Caltrans y Metro Organizarán una Quinta Audiencia Pública Sobre Estudio Ambiental de la SR-710 Norte

May 21, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Para promover la participación del público y responder a las requisiciones de las partes interesadas que representan a la comunidad del Este de Los Ángeles, Caltrans ha acordado llevar a cabo otra audiencia pública para el Borrador del Reporte/Declaración Ambiental de la Ruta Estatal 710 Norte (EIR/EIS).

La quinta audiencia pública se llevará a cabo el sábado 20 de junio de 2015 en el plantel de la Escuela Intermedia David Wark Griffith ubicada en 4765 East Fourth Street, 90022.

El mapa se podrá ver de 10 a 11am y la audiencia pública será de las 11am a las 4pm. Esto concluirá una serie de cinco audiencias públicas para solicitar comentarios sobre el EIR/EIS antes de que se cierre el periodo el 6 de julio de 2015.

Caltrans y Metro están bajo el mandato de dos millones de votantes del condado de Los Ángeles que aprobaron la Medida R en 2008 para estudiar una región de 100 millas cuadradas afectadas por la congestión causada por la infraestructura incompleta de transporte entre el final de la autopista I-710 en El Sereno y la I-210 en Pasadena.

El Borrador EIR/EIS propone cinco alternativas para la brecha de 4.5 millas que separa a las dos autopistas: la opción de no construir, un sistema de manejo de tráfico, una línea de autobús rápido, un tren ligero entre el Este de LA y Pasadena y un túnel que extendería la SR-710.

Todavía no se ha tomado una decisión.

Se exhorta al público a que asista y lea el documento en: http://goo.gl/84KSgF 

El documento completo se puede ver por cita en las oficinas distritales de Caltrans en 100 South Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 y en la biblioteca de Metro, 1 Gateway Plaza, Los Ángeles, Calif. 90012. También hay copias en las bibliotecas listadas aquí:  http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/

Developers Told to Adjust ‘Affordable’ Rent Criteria

May 18, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

New “affordable” housing planned for Boyle Heights will be too expensive for the eastside neighborhood’s low-income residents, affordable housing developers were told last week during the first of several community meetings planned to discuss projects being built on Metro-owned land.

Approximately 120 people attended the meeting at Casa del Mexicano, a long time community center now under the management of nonprofit neighborhood asset builder and housing developer East Los Angeles Community Corporation, (ELACC), which together with Abode Communities, another nonprofit developer, coordinated the “Affordable Housing 101” workshop on May 7.

Lea este artículo en Español: Residentes de Boyle Heights Cuestionan Nuevos Proyectos de Vivienda Asequible

The plan was to explain in easy to understand terms why more affordable housing is needed and what it takes —from political will to sufficient revenue — to get it built. The developers hoped their Power Point presentation — loaded with data on the current affordable and market-rate housing pool, wages, and rents — and the hands-on activities they’d planned would adequately explain their costs and the formula they used to set income eligibility requirements, but that turned out not to be the case.

One affordable housing project in Boyle Heights is located on the corner of First and Soto Street. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

One affordable housing project in Boyle Heights is located on the corner of First and Soto Street. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Instead, for nearly two hours, ELACC and Abode fielded questions and comments challenging their interpretation of “affordable,” and the data they used to get there.

“Your numbers are going way up and we are way below” the low-income numbers you are using, shouted one resident in response to the eligibility income levels included in the developers’ presentation.

Located just east of downtown Los Angeles, Boyle Heights is over 94% Latino, very dense with little vacant space, which makes developments on Metro’s four vacant lots targets for closer scrutiny.

The lots are located at 1st Street and Soto; Cesar Chavez and Soto; 1st Street and Boyle and 1st Street and Lorena.

The “Boyle Heights Median Family Income is $35, 343,” compared to the $81,000 Area Median Income for all of Los Angeles County, according to the neighborhood advocacy group Union de Vecinos, which states “two-thirds of the proposed housing to be built on vacant MTA lots will be unaffordable to Boyle Heights residents.”

The group says ELACC and Abode are using the Area Median Income for the County when they should be using Boyle Height’s lower median income to calculate eligibility.

According to ELACC, a family of four with an Area Median Income (AMI) of $24,900 or less would pay $560 for a two-bedroom apartment, while families making up to $33,200 would pay $747 for the same apartment.

Most financial planners recommend against spending more than 25% of your income on housing, a difficult task in today’s extremely tight housing market. According to the developers’ presentation, 61% of renters in Boyle Heights spend more than 30% of their income on rent, while 34% pay more than 50% of income on rent.

“I earn $1,150 per month with three members in my family and I pay $740 for rent,” said Salvador, a resident of Boyle Heights. “I have to go to churches to ask for food,” he said, telling the developers they should base rental rates on what a person living below the poverty level actually earns.

In the 6.2 square-mile area of Boyle Heights, about 18% of people live in “severely” overcrowded households, according to the American Community Survey 2009-2013.

Of the rental units available in Boyle Heights, 8% (1,311) are affordable, the rest, 92% (15,054) are market rate units, according to ELACC.

ELACC President Isela Gracian tried to reassure the audience that they are not working against the low-income community, but are on their side trying to build more affordable housing. She emphasized, however, that one project is not going to solve the affordable housing crisis, citing as an example of the great need ELACC’s experience with the 53-unit Sol y Luna complex that recently opened in Boyle Heights. She said they received over 2,000 applications for the 53 available units.

Not all the applicants were from Boyle Heights, she said, explaining that federal law prohibits discriminatory advertising in housing, so people from everywhere were eligible to apply. About 50% of the current residents at Sol y Luna are from Boyle Heights, she said.

Ana Hernandez said Boyle Heights residents like her worry that “developers will not build enough” housing to meet the huge need.

Union de Vecinos member Elizabeth Blaney told EGP they are concerned that the stated eligibility income levels “don’t really match” the real median income in Boyle Heights, which is below $25,000.

