Category Archives: Safety

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.

Civilian Oversight Of Law Enforcement Conference Coming To Riverside

Police Review Brian Buchner, Board President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE), will be coming to Riverside to meet with local community leaders regarding the 2015 NACOLE Conference.

This conference will take place here in Riverside on October 4 – 8, 2015 (please see the attached NACOLE newsletter or the NACOLE website: nacole.org).

This informal meeting will be held in the Riverside City Council Chambers on March 16th, 2015, from 5 – 7 PM.  Please send two – three representatives from your group or organization to this meeting where they will be able to learn about NACOLE and the upcoming conference, and where Mr. Buchner will also learn from community leaders of their concerns regarding local issues.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Phoebe Sherron in the CPRC Office at 951.826.5509.

 

Thank you.

 

Phoebe Sherron

Sr. Office Specialist

 

Community Police Review Commission

Emergency Vehicles Coming To Campus Wednesday

Nothing to worry about if you happen to see hundreds of emergency personnel on campus this Wednesday.

To the Campus Community,

Line of Parked Fire Trucks As part of UCR’s ongoing emergency preparations, the campus has invited more than one hundred emergency responders to come take a tour of the campus on Wednesday, Dec. 17, focusing on the labs and steam plant. Emergency vehicles will be parked in Lot 6. We are trying to share this notice widely to avoid someone mistaking numerous emergency vehicles for a crisis.

“This is important work and part of our ability to communicate efficiently with each other if there is an emergency,” said Russell Vernon, director of UCR’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety.

Line of parked fire trucks with ladders extendedRepresentatives of Riverside County Fire, Riverside Police, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and several other fire agencies will be touring labs, the steam plant, and other areas of campus that might be critically important to an emergency response during an earthquake or other natural disaster.  The tour and workshop lasts from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information about UCR’s emergency preparations, visit:
http://ehs.ucr.edu/emergency/index.html

 

Mailbox Vandalism, Theft Resources From Sycamore Highlands

Community MailboxesSycamore Highlands mailboxes continue to be broken into.  The community mailboxes in our neighborhood were not built to prevent burglary.  If your community mailbox is repeatedly broken into, you might consider purchasing a new mailbox – USPS won’t do it (they have refused to take responsibility for these mailboxes).
You can purchase your own unit through a company like:  http://www.lowpriceclustermailboxes.com/  .  My neighborhood purchased a new standard 13 door mailbox unit from this company (cost about $1100) and every neighbor chipped in their share of the price.  The mailbox base unit fit right over the bolts of the old unit, though the base is thicker on the new unit so that the bolts were just barely long enough to work.  You can also reach out to our USPS authorized repairman Mark Guizlo (http://guizloinstallations.com/) who can purchase and install a new unit for you.
Within a few days of installing our new community mailbox, someone did try to break in…but they gave up quickly, just a few scratch marks to show where they tried to get a hacksaw blade into the unit to cut off a door hasp. Nobody has tried to break in since; though it was broken into weekly when our old box was at this same location.  We also heard that RPD caught someone last week who had checks from one of my neighbors that were stolen from the mailbox, so at least one thief is out of service.
Do consider a new mailbox unit if your unit is repeatedly broken into – the cost of a new box is less than the cost of dealing with identity theft.
__________________________________________________________
Sycamore Highlands Community Action Group
6012 Abernathy Dr.
Riverside, CA 92507
(951) 369-3510

 

Driving Safety Lessons From Other States

Driver Education TrainingAt the recent Neighborhoods USA (NUSA) Conference, a contingent from various neighborhoods came together to discuss driving safety, and particularly, raising the driving age.

Raising the driving age in California might never fly, but there are some potential lessons to learn from other communities. A post on RaiseDrivingAge.org has some useful related resources.

Fast & Furious 6Instead of restricting driving, I wonder what it would be like if we invested in driver education training. I’m not talking just about classroom rules of the road. I’m talking about skills training. Driving into and out of a skid, pulling a stunt driver one eighty.

Law enforcement gets some extra training. I see no reason why our youth couldn’t use some extra skills training along with simulator time.

New Affordable Freeway Close Housing Not A Just Solution To Health Effects Of Air Pollution

From Shelterforce, the journal of affordable housing and community building

Living in the Buffer

Preventing the development of new affordable housing in close proximity to freeways isn’t a just solution to the health effects of LA’s air pollution. By Jan Breidenbach and Jesus Herrera

Smart Code Smart Growth High Density GrowthPossible solutions for cutting down on pollution involve rerouting goods traffic away from residential areas. (Photo by Jan Breidenbach)

Boyle Heights is a predominantly Latino neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles, presenting organizers with similar challenges as other older, minority and low-income communities—meeting the need for affordable housing, better jobs, and quality of life, revitalizing an older community while keeping a sharp eye out for potential gentrification. It is also a neighborhood where community development organizers face a new challenge: integrating both economic and environmental justice when the resolution of an injustice in one arena can possibly exacerbate injustice in the other.

Five major freeways barreled through Boyle Heights over a period of two decades, slicing and dicing it so that people and goods could move more easily in and out of downtown and back and forth between the nearby industrial areas. The freeway structures dominate the physical space of the community; even more importantly, the residue from their traffic creates a toxic soup that fouls the air and makes people sick. Policymakers are becoming more attuned to these environmental concerns, but economic justice—specifically the need for more affordable housing—is paying the price.

Where We Live, What We Breathe

In 2008, the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission announced it would no longer invest its redevelopment housing funds in projects within a 500-foot “buffer” zone of any freeway. Given the way funding works, this decision meant this land was now effectively off-limits for affordable housing—even for quality construction with pollution mitigation. Market-rate housing, which doesn’t require city funding, was not affected.

