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April 11, 2011



Yesterday's 4.0 and 3.9 quakes near Berkeley are part of our regular reminders to get and stay prepared. The checklist is in this post.


Today's Times has an interesting piece about the early work being done on an earthquake warning system in CA:

This summer, UC Berkeley, the U.S. Geological Survey and two other universities began testing a prototype earthquake warning system. It would alert people, hospitals, transit systems and factories seconds to a minute before a major quake.

They're developing the system with Google.org -- Google's philanthropic arm -- and several companies, such as Deutsche Telekom's Silicon Valley Innovation Center.

A $6 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in Palo Alto announced Tuesday will speed the project's development, said Richard Allen, director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.

"We've basically been putting this together on a shoestring budget," Allen said. The new grant "is going to allow us to make this test system much more robust." UC Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology and the University of Washington will each get $2 million.

Within three years, Allen is optimistic they can prove the system works and seek $150 million for a full-scale West Coast warning system.

You can find the whole article here:

You really have to wonder why this is so complicated. Without such a system (similar to Japan's) any idea of High Cost Rail is simply unimaginable in California. Even a guy with Jerry Brown's limited technical view of the world should be able to figure this out in about 5 minutes.......


"Even a guy with Jerry Brown's limited technical view of the world should be
able to figure this out in about 5 minutes......."

Easy to take shots at the guy with the impossible job.

How about concentrating on something we can do something about, like how come Downtown San Mateo is getting wired up and the only wiring in Downtown Burlingame is Christmas lights.

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=223723&title=Downtown San Mateo to go digital

What is DBID and the Chamber and the City Council doing to compete? More free hot chocolates and free parking during the holidays which, by the way, was off hours and the free lots were empty, but the city got the parking revenue.


Fred, I couldn't disagree more about Brown having an impossible job. The guy knows how the strings are pulled in Sac and his party has control of BOTH houses. It's not like the dual-majority is just saying no to a Meg Whitman. He could do a half-dozen simple things to make immediate improvements. Even this simple little example of a couple of million (not billions) for a quake-warning system appears outside his view. If you read the whole article in the Government We Deserve post, you will see that he appears to have some clue as to what to do on pension reform, but does he have the huevos to finish it off? They are doing it in Rhode Island....

It's not like he's playing the game to move up in politics--the best thing that could be said about him in the last election was that he ran for this office to be in this office, not as a Newsome-like stepping stone. And now he fritters it away.....sad.


I am interested in your point about more broadband in B'game tho. You may or may not know I have substantial expertise in this area, but I haven't really asked with the downtown infrastructure looks like. When I have a chance, that is a great topic that I will be happy to have a look at. I do know that in talking to some of the techies renting space downtown (see that post from a couple of months ago) that this wasn't mentioned as a problem, but it's still worth asking about. Thanks for that.


The L.A. Times, by way of the Mercury Times has this piece catching up on what I wrote almost exactly a year ago:

California is spending only a fraction of what Japan and Mexico have devoted, and scientists said the progress is so slow that they cannot say when the state might complete its system.

Until recently, researchers were spending only about $400,000 a year developing the technology. Last year, they received a $6 million grant for work on a prototype. But experts said it would cost about $150 million to build and $5 million a year to operate a system covering California and other earthquake-prone states along the Pacific.

I'll bet those cost estimates are just for the alert system, not the upgrades to elevators, trains, firehouse doors, etc that it would take to actually do something with the warnings. Here's the full link to the whole article:



Brown Administration, Bullet Train Board Seek to Ease Environmental Reviews of the Project

By Ralph Vartabedian and Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
March 28, 2012

California's bullet train authority and representatives of the Brown administration are exploring ways to relax environmental review procedures on the massive project to help meet a tight construction schedule, The Times has learned.

Major environmental groups confirm they have been in discussions with state officials about some type of relief from possible environmental challenges to the project, which is falling behind schedule and risks losing federal funding if it must conduct new reviews of construction and operational effects.

The environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Planning and Conservation League Foundation, say they are willing to consider small-scale concessions but will oppose a wholesale exemption of the environmental process.

The $98.5-billion rail system would be the nation's largest infrastructure project and faces a daunting environmental review process. If revisions of the bullet train plan force the California High-Speed Rail Authority to conduct new reviews, it may push construction past deadlines required to obtain federal funding.

"It could potentially kill the project," said Bruce Reznik, executive director of Planning and Conservation League, which supports the bullet train but also has participated in litigation against the rail authority.