She said gentrification is adding to the problem. “Families are being displaced due to the high rent and locals have to go somewhere else because they cannot afford the market rate rent,” Blaney said, adding that the proportion of affordable units to market rate units is much too low. The group wants Metro to tell its developers to build more units for families making less than $25,000 a year. Otherwise, the proposed projects will continue to displace low-income tenants and not meet the needs of the community, she said.

According to Gracian, they use the AMI guidelines set by the Federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), which are updated each year. “The minimums [income levels] are not set because those are linked to the actual rents for the apartments. An individual could qualify for a unit that is at the 30% AMI with income as low as $15,000 a year, the $17,130 is a maximum,” she explained.

Although there were many heated comments made at the meeting, Gracian said they did not feel they were being attacked because they understand the serious housing problems low-income families face. “They underscore the urgency and need for affordable housing, we need more residents to advocate for this,” she said.

 

More meetings are scheduled, for the complete list, www.elacc.org.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

Residentes de Boyle Heights Cuestionan Nuevos Proyectos de Viviendas Económicas

May 18, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Las nuevas viviendas “asequibles” planeadas en Boyle Heights serán muy costosas para los residentes de bajos ingresos, dijeron asistentes a desarrolladores de viviendas asequibles la semana pasada durante la primera de varias reuniones comunitarias planeadas para discutir proyectos que se construirán en terrenos de propiedad de Metro.

Aproximadamente 120 personas asistieron a la reunión en Casa del Mexicano, un centro comunitario de hace mucho tiempo que ahora esta bajo la dirección de la constructora sin fines de lucro y desarrolladora de vivienda East Los Ángeles Community Corporation, (ELACC), que junto con Abode Communities, otro desarrollador de bienes raices, coordinaron el taller “Vivienda Asequible 101” el 7 de mayo.

Read this article in English: Developers Told to Adjust ‘Affordable’ Rent Criteria

El plan era explicar en términos fáciles por qué es necesaria más vivienda asequible y lo que se necesita –desde voluntad política hasta ingresos suficientes— para lograr la construcción.

Los agentes inmobiliarios esperaban que su presentación en Power Point –cargada con datos sobre el mercado de la vivienda actual y asequible, ganancias y rentas—y con actividades que habían planeado, explicarían adecuadamente sus costos y la formula que utilizaron para establecer los requisitos de elegibilidad de ingresos, pero ese no fue el caso.

En su lugar, por casi dos horas, ELACC y Abode fueron cuestionados una y otra vez retándolos a que interpretaran el significado de “asequible” y los datos que usaron para llegar ahí.

“Sus números van muy arriba y nosotros estamos muy abajo” de los bajos ingresos que utilizan, dijo en voz alta un residente en respuesta a los niveles de ingresos de elegibilidad incluidos en la presentación de los desarrolladores.

Situado justo al este del centro de Los Ángeles, Boyle Heights es más del 94% latino, extremadamente denso con muy poco espacio disponible, lo cual hace que los complejos habitacionales en cuatro de los lotes baldíos de Metro sean examinados detenidamente.

Los lotes se encuentran en la calle Primera y Soto; César Chávez y Soto; Primera y Boyle y Primera y Lorena.

Residentes de bajos ingresos mostraron preocupación ante los nuevos proyectos de vivienda asequible, puesto que los consideran 'muy caros'. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

Residentes de bajos ingresos mostraron preocupación ante los nuevos proyectos de vivienda asequible, puesto que los consideran ‘muy caros’. (EGP foto por Jacqueline García)

El “Ingreso Medio Familiar en Boyle Heights es de $35,343”, en comparación con el Área de Ingreso Medio de $81,000 para el condado de Los Ángeles, según el grupo de defensa de barrio Unión de Vecinos, que establece que “dos terceras partes de la vivienda propuesta que se construirán en los lotes baldíos del MTA serán inasequibles para los residentes de Boyle Heights”.

El grupo dice que ELACC y Abode están utilizando el Área de Ingreso Medio (AMI) para el Condado cuando deberían estar usando la renta mediana más baja de Boyle Heights para calcular la elegibilidad.

Según ELACC, una familia de cuatro con un AMI de $24,900 o menos pagaría $560 por un apartamento de dos recamaras, mientras que las familias que ganan hasta $33,200 pagarían $747 por el mismo apartamento.

La mayoría de planificadores financieros recomiendan no gastar más del 25% del ingreso en vivienda, un objetivo difícil de lograr hoy en día con el mercado tan apretado de vivienda. De acuerdo con la presentación de los desarrolladores, el 61% de los inquilinos en Boyle Heights gastan más del 30% de sus ingresos en el alquiler, mientras que el 34% paga más del 50% de sus ingresos en el alquiler.

“Yo gano $1,150 por mes, con tres miembros en mi familia y tengo que pagar $740 de renta”, dijo Salvador, residente de Boyle Heights. “No me alcanza. Tengo que ir a las iglesias para pedir comida”, dijo, pidiendo a los desarrolladores que basen las tarifas de alquiler en lo que una persona que vive por debajo del nivel de pobreza en realidad gana.

En las 6.2 millas cuadradas de Boyle Heights, cerca del 18% de las personas viven en hogares “severamente” llenos, según la Encuesta de la Comunidad Americana 2009-2013.

De las unidades de alquiler disponibles en Boyle Heights, el 8% (1.311) son asequibles, el resto, el 92% (15.054) son unidades a precio de mercado, de acuerdo con ELACC.

La presidenta de ELACC Isela Gracian trató de asegurar a la audiencia que no están trabajando en contra de la comunidad de bajos ingresos, pero están de su lado tratando de construir más viviendas asequibles. Destacó, sin embargo, que un proyecto no va a resolver la crisis de la vivienda asequible, citando como ejemplo la experiencia que ELACC tuvo con el complejo habitacional Sol y Luna que recientemente abrió sus puertas en Boyle Heights. Ella dijo que recibieron más de 2,000 solicitudes para las 53 unidades disponibles.