Smart Growth Wolf In Sheep's ClothingThis makes no sense, says Maria Cabildo, director of East LA Community Corporation (ELACC), a CDC that has worked in the community for over 15 years. “This is a poor neighborhood with a lot of substandard housing. Quality affordable housing that has been mitigated for air pollution could present a much better option than lower-quality market housing outside the buffer.” Cabildo is concerned that more limitations on available land in a city both already built-out and focused on higher-density, transit-oriented development (TOD) will drive up prices and limit affordable housing everywhere, not just in the buffer.

Linda Wheaton, assistant director of intergovernmental affairs at California’s Dept. of Housing and Community Development, agrees: “There is a danger down this road that low-income people will suffer the most. There are more of them in buffer to begin with, often living in low-quality, unmitigated housing. Higher quality, mitigated housing will only be available to those who can afford market rent.”

To be clear, neither is questioning the science that underpins the decision. In the 1990s, researchers from the University of Southern California started testing the lung development of children living at varying distances from major roadways in eight Southern California communities. The results are not pretty. Residential proximity to high-volume traffic is associated with increased risk of low birth weight and higher rates of asthma, respiratory problems, and cancers. Importantly, while traffic pollution includes a range of gases and vapors, one of the most damaging contaminants is “particulate matter” or PM, an ultrafine dust created by the wear and tear of brakes and tires. PM easily enters pulmonary air sacs and, from there, moves into the blood stream. The long-term challenge is that, while great strides are being made in emissions reduction, even all-electric vehicles ride on rubber tires and brake in traffic.

Most—but not all—of the studies made another important finding that drives the land use policy responses: concentrations of traffic-related pollutants diminish dramatically with distance from the road. There is general agreement that severe health risk is reduced by over 60 percent at about 300 feet and by 80 percent at just under 1,000 feet. Splitting the difference, in 2003, the state legislature approved a statute banning future school construction within a 500-foot buffer of any freeway or major roadway. Since then, the majority of land use recommendations have proposed limiting “sensitive” land uses—child care and senior facilities, schools, and housing—in this same buffer.

Organizing Responses—Choosing Justice? Choosing Health? Choosing Life?

LA County’s 2008 decision is now basically moot—its redevelopment funds are being taken back by the State of California to help in its fiscal crisis, so it has enough for only one or two more projects. The issue, however, is not going away. This past year the LA County Dept. of Public Health proposed language essentially banning all future housing in the 500-foot buffer and requiring mitigation for projects within a 1,500-foot buffer, as part of the county’s updated General Plan. The Dept. of Regional Planning ultimately rejected this, opting for language that encourages mitigation for land uses in “proximity” to a freeway as opposed to a specific distance. According to regional planner Connie Chung, that choice was made not out of lack of concern for the air quality, but out of concern over the legal and policy complications of denying long-term land use and the desire to move toward mitigation.

CEQA Handbook – South Coast Air Quality Management

Rules and Regulations – South Coast Air Quality .

Air Quality Management Plans

Community activists in Boyle Heights and elsewhere raise legitimate concerns about a strict land use approach to the problem, arguing that it places them between an economic justice rock and an environmental justice hard place. They are very aware that their community endures greater traffic pollution than more affluent, white neighborhoods, up to two times as much. While this is not a surprise, given that many major freeways tore through low-income communities to avoid disrupting wealthier ones, ELACC community organizer Jorge Villanueva argues for a deeper analysis and more comprehensive approach. “Our office is a converted residence and it’s in the buffer. Our neighbors live here. We want to get to the root cause of all the pollution and do something about it.” ELACC’s neighbors are not alone. Of L.A. County’s 88 cities, 68 have at least one freeway inside city limits. According to Chung’s office there are over 650,000 people presently living within the 500-foot buffer to freeways. Bans on future development do not help them.

Healthy CitiesWorking with public health researchers at both University of Southern California and UCLA and in coalition with other east-side community groups, ELACC organizers are training their staff and members to do air monitoring—in the buffer, on their commercial streets, and in their homes. They understand that it is not only the freeways that are making them sick, but also the cumulative effect of freeways, street traffic (including goods movement), and industrial pollution.

When it comes to toxic air, University of California–Irvine assistant professor Douglas Houston points out that “building standards and site design could potentially be improved to help mitigate air pollution impacts.” Approaches could include filtration, building orientation, vegetation, and sound walls, and, as Villanueva suggests, even rerouting goods movement traffic.

E2 Justice

The injustice that planned and built freeways without regard for neighbors and neighborhoods has burdened us with major economic and environmental consequences. Our responses need to be thoughtful and aware of potential unintended consequences, for it is now abundantly clear that our land-use goals may be in conflict with our health goals and, indeed our health. Smart growth, new urbanism, and infill development are land use tools proposed as ways to revitalize cities, promote development, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Land use as climate change mitigation is moving forward at breakneck (for land use!) speed in California. In the city of Los Angeles, 80 percent of all future development will be channeled into transit areas. There are already serious concerns about displacement and gentrification in TOD; the issue of the buffer adds to these when we realize that a number of proposed transit lines are adjacent to (or even in the middle of) freeways.

Few of us would choose a freeway as our closest neighbor, but there are many reasons we live where we do. Income and racial discrimination have confined much low-cost housing to areas with the most pollution and placed it near noxious and dangerous uses. When it comes to housing and roadways, community development activists and organizers have the opportunity—and responsibility—to combine our struggles around land use and air pollution into struggles for economic and environmental justice. As Cabildo says, “We didn’t go to the freeways, the freeways came to us.” They are in our neighborhoods; now we have to fight to stay healthy in spite of them.


Jan Breidenbach is a long-time housing advocate and teaches housing policy at the University of Southern California. Jesus Herrera is a graduate student in Planning at USC.

More information about Jan Breidenbach and Jesus Herrera