the facts, the city can't do very much about yellow water 

The following e-mail was sent to several people at City Hall. It was forwarded to me by a friend of the author.

Dear Mr. Reynoso, Mr. Inman, Ms. Aguilar, Mr. Harabedian,

I am writing in response to the email below in which Mr. Reynoso outlines what was being done almost 7 months ago to correct the yellow water problem myself & my neighbors on Pleasant Hill Lane were and are experiencing.

Imagine my surprise when the Tattler quoted Bruce Inman as saying there have been "No new reports" of yellow water as if this were a sign of success from the $50,000 consultant hired to deal with this problem?!  What is being done about my "old" problem which still exists?

There has been little if any noticeable change in my water service except there is now a new, noticeable chemical smell that accompanies the "old" smell of coagulated blood that accompanies my still very yellow water! My white porcelain tub, tile & toilet bowl require daily scrubbing to keep them at best a lightly stained hue of the rust shade that DOMINATES my plastic shower head, curtain & rings. ice maker & every other appliance that this disgusting stuff flows through. Never mind the inner workings of my appliances, what is this stuff doing to my body & my animals?!

If you need proof that this problem exists for us tax-paying citizens I will be happy to forward "new" photos & or join others who have brought samples down to City Hall.

I implore, no I challenge you to respond with a safe, healthy solution to this problem once & for all!

The author of this statement has yet to receive a reply. My guess is that given the current and very real situation, nobody at City Hall would want to put their name to it.

At the April 28 City Council meeting Bruce Inman will give a report on the water situation here in town. He will describe the efforts over the last year or so to combat the coloration of our water, along with nitrification, which is brought about by imported chloramines interacting with our ancient decayed pipes. Bruce will then describe the work being done by Hélène Baribeau (link), the consultant we paid $50,000 to fix this problem. Along with considerable additional funding that was used for things like chemicals and testing.

Bruce will then declare that this work is yet to be completed, and that the City Council needs to approve even more funding so that these tests can continue, and an eventual solution be found.

As it has now been a year, and nothing much of value has happened, the City Council should probably say no to that additional money request.

Why? Because this problem goes beyond the abilities of Dr. Baribeau, or anyone else for that matter, to solve. The real cause lies with the pipes themselves. Through decades of grossly irresponsible neglect they are mostly ancient, deeply corroded and, once combined with the chloramines our current water source sends our way whether we like it or not, produce multi-colored discoloration.

That is not going to change, even if more money is thrown at the problem.

The services of Dr. Baribeau were way oversold by Mr. Inman when he presented her hiring to the City Council last year as the happy solution to our woeful problems. That this was followed by various sunny assessments of the progress being made by Dr. Baribeau is something that has only made the public's misperceptions even more inaccurate.

We are at now the end of that road. It is time for City Hall to tell people just how bad the situation really is, and that there is precious little that they can do about it. The yellow water is here to stay, nitrification will be a constant and serious struggle, and once the weather heats up it is all going to get much worse.

No more PR, no more so-called solutions that are really little more than delaying the inevitable.

It is time for the city to cut the crap.

CBS News San Francisco: No More Playing Nice – CA Water Regulators Will Name, Shame, Fine, Even Ration Water-Wasters (link): California is done with gentle nudges and polite reminders to deal with its devastating drought.

State regulators are naming and shaming local water departments that have let water wasters slide — and forcing them to slash water use by as much as a third. They say it’s necessary as California reservoirs, and the snow on mountains that is supposed to refill them, reach record lows.

The drought has no clear end in sight, but it’s up to hundreds of local agencies, from small irrigation districts to the city of Los Angeles, to make sure California has enough water to get through it.

Since Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency last year, they’ve largely taken a soft, educational approach to curtail water use. But that’s no longer enough, he says.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

State Mandated 35% Water Use Reductions: Does This Mean RHNA Numbers Are Now Irrelevant?

Process conscious Sacramento planning pigeons 
Now here is an interesting situation. Cities in California have been required to meet the demands of Regional Housing Needs Allocation (or is that assessment?) numbers (RHNA) for quite some time. These are the new development requirement quantities doled out by organizations known as Regional Planning Organizations (ours being the always awful SCAG) in order to accommodate the housing demands of all those mythological new people arriving in California. Even though there haven't been quite so many new people arriving here in the last five or so years, with nearly as many leaving the state as showing up.

