Tag Archives: Friends of Riverside’s Hills

Watkins Dr Trash No Match For UCR Students

In a massive show of force, UCR students scoured hillsides and arroyos to collect a trailer load of trash. Over seventy five participants from numerous fraternities.collaborated with the University Neighborhood and Friends Of Riverside’s Hills to reinvigorate Watkins Drive, Gateway to the University Neighborhood.

The morning’s haul included a well used triple recliner couch minus remote, nine tires, a bumper with plate plus thirty five bags of assorted trash. These guys climbed hills and scampered down into arroyos to retrieve the bounty.

In a straw poll at the end, students indicated an interest in a potential collaboration to help build the new C Trail in the Box Springs Mountains. It seems like a perfect legacy project for students, alumnae association and the UCR Foundation.

This batch of trash can be appreciated for a short time only. City crews will find this easily accessible at this location.

A second pile of bags of green waste and assorted construction debris is at the top of Watkins Drive at Gernert Rd. It’s up the hill.

Thanks to Keep Riverside Clean and Beautiful for the tools, gloves and safety vests. There weren’t close to enough, but some of these guys worked bare handed.

Bags of green waste and assorted trash.
Bags of green waste and assorted trash.

Thanks again to Starbuck’s Canyon Crest, and Friends Of Riverside’s Hills.for the donuts.

The area is transformed because of your generosity and support.  

Watkins Dr Clean Up Nov 21 2015 (4)
Seventy five UCR Inter Fraternity Students Make A Big Trash Haul with Friends Of Riverside’s Hills and the University Neighborhood Assn.
UCR Students Picking Up Trash On Watkins Drive
UCR Students working the weeds along Watkins Drive, Gateway to the University Neighborhood
Trash Trailer
A Trailer of Trash for the Friends Of Riverside’s Hills Adopt A Street – Watkins Drive
Watkins Dr Clean Up Nov 21 2015 (2)
UCR Inter- Fraternity Council President Wade Harris and Treasurer Ben Davis and Friends Of Riverside’s Hills Kevin Dawson discussing what we can accomplish together next. Maybe a legacy project rebuilding the C Trail?

Metrolink Safety Concerns Raised At UNA Meeting

Several University neighbors raised concerns over the start of Metrolink commuter rail service running through the neighborhood in the next months. Here’s a recap of the concerns form a letter sent to Anne Mayer, Director of RCTC.

​​​​​Hi Anne,

I wanted to update you on several issues that neighborhood residents have raised.

First on the list: UCR is hosting a student group orientation on Tuesday the 22nd. Sargent Seth Morrison wanted to invite Metrolink Safety Program Manager, Martha (Marty) Jimenez from Operation Lifesaver. Could you please make the introduction?

Operation Life SaverMartha made her presentation along with her UCR Grad trainee Ariel Alcon Tapia. Her message would be best suited to the student population climbing the “C” Trail each day.

I asked Ariel, her UCR grad and trainee if he ever hiked the “C” Trail. Of course he had to admit that he had. The presentation fell flat for the neighborhood.

The key issue is a safe crossing. It’s not going to be solved by contracting with LA County Sheriffs for trespassing enforcement. The safety programming necessary as it is, is occurring as inauthentic.

The persistence in resisting tunnels or bridges, is putting RCTC in the unenviable position of appearing callous and guilty of misfeasance when the inevitable student fatality occurs.

Sorority Photo Op On Metrolink TracksI am forwarding a number of photos for you. One of them is a sorority group photo staged on the tracks.

Others point out an issue we’re having with cars driving into Islander Park entering from the Mt.Vernon/Linden crossing.

This is an open invitation to partying and dumping. It’s also an attractive nuisance which will no doubt result in additional drivers getting stuck on the tracks.

Islander Park Drive In Access 2

Drive In Access To Islander Park 3

Dennis McCulloch wants to know what is being contemplated to address his issue.

The seven properties identified in the EIR as requiring sound mitigation have asked when that is going to happen. Other residents have already used the mitigation money offered. These seven are due and want to know if there’s a timeline, a process or someone they should contact. Christopher and Debra Sanchez at 2282 Kentwood
have asked. Please advise.

A suggestion was made about addressing the safety issues of trail crossings by hikers. Dave Roddy is a neighbor and his suggestion was to slow the speed through the neighborhood from Linden to Manfield to 15 mph, about the same as the
current freight train speeds through the neighborhood.

I realize this will immediately bring up a number of reasons why that can’t work. However, in light of no other significant measure in place to successfully address the gaping public safety issue we’re facing, it might be worth considering.

Adding a few extra minutes to the route until we get this resolved is actually the one idea with the greatest chance of making an actual impact on public safety. I doubt the beginning ridership numbers will be significant enough to warrant being overly inconvenienced versus the possibility of a potentially fatal one.

