City may get to reduce speed limits

The city of Glendale would get to test-drive the power to set speed limits on surface streets under legislation proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake).

Assembly Bill 529 would address Glendale Police Department concerns about speeding and would reverse a 2004 shift in state calculations that raised many speed limits.

“You can’t legislate courteous driving habits, but we can make it safer on city streets,” Gatto said.

Under California law, authorities gather data on the average speeds on roadways, and then set limits within the 85th percentile of the average. If drivers average 40 mph, the 85th percentile is 34 miles per hour.

Prior to 2004, cities were allowed to round down from the average, in this case setting a limit of 30 mph, Glendale Police Sgt. Carl Povilaitis said. But in 2004, the law was altered to round the average to the nearest 5 or zero, which in this case would be 35 mph.

Gatto said this shift increased speed limits on 44% of Glendale’s streets, and he is looking to turn back the dial.

If approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor, the measure also would allow Glendale police to set speeds on some streets regardless of the speed studies during a five-year test. Gatto said local authorities know local traffic dangers better than any state formula.

Povilaitis said streets where speeding has long been a problem include West Glenoaks Boulevard, Cañada Boulevard and Verdugo Road.

“We want traffic to move safely and efficiently, but still be safe for pedestrians, bicyclists and other community members,” he said.

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Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) is gathering steam for a possible run for Congress when term limits force him out of the Assembly in 2012.

Portantino has opened a congressional campaign account and last week held a fundraiser in Sacramento, even though it’s not clear what congressional district he will be in come 2012.

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission is slated to unveil a proposed legislative map in mid-August. Portantino said one district likely to be transformed is the portion of the San Gabriel Valley represented by Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas).

“I enjoy my public service and enjoy representing the San Gabriel Valley,” said Portantino, whose district stretches to Arcadia and Azusa. “Most people believe the San Gabriel Valley [district] will change, and I am very excited to pursue that possibility. But I can’t wait for Aug. 15 to prepare.”

Portantino declined to review Dreier’s performance, and said it is not yet certain that he will be in what is now Dreier territory.

“All I can do is talk about myself. I’m a guy who rolls up my sleeves, gets active and represents the people who’ve entrusted me with that responsibility to the best of my ability,” he said.

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Burbank and Bob Hope Airport officials, who are working to land a station when the California High Speed Rail Authority builds a line from San Francisco to San Diego, won a modest victory in the planning battle Thursday.

The California High Speed Rail Authority decided to drop study of a downtown Burbank option that was reviled locally because it would require thousands of parking spaces and other changes to an area —between Interstate 5 and the Burbank Water and Power plant — that is already highly developed.

Rail authority senior project manager Dan Tempelis said the downtown site is “too constrained,” and rail authority members agreed.

The remaining San Fernando Valley station sites under consideration are at the future site of the Bob Hope Airport transit center; on the Sylmar/San Fernando border; and on Branford Street in Arleta. A final decision is expected in late 2012 or early 2013, after full environmental studies have been completed.

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Property rights advocates from Sacramento and Washington, D.C., descended on Glendale when the battle between Golden Key Hotel owner Ray Patel and Americana at Brand developer Rick Caruso was at its peak. Now, with a truce apparently in place, they’ve turned to other business.

Representatives from the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation in Sacramento and the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice spoke at Patel’s Feb. 15 property-rights rally. They pilloried the city of Glendale for using its redevelopment power to push Patel to sell to Caruso, who plans to demolish the hotel to expand the Americana.

But Patel and Caruso avoided fireworks later that day by negotiating a deal as 150 people awaited a Glendale Redevelopment Agency hearing that was subsequently cancelled. According to court documents, Patel has agreed to sell his Colorado Street hotel to Caruso for an undisclosed price.

Timothy Sandefur, a Pacific Legal Foundation attorney who on Feb. 15 launched the chant “Let Ray Stay,” said he is not surprised at the outcome, given the odds of Patel prevailing if the city sought to condemn his property.

“California law is so bad on this issue that there is virtually no hope for a property owner whose business is targeted for redevelopment,” Sandefur said. “You can’t expect him to take on a hopeless lawsuit in defense of his property rights.”

The Institute for Justice’s Christina Walsh, who also rallied alongside Patel, said: “It’s Ray’s prerogative to do what’s best for his family.”

Her group will continue to advocate for private property rights, she added.

“No property owner should be forced through government power to make a sale,” she said. “Regardless of the sale, that’s what happened to Ray.”

City officials have said that they hoped for a private resolution between Caruso and Patel and had not begun eminent domain proceedings.

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