In places such as Sierra Madre, which we like to think of as being already built-out enough (thank you very much), these numbers are particularly onerous because they are often responsible for the kinds of unwanted high-density stack and pack housing that many feel is out of character in our town. That and cookie cutter development planning mandates generated by Sacramento hardly work in wonderfully idiosyncratic communities such as ours. They don't really work anywhere else either, as some of those more capitulatory communities have discovered.

At least in the opinion of many who live here. Besides, didn't state run central planning go out with the old Soviet Union? It didn't seem to work so well for them.

Here is my question. Are RHNA numbers even relevant anymore? Particularly when Governor Jerry Brown has somehow now decreed that Sierra Madre, along with Arcadia, Pasadena and many other similarly afflicted cities, must now reduce their water usage by as much as 35%? Which is even more than most other cities?

So can these cities be expected to accommodate a significant percentage of new state mandated high density housing while also cutting their water usage by more than a third?

This from today's Pasadena Star News (link):

Some Southern California cities will have to reduce water use by 35 percent under new plan - Several cities in Southern California will have to reduce water use by as much as 35 percent under a new conservation schedule released by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Colton, Glendora, La Habra, Redlands, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Upland are some of the cities targeted to reach the top tier water reduction standard, which goes from 10 percent to a high of 35 percent.

Here in Sierra Madre the debate has been how much in additional water use reductions can people be expected to make after having already cut their usage back significantly already. Well, Governor Brown has now decided that for us. If it goes through, that number is 35% more.

But things get even worse.

Reduction percentages were based on a city, community or water agency’s previous gallons per person per day from September, which the agency is using as a benchmark for its tiered schedule.

Some 411 urban water agencies, cities and communities will be subject to the schedule of reductions if approved by the State Water Board. The board has scheduled a vote on the plan on May 5.

Agencies not meeting reduction targets can be fined as much as $10,000 per day, according to the SWRCB.

$10,000 a day would quickly put a considerable dent in any city's General Fund rather quickly.

So does Sacramento believe that the cities listed above, locales such as ours that are being ordered to make draconian 35% water use reductions tout suite, can also be expected to knuckle under to the kinds of increases in SCAG housing its RHNA numbers require us to plan for?

Seems like a conflict in Sacramento's central planning priorities to me. Maybe someone at City Hall should ask them about this.

Farmers are off the water hook

Jerry Brown might want you to reduce your water usage by 35%, but farmers? Not so much. This from ABC News (link):

California Gov. Jerry Brown Defends Farms’ Water Use, Warns Changes May Come - Days after taking the unprecedented step of ordering mandatory water-use reductions throughout his state, California Gov. Jerry Brown defended his executive order’s treatment of the state’s agriculture industry and its use of water in an interview with ABC's "This Week."

Brown said California's farms are “providing most of the fruits and vegetables of America,” as well as jobs for the state’s most vulnerable residents. Though agriculture accounts for only 2 percent of California's economy, it consumes 80 percent of the state's water, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank.

The Democratic governor also emphasized how much agriculture has already been hurt by the state's drought.

“The farmers have fallowed hundreds of thousands of acres of land," Brown told ABC’s Martha Raddatz. "They’re pulling up vines and trees. Farm workers who are very low end of the economic scale here are out of work. There are people in agriculture areas that are really suffering.”

Brown said shutting water allocations off would displace hundreds of thousands of people.

"If you don't want to produce any food and import it from some other place, of course you could do that," he said. "But that would displace hundreds of thousands of people and I don't think it's needed."

Almonds yes, lawns no? Interesting times we are living in.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

UUT3: City Councilmembers Prepared To Talk To Sierra Madre Civic Organizations About Tax Increases

It now looks like there is an initial push underway to place yet another Utility Tax increase on the ballot. Having failed to get a UUT hike passed in 2012 and 2014, this would be the third attempt by the city to do so. It is being assumed by The Tattler that this latest tax increase effort would go on the ballot in April of 2016 in order to run concurrently with the next City Council race.

In 2016 John Harabedian and John Capoccia would each be up for re-election to another four year term should they choose to run. Current Mayor Harabedian, at his recent State of the City address, strongly indicated that he would be in favor of not only a 3rd utility tax increase attempt, but a newly created Library parcel tax as well. Why the Mayor would favor the separation of tax raising efforts into these two distinctly different parts has yet to be fully explained.