No todos los solicitantes eran de Boyle Heights, dijo, explicando que la ley federal prohíbe la publicidad discriminatoria en materia de vivienda, por lo que la gente de todas partes son elegibles para solicitar. Alrededor del 50% de los residentes actuales en Sol y Luna son de Boyle Heights, agregó.

Ana Hernández dijo que los residentes de Boyle Heights como ella se preocupan de que “los desarrolladores no van a construir suficientes” viviendas para satisfacer la enorme necesidad.

La miembro de la Unión de Vecinos Elizabeth Blaney le dijo a EGP que ellos están preocupados que los niveles de ingreso de elegibilidad “en realidad no concuerdan” con el AMI en Boyle Heights, el cual es menos de $25,000.

Ella dijo que la ‘gentrificación’ se está añadiendo al problema. “Las familias están siendo desplazadas debido a la alta renta y los residentes locales se tienen que ir a otro lugar porque no pueden pagar el alquiler  de la tasa de mercado”, dijo Blaney, quien agregó que la proporción de unidades asequibles a las unidades a precio de mercado es demasiado baja.

El grupo quiere que Metro diga a sus desarrolladores que construyan más unidades para las familias que ganan menos de $25,000 al año. De lo contrario, los proyectos propuestos continuarán desplazando inquilinos de bajos ingresos y no cumplirán con las necesidades de la comunidad, dijo.

Según Gracian, ellos utilizan las directrices de AMI establecidas por El Departamento Federal de Vivienda y Desarrollo Urbano (HUD), que se actualizan cada año. “Los [niveles de ingresos] mínimos no se establecen porque esos están vinculados a las rentas actuales de los apartamentos. Un individuo podría calificar para una unidad que está en el 30% de AMI con ingresos tan bajos como $15,000 al año, el $17.130 es el máximo”, explicó.

Aunque hubo muchos comentarios acalorados formulados en la reunión, Gracian dijo que no se sintieron atacados porque entienden los graves problemas de vivienda que las familias de bajos ingresos enfrentan. “Ellos subrayan la urgencia y la necesidad de vivienda asequible, necesitamos más residentes que aboguen por esto”, dijo.

 

Más reuniones están programadas en los próximos seis meses. Para la lista completa, visite www.elacc.org.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

 

Metro Urges Public to Report Harassment

April 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Responding to a survey that found that nearly one-fourth of riders were victims of unwanted sexual behavior on buses and trains, Metro introduced a public-information campaign Thursday aimed at combating such harassment.

The “It’s Off Limits” campaign will encourage victims and witnesses to report sexual harassment to sheriff’s officials using a hotline or a smartphone app.

Several Metro board members — including county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl — took part in a news conference at Union Station to unveil the campaign, which will include advertisements on buses and trains and on transit video monitors. The ads encourage people to report sexual harassment to the sheriff’s (888) 950-SAFE (7233) hotline or by using the LA Metro Transit Watch safety app, which includes a feature that allows the user to snap a photo of a perpetrator.

“With a description of the suspect and the time and place of the assault, sheriff’s investigators have a better opportunity to make an arrest of a sexual criminal,” according to sheriff’s Transit Policing Division Chief Ronine Anda.

A ridership survey of 22,604 riders conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and released in February found that 22 percent had been victims of unwanted sexual behavior, including touching, exposure or inappropriate comments in the previous six months.

Metro officials noted that its customer relations office and Sheriff’s Department received just 99 complaints in 2014. Of the complaints, 62 were for unwanted touching and 31 people reported indecent exposure. The complaints resulted in 20 arrests.

“The rate of reporting is woefully low and indicates that transit customers do not have faith that such behavior can be addressed,” Kuehl said.

SR-710 Tren Ligero Podría Ser una Carga Para el Este de Los Ángeles

April 16, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

Los residentes del Este de Los Ángeles temen verse obligados una vez más a lidiar con la peor parte en el esfuerzo por mejorar el tráfico de la región.

Ellos recuerdan muy bien la interrupción causada a los negocios y residentes cuando se extendió la Línea Dorada de Metro en sus vecindarios.

El sábado expresaron esas preocupaciones durante una audiencia pública en el Colegio del Este de Los Ángeles organizado por Metro y Caltrans para obtener información sobre el estudio de la Ruta Estatal 710.

Si bien la mayoría de las personas que hablaron en la audiencia parecían apoyar la opción de la autopista en un túnel, varios residentes del Este dijeron estar preocupados por el apoyo que otras ciudades le están dando al tren ligero y que pasaría a través de su vecindario.

Read this article in English: SR-710 Light Rail Would Burden East Los Angeles

Las comunidades más vocales a lo largo de la ruta están recibiendo toda la atención, se quejaron.

En marzo, Metro y Caltrans revelaron el primer borrador del informe de impacto/declaración de impacto ambiental (DIR/DEIS) con las cinco alternativas propuestas que varían en costo y cerrarían la brecha. Las opciones incluyen un sistema de gestión del tráfico, una línea de autobús rápido, un tren ligero, una autopista en un túnel y la opción requerida “no construir”.

Alrededor de 100 personas de Pasadena, Sur Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, El Sereno y el Este de Los Ángeles llegaron a la reunión.

Muchos oradores apoyaron la opción de construir una autopista en un túnel con 2 vías de 6.3 millas de distancia del Bulevar Valley en Alhambra a la conexión con las autopistas 210/134 en Pasadena.

La doble alineación tendría cuatro carriles en cada lado y durante 4.2 millas sería un túnel completamente cerrado. Los vehículos que transporten materiales inflamables o peligrosos estarían prohibidos en el túnel.

Varios residentes del Este afirmaron que “se quedaron fuera de la conversación”, en referencia a la decisión de incluir la alternativa del tren ligero (LRT por sus siglas en inglés). Señalaron que algunos de los negocios afectados por la construcción de la extensión de la Línea Dorada al Este en 2009 nunca se recuperaron.

