Saturday, December 27, 2008

Landowner Returns

A neighbor in The Meadows wanted everyone to know that the owner of land at Little Round Top has returned. In the past, hikers were confronted by the owner who did not want them crossing through his land. The confrontations were heated at times. A court order allows hikers access on the trail that crosses his land.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Some Great Pics of a Mountain Lion

This mountain lion was seen near La Vina near Sunset Ridge. A great pic from Bob on Risinghill Rd.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

El Prieto Trail Changes

A huge brush pile cuts off the downstream side access to a trail
segment (visible at upper right) and also forms a dam across El
Prieto Creek. This segment bypassed "Boulder Water Canyon".

Three alternate-route segments of the El Prieto Trail were blocked off on Saturday, December 6, with barricades of dead wood, tree branches, brush and stone, by a volunteer work crew of 40 people organized by CORBA (Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association), citing illegality of the alternate segments and an unwillingness to maintain the segments in question. In addition, the brush pile now forms a dam across El Prieto creek.

One of the three segments was built in 2001 as a safer alternative to the existing segments, after a biker had tumbled down a cliff from the trail above, was injured and had to be airlifted out of the canyon.

A second segment was built to bypass a portion of the trail that is usually flooded with a shallow stream in winter, making the stretch difficult to negotiate by hikers, since steep sides and vegetation prevented walking alongside, and hikers would negotiate the stretch by hopping from one boulder to another. The stretch was aptly dubbed “Boulder Water Canyon” by the locals.

These two segments were constructed by volunteers without the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Agency) review demanded by the Forest Service. The builders were not aware that such a review was required.

A third segment is believed to be part of the original trail that was abandoned in favor of a route more challenging to the mountain-biking community. All three of the blocked-off segments provide a less strenuous hike or ride than the parts of the trail they bypass, and they have been adequately maintained by the individuals who built them.

An additional issue is that a huge brush pile cuts off the downstream side access to a trail segment (visible at upper right) and also forms a dam across El Prieto Creek. This segment bypassed "Boulder Water Canyon"

CORBA is an organization of mountain-bikers claiming to be operating with the blessing of the Forest Service. Its members regularly volunteer their services in maintaining or building the trails that are used in their sport.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Garden Funds Drying Up

I had posted a request a couple of months ago regarding the maintenance of the garden at the Welcome to The Meadows sign.

It costs approximately $35-50 per quarter for paying the water bill and hiring some helpers to maintain the garden. In the past, we had asked attendees of the monthly meetings for contributions. That worked well and we were able to reimburse the homeowner who oversees the maintenance.

Since we have not had meetings, there hasn't been any way to collect money.

When I posted earlier, two neighbors generously contributed money to the garden fund. While very much appreciated, those contributions won't pay for even one quarter.

Given the fact that there are 246 households in The Meadows, I'm hoping that more neighbors will contribute to the garden fund. Folks can mail or drop off a contribution in my mailbox. I'm at 4416 El Prieto. Checks can be made out to Greg Stanton. We don't have a separate account for The Meadows, so everyone will just need to trust that I keep these funds dedicated to the garden.


Trash Contract Update

This is rather long, but a good update on the L.A. County process of awarding new trash pick-up contracts in Altadena.

From Gino Sund, Chair of Town Council:Treatise on Trash

Based on the comments I have heard and seen, there are some misconceptions about the upcoming trash hauling contract for Altadena. So, please let me offer my perspective on the issue and perhaps clear up some questions that have been raised.

The current situation in Altadena
Currently, Altadena operates under an open market system. That means there is no County control or oversight over who offers hauling services, what those services are, how they operate or how they are priced. Thus anyone who wants to be in the business can collect your trash. This can range from the major haulers like Allied and Athens to some guy with a pickup truck. Currently there are around seven haulers in Altadena, including a guy with a pickup truck. These haulers offer a variety of services and charge what the market will bear. There is not adequate control of such things as collection days, services offered, billing practices or recycling performance.

How things have changed
In September of 2004, the County Board of Supervisors passed a law changing the unincorporated portion of the County to a franchise trash hauling system. With this law, in order to collect residential trash, a hauler must now be franchised by the County and all non franchise haulers will be barred from this business. To date, the County has franchised haulers in thirteen different communities in LA County and is about to do so in Altadena. When a franchise is established, a detailed contract is awarded, a hauler is selected by the County through a bidding process and the County oversees the performance of that hauler. Typically the contract period is seven years.

