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Posts from the "Long Beach" Category

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The Debate Over CA’s Cap-and-Trade Funds Is Not Over

From left to right: California Mayors Robert Garcia (Long Beach), Chuck Reed (San Jose), Jean Quan (Oakland), Miguel Pulido (Santa Ana), and Ed Lee (San Francisco) at a press conference in Sacramento, yesterday. Photo: Melanie Curry

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti led a group of California mayors on a trip to Sacramento to push for legislation on a number of issues that impact cities before the final, frantic weeks of August that mark the end of the legislative session. On their agenda was getting assurance that cap-and-trade funds would be available to help cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.

While the fate of cap-and-trade funds has been decided for this budget year, the mayors said they want to be certain that the program operates as intended and that funds are allocated fairly to urban areas down the line. With hundreds of millions in cap-and-trade funds generated this year, and tens of billions in the years to come, it is hard to blame them.

Garcetti said cap-and-trade funds should support new construction as well as operations of existing mass transit and affordable housing in California’s cities, “and not just in the coastal, wealthy areas of the state.” Of the $850 million in cap-and-trade funds allocated in this year’s budget, only $50 million go towards transit, including capital improvements, intercity rail, and operations.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said 10,000 potential residents could be housed along transit corridors in Oakland, adding that investment in transit and affordable transit-oriented development could address issues of wage equality and diversity.

The current state budget allocates $130 million from cap-and-trade funds to a new program, Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC), aimed at concentrating affordable housing in transit-rich areas to encourage new residents to make more trips by transit rather than driving. Read more…

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RFP Goes Out for Terminal Island Freeway Removal Project; Marks SoCal’s First Freeway Removal Project

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Will the Terminal Island Freeway be Southern California’s first freeway removal?

It’s been named one of the top “Freeways Without Futures” in the nation and described as a “perfect example of obsolete infrastructure.” Its removal has been fought for by City Fabrick founder Brian Ulaszewski since 2010, long before the existence of Fabrick itself. It has been a blight on a neighborhood that sees some of the least amount of park space in the entire city.

Now, nearly half a decade later, the project to remove a large portion of the Terminal Island (TI) Freeway in West Long Beach has officially gone out to bid in an RFP with an estimated bid value of $225K. It marks a major event in Southern California’s urban design history, being the first freeway removal project that mirrors existing projects such as the removal of both of San Francisco’s Embarcadero Freeway and Central Freeway.

The project is simple: the existing northern length of the freeway, following the development of the 20-mile long Alameda Corridor and the still-underway modernization of the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility (ICTF) by Union Pacific Railroad, is redundant. Not only do shipping companies use it less and less, the traffic itself matches those of 4th Street along Retro Row (some 13,700 AADT). And if plans for ICTF follow through, you can drop that down to 8,700 AADT–less than the traffic 3rd Street receives in the quiet neighborhood of Alamitos Beach.

According to the bid, the “TI Freeway Transition Plan will define the community’s vision for replacing an underutilized freeway to mitigate pollution impacts to address long-standing community health concern” while giving “qualified candidates the opportunity to produce a plan for one of the most heavily impacted communities in Southern California.”

They are not exaggerating when calling West Long Beach “heavily impacted”: west side residents have a paltry acre per 1,000 residents or what amounts to about a soccer field. This is far below the National Recreation and Parks Association’s standards for a Healthy City, set at a minimum of 10 acres of parks for every 1,000 of its residents. In fact, it’s legally deemed “park poor,” particularly compared to the East Side, a portion of Long Beach that averages a staggering 16.7 acres/1,000 residents thanks to the massive 650 acre El Dorado Park.

With overwhelming evidence that suggests accessibility to green space not just encourages physical activity but actually contributes to the overall health of a community (lower rates of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, on and on), this project is both reasonable and ethical in its development given that it will increase park space on the West Side by some 50% with the addition of 20 to 30 acres of park space. This is not to mention the elimination of many trucks passing by west side schools, specifically Cabrillo High, Reid High, and particularly Hudson Elementary, which sits toe-to-toe with TI’s edge.  Read more…

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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…