Un tren ligero destruirá “uno de los corredores más bonitos” y el Centro Cívico del Este de Los Ángeles en las Calles Tercera y Mednik, se quejaron.

“No necesitamos el tren ligero”, Martha Hernández le dijo a Metro. “Podemos [actualmente] llegar a Pasadena en la Línea Dorada”, dijo, y agregó que los residentes del lado Este ya pueden llegar a Cal State LA tomando Línea Plateada de Metro. También hay servicio de transporte expreso de ELAC a Cal State LA.

Expertos de Metro y Caltrans explicaron a los interesados las alternativas del proyecto SR-710 el sábado en ELAC. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Expertos de Metro y Caltrans explicaron a los interesados las alternativas del proyecto SR-710 el sábado en ELAC. (EGP foto por Nancy Martínez)

Liz Sánchez vive a una cuadra de la Calle Mednik, donde una estación podría construirse si se elige la opción del tren ligero. Ella le dijo a EGP que el tren se sumaría a los problemas de estacionamiento en su vecindario, porque no hay ningún plan para proporcionar estacionamiento público.

“Soy discapacitada y en la actualidad me es difícil encontrar estacionamiento… no quiero ser egoísta, pero esto no es una buena opción”, se quejó.

Clara Solís pidió a Metro y a Caltrans expliquen por qué los residentes del Este de LA deben llevar la carga de los problemas de transporte de otras ciudades. “Quince de nuestros preciados negocios que están a poca distancia de las residencias serán eliminados”, dijo.

Yolanda Duarte, presidenta de asesoramiento del Centro Comunitario Maravilla, dijo que ella invitó a portavoces del proyecto Metro 710 para proveer información adicional sobre el proyecto a la comunidad y a los negocios.

“En dos ocasiones se preguntó si se tomarían negocios o residencias, la respuesta [por Metro] fue no. [Ahora] el estudio EIR afirma que 15 negocios serían impactados” para dar cabida a las estaciones de tren, dijo frustrada. Los negocios están en Mednik, al sur de la I-60/en la calle Tercera: Una casa y un negocio en el Este de Cesar Chávez también podrían tomarse.

Antes de comenzar la audiencia pública, la gente pudo revisar los mapas y otros materiales visuales pertenecientes a las cinco alternativas y hacer preguntas a ingenieros de Metro y Caltrans.

Expertos de Metro explicaron que si se elige el tren ligero, viajaría por 7.5 millas, divididas en 3 millas de vía aérea y 4.5 millas de túnel subterráneo, el cual se construiriía alrededor de seis pisos bajo tierra.

La línea del tren se extendería desde el sur del Bulevar Valley, con la primera estación aérea en la Avenida Mednik adyacente a la estación del Centro Cívico Este de Los Ángeles, y dos estaciones áereas adicionales en Floral Drive y Cal State LA. Luego seguiría en el túnel subterráneo con estaciones en Alhambra, Huntington Drive, Sur Pasadena y terminando en la estación de Fillmore en Pasadena donde conectaría con la Línea Dorada.

Muchos residentes del Este han resentido que Metro optó por construir la Línea Dorada sobre el suelo, pero adoptó opciones de metro subterráneo más costosas para otras comunidades.

Varias personas dijeron que el lado Este vuelve a tomar el lado corto de la vara, quejándose de que la línea ferroviaria propuesta correría por encima del suelo a través del Este de Los Ángeles, pero luego pasaría a la clandestinidad a través de las comunidades más afluyentes al norte de Cal State LA.

“¿Por qué no tenemos un túnel?” como lo hacen en Pasadena, un orador exigió saber.

“Quiten este proyecto, ni siquiera lo consideren”, dijo Gilbert Hernández.

Cómo llenar el espacio 4.5 millas entre la Autopista (210) Foothill de Pasadena y el final de la Autopista (710) Long Beach en Alhambra es un debate que se ha prolongado durante más de seis décadas. Si finalmente se selecciona una ruta, una fuente de ingresos para cubrir los cientos de millones, quizás billones de dólares necesarios para construirlo todavía tendrían que ser encontrados. El proyecto podría tomar de tres a cinco años para completar si se elige la ruta del tren ligero.

La Supervisora del Primer Distrito Hilda Solís representa el Este de Los Ángeles y otras áreas impactadas por la SR-710. Ella le dijo a EGP vía email que es imprescindible reducir la congestión, mejorar la calidad del aire y mejorar la movilidad de todos los habitantes, sin embargo, ella no ve todavía “ninguna opción como una elección natural” debido a los muchos pros y contras.

“Por ejemplo, la alternativa del tren ligero amenaza el mayor número de negocios y hogares, mientras que los túneles podrían convertirse en un pozo de dinero sin fondo. Una combinación de alternativas puede llegar a ser la manera de obtener el máximo rendimiento de nuestro dinero”, afirmó, y agregó que su equipo está estudiando las diferentes opciones, y creará reuniones comunitarias, además de los previstos en metro.

“Las comunidades que represento merecen una solución que mejore absolutamente su calidad de vida y el medio ambiente…al mismo tiempo que mejora la movilidad y el uso del transporte para fomentar el crecimiento económico”, dijo.

 

Metro y Caltrans han programado otras dos audiencias públicas:

-Miércoles, 6 de mayo en el auditorio de preparatoria La Cañada, con un mapa de visualización 5-6pm y audiencia pública a las 6pm

-Jueves, 7 de mayo en la Iglesia Presbiteriana cristiana de Los Ángeles, visualización de mapas 5-6pm y audiencia pública a las 6pm

El estudio completo está disponible en: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis

El documento completo se puede ver en la Oficina de Caltrans District, 100 S. Main St., Los Ángeles, CA 90012. También hay copias disponibles en las bibliotecas públicas enumeradas aquí: http://www.metro.net/projects/sr- 710-conversations

Se aceptarán comentarios hasta el 6 de julio.

 —-
Twitter @jackieguzman
jgarcia@egpnews.com

Residents Worried SR-710 Light Rail Would Burden East LA

April 16, 2015 by · 7 Comments 

East Los Angeles residents fear they will once again be forced to bare the brunt of efforts to relieve traffic in the region.

