Friday, January 29, 2010

High Speed Rail Wins

The initial race for Federal grant dollars is over, and a big winner is California. Take a look at the other projects that were granted funding across the country. The proposed California High Speed Rail (HSR) design has been on the boards for years, with some initial "paving the way" projects funded locally. A good diagram of this proposed system design is on LA Streetsblog.

As I outlined in a prior post, HSR needs to be fast, with just a few stops allocated to the regional urban centers. As has been pointed out in other transit blogs, it's important to design the system correctly, not politically. The funding dollars just won't stretch that far in the end, they never do. My suggestion involves expanding the existing urban rail systems in the Bay area (SF-Oakland-Stockton) and essentially connecting to LA with as few stops as possible. I think anyone who has been to Stockton, Merced and Modesto would agree with that. The stretch from LA to Anaheim and San Diego is too short and has too many stops for HSR, so it should be built out from existing systems to join in a local transit network. Add to this the questioning of the ridership forecast, I anticipate the usual fallout and the physical truncation of the envisioned system.

Again, just my two centavos.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Preserving Nature's Services

The City of Pasadena is in the final process of reviewing the Hahamongna Annex Plan, which concerns an area purchased from the MWD to expand the watershed and natural open space area in the Arroyo Seco. A history of this acquisition is here, on a new site put up by Friends of Hahamongna.

The overview of the entire Arroyo Seco Master Plan and its related documents is here on the City's site:

"The Arroyo Seco is on the western edge of the City of Pasadena and extends 8 miles through the City. This segment is a part of a longer 22 mile corridor that makes up the entire Arroyo Seco, a major tributary of the Los Angeles River. It is the City’s largest natural open space and physically described as a deeply cut canyon linking the San Gabriel Mountains to the Los Angeles River containing the intermittent stream for which it is named. The Arroyo Seco meanders south through the canyon and past various cities, joins the Los Angeles River, and continues on to the Pacific Ocean. As the Arroyo Seco stream flows through Pasadena, it passes through three distinct geographical areas: Hahamongna Watershed Park, the Central Arroyo, and the Lower Arroyo."

This is a major watershed structure which drains into the Los Angeles River and is part of that entire watershed.

At issue is the proposed removal of seventy non-native trees from the Annex in the name of "habitat restoration." Thirty-three of the trees to be cut down are located in the formerly proposed 40-foot wide road corridor that was to be cut across the Annex to provide access to a 1200 space JPL parking garage, removed from the 2003 Hahamongna Master Plan after strong community opposition. The opposition to the City's proposal involves retaining the site's natural features and keeping the use from increasing to the detriment of its natural character. That discussion is here on the FOHWP website.

The efforts of a concerned community to preserve open space, natural habitat and reduce auto incursion are key to the survival of the natural structures which provide the necessary river and aquifer replenishment as well as tree shade and carbon capture. This erosion of watershed area can't continue indefinitely if we're to rely on natural processes for fresh air and water. It's in the interests of the residents and the commercial/business community to ensure that these areas remain viable.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Releasing the Rivers

According to an ENR article, State government officials and the California American Water Co. agreed on Jan. 11 to remove the 106-ft-tall San Clemente Dam on the Carmel River in Monterey County. The concrete arch dam, built in 1921, once provided drinking water to Monterey Peninsula residents, but its reservoir has since silted up 90%. In 1991, state dam inspectors also concluded the dam risked failure in a significant earthquake or flood event, which could release an estimated 2.5 million cu yds of sediment and more than 40 million gallons of water.

After a long, tortuous political process, a solution was finally developed between several parties, mostly to mitigate liability issues for the potential for sediment release. This sediment has resulted as the river silted up the dam over the last 90 years, which is about the expected useful life of a dam. Dams are not permanent water control features because of this natural process, and thus are not being planned as future structures in water retention and storage. Alternate strategies are being developed to use watershed management and techniques of returning water to the aquifers because of these inherent problems in retaining surface water. This also reduces the evapotranspiration that happens when large areas of retained water are held back in surface storage. Along with this comes habitat restoration and the return of fish population to the rivers.

One constituency for this dam removal has been the Carmel River Steelhead Association, which is tracking the dam removal process and participating in the Carmel River Watershed management. They have a nice flythrough of the river and its watershed on their website. The dam removals are part of a State Department of Water Resources effort to ensure the safety of residents living downstream of dams, which has a clearinghouse of Dam Removal information (CDRI). The CDRI is also asking for public submission of projects involving dam removal and river/watershed restoration to their comprehensive resource database.

