All Aboard!

All  Aboard!

As the most car-dependent city in America, Los Angeles has long vexed millions of drivers with nightmarish traffic jams. But thanks to a massive influx of funds collected since Measure R, a half-percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008, the county’s Metro Rail system is taking major strides to effect change that is partially paying off  Saturday with the opening of the Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Azusa.

The six-stop, five-city extension took more than five years to build at a total cost of $735 million, starting in 2010 following a seven-year design process. That lengthy process followed the 2003 opening of the initial Gold Line route between downtown’s Union Station and the Sierra Madre Villa stop in east Pasadena, a 13.7-mile project that cost $859 million to create. 

The results have been impressive, with 46,000 commuters using the Gold Line each day. The new extension is expected to add 13,000 daily riders to the mix by 2035, with the next phase to Montclair expected to add an additional 18,000 people and the final phase to Ontario Airport projected to add another 20,000 daily riders beyond that.

For Phillip Washington, CEO of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), the extension’s opening and its on-time and under-budget status brings a successful close to a year filled with ambitious projects. The extension will provide links to five more cities in the San Gabriel Valley through stops at Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte/City of Hope, Irwindale and two locations in Azusa. 

“It’s a challenge, but it’s invigorating and it’s fun,” says Washington, who came to Metro last March from Denver, where he was assistant general manager of that city’s transit system for nearly 10 years before being named its CEO in 2009. “I think people will acclimate, because people want an easy commute and appreciate mobility options. And it’s affordable, because now you can go from Azusa to Long Beach for just $1.75. Once they understand how to ride, people will do it whether for special events, or two or three days each week.” 

Washington’s hopeful attitude about the extension was on full display on the morning of Feb. 17, when Metro hosted a combination of press corps members and county dignitaries for an official promotional ride from Pasadena’s Sierra Madre Villa Station to the end of the extension in Azusa. Pasadena City Council member Gene Masuda and LA County Supervisors Michael Antonovich and Don Knabe were aboard and all three expressed hopes that the extension, along with other extensive new Metro transit routes, would foster a seismic shift in the county’s commuter culture. 

“Metro is getting people out of cars and giving them an option on transportation,” says Masuda. “We’re projecting an extra 13,000 riders daily from Azusa to Pasadena. That’s a good impact, and it’s just a beginning. To have another way of going to Los Angeles is great in addition to people coming east to Azusa and bringing their spending money this way. The goal is to eventually link all the way to Ontario Airport.” 

Antonovich, a Republican who terms out of office after more than 35 years on the board, is currently running for the state Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Carol Liu. As a member of the Metro board of directors in his capacity as a supervisor, he touted the fact that the NoHo-Pasadena Express will also start on Saturday.

The new bus line will run every 15 minutes during weekday peak hours and every 30 minutes off-peak and on weekends between the Del Mar and Memorial Park Gold Line stations in Pasadena, and the North Hollywood Orange and Red Line Station. The bus will make the full run in an astounding 33 minutes, easily halving the time formerly needed to make the trip via the Gold Line, transferring into the Red Line. 

From North Hollywood, commuters can connect to the Orange Line rapid bus line all the way to Woodland Hills. A fiscal conservative, Knabe believes that Metro and its partner on the Gold Line — the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority — have done a good job of coming in on time and under budget. 

“Taxpayers have approved increases three times in LA County for transportation projects because they’ve seen results,” says Knabe. “This all is multimodal, looking out for cars, trains, toll roads, the whole package of ideas. The next phase will bring people all the way to Claremont and then off to Ontario after that, having a tremendous impact on LAX congestion. It’s little by little, but 20 to 30 years out the change will be dramatic.”

Nearly as surprising as Knabe’s endorsement of the expansion projects is the fact that the Bus Riders Union (BRU) has not expressed any opposition to the Gold Line extension. The activist group, which seeks to ensure that Los Angeles County’s estimated 400,000 daily bus riders have their rights and routes protected, has long had a contentious history with local mass transit authorities.

The BRU won a major legal battle against Metro in 1996, resulting in a consent decree that forced the agency to improve pick-up and delivery times, decrease overcrowding and purchase a fleet of hundreds of new buses to replace aging models. The buses, BRU members successfully argued, were allowed by Metro to deteriorate at the expense of funding construction of the Gold Line. 

Yet, the BRU declined comment on the current extension, a sign that Metro is keeping its commitment to bus riders — who make up 75 percent of all public transit ridership in the LA area — and quelling any reason to complain. 

