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Thanks Everyone, for a Great #LBMayoralForum Last Night

Image: Baktaash Sorkhabi

Image: Baktaash Sorkhabi

Last night, over 100 residents attended a mayoral candidates forum focused on livability, active transportation, and public health at the ART Theatre in Long Beach. Video from the event will be available on Streetsblog’s YouTube channel later this week and a review of the forum written  will be on LongBeachize a little later as well.

But for now, some heartfelt thanks.

First and foremost, thanks to everyone who attended the forum, posed questions on social media, watched on Streetsblog TV or will watch/read our “after the event coverage.”

Thanks to our five participating candidates: Richard Camp, Robert Garcia, Bonnie Lowenthal, Doug Otto and Gerrie Schipske. We selected which of the ten candidates would join us by looking at the top five fundraisers. We needed an objective metric because we believed that 10 candidates would be too large to be an effective forum. After Damon Dunn bowed out, citing a scheduling conflict, Camp doggedly pursued us to take his spot. Given that he was one of two candidates that biked to the event, we feel confident we made the right decision.

Now allow me to thank the people and groups that made the event possible. Read more…

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Redondo Avenue in Long Beach Receives $2.2M Facelift

Redondo

Shortly after the groundbreaking of a massive redevelopment project focused on downtown Long Beach’s Pine Avenue, the east-meets-west arterial that is Redondo Avenue broke ground on a $2.2M street improvement plan that stretches from the 2nd to the 4th District.

One of the stretch’s largest intersections—Redondo and Broadway, home to one of Broadway’s most beloved hub of businesses—will install concrete bulb-outs and what was described as “enhanced crosswalks.” The crosswalks could be simple international-style paint or could be the cobblestone-style crosswalks that 7th Street received in its improvement development last year. The intersection will also receive a new stop light.

Additionally, 122 tons of diverted and recycled material—ranging from sand and asphalt to concrete, rock, and recycled waste ash—will provide a new but sustainable road surface on Redondo between 2nd Street and Anaheim Street.

The project, expected to be completed in May, was funded through Prop C, passed by county voters in 1990.

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CNU Deems Terminal Island Freeway Top 10 ‘Freeway Without Future’

Image: Baktaash Sorkhabi

Image: Baktaash Sorkhabi

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU)—the country’s premiere organization which is founded on creating walkable, neighborhood-based development—released its 2014 “Freeways Without Futures” report, listing Long Beach’s own Terminal Island (TI) Freeway amongst its top 10 prospects for removal.

Calling it a “perfect example of obsolete infrastructure,” CNU echoes the time-consuming efforts put forth by local nonprofit City Fabrick and its founder Brian Ulaszewski’s efforts to remove TI since 2010.

“There’s much interest in reimagining perhaps the most impacting infrastructure in West Long Beach as something that serves the community,” Ulaszewski said. Read more…

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Mark Your Calendars for 2/25 to Hear LB Mayoral Candidates Discuss Livability

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Longbeachize will be hosting the Livable Streets Mayoral Forum at the Art Theatre on February 25 at 7PM. This forum will be a chance for the top contenders for mayor to discuss everything from how they would increase transportation options to improving air quality to bicycle rights. Essentially, it is a forum to discuss how they plan to make Long Beach a better place to live, work, move, and play. The event is free and open to the public.

Confirmed candidates include: Robert Garcia, Bonnie Lowenthal, Doug Otto and Gerrie Schipske; Damon Dunn was also invited but had to decline due to a scheduling conflict. Spanish translation will br provided on site by the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities.

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We recognize that not everyone can make it to the Art, so our sister-site Streetsblog Los Angeles will be Live Streaming the event at Streetsblog TV. Bookmark this link to watch the event live. The following day, Streetsblog will post the entire debate on their YouTube channel.

Questions from readers and the public are encouraged and can be done by leaving a comment below or hopping on either Twitter or Facebook and using #LBMayoralForum. The topics we are focusing on are: Parks, open space, & the environment; Bicyclist rights & infrastructure; Streets, urban design, and public infrastructure; and Sidewalks, transit, and pedestrian rights. Read more…

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LongBeachize: BYD Electric Bus Procurement Further Delayed

Image created by Baktaash Sorkhabi

Image created by Baktaash Sorkhabi

The BYD Motors drama is quickly becoming the novela of the transit community in Southern California, as the bus manufacturer—via Long Beach Transit (LBT)’s Rolando Cruz—is expected to delay the delivery of LBT’s electric bus fleet.

