Infrastructure

Infrastructure

L.A. Council Approves Policy to Boost Hiring of Local Residents for 98 Proposed Projects

Los Angeles City Council Members have approved a local-hire policy that will staff large-scale public works projects with a workforce that is comprised of at least one-third city residents. Fair wages and benefits for workers will also be a part of the policy that will ensure city-funded projects help grow the local economy. In addition to using local residents for at least 98 proposed projects, the city will also utilize workers who stem from a “disadvantaged background,” meaning 10% of the work will be completed by low-income, homeless, or single-parents. Over the next five years, officials have said there is $2.1 billion worth of projects that are in the works. You may recall that San Francisco officials also recently passed a tough local-hire law to boost local economic growth. The LA Times reports:

“The council approved the ordinance unanimously after a steady stream of public speakers urged passage, with none opposing it. Union leaders came to City Hall in force to extol the measure, which would expand so-called project labor agreements at city-funded construction sites. ‘These agreements create jobs, and that changes lives,’ said Richard N. Slawson, executive secretary of the Building & Construction Trade Council in L.A. and Orange counties. Both unionized and non-union contractors are free to bid for contracts under the agreements. But, in Los Angeles, unionized firms typically prevail when such agreements are in place, said Nickolas Sifuentes, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a pro-labor advocacy group. Organized labor and the Obama administration heavily favor project labor agreements. Some business groups oppose the deals as giveaways to Big Labor from their political allies.”

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called the policy a jobs program for L.A. residents that will help speed up projects with fewer interruptions. Examples of projects include street widening to storm drainage repair to bridge-building. For more on the policy’s approval, see here.

Waiting Game: Delay from MLB Makes March Ballot Measure Unlikely for San Jose Ballpark

Will San Jose put a downtown ballpark measure on its March 8th ballot, giving voters the chance to have their say about moving the Oakland A's to the Silicon Valley? We’ve relayed in the past that San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has continued to strongly make the case that his city is the best location for a new stadium for the A’s, once stating that “We have the best site, we're ahead of the others and this is the place that makes the most sense.” However, so far, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the committee he appointed have yet to say whether they approve such a move for the Oakland-based team. Mayor Reed has pointed out that he has had difficulty in obtaining a meeting with the commissioner and such a delay is unfair to the wishes of voters. Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff is on board with the move, but actual negotiations with the city have yet to be worked out. Mercury News reports:

“In July, when MLB pressured San Jose officials not to place such a measure on the November ballot, it offered "to help cover the taxpayer cost if a special election was required in the spring." City Clerk Lee Price had said the soonest an election likely would occur was March 8, though the league's offer did not pertain to a specific date. The hurdle to any election lies with the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, who hold baseball's territorial rights to the South Bay and have argued that the A's move would destroy their sponsorship and ticket revenues. Wolff, meanwhile, has been trying for years to find a new home for his money-losing team. In March 2009, Selig -- Wolff's college fraternity brother -- appointed a high-powered committee to study the ballclub's options.”

So while a March ballot measure doesn’t seem likely, it is possible that voters will weigh the matter with a ballot measure in April, May or June instead. And Mercury also points out that “Even if Selig were to give the nod today, it would also take three-quarters of MLB owners to agree on the matter.” Waiting on the MLB’s decision seems to be the current fate of city council members and Mayor Reed. For more, see here.

City of Alameda Sued for Over $100 Million by Developer Seeking to Transform Old Naval Base

The city of Alameda is being sued by SunCal – an Orange County developer – that is seeking over $100 million due to a supposed breach in contract over failed plans to develop a former Bay Area naval station. Plans were constructed to turn the old base into homes and commercial space. The developer is arguing that it is rightly owed the millions in funds as compensatory and punitive damages and in lost profits, as SunCal already spent $17 million on its plans and is claiming the city acted in bad faith and violated the developer’s Constitutional rights. A development pact was first signed between the company and the city in 2007. The Orange County Business Journal provides the following context:

“A ballot measure that would have allowed the developer to exceed the city’s density limits was rejected by voters earlier this year. Alameda’s City Council subsequently voted this summer not to extend the development pact. SunCal claims that vote was a ‘scheme’ designed to kick out the developer after it did all the groundwork for the project.”