At the very least, it buys us time to continue discussions about a tunnel or bridge. The cost to install either is far under RCTC’s estimates to the Friends Of Riverside’s Hills. To solve this crossing issue, we’re in the low six figures, not the millions as proposed.

In the project plan the crossing at Morton Road was to be gated and closed being accessible only to emergency vehicles. If this is so, what was the reason behind installing full crossing infrastructure? People want to know.

The last item relates to Quiet Zones. We know the City has to apply. What is the process or timeline for this? Do we wait until RCTC signs off as complete? Please tell us how the process works. We know it goes to the PUC. When is the key question in the neighborhood.

As always, I share this in the possibility of shared community benefit.

A vibrant, Badly Eroded C Trail Riverside CAsafe regional trails network starts with Islander Park. The C Trail is the second most popular trail after Mt. Rubidoux. The wear is obvious.

Imagining more crossings not less or none as RCTC insists, is where the majority of community stakeholders are focused..

The Riverside Stem Academy for one, is cut off from accessing the Box Springs Mountains Preserve because they can’t cross the tracks either. Same as the C Trail.

Healthy Riverside County General PlanThe draw to these natural resources has always been present. That was evident from the very first scoping sessions. Now we have significantly larger numbers of the community accessing these resources.

The County’s Healthy Cities Initiative is based on healthy food access and walkable communities.

We’re at a loss at RCTC’s position denying a community access to fulfill a stated health implementation goal.

These issues have already been solved in other Metrolink communities. We are the only residential area on the new Perris Valley line. We feel we should have gotten at least as good a project as in other Metrolink communities.

It is unreasonable to think we can’t come up with a plan to develop the trail heads in Islander Park to function as safe, environmentally sound and effective.

The Metrolink project will alter the fabric of our neighborhood forever. The looming safety and access issues were always key points for us. They are not going away. We think it’s well past time for RCTC to mitigate them in the best interest of the community and the taxpayers.

As always yours for a neighborhood of our dreams,

Gurumantra Khalsa

Chair University Neighborhood Association.

Watkins Drive Clean Up Set For Saturday, July 27th

Friends of Riverside's Hills pulled 15 bags of trash off of Watkins Dr.The Friends of Riverside’s Hills are sponsoring a Watkins Dr. Clean Up Saturday, July 27th.

Tools, bags, gloves, safety vests at your service courtesy of Keep Riverside Clean and BeautifulWear sturdy shoes, a hat.

Meet on Watkins Dr. just South of Piccacho Dr.

We’re starting at 7:30 a.m. and finishing around 11:30 a.m. Sign in and pick up your gear.

Cold beverages courtesy of our friends at  Starbuck’s Canyon Crest.

Lend a hand and join the neighborhood sherpas who climb hills and arroyos to keep the “Gateway to the University Neighborhood”  looking great.  Call 951-640-3868 for details.

Pursue Local Resolution To Rail Project Wrangling

Metrolink Train

The Press Enterprise Editorial, May 28, 2013

HE PRESS-ENTERPRISE
May 28, 2013; 04:03 PM

Expedience does not justify carving another special loophole in the state’s environmental law. Riverside County transportation officials should dump an effort to get state legislators to bypass an adverse local court ruling, and focus instead on resolving the issues raised in the court decision.

Members of the Riverside County Transportation Commission last week urged legislators to help the commission circumvent a court decision that has delayed a commuter rail project. But a local solution that ends the case and allows the rail plans to move ahead would be a far more effective — and practical — approach. The commission wants to add a $232.7 million expansion to the Metrolink system, which would extend the rail line 24 miles from Riverside to Perris.

Friends of Riverside’s Hills in 2011 sued the commission under the California Environmental Quality Act, charging that the environmental report for the rail project was inadequate. A Riverside County Superior Court judge this month said the document failed to properly address a series of issues, including construction noise and “wheel squeal” from commuter rail operations. The judge gave the commission 90 days to come up with fixes for the flaws in the environmental report.

The commission should use that time to address the concerns the judge listed, and try to end the legal wrangle. Instead, commissioners — elected officials from Riverside County and its cities — want legislators to grant the project a special exemption from the rules.

But frustration at a legal setback does not warrant more mindless tinkering with the environmental law. The California Environmental Quality Act requires public agencies to study the environmental effects of development plans, and take steps to avoid or remedy any damage. The law’s provisions can be frustratingly ambiguous, leading to confusion, inconsistency and conflict. And the law’s vague wording can invite abusive lawsuits that tie up projects over minor technicalities.

However, the state will not clarify the law or end abuses of it by cutting yet another loophole for a pet project. Legislators skirted the environmental law to aid NFL stadium proposals in 2009 and 2011. Another bill in 2011 allowed the governor to protect some projects, on a case-by-case basis, from legal challenges under the environmental act. Such changes subvert the law instead of improving it, by focusing on political favors rather than environmental protection. And giving a pass to projects with enough clout and money behind them is unfair to everyone else.