The troubled bus manufacturer, whose North American offices in Los Angeles are operated by China-based BYD, controversially scored the contract with LBT this past year over South Carolina-based Proterra; additionally this year, it also won an electric bus contract with Metro, making BYD home to the nation’s two largest electric bus contracts. The controversy was rightfully raised, if not a flat-out given provided the many questions that arose in the RFP process.

“This delay in Altoona [testing] could adversely affect our deployment schedule because we have contractually agreed to not accept any buses before the Altoona testing is completed,” Cruz said.

For one, Proterra’s electric buses—already approved through the fed’s testing program, Altoona—were already on the ground in Foothill and have since then hit the ground in San Antonio while BYD’s buses hadn’t even hit the line for Altoona testing. This isn’t to mention the company’s falsifying of who had contracted buses with them.

Then things really started to hit the fan: the recent admission at a LBT board meeting that seven of the nine subassemblies for the new fleet were not approved for use; the welding issues that were discovered in the frames and bracket installation; the cracks that were discovered near the rear of the BYD bus undergoing Altoona testing; accusations of failed promises in regard to job building and bus manufacturing in North America…

And the frosting on the curb? Two major national stories—one for the New York Times and the other for the Los Angeles Times—has uncovered that the State of California is investigating BYD for labor violations that amount to 112 citations and nearly $20K in back wage violations after it was discovered that BYD had employed Chinese nationals with a $1.50/hr wage. All this has ultimately resulted in the state fining BYD some $100K.

The most recent LBT meeting brought forth the fact that a Chinese-made bus had undergone 6,000 of the required 15,000 miles of testing at Altoona but now BYD wants the feds to test a new model. This new bus is referred to as the LBT pilot because it represents how the entire new electric fleet for LBT will be made: parts from China, assembled in US. Read more…

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Long Beach: The Other Terminal Island Bridge Project

The proposed Heim Bridge replacement. Rendering courtesy of Cal Trans.

The proposed Heim Bridge replacement. Rendering courtesy of Cal Trans.

The massive Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement project—y’know, that pocket-change $1B, 1.5 mile roadway project that will sit perched above the Long Beach Harbor—has shadowed a smaller bridge project on Terminal Island: the Heim Bridge replacement project.

The Commodore Schuyler F. Heim Bridge, a vertical-lift bridge that opened in 1948, spans over the Cerritos Channel in the inner harbor and acts as a major arterial between West Long Beach and Terminal Island. It is used by both trucks entering and leaving the Port on the north side of the island—the only north-south access to the island—but also by the many Port workers who live on the west side in addition to the more well-known Vincent Thomas Bridge to the west and the Gerald Desmond Bridge to the east.

So why, oh why, are there not any pedestrian or biking elements on the new span, being built to the east of the currently dilapidated Heim Bridge?

Historically, the bridge, initially owned by the Navy and named after Commodore Schuyler F. Heim, the commanding officer of the Terminal Island Naval Base throughout World War II, began to show signs of settlement just three years after being built. This was largely due to the oil extraction occurring in Long Beach Harbor, prompting the city to pump water into depleted oil field beneath the harbor in hopes mitigating the settling.

“By the end of the decade, the shifting terrain beneath the bridge foundations had caused cracks in the reinforced concrete pillars beneath the bridge, requiring additional repairs,” said Judy Gish of Cal Trans. “Throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, bridge repairs continued for routine maintenance, as well as for damage caused by trucks and marine vessels.”

Come 1974, was bridge was handed to the City of Long Beach by the Navy.

In this sense, it is understandable as to why the original bridge lacked such elements: it wasn’t initially intended for public use. But repeated issues pointed towards the fact that these elements could have been considered. Read more…

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Long Beach: SoCal Biking Community Become Detectives (and Heroes)

Contrary to common myth, not all advocacy websites want to discuss the plight of humanity’s inability to catch up with itself, despite my last two Streetsblog stories serving as Example A and Example B of why that myth may have some validity.

Though the heroine of our tale, Cali Bike Tour’s fighting’-for-North-Long-Beach cyclist guru Elizabeth Williams, remains rightfully “violated and pissed,” there is a much more larger picture that momentarily distracts from the ugly part: the SoCal biking community protects their own.