John Capoccia, who ran for his office in 2012 as a fiscally conservative candidate opposed to what were then among the highest utility taxes in the state, has since come around on the UUT increase question. He will likely favor tax increases.

The word out of the most recent Coordinating Council meeting, and per Community Services Department head Adam Matsumoto, is City Councilmembers will soon be available to make 30 to 45 minute presentations to any community group regarding what possible effects the lowering of the UUT to its twice voter approved rate of 6% will have on their particular interests.

We are going to assume here that the purpose of these Councilmember talks is to explain to each city organization how projected losses in revenue through voter mandated utility tax cuts will effect them individually. The hoped for effect being to create a consensus for an unprecedented 3rd UUT increase ballot initiative in six years, along with a new Library parcel tax.

There is no indication regarding which City Councilmembers will be delivering these tax talks, or if any organizations have yet to accept the offer. It is hoped that at least some groups would pass on this opportunity out of the belief that any efforts of this kind should not be surreptitiously conducted behind the scenes, but rather such important news should be taken directly to the public.

More on this story as it develops.

If Sierra Madre's yellow water problem has eased, why this?

I received the following e-mail yesterday.

Hello Mr. Crawford,

I think you have covered this story before but in light of the new developments with the Gov. and his water use mandates I think it's time the city stop letting the water out at Orange Grove and Michillinda. I don't understand why they don't capture the water, instead they let it run down the street almost to Foothill. I can't imagine how many gallons of water are wasted where they could be recycled and used as water for the city plants or dumped back into the basin. This happens several times a week and I really don't think the general population realizes what is happening.

Thanks for your blog :)

A 26 year resident of SM

The observation is a very important one. The word coming out of the Water Department these last several months is colored water problems have largely been dealt with, the strategies of our water quality consultant have worked, and they have received no new resident complaints lately.

However, if this is so, then why is water still being flushed down the streets and into the storm sewers of Sierra Madre, and in such considerable quantities? In light of recent highly publicized news about the State of California being down to its last full year of water (link), the sight is an especially jarring one.

The following pictures were included with this e-mail.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Real Reason Why Pasadena Water & Power Rates Have Increased Radically

Platinum Pasadena
As we saw with Robert Fellner's LA Times article on Los Angeles's Department of Water and Power, huge rate hikes are now in the works in order to try and cover outrageously high salary and benefit packages. Some of the highest city employee salaries in the country, and this in a supposedly progressive city where many of the poor can barely make ends meet. Much less pay so much more for water and electricity. Here is how Robert described it (link):

Meanwhile, residents of Los Angeles face yet another rate hike, only a couple of years after an 11.1% increase in electricity rates. DWP officials have recently suggested that they plan to seek recurring rate hikes of at least 2% per year beginning this year to fix infrastructure. But CityWatch is reporting that Angelenos should expect rate hikes of 5% to 8% a year, for each of the next five years. Residents in January paid 20% more for electricity than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

These higher prices act as a regressive tax on the poor, who are forced to spend a proportionally larger share of their income on energy than their wealthy neighbors. With the growing concern about income inequality, policymakers should think twice before stacking the deck further against the poor through more rate increases.

So that is Los Angeles. But what about Pasadena, another city that owns its own Water & Power utilities (link)? Are that city's Water & Power employees making a lot more money than the average Pasadena resident? Have those salaries and benefits been a driving force behind the repeated utility rate hikes there?

Sadly, the answer to both questions appears to be yes.

Here is how Brian Charles described PW&P rate increases in a Pasadena Star News article that ran in June of 2012 (link).

Pasadena Water and Power electricity rates increase Electricity rates are going up for residents in Pasadena as the City Council approved an increase this week.

The Pasadena Department of Water and Power is raising its distribution and customer charges in an effort to pump an additional $3.75 million in revenue into the agency. The increase is needed as PWP personnel costs, which includes pension obligations, are on the rise, according to a city staff report on the PWP rate increase. The rate increase will also maintain cash reserves necessary for utility agencies in the volatile energy market, Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck said.

"In the short term, you could take additional money out of reserves, but it's not a prudent way of managing money," Beck said.

