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California mass-transit workers get pension reprieve - The Sacramento Bee

Federal officials cut off $54 million for Sacramento Regional Transit on Wednesday, prompting Gov. Jerry Brown to announce a pension-law compromise intended to keep the money flowing to transit agencies on the verge of losing grant funds.
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High cost of fighting urban runoff examined in report

High cost of fighting urban runoff examined in report | Tuesday Industry Newsfeed | Scoop.it
California communities spend close to half a billion dollars each year trying to prevent litter from mucking up the sensitive ecosystems of rivers, lakes and coastal waters, according to a report released recently by the Natural Resources Defense...
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New water tunnel route sets up conservation battle over Delta island - The Sacramento Bee

The new route proposed for Gov. Jerry Brown's giant Delta water-diversion project may conflict with direction from California voters, who spent $35 million in 2001 to acquire part of the new route as permanent wildlife habitat.
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CEQA Fixes Piece by Piece Doesn’t Cut It :: Fox&Hounds

It seems the battle over CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) reform to reduce wait time for development and discourage lawsuits is finding some suc
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Governor signs AB 481 to streamline land management for High Speed Rail Authority

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ARTIC ridership projections appear hig

By DOUG IRVING and ART MARROQUIN


ANAHEIM – City officials have overstated by thousands the number of passengers likely to use a soaring new transportation hub being built near Angel Stadium at a total cost of more than $220 million, a review of project documents shows.


City projections suggest that 10,000 trips a day will start or end at the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, or ARTIC, when it opens next year. But those estimates rely on bus lines that exist only on paper, an airport shuttle shelved in 2011 and optimistic assumptions for Metrolink and Amtrak demand, according to records and interviews.


The actual number appears to be closer to 5,000. And that counts travelers both as they come and go, a typical measure for the transportation industry, one that double-counts anyone making a round trip.


City officials say the new station will improve regional transportation from the day it opens, and provide needed space for high-speed rail in the years to come. They describe the station, with its translucent shell more than three stories tall, as a landmark for Orange County and the future of transportation.

“We’re not building a building necessarily for today,” Anaheim Public Works Director Natalie Meeks said. “We’re building a building for the next 50 years.”

The ARTIC station has been planned for years with an eye toward high-speed rail and the tens of thousands of passengers that the city projects would take a bullet train to and from Anaheim. But it will take almost a generation for high-speed rail to reach Orange County’s most populous city, according to the rail authority’s most-recent business plan.


Anaheim has used an opening-day promise of 10,000 riders to woo companies that might provide maintenance, advertising or other support for ARTIC, records show. As recently as May, potential bidders were told in a Power Point presentation that they could expect 10,330 daily riders from the day the station opens.


A big part of that number – more than 4,000 daily riders – would come from special express bus lines and a Fly-Away shuttle to connect Orange County residents to Los Angeles International Airport, according to city documents. But none of that exists right now, and there’s no guarantee it will when ARTIC opens about a year from now.


Orange County’s long-range transportation plan calls for express bus lines; but none that would serve the Anaheim station have been budgeted into reality, much less scheduled to start service, records show. And the idea of an airport shuttle hasn’t been seriously discussed since 2011, LAX spokesman Marshall Lowe said.


Meeks said that at least some of the riders who would take the rapid bus lines are already riding standard buses that will use ARTIC, and should still be counted. But she said no ridership studies have been done to determine how many of them there are.


The city numbers also suggest that around 3,000 passengers a day will arrive or depart from ARTIC on Metrolink and Amtrak trains. That’s nearly 1,000 more than Anaheim’s current station sees on any given day, statistics show. And even that assumes that every Metrolink passenger who departs from Anaheim eventually comes back through on a round trip, and should be counted twice.

The city also included in its number special promotional trains for Angels and Ducks games, which have seen strong ridership in recent years. But those trains only run on limited schedules during game days.


Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait declined to speak in detail about the numbers. He abstained from voting on ARTIC’s construction contract because his company has done work for the Orange County Transportation Authority, which is providing most of the station’s funding. But the mayor said he supports the project.


“The numbers seem robust,” Tait said. “Time will tell if they bear out.”

ARTIC was conceived as much more than a Metrolink station and a bus stop. It was going to hum with high-speed bullet trains and even a “super speed” shuttle to Ontario’s airport, all within walking distance of 9,500 new high-rise homes, according to a 2005 agreement between Anaheim and the OCTA.

