Friday, November 30, 2007

Rail Transit

One assumption about rail transit is that is cheaper in the long run because it is permanent, but as this article makes clear, that is just not true.

Subways Going Down The Tubes

Rail advocates sometimes claim that we can ignore the high cost of building rail lines, because “once they are built, they are there forever.” Yes, forever, or about 30 to 40 years, whichever comes first.

Which is why the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Washington Metro, and Chicago Transit authority are all looking at roughly $10 billion each in rehabilitation expenses in the next few years, little of which is funded. Of the three, BART is in the best shape, saying it needs $11 billion for rehab, slightly less than half of which is funded. The remaining $5.8 billion is still a lot of money just to keep the system going.

The Washington Metrorail system needs $12 billion to rehabilitate its system over the next decade. Transit officials admit to having virtually no hope of raising that amount unless the federal government comes riding to the rescue. In the meantime, they are begging local governments to cobble together a $1.5 billion fund to just repair the system’s worst problems.

The latest is from the Chicago Transit Authority, which is supposed to be on the verge of collapse. The system is so poorly maintained that some trains are restricted to as little as six miles per hour. As if to one up BART and Metrorail, CTA says it needs $16.1 billion over the next decade to put it back in a “good state of repair.”

Meanwhile, the New York and Boston transit authorities say they have kept their systems up. But New York MTA is looking at spending nearly $2 billion a year on debt service on the money it has borrowed to maintain the system (see page II-2 of this 2.7MB pdf). Boston’s MBTA is spending one third of its operating budget on interest on its $5 billion debt.

Good Railyard Questions

With the record the city has negotiating development deals, the questions raised by this editorial are important.

Editorial: City Council must probe details of railyard
On Tuesday, council should follow the money and question housing schedule
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 30, 2007

As the Sacramento City Council reaches the last stages of decision-making on the railyard project, it's time for the council to move beyond platitudes and drill down into the details of the financing and development agreements.

Any urban infill project is a complicated proposition, and everybody is trying to figure out how to pay for this one. As it stands now, the railyard project would build significant retail space at the beginning – a 200,000-square-foot Bass Pro shop right away – to try to generate revenues. But the council needs to consider the phasing carefully and make sure that the railyard project truly is mixed use and not just a shopping center in the early stages.

Here's one example where the council needs to examine the details. By the end of 2018, the first of four "Development Milestones" calls for the developer to produce 400 units of housing and 550,000 square feet of retail/office space. By comparison, Old Sacramento has about 300,000 square feet of retail.

Are 400 units of housing and half a million square feet of retail/office the right balance by 2018? That first milestone may be too long, allowing retail to happen right away and housing not for 10 years. Redefining the first milestone as five years could better assure that housing occurs simultaneously with retail and office development.

Natomas Levee Work

As it progresses we should remember that the generation of engineers and public leadership who planned and largely built the massive state water system allowing California to become the state it has become, originally engineered the Shasta Dam to be 200 feet higher than it now is, which would have tripled the water storage capacity in Shasta Lake, and they also approved the building of the Auburn Dam.

The Sixties generation of environmentalists, with their virulent anti-development beliefs and lawyers with legal suits in hand, stopped both projects.

Had both projects been built as planned, there would be no need for massive levees in Natomas.

Huge levee project advances
Area flood board OKs first phase despite opposition from dozens of residents.
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 30, 2007

A massive levee-strengthening project in Sacramento's Natomas basin got its first nod of approval on Thursday, despite objections from dozens of residents who fear they'll lose homes or property to the work.

The project, estimated to cost more than $400 million, will raise or widen nearly 25 miles of Natomas levees over three years. It is designed to double flood protection in the deep-flood basin and prevent levee underseepage that threatens the basin's more than 70,000 residents.

On Thursday, the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency approved an overarching environmental impact report for the project. It also approved the first phase of construction in 2008, which involves raising and widening levees along the Natomas Cross Canal and the northernmost five miles of levee along the Sacramento River.

One fledgling group of property owners along the Garden Highway is considering a legal challenge to the project. And the project still must be approved by state and federal officials. SAFCA also plans another environmental study on subsequent construction phases.

More than 200 people attended Thursday's meeting, many of them Garden Highway residents opposed to the project. They want the project delayed for more analysis of impacts on residents of new levees that will be raised as much as 3 feet and widened by 300 feet.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Water for Salmon & People

The balancing act is crucial but the needs of people always have to be given a priority, and in the case where water is limited, but the creation of new water storage is an option to provide more water, that should be the long range plan rather than continued restrictions on existing water.

Report backs more water for Klamath
Greater releases are needed for salmon, council says.
By David Whitney -
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, November 29, 2007

WASHINGTON – A National Research Council report Wednesday supported more water being released down the Klamath River to protect salmon runs, siding with authors of a 2006study that critics said the Bush administration tried to suppress.

Environmentalists hailed the report as "a major victory."

"The science that fish need water is becoming clearer than some people believe," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.

But the research council report also found fault with two recent Klamath River scientific studies, including the one from 2006, saying they examine in detail portions of the complex river system but miss the complete picture of why it's in such crisis.

"Science is being done in bits and pieces," said University of South Carolina geography professor William L. Graf, chairman of the 13-member review committee.

The Klamath, once the third most productive salmon river on the West Coast, in recent dry years has been a battleground over water and the Endangered Species Act, pitting farmers relying on irrigation in the upper basin in Southern Oregon against salmon fishermen enduring economic hardship because of disastrous runs.

Local & Federal Flood Control

This story reflects why it is crucial that the federal government have the overall responsibility for flood control projects as local entities tend to draft projects compatible with their interests but may be harmful to those of their neighbor, and in flood control, the danger can be fatal.

Huge levee project up for a vote
But critics urge a delay to gauge the impact on Natomas residents and the environment.
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, November 29, 2007

It's the biggest levee-strengthening project in Sacramento history, deemed critical to the safety of the city's fast-growing northern flank. But it will demand sacrifice from residents of the Natomas basin.

So it's no surprise that the project has attracted a big dose of opposition from people like Linda Henson, who lives on Howsley Road and may lose her backyard to levee improvements.

"We're going to go down fighting," Henson said. "My other two neighbors are losing homes and barns. I just feel this project is wrong, and it's going to hurt more people in the long run."

The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency is expected to vote today on bolstering nearly 25 miles of levees in Natomas. Stein Buer, SAFCA executive director, said the agency is moving rapidly because Sacramento is America's bull's-eye for flood risk.

The agency wants to start work in summer 2008. Buer said delays could add years to the region's flood exposure.

"It burns in our hearts that we have an opportunity to do things right here if we move expeditiously," he said. "We would be remiss if we didn't drive forward with all the energy we have."

A decade ago North Natomas levees were certified as meeting minimum standards – able to withstand great floods likely to occur once every 100 years. But a recent study found the levees remain vulnerable to underseepage. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded the levees needed more work.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trestle Fire, Plea Bargain

It reads like a sad story of justice not well served, that politics may have led astray; and if so, a sadder story yet for a community trying to deal with its problems with some compassion, clarity, and reason.

Setback for fire probe
Trestle blaze suspect pleads guilty to minor charge
By Denny Walsh -
Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The federal government's investigation of Sacramento's massive railroad trestle fire in March appeared to sustain a critical blow Tuesday, as authorities allowed the only known suspect to plead guilty to a minor charge and accept a sentence of 97 days already served as a pretrial detainee.