Let’s start with that ugly part.

It was Veteran’s Day, this past November 11, when Elizabeth—the bubbly, self-identified Jesus Chick with the lollipop pedals—partook in the day we all wish we could say was our own everyday: she spent an hour on the Bluff doing free yoga (for those who are curious, click here), spent a few hours with fellow cyclist Nicole Vick to work on her League Cycling Instructor’s certification (one should always know how to handle road hazards), and even swooped by a newsstand so she could see her ad debut with the Port of Long Beach inside the local Press-Telegram paper (wow, Long Beach finally succeeded in having a person of color represented in pro-biking advertisements).

To say that bicycling isn’t Elizabeth’s life—both financially and spiritually—is the equivalent of calling Long Beach Orange County. It’s just… It’s just wrong.

And even more wrong—whether you want to refer to it as some cosmological alignment of bad fate or simple coincidence, it still remains wrong—is the fact that someone decided her bike was, well, theirs. Right off the back rack on her car outside a GameStop in the middle of the afternoon, someone (and I would venture to say this someone is about as worthy of a human as Michael Vick) jacked Elizabeth’s Trek 1600 within the 20 minutes she spent grabbing some household needs.

Anger was the main sentiment exuded by Elizabeth: after running through downtown, from the library to the Transit Mall, asking patrons sitting right outside, approaching a security officer, dealing with shoulder-shrugging police, and overall receiving a “Shit happens” attitude, Elizabeth went home crying.

“Some don’t understand that for a lotta people, their bike is their life,” Elizabeth said shortly after the incident. “This isn’t just my weekend fun—my bike is my business, my livelihood, and my passion. It’s a tool that I use to help others. And the fact that someone took something from me, something that I held dear… I felt so violated.”

Feeling like the police—even after meeting with the LBPD a few months ago to discuss how the police and bicyclists should build a stronger relationship—were less than helpful, Elizabeth took to her friends and social media.

Yell it and they will share.

Yell it and they will share.

And soon enough, Elizabeth saw “an awesome demonstration” of the biking community’s strength in sharing her fight to find her bike.

Read more…

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California Coastal Commission Urged to Ban Offshore Fracking in Scathing 29-Page Letter

Following an Associated Press article that was syndicated nationally by multiple outlets, the coast of California—particularly ——became the center of attention in regard to a controversial practice: fracking.

Fracking—also known as hydraulic fracturing, which essentially is done by pumping chemical-laced solutions into shale formations to stimulate oil extraction—and well stimulation—acidizing oil wells to stimulate them—has been particularly high in Long Beach and, unbeknownst to many (including State officials), it’s been going on for decades.

A list of seven chemicals used in fracking and their corresponding hazardous effects. Chart courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity.

A list of seven chemicals used in fracking and their corresponding hazardous effects. Chart courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity.

According to Kevin Tougas, Oil Operations Manager for the Long Beach Gas and Oil Department, acidizing began in the 1960s on the west side of Long Beach’s oil field while the first frack occurred in the early 1970s on the east side at what is now called THUMS Island (y’know: the Disneyland-designed “resort”).

Why?

“Simply because the Long Beach area is the locale for the third largest oil field in the nation,” Tougas said. “Relative to the amount of wells drilled per year, fracking represents less than 10% of our operation.”

Well, that’s fine and dandy—cool, only 10%. But there are severe implications, for both human and biological health, aren’t there?

“The City has always made protecting the environment the top priority [though the City did not take a position in regard to SB4, which sough to regulate tracking and well stimulation more deeply],” Tougas said. “All fracking in the Long Beach area has been completed in full compliance with all state and federal regulations and there has not been any known instances of harming the fresh water zones, humans or marine life.”

Tougas also noted that the City of Long Beach’s contractor, Oxy, participates voluntarily in FracFocus to report detailed information about fluids and chemicals that are used in a particular treatment.

That stance—”no known instances of harm”—has been at the center of the offshore fracking controversy, leaving environmental scientists and oil companies battling over whether, oh, y’know, shooting a whole buncha chemicals into places like the Santa Barbara Channel—the site of the 3M gallon crude spill back in 1969—is perfectly fine for the environment when it happens to be done offshore (because the practice has largely been regulated or flat-out banned on land because of the harmful effects it produces).