The transportation commission worries that the legal delays will add to the cost of the project and threaten $75 million in federal tax funding for the rail line. But the most realistic approach available is to resolve the legal issues so the project can proceed. The commission’s appeal to the Legislature is an unlikely gambit, as well as an unsavory special-interest tactic that seeks political advantage regardless of the public policy consequences.

A local resolution of the Metrolink expansion issues would be a far better solution. The environmental law needs clarification and streamlining, not more single-project exemptions.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/opinion/editorials-headlines/20130528-editorial-pursue-local-resolution-to-rail-project-wrangling.ece#sthash.f3Uyt0YB.dpuf

Local Lawmakers Push To Circumvent Judge’s Ruling

Metrolink Trains

BY JEFF HORSEMAN AND PETER SUROWSKI STAFF WRITERS May 23, 2013; 05:23 PM

Local officials are urging lawmakers to help them counter a judge’s decision that has put a planned Metrolink extension on an indefinite hiatus.

Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley said he flew to Sacramento on Thursday, May 23, with Riverside County Transportation Commission Chairwoman Karen Spiegel and Perris Mayor Daryl Busch to meet with two Democratic lawmakers from Riverside County, State Senator Richard Roth and State Assemblyman Jose Medina.

Their goal is to revive the $232.7 million Perris Valley Line project that would build 24 miles of track and four stations from Riverside to the southern edge of Perris.

Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled the project’s environmental impact report violates the California Environmental Quality Act. In a judgment released last week, she said all approvals for the report, which is vital to the project, must be rescinded.

The decision was renounced by several local officials, including Ashley, who is the vice-chair of transportation commission’s board of directors.

“We’re just flabbergasted (by the ruling). Outraged is a good word,” he said. “It’s just awfully hard to understand if you’re a normal human being.”

Ashley said the ruling underscores the need to reform CEQA, which regulates the impacts a project can have on the environment. He said one option available to Roth and Medina is trying to make the project exempt from the provisions of the act.

Members of Friends of Riverside’s Hills, an environmental group that filed the suit, said what the officials are doing shows disregard for the rule of law.

“I think it is a source of serious concern when public agencies view themselves as being above the law, which is what this effort suggests,” said Len Nunney, the secretary for Friends.

What the trio of officials is asking of the lawmakers is no easy thing to accomplish, said Chuck Dalldorf, a spokesperson for Roth.

“It’s certainly possible, but it’s highly complicated,” Dalldorf said.

Generally, legislators introduce bills in January or February. This late in the year, the lawmakers would have two choices: they could get a waiver for the already-broken deadlines, which is “challenging to get,” or they would need to amend an already-existing bill to include the Perris Valley Line’s CEQA exemption, Dalldorf said.

The commuter rail project, when started, is expected to take 18 months to complete and see about 4,000 boardings daily, according to John Standiford, the deputy executive director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the lead agency on the project.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130523-perris-valley-line-local-lawmakers-push-to-circumvent-judges-ruling.ece#sthash.o8kd8KiY.dpuf

Judge Sides With Metrolink Opponents

Metrolink Trains

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 1, 2013 by Peter Surowski

Ruling on Metrolink More Complicated Than It Seemed

Last week, I reported on information released by the Riverside Superior Court about a lawsuit against the Riverside County Transportation Commission for its planned Perris Valley Line.

The court released one sentence about the ruling on its public access website: “Writ of mandate is denied.”

I and folks on both sides of the lawsuit took that to mean that the judge ruled in favor of RCTC and shot down the writ of mandate filed in 2011 by Friends of Riverside’s Hills, an environmental group.

Then I got my hands on the full text of the ruling, which you can read by clicking here.

RELATED: Judge sides with opponents on some Metrolink issues

It showed that, sure, the judge ruled in favor of RCTC on the majority of the counts, but it ruled in favor of Friends on five. All it takes is one favorable ruling on one item to hold up construction, said Ray Johnson, an attorney for Friends.

The ruling was a surprise to people on both sides of the lawsuit who read the decision before receiving the full ruling in the mail later.

“We got whiplash,” from the about-face the full-text ruling seemed to be from the truncated one-sentence ruling, said Johnson.

RELATED: Perris approves construction on new Metrolink station

This leaves those involved — but especially me — to wonder why the court would offer such an over-simplified piece of information on its public access website.

“There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a more accurate statement,” said John Standiford, the deputy executive director of RCTC.

So what happens next? Neither side is 100 percent sure. They’re trying to figure out what happens next and how they can resolve the problem.

“What we hope is they take the judge’s criticisms to heart and mitigate the issues on which they lost,” said Len Nunney, the secretary for Friends.