Jose Eduardo Moran-Marques pleaded guilty Tuesday to giving a false name when questioned May 15 about the fire by an agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who was investigating the arson along with the Sacramento Fire Department.

Moran-Marques was not released, however, because of an immigration hold order, and will be deported to his native El Salvador.

He has regularly been deported and re-entered the United States illegally. He told U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia on Tuesday that he is 30 and has had no formal education.

R. Steven Lapham, the assistant U. S. attorney who prosecuted the case, said after the sentencing that "the arson investigation is ongoing."

"As far as Mr. Moran is concerned, we feel we've run our string on leads," the veteran prosecutor said. "That doesn't mean he didn't do it. It simply means we don't feel right now we can prove it."…

Moran-Marques told Bee reporters he was eating at Loaves & Fishes, a downtown Sacramento center that provides food and services to the homeless, on the afternoon of the fire. He said he saw the smoke as he was leaving the center.

A week after the fire, ATF Special Agent Steve Carman received information from a citizen informant who claimed to have overheard Moran-Marques admit he committed the arson.

Court records show that Moran-Marques placed a call from his cellular telephone at 5:37 p.m., four minutes before the fire was first reported. Based on the location of the cell phone tower through which his phone signal was transmitted, Moran-Marques was near the trestle at the time he made the call, according to a radio frequency engineer cooperating with the government.

In the months leading up to and shortly after the fire, Moran-Marques had several encounters with American River Parkway rangers.

These encounters occurred in the area of the trestle, and Moran-Marques had an encampment approximately a half mile from the trestle.

One or more of the encounters resulted in Moran-Marques receiving a citation for illegal camping.

Turbo Charged is Green

It is very nice to see the great invention so roaringly satisfying during the golden age of cars and driving, become a vital part of the green age.

Something old is new again -- and greener
Carmakers are turning to turbocharging, long viewed skeptically by Americans, as a relatively cheap, easy way to boost mileage.
By Ken Bensinger
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 24, 2007

The next thing in greener cars doesn't need hydrogen, lithium-ion batteries or even a power cord. In fact, it's based on century-old technology that's been used on trucks since before World War II: the turbo.

Under pressure to reduce emissions and increase fuel-efficiency, automakers are quietly turning to turbocharging as a relatively cheap, easy-to-implement technology that could soon be a permanent staple on internal combustion engines.

That's because turbos, high-velocity fans that recirculate and compress exhaust gases back into the motor's cylinders, can increase fuel-efficiency by as much as 30% while increasing power output. Thanks to that increased power, smaller engines can be used, reducing weight and further increasing efficiency. And because it's a proven technology, the research and development costs are enticingly low.

"There isn't a dynamometer in Detroit that doesn't have a turbocharged engine being tested on it right now," says Eric Noble, president of Carlab, an automotive consultant in Orange. "There's still a lot of fuel savings that can be gotten out of a traditional engine."

Automakers are cagey about announcing how many cars will get the turbo boost, but General Motors executives say they are considering putting turbos on even their largest passenger vehicles. Hyundai just announced its first turbocharged car -- the Genesis coupe -- for the U.S. market in a dozen year

Environmentalism Break Through

From the environmental movements most provocative thinkers, who wrote the essay "Death of Environmentalism" in 2004, proposing that the continued doom and gloom environmental talk, with calls for severe government control and steep reductions in world consumer economics, was a paradigm that needed to be farmed out to pasture, and their new book "Break Through" goes much more into detail about what should be done instead.

A bracing work which we will be reviewing in our January ARPPS Newsletter.

The Lowdown on Doomsday
Why the public shrugs at global warming.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The secretary-general of the United Nations, upon issuing yet another global-warming report a couple of weeks ago, announced that "we are on the verge of a catastrophe." Kevin Rudd, Australia's just-elected prime minister, has said that fighting global warming will be his "number one" priority. And Al Gore, propelled by his Nobel Prize, still travels the world to warn of doom. His latest stop was the Caribbean, where earlier this month he told a gathering of the region's environmental officials that rising seas, the result of melting polar icecaps, would threaten their island paradise.

And yet the public does not seem to feel all that heatedly about the warming of the planet. In survey after survey, American voters say that they care about global warming, but the subject ranks quite low when compared with other concerns (e.g., the economy, health care, the war on terror). Even when Mr. Gore's Oscar-winning film, "An Inconvenient Truth," was at the height of its popularity, it did not increase the importance of global warming in the public mind or mobilize greater support for Mr. Gore's favored remedies--e.g., reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by government fiat. Mr. Gore may seek to make environmental protection civilization's "central organizing principle," as he puts it, but there is no constituency for such a regime. Hence even the Democratic Party's presidential candidates, in their debates, give global warming only cursory treatment, with lofty rhetoric and vague policy proposals.

There is a reason for this political freeze-up. In "Break Through," Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger argue that Mr. Gore and the broader environmental movement--in which Mr. Gore plays an almost messianic part--remain wedded to an outmoded vision, seeing global warming as "a problem of pollution to be fixed by a politics of limits." Such a vision may have worked in the early days of environmentalism, when the first clear-air and clean-water regulations were pushed through Congress, but today it cannot mobilize enough public support for dramatic political change.

What is to be done? Messrs. Nordhaus and Shellenberger want to replace the pollution paradigm with a progressive one. They broached this idea in "The Death of Environmentalism," a controversial 2004 monograph that ricocheted around the Internet. "Break Through" gives the idea a fuller exposition and even greater urgency. The authors contend that the environmental movement must throw out its "unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts, and exhausted strategies" in favor of something "imaginative, aspirational, and future-oriented."

Suburbs are Good

Contrasting the recent ideas around the emergence of urban growth attributed to the pursuit of the creative class to move in, are new reports indicating that, while holding a bit of truth, the larger truth is that families build cities and families like suburbs.

The Rise of Family-Friendly Cities
It's lifestyle, not lattés, that our most productive workers want.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

For much of the past decade, business recruiters, cities and urban developers have focused on the "young and restless," the "creative class," and the so-called "yuspie"--the young urban single professional. Cities, they've said, should capture this so-called "dream demographic" if they wish to inhabit the top tiers of the economic food chain and enjoy the fastest and most sustained growth.

This focus--epitomized by Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm's risible "Cool Cities" initiative--is less successful than advertised. Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland, Newark, Detroit and Memphis have danced to the tune of the hip and the cool, yet largely remain wallflowers in terms of economic and demographic growth. Instead, an analysis of migration data by my colleagues at the Praxis Strategy Group shows that the strongest job growth has consistently taken place in those regions--such as Houston, Dallas, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham--with the largest net in-migration of young, educated families ranging from their mid-20s to mid-40s.

Urban centers that have been traditional favorites for young singles, such as Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, have experienced below-average job and population growth since 2000. San Francisco and Chicago lost population during that period; even immigrant-rich New York City and Los Angeles County have shown barely negligible population growth in the last two years, largely due to a major out-migration of middle class families.

Married people with children tend to be both successful and motivated, precisely the people who make economies go. They are twice as likely to be in the top 20% of income earners, according to the Census, and their incomes have been rising considerably faster than the national average.

Indeed, if you talk with recruiters and developers in the nation's fastest growing regions, you find that the critical ability to lure skilled workers, long term, lies not with bright lights and nightclubs, but with ample economic opportunities, affordable housing and family friendly communities not too distant from work. "People who come here tend to be people who have long commutes elsewhere, and who have young children," notes Pat Riley, president of Alan Tate company, a large residential brokerage in Charlotte, N.C. "They want to be somewhere where they don't miss their kids growing up because there's no time."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Public/Private Partnerships

Great leadership from the Governor on infrastructure.

