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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

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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…

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Long Beach: Garcia Follows Garcetti in Restoring LA River

A rendering of the RiverLink project. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach

A rendering of the RiverLink project. Photo courtesy of the City of Long Beach

Back in April, former director of Long Beach Park, Recreation & Marine Phil Hester sat in front of a bunch of urbanerds and bicyclists, pedestrian-oriented folks and designers, and discussed an idea that is both brilliant and needed on a community level: the 2002 RiverLinks projects. RiverLinks would vastly use the underused L.A. River by connecting the west sides of Districts 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9 to the river via biking/ped/green utopia.

Of course, as with many projects in Long Beach, there was a lot of talk but little action and the bold project soon became—like the I.M. Pei museum, like the Art Exchange, like, like, like…—a document and little else. After all, Hester was in April, unquestionably, preachin’ to the choir.

(The 2002 River Link Report is available off our Scribd Account.)

However, Councilmember and mayoral hopeful Robert Garcia wants to reinvigorate and update the 11-year-old RiverLinks project by not only including some of his own bold proposals (remember his enthusiastic idea to adaptively re-use the Shoemaker Bridge?) but also largely mimicking Mayor Eric Garcetti’s own reclaiming of the River by calling on Long Beach to partner up with Los Angeles.

Garcetti, no more than two weeks ago sought some $1 billion from the feds for River revitalization in a trip to Washington, D.C. The $1 billion is in addition to the roughly $200 million set aside to restore a massive section of the northern part of the LA river to make way for kayakers, hikers, bird-watchers, cyclists, and all those other strange creatures who actually enjoy a little nature in their urban landscape. Garcetti even scored 15 minutes with Obama—not that it will help much given the House’s perpetual cutting of federal spending along with the Army Corps massive list of awaiting-funding-projects (which total $60B—pocketchange, obviously).

According to Garcia’s logic, the fact that Long Beach is home to the river furthest down its stream makes the stakes greatest for the city. And the proposal to update the RiverLinks project and put focus on the river was met with a resounding yes from the council, as the resolution—co-sponsored by Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal and Al Austin—was unanimously approved yesterday. Read more…

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Despite Calls for Boycott, Los Angeles and Long Beach to Continue Relationship with Troubled BYD

Protestors outside BYD's office off Figueroa.

Protestors outside BYD's office off Figueroa.

Several labor and social justice organizations—thirteen to be exact—called on the three public agencies engaged with bus manufacturer BYD Motors to boycott their engagement while protesting in front of BYD’s office in Downtown LA. However, despite all the shouting, chanting, and finger-pointing, all three agencies—LA Metro, Long Beach Transit (LBT), and the City of Los Angeles—are not making any moves that indicate they will abandon the troubled bus manufacturer.

BYD faces multiple issues since garnering two of the nation’s largest electric bus contracts—one with Metro and the other with LBT—including the recent admission at a LBT board meeting that seven of the nine subassemblies for the new fleet were not approved for use. This came just two weeks after welding issues were discovered in the frames and bracket installation and just two months after cracks were discovered near the rear of the BYD bus undergoing Altoona testing. They were also provided $1.2M by the City of Los Angeles to help build their offices off of Figueroa, where the protest was held.

Most recently, 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.

“They have been cited by the State of California so extensively that we know [these labor violations are] actually happening,” said Madeline Janis, National Policy Director of Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE). “We call on these three public agencies [LBT, LA Metro, and the City of Los Angeles] to sever or at least reconsider their ties.”

However, these groups are going to have to do more than protest, as LA Metro was quite succinct in their response:

“We are continuing with the Board-approved zero-emission bus program,” said Dave Sotero of Metro. Read more…

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Long Beach: Re-Imagining East 7th Street

Design by Mario Cipresso/Studio Shift

Design by Mario Cipresso/Studio Shift

There’s something to say about collaboration in any sense of the term, be it social or political, design or communal. And the East 7th Street Collaboration–a congregation of the neighborhoods of Rose Park, Craftsman Village, and North Alamitos Beach–has opted to override the City in favor of getting their vision done themselves.

This is not an easy feat since their main focus is the massive arterial that is 7th Street. And while the group knows they can’t simply put up the buildings they want to see or immediately create the streets they want to create, they do know that by asking others what they want to see is the first step towards realizing a better 7th Street that is more efficiently connected to Downtown.

So they asked architects to stroll along East 7th, selecting one of 50 buildings, and showcasing how precisely they envision 7th Street.

The results were not only varied–ranging from contemporary to Classical French–but reflected the diversity of culture that inhabits Long Beach. Even more fascinating are the amount of entries from varied places: Santa Monica, Santa Maria, Fullerton, Fremont…

The winning design from Mario Cipresso of Studio Shift comes from a previous concept the architect submitted for the Anning River Aquatic Recreation Resort in Miyi, China back in 2009. Cipresso (literally) transplanted the massive building he proposed for Miyi–over 400 meters in length–and shrunk it down to size for 2700 E. 7th, making his East 7th Community Center both dramatic in flair and natural in its composition.

The design, a geometric, straight-edge silhouette that mixes metal, wood, and glass, echoes not just Cipresso’s style (his Tran Residence in Los Angeles comes to mind) but also harbors a similarity to the new courthouse downtown on a smaller scale with more natural hues. His design also happened to win him both top awards in the competition. Read more…