“We realize that we can’t just concentrate on bus and rail, but also on infrastructure proposals of roads and highways,” says Antonovich, whose district includes Pasadena and unincorporated Altadena. “We really need to connect the system. That’s what we’re doing today. We’re moving the county.” 

Knabe notes that perhaps the most important figure in the Gold Line’s success is Habib Balian, the CEO of the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority. His 11-year tenure with the agency has provided him with in-depth insights into every aspect of the massive project, which the authority manages for Metro. 

“This is exciting because there are lots of opportunities out there to bring great cities and great places to visit and their people together,” says Balian, a lifelong Pasadena resident who grew up fascinated by large public works projects. “We work with each city and decide where their general plans are going and their development is occurring. For every dollar invested in transit, $4 is returned to the economy by development and nearby businesses gaining.” 

Following are some facts about Saturday’s opening festivities: 

* Rides will be free from noon until midnight on Saturday on the entire Gold Line.

* Trains will begin running on the new 11.5-mile Gold Line extension at noon on Saturday.
Parking is first-come, first-served at all the new Gold Line stations.  

* Gold Line trains are not running between Union Station and Pico/Aliso due to regional
connector construction. There is a bus shuttle running between both Pico/Aliso and Union Station and Little Tokyo/Arts District Station and Union Station. The Gold Line is running between Pico/Aliso and Atlantic stations.

* There are parties Saturday at five of the six new stations from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Duarte/City of Hope Station at 1777 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, will host an opening ceremony at 10 a.m.

The other stations are located at:

* Arcadia Station, 201 N. First Ave., Arcadia 

* Monrovia Station, 1651 S. Primrose Ave., Monrovia

* Azusa Downtown Station, 780 N. Alameda Ave., Azusa

* Irwindale Station, 16017 Avenida Padilla, Irwindale n

For more information, visit 

All Aboard!