Only about a fifth of those homes were built before the recession put Anaheim’s hopes for an urban Platinum Triangle on hold. And high-speed rail has become mired in politics and questions about the billions of dollars it would cost to build. The state’s High-Speed Rail Authority doesn’t expect a bullet train to pull into Anaheim until at least 2029.


When – or if – that day comes, Anaheim expects high-speed rail to deliver some 32,900 new passenger trips to ARTIC every day. That would also drive up ridership on a streetcar that Anaheim wants to build from ARTIC, through the Platinum Triangle, to Disneyland and the Convention Center, according to planning documents.


Until then, the city expects ARTIC use to peak at around 15,500 trips on any given day, counting both arrivals and departures, records show.

“If it looks to you like we’re building an awful lot of building for not a lot of ridership, you’re not missing anything,” said county Supervisor Shawn Nelson, a longtime critic of the project who serves on the OCTA board. His district includes ARTIC. Everyday commuters will now have to navigate a “Crystal Cathedral of transit portals,” he said, rather than hop a train or bus at a simple street stop.


“It’s not like a flight, where you’ve got a two-hour layover,” he said.

Plans for ARTIC show three stories of lobbies, ticketing counters and waiting areas, with space for shops or restaurants, beneath a half-shell canopy made of glassy plastic. Crews broke ground on it last fall and have begun constructing the building’s steel skeleton just east of Angel Stadium.


The station’s total cost comes to around $221 million, including land, engineering, construction and improvements to nearby streets, according to city progress reports. Most of the funding is coming from Orange County’s half-cent sales tax, approved by voters for such transportation improvements, bolstered by tens of millions of dollars in state and federal grants.

The station is scheduled to open to passengers in late fall 2014.

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Goodbye to Candlestick Park from Rome?

Goodbye to Candlestick Park from Rome? | Tuesday Industry Newsfeed | Scoop.it
Mayor Ed Lee gathered a group of people to help plan for the demise of Candlestick Park.
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High cost of fighting urban runoff examined in report

California communities spend close to half a billion dollars each year trying to prevent litter from mucking up the sensitive ecosystems of rivers, lakes and coastal waters, according to a report released recently by the Natural Resources Defense...
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Bay Bridge eastern span opens

Bay Bridge eastern span opens | Tuesday Industry Newsfeed | Scoop.it
At 10:15 p.m. Monday, Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol took down barricades at on-ramps and interchanges and let traffic flow to the bridge for the first time since Wednesday night, when it was closed to allow construction crews to make...
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BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN, PRO: TWIN TUNNELS ENSURE RELIABILITY OF WATER SUPPLY

Q: The governor’s plan has two overarching purposes: to provide a more reliable supply of water for everybody and to restore the ecosystem of the delta. How would this plan achieve those goals?
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Completed pipeline will provide recycled water to Carneros

SAN PABLO BAY — Scientists say the San Francisco Bay Area needs 100,000 acres of wetlands to supply a healthy bay.
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Plan for California Water District stirs debate in North County | Local News | SanLuisObispo.com

With the goal of stabilizing the Paso Robles groundwater basin, a group of private North County agriculturalists is gearing up to establish a California Water District, which they say is the best choice to protect the aquifer for years to come.
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Sen. Hill's High Speed Rail Bill Goes to Governor

The bill will limit the impact on Peninsula communities, including San Bruno, from high speed rail.
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Maven's Minutes: Water storage, part 2: A look at California's successful groundwater management and banking programs

Maven's Minutes: Water storage, part 2: A look at California's successful groundwater management and banking programs | Tuesday Industry Newsfeed | Scoop.it
California has long relied on surface reservoirs to manage the state’s fluctuating water supply as evidenced by the over 1300 reservoirs both large and small that dot the landscape - from Redding i...
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The Buzz: Assembly, Senate take different paths to water bond rewrite - The Sacramento Bee

Two bills that were heavily amended in recent weeks lay out different visions for how California should revise the water bond slated for the 2014 ballot.
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Calif. Governor Brown Announces Appointments for Aug. 21, 2013 including to the California Water Commission - California Newswire

SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ -- Today, Calif. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the following appointments to California positions in gove, by Christopher Simmons
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The Shaky Case for High-Speed Rail - Reason.com

Rail supporters in California keep chugging ahead despite a court rebuke.
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Dan Walters: California Legislature's leadership positions now in play - The Sacramento Bee

When Bob Filner, facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment, stepped down as mayor of San Diego, he touched off complex maneuvering over who will succeed him.
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High-speed rail's ticking time bom

By ELIZABETH HELD


WASHINGTON – The California High Speed Rail Authority says it plans to break ground on the 500-mile project by the end of this month. Sound familiar? The rail authority previously promised to start construction in 2012 … and then again in the spring of 2013.