What Looked Like A Green Light For Construction Of A New Metrolink Line Last Week Looks  More Like A Yellow Light This Week

Last week, I reported on information released by the Riverside Superior Court about a lawsuit against the Riverside County Transportation Commission for its planned Perris Valley Line.

The court released one sentence about the ruling on its public access website: “Writ of mandate is denied.”

I and folks on both sides of the lawsuit took that to mean that the judge ruled in favor of RCTC and shot down the writ of mandate filed in 2011 by Friends of Riverside’s Hills, an environmental group.

Then I got my hands on the full text of the ruling.

RELATED: Judge sides with opponents on some Metrolink issues

It showed that, sure, the judge ruled in favor of RCTC on the majority of the counts, but it ruled in favor of Friends on five. All it takes is one favorable ruling on one item to hold up construction, said Ray Johnson, an attorney for Friends.

The ruling was a surprise to people on both sides of the lawsuit who read the decision before receiving the full ruling in the mail later.

“We got whiplash,” from the about-face the full-text ruling seemed to be from the truncated one-sentence ruling, said Johnson.

RELATED: Perris approves construction on new Metrolink station

This leaves those involved — but especially me — to wonder why the court would offer such an over-simplified piece of information on its public access website.

“There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a more accurate statement,” said John Standiford, the deputy executive director of RCTC.

So what happens next? Neither side is 100 percent sure. They’re trying to figure out what happens next and how they can resolve the problem.

“What we hope is they take the judge’s criticisms to heart and mitigate the issues on which they lost,” said Len Nunney, the secretary for Friends.

When The Dust Settles Environmental Group Wins Lawsuit

The full text of a court ruling on Metrolink’s planned Perris Valley Line shows that while a judge supported transportation officials on most issues, she agreed with opponents that noise, pedestrian safety and other key points remain to be addressed.

Both sides are trying to figure out what to do next.

The court released a single-sentence ruling late Thursday, March 28, denying a writ of mandate filed by the environmental group Friends of Riverside’s Hills. The group sued the Riverside County Transportation Commission in 2011, claiming it had failed to address a number of environmental consequences of the commuter train plan.

Yet the full text made available Monday, April 1, shows Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled for Friends on five of 15 points noted in the project’s environmental impact report: the effects on soil, use of track lubricant, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise and construction noise.

Riverside County Transportation Commission officials haven’t yet determined what the ruling means for the project.

“We’re kind of scrambling to figure out the impact,” said John Standiford, the commission’s deputy executive director.

The $232.7 million project would add 24 miles of rails and four Metrolink stations: one in Riverside, one near March Air Reserve Base and two in Perris. The Riverside-Perris line is projected to see about 4,000 boardings daily.

Standiford said he was surprised by the ruling, in view of the court’s one-sentence summary of the ruling released last week.

“There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a more accurate statement,” Standiford said.

For Friends, the full text of the ruling was a happy surprise, said Ray Johnson, an attorney representing Friends.

“We think she got it right that there were significant issues … that weren’t addressed,” he said.

The judge found for RCTC on other issues named in the suit, including the project’s effect on air quality and on the habitat of the western spadefoot toad, a sensitive species.

Attorneys for Friends and the transportation commission will discuss how they can address the decision, Johnson said. He is expected to write a proposed judgment by April 24.

RCTC will discuss its next move during a closed session at its board meeting on Wednesday, April 3.

The environmental group hopes the transportation commission will change the project to address their concerns, said Len Nunney, secretary for Friends.

“(We hope) to make it a much more satisfactory project,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130401-perris-judge-sides-with-opponents-on-some-metrolink-issues.ece#sthash.csU9CXS0.dpuf

The full text of a court ruling on Metrolink’s planned Perris Valley Line shows that while a judge supported transportation officials on most issues, she agreed with opponents that noise, pedestrian safety and other key points remain to be addressed.

Both sides are trying to figure out what to do next.

The court released a single-sentence ruling late Thursday, March 28, denying a writ of mandate filed by the environmental group Friends of Riverside’s Hills. The group sued the Riverside County Transportation Commission in 2011, claiming it had failed to address a number of environmental consequences of the commuter train plan.

Yet the full text made available Monday, April 1, shows Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled for Friends on five of 15 points noted in the project’s environmental impact report: the effects on soil, use of track lubricant, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise and construction noise.

Riverside County Transportation Commission officials haven’t yet determined what the ruling means for the project.

“We’re kind of scrambling to figure out the impact,” said John Standiford, the commission’s deputy executive director.

The $232.7 million project would add 24 miles of rails and four Metrolink stations: one in Riverside, one near March Air Reserve Base and two in Perris. The Riverside-Perris line is projected to see about 4,000 boardings daily.

Standiford said he was surprised by the ruling, in view of the court’s one-sentence summary of the ruling released last week.

“There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a more accurate statement,” Standiford said.