All Aboard!
Bob Calkin, a charismatic yet mellow speaker, told the 25 entrepreneurs attending a recent daylong seminar in Burbank that their business action teams should include an accountant and a lawyer, as well as investors and a healthy membership base.
“You’re creating a nonprofit,” said the 50-year-old instructor and CEO of several nonprofit and for-profit businesses, his shoulder-length hair tucked neatly behind his ears.
“How do you earn money from a nonprofit? You pay yourself a salary.”  Nonprofits can pay for-profit contractors handsomely for their services, Calkin reminded the group gathered in an elegant meeting room at the Universal City Hilton on a rainy Saturday.
The accountant is most important to navigate the nuance of this type of business and the complicated legislation governing it — legislation that can vary dramatically from city to city and state to state and is subject, particularly in California, to frequent change. The lawyer should be available to you if needed to fend off a legal challenge, Calkin told his audience. 
Calkin said he’s had no legal problems in nearly 20 years of running his nonprofit Green Dot Medical Marijuana Delivery Service and Collective. “I stay under the radar,” he said. 
“Those who are zoned correctly and conduct their businesses legally and don’t raise any eyebrows tend to stay open,” he said.
An exploding market
Investors are key, he told the group. Bank loans to start marijuana dispensaries, delivery services, co-ops and collectives are hard to come by. 
Unique challenges of dealing in a product that is illegal federally and has a patchwork quilt of state and local laws governing its production and distribution aside, Calkin, who is also founder and CEO of the North Hollywood-based Cannabis Career Institute, was preaching to the converted. 
“We need people to see the medical benefit of this,” said Casey Keith of Ventura, who learned late last year that medical cannabis reversed the blindness and paralysis brought on by her multiple sclerosis. She came to the Burbank seminar with the goal of opening a holistic health center that would offer a variety of strains of medical cannabis, in smoke-able, edible and topical forms, with education on the controversial herb’s many healing uses. 
Other workshop participants, some who flew from as far as Texas with medical marijuana cards in hand, shared personal experiences of cannabis’ healing effects or details of their desire for financial independence via pot. Well-dressed, articulate, average age around 40, this group was far from any old-school stoner cliché. 
“It was all an adjustment in my thinking,” said Keith, 39. “My partner was in law enforcement for 23 years. We’ve always been straight arrows.”
The enthusiasm in the seminar room — for the financial possibilities of cannabis — was palpable. Participants asked well-informed questions and raised individual business concerns, such as how can one really one really “run” a co-op where decisions are made by member vote, to which Calkin explained the notion of proxy votes. “Members can simply sign their votes over to you,” said Calkin, who crisscrosses the country taking the daylong workshops to elegant hotels from Washington to Rhode Island, states whose laws permit medical cannabis or are moving in that direction. 
The Burbank students seemed to have a sense of their own great timing in boarding “the green train,” as financial analysts predict an explosion in the marijuana industry.
Attitude shift
The Marijuana Business Daily, an industry trade publication, projects marijuana revenues nationwide will increase from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $6 billion in 2018. Other industry projections put legal revenues at $10.5 billion by 2018.
“That prediction is based on the trend of more states passing medical marijuana laws,” said Marijuana Business Daily editor Chris Walsh, who is based in Colorado, which on Jan. 1 became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. 
Today 20 states and Washington, DC, have medical marijuana laws, and effective this year Colorado and Washington state laws permit “adult use” or recreational marijuana. Last year, more than 50 percent of Americans said they support legalizing marijuana — for the first time in four decades of polling on the subject, according to a Pew Center for the People and the Press survey, which found 52 percent of Americans support legalization, compared with only 12 percent in 1969, and less than 25 percent in 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis. 
The change in attitude is based on the public’s increasing belief in marijuana’s relative safety, its potential medical benefits and concern about excessive criminal penalties to users, according to the Pew survey. 
Just 38 percent of Americans believe marijuana use leads to the use of hard drugs, compared with 60 percent in 1977; 30 percent believe it can be useful for “a medical issue”; and 72 percent believe government efforts to enforce marijuana law cost more than they are worth, the Pew survey found. 
“The industry is changing so rapidly,” Walsh said. “In the first couple of days in Colorado, dispensaries making the transition (from medical to recreational) did 10 to 15 times the daily business.” Walsh predicts that there will be more than 1,000 new marijuana industry jobs in 2014 in Colorado alone. 
Currently California, the first state to legalize cannabis for medical purposes, leads the nation in legal marijuana revenue, with more than $900 million in estimated revenue for 2013 among the state’s roughly 2,000 “cannabusinesses,” or dispensaries, co-operatives, wellness clinics, and delivery services, according to the ArcView Market Research group, which tracks the changing legal marijuana market for entrepreneurs and investors. The group projects more than $1 billion in revenue statewide in 2014.
Yet marijuana entrepreneurs in the most populous state today face more uncertainty than those in states that only recently legalized medical cannabis, Walsh said. 
The Wild West
In Pasadena, a 2005 amendment to city zoning codes prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within city limits, while surrounding cities — Los Angeles, Temple City, and several in the San Fernando Valley — have legal medical dispensaries. In Los Angeles, the state leader with roughly 800 dispensaries, voters last year approved ballot Measure D to reduce the number of pot shops, which caused the closure of roughly 80 dispensaries. Amid confusion over state and local law, however, some have since re-opened, Calkin said. 
“California is a difficult market with different laws in each city and county – dozens have enacted bans and moratoriums,” Walsh said. “If you open a business in California, you have to be completely prepared for the possibility that you’ll go out of business. What needs to happen is that the state needs to pass regulations that go across the state that govern the California businesses. It’s still the Wild West [until] lawmakers do something,” Walsh said.
The state legislature is currently considering legislation that would create consistency across the state, including one proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana similar to alcohol. A similar ballot measure, “The Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Act,” could go to California voters later this year.
“It’s always a few steps forward and a few steps back,” said Justin Hartfield, a Newport Beach-based venture capitalist and co-founder of, an online directory of marijuana dispensaries and services across the nation, which gets more than 4 million hits a month and last year generated more than $20 million.
Hartfield, 29, who also serves as treasurer of the National Association for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML) and on the board of the National Marijuana Policy Project, has his eye on 2016, when he believes California will follow Colorado and Washington in making marijuana legal for recreational use. 
“We see a huge market opportunity, like with tobacco and alcohol. It’s one of the biggest market opportunities today,” he said, noting that six more states are considering some form of marijuana legalization this year. “The end of federal prohibition is coming.” 
Hartfield is wasting no time. Though he concedes he does not want to mess with the current complicated and contradictory state and federal laws, in March of last year he became a managing partner of Emerald Ocean, the nation’s first venture capitalist company to focus on marijuana-related products. 
“We will invest in ancillary businesses that don’t involve the marijuana ¬– just the paraphernalia (including) analytic labs for testing cannabis and gadgets like vaporizers and bongs. “We’re looking to raise around $10 million. We’re close. Once that dollar amount is pledged, then the fund can start making investments.” 
Stoner guys rule
Calkin, a veteran of the marijuana industry from before it was legal in California, is positioning himself and his more than 2,000 CCI graduates for the expected industry explosion. Since opening CCI five years ago, his teaching team has expanded to include lawyers, accountants, a dietician, and edibles and grow consultants. Students’ $299 tuition buys them lifetime access to the class, where they can network and stay up-to-date on state and federal laws.
He may not always be at the helm of this growing career college. “I’m getting my ducks in a row to sell,” he said. “My companies are going to sell for millions of dollars. We already have billionaires coming around saying they’re interested.”
He said when he does sell CCI, he will likely stay on as an employee. Unless he’s too busy with his newest project, creating Cannabis State University, an online university and learning exchange, for which he is helping develop curriculum for accredited colleges and universities that want to include dispensary management in their curriculum. 
“My role is to facilitate the information for the professors,” Calkin said. “Students will be able to earn a business degree with a minor in dispensary management. It’s being developed as we speak by professors that are actual real professors creating real curriculum. They need the information from us — the stoner guys. So it will be the stoners teaching the professors who teach the regular kids.” 