A press release from SunCal states the following:

“According to Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, LLP, despite the developer’s good faith effort, the lawsuit demonstrates that in return, the City has, by the admission of its Interim City Manager, knowingly destroyed emails/documents needed in the developer’s pursuit of justice and in violation of California law knowing well that disputes had arisen with SCC Alameda as early as 2009. Because of this action SCC Alameda has been severely and irreparably prejudiced by the actions of the Interim City Manager. According to the suit, the City of Alameda and Gallant decided, in spite of their contractual obligation to SCC Alameda, that they would secretly attempt to develop Alameda Point on their own, even though the city and the manager have no experience, funding or contractual right to develop the property.”

Any wrongdoing related to public records requests, or in relation to the aforementioned development plans, have been denied by city officials. For more on the case, see here.

Waiting Game: Delay from MLB Makes March Ballot Measure Unlikely for San Jose Ballpark

Will San Jose put a downtown ballpark measure on its March 8th ballot, giving voters the chance to have their say about moving the Oakland A's to the Silicon Valley? We’ve relayed in the past that San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has continued to strongly make the case that his city is the best location for a new stadium for the A’s, once stating that “We have the best site, we're ahead of the others and this is the place that makes the most sense.” However, so far, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the committee he appointed have yet to say whether they approve such a move for the Oakland-based team. Mayor Reed has pointed out that he has had difficulty in obtaining a meeting with the commissioner and such a delay is unfair to the wishes of voters. Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff is on board with the move, but actual negotiations with the city have yet to be worked out. Mercury News reports:

“In July, when MLB pressured San Jose officials not to place such a measure on the November ballot, it offered "to help cover the taxpayer cost if a special election was required in the spring." City Clerk Lee Price had said the soonest an election likely would occur was March 8, though the league's offer did not pertain to a specific date. The hurdle to any election lies with the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, who hold baseball's territorial rights to the South Bay and have argued that the A's move would destroy their sponsorship and ticket revenues. Wolff, meanwhile, has been trying for years to find a new home for his money-losing team. In March 2009, Selig -- Wolff's college fraternity brother -- appointed a high-powered committee to study the ballclub's options.”

So while a March ballot measure doesn’t seem likely, it is possible that voters will weigh the matter with a ballot measure in April, May or June instead. And Mercury also points out that “Even if Selig were to give the nod today, it would also take three-quarters of MLB owners to agree on the matter.” Waiting on the MLB’s decision seems to be the current fate of city council members and Mayor Reed. For more, see here.

City of Alameda Sued for Over $100 Million by Developer Seeking to Transform Old Naval Base

The city of Alameda is being sued by SunCal – an Orange County developer – that is seeking over $100 million due to a supposed breach in contract over failed plans to develop a former Bay Area naval station. Plans were constructed to turn the old base into homes and commercial space. The developer is arguing that it is rightly owed the millions in funds as compensatory and punitive damages and in lost profits, as SunCal already spent $17 million on its plans and is claiming the city acted in bad faith and violated the developer’s Constitutional rights. A development pact was first signed between the company and the city in 2007. The Orange County Business Journal provides the following context:

“A ballot measure that would have allowed the developer to exceed the city’s density limits was rejected by voters earlier this year. Alameda’s City Council subsequently voted this summer not to extend the development pact. SunCal claims that vote was a ‘scheme’ designed to kick out the developer after it did all the groundwork for the project.”

A press release from SunCal states the following:

“According to Skip Miller of Miller Barondess, LLP, despite the developer’s good faith effort, the lawsuit demonstrates that in return, the City has, by the admission of its Interim City Manager, knowingly destroyed emails/documents needed in the developer’s pursuit of justice and in violation of California law knowing well that disputes had arisen with SCC Alameda as early as 2009. Because of this action SCC Alameda has been severely and irreparably prejudiced by the actions of the Interim City Manager. According to the suit, the City of Alameda and Gallant decided, in spite of their contractual obligation to SCC Alameda, that they would secretly attempt to develop Alameda Point on their own, even though the city and the manager have no experience, funding or contractual right to develop the property.”

Any wrongdoing related to public records requests, or in relation to the aforementioned development plans, have been denied by city officials. For more on the case, see here.