For Friends, the full text of the ruling was a happy surprise, said Ray Johnson, an attorney representing Friends.

“We think she got it right that there were significant issues … that weren’t addressed,” he said.

The judge found for RCTC on other issues named in the suit, including the project’s effect on air quality and on the habitat of the western spadefoot toad, a sensitive species.

Attorneys for Friends and the transportation commission will discuss how they can address the decision, Johnson said. He is expected to write a proposed judgment by April 24.

RCTC will discuss its next move during a closed session at its board meeting on Wednesday, April 3.

The environmental group hopes the transportation commission will change the project to address their concerns, said Len Nunney, secretary for Friends.

“(We hope) to make it a much more satisfactory project,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130401-perris-judge-sides-with-opponents-on-some-metrolink-issues.ece#sthash.csU9CXS0.dpuf

The full text of a court ruling on Metrolink’s planned Perris Valley Line shows that while a judge supported transportation officials on most issues, she agreed with opponents that noise, pedestrian safety and other key points remain to be addressed.

Both sides are trying to figure out what to do next.

The court released a single-sentence ruling late Thursday, March 28, denying a writ of mandate filed by the environmental group Friends of Riverside’s Hills. The group sued the Riverside County Transportation Commission in 2011, claiming it had failed to address a number of environmental consequences of the commuter train plan.

Yet the full text made available Monday, April 1, shows Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled for Friends on five of 15 points noted in the project’s environmental impact report: the effects on soil, use of track lubricant, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise and construction noise.

Riverside County Transportation Commission officials haven’t yet determined what the ruling means for the project.

“We’re kind of scrambling to figure out the impact,” said John Standiford, the commission’s deputy executive director.

The $232.7 million project would add 24 miles of rails and four Metrolink stations: one in Riverside, one near March Air Reserve Base and two in Perris. The Riverside-Perris line is projected to see about 4,000 boardings daily.

Standiford said he was surprised by the ruling, in view of the court’s one-sentence summary of the ruling released last week.

“There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a more accurate statement,” Standiford said.

For Friends, the full text of the ruling was a happy surprise, said Ray Johnson, an attorney representing Friends.

“We think she got it right that there were significant issues … that weren’t addressed,” he said.

The judge found for RCTC on other issues named in the suit, including the project’s effect on air quality and on the habitat of the western spadefoot toad, a sensitive species.

Attorneys for Friends and the transportation commission will discuss how they can address the decision, Johnson said. He is expected to write a proposed judgment by April 24.

RCTC will discuss its next move during a closed session at its board meeting on Wednesday, April 3.

The environmental group hopes the transportation commission will change the project to address their concerns, said Len Nunney, secretary for Friends.

“(We hope) to make it a much more satisfactory project,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130401-perris-judge-sides-with-opponents-on-some-metrolink-issues.ece#sthash.csU9CXS0.dpuf

The full text of a court ruling on Metrolink’s planned Perris Valley Line shows that while a judge supported transportation officials on most issues, she agreed with opponents that noise, pedestrian safety and other key points remain to be addressed.

Both sides are trying to figure out what to do next.

The court released a single-sentence ruling late Thursday, March 28, denying a writ of mandate filed by the environmental group Friends of Riverside’s Hills. The group sued the Riverside County Transportation Commission in 2011, claiming it had failed to address a number of environmental consequences of the commuter train plan.

Yet the full text made available Monday, April 1, shows Judge Sharon J. Waters ruled for Friends on five of 15 points noted in the project’s environmental impact report: the effects on soil, use of track lubricant, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise and construction noise.

Riverside County Transportation Commission officials haven’t yet determined what the ruling means for the project.

“We’re kind of scrambling to figure out the impact,” said John Standiford, the commission’s deputy executive director.

The $232.7 million project would add 24 miles of rails and four Metrolink stations: one in Riverside, one near March Air Reserve Base and two in Perris. The Riverside-Perris line is projected to see about 4,000 boardings daily.

Standiford said he was surprised by the ruling, in view of the court’s one-sentence summary of the ruling released last week.

“There’s no reason they couldn’t have had a more accurate statement,” Standiford said.

For Friends, the full text of the ruling was a happy surprise, said Ray Johnson, an attorney representing Friends.

“We think she got it right that there were significant issues … that weren’t addressed,” he said.

The judge found for RCTC on other issues named in the suit, including the project’s effect on air quality and on the habitat of the western spadefoot toad, a sensitive species.

Attorneys for Friends and the transportation commission will discuss how they can address the decision, Johnson said. He is expected to write a proposed judgment by April 24.

RCTC will discuss its next move during a closed session at its board meeting on Wednesday, April 3.

The environmental group hopes the transportation commission will change the project to address their concerns, said Len Nunney, secretary for Friends.

