Opinion: Measure J: Moving today for tomorrow

Read a response to this piece here.

How much would we like to do, but simply don’t, because of traffic? Commuting questions plague us every day: How long will it take us to get to work; to go to the doctor; to get to school; to attend events for our kids or grandkids?

Over the past 4 years, community leaders have come together around the notion that, in the words of Assembly Member Michael Feuer, “something transformative is taking place in Los Angeles.” Over the past 20 years, Los Angeles, once the freeway capital of the world, has quietly been transformed into the third-largest transit system in the country. And on Election Day, we have a unique opportunity to create new jobs and better mobility with the passage of Measure J.

A brief history lesson: in 2008, a coalition of groups, including Move LA and AJC (American Jewish Committee), united to support Measure R, which passed with more than 67 percent of L.A. County voters. Measure R will raise $40 billion over 30 years and build the subway to Westwood, the Gold Line to Arcadia, an Orange Line extension to Canoga Park, the Green Line to LAX and the South Bay and more.

While Move LA, AJC and many other organizations supported Measure R, 30 years seemed just too far away to appreciate this victory. We all are committed to improving Los Angeles for many future generations to come.   And yet, wouldn’t it be great to ride and enjoy these projects in our lifetime?

Enter Measure J: it would accelerate the construction of seven transit and eight highway improvement projects across LA County, so that construction begins within five years and is completed in 13 years, instead of 27 years as is currently planned. If you were born today, you could ride one of these projects to your Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations. Wouldn’t that be a true transformation!

Measure J does not raise taxes. Instead, it extends a half-cent 30-year sales tax that voters approved in 2008 for another 30 years, from 2039 to 2069. This longer revenue stream would allow LA Metro to finance the accelerated construction now, at a time when the cost of financing and of construction is at an all-time low. Speeding up these projects would also accelerate the creation of 250,000 jobs over the decade, according to the private nonprofit LA County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) — at a time when unemployment in the county is still at a painfully high 11 percent.

The transit projects that would be accelerated — and completed between 2019 and 2025 — include the Green Line Extension to LAX, the I-405 Sepulveda Pass Transit Corridor, the Westside Subway Extension, Gold Line Eastside Extension, Green Line Extension to the South Bay, the West Santa Ana Transit Corridor to Cerritos, and the Regional Connector, which connects rail lines in downtown Los Angeles to provide one-seat rides between the San Gabriel Valley, Gateway Cities and both the Westside and Eastside.

And yes, you read us correctly – there will be a rail connection to LAX and a (yet undetermined) public transit project through the 1-405 Sepulveda Pass Corridor by 2025.

Measure J also provides another 30 years of funding to cities and unincorporated parts of LA County to use for the transportation projects of their choosing, including fixing potholes, safety improvements, signal synchronization, street and sidewalk repair and local transit service.

In addition to the betterment of Los Angeles, Measure J is a particularly important issue for AJC and the entire Jewish community.  Our dependence on oil from hostile nations has put a stranglehold on our national security. With every dollar that we pump into the coffers of despots in Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and especially Iran, the more we become beholden to them. Many of the challenges faced by the United States and Israel in the Middle East are directly linked to oil, and much of it is used in the transportation sector.

Living in a city and a county known for its freeways and cars, our best bet to materially decrease our dependence on foreign oil is to get people out of their cars and on to other forms of transit – carpools, buses, rail, bicycles, and by foot.

Measure R set us on that path. Let’s keep moving down this path together.

Rabbi Mark Diamond is Regional Director of AJC  Los Angeles (www.ajcla.org). Marlene Grossman is Chair of the Board of Move LA (www.movela.org). For more information about Measure J visit the website, http://www.measurej4jobs.org, and facebook page.

Accommodating the shut-down, Jewishly

Due to road closures during the demolition of the Mulholland Bridge on “Carmageddon” weekend, the two major arts institutions located closest to the bridge — the Getty Center and the Skirball Cultural Center, both in the Sepulveda Pass — will be closed on Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17. 

The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive, and the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., will open for normal business hours on Friday, July 15: the Getty from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the Skirball galleries, cafe and gift shop from noon to 5 p.m. 