They remember all too well the disruption to businesses and residents extending the Gold Line east caused in their neighborhood.

Lea este artículo en Español: SR-710 Tren Ligero Podría Ser una Carga Para el Este de Los Ángeles

Those concerns were expressed Saturday during a public hearing at East Los Angeles College hosted by Metro and Caltrans to get feedback on the State Route 710 Study.

While a majority of people who spoke at the hearing appeared to support a freeway tunnel option, several eastside residents said support in other cities for a light rail train through their neighborhood has them worried.

A map viewing at East Los Angeles College Saturday allowed residents who live along the proposed SR-710 Freeway project to view the impact on their communities.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A map viewing at East Los Angeles College Saturday allowed residents who live along the proposed SR-710 Freeway project to view the impact on their communities. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

More vocal communities along the route are getting all the attention, they complained.

In March, Metro and Caltrans released a Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS), which outlined five alternatives for closing the gap between the 710 and 210 freeways. The options include a traffic management system, a rapid bus line, a light rail, a freeway tunnel and the required “no build” option.

About 100 people from Pasadena, South Pasadena, Alhambra, Monterey Park, El Sereno and East Los Angeles attended the hearing.

Many speakers supported the option to build a 2-way, 6.3 mile tunnel from Valley Boulevard in Alhambra to the connection with the 210/134 freeways in Pasadena.

The double decker option would have two lanes traveling in each direction and would run for 4.2 miles of bored tunnel. Vehicles carrying flammable or hazardous materials will be prohibited in the tunnel.

Residents from eastside communities and throughout the San Gabriel Valley spoke at the SR-710 Metro meeting, held at ELAC Saturday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Residents from eastside communities and throughout the San Gabriel Valley spoke at the SR-710 Metro meeting, held at ELAC Saturday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Several eastside residents claimed they “were left out of the conversation,” referring to the decision to include the Light Rail Train (LRT) alternative. They pointed out that some of the businesses hurt by construction of the Gold Line Eastside Extension in 2009 never recovered.

A light rail will destroy “one of the nicest corridors” and the East LA Civic Center on Third and Mednik Streets, they complained.

“We do not need the rail,” Martha Hernandez told Metro. “We can get to Pasadena on the Gold Line,” she said, adding that eastside residents can already get to Cal State LA by taking Metro’s Silver Line. There is also an express shuttle from ELACC.

Liz Sanchez lives one block from Mednik Street where a station could be built if a light rail is chosen. She told EGP a train would add to parking problems in her neighborhood because there’s no plan to provide public parking for rail passengers.

“I have a disability and even now it is hard to find parking… I don’t want to be selfish, but this is not a good option,” she lamented.

Clara Solis asked Metro and Caltrans to explain why East LA residents should bare the burden of other cities’ transportation problems. “Fifteen of our precious businesses that are walking distance from residences will be removed,” she said.

Yolanda Duarte, advisory chairperson for the Maravilla Community Center, said Metro 710 project spokespersons had gone to the eastside Center to give the community and businesses more information about the project.

Yolanda Duarte, an East Los Angeles resident, told Metro officials her concerns with the rail alternative.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Yolanda Duarte, an East Los Angeles resident, told Metro officials her concerns with the rail alternative. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

“On two occasions questions were asked if businesses or residences will be taken, the answer [by Metro] was no. [Now] The EIR states 15 businesses will be targeted” to make room for rail stations, she said, visibly frustrated. The businesses are on Mednik, south of the I-60/at Third Street: One home and a businesses on East Cesar Chavez could also be taken.

People were able to review maps and other visual materials pertaining to the five alternatives and ask Metro engineers questions before the public hearing got under way.

Metro planners explained that if the light rail is chosen, it would travel 7.5 miles, divided into 3 miles of aerial track and 4.5 miles submerged approximately 6-stories underground.

The rail line would run from south of Valley Boulevard, with the first aerial station on Mednik Avenue adjacent to the East LA Civic Center Station, and two more aerial stations on Floral Drive and at Cal State LA. It would then go underground with stations in Alhambra, Huntington Drive, South Pasadena and to the Fillmore Station in Pasadena where it would connect with the Gold Line.

Many eastside residents have long resented Metro opting to build the Eastside Gold Line above ground while  approving preferred but costlier underground subway options for other communities.

Several people said the eastside is once again getting the short end of the stick, complaining that the proposed rail line would run above ground through East LA, but then go underground through the more affluent communities north of Cal State LA.

“Why don’t we get a tunnel” like they do in Pasadena, one speaker demanded to know.

“Take out this project, do not even consider it,” said Gilbert Hernandez.

How to fill the 4.5-mile gap between the 710’s terminus in Alhambra and the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena is a debate that has raged on for more than six decades. If a route is eventually selected, a revenue source to cover the hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars needed to build it would still have to be found. The project could take three to five years to complete if the light rail is chosen.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis represents East Los Angeles and other areas impacted by the SR-710. She told EGP via email it is imperative to reduce congestion, improve air quality and enhance mobility for all residents, however, she does not yet see “any option as a natural choice” due to the many pros and cons.

“For example, the light rail alternative threatens the highest number of businesses and homes while the tunnel options could become a bottomless money pit. A combination of alternatives may end up being the way to get the most for our money,” she stated, adding that her staff is studying the various options and will hold community input meetings in addition to those scheduled by Metro.

“The communities I represent deserve a solution that absolutely improves their quality of life and environment … while improving mobility and using transportation to foster economic growth,” she said.

Metro and Caltrans have scheduled two more public hearings:

—Wednesday, May 6 at La Cañada High School auditorium, with a map viewing from 5-6 p.m. and public hearing at 6 p.m.

—Thursday, May 7 at the Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, map viewing 5-6 p.m. and public hearing at 6 p.m.

The full study is available at  http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis and can be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 and public libraries listed here:  http://www.metro.net/projects/sr- 710-conversations.