Schwarzenegger calls for new tack on infrastructure
He wants private firms to partner with the state in building and maintaining roads and other projects.
By Michael Rothfeld
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
9:57 AM PST, November 27, 2007

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signaled a major push today to engage private companies in the construction and management of state and local infrastructure, adopting a strategy employed in Canada, Britain and elsewhere.

In such partnerships, which could take a variety of formats, the state and municipalities could enter contracts allowing private companies to build and manage roads, schools, waste water treatment plants, and other projects in exchange for rent or revenue paid by consumers, such as tolls.

"Simply put, to keep our economy moving we have to do everything we can to create our infrastructure faster, cheaper and better," Schwarzenegger said this morning at a forum on California's digital infrastructure, sponsored by USC.

"Right now, it's such a new concept with our legislators that they're not there yet 100%," the governor said. "They're concerned about it, they're suspicious about it, what it means."

The Schwarzenegger administration is contemplating a plan, probably requiring state legislation, to create a California agency to oversee state and local public-private partnerships, aides said. Modeled after one in British Columbia, it would be staffed by professional financiers and other experts who could oversee the structuring of deals by both state and local governments.

Schwarzenegger, who championed a $42-billion infrastructure bond that voters approved last year, has said the state needs $500 billion in improvements over the next two decades to catch up and keep up with rapid population growth.

Supporters say public-private partnerships create better efficiency, bring private capital into public projects and create more incentive to run public projects well by tying them to a private profit motive. The strategy could also alleviate the need for the state to increase its already high level of borrowing.

Snails & Salmon

A shrinking globe brings snails from New Zealand to the American River, but fortunately, they won’t have much of a negative impact on the salmon, though other aquatic species will suffer.

Snails pose threat via Lake Natoma trout hatchery
Tiny invasive species can travel inside fish, infest more waterways and destroy food source.
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A tiny but tough and very hungry foreign snail has invaded the American River, prompting concern that waters throughout the state could become infested if it gains a foothold in the river's trout hatchery.

The New Zealand mudsnail has been confirmed in two locations on the river this month, both below Lake Natoma. On other rivers, the snail has been known to carpet the river bottom at more than 500,000 per square meter, and it could devour food available to native fish in the river.

But officials are equally concerned about preventing the snail from being transported by human activity above Nimbus Dam and into Lake Natoma, the water supply for the state's American River Trout Hatchery.

The tiny snail – less than 5 millimeters long – can survive in the stomachs of fish for up to three days and be excreted alive into new waters. So the millions of trout transplanted from the hatchery each year to lakes throughout the state could spread the snail far and wide…

In the American River, it was found Nov. 12 about a half-mile below Sunrise Bridge by Ken Davis, an independent aquatic biologist based in Sacramento; then on Nov. 14 at San Juan Rapids by Mike Healey, a fisheries biologist at the Department of Fish and Game.

"They are reproducing," said Davis. "Everything is there for them to prosper."

Navicky said the effect on the river's primary native fish – salmon and steelhead – might not be severe. That's because these fish are migratory, spend most of their time in other places, and don't feed much when they return to spawn.

K Street

The downtown drama continues.

City considers eminent domain for K Street
With no development agreement in sight, landowner vows to fight attempt
By Terri Hardy -
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, November 27, 2007

As the future of struggling K Street hangs in the balance, Sacramento city leaders said Monday they are moving to wrest control of key blighted properties from landowner Moe Mohanna and his team.

Following years of talks on development plans, nasty court battles and no agreement in recent negotiations with Mohanna to jumpstart revitalization, the City Council will vote Dec. 11 on using eminent domain, Assistant City Manager John Dangberg said.

At the same time, Dangberg said the city would continue working for a settlement to avoid taking the property.

"We believe it's necessary to move forward on all fronts," Dangberg said. "K Street is too important."

The Mohanna team will fight the eminent domain attempt, said Myron Moskovitz, the partnership's attorney. Moskovitz said the group was stunned by the city's tactics because it believed a deal was near.

Water Storage & the Delta

To accomplish what needs to be done with the Delta, new water storage is required.

New water plan a good first step
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 11/25/2007 03:00:53 AM PST

THE LATEST PROPOSAL to save the Delta ecosystem and deliver dependable supplies of fresh water to users offers some promising ideas on the control and financing of water. It also has the advantage of tentative support of large water users and biologists. But it also appears to be missing a major essential element -- storage.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan would change the way much of California's water is managed. It would set ground rules for how water will be delivered and how the Delta environment would be protected for the next half century.

The conservation plan seeks to replace the current permit system. Water users would pay for new infrastructure, wetlands restoration and other related projects in return for guaranteed stable water supplies.

Certainly, users should pay the full price for water supplies and delivery systems. However, part of the infrastructure called for by the conservation plan is a controversial aqueduct around the Delta.

This is a smaller version of the Peripheral Canal, which was defeated by voters in 1982. But unlike the 1982 canal, this one would be controlled in conjunction with the existing federal and state intakes near Tracy.

A canal by itself is not workable because it would not be able to take more water without violating environmental standards in the Delta…

It has been nearly three decades since a major new reservoir was built. In the meantime California has grown by 15 million people.

More efficient use of water and less water-intensive agriculture have served the state well. But there are limits to such measures, especially if we experience another drought and add a half million people a year to the state's population.

If sufficient water supplies are to be guaranteed for agriculture, urban users and the Delta environment, at least one major new reservoir will be needed. Without new storage, farmers are not likely to have sufficient supplies in dry years.

Floating Nuclear Power Plants?

This and other interesting ideas…

November 21, 2007 9:06 AM PST
A new source of water: Floating nuclear power plants
Posted by Michael Kanellos

Nuclear power plants have a lot of excess heat, so why not use that heat to make fresh water?

That's the idea of S.S. Verma, with the Department of Physics at the Sont Longowal Institute in Punjab, India. If located offshore near large population centers, the plants could provide cheap electricity as well as fresh water to megacities like Mumbai.

Some companies are already looking at developing desalination platforms that can be attached to nuclear plants, he said, according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

The general and very serious concerns about nuclear power--what do you do about transportation of nuclear materials? Disposal and storage? Safety?--of course apply. But it's also an interesting idea. Nuclear plants do produce a lot of waste heat. Many believe that hydrogen could become economical if the waste heat from these plants could be used to crack water molecules to produce the gas.

Some companies in Canada are contemplating installing nuclear power plants near the tar sands deposits in Alberta to produce hydrogen, a necessary ingredient for turning the goopy tar into usable liquid fuel.

The world is mired in a water crisis. In many large cities in India, people wait in line to get water from roving trucks. Droughts and crop failures are expected to increase as global temperatures rise. And it's not just in the emerging world. Australia is suffering through a prolonged shortage of water.

Desalination provides an avenue out of it, but conventional methods are expensive and somewhat time consuming.

Other water purification ideas out there include better membranes (from start-up Nano H20) better purification ponds (a la Aqwise) and simulated evaporation and condensation from Altela.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Guardian Angels

Our organization, working with the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce (who paid for their first year’s worth of supplies and provided an office) helped bring the Guardian Angels back to Sacramento to patrol the Parkway and North Sacramento, which we wrote about in our report at (page 40) which also has a nice picture of Curtis Sliwa on the Parkway trail.