A series of delays, each unrelated but significant, is putting the rail authority in a race against the clock to spend roughly $3 billion it received in stimulus funds on the first phase of rail between Madera and Fresno before the federal government’s scheduled expiration of the allocation.


A provision of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires that all stimulus funds be spent by Sept. 30, 2017. The language was meant to encourage recipients to spend the money quickly and pump money into the ailing economy during the Great Recession.


Four factors have delayed the start of phase one of high-speed rail construction and jeopardized the overall project: lawsuits, land-use concerns, federal permitting and objections from members of Congress.


The rail authority maintains it will meet the stimulus expiration deadline, noting an agreement with the federal government whereby it can spend stimulus funds before it spends state contributions, said Dan Richard, chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority.


Others aren’t so sure. Ronald Tutor, whose company Tutor Perini recently signed a contract to construct the first 30 miles of rail, said in published reports that he doesn’t believe construction will start until next year.

Richard told the Register that he remains confident in Tutor Perini and its ability to finish by the 2017 deadline. “I’m less concerned with the start date than the finish date,” he said.


If the rail authority doesn’t spend the money in time, the federal government would decide what would happen to the stimulus funds, said Adrian Moore, vice president for policy at the libertarian Reason Foundation. Moore co-authored a report on the flaws in the rail authority’s business model earlier this year.

“These delays put that money at risk,” Moore said. The state could receive an extension, he pointed out, and the outcome of that decision would depend on who is president at the time – a Democratic president might be willing to give California extra time, but less so a Republican.


Moore added there’s no reason to expect Congress to be flexible. “Congress has made it pretty clear they would snatch it back,” he said, not only because it violated stimulus rules, but because key members of Congress object to the project and the future federal funding it is seeking.


Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, chairman of the House subcommittee on rail, has said he will not approve more federal funds for the California rail project until he thinks the rail authority has a viable business plan. He added language to the House transportation funding bill specifically barring the Department of Transportation from spending any money on California high-speed rail.

California’s high-speed rail project has hit four significant speed bumps:


1. Lawsuit over Prop. 1A

“People who don’t want the project going through their neighborhood will sue,” Dan Richard, chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority, told the Register. A lawsuit decided earlier this month could have lasting repercussions if the judge decides to overturn the project’s plan.


Judge Michael Kenny, of the Sacramento Superior Court, ruled the High-Speed Rail Authority’s 2011 business plan violated the terms of Proposition 1A, a voter-approved, 2008 initiative that authorized $9.9 billion in bonds to build 500 miles of rail eventually linking Los Angeles and San Francisco.


The ballot initiative was specific in its promises. It stated that the rail authority would have to have a plan in place to pay for the construction of the initial segment before building could begin. Kenny found that wasn’t the case. He wrote, “The identification of funds must be based on a reasonable present expectation of receipt on a projected date, and not merely a hope or possibility that such funds may become available.”


Rail advocates, however, point out that Kenny didn’t comment on the new business plan the rail authority adopted in 2012, or the Legislature’s approval last year of $2.6 billion for the project .


Kenny said he will hold a hearing, yet to be scheduled, to determine what the rail authority’s next steps should be.


2. Land-use concerns

The rail authority needs to take possession of 372 parcels of land between Madera and Fresno. As of Aug. 26, it had made 123 written offers to landowners, Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman at the rail authority said.

“This would be the largest abuse of eminent domain in California, or even the nation’s history,” Aaron Fukuda, a Hanford land owner said.


Fukuda discovered in January 2011 that the plot of land where he planned to build his house was right in the proposed bullet train’s path. It came as a shock, he said, because the rail authority had assured him three months earlier the alignments would be 800 yards from his proposed home.


Fukuda, who was one of the litigants in the Prop. 1A lawsuit, said his opposition to the project goes beyond his one parcel of land. He’s concerned about what will happen to the agriculture in his community if farmers lose their land to the train.