Comments will be accepted by mail through July 6: Mail to Garret Damrath, Caltrans Division 7, Division of Environmental Planning, 100 South Main Street MS-16, Los Angeles CA 90012.

To read more about the SR-710, go to www.EGPNews.com.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com
Updated 2;50 p.m.

Forum Takes Closer Look at SR-710 Debate

April 2, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

A forum Monday at Cal State Los Angeles billed as a discussion on whether to “Extend or Nor Extend?” the 710 Freeway, turned into a lively debate that could have appropriately been re-titled

“Rail or Tunnel?”

Approximately 200 people attended the forum co-hosted by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA and the League of Women Voters of Pasadena.

Lea este artículo en español: Foro Examina el Estudio SR-710

Efforts to fill the 4.5-mile gap between the 710’s terminus in Alhambra and the Foothill (210) Freeway in Pasadena, has drawn heated debate, public protests and lawsuits, halting the project for nearly six decades.

Caltrans and Metro in March released the draft impact report/environmental impact statement (DIR/DEIS) on the five proposed alternatives, which vary in cost. The transportation agencies have in the past said they are taking a regional view of the impact each of the alternatives will have, as well as looking at the direct impact to communities along the 710 to 210 corridor.

A woman reads a Metro pamphlet on the SR-710 North study during a forum at CSULA Monday.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

A woman reads a Metro pamphlet on the SR-710 North study during a forum at CSULA Monday. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

The forum featured an informative and engaging discussion between four city council members —Barbara Messina (Alhambra), John Fasana (Duarte), Ara Najarian (Glendale) and Michael Cacciotti (South Pasadena) — whose names kept coming up as experts on the alternatives and history of the controversial project, according to Raphael Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute and forum moderator.

“I assume most of you have read the report,” Sonenshein jokingly asked, drawing laughter from the audience, aware that the report, including all studies and amendments, is 26,000 pages long.

The five alternatives include a traffic management system, a rapid bus line, a light rail, a freeway tunnel and the required “no build” option.

On Monday, the freeway tunnel – which would extend the 710 north as a high-speed with limited access roadway – and the light rail transit – which would provide a rail service directed to provide transportation from East Los Angeles to Pasadena – were the most debated.

Messina told the audience she strongly supports the freeway tunnel because it would alleviate a “regional issue.”

She worries that if the light rail is approved, it would cause more damage than good.

“It will destroy too many businesses and residences,” she said, prompting laughter from members of the audience who have the same concerns about the tunnel.

On the other hand, Najarian said he strongly supports a light rail train because at $2.4 billion it will be cheaper to build then the $5.65 billion estimated cost to build a freeway tunnel.

The discussion grew heated as panelists disagreed over whether a nearly five-mile tunnel, with no outlets except at its entrance and exit, would be safe.

Messina said it is “very lame” to think that a tunnel is dangerous because they have existed for hundreds of years.

Fasana also favors the tunnel alternative, but said the real question is whether trucks should be allowed.

It’s not clear if trucks would be allowed and that raises concerns about what happens if a big rig overturns or if there is a fire in the tunnel. Emergency response could become an issue, said Najarian.

“If something happens, you are stuck there,” Najarian pointed out.

The tunnel’s high price tag has raised the specter of a toll charge to make up for costly maintenance, which has yet to be addressed.

A tunnel will most definitely mean a toll, Najarian said firmly. “A soccer mom traveling on that freeway will not pay that toll,” so it’s going to be the truckers who will be on the hook for toll charges, Najarian said.

Concerns about a large number of trucks traveling through the tunnel are unfounded, Fasana argued. Most trucks travel east because that’s the direction goods are moving, not north and south, he argued.

Cacciotti sees more benefit in building a light rail system through the area. The best traffic solution is to provide more public transportation options in the northeast area, he said. Cacciotti doubts that a tunnel will improve local traffic as it’s supporters claim.

“Many of these cars are local, they won’t move off the streets,” he said.

The L.A. basin needs more freeways and highways, Messina countered. “People are not going to get out of their car,” she said. “We need to invest in our transportation system.”

Messina said adding a light rail line between East Los Angeles and Pasadena would ultimately devastate East Los Angeles the most.

On the other hand, a tunnel could bring up to 40,000 jobs to the area, said Messina, adding it’s the reason labor unions favor the tunnel option.

But with the same amount of money it would cost to construct the tunnel you could build three or four light rail lines, argued Cacciotti.

While many in the audience following the forum said they appreciated the clarity of the information presented, a few people said that they were disappointed there were not representatives from some of the cities and neighborhoods in the study area, which covers much of the San Gabriel Valley as well as portions of unincorporated East Los Angeles and the city of Los Angeles.

Forums such as this should strive to have equal representation from all communities, said El Sereno resident Melissa Preciado.

“Next time, I would like to see Councilmember Huizar and representatives from Monterey Park because they will be just as much affected by this project,” Preciado said.

Monterey Park resident Elizabeth Lopez, however, told EGP that when she went into the forum she was already a big supporter of the tunnel, but the panelists did done a good job of clarifying the various points of views.

“I was happy to hear arguments were coupled with facts,” Lopez said. “At the end, I felt very well informed.”

East Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce President Blanca Espinoza told EGP that some people in her community have lost interest in the issue because they don’t feel Metro takes their point of view seriously.

She recalled when Metro began discussions over the Eastside Gold Line Extension, which began construction in 2004. Residents would attend meetings and voice their concerns, “but in the long run, [it was Metro] that decided what to do,” she said.

Lopez also expressed disappointment that she did not see more of her Monterey Park neighbors.

“I thought at least the elected officials would be here,” she said.

Metro and Caltrans are scheduling three public hearings where residents can ask questions and submit comments:

—Saturday, April 11, at the Roscoe C. Ingalls Auditorium on the campus of East Los Angeles College, with a map viewing from 10-11 a.m. and a public hearing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and

—Tuesday, April 14, at the Pasadena Convention Center, with a map viewing from 5-6 p.m. and a public hearing from 7-9 p.m.