It is good to see they are still here and patrolling.

Back-Seat Driver: Guardian Angels ride the rails
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 12:00 am PST Monday, November 26, 2007

Light-rail riders and downtown Sacramento shoppers this holiday season may notice a few Guardian Angels watching over them.

A small group of crime-prevention volunteers has begun riding the rails and patrolling downtown streets Fridays and Saturdays in hopes of making the season a little safer.

The self-styled citizen force – currently there are seven local members – is the modest Sacramento chapter of a group that started nearly 30 years ago in the Bronx in New York City.

They're easy to recognize. Guardian Angels wear red berets, red jackets, and red-and-white T-shirts, and generally project a no-nonsense, law-and-order air.

It's not the group's first foray in Sacramento. New York founder Curtis Sliwa started a local chapter in the early 1980s. The chapter fell dormant but was revived in 2005 in Del Paso Heights.

Sacramento Homeless

The plan Sacramento adopted is partially a good one. Partially because the basic approach, getting the homeless into housing first before connecting them to services is based on the Housing First model that has been working well for many years in New York.

But Housing First uses the method of placing the homeless in apartments around the community (scattered site approach), thus blending them in.

Housing First does not place them into “homeless villages” (concentrated approach) which has a lot of downsides as far as actual help, not to mention the corrosive impact on the surrounding community.

Sacramento has chosen to put the majority of their housing resources into concentrated housing, which will make the problem worse—for the homeless and the community—rather than better.

However, the good part is that they are also using the scattered site approach also, though at a smaller level than the concentrated approach.

Diverse solution to homeless problem urged
By M.S. Enkoji -
Published 12:00 am PST Monday, November 26, 2007

A chain-link fence topped by three strands of barbed wire signals a vigilance over a vacant dirt field where homeless people once openly camped.

The illegal homeless camp in northern Sacramento, a refuge for several weeks, is gone, the people dispersed into the night or offered motel vouchers and nightly winter shelter.

Authorities earlier this month disbanded the homeless camp – as many as 60 tents – that had furtively grown on privately owned railroad property. The ensuing upheaval became a plaintive reminder of needs yet to be met.

Cities across the nation, including Sacramento, are embarking on ambitious 10-year plans to end homelessness, designed to permanently house the most difficult-to-accommodate population.

A year into Sacramento's plan, nearly 200 of the county's estimated 1,600 chronically homeless have been placed in housing.

Up to 500 housing units are expected to be provided to the homeless over the next five years under the plan. The idea is to get them into homes before forcing them to tackle drug problems or other underlying issues that put them on the street.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Environmentalism & the Future

This is a really good interview with one of the most important thinkers in the movement who understands the possibilities for all of us to come together around this most crucial issue.

Post-environmentalist vision
Ted Nordhaus, co-author of Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, talks to SN&R
By Sena Christian

In the wake of President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election and a time of serious introspection for many, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger published an essay advocating the death of the modern environmental movement. They meant it as a call to action, hoping for a more relevant and updated movement to be born in its place. Instead, the authors were harshly criticized and dubbed the “bad boys of environmentalism.”

So they set to work writing again. In October, the authors published Break Through. Nordhaus sat down with SN&R to discuss why we must change old ways of thinking, leave behind the doom-and-gloom rants, and use the climate crisis as humanity’s chance to move away from a nightmare and allow ourselves to dream.

Why did you guys write this book?

The intention of the book was to take the essay and flesh out a larger framework for thinking about both the ecological crises and global development, and what kind of politics we would need to create to address those issues and see our global development go in a direction that would be prosperous, equitable and sustainable. The intention of the book was not to lay out a 10-point policy plan—it’s not a policy book—but to paint the broad philosophical basis and outline a new politics that could conceptually understand these problems in a way that we might be able to solve them.

The response to the book has been kind of negative and defensive from environmentalists, which comes as a surprise, because I feel the book really resonates with me and will resonate with my generation. Do you think there is just a generational gap going on here?

It’s hugely generational. We actually didn’t realize it when we wrote the essay until it came out. We didn’t think we were declaring some generational war or statement. At the beginning of the essay, we tried to recognize that we were children of the environmental movement—our parents were environmentalists, everyone we knew were environmentalists—and to express some gratitude and recognition for all that the environmental movement had accomplished. We naively, perhaps, thought it would be read as a statement of gratitude and recognition, and it wasn’t, it was read as an attack. ... At the Power Shift conference, which was 6,000 kids from around the country—climate activists—and these kids were so excited to talk about this different kind of vision and thinking and it couldn’t be more different than the response from environmentalists of my parent’s generation. As we point out in the book, paradigm shifts tend to be generational as opposed to all the New-Age-y we’re going go have a séance and come out of it changed. That’s not how paradigm shifts happen. If you go back and read Thomas Kuhn, who coined the term and the concept, they tend to be intellectually violent revolutions.

In terms of the environmental movement, would you say we’re on the brink of a paradigm shift right now?

We hope so. One of the arguments of the book is that there is an evolution that is already happening within global warming that is going to drive this shift. We talk about these new fault lines in the political culture that global warming creates, and traditional environmentalists are going to have to decide what side of the divide they’re going to be on. Are they going to be on the limits, anti-growth, anti-immigration, zero-sum side, or on the side of possibility: There’s room-enough-for-all-of-us on the planet, we need to grow and innovate and invent our way out of this? We need to keep in mind that at the end of the day, this is about all of us being able to lead secure, prosperous and free lives.

In the book, you encourage existential questioning. Why is this important?

Global warming asks some pretty profound questions. Are [humans] a cancer on the planet or as natural as a hurricane? All of the stuff that we do is as natural as anything else. Nature’s not going to decide for us or tell us what to do, so what decisions are we going to make and what are they going to serve and what are we going to decide to value in the world? These are existential crises, or questions, at least. Here’s another one: China and India are going to develop economically whether we like it or not. They’re not going to ask our permission. So we can go lecture them all we want about the emptiness of materialism and prosperity, but they’re still going to pursue it as we did and our ancestors did. So we can sit here and talk about how that is going to be the end of us or we can talk about how Chinese and Indians and other folks who are pursing basic improvements in their living standards can go get that in a way that’s going to be sustainable for everybody.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wind Power

A very good overview of an important—though small—part of our energy development, and the result of all of the small alternatives can add up to a substantial reduction in pollution…A very good thing.

November 23, 2007
Sweden Turns to a Promising Power Source, With Flaws

MALMO, Sweden — Steadying himself on the heaving foredeck of an inspection ship recently, his face flecked by spray, Arne Floderus pronounced it a good day for his new offshore wind farm.

A 30-mile-an-hour wind was twirling the fingerlike blades of a turbine 380 feet above his head. Around him, a field of turbines rotated in a synchronized ballet that, when fully connected to an electrical grid, would generate enough power to light 60,000 nearby houses.

“We’ve created a new landmark,” said Mr. Floderus, the project manager of the $280 million wind park, one of the world’s largest, which was built by the Swedish power company Vattenfall.

The park, in a shallow sound between Sweden and Denmark, testifies to the remarkable rise of wind energy — no longer a quirky alternative favored by environmentalists in Denmark and Germany, but a mainstream power source used in 26 nations, including the United States.

Yet Sweden’s gleaming wind park is entering service at a time when wind energy is coming under sharper scrutiny, not just from hostile neighbors, who complain that the towers are a blot on the landscape, but from energy experts who question its reliability as a source of power.