“(We hope) to make it a much more satisfactory project,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130401-perris-judge-sides-with-opponents-on-some-metrolink-issues.ece#sthash.csU9CXS0.dpuf

Judge sides with opponents on some Metrolink issues – See more at: http://www.pe.com/local-news/riverside-county/perris/perris-headlines-index/20130401-perris-judge-sides-with-opponents-on-some-metrolink-issues.ece#sthash.csU9CXS0.dpuf

Obey Environmental Law And Metrolink Extension Can Proceed

BY LEN NUNNEY
June 09, 2013; 04:00 AM
The United States is a nation governed by laws that provide for a safe and prosperous society. Unfortunately, some individuals and groups sometimes see themselves above the law, arguing that their interests are too important to be subject to the same rules that govern everyone else.

Friends of Riverside’s Hills came into being 13 years ago because a group of local residents observed repeated and egregious violations of the codes regulating development in Western Riverside County by both developers and local government agencies.

Our mandate was simple: to ensure that the local and state rules designed to preserve and enhance the quality of life of the residents of the area were followed. Riverside may not have an ocean to attract people, but it does have parks and trails that highlight its natural beauty.

Friends of Riverside’s Hills is a small 501(c)3 charity with no paid staff. As such, we can only focus on projects that violate important environmental and quality-of-life protections, or have other serious legal problems. When a project comes up, Friends focuses on whether or not the appropriate environmental regulations are being taken into account, rather than taking a position on the merits of the project.

When rules are being violated, we suggest changes that would help the project conform to the relevant regulations, lessening its environmental impact and, where possible, creating a benefit for the community.

Perris Valley Metrolink

NO INTEREST IN DELAY

The Perris Valley Line project, proposed by the Riverside County Transportation Commission to extend Metrolink train service from Riverside to Perris, was this kind of project — one that had some serious problems that could be corrected. Friends of Riverside’s Hills has no interest in delaying this project.

We have always been (and still are) very keen to reach a settlement that would avoid further delay. Throughout the long approval process to adopt the Environmental Impact Report we pointed out in great detail issues that needed to be addressed, but the response of the RCTC was always the same — that our concerns were not valid, and that the EIR had more than satisfied all of the legal requirements. It is this attitude of the RCTC, proved wrong by the court’s decision, that has delayed the project. RCTC’s outraged response to the decision shows that it still believes that it can do no wrong. It is a sad day when a public body that is supposed to serve the public good holds such a view.

DEADLY POSSIBILITIES

An example of our concerns is RCTC’s position regarding the safety of the hundreds of UC Riverside students who cross the railroad tracks every quarter at the start of their hike up to the big “C” on the side of Box Springs Mountain using the Big “C” Trail (as it is called on Google Earth).

Metrolink trains are much faster and quieter than the freight trains that currently use the line.

This represents a serious public safety issue. The RCTC’s response was that this issue was not their concern because the students were trespassing every time they cross the tracks. Fortunately, this irresponsible view was not upheld by the court, but if RCTC can get its way and ignore the court’s ruling, nothing will be done to mitigate this concern — until, one suspects, a student is struck by a train.

The California Environmental Quality Act, which governs lawsuits such as Friends of Riverside’s Hills’, is an easy target for the powerful to attack, but it allows for small watchdog groups like Friends to ensure that commonsense environmental regulations are enforced. Friends has neither the time nor the money to file frivolous suits, and we never gain financially from winning.

Our lawsuit against RCTC was motivated by the agency’s failure to consider issues such as pedestrian crossings over or under the tracks, trails along the tracks, wildlife impacts, air pollution, and noise pollution.

Now that our belief that the EIR was inadequate has been validated by the court, it is unfortunate that RCTC continues to act as if it is too powerful an agency to be subject to CEQA, the state law established to protect all California residents.

Len Nunney, secretary of Friends of Riverside’s Hills, wrote this commentary on the organization’s behalf.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/opinion/local-views-headlines/20130609-opinion-obey-environmental-law-and-metrolink-extension-can-proceed.ece#sthash.ZKhtWBlu.dpuf

End Obstruction Support Metrolink Extension To Perris

BY KAREN SPIEGEL
June 09, 2013; 04:00 AM

Metrolink Train

‘Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

One organization that needs to pay heed to the old adage is the Friends of Riverside’s Hills.

Taking NIMBYism to an extreme, this “environmental” organization actually brought a lawsuit to stop a transit project that has been in the works for more than 10 years.

Metrolink, one of Southern California’s biggest success stories, has changed lives by offering an environmentally responsible option for long-term commuters, and a significant number of its riders come from Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The Perris Valley Line, which would go from Riverside to Perris, would take cars off the freeway, eliminate millions of vehicle-miles traveled each year and create thousands of well-paying local construction jobs. Yet, it is now being threatened as a result of a May 14 court ruling ordering decertification of the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

The issues involve the number of truck trips needed to construct the project, noise, track lubrication, and impacts on those who illegally trespass along the rail right of way. The ruling also jeopardizes $75 million in federal funding and halts progress on a project twice approved by — you — the voters, who supported Measure A, the half-cent sales tax measure.