–Wednesday, May 6 at La Cañada High School auditorium, with a map viewing 5-6p.m. and public hearing from 6-9p.m.

–Thursday, May 7 at the Los Angeles Christian Presbyterian Church, map viewing 5-6 p.m. and public hearing 6-p.m.

The full study is available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist07/resources/envdocs/docs/710study/draft_eir-eis

The full document can also be viewed at the Caltrans District Office, 100 S. Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Copies are also available at public libraries listed here: http://www.metro.net/projects/sr-710-conversations/.

Comments will be accepted through July 6.

[Update April 3, 2015 : Two public forums announced in the month of May.]  

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

@nancyreporting

jgarcia@egpnews.com

nmartinez@egpnews.com

Músicos de Plaza del Mariachi Temen Ser Desplazados por Nuevo Proyecto de Metro

March 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Los músicos de Plaza del Mariachi, considerada por muchos el corazón de la comunidad mexicana en Los Ángeles, están desconcertados por los planes de construcción de un centro comercial que podría desplazarlos de este tradicional enclave artístico y turístico.

“Esta área se ha puesto muy popular, en parte se debe a nosotros los mariachis que atraemos turismo, atraemos gente”, dijo a Efe Aurelio Reyes, guitarrista del Mariachi Palenque, sobre esta popular plaza en el vecindario de Boyle Heights.

El artista, que junto con muchos otros colegas acuden a Plaza del Mariachi en busca de contratos para las fiestas, se mostró inquieto porque teme que vayan a ser desplazados.

“Para nosotros si esta área crece es algo beneficioso, de hecho todos los cambios grandes son beneficiosos. El único problema es que vayamos a ser desplazados”, lamentó Reyes, quien es el presidente de la organización Musicians United Society of America (MUSA).

La Autoridad Metropolitana de Transporte del Condado de Los Ángeles (LA Metro) aprobó en septiembre pasado la propuesta de la empresa Primestor Inc. para el desarrollo del centro comercial Plaza del Mariachi, en la estación Metro Gold Line.

El proyecto, que busca fomentar la creación de empleos, sin embargo, ha generado críticas entre la comunidad hispana.

“Ese plan de la autoridad del Metro es horrible, porque es un centro comercial llamado Mariachi Plaza ¡y sin mariachis!”, aseguró a Efe José Huizar, concejal del distrito 14 de Los Ángeles, en cuyo corazón se encuentra la plaza.

Huizar expresó que muchos ciudadanos están descontentos con el plan, ya que Metro cometió “un error fatal al no consultar con la comunidad” antes de aprobar ese proyecto.

“La Plaza del Mariachi debe de mantener su identidad, cultura y tradiciones mexicanas, por eso Metro debe de escuchar lo que cada sector tenga que decir”, aseguró el concejal.

La Plaza del Mariachi, sobre la estación del Metro en la esquina de la Primera Calle Este y Avenida Boyle Norte, tiene en su centro un kiosco donado en 1998 por el estado mexicano de Jalisco, “cuna del mariachi”.

Andrea Martínez, guitarrista y cantante del Mariachi Martín y Martínez, aseguró a Efe que muchos músicos se han quejado ante las autoridades porque desconocieron que la plaza es “un símbolo del corazón y el alma del mexicano en Los Ángeles”.

Para Martínez, la plaza es “la representación de la cultura mexicana, de la cultura jalisciense”, en un vecindario con más de 90.000 habitantes, el 95 por ciento de ellos de origen latino.

En 2009, en Plaza del Mariachi se erigió una estatua en honor de Lucha Reyes, La reina de los mariachis” y cuatro años después una avenida adyacente fue bautizada con su nombre.

Frente a este sitio de esparcimiento se encuentra la sastrería “La casa del mariachi”, en donde el guatemalteco Jorge Tello confecciona trajes de gala para músicos rancheros.

“Si no nos desplazan, ¡pues aquí vamos a estar muy bien!”, exclamó Tello.
“Pero lamentablemente hay muchos negocios chicos que sí van a desplazarlos porque las rentas van a subir demasiado”, calculó Tello, quien además dijo que el diseño que presentaron las autoridades de LA Metro “es un típico ‘mall’ estadounidense”.
A lo largo del centro comercial “nos gustaría que se hiciera un Paseo de la Fama de artistas mexicanos, algo al estilo Hollywood, porque también los artistas mexicanos merecen un Paseo de la Fama”, expresó el diseñador.

Marc Litman, portavoz de LA Metro, aseguró a Efe que debido a la polémica generada por el centro comercial, buscarán incluir las sugerencias de músicos, comerciantes y vecinos de Plaza del Mariachi para un nuevo proyecto.

“Eso surgirá de un diálogo que tendremos con la comunidad de Boyle Heights en próximas reuniones”, explicó Litman.

Metro to Raise Security on Buses

March 26, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Surveillance cameras, hard plastic barriers and other measures are being rolled out on Metro buses to protect drivers against assaults, transit officials announced late last week.

The measures are in response to a 35 percent rise in attacks against bus drivers since 2012, with 138 assaults reported in 2014, Metro officials said.

One-third of such disputes arise from disagreements over fare, officials said.

Metro has purchased at least 123 buses equipped with polycarbonate barriers next to the driver’s seat. The transit agency also started installing closed-circuit television monitors in November, with 166 buses now equipped with the surveillance systems.

Officials said they plan to put the monitors on 268 buses by June. Each bus will have two monitors, one showing riders boarding the vehicle and another showing the seating area.

Passengers will be able to see what is being recorded, which is thought to deter illegal behavior on buses, Metro officials said. Accordingly, they said, the assault rates have fallen on buses now equipped with CCTV monitors.

“The installation of CCTV monitors is a visual indication to potential lawbreakers that they are being watched, and the prospect of almost certain arrest is enough to prevent many criminals from committing offenses,” Metro board member Diane DuBois said.