For starters, the wind does not blow all the time. When it does, it does not necessarily do so during periods of high demand for electricity. That makes wind a shaky replacement for more dependable, if polluting, energy sources like oil, coal and natural gas. Moreover, to capture the best breezes, wind farms are often built far from where the demand for electricity is highest. The power they generate must then be carried over long distances on high-voltage lines, which in Germany and other countries are strained and prone to breakdowns.

In the United States, one of the areas most suited for wind turbines is the central part of the country, stretching from Texas through the northern Great Plains — far from the coastal population centers that need the most electricity.

Parkway Taxes

We don’t agree with the imposition of new taxes, when the public is already taxed for parks, particularly when many who would be taxed on their property do not use the Parkway and many who do use it, live outside of the tax area and won’t have to pay.

Adjacent property tax increases are appropriate for a neighborhood park resource, but not for one that is regional like the Parkway.

While we do however, agree with the creation of a Joint Powers Authority, depending on its composition, to manage the funds raised should the increased tax burden be accepted by property owners, the preferred strategy (which is working well with the Sacramento Zoo and Central Park in New York) is to contract with a nonprofit organization to manage the Parkway and the nonprofit will have the ability to develop a supplemental funding stream from philanthropic sources.

It is much better to raise money from people who choose to help a treasured resource which they use, than coercing it from those who may not want to pay for a resource they never use.

Assessment would pump up American River Parkway
By Ed Fletcher -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 24, 2007

An assessment district benefiting the American River Parkway would be a big boost for the long-underfunded trail system and nature preserve, local open-space advocates say.

Depending on the assessment amount chosen by area elected officials – and assuming property owners approve it – the district could nearly double the money available for maintaining and improving the parkway.

"The funding in the past has barely been enough. It hasn't been enough for capital improvements," said Frank Cirill, president emeritus of the Save the American River Association. "The costs keep going up. The population keeps going up."

The parkway's annual budget of $6.2 million could jump to between $8.1 million and $11.6 million, depending on the amount chosen by lawmakers and approved by property owners.

The parkway is currently funded through Sacramento County's general fund (about $4.5 million) and revenue generated from parking fees, parkway passes and other programs ($1.7 million).

Under the plan being formed by local governments along the river, residents within a half mile of the parkway would pay somewhere between $18 and $48 annually. Property owners between a half mile and 3 miles of the parkway would pay half that amount annually.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Park Crime Anouncement

Public Safety Watch: Homeless men living in tent are arrested on drug charges
By Ramon Coronado -
Published 12:00 am PST Thursday, November 22, 2007

Two homeless men sleeping in a field in Carmichael were arrested on suspicion of possessing drugs, according to a Sacramento County Sheriff's Department report.

At 7 a.m. Nov. 6, deputies received a complaint of homeless people sleeping in a field on Fair Oaks Boulevard near Marshall Avenue, the report said.

Two men were found in a tent, and a search turned up methamphetamine, marijuana and a smoking pipe in the tent, according to the report.

Roads, Rails, Buses & Cars

Considering the average urban freeway costs about $10 million a mile to build versus the $50 million for light rail, the trend should be towards more roads and buses, with their greatly increased flexibility, with rail relegated to the super dense urban areas where it actually makes some economic sense.

Editorial: RT's choice
Gaining riders is key to transit's future
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 23, 2007

Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sander has the right idea in the discussion of where Sacramento Regional Transit needs to improve its service as it tries to boost ridership: Focus on the job centers outside downtown Sacramento.

"We have a massive job center in my city, and we do nothing to feed it," he told The Bee. But standing in the way is what Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson calls transit's moral obligation to spread buses to where people need help.

The other day The Bee published another in its series of articles looking into Sacramento's transportation future. This article focused on Sacramento Regional Transit and the challenges it faces.

As the article pointed out, RT ridership is down on both light rail and buses. Income from a recent fare increase has failed to raise the anticipated revenue. And now state funding has been reduced. As a result, RT has been forced to trim service on 15 bus routes starting next year. A shrinking transit service is failing to meet a growing region's needs.

Clearly, RT must work on attracting more riders. But RT's future will hold only bleakness and retrenchment if transit devolves into nothing more than an entitlement for the poor and disabled. The outcome will be a vicious cycle of cuts in service followed by declines in ridership that necessitate further cuts in service that prompt more people to abandon transit. How does that help anyone?

Green Products ?

The tendency for marketing to grab hold of current trends continues and as always, let the buyer beware.

Many 'green' claims may be shady
Survey suggests consumers should take a hard look at eco-friendly credentials.
By Darrell Smith -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 23, 2007

Products from air fresheners to toothpastes lure consumers with promises of eco-friendly ingredients, but can they back up their boasts?

A new survey suggests that many companies' green claims are as authentic as a $20 Gucci handbag at a flea market.

Virtually all – 99 percent – of more than 1,000 products plucked from supermarkets and box stores falsely claimed green credentials, according to "The Six Sins of Greenwashing," a survey by Pennsylvania-based environmental marketing firm TerraChoice Environmental Marketing Inc.

Neither the products nor their manufacturers were identified, but products ranged from deodorant to oven cleaner.

"Consumers are inundated with products that make green claims. Some are accurate, while others are just plain fibbing to sell products," said Scott McDougall, president of TerraChoice, in a prepared statement, adding that the goal is to educate consumers so "they can buy green with confidence."

Consumers should look for:

The Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: Nearly 1,000 of 1,018 products suggest a product is better merely because it contains a so-called green ingredient – recycled paper, for instance – but fail to mention that the product contains a hazardous material.

The Sin of No Proof: A quarter of the products claimed to be "organic" but with no verifiable certification.

The Sin of Vagueness: Eleven percent of products claimed to be 100 percent natural, but that alone does not mean a product is "eco-friendly" since many naturally occurring substances are hazardous.

The Sin of Irrelevance: In labeling on 78 products, manufacturers patted themselves on the back for leaving out hazardous ingredients that were banned by law.

The Sin of the Lesser of Two Evils: Researchers singled out makers of organic cigarettes and environmentally friendly pesticides because their products pose a hazard but are marketed as a healthy alternative. Seventeen products fell into this category.

The Sin of Fibbing: About 10 manufacturers falsely claimed that they met a recognized environmental standard but did not.

Riverfront Parkways

Update on Sacramento plans for the riverfront.

Riverfront: Plans to extend walkways face large hurdles
By Deb Kollars -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 23, 2007

For any city with waterfront dreams, having plenty of public gathering space along the river's edge is a crucial measure of success, often counted by the mile.

Along the downtown stretch of the Sacramento River, such waterfront pathways are so brief they are hardly visible on a map. And, as West Sacramento has discovered over the past two years, trying to add more involves a bureaucratic bog as deep as the river.

During the next several months, both West Sacramento and the city of Sacramento will push ahead with simultaneous plans to extend their riverfront parkways. Each side could use a good long jolt. Sacramento's Riverfront Promenade runs for just two blocks, while West Sacramento's River Walk covers only four blocks.

"Public access is so critical," said Michael Zilis, a principal with Walker Macy, a landscape design firm working with both cities to extend their riverfront spaces. The Portland firm has been instrumental in riverfront development in its hometown, which has three miles of continuous waterfront parkway along each side of the Willamette River.