As our region moves toward encouraging public transit use and reducing harmful air quality emissions associated with vehicle traffic, the “Friends” group remains committed to stopping a 24-mile expansion of rail service that will serve job centers such as Hunter Park, the March Air Reserve Base and UC Riverside.

LONGSTANDING TRACKS

Nevermind that the train tracks have existed for more than a century and are home to much noisier and disruptive freight trains, the addition of six round-trip Metrolink trains led to unfortunate litigation.

If there is a legal victory for the Friends group, it won’t be shared by everyone. All of Southern California — and especially all of us in Riverside County — should question if anything was gained and how much more was lost. That’s because RCTC, through a multi-year and multimillion-dollar planning effort, made a good faith effort to address local concerns.

The Metrolink project provides schools along the rail tracks with sound walls, constructs new improvements at rail crossings to improve safety and adds attractive new rail stations at major employment centers, all of which will enhance what has been a long-neglected freight rail corridor.

Moreover, RCTC committed to funding quiet zones. In short, the addition of new train service improves the environment much more than it will impact it; a court victory against the project will be a much bigger loss for everyone.

EVER-SHIFTING DEMANDS

Riverside County’s future will certainly be impacted because we need to establish an effective transit backbone that connects bus, rail and park and rides. The Friends group will argue its concerns can be met; however, much like Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown before he can kick the football, its demands change just as they are about to be met.

It’s time to ask the Friends about what their organization stands for, and where their litigation proceeds are spent. They have manipulated California environmental law to their advantage and the rest of the region will pay the price.

RCTC has been and remains willing to engage in negotiations for a reasonable settlement with the Friends of Riverside’s Hills. To date, we have been unsuccessful. The future of transit in Western Riverside County is at stake, and we stand ready to have a public and transparent discussion about ways we can move forward for the benefit of our entire community.

RCTC will be in Sacramento pursuing changes in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to protect worthwhile transit projects from spurious legal challenges. You can also count on us to appeal this court decision in order to prevent the negative precedent that would be set if this project cannot proceed.

Karen Spiegel, a member of the Corona City Council, is chair of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

– See more at: http://www.pe.com/opinion/local-views-headlines/20130609-opinion-end-obstruction-support-metrolink-extension-to-perris.ece#sthash.K6b6Vbt1.dpuf

PERRIS VALLEY LINE: Environmental Group Says It’s Not Trying To Kill Project

Metrolink Train

 

BY DAVE DOWNEY
June 09, 2013; 02:06 PM

PERRIS VALLEY LINE: Environmental group says it’s not trying to kill project

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PERRIS VALLEY LINE: Environmental group says it’s not trying to kill project

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PERRIS VALLEY LINE: Environmental group says it’s not trying to kill project

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A small Riverside environmental group that persuaded a judge to halt a 24-mile commuter rail line maintains it isn’t trying to kill the $232.7 million project, but make it friendly to the environment and neighborhoods.

Three members of Friends of Riverside’s Hills said this week they are willing to negotiate a compromise with the Riverside County Transportation Commission, the regional agency planning the Perris Valley Line, to pave the way for certifying a crucial environmental impact report and launching construction.

“We think this thing can be settled,” said group member Richard Block in a Thursday, June 6 meeting with the Press-Enterprise editorial board. “We don’t want to torpedo this project.”

The transportation commission wants to add a line to Metrolink’s Southern California rail system, providing new service to the UC Riverside area, Moreno Valley, March Air Reserve Base and Perris, while putting trains within reach of Menifee and other southwest Riverside County communities. The line would have an estimated 4,000 boardings daily via four stations: north Riverside, March Air Reserve Base, downtown Perris and south Perris at Interstate 215 and Highway 74.
View Perris Valley Line in a larger map

The Friends of Riverside’s Hills sued in August 2011, one month after the commission adopted the environmental study. On May 14, Riverside Superior Court Judge Sharon J. Waters ordered the regional transportation body to set aside its approval, putting construction on hold indefinitely. The decision potentially jeopardizes $75 million in federal funding awarded for the project.

Construction was expected to take 13 to 15 months.

Anne Mayer, the agency’s executive director, said in a telephone interview she was encouraged by the group’s expressed willingness to settle.

“I’m delighted that they are saying they are interested in moving the project forward,” Mayer said.

She said the agency received an extensive list of demands in May, following the ruling, and will present those to the full commission in closed session at its monthly meeting Wednesday, June 12, in Riverside. Commissioners also will consider whether to appeal last month’s ruling, she said.