All Aboard!

All Aboard!
I first reviewed Pasadena’s La Grande Orange Station Café about five years ago (it opened in 2008). The LGO Hospitality Web site describing the Café and its six sisters states that the LGO name was inspired by the citrus groves of California. Its original fare was mostly American eclectic: oatmeal, eggs and pancakes began the day, burgers and tacos starred at lunch, with the addition of roast beef, steak and fried chicken at night.  
LGO’s “oranges” were all over the place: a pizzeria, a grocery, a bakery and an Italian restaurant in Phoenix, all in large part sharing many of the same recipes, but with individual personalities. Los Angeles bore the newest fruit with our Pasadena “café” and a Santa Monica restaurant without a defining subtitle. All, according to the site, were under the supervision of owner/chef Bob Lynn, a Chicago native now living in Santa Monica who had operated close to 60 restaurants.
Since then, there have been a few changes. The restaurants with LGO in their names have been reduced to four, with the Italian restaurant in Phoenix replaced by a simpler eatery called Chelsea’s Kitchen, and the Santa Monica establishment relocated and rechristened The Misfit. In Pasadena, The Luggage Room (featuring excellent pizza) opened adjacent to LGO Station Café for evening and weekend dining. 
Most important for Pasadenans, the Café’s menu has undergone “una grande transformation.” Breakfast hours are no more (except for weekend brunch) and, although burgers and tacos still hold prime real estate on the menu, other more elevated dishes have been added, including rotisserie prime rib and Jidori chicken, raw tuna as tartare ($14), sashimi salad ($15) and “new style crudo” (with chilies, ponzu, green peppercorns and avocado — $12/$19). And coffee ($3) comes in a two-cup French press.
At dinner, mesquite-grilled beef (rib eye — $28, filet mignon — $29) joins the bill of fare. And the price of the rotisserie meats and other entrees increases fairly steeply, from $4 to $8. But you can mitigate the cost by dining during the early days of the week. On Monday and Tuesday evenings, your second entrée is only $5, an especially good deal for carnivores. Bottled wine is half-price all day Wednesday, perfect for oenophiles.
On a recent lunch visit, my mate indulged in “Sandy’s” green chile angus beef burger ($13), with freshly roasted green chilies and melted Tillamook cheddar, served on a brioche bun with some of the best shoestring fries I’ve tasted in a long time. Congratulations to Sandy! His or her burger was great. What I didn’t notice on the menu was the opportunity to substitute a housemade English muffin for the brioche, an interesting variant.
I ordered one of the more recent “upgraded” entrees: pecan crusted trout with sautéed asparagus ($17). I was surprised by two things: First, the portion was immense, a whole filleted fish that took up the entire plate, and second, the trout’s flesh was a lovely pink. Our server informed us that I was eating a “ruby red,” a farmed variety with rosy color from the small crustaceans on which it is fed. Hmmm, kind of like flamingos, eh? Whatever, it was fabulous.
Unfortunately, the trout isn’t on the dinner menu or we’d be in at least once a week. (Trout filets are $9 a pound at Sprouts, and you’ve got to cook them yourself!) Another dish that’s not on the dinner menu anymore is LGO’s “Dixie” pan-fried chicken ($20 at their Santa Monica location). I asked and was informed that it’s often served as a special in Pasadena (another reason to check out the Café on a Monday or Tuesday night).
 One “signature” LGO prep from the original menu (and way ahead of the curve) is the Brussels sprout salad ($13), with aged manchego cheese, dried berries, smoked almonds and honey-mustard vinaigrette. If you ask for crumbled bacon, they give it to you for free (as they do on their excellent devilled eggs — $4-$7). Equally good is LGO’s newer salad featuring shredded kale and quinoa ($11). These two foodie heartthrobs are also paired with manchego, augmented with sunflower seeds, flame grapes, lemon and fresh parmesan with a smattering of diced red pepper and scallion. Yum.
Pasadena’s Orange occupies a particularly scenic location. Its site is the 1934 Spanish-style Del Mar train station. There are two rooms indoors, one with a full-length bar (complete with TV) and the other a cozy banquet dining room with booths, recently redone with teal, aqua and green replacing far less festive maroon. There is also a wood-gabled ceiling with views to an open kitchen, the patio and, beyond it, train tracks that serve the local Metro station.
I’d love to do a comparison of our LGO with The Misfit, but it’s not that easy. The Westside location is ocean-close on Santa Monica Boulevard, a 45-minute commute in good traffic (which is hardly ever). So I’ll make do (not a major sacrifice) with the Pasadena Station Café and dream of the far-off day when the Gold Line connects with a train that actually goes to the beach! 