"In Sacramento, there are very few places where you can get close to the water," Zilis said. "Your levees and industrial uses have really separated people from the river."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your the Macy's the Green Bay Packers advance to 10 & 1...have a great dinner...relax...its a really beautiful day.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Care Bear Stare

Nice reflection on this Thanksgiving Eve.

Rod Dreher: Staring at climate change
By Rod Dreher -
Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Has this ever happened to you? You're having a conversation with people concerned about global warming and what we ought to do to combat it. You point out that, yes, climate change is a big problem, but the solutions on the table are unrealistic for various political, economic and scientific reasons. Icy stares all around.

Then someone accuses you of being down at the mouth because you don't care enough about the planet.

Or maybe you've been talking about how to fix the public schools, and you've observed that what ails public schooling is not something that can be remedied by putting more money into the system or simply rejiggering the educational formula according to new theories.

"Well," somebody sniffs, "what's your solution?" -- as if the justice or accuracy of the original critique were somehow compromised by the critic's failure to posit an alternative.

Either way, you've been blasted by what journalist Julian Sanchez calls The Care Bear Stare, after the sugary 1980s cartoon characters. As Sanchez explained on his blog, "The Care Bear Stare was a sort of deus ex machine the magical furballs could employ when faced with some insuperable obstacle: They'd line up together and emit a glowing manifestation of their boundless caring, which seemed capable of solving just about any problem." Behind The Care Bear Stare is the ideological conviction that there's no problem that can't be solved by the power of human intelligence and relentless application of good will. It's premised on the refusal to recognize limitation, as well as an inability to accept that some things simply must be lived with, at least for the time being. The Care Bear Stare is the psychological weapon of choice for people who cannot reconcile themselves to a world without guaranteed happy endings.

Water Deal?

Possibility remains.

Suddenly, a water deal?
A $10 billion idea from out of the blue
Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It's a bit late for lawmakers to be slamming a $10 billion water bond onto the February ballot. But that's still a possibility as we approach turkey day.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata called a session for Monday to discuss, and possibly vote on, a water deal in the works. Then he canceled it. By the time you read this, it may be on again. Certain senators seem intent on placing something on the Feb. 5 ballot, even if the Assembly hasn't been part of the talks.


The railroad museum deal for two buildings and the old American River bed remain two areas of disagreement needing resolution and all seem wiling to do that, so the prognosis, at this point, looks good.

Museum site still dogging railyard plan
State wants two buildings, but developer has offered only one.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PST Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The ongoing dispute between the downtown railyard developer and the state of California took center stage again Tuesday when the Sacramento City Council held the first of three planned meetings to review the railyard development proposal.

State Parks Director Ruth Coleman, appearing in front of the council, struck a conciliatory tone, emphasizing that the state is in no position to "demand" two of the former railyard shop buildings from developer Thomas Enterprises for a new Museum of Railroad Technology.

She also said the parks agency is eager to work with Thomas Enterprises and the city to enliven the museum at night by putting restaurants and stores along its periphery.

"We're hearing your message that people want an exciting, vibrant museum," she said, adding, "It is not in our interest to build a flawed project."

Still, Coleman emphasized Thomas' offer of one building is inadequate. The museum has long held a memorandum of understanding – first from Union Pacific and then Millennia Partners, which later morphed into Thomas Enterprises – that would allow it to take possession of two buildings – the former boiler shop and the erecting shop.

Coleman said the existing museum in Old Sacramento already uses the tin-clad boiler shop to construct exhibits for the museum and to refurbish trains. This building is connected by a rail line to the existing railroad museum. The boiler shop is the only building Thomas Enterprises has offered for the Museum of Railroad Technology. The firm has balked at the long-standing plan by state parks to take possession of the brick erecting shop next door as well…

As the project approaches a vote, a variety of issues remain unresolved, including the ultimate size of a historic district, and a complicated land swap needed to resolve the state's claim to land formerly covered by the American River.

LA Skid Row & the Parkway

The issue of homeless camping and the affect it has on the surrounding community is described very well in this recent article about the situation in Los Angeles and how the police, using Broken Windows policing, were able to start cleaning it up, but are now being challenged by homeless advocacy organizations and lawyers.

The Reclamation of Skid Row
The LAPD’s efforts are reviving America’s most squalid neighborhood—and the homeless industry is hopping mad.
Heather Mac Donald
Autumn 2007

Drive around Los Angeles’s Skid Row with Commander Andrew Smith and you can barely go a block without someone’s congratulating him on his recent promotion. Such enthusiasm is certainly in order. Over the last year, this tall, high-spirited policeman has achieved what for a long while seemed impossible: a radical reduction of Skid Row’s anarchy. What is surprising about Smith’s popularity, however, is that his fans are street-wizened drug addicts, alcoholics, and mentally ill vagrants. And in that fact lies a resounding refutation of the untruths that the American Civil Liberties Union and the rest of the homeless industry have used to keep Skid Row in chaos—until now.

For 25 years, the advocates used lawsuits and antipolice propaganda to beat back every effort to restore sanity to Skid Row. They concealed the real causes of homelessness under a false narrative about a callous, profit-mad society that abused the less fortunate. The result: a level of squalor that had no counterpart in the United States. Smith’s policing initiatives—grounded in the Broken Windows theory of order maintenance—ended that experiment in engineered anarchy, saving more lives in ten months than most homeless advocates have helped over their careers. The forces of lawlessness are regrouping, however, and Smith’s successes may wind up reversed in a renewed attack on the police.

Before Smith’s Safer City Initiative began in September 2006, Skid Row’s 50 blocks had reached a level of depravity that stunned even longtime observers. Encampments composed of tents and cardboard boxes covered practically every inch of sidewalk. Their 1,500 or so occupants, stretched out in lawn chairs or sprawled on the pavement, injected heroin and smoked crack and marijuana in plain view, day and night. Feces, urine, and drug-resistant bacteria coated the ground. Even drug addicts were amazed at the scene. Fifty-year-old Vicki Williams arrived from Las Vegas in December 2005 with a heavy habit. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: people getting high on the streets like it was legal,” she says. “Down here was like a world of its own. Anything you can imagine I’ve seen: women walking down the street buck naked, people stabbed in front of me.”

The human chaos hid entrenched criminal networks. The biggest heroin gang in downtown Los Angeles operated from the area’s west end, using illegal aliens to peddle dope supplied by the Mexican Mafia. Able-bodied dealers sold drugs from wheelchairs and from tents color-coded to signal the wares within. Young Bloods and Crips from Watts’s housing projects battled over drug turf and amused themselves by robbing the elderly.

A pitiless law of the jungle ruled social relations. “Everyone is out for himself out there,” says Ken Williams (no relation to Vicki), a 50-year-old recovering drug user and ten-year veteran of the streets. “If people see a weakness, they will go for it.” Officer Deon Joseph, who has dedicated himself to bringing safety to Skid Row, calls up on his computer recent photos recording the area’s still-not-fully suppressed violence: facial welts on a homeless woman assaulted by a homeless man while she was drunk and sleeping on Gladys Street; red gashes across a man’s back from a rake wielded by gangsters. In May 2006, a mentally ill woman who had repeatedly resisted offers of housing and services was stomped to death by a homeless parolee. That night, 82 shelter beds were available on Skid Row; a business improvement district’s homeless outreach team could persuade only two people to accept them.

