Furious

I can’t describe how angry I am over the LA City Council’s vote to approve the Millennium Hollywood project. After Caltrans contacted the city to ask why none of its concerns over traffic were addressed in the Final EIR. After the California Geological Survey wrote to say they believe an active fault line runs beneath the project area. After months of pleas from angry residents who do not want these towers. The City Council and the Mayor choose to ignore all of that and forge ahead.

It’s obvious they don’t care about the safety of Hollywood’s residents. It’s obvious they don’t care how much time LA’s citizens spend sitting in traffic. And it’s obvious they don’t care that state agencies have expressed serious reservations about this project. But their lack of concern shouldn’t surprise us, since they’ve demonstrated over and over again that their primary concern is representing the interests of developers and unions.

I think it’s time we asked the state to step in. Caltrans has said the project will seriously impact the Hollywood Freeway, making a bad situation even worse. The California Geological Survey has expressed concern about an active fault line. I think we need to contact our representatives on the State Legislature and ask them to get involved. The city has shown a total disregard for the state’s input on this project. We need to ask the State of California to take action.

A Faster Future

fiber 3

I am not a techie. When I started this blog what I had in mind was writing about the built environment, but more and more our cities are defined by technology. I had heard about Google possibly installing a fiber optic network in LA. This could allow area residents to download data with amazing speed, but at the moment it seems to be just speculation. Then I came across this article about Google making a deal with Austin, Texas to bring fiber optic to them.

PandoDaily – Google’s Fiber Takeover

The article makes some pretty broad claims about Google’s intentions. I was skeptical. So I sent the link to my nephew, Morgan, in Santa Cruz, who is a techie. Here’s an excerpt of what he had to say:

I’m not so sure Google is planning to takeover. They might, but only if they think they can significantly improve service. I think for them the ideal case is that the existing ISPs just upgrade their service, currently the problem is that all the ISPs have more or less realized it’s easier to just make incremental upgrades as opposed to laying new infrastructure. There’s been severe stagnation because ISPs have a lot of power. Because of that, US internet is way behind.

Google wants everyone to have high speed internet because that increases their ad revenue, but it probably doesn’t make much of a difference to them whose internet service it is. From what I’ve read, these services are likely breaking even at best, since it’s a lot more expensive for them to lay new infrastructure. Therefore, Google’s probably hoping that by threatening ISPs with this service, they’ll push them to lay new infrastructure so that Google won’t have to. If the ISPs don’t get with it, they might just end up taking over, but I doubt that’s really what they want to do.

He also sent me this link from Wired. The premise of the article is that government needs to get out of the way and let ISPs build what they want.

Wired – Don’t Blame Big Cable

I don’t buy all of the author’s arguments. The idea that government should just step back and let business take over is called into question by recent history. You can look at the Enron debacle in California, where the state’s Democratic legislature let the energy giant write its own ticket. Enron proceeded to steal billions of dollars from California consumers, and there are numerous other examples of this kind of abuse. But he gives an interesting breakdown of the challenges that companies have to face when dealing with city government.

Lastly, a brief article from Maximum PC about a small town that did install its own fiber optic network and is doing quite well.

Maximum PC – Small Town Triumphs

I have no idea where all this is going. My grasp of this stuff is pretty tenuous. But it seems clear that cities, especially major cities that want to attract business, will need to create this kind of tech infrastructure if they want to be competitive. The future is here.

Lots of Hype, But No Jobs

I was checking the headlines at the LA Wave this morning, and came across an interesting story. There’s been a lot of hype about how great the Crenshaw Light Rail Line will be for the surrounding community, but I guess that doesn’t extend to providing jobs for local contractors. You can read the story by clicking here.

One aspect of the story that caught my attention is that the Young Black Contractors Association (YCBA) is planning a protest against the Los Angeles Urban League. The word is that the League has been chosen as the outreach coordinator for general contractor Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors. The YCBA suspects that the League is going to take a few million from Walsh/Shea without making any real effort to bring local black contractors and construction workers onto the project. This is a fairly common ploy. In recent years non-profits have been starved for cash. Developers and contractors know this, so they offer a bunch of money to these groups to get their support. That way, Walsh/Shea can say, “Hey, the LA Urban League is backing us up!” Unfortunately, non-profits are sometimes willing to go along with this if they need the money badly enough. It’ll be interesting to see if the YCBA can make enough noise to bring jobs to a community where they are really needed.

Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line

A musician in Leimert Park.

A musician in Leimert Park.

Transit politics can be tricky. I’ve started following the discussion over the Crenshaw-LAX Light Rail Line, and I have to say the whole thing is pretty complicated. I think everyone agrees it’s a worthwhile project, but the devil is in the details. A heated debate has been going on, apparently for years, about how many stops would be on the line, where they would be located, and whether the line would run below grade in certain areas. The trains would run south on Crenshaw to Inglewood, turn west at Florence, and then follow Aviation south to LAX. Here’s a link to a map on the MTA web site.

http://www.metro.net/projects_studies/crenshaw/images/Crenshaw-LAX_transit_corridor_map_eng.pdf

The project could give a much needed boost to the area, which the City of LA has neglected for years. Running between the Expo Line and the Green Line, it would provide an important transit link for people in the Crenshaw district and Inglewood. It could also create lots of jobs in neighborhoods where unemployment is high.

One of the key issues is safety. Most LA residents are probably aware of the problems with the Blue Line. There have been over nine hundred accidents at crossings where the trains run at street level, resulting in more than a hundred deaths. This is why many in the community are fighting to make sure this new train runs below grade in some segments. But digging tunnels would increase the cost significantly, and as far as I can tell the city hasn’t actually committed to do this for any segment of the line. The Crenshaw Subway Coalition has posted this document, which outlines their argument against grade level crossings.

The link below offers an interview with MTA Chief Art Leahy and gives a general update on the progress of the Crenshaw-LAX Line.

http://wavenewspapers.com/news/local/west_edition/article_a4586a8c-ce22-11e2-aeb8-0019bb30f31a.html

I’ve ridden public transit all my life, and I have to say that getting around LA is much easier now than it was twenty years ago. The MTA has made a lot of progress in recent years, and following a project like this you realize how difficult it can be to make things happen.