La Grande 
Orange Café
260 S. Raymond Ave., 



(626) 356-4444

Full bar/Major cards


All aboard!

All aboard!
Ah, it’s that glorious time of year again, when we celebrate the unofficial start of summer by remembering those we’ve lost in battles. Naturally, there is no better way to commemorate those we’ve lost in wars than by taking a mini-vacation. That’s what more than 32 million Americans will do this weekend, with 28 million opting to travel by car, according to  
If I had a single penny to my name, I, too, would be taking to the freeways to enjoy my three-day weekend elsewhere. However, just because I’m unable to afford a vacation doesn’t mean that I’m any less encouraged by news that holiday travel should be up this year. It frankly gives me just a little bit of hope that this God-awful recession may finally be coming to an end. 
Indeed, nationwide the numbers of those hitting the road this three-day weekend, and those who plan to travel more than 50 miles are set to increase fairly substantially. In fact, the predicted increase in travel this holiday weekend should result in the first increase we’ve seen in five years. Yes, since 2005, Memorial Day travel has been slowly declining. But this year represents a shift, according to the incredibly thorough AAA Memorial Day 2010 Travel Forecast, which was compiled in conjunction with some company called HIS Global Insight.
The report relays that, despite the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and gas prices roughly 75 cents higher per gallon than a year ago, the number of Americans traveling this weekend should climb from 30.5 million to slightly more than 32 million. That’s an increase of more than 5 percent compared to 2009. The reason for the increase? According to the forecast, improving consumer sentiment, rising household net worth and an increased gross domestic product are all considered reasons for the uptick in forecasted travelers.
While I know that my personal consumer sentiments and my net worth continue to do nothing other than nosedive, I’m glad many of my fellow Americans are feeling a bit more optimistic about things. Specifically, an estimated 10 percent of the population here in the Pacific region will be traveling this weekend. And they’re planning to travel a long, long way.
Nearly 30 percent of travelers in the Pacific region are expected to go more than 1,500 miles, with the average distance being 842 miles roundtrip. This represents the greatest travel distance of the nine regions of the country analyzed for the forecast. Holy smokes! That is a whole lot of driving for a whole lot of people in just three days, with only 1 percent expected to travel by air. Moreover, residents in this region are going to spend a lot more money on their weekend than the national average. The national median cost of holiday travel this weekend should add up to roughly $810, but Pacific region folks will spend approximately $250 more on our vacations. 
Yeah, I’d really like to have a thousand bucks to spend this weekend on travel, but it’s not meant to be this year. But to all of you who are taking to planes, trains and automobiles this weekend, I applaud you. Get out there and spend, and keep the economy on the road to recovery. Maybe that way I can take a Memorial Day vacation next year. In return, I promise to pay homage to our fallen heroes locally, in case you forget during your travels. 

Contact Jennifer Hadley at

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