Nonviolent crime also metastasized on Skid Row, fed by government welfare. General relief payments—California’s little-copied welfare program for able-bodied childless adults—arrive early in the month, followed a few days later by federal Supplemental Security Income for drug addicts and the mentally ill. Skid Row’s population and partying spiked around check days. When the money was gone, smoked away in crack pipes or injected into veins, the hustling began. A doctors’ clinic in the Hispanic MacArthur Park neighborhood sent a van out to collect volunteers for Medicaid fraud; it offered $20 to anyone willing to take a fake health exam, and then billed the exams to the government at exorbitant rates. Two food-stamp rings, paying homeless recipients 50 cents for every dollar’s worth of stamps, stole $6 million from federal taxpayers. The spending money handed out in these scams went right back into the drug trade, keeping the homeless addicted and the drug sellers in diamond tooth caps.

This lawlessness hurt Skid Row’s law-abiding residents the most. The area’s century-old residential hotels and missions house thousands of senior citizens, non-drug-abusing mentally ill persons, and addicts trying to turn their lives around. “The people we serve are very vulnerable,” says Anita Nelson, director of a government-funded nonprofit that rehabilitates and manages single-room-occupancy hotels (SROs). “The elderly and the mentally ill were victimized by the crime and the dealers. When you’re afraid to go into the park, you’re a prisoner in your 120-square-foot unit.” Temptation confronted recovering addicts every time they stepped outside.

With formal controls on behavior almost completely absent, the last vestiges of civility broke down. In 2005, young volunteers for the Union Rescue Mission set out to deliver 4,000 boxes of Christmas food to every SRO in the area. As they tried to navigate the streets, encampment residents cursed them, hurled racial taunts, and mockingly defecated in front of them. The area’s intrepid businesses faced constant assault. “We had to fortify the buildings with razor wire and barricade ourselves in,” a shrimp processor recalls. “The homeless would take or steal anything.” His roll-up door, constantly exposed to bodily fluids, rotted away. In September 2006, the owner of one of the district’s landmark businesses, ABC Toys, caught a typical moment on film: a mail carrier reaches through the store’s gate to drop off letters, when she notices that the man at her feet is shooting heroin into a prominent vein. She flees in dismay without leaving the mail.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Venture into Government Capital?

Hopefully this will turn out to be what it says it is, venture capitalism, but the record of the players is not good.

Global Warming, Inc.
Al Gore, Silicon Valley, and venture politics.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Al Gore no longer needs to make claims about creating the Internet, because the former Vice President deserves much of the credit for creating an entire new industry--the global warming business.

And like the energy barons of an earlier age, Mr. Gore has the chance to achieve enormous wealth after being named last week as a new partner at the famously successful venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. No fewer than three of his new colleagues sit on the Forbes list of wealthiest Americans. If Mr. Gore can develop market-based solutions to environmental challenges, we will cheer the well-deserved riches flowing his way. On the other hand, if he monetizes his Nobel Peace Prize by securing permanent government subsidies for nonmarket science projects, he'll have earned a different judgment.

There's no shortage of new capital pouring into alternative energy projects these days. According to the National Venture Capital Association, "clean tech" start-ups attracted more than $800 million in venture capital last quarter, a new record.

What's not clear is whether these are fundamentally energy ventures or political ventures. The Manhattan Institute's Peter Huber, a former engineering professor at MIT, exaggerates only slightly when he says that "Basically, 'alternative' means stuff that nobody actually uses." If that turns out to be true, then alternative energy companies could struggle for market share without government assistance.

Those doubts exist even for the companies backed by Kleiner Perkins. After making more than a dozen "green tech" investments, Kleiner is still waiting for its first exit. According to a Kleiner spokeswoman, many companies in its portfolio are "in stealth mode." The firm will "neither name nor comment on them." So it's impossible to determine precisely how much the Kleiner-backed firms will benefit from either current federal subsidies, or new provisions that are part of the House and Senate versions of the stalled energy bill. But we do have some hints.

Of the portfolio companies acknowledged publicly by Kleiner, at least two, Altra and Mascoma, are involved in the production of ethanol, which is already heavily subsidized and would get more subsidies in the House bill and higher mandates in the Senate version. A third firm in the portfolio, Amyris Biotechnologies, is developing a biofuel that will provide "more energy than ethanol," according to its Web site, and should be just as eligible for government set-asides.

1,000 Trees

A great milestone!

Ceremony marks 1,000 tree plantings
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, November 20, 2007

RANCHO CORDOVA – The city celebrated its 1,000th tree planted in 2007 during a ceremony Monday morning at Peterson Field in Hagan Park.

City residents, businesses and public agencies have helped to meet the "One City – One Year – One Thousand Tree Pledge," part of the city's Growing Strong Neighborhood program, an effort to improve the quality of life in Rancho Cordova.

The mayor and City Council members helped plant 10 trees with the assistance of volunteers from the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

In partnership with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the Sacramento Tree Foundation, Rancho Cordova has encouraged residents to plant free shade trees.

The shade tree program continues and residents can call (916) 924-8733 for more information.

– Walt Yost

Oak Park Development

It is good to see the neighborhood, who knows best the actual situation on the ground—their ground—beginning to speak up about its future.

City, Johnson officials meet on Oak Park sites
By Phillip Reese -
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, November 20, 2007

As a small group of protesters marched outside, Sacramento code enforcement officials met Monday with representatives from two development companies run by former NBA All-Star Kevin Johnson, trying to get work started on properties in the heart of Oak Park.

Representatives from St. HOPE Development Corp. and Kynship Development told city officials they would hire an architect to evaluate two buildings: Esther's Bakery, a shuttered brick structure next to St. HOPE's headquarters on Third Avenue; and the old Don Ju's bar nearby, said Ron O'Connor, operations manager for the city's code enforcement department.

"We want to know the condition of the buildings," O'Connor said.

Kynship has owned Esther's Bakery since 1999. A portion of the building's rear has collapsed.

That property is among 37 that Johnson's organizations own in Oak Park. A Sacramento Bee investigation published last month found that half those properties have been cited for code violations in the past decade, some multiple times; many have been vacant for years.

Railyard Development

Georgia developer of the railyards says it will be a wonderful development, if Sacramento approves plans, or it could fail if not approved.

Railyard bonanza for city forecast
Studies say project would bolster Sacramento's budget, add jobs; hearing set tonight.
By Mary Lynne Vellinga -
Published 12:00 am PST Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When Georgia developer Stan Thomas appears in front of the Sacramento City Council tonight, he'll have good news to tout.

The city released two studies Monday saying Thomas' proposed downtown railyard development will prove a budgetary bonanza for the city, injecting billions of dollars worth of new jobs and spending into the economy.

"This would be an immediate winner for the city," said city Finance Director Russell Fehr.

In an interview Monday, Thomas said the twin studies underscore the potential of the plan for the 240-acre railyard. He said he will urge council members to push ahead with approval of the development by Dec. 11, despite concern from some critics that the process is being rushed.

Tonight is the first of three council hearings on the project.

"We don't feel like it's being rushed after six years of working on it," Thomas said.

He said his company needs to move quickly so it can better compete for state bond money that could be used to defray the projected $300 million cost of building streets, sewers and other infrastructure to serve the first phase of the railyard project – money the cash-strapped city can't provide.

"If we miss this opportunity, the project could be delayed or possibly lost," Thomas warned.

Commuting in America

Many changes are happening and this report covers them.