Why Town Council is involved
About two years ago, the County sent out a questionnaire to residents of Altadena asking such things as how many trash cans they used, what kind of trash is offered for collection, and how many haulers the residents wanted. This questionnaire was a small yellow post card. Do you remember getting it? Most people don’t. It could easily have been mistaken for junk mail and it gave little explanation of what the issues really were. Then, about two months ago, the County was about to request bids on the contract for Altadena that would define our trash hauling for the next seven years. Several of us on Council were concerned that the community input on this was inadequate, so we stopped the process to allow us to review the contract and to gather more input from the residents. Thus, we are now asking for your input on the two important issues that we can affect at this point; what should be in the service provisions of the contract and should we have a single hauler or two haulers.

The conditions of the contract
Whoever is the franchise hauler or haulers will operate under a single contract that is offered by the County. That contract will spell out such things as the scope of services i.e. the number, type and amount of pick ups, the type of containers, the provisions for price increases, the recycling requirements, and the conditions under which the contract can be terminated.

While many of the contract provisions are fairly standard for all communities, it is important that the scope of services of our contract meet the needs of Altadena. This is the area of the contract that will most influence our weekly interface with the hauler. Attached is a schedule of the service provisions of the contract. Council has worked with the Department of Public Works to beef up several areas, especially the collection of green waste since we have large, leafy lots in Altadena. However, we are still looking for input from you to help us decide on what is best for most residents.

A single hauler or two haulers
This may be the most controversial and confusing issue. When the County sent out its post card survey, it asked if residents wanted an exclusive, semi exclusive or multi hauler program. The majority of respondents requested semi exclusive or two haulers. However, there was no explanation of what this really meant. Most of us thought that having two haulers would, through the mechanism of competition, give us more options, better service and lower prices. However, this may not be the case. The contract will be the same for a single hauler or two haulers so there will be no differences in the services provided. And as for price, the competition will come at the front end of the process when the haulers bid for the contract. In fact, experience has indicated that a lower price is attained when the provider has a larger customer guarantee, since among other factors, there is a capital outlay required to service the area. As for the weekly performance by the providers, the County will oversee the compliance with the contract for one or two haulers.

Of the thirteen contracts already awarded by the County, all have been exclusive contracts. The average price for service has been around 10% less that the previous price of the open market, with generally more services provided. The County reports that the customer satisfaction has been high with few resident complaints to date.

Arguments for the single hauler are:
• More bidders for the contract thus lower prices.
• Fewer trucks on the streets,
• Fewer pickup dates. (this is big issue in many neighborhoods especially those who border Pasadena who collects trash on shared streets adding yet another day)
• Reduced pollution and road wear.
• More community involvement by the provider. (in other communities the provider is a regular at the Town Council meetings to hear from the residents)

Arguments for two haulers are:
• Two haulers may compete by being more helpful to the residents
• Two haulers may compete by adding services not covered by the contract. (however, this has happened in the bidding process by providers who wish to enhance their chance of getting the contract, again the competition up front)

What happens now
We need your input on the scope of services provided in the contract, in particular green waste pick up. We would also like your thoughts on the single provider approach.Town Council will debate and recommend contract conditions at the December 16th meeting. The County will then make a request for bids to the industry, select the winner based on a formula that includes price, financial capacity, past history etc. Depending on the winner, as determined by the County, implementation could be from 4 to 6 months after the franchise is awarded.

Who will get the bid
Of course we don’t know. It is expected that both Allied and Athens will bid for the Altadena franchise. However, I find it most interesting that of the thirteen franchises awarded so far, those two large haulers were only awarded three. Most of the franchises were awarded to medium sized haulers. The feedback from those managing the bidding process is that those medium sized haulers are more likely to bid on an exclusive franchise than if a semi exclusive franchise is offered.

What you need to do
If you have input to give Town Council please contact you Census Tract Representative. The contact information is on the Town Council web site. As an alternative you may want to come to our next meeting at the Community Center starting at 7:00 p.m. on December 16th.

Thank you for your time and interest.
Gino Sund
Altadena Town Council