Enter the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the organization that just sent last week a scathing 29-page letter/report to the California Coastal Commission (CCC) calling for the immediate halting of all fracking practices along California’s coast. Read more…

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Long Beach: There’s Nothing More Toxic than Nihilism

Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

A handful of folk—some environmental experts, some local health advocates, some urban designers, some regular ol’ citizens—stood in the Century Villages at Cabrillo, a small neighborhood lining the Terminal Island Freeway. They were directly across from where BNSF Rail wants to build their massive Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) rail yard and just south of Hudson Elementary. As people chatted, a small, heavy contraption was passed around, a number on its facade that was continually bouncing between 23,000 and 35,000.

The P-TRAK was measuring ultrafine particulate matter (PM), the minuscule particles that is given off from the exhaust pipes of cars and trucks or carried by the winds from the pollution given off by port complexes, auto body shops, power plants, or factories or, or, or… The common range we want to aim for in order to prevent respiratory problems? Somewhere in the range of 3,000 particles per square centimeter.

The Terminal Island Freeway, across from Century Villages and Hudson Elementary Schoo. Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

The Terminal Island Freeway, across from Century Villages and Hudson Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Brian Ulaszewski.

When handed to me, I stared down at the number as a diesel truck roared by some 40 feet away: 33,800. Perhaps it was an unconscious reaction, but I coughed—and continued to do so. Walking over to a patch of foliage, the number then dropped again: 12,400.

It is one thing to know, through general environmental science knowledge, the effects of pollution, of the way in which the goods movement industry contributes creates incompatible land sources—that is, polluting to such an extent that the radius surrounding is unable to escape the pollution. This is one thing. Even with backing, the knowledge itself remains abstract and very “up here.” But when you stare at a quantifiable measure of just what is precisely happening every second in real time—and the fact that you’re breathing in tens of thousands of PM with every inhalation—I find it hard-pressed to not become overwhelmed.

While I am tempted to make a joke about my fellow gay guys jumping on a bus while playing Britney Spears and traipsing around the Long Beach, the Toxic Tour last week of Long Beach was anything but glittery. After all, California is home to more than half of the nation’s dirtiest cities—and Long Beach and Los Angeles are two of the worst, largely thanks to the fact that the two cities’ port entries are responsible for taking in more than half of the nation’s goods. Read more…

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What’s Next? A Re-Boot of Long Beachize

LBI

For just over a year, the Southern California Streets Initiative, the co-publisher of Streetsblog Los Angeles and publisher of Santa Monica Next, has teased that a “Streetsblog Long Beach” is just around the corner. After forming a local advisory Board, and publishing news/opinion pieces by the Long Beach Post‘s Brian Addison, we’re proud to make a little different announcement.

During the week of December 2, we are going to re-launch Long Beachize. The popular website for news and culture for Long Beach’s bike culture, which last published in March of 2012, will get a new editor, a somewhat new look (we’re not crazy enough to change too much the excellent branding of the website), and a broader range of topics. In addition to cycling, Long Beachize will cover Long Beach Transit, transportation issues around the port, open space, highway expansion and removal, public health, the unique culture of Long Beach communities and more.

“Long Beach is home to one of Southern California’s most vibrant biking and pedestrian-oriented communities. Tack onto this the fact that it harbors one of the nation’s largest ports, an increasingly active urban design culture, and a triad educational structure that is inherently connected to the employment and creative sphere, it becomes clear that the discussion of the implications of these structures in a city as large as Long Beach becomes essential,” writes Addison, the future editor of Long Beachize.

“I truly believe Long Beach doesn’t just need but deserves a media outlet that is solely dedicated to the subject of its health and well-being.”

In addition to Addison and myself, we’ve recruited a powerful team for our Long Beach Board of Advisors who have helped guide us and will contribute to Long Beachize in a variety of ways. This team includes former professional cyclist and president of Cruz Industries Antonio Cruz, Long Beach travel writer and photographer Kayte Deioma, Peace Builders founder and Millworks managing director Michelle Molina, program and design coordinator for City Fabrick and original co-editor of Long Beachize Baktaash Sorkhabi and executive director of City Fabrick Brian Ulaszewski.

Sorkhabi first pitched the idea of re-launching Long Beachize. Read more…