Monday, January 25, 2010

California's Greenhouse Gasses

The top 100 carbon dioxide-producing facilities in our state as of 2007 are posted here on an interactive map with the listings, provided by California Watch. These are the kinds of sources for which the State is accountable with the CO2 measurements and subsequent reduction requirements, which far outstrip traffic emissions. Add to that the emissions for housing and development, which also subtract from the earth's ability to absorb carbon, and you have an equation for a system far out of balance.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Suburbia: The Battlefield

Didn't know there was a war on. Sort of like Afghanistan. Anyway, an article by Joel Kotkin in New Geography is good commentary on the change in public policy regarding development, but I have some problems with how Kotkin supports his premise.

A year into the Obama administration, America’s dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown’s huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston. The contrast with 2008 could not be plainer.

He paints this as a political movement when it's really a public policy reversal from the expansionist post-war era. No one party is responsible for "diktat". As always, it's the economics, stupid. Another post ago I discussed How We Got This Way. The first early rail development, on the back of the history that we all learned in school, the Transcontinental Railway completion, was responsible for the form of Los Angeles by linking the early small cities and destinations together in order to make money on the resulting development boom. The westward expansion, growth and development has always been predicated on the consumption of presumably unlimited resources, an official Federal public policy, upon which our country generated tremendous wealth over the last two and a half centuries.

As the USA shifted from an agricultural model to an industrial one, and then to the post-war development model to expand the market for consumption (remember that the Federal Highway program was responsible for sprawl and the decimation of local transit corridors), the whole thing starts to turn into development for its own sake, assuming unlimited markets for goods and the resulting supply chain and truck transit networks. GDP measurement shifted as well, focusing on construction and durable goods consumption as a measure of well-being, which then drives public policy all over the country. Cities and towns nationwide continued to grow, expand and become more dense, along with the traffic, congestion and consumption issues that ride with this.


Well, this is obviously unsustainable, and frankly, serves no purpose other than to consume greater and greater quantities of stuff. It's kind of like a disease where everyone feels entitled to everything, the vector of infection being advertising. It's not this way in Europe and in third world countries, although that's changing now, too.

So now in 2000, the light bulb goes on in DC, public policy has to recognize that there's no more room for "expansion" that drives most of the GDP profit and pays most of the taxes. And the population can't support the existing infrastructure, entitlement programs and housing costs. Since nobody in Washington has got a spine, it devolves into throwing money at transit and housing while at the same time attempting to address the CO2 issue that the rest of the planet has demanded a response to (rightfully so). Where to put all this development and transit? Right on top of what's there now, and call it a CO2 regulation mandate. Moving Cooler is bunk, just a distraction to get the idea into the public arena that less transit will solve the consumption and emissions issues,
which is patently not true. Then you legislate stuff on top of this belief system. Which, by the way, supports the old expansionist model even more with overdevelopment, thus setting up an expanding bubble that's unsustainable and destructive with respect to our resources and the environment.

So the article is very good in pointing out the shift in policy coming out of Washington, and rightfully makes the case for making suburbia more efficient, "greening" what's in place. What he's missing is that the expansionist model has to go, it belongs to both political parties, and it's not viable as it stands now. He starts to point towards telecommuting and more "local lifestyles" as a means of developing a sustainable means of creating profit - as opposed to building stuff - which has been increasingly propounded by economists and policy commentators. Profit needs to be built into sustainable activities that create resources rather than consume them so that our population doesn't burn up what little is left of what were immense natural resources in our country prior to the 1800's.


The "green" global movement recognizes this, and is using that to generate tremendous innovation and problem-solving in this new sector of energy, digital, and experientially-based products and services. The values are shifting from huge houses and the "stuff" in public storage to a lighter, more enjoyable existence that doesn't require a lifetime of maintenance and an eternal daily-grind job.
Yes, it means we get to share. How about a long lunch at the neighborhood sidewalk cafe?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Falling Down

Interesting to see the impact of the bank-fueled recession here in California, which has resulted in a loss of population as well as a more stable one. This strengthens community ties as people remain in their cities and towns and invest in the social networks and local environmental needs. A Seattle news site puts California very much into perspective:

More people are now moving out of Florida, Nevada and California than are moving in. The huge growth in recent decades was driven not by their inherent desirability but by bad banking and loan practices that artificially goosed development and made growth a business in and of itself.