In addition, on Friday at 8 p.m., the Skirball will proceed with its slated L.A. Theatre Works performance of David Ives’ “New Jerusalem, The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdam, July 27, 1656.” The play, starring Billy Crudup and Hector Elizondo, is expected to run about 90 minutes, ending around 9:30 p.m., a theater spokesperson said. 

“People returning to the Valley will be able to drive north on Sepulveda Boulevard at that time and pick up the 405 below the 101 freeway. Those heading south will be able to access the freeway from the on-ramp.” 

Weekend matinees were rescheduled to Thursday, July 13, and Friday, July 14, both at 2:30 p.m., with reduced ticket prices offered. For more up-to-date information, call (310) 827-0889 or visit latw.org.

Both the Getty Center and the Skirball, which are closed to the public on Mondays, will reopen for business as usual on Tuesday, July 19.  For more up-to-date information, visit getty.edu and skirball.org. 

The Museum of Tolerance, located at 9786 W. Pico Blvd., will open during its normal business hours over the weekend. For up-to-date information, call (310) 553-8403.

Synagogues located near the Mulholland Bridge have likewise made changes to their schedules for the weekend. Here’s a rundown of the scheduling changes:

Stephen S. Wise Temple’s Friday night services will start as usual at 6:15 p.m., but will take place in the Plotkin Chapel instead of the Westwood Sanctuary. The synagogue’s Saturday morning services will be held at Milken Community High School’s beit midrash, located at 15800 Zeldins Way, at 10 a.m. Stephen S. Wise is located at 15550 Stephen S. Wise Drive, off Mulholland Drive. For more information, call (310) 889-2300. 

Leo Baeck Temple’s Friday night service has been canceled. The synagogue is providing congregants with a virtual Shabbat kit — containing recipes, Shabbat table songs, video of the rabbi and cantor leading blessings, educational activities for kids and families to do together and more. Leo Baeck is located at 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd., parallel to the 405 freeway. For more information, call (310) 476-2861. 

University Synagogue’s Friday night service will start at 5 p.m., instead of the usual 7:30 p.m, and will be a short service. The Saturday morning Torah study and service will take place at the usual times, 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., respectively. University Synagogue is located at 11960 W. Sunset Blvd. For more information, call (310) 472-1255. 

Ohr HaTorah’s Saturday service has been canceled. The synagogue will webcast a service, streamed live on ohrhatorah.org, beginning at 9 a.m. from a private residence, led by Rabbi Mordecai Finley. The synagogue does not offer Friday night services. The synagogue is located at 11827 Venice Blvd. For more information, call (310) 915-5200. 

American Jewish University and Valley Beth Shalom have not altered their schedules for the weekend.

Massive 405 Freeway project respects the boundaries of a Jewish tradition

Metro and Caltrans are working with Orthodox Jews to ensure that the upcoming “Carmageddon” will not affect their eruz, latimes.com reports.

Like just about everybody else, Orthodox Jews in Los Angeles have their issues with the 405 Freeway widening project. Unlike most people, however, their primary concern is not necessarily the impending closure of a stretch of the freeway on the July 16-17 weekend.

Their problem is that the 405 construction project keeps messing up their eruv.

Some explanation is probably in order.

An eruv is a ritual enclosure surrounding a neighborhood. It can be a fence, a wall, a piece of string — or a freeway. And it must be unbroken.

Its purpose is legalistic, a loophole, some might say. It allows observant Jews to perform certain actions on the Sabbath — carry a tray of food or push a baby stroller, for example — that Jewish law prohibits in public on that day.

Read more at latimes.com.

The ‘bridge to nowhere’ that’s behind Carmageddon

Thousands of commuters race past the Mulholland Bridge at great speeds every day. Silent and waiting for its execution date in mid-July, the bridge is rarely appreciated or remembered.

After more than 50 years of service to Los Angeles County, the Mulholland Bridge —  which most visibly links the Skirball Cultural Center and Milken Community High School, on one side, with American Jewish University and Stephen S. Wise Temple, on the other — will undergo a significant makeover to increase its lanes from four to six and ensure that it is up to date with seismic standards. But you’re probably asking yourself: Other than the shutdown of traffic on the July 15-17 weekend, why should I care?