Other measures to protect passengers and Metro’s 4,000 bus drivers include an automated fare announcement, training bus drivers on how to defuse conflicts, and an outreach campaign to help humanize bus drivers to the public.

Metro is also working with state lawmakers to stiffen penalties for assaults on bus drivers, with a measure being proposed to triple the current $10,000 fine and lengthen the maximum one-year prison time.

The sheriff’s Transit Policing Division deployed deputies in November and December on East Los Angeles Division 10 buses as part of a pilot study into fare enforcement and other issues.

Metro officials said the measures are being carried out to protect both drivers and passengers.

“Angelenos can feel safe riding Metro, and we are committed to keeping it that way,” Los Angeles Mayor and Metro board Chair Eric Garcetti said. “Our strategy is to strengthen enforcement and increase the use of technology so that both operators and passengers feel secure on Metro buses.”

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is urging passengers to assist in keeping the buses safe by calling 911 or (888) 950-SAFE (7233) to report crimes and medical emergencies.

Coalition Calls For Delay of Mariachi Plaza Housing Project

March 19, 2015 by · 2 Comments 

A group of community activists want Metro to stop or at least slow down construction of a mixed-use, affordable housing development planned for Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

They took their protest to the iconic plaza last Friday, where the small group of residents, students and affordable housing activists tied about 600 ribbons — spelling out “Save BH” — to the metal fence surrounding the site of the future development, an empty lot at the corner of 1st Street and Boyle known to locals as Mariachi Plaza West.

Lea este artículo en Español: Protesta para Retrasar Proyecto de Metro de Complejo Habitacional

Written on each of the ribbons was a comment from a local resident stating what they would like to see built on the lot, ranging from open green space to a soccer field or a public parking structure.

It’s the second time is recent months that groups protest development plans for Metro-owned land near Metro’s Gold Line Station at Mariachi Plaza.

Coalition to Save Mariachi Plaza rally to demand slow down of Metro’s affordable housing project.   (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Coalition to Save Mariachi Plaza rally to demand slow down of Metro’s affordable housing project. (EGP photo by Jacqueline Garcia)

Friday’s rally was organized by the Coalition to Save Mariachi Plaza and students from CALO YouthBuild Charter School in Boyle Heights. They claim Metro and project developer McCormack Baron Salazar failed to engage the community in the planning process and they want more outreach to the community before construction of the Santa Cecilia Apartments begins.

“There’s a lot of concern because these major projects [are] coming in and the community doesn’t really have a say on how … or what they should look like,” Mynor Godoy, chair of the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council Planning and Land Use Committee, told EGP.

Metro approved the housing project back in 2009 but it was put on hold due to financing issues, according to Metro spokesman Dave Sotero. Those issues have since been resolved, he said Tuesday.

When built, the Santa Cecilia Apartments LLC development will include 80 affordable housing units and 4,000 sq. ft. of ground level retail space. Sotero told EGP that the project would be 100 percent affordable housing, noting that Metro is one of the biggest providers of affordable housing in LA County.

“The agency has more than 1,700 affordable housing units either completed, in construction or in negotiation at its joint development projects countywide,” added Sotero.

The coalition, however, questions what Metro and the developer consider “affordable.”

Some seniors and young people may not meet the low-income requirement to qualify, said Boyle Heights resident Baldomero Capiz in Spanish.

The owners of several local businesses said they are worried the new development will make parking in the area even tougher.

Erika Gomez owns Yeya’s Restaurant, located across the street from Mariachi Plaza. She told EGP the biggest concern for businesses on 1st Street is the severe parking shortage.

“We just have two street parking spots; one is for 20 minutes and the other is [only] for unloading,” she said. She thinks the neighborhood would be better served if the lot was turned into a public parking lot or parking structure.

However, Vivian Rescalvo, director of Countywide Planning and Development for Metro, told EGP plans for the project have been finalized and construction on the Santa Cecilia Apartments at 1750 E. 1st Street would begin by the end of March and take about 16 months to complete.

Last Friday’s protest comes on the heels of public forums where gentrification and the need for more affordable housing in the area have taken center stage.

Rescalvo said the residential complex will target families making 30-60% of the median income in Los Angeles. For example, she said, a family of four with an income of $16,000-$24,000 will pay about $550 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. A family of four making $33,000-$48,000 will pay about $1,100 for the same apartment, she explained.

Applications for the new apartments will not come out until “the building is ready or almost ready,” she said.

Sotero said planners took into consideration parking concerns and included 88 parking spaces in the development for housing and seven more for retail.

Robert Zardeneta, director of CALO YouthBuild and a member of the coalition, said Friday that their goal is not to oppose this specific project “because community members have mixed feelings about the proposal,” but to delay the groundbreaking until there is community engagement on the part of Metro and the developer.

A lot of time has passed since the housing development was approved and “many of us had no idea this project was ready for construction,” he said. People need to know what’s going to take place during construction and after, he explained.

While the bones of the development cannot be changed, developer McCormack has agreed to hold public meetings to get input from the community as to the types of businesses they would like to occupy the retail spaces, according to Rescalvo. The meetings are in keeping with Metro’s “new process to engage the community” prior to beginning development construction, she said.

Councilman Jose Huizar’s office will be involved in the public meetings, which should take place in the next week or two, Huizar spokesman Rick Coca told EGP.

He said Huizar supports the Santa Cecilia project because 100 percent of the housing units will be affordable “and the councilman is a champion in this matter.”

Coca said that the development proposed by Metro for Mariachi Plaza [East] was “poorly handled by the Metro agency” and “that’s not what the community wanted.

In that case, facing strong community opposition, Metro agreed to halt the Mariachi Plaza East development and to conduct public meetings within the next six months to get input from the community.

Godoy said that Metro can’t just have communication with the developer and ignore the community.

“If they are willing to say they are starting from scratch in Mariachi Plaza East, they should do the same thing here,” he said.

—-

Twitter @jackieguzman

jgarcia@egpnews.com

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