Water Safety: Residents in Small, Agricultural Towns Fight for Better Water Quality

Residents in small towns in agricultural and rural areas of the state often receive contradictory and confusing alerts about the water quality in the region, which has motivated activists to push officials for safer drinking water. In small and mostly Latino towns like Seville, where residents are some of the poorest in the state, people are often forced to spend money on bottled water due to warnings from a flurry of water-quality notices. In towns near crops, contamination of water is caused by harmful levels of nitrates due to the use of fertilizers, feedlot runoff and leaky septic tanks. The LA Times reports:

“The colorless and odorless nitrates pose a particular health threat to infants because they can cause "blue baby syndrome," a blood oxygen disorder that can be fatal. The long-term risk for adults is unclear. Farmers started using nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production four decades ago, and since then nitrate contamination in the valley has increased fivefold. The State Water Resources Control Board is writing new guidelines for fertilizer use, but it will take years, perhaps even decades, before groundwater pollution begins to ease, water experts say.”

Pipes in areas like Seville, which has a population of 350, have plenty of leaks and there is low water pressure as well. Since last year, little has been done to improve water quality by the state despite applications for grants while the county temporarily agreed to run the water system. The Times notes that “One weekend last spring, when the water flow fell to a trickle, she went to her county supervisor's home and, when no one answered, called 911. The Fire Department brought the town water.” For more, see here. And in other water-related news, the Chronicle reports that cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, is at higher than normal levels in the town of Hinkley, which was the subject of the movie Erin Brokovich. There are concerns that PG&E is faltering on its order to clean up the causes for the tainted water. See more here.

Water Safety: Residents in Small, Agricultural Towns Fight for Better Water Quality

Residents in small towns in agricultural and rural areas of the state often receive contradictory and confusing alerts about the water quality in the region, which has motivated activists to push officials for safer drinking water. In small and mostly Latino towns like Seville, where residents are some of the poorest in the state, people are often forced to spend money on bottled water due to warnings from a flurry of water-quality notices. In towns near crops, contamination of water is caused by harmful levels of nitrates due to the use of fertilizers, feedlot runoff and leaky septic tanks. The LA Times reports:

“The colorless and odorless nitrates pose a particular health threat to infants because they can cause "blue baby syndrome," a blood oxygen disorder that can be fatal. The long-term risk for adults is unclear. Farmers started using nitrogen fertilizer to boost crop production four decades ago, and since then nitrate contamination in the valley has increased fivefold. The State Water Resources Control Board is writing new guidelines for fertilizer use, but it will take years, perhaps even decades, before groundwater pollution begins to ease, water experts say.”

Pipes in areas like Seville, which has a population of 350, have plenty of leaks and there is low water pressure as well. Since last year, little has been done to improve water quality by the state despite applications for grants while the county temporarily agreed to run the water system. The Times notes that “One weekend last spring, when the water flow fell to a trickle, she went to her county supervisor's home and, when no one answered, called 911. The Fire Department brought the town water.” For more, see here. And in other water-related news, the Chronicle reports that cancer-causing hexavalent chromium, or chromium 6, is at higher than normal levels in the town of Hinkley, which was the subject of the movie Erin Brokovich. There are concerns that PG&E is faltering on its order to clean up the causes for the tainted water. See more here.

Palo Alto Takes a Stance Against High-Speed Rail Station; Federal Funds Boost Project

It appears there won’t be any boarding of trains in the city of Palo Alto, as the City Council recently voted unanimously against allowing a stop for High-Speed Rail in its city. Council members decided to inform the California High-Speed Rail Authority that they don’t want a train station in Palo Alto to be part of the rail’s route up in the Bay. Palo Alto, along with Mountain View and Redwood, were being considered for a 67,000-square-foot mid-Peninsula station, but officials voted against it due to concerns about traffic and the costs of building a large parking structure for it. The station would have been along the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Mercury News reports:

“The council fell short Monday night of taking a formal stance against a station anywhere along the mid-Peninsula, saying it doesn't want to speak for other cities. ‘I'm a little uncomfortable with telling Redwood City what to do,’ Councilman Larry Klein said as the council considered a recommendation by Councilman Greg Scharff to expand the letter to express opposition to a station anywhere on the mid-Peninsula. Though the council rejected Scharff's suggestion, it agreed to include in its letter that most of the reasons it opposes the station would apply to other potential locations along the mid-Peninsula.”