3. Objections in Congress

Congress has added roadblocks. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, joined other congressmen in asking for the Government Accountability Office to audit the project. The GAO released its findings in March, saying “The California High-Speed Rail Authority met some, but not all of the best practices.”


Denham, a member of the House Transportation Committee, also added a layer of federal oversight to the project. Early this year, he asked the federal Surface Transportation Board to review and approve the project, which it did in June.


4. Slow federal permitting

The rail authority is still waiting to receive approval from federal agencies on its proposed path.


“It gets very complicated quickly,” John Prettyman, a public affairs officer with the Army Corps of Engineers, said. The corps of engineers has not yet signed off on the rail authority’s plan to lay tracks between Merced and Fresno.

There are 25 places where the proposed railroad will cross water between the two cities. The corps of engineers plans to issue a single permit for the entire project, rather than 25 individual permits. It will issue or reject a permit in early 2014.


Prettyman said as long the corps of engineers is concerned, the rail authority could begin construction before permits are received, as long as they don’t build in U.S. waterways or wetlands.

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Bill Fulton: City makeover-in-chief

New city planner, Filner's only departmental appointment, staying to fix SD.
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Hundreds of Bay Bridge workers celebrate at bash

Monday's Bay Bridge opening celebration - held in an old Key System repair warehouse by the toll plaza - was punctual and organized, with decorations of wire cable, bridge models and hard hats, along with lanyards for everyone.
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BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN, CON: PROJECT WOULD HURT DELTA, FARM ECONOMY

Q: Tell us why you are opposed to the governor’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
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CUSTOMERS IN S.D. BRACE FOR UTILITY RATE HIKE

San Diego utility customers are bracing for a rate increase that will boost typical bills by about 11 percent starting Sunday.
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New city manager discusses prioritie

David Cavazos, city manager of Phoenix, is set to begin his post as Santa Ana's next city manager.


Cavazos, a native of Chicago, was received with much applause at City Hall Aug. 5 when City Council members approved his contract. He begins his new post Oct. 21.


As city manager, city officials said he trimmed Phoenix's budget, streamlined its permitting process for businesses and helped revitalize its downtown area. All three areas have been top concerns in Santa Ana.

We caught up to Cavazos outside the Council Chambers; here’s what he had to say.


Q. What interested you about the city of Santa Ana?

A. The city of Santa Ana has an amazing opportunity. They have a lot of the same opportunities and challenges that Phoenix had before. We need to deal with all the successes of the people here. There's lots of need for transparency and fiscal reform. The Council is very interested in change, but change for a real reason. I'm very excited about innovation and efficiency, public safety, transportation. All the things I'm really interested in, Santa Ana has those opportunities. So when I looked at the opportunity, it looked like it fit well with my education and experience.

Q. It's a much smaller city, smaller budget. Why did you decide to apply here?

A. What I look at is not so much the size, but the opportunities, and opportunities are very significant. I wanted to be part of this. The size and the scale are similar in terms of the ability to make a difference.

Q. You speaking Spanish is an asset for the city. What's your background?

A. My parents are from Texas, from the southern part of Texas, and they spoke Spanish as a first language and so I did a lot of listening. I learned Spanish in college as my minor. It’s not 100 percent, but it’s pretty good.

Q. What will be some of your top priorities?

A. I want to meet with all the different people. My general goal would be to build upon the successes. So every single thing they're doing good, we're going to build upon. In those areas that we need improvement, we're going to work together on that. Fiscal issues are very important; to build the reserve and bring in economic development. One of the things about Santa Ana, it's a very dense city so there are tremendous opportunities with that. There's new housing development to carry. The economy is getting better. I want to do things in the area of youth and education. There's a lot of young people in this town. They need role models. I'm very focused on that. We're in a new economy where people are not interested in higher taxes. They're not interested in lower services. They want you to do better with less and that's what I've been focused on.

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. I like to exercise, but not a really intense exercise. I used to play golf, but not as much when I became city manager. I like non-profit work. I'm very involved in the children's hospital…I like to mix my play with my work. That way I'll be very involved in the community.

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Closing of the Bay Bridge | KQED

Transit officials are urging commuters to take public transportation when the Bay Bridge shuts down for five days starting this Wednesday at 8pm. And they're warning drivers to expect significant delays in and out of San Francisco.
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