Which means that the development house of cards has finally come crashing down and the State and local budgets will have to be rebuilt on the solid fundamentals of real production and services. This puts the state on a more sustainable path of reinvestment, regenerative place-making and environmental restoration. Better than walking out of a gridlocked LA traffic jam and "going postal" over the intractable urban dysfunction. I think we all know the feeling.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Water and Sheila Kuehl

Since the water situation in California is heading for political meltdown, Sheila Kuehl has established a consulting business to sort out the Bond issues coming up for a vote this November. Her post in the California Progress Report is part of an initial volley to the voters about the good, bad and ugly in this legislation. Her full set of essays and discussion about the California water situation are on her website.

The bottom line appears to be that there are some huge giveaways of public money to private farming interests, along with draconian urban water reduction requirements (meanwhile SCAG is ramping up a huge buildout mandate through its RHNA numbers). These bills don't seem to help the situation, and are not focused on sustainable strategies, but rather the same old tired plumbing solutions. With the Draft Water Plan in process for final input, it seems that these bills are an attempt to railroad the situation before a comprehensive strategy is put into place as public policy that is then funded with various income streams.

Hence my vote of no confidence on these water bills in November.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Does "Green" mean Social Justice?

"Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." in Atlanta on August 16, 1967

The peace and justice movement has long been associated with race, class, social justice and poverty issues. The nonviolent resistance movement, beginning with Mahatma Gandhi in India, then on to Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alabama, has seen a long, slow progression towards a measure of equality for minority groups. Equality and reparations have also come about for the Japanese citizens interred during World War II, as a result of consistent social pressure. The evolution of global human rights through the UN Charter and implemented through the International Criminal Court demonstrates how human society is moving forward in common cause.

While these movements are bringing about social changes to be celebrated, there remains the vast undertaking of the balancing of the worlds' resources with its people in a sustainable way. This translates to consumption, population, and the huge divide between those of great wealth who produce the largest CO2 footprint, and those who are at a bare subsistence level that perpetuates ecological destruction. Both extremes are unsustainable, hence the need to use social network development to solve these problems at the global scale in a way that preserves and enhances natural systems, and balances our whole way of existence.

Our unique human ability to communicate with each other and overcome seemingly intractable territorial and racial issues has not been used as well as it could be. This gift of self-awareness that we have is now being harnessed with technology and social networking in a creative fulcrum that has the capability to produce enormous "jumps" in problem-solving as it concerns energy and resources, and scaling down our need to consume planetary resources. We are developing methodologies to solve the resource issues that are the ancient grounds of war and crusade. The themes of the financial system collapse and the cybertechnology battles that are moving massive amounts of "paper money" digitally around the globe exhibit the growing disconnect between the old ways of grasping at "stuff" and the new vision of the value found in the natural environment and in the extension of the helping hand to each other as natural disasters- now in Haiti, and in 2004's Tsunami in Indonesia and Sri Lanka - take their course.

Have you noticed that everything is green now? Not black, white, brown or red.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How We Got This Way

The Pacific Electric Car system (The Red Cars), spanning much of Los Angeles by the early 1900s, gave the City of Angels one of the most extensive public transit systems in this country. Begun by Henry Huntington as a way of making land more accessible to developers, the P.E. was a network of over 1100 miles of electrified lines crisscrossing the L.A. Basin. A brief detailed history is here.

An essay from In Our Path outlines how the original system lays out the backbone of the existing Los Angeles urban structure:

Unlike eastern cities, which developed transit schemes through pre-existing urban centers, Huntington's system created the basic layout of Southern California. Land development and urbanization followed the tracks. But the Big Red Cars, as the street cars were affectionately called, were never envisioned as a conduit for mass transit. Problems arose as communities the line serviced grew too rapidly and became too dispersed. The system became unprofitable to run. In addition, climate, topography, discovery of oil, and political influence favored the development of the automobile and the bus as primary means of transport.

Now the LA basin is faced with having completed the circle: an urban form that was originally compact but then sprawled to form subregional centers based upon the highway grid overlaid on the stripped-out red line structure. The highways took suburban expansion to its extreme, and now the linkages must be re-formed, as happened in the eastern cities with public transitways between these new suburban "edge cities". The light rail system is slowly evolving into a regional public transit system of light rail, metrolink rail, bikeways, freeway lanes and buses that connect these local urban centers. Interestingly, a map of these light rail connectors mirror the original Red Car system laid down by Henry Huntington 125 years ago.

The planning for these future extensions and integration strategies by the MTA can be found here, along with a link to the 2009 Long Range Transportation Plan.