Dan Richard, chairman of the rail authority, said the state was not seeking to bypass any laws or seeking any exemptions from regulations. But new plans to blend the bullet train system into existing San Francisco and Southern California commuter rail systems have altered the project design. Richard said he's concerned about having to redo the environmental review already completed for the Bay Area.

"It is a technical issue," Richard said. "It is a characterization issue. All I have done is raise it with people and see how we can deal with it."

But environmental groups say the discussions have involved more than simply clarifying technical issues. They say the talks have included streamlining the environmental review process. Given the scope of changes recently proposed for the system, the rail authority ideally would conduct a new, systemwide environmental analysis that could take a year or more, they say. Critics argue that existing environmental reviews are no longer relevant.

"The environmental review doesn't describe the system they want to build," said Nadia Naik, a cofounder of Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Development. "The blended approaches puts constraints on how many high speed trains can operate. It affects the trip times. The question is where is the analysis?"

The rail authority is supposed to unveil a new — and final — business plan in the next week.

Ken Alex, Gov. Jerry Brown's director of the state Office of Planning and Research, and Richard met March 14 with representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League. Joel Reynolds, a senior attorney for the NRDC who attended the meeting, said simplifying the environmental review process was discussed, but Alex and Richard did not mention outright exemptions from state regulations.

Reynolds said his group "would be highly skeptical" of any major relaxation of the state's environmental review requirements. Reznik said his group would agree to "tweaking" the process, but would not commit to any concession until they see a proposal on paper.

Brown spokesman Gil Duran said the governor was not considering any environmental exemptions, appearing to leave open the possibility of streamlining the process.

Richard defended the validity of existing reviews for the proposed system. Plans to blend bullet train operations with existing systems will reduce, not increase, environmental issues, he said. The discussions with environmental groups may help head off future conflict, given that the state has already been threatened with lawsuits, he said.

Indeed, a local Bay Area environmental group, TRANSDEF, has joined two suits that forced revisions of the environmental plan and is contemplating a third suit, said the group's president, David Schonbrunn. The group wants the existing route into the Bay Area via the Pacheco Pass near Gilroy dropped because it would disturb environmentally sensitive rural areas. It advocates a more direct route over the Altamont Pass near Stockton.

"The rail authority is getting ready to be three-time losers," he said. "If they keep doing what they seem to be doing, there is a good chance they could get sued."

The blended system was pushed by local leaders over the last year as the only way to politically save the project. But it may violate a bond measure approved by voters in 2008. Quentin Kopp, a former state senator and former chairman of the rail authority, said the effort to integrate northern California's Caltrain and other rail systems is an attempt by local agencies to get bullet train money.

"I consider such a plan a device by shrewd leaders of Caltrain and Metrolink to get money out of the high-speed rail authority and the bond proceeds," he said. "This is not what was contemplated by the Legislature."



Some people are planning for real disasters--From today's DJ:

Nonprofit donates $1M to Red Cross
June 23, 2012, 05:00 AM

A private nonprofit organization funded by AAA Insurance announced in Burlingame a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross to fund training and preparedness efforts for the public.

The donation was made by the Community Safety Foundation, whose creation was announced Wednesday along with the donation at a news conference attended by AAA and Bay Area Red Cross officials in Burlingame.

American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter CEO Harold Brooks said the donation will help provide free disaster preparedness training to thousands of members of the public where AAA Insurance operates, including the Bay Area.

Brooks said the donation “marks one of the biggest one-time donations” to the American Red Cross by a nonprofit funded by an insurance company.

AAA Insurance CEO Paula Downey said the American Red Cross was a “natural fit” for the nonprofit because “both organizations are dedicated to helping people rebuild their lives after tragedy strikes.”

The foundation’s donation will support the Red Cross’ Ready Rating program, which helps businesses, organizations and schools better prepare for emergencies.

The donation will also provide 200 organizations that sign up for free disaster preparedness training with complimentary backpacks filled with disaster essentials.

According to a Community Safety Foundation spokeswoman, the foundation’s mission is to improve the safety and security of the community through education programs.


Almost five years have slipped by and nothing has changed. They should not pour one more ounce of concrete on high-cost rail until the earthquake detection system is in place:


In 2013, a California law instructed the Governor's Office of Emergency Services to identify sources of money for the system, such as federal funds, revenue bonds, local funds and private grants — but not the state's general fund.

More than two years later, the office has not produced a report identifying the financing. Tina Curry, deputy director of the Office of Emergency Services, said her office is continuing the search.

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