In other rail-related news, the project has gotten a big financial boost from the federal government, thanks to a $902-million grant that was awarded for rail improvements throughout the Golden State. The high-speed rail system is slated to receive at least $731 million. Much of the money has been specifically tagged for the Central Valley, as $715 million will help pay for the design and construction of a section of the planned bullet train in that region; in addition, around $16 million will go toward a route between San Francisco and San Jose. Gov. Schwarzenegger said the following of the grant: “These additional funds are a tremendous vote of confidence for California's high-speed rail project. I thank the federal government for recognizing the value of accelerating the pace of our project and look forward to the many groundbreakings sure to follow." Overall, the federal government is dishing out $2.5 billion for rail projects throughout the nation. Read more here.

Palo Alto Takes a Stance Against High-Speed Rail Station; Federal Funds Boost Project

It appears there won’t be any boarding of trains in the city of Palo Alto, as the City Council recently voted unanimously against allowing a stop for High-Speed Rail in its city. Council members decided to inform the California High-Speed Rail Authority that they don’t want a train station in Palo Alto to be part of the rail’s route up in the Bay. Palo Alto, along with Mountain View and Redwood, were being considered for a 67,000-square-foot mid-Peninsula station, but officials voted against it due to concerns about traffic and the costs of building a large parking structure for it. The station would have been along the route from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Mercury News reports:

“The council fell short Monday night of taking a formal stance against a station anywhere along the mid-Peninsula, saying it doesn't want to speak for other cities. ‘I'm a little uncomfortable with telling Redwood City what to do,’ Councilman Larry Klein said as the council considered a recommendation by Councilman Greg Scharff to expand the letter to express opposition to a station anywhere on the mid-Peninsula. Though the council rejected Scharff's suggestion, it agreed to include in its letter that most of the reasons it opposes the station would apply to other potential locations along the mid-Peninsula.”

In other rail-related news, the project has gotten a big financial boost from the federal government, thanks to a $902-million grant that was awarded for rail improvements throughout the Golden State. The high-speed rail system is slated to receive at least $731 million. Much of the money has been specifically tagged for the Central Valley, as $715 million will help pay for the design and construction of a section of the planned bullet train in that region; in addition, around $16 million will go toward a route between San Francisco and San Jose. Gov. Schwarzenegger said the following of the grant: “These additional funds are a tremendous vote of confidence for California's high-speed rail project. I thank the federal government for recognizing the value of accelerating the pace of our project and look forward to the many groundbreakings sure to follow." Overall, the federal government is dishing out $2.5 billion for rail projects throughout the nation. Read more here.

Road Map to Recovery: Sacramento Leaders Devise 3-Year Plan for Region’s Revitalization

When the going gets tough, taking matters into your own hands is sometimes the best option; that’s the route that city officials in Sacramento are taking to address the capitol’s economic recovery. City Managers are crafting a three-year plan that will specifically focus on ways to get the city out of the recession on its own terms, i.e. without state or federal assistance. The recovery plan will reportedly be launched in the summer and more details will be provided to the City Council in January. Interim City Manager Gus Vina stated, “There's so much we can do for ourselves. This is about helping ourselves and not waiting for a solution to be handed to us." Some of the proposals that are being considered for the plan include the following:

  • “Examining a public safety initiative to fund police and fire services
  • Looking into incentives that can be offered to businesses to attract companies to the city
  • Dedicating more resources to regional parks, which can act as revenue generators for the city. At the same time, asking neighborhoods to take on more responsibility for maintenance of their parks
  • Convening a summit of downtown developers and businesses to create a coordinated effort among those interests to redevelop the area
  • Attracting industries that would support business sectors already growing in the city, including health care and agriculture”

Many of the managers’ goals are broad, such as the focus on public safety and the improvement of the city budget’s sustainability. Revitalizing the city’s downtown has also been a serious consideration. Mayor Johnson has yet to make comments on the plan’s outlines. For more, see here.

And speaking of Sacramento’s recovery, according to real estate figures in the region, the capitol’s home market is only getting worse, as overall activity has been very low. The Bee reports: “A mere 288 new homes were purchased in greater Sacramento during the third quarter, according to a report to be released today. That's less than half as many as a year ago, and a further drop from the previous low of 485 homes sold in the second quarter.” For more on the area’s housing market, see here.

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