Efforts to link subregional urban centers with rail systems are fraught with politics and budget issues, as well as resistance by communities to new transit systems being imposed on their community fabric. Or even more devastating, the possibility of a small community being essentially obliterated, such as is still being thrashed out between the state and federal highway planning and the City of South Pasadena over the 710 freeway connector. This connector has been stopped for the moment as the underground connector solution is being studied, however, the objections to this have amplified in even more communities, such as La Canada Flintridge and Glendale.

Another example of the difference between idealized subregional transit connections and the reality of budgets and community concerns is the demise of the SFV East-West Rail Transit Project being developed back in 1991: an elevated monorail connecting the SVF cities with the Warner Center at Universal City. (full disclosure, I worked on it). The elevated line was selected as the favored option by the MTA with a subway concept as an alternative. Cost debates ensued, and wrangling by the County Supervisors produced further cost estimates that ultimately brought down both proposals. The Los Angeles County Transportation Commission Long Range Plan of 1992 included the SFV EW Transit Project, pending the outcome of the EIR and Public-Private Partnership initiatives.
Then along comes a Caltrans white paper in 1992 that makes the case that "rubber tire" is more appropriate than rail for a "de-centric" transit system. This proposes a bus system that replaces the rail concept altogether, and releases its proposed funding for eastside projects. This, along with citizen resistance to the elevated monorail, influenced the political environment. Thus MTA went to Congress for funding in a way that undercut the availability of funds for the SFV project, and ultimately voted down the rail line for the SFV.

Because of the contentious political atmosphere around the transit concepts, the voters were unwilling to vote for Bond funding to carry them out, and thus the projects were discarded in favor of a bus sytem (the Orange Line) that was cheaper and did not involve huge public works funding. So the transit linkage picture is a complex situation in Los Angeles, which is slowly being worked out between the communities, the MTA and the local and Federal agencies. It's a long and convoluted process which unfortunately precludes the overarching public policy view of effective transit design as direct linkages to urban centers.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Another piece of legislation that is coming down the Federal pike is the proposed change in emissions limits by the EPA. It creates stricter pollution standards across all states, many of which are not even in compliance with existing standards. A graphic from the Los Angeles Times shows how this would affect the western United States.

What this has done is to immediately spotlight the issues around development, especially the construction activities that use millions of gallons of water on a project development, as well as the construction pollution, which would have to be accounted for under the new regulations. My guesstimate is that these construction emissions far exceed the possible greenhouse gas emissions of any traffic related to the project over its lifetime. Not to mention the water demands.

It's high time to start counting all of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Legal Water

The finalization of the Draft California Water Plan in February is triggering discussion in political, legal and construction circles. A major confluence in public policy will occur when the legal water conservation issues run up against the development pressures created by the State's greenhouse gas legislation - SB 375 and AB 32. The GHG legislation is being used to create more housing development. The water allocations, which have been cut back by last years' judicial ruling, have slowed the development processes across the state due to the lack of available water. And this is before the legislation takes effect.

This pending conflict has generated a debate about who controls water in the state, since the drought is now more or less permanent, and the growth has not recognized the water limitations in the past. If the water law governance is changed in the face of California's water scarcity, it will affect contracts in existence since the Mexican Land Grant. It would be momentous, and would have to recognize the impact of water removal from the environment, which is what triggered the legal decision to restrict water delivery to Southern California. There's a brief history of how water allocations have affected local developments here. With a new package of water bills headed for this November's ballot, the debate over water control is destined to be one of the most intense the state has ever seen.

It could come to serious loggerheads with respect to how development can even happen in this state. At the very least, it will force some infrastructure changes as well as creating expensive project requirements in the form of net-zero requirements or even "energy plus" mandates for large projects. This would also limit projects to existing developed areas, which is an idea whose time has come.

The expansion era is over. And in many communities the specter of dense development is not welcome.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Development Oriented Transit

The other way around, see? Land use drives the linkages of places that people need to get to. It's an entire strategy of urban planning, not a piecemeal exercise. There was a nice article in today's LA Times about Vancouver's decision to direct urban growth in a sustainable fashion. It has its successes and also a failure to prevent sprawl at its urban fringe. The high cost of urban condos has driven the sprawl of single-family residences outside the urban boundary even as roads are not expanded to accommodate the resultant traffic. But the strategy is to incorporate public spaces and schools into the urban fabric, not just allow huge condo developments that provide no public amenities:

The city has hit up developers to build parks, recreation centers, libraries, day-care centers, and open, public waterfronts to a degree almost unknown anywhere else.