“We submitted a list of demands which we know were excessive,” said Block, who lives 2,100 feet from the tracks. “We are willing to compromise on many of these demands.”

However, it would seem the group and agency remain far apart.

While declining to say precisely what it would take for the group to drop its challenge, Block and the others mentioned some of the many issues they want addressed in the community around UCR, including soundproofing homes near the railroad, placing planned sound walls farther from homes, installing an automatic shut-off valve on a jet fuel pipeline that crosses tracks en route to March, and building underpasses for three informal hiking trails leading into the Box Springs Mountain area.

One trail is the heavily used route to the prominent, gold “C” that looks down on Riverside and the university.

“That’s a trail that’s been used for generations,” Block said.

Citing a 2004 assessment that indicated nearly 200 homes in the UCR area would suffer noise impacts, group members said they would like to see most, if not all, soundproofed. Mayer countered that the assessment was preliminary and is not relevant. She said the environmental report determined 67 residences would be “severely or moderately” affected by noise and the commission will build sound walls to shield all.

In addition, Mayer said, the commission proposed to the group to go beyond what is required and equip those 67 homes with insulated windows, at a cost of $1 million. She said the offer was turned down.

John Standiford, commission deputy executive director, said he fails to understand the noise concern.

“Our trains are considerably quieter than any of the freight trains on the tracks,” Standiford said. “Our trains are lighter, less polluting, quieter. And we’d be getting people out of cars to take the train.”

But Block said the Metrolink extension would introduce 12 additional trips a day, including one that would traverse the university neighborhood at 4:15 in the morning.

“That’s going to perhaps wake up people,” Block said.

As for the shut-off valve, the group says it wants to prevent an environmental disaster by immediately halting flow of jet fuel should a derailment or train vibration spring a leak. Mayer said the pipeline owner, Kinder-Morgan, told the commission there are ample shut-off valves in place — at Colton, March and in between — and they are capable of halting leaks in a few minutes.

Mayer added that the commission won’t build underpasses for informal hiking trails across tracks, which are essentially illegal crossings.

“People don’t belong on railroad tracks and they shouldn’t be crossing railroad tracks where it is not safe to do so,” she said. “We’re not going to do anything to encourage people to trespass on the rail right of way.”

Gurumantra Khalsa, group member and chairman of the University Neighborhood Association, said he doesn’t understand the resistance to underpasses. He said several have been built along tracks elsewhere in Southern California to provide access to beaches and parks.

While the agency is willing to negotiate, Mayer said some demands won’t be met because they aren’t necessary.

“We’re not just writing a blank check,” she added.

In any event, the commission must decide how to respond to Judge Waters’ May 14 ruling, invalidating the environmental report. Through a court secretary, Waters declined to talk to a reporter about the ruling, citing judicial ethics.

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Friends Of Riverside’s Hills Files Perris Valley Line Lawsuit

The American Planning Association Daily Planning News offered a concise statement of the issues as you might expect from a professional organization.

When the impacts of economic growth threaten the health of the community and our  environment, then economic and environmental justice demand a high return on taxpayer dollars.  Professional planners all know this. They also know that politics always plays a role and that’s where the public interest gets left behind. That’s when professionals loose sight of who their professional expertise is supposed to serve. That would be the public.

The RCTC stands ready to defend what will soon become indefensible. They recently settled a lawsuit by the Riverside Unified School District. The District had to sue in order to get obvious mitigation measures.

If our public agencies are forced to sue each other over a project’s  mitigation measures, there is likely something more serious being perpetrated on the public than meets the eye.  Barney Barnett has given us a behind the scenes look at this boon doggle project.

That leaves the University Neighborhood, Sycamore Highlands and parts of Orange Crest to fend for ourselves. The City signed an M.O.U. with the RCTC to get quiet zones for the rest of the City if they agreed not to support any opposition to the Perris Valley Line.

It seems a bit inconsistent for a City proclaiming and celebrating very real achievements in many areas of environmental excellence to  remain silent as city residents are forced to sue to have their environmental rights and quality of life protected.  Read the complaint and suit at:   2011.08.23 Petition for Writ of Mandate

Good public transportation  policy is generally agreed to add value to the ridership. Cost, convenience and comfort are the ridership drivers that keep public transportation operational and profitable.

The Perris Valley line will be comfortable. But cost and convenience are simply not there. That makes it poor public policy.  The environmental impacts are being challenged in the Friend’s lawsuit.

The rest of Riverside will soon be enjoying quiet nights and restful sleep. Our wishes for sweet dreams aside, we will be organizing, fund raising and generally having a grand old time celebrating University Neighborhood Values — even if it’s before a judge.

Pass this around to your friends and neighbors. Urge them to sign up to get updates and opportunities for some mirth and fund raising parities – UNA style.

Other Links:

Highgrove Happenings

Are We Being Railroaded By The Perris Valley Line?

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