The city-run PWP has been Pasadena's cash cow in recent years. City Hall has never hesitated to transfer money from the PWP's nearly $400 million in cash reserves to plug holes in Pasadena's general fund budget.

And here is how yet another series of PW&P rate increases was described by Lauren Gold in the Pasadena Star News in June of 2014 (link):

Electricity in Pasadena more expensive after council approves rate increase Pasadena residents and businesses will pay more for electricity beginning in July after the City Council unanimously approved rate increases for the next three years.

Rates for average users will rise by about 8.3 percent on July 1, comprised of a 2.7 percent council-approved jump and 5.6 percent “pass through” increase that doesn’t require council approval. Users will be hit with a 2.4 percent increase in 2015 and 2.2 percent hike in 2016.

Officials said the money was needed to maintain Pasadena Water and Power’s infrastructure and to pay off debt.

“This is something that is necessary and it’s responsible and compared to our competitors it’s quite reasonable,” Councilwoman Margaret McAustin said. “This isn’t easy. This will have an impact on all of us, but it’s something we must do.”

So why have electricity rates gone up continually in Pasadena over the last four years, and will keep doing so into the future? Is it because of debt, or infrastructure repairs as certain City Council members have claimed? Or can it be that Pasadena Water & Power employees are compensated for their time and bother with outrageously high salaries and benefits?

For the real numbers we turn to Transparent California. It really is a remarkable tool and in this case literally blows the tall tales told above by Michael BeckMargeret McAustin and others right out of the water.

First, some overall numbers. Here are the Transparent California numbers for all City of Pasadena employees, including those who work for the PW&P (link).

The big numbers here are those that highlight the disparity between what City of Pasadena employees are making versus the average pay of those Pasadena residents working in the private sector. The median pay and benefits for City employees totals $128,040.90 per year. Or way more than double the median pay of the average taxpaying Pasadena resident.

You also need to note that the yearly cost of city employee compensation per Pasadena resident is $1,551. That’s the 10th highest of any city in the entire State of California. The average cost (filtering for cities with a resident population of at least 10,000 and at least 100 city employees) is $683.

Here is the list of Top 20 employee costs dunned cities, based on the average cost per resident. Figure that a family of four in Pasadena is paying $6,000 or so yearly.

So what are PW&P employees making? A ton. Here is a compensation chart of the Top 20 most highly rewarded Pasadena Water & Power employees. Note the total compensation figures on the right.

Click to enlarge

If you want the entire list send me an email and I will forward it to you. It goes on for pages and is far too large a file to reproduce here. There aren't many other places where you will see cable splicers getting six figure total compensations.

So don't you think that is a much more logical explanation for all of those Pasadena Water & Power utility rate hikes?

Maybe somebody should ask Terry Tornek and Jacque Robinson about that at the Pasadena Mayoral Runoff Debate tonight. After all, these are two Councilmembers who voted for these serial rate hikes as members of the City Council, and have to know at least a little bit about the reasons for them.

They were there, after all.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Sylvia Plummer: The Latest Stop the 710 Tunnel News

From the folks who brought you the SF Bay Bridge
Mod: I've been gathering together Sylvia Plummer's excellent reports on the fight to save the San Gabriel Valley from what would be ecological devastation should the 710 Tunnel ever be built. And as you know, the pressure to do so from various billion dollar bureaucracies such as Metro and Caltrans (along with those who are pushing their buttons) has been intense these last few months. The EIR is in, and while they still can't seem to be able to tell anyone how much this tunnel will cost us, they want to push it on through anyway. Here is all of the latest:

1.  This weeks Call to Action

We need people to call, email or write the Pasadena City Councilmembers before the April 13th City Council meeting.  Then in a separate email or letter sent a copy to the City Clerk - Mark Jomsky - to be put on the record.  Ask Mark Jomsky to put on the record for the April 13th City Council meeting regarding SR-710, also ask that your letter or email be distributed to all the Council members. Mark Jomsky's email address:

What is happening April 13th @ 6:30pm at the Pasadena City Council Meeting?

There will only be one topic for the meeting, the SR-710.  No other business will be discussed. A staff report will be given on the SR-710 Pasadena Working Group Recommendations.  There will be a vote by the City Council on whether or not to accept or approve the Working Group Recommendations.