The City of Portland famously tried urban boundaries (Portland Street Car), but these erode in the face of the inevitable suburban expansion that occurs when urban centers are built up without housing that is affordable and without the amenities of open space, landscaping and public services and schools that the suburbs are famous for.

Another form of integration of existing land use and transit planning is San Francisco's Bay Area study that precedes its proposal for the Transit Bay Center, generating a massive in-city urban park and public space.

A hybrid strategy is beginning to emerge with respect to land planning and development, with planning occuring at a more regional level that creates logical transitways within existing centers of subregional density. The linked-nodes strategy works if the centers of transit are directly aligned and permanently linked.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What is Renderporn?



It's called that because "sex sells", as do fabulous renderings and great animations. A typical animated fly-through is depicted in my earlier blog entry about the Alaskan Way Viaduct proposal in Seattle. Taking it to the next level,
San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center video, with animation work done by renderporn wizards Steelblue and Neorama, has outdone itself on the sales job. All the elements of a fantasy experience, like a Las Vegas commercial are here, including gratuitous shots of elements like the Pelli skyscraper. Because the transit center design is also done by Pelli...

What better commercial than that?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Transit Oriented Reality?

This is bus (and light rail) transit in California. Or it was. The state is slashing transportation funding, so local transit agencies are having to cut routes and raise fares. The impact this has, unfortunately, is to cut ridership. This also makes more areas of the cities inaccessible to those who don't have cars.

Which makes the scenario posed by SB 375 rather unlikely: how to build density around functionally non-existent transit corridors, or those that are so lightly used that they are discontinued as bus routes, leaving the massive developments behind?

There needs to be not only Federal transit funding reform, but an intelligent approach to permanent transportation network development. Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is actually a way of planning that links nodes of existing density in a way that uses proactive land use planning tools to integrate the most effective transitways. Excellent approaches of this kind are outlined on the Human Transit site. How to actually do a corridor study that results in effective land use and transit planning is covered in another post on this site. The transit must be permanent, and with a means of maintaining it built into its funding structure. If the state does not intend to fund transit, then it has no business requiring dense development for the non-existent transit, especially those developments that presume that everyone will get out of their cars. Holy smokes.

So it's really a very synergistic and feedback-loop kind of an issue, and simplistic approaches like slamming density around any bus route is a guarantee of failure in community strategic planning, not to mention a waste of money. That's not how transit planning and strategic land use planning is done; it's a far more complex process than that, with too much at stake to allow single massive projects to overtake an urban or suburban landscape. That's what created sprawl - subdivision tract-mapping that never provided the schools, service centers or public spaces that should have been the drivers for development. People need a reason to go places. Simple as that.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Thirteenth Day

The chart above demonstrates the Greenhouse Gas comparison between many other countries in the world and the USA, which consumes about 25% of the available global oil supplies to produce this tremendous amount of GHG's. In addition to fuels like natural gas and many coal-fired power plants as is mapped out here.

From Mark Lynas, about the last day of talks at the United Nation's Climate Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen., in The Guardian: Dec 22, 2009. The complete article at The Guardian goes into far greater reporting detail.

"...Here's what actually went on late last Friday night, as heads of state from two dozen countries met behind closed doors. Obama was at the table for several hours, sitting between Gordon Brown and the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi. The Danish prime minister chaired, and on his right sat Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN. Probably only about 50 or 60 people, including the heads of state, were in the room. I was attached to one of the delegations, whose head of state was also present for most of the time.

"What I saw was profoundly shocking. The Chinese premier, Wen Jinbao, did not deign to attend the meetings personally, instead sending a second-tier official in the country's foreign ministry to sit opposite Obama himself. The diplomatic snub was obvious and brutal, as was the practical implication: several times during the session, the world's most powerful heads of state were forced to wait around as the Chinese delegate went off to make telephone calls to his 'superiors'.

"To those who would blame Obama and rich countries in general, know this: it was China's representative who insisted that industrialised country targets, previously agreed as an 80% cut by 2050, be taken out of the deal. "Why can't we even mention our own targets?" demanded a furious Angela Merkel. Australia's prime minister, Kevin Rudd, was annoyed enough to bang his microphone. Brazil's representative too pointed out the illogicality of China's position. Why should rich countries not announce even this unilateral cut? The Chinese delegate said no, and I watched, aghast, as Merkel threw up her hands in despair and conceded the point. Now we know why - because China bet, correctly, that Obama would get the blame for the Copenhagen accord's lack of ambition.