Let’s go back to 1960. America was experiencing a prosperous growth spurt, Vietnam wasn’t on the minds or in the hearts of the country’s youth, and a man named Eisenhower sat in the Oval Office. On April 4, 1960, Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co. finished construction on a 573-foot bridge over a steep canyon for $1.8 million. There was no 405 Freeway and no quick way to get to homes in the Valley from offices in Los Angeles.

Caltrans Los Angeles and Ventura (District 7) county director Michael Miles said the Mulholland Bridge was “a bridge to nowhere” when it was first constructed, because of the lack of traffic in the area.

But today, it’s hard to deny the importance of Mulholland Drive and the bridge in Southern California’s history, even if it began as an out-of-place overpass on a remote road. After all, the street and bridge get their name from the legendary Californian William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant who played a critical role in getting water to Los Angeles. Miles said even the design of the bridge was out of the ordinary.

“It was one of the longest arch bridges constructed in its day,” Miles said.

By the time filmmaker David Lynch would make his critically acclaimed film “Mulholland Dr.,” the 405 was up and running, and the bridge had as many as 300,000 cars pass under its arches every day.

The Mulholland Bridge’s lifecycle is coming full circle as the heir to Peter Kiewit Sons’ Co., Kiewit Corp.’s Southern California subsidiary Kiewit Infrastructure West Co., oversees the destruction of the bridge as well as the reconstruction.

In 2005, funds began trickling in to remodel the entire Sepulveda Pass, which included improvements to the Mulholland Bridge. Although many agencies have been involved in the widening of the 405 to accommodate new high-occupancy vehicle lanes, State Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who represents sections of the San Fernando Valley, said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village) deserves credit for securing a large chunk of the funding in 2005 that is making the project possible.

“The big turning point in the 405 was Congressman Berman securing 130 million federal dollars that would be lost unless the state did its part,” said Blumenfield, who was working for Berman as his district director and liaison to the Jewish community at the time.

“The idea of losing that money was enough to motivate some folks,” Blumenfield said, including then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed a law in January 2006 that committed $90 million in state funding to the $1.34 billion Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project.

Story continues after the jump.

Video courtesy of Metro Los Angeles.

More money flooded in during 2006 as voters approved $662 million from the Corridor Mobility Improvement Account (Proposition 1B) and again when $189 million was allocated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009.

The Mulholland Bridge destruction and reconstruction plays a small yet important role in a project that has Metro and Caltrans working with the Los Angeles Police Department, the California Highway Patrol and other organizations.

“A project of this magnitude really does require the collective efforts of these organizations,” Metro spokesperson Dave Sotero said.

Starting late Friday night, July 15, workers will begin chipping apart the southern half of the bridge in pumpkin-size pieces. A layer of dirt will be set on the 405 to keep the falling concrete from damaging the highway. The concrete will then be recycled, contractors will approve the demolition and, finally, the freeway will reopen early Monday, July 18. Like its quiet entrance into the world, the current Mulholland Bridge will go out without any fireworks.

“The public may be thinking this is going to be a Vegas-style demo, and it’s not,” Sotero said. “It’s not going to be that dramatic.”

After the southern half is torn down, that side of the bridge will undergo an 11-month reconstruction. The bridge will be widened and will get standard shoulders, medians and sidewalks; all told, it will widen by 10 feet.

Travelers will still be able to cross the 405 on the bridge during the 11-month construction period; one lane of traffic in each direction will be open on the northern half.

Angeleios should expect a similar 405 shutdown next summer, followed by another period of single lanes in each direction, when the northern half of the structure receives similar improvements.

“There might be intermittent closures during the night, but we don’t anticipate closures like this until we [demolish] the other side,” Miles said.

By the summer of 2013, travelers will get to test their tires on Mulholland Bridge’s new concrete. So, whether you’re going to one of the Jewish institutions, or just passing through before July 15, take a moment to look at the Mulholland Bridge. It will be your last chance to see a giant of the 20th century before it joins us in the 21st century. 

Staff writer Jonah Lowenfeld contributed to this article.