I have personally heard from Steve Madison's office and was told that Madison will bring up a Resolution for the City of Pasadena to oppose the SR-710 tunnel(s).

Talking Points for your emails:
- You support the Working Groups recommendations.
- Ask them to support a Resolution for the City of Pasadena to oppose the SR-710 Tunnels.
- Tunnel is prohibitive and a waste of resources that could be used for Public Transit projects.
- Measure A issue - Some Councilmembers apparently continue to express concern that a vote to oppose the tunnel would go against the voters of Measure A to complete the gap with a Freeway surface route.  Measure A never said anything about a tunnel or a toll.  The 710 gap issue can be solved using other options.

Here is a link to the Working Group's Report and Letter which have been added to the City of Pasadena's SR710 site (link).

Attached is a letter from the WPRA to the Mayor and City Councilmembers regarding the City of Pasadena's Position on the SR-710 North Alternatives.  This should give you some ideas as well.

Here are the email addresses for the Mayor, City Councilmembers and City Manager:

Plan to attend on April 13th:  The City Council Meeting will be held at the Pasadena Convention Center in the Ballroom, a very large venue.  A large turnout at this meeting will make a difference.  The Council does respond to numbers. We need an audience.

2.  More Public Hearings

Two more Public Hearings have been added for a total of four.  Be sure to attend at least one.  You can come in at any time and leave at any time.  Map viewing will also take place during the Public Hearing time schedule.  These are not meetings.

Schedule of Public Hearings

Sunday, April 11
Map viewing: 10-11 a.m.
Public hearing: 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.
East Los Angeles College, Rosco Ingalls Auditorium,
1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Montery Park

Tuesday, April 14
Map viewing: 5-6 p.m.
Public hearing: 6-9 p.m.
Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St.

Wednesday, May 6
Map viewing: 5-6 p.m.
Public hearing: 6-9 p.m.
La Cañada High School auditorium,
4463 Oak Grove Dr., La Canada

Thursday, May 7
Map viewing: 5-6 p.m.
Public hearing: 6-9 p.m.
Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church,
2241 N. Eastern Ave., LA

3.  Pasadena Mayoral Runoff Debate

Tuesday, April 7th @ 7 pm
Pasadena Convention Center

There will be a debate between the two mayoral runoff candidates, Pasadena City Councilmembers Jacque Robinson and Terry Tornek.  The WPRA, a co-sponsor of the event, has provided some of the questions.  The debate will be moderated by KPCC Radio's AirTalk host, Larry Mantle,  This event will be televised live of KPAS (channel 3 on Charter and 99 on U-Verse).  It will also be streamed via and

The runoff election will take place on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

4.  Short SR-710 Article

Here's a humorous short SR-710 story from The Transit Coalition-Weekly Transit E-Newsletter:

Will the Proposed 710 N. Freeway Tunnel Accommodate Big Rigs Safely?

The debate about extending the 710 North Freeway is now about 60 years old. Business interests want it and the community presents strong opposition. Those concerned about building the tunnel ask for simple things like cost benefit analysis and projected numbers and can never seem to get any answers, which leaves more questions unanswered. The 6.3-mile freeway tunnel could cost maybe $5.65 billion or maybe $10 billion. Then, the question about whether this tunnel can handle trucks and what would the additional costs be? One group that is pushing the project, but seems to believe that truckers would pay a toll of $14 each way from trucking firms that are known to avoid even paying their drivers. Stay tuned for the next episode of "As the Tunnel Bores", which ranks high in community churning. There are more public meetings rolling out to continue the discussion.

5.  Some Good News Articles:

San Gabriel Valley cities clash over 710 Freeway options (link)

Should a 710 Freeway tunnel allow trucks and will it be safe? (link)

Stuck in Seattle:  The Aggravating Adventures of a Gigantic Tunnel Drill (link)

Mod: Anthony Portantino wrote a letter to Caltrans and Metro asking them exactly how much the 710 Tunnel would cost. He never got an answer, probably because Caltrans doesn't work that way. Rather when they run out of cash they'll just propose another sales tax hike. State Senator Carol Liu has since followed up. Here is her letter.

Mod: Lots of good information. It would be great if a Sierra Madre contingent could make it to that special 710 Tunnel meeting the Pasadena City Council is having on April 13. That ballroom is big, and it is important that people who are concerned about this awful project be heard.