"China, backed at times by India, then proceeded to take out all the numbers that mattered."

A couple of weeks prior to the extensive Chinese preparation for this tactic, the Wilson Center published a poll on Dec. 16, 2009:

In a new poll conducted by WorldPublicOpinion.org in September, an overwhelming 96% of Chinese said that at the conference in Copenhagen their government should be “willing to commit to limiting its greenhouse gas emissions” as part of an agreement. Seventy-eight percent of Chinese also said that “dealing with the problem of climate change should be given priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Twelfth Night

Again, it's Twelfth Night - the night of epiphany, of recognition and awakening. From the darkest days of the year we need to look towards the light, celebrated around the globe, regardless of creed, in different cultures down through the eons with fire, candles, light and music. In western Christianity, it means celebrating the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child, signifying the extension of salvation to the Gentiles.

I asked the question earlier,
now shall we extend this salvation to all people, the creatures and life that inhabit our home, the planet?

Salvation isn't earned, it's a gift, a grace, a blessing. Like the blessings and abundance of nature that we've taken as our due as the human family expanded across the globe. It's time to reflect on our continual consumption of earth's resources and the impact that this is having on the natural processes and their ability to support life in all its diversity and complexity.

It's now time to make other decisions, to work within the parameters of nature, and integrate human process within rational bounds. It's a scale issue, as has been debated in the Copenhagen climate summit, as well as a supremely immediate and necessary cumulative action to restore what was once abundantly provided by an unburdened earth. From its highest point to the lowest depths of the biosphere, we're reaching a crucial moment in our history as well as the limits of the ability of our planet to nurture human habitation. We must act, in grace, to turn around our destructive habits and embrace a constructive path.

What other blessing can humanity give?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Perfect Trap

Right now in Pasadena, the General Plan public discussion is taking place prior to the final reviews of the revised elements of the updated plan. This discussion is being impacted by the SB 375 legislation, which requires a specific process to take place whenever General Plans are updated and adopted. As you can see from the flowchart above, the state has created a process that forces massive development rights into any General Plan update that can't be legally challenged by communities that do not have the desire or the ability to accommodate this kind of growth as projected by SCAG. The full article on this legislation's impact is here.

How this will play out in Pasadena's General Plan adoption remains to be seen. It's controversial because all of the public comments to date have been largely in objection to the condo development and traffic gridlock already created under the old General Plan, and the accompanying loss of local character and historic fabric that's so important to the residents.

Examples of steps that other cities have taken under just AB 32 in order to define their response to the Greenhouse Gas Emissions are online at the State Attorney General's website as a pdf file. This is the original intent of the Assembly Bill, which simply follows Federal precedent and asks cities to formulate their own methods of compliance with GHG requirements.

SB 375 has completely twisted the emission control agenda to define GHG emissions as totally commuter-traffic dependent, when in fact the emissions from from manufacturing, power plants, warehousing, industrial and the related transport of goods and construction activites, which are over 70% of the GHG count, are the major producers of emissions. However, this legislation forces cities and counties to ignore those components and focus on constructing condos and public transit, which have Federal dollars attached to them. How this reduces the GHG component is a mystery, however, it generates huge housing numbers based upon the GHG computations from SCAG.

I also thought that exemption from CEQA was completely illegal. Oh well.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Water is Always Politics

The Draft California Water Plan is now up on the State's website for public review. It's interesting that its focus is on climate change as official policy, and all the arguments for integrated water management are based upon this premise. This document is in preparation for the Final Water Plan Update 2009 in Febuary 2010.

This addresses a comprehensive view of all of the water issues, especially the critical Bay Delta component. The competing interests are, as usual, the water and farming interests as well as the urban and suburban demands, particularly in the southern part of the state. An indication of the powerful politics around this issue is a critique by Jane Wagner-Tyack (Restore the Delta) of 60 Minutes' program on the issue which had a chance to take on agribusiness and water, but instead left many issues unaddressed.

Whether California's water system ends up with an old-style plumbing upgrade focused on a peripheral canal revival or a new approach grounded in ecologically effective systems remains on the political table.

Background:

Land and Water in California in the Twentieth Century. This is an excellent presentation on the big historic overview presented by a UCLA professor to the Public Officials for Water and Environmental Reform Conference in 2002.

California Ecology and natural water distribution (cites Kharl). MWD's growth beyond its historic original charter is here (download pdf document for a fascinating read).

Note that the
1979 California Water Atlas was produced by William Kahrl, as a premier government resource for the water infrastructure industry in California.