WASHINGTON -- Commuting trends are changing as baby boomers near retirement age at the same time that a large immigrant population has joined the U.S. labor force, according to Commuting in America III, the latest decadal review of the nation's commuting patterns authored by transportation consultant Alan Pisarski and published by the Transportation Research Board. While the personal vehicle is still the most common way to go to work, transit and carpooling are increasing in many areas, and more commuters are traveling from suburb to suburb rather than from suburbs to central cities, the report says.

"One of the most significant changes will probably come from newly arrived immigrants," said Pisarski. "Unlike most native-born Americans or immigrants who have been in the U.S. for more than five years, many new immigrants either carpool, bike, walk, or use public transportation for their daily commute."

During the coming decades, many baby boomers -- who will start turning 65 in 2010 – will leave the workplace and stop commuting. At the same time, the latest projections from the Census Bureau show that the number of younger people entering the work force will increase; but these new workers will not outnumber those who will retire. Almost 20 million people ages 18 to 65 are expected to enter the work force during the years 2000 to 2010, followed by only about 12 million over the two following decades. But such projections may underestimate the actual number of Americans who will start working, because it is difficult to project how many immigrants will arrive and enter the work force and how many baby boomers will keep working after age 65, the report says.

Klamath Dams


Feds say Klamath dams can stay
by Nathan Rushton, 11/16/2007

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s final environmental impact statement issued Friday for the relicensing of PacifiCorp’s Klamath River dams stated the best alternative was to leave the controversial dams in place.

Although it does reference key mandatory measures from federal fisheries managers for more fish-friendy ladders and other water quality-improving prescriptions that it states “may need to be included in a new license for this project,” the FERC staff report stops short of actually requiring them as part of its recommendations.

Located on the Klamath River in Oregon and California, Oregon-based PacifiCorp’s J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2 and Iron Gate hydroelectric dams generate 716,820 megawatt-hours of electricity annually.

FERC’s staff’s recommendation for relicensing the four increasingly unpopular dams for the next 50 years incorporates most of PacifiCorp’s proposed environmental measures, including measures to truck migrating salmon around dams in lieu of costly fish ladders.

The staff alternative does add 25 environmental measures on top of PacifiCorp’s proposal, including the implementation of an integrated fish passage and disease management program and adaptive spawning program, according to the report.

West Coast fishermen groups hit hard by declining fish stocks and Klamath River-area American Indian tribes dependent on the river’s once-thriving salmon runs are critical of the report.

Peripheral Canal

Still the best way to protect the Delta.

Plan suggests canal is crucial to Delta revival
By Mike Taugher
Article Launched: 11/18/2007 04:29:51 PM PST

Government biologists have concluded the most promising way to save the Delta is to divert water around it through a canal -- an idea often derided as a Southern California water grab that would ensure the destruction of the region.

Wildlife agencies recently told planners that a Peripheral Canal is "the most attractive option" to help quench California's thirst for more drinking and irrigation water while fixing the Delta's dying ecosystem.

Voters rejected the canal in 1982, and opposition was fierce in Contra Costa because of the threat a canal poses to the local water supply.

By siphoning water out of the Sacramento River before it reaches the Delta, the canal would reduce the amount of fresh water near Contra Costa Water District's intakes in the south Delta and increase the concentration of pollution and salt water.

If built, however, a new canal probably would be operated and managed in conjunction with the existing state and federal intakes near Tracy. That would ensure more water stays in the Delta and could help offset the deleterious effects a new canal would have on water quality in the south Delta, the sole water source for 500,000 people.

The call for in-depth study of a Peripheral Canal comes during fast-moving negotiations for a pact to stabilize the state's dwindling and increasingly vulnerable water supplies while also protecting the environment.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Housing First in Los Angeles

The program model we support (partially adopted by Sacramento) for helping the chronic homeless (those who represent the largest group of homeless who camp in the Parkway) is being planned for Los Angeles.

They are also using the preffered scattered site approach (only partially used by Sacramento) where chronic homeless are moved into apartments scattered throughout the city rather than congregated in centers (which Sacramento is directing a majority of its funds towards), which severely degrades residential and commercial neighborhoods as we have seen in Sacramento with the concentration of homeless services.

L.A. County might get new homeless program
Supervisors expected to approve Project 50, which aims to get skid row's most vulnerable people into supportive housing.
By Susannah Rosenblatt
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 19, 2007

Los Angeles County supervisors are poised to approve a program that will identify the 50 most vulnerable homeless people on downtown's skid row and move them within 100 days into apartments with readily accessible support services.

The program, patterned after projects underway in New York City and elsewhere, is not only aimed at saving the lives of those most likely to die on the streets, but also is expected to save taxpayers the millions of dollars typically spent on people who cycle in and out of shelters, jails and emergency rooms.

"A lot of these folks fall through the cracks when they go through the shelters," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a major proponent of the project. "If we can't make this work, then we've got a problem."

On Tuesday, the board will probably approve two contracts with homeless advocacy groups to provide training and housing for the program. Four of the five supervisors have indicated they support the program.

The county has struggled to address the vast homelessness problem. A year ago, supervisors approved an unprecedented $100-million homeless initiative, anchored by five regional assistance centers. But the program faltered after communities balked at the prospect of homeless people coming to their neighborhoods. The county quietly switched gears, deciding instead to fund private organizations and smaller efforts, such as a housing program for families on skid row.

Light Rail

Rail transit works in very high density cities like New York, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, but is entirely unsuited for suburban cities, where the most effective form of mass public transit is buses, and the continued suburban strategy of “build it and they will come” is just a waste of good money better directed towards buses.

Troubled RT seeks new ways to draw riders, funds
By Tony Bizjak -
Published 12:00 am PST Monday, November 19, 2007

Ridership is down. The budget's running on fumes. Complaints are piling up about bad behavior on trains. And the boss just left town.

Sacramento County's principal public transportation agency, Regional Transit, finds itself in an ironic predicament as a difficult 2007 comes to a close: The region is growing, but RT is shrinking. Today, only 4 percent of local commuters use transit.
"It's so frustrating," said board member Roberta MacGlashan, a county supervisor. "All we've been able to do is cut."

Now, amid questions about RT's relevancy, agency officials are launching an effort to boost the profile of public transportation and – against odds – entice the next generation of commuters to leave the car at home.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

State Infrastructure

Good analysis of the recent bond passage and what needs to happen that hasn’t, as well as a somber reminder (highlighted) of what often happens with new money governments get for ongoing projects; they reduce the general fund expenditures for that project (one reason we don’t support raising adjacent property taxes for Parkway maintenance).

Richard G. Little: State lacks vision for infrastructure
By Richard G. Little - Special To The Bee
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, November 18, 2007

One year after California voters approved the largest bond package in state history to fund infrastructure, most will have the impression that the problem is well under control. However, that's not the case.

A panel of experts convened by the Keston Institute for Public Finance and Infrastructure Policy this month highlighted some sobering realities regarding the infrastructure bonds.

Despite $42 billion approved by the voters, only 5 percent of those funds have been released to agencies to spend. Some delay can be attributed to agencies gearing up to spend new money, some to the three-month delay in approving a state budget, but most to lack of any statewide vision for infrastructure…

But as long as bonds [or new taxes] are available to fund infrastructure, they quickly can become the de facto sole source. Revenues allocated to transportation or flood control can be shifted to other programs to cover shortfalls and the loss backfilled with bond [or tax] monies.

Political Apathy, Part 1

Good points are raised in this column and I would say that apathy is the issue after many years of less than inspiring leadership, the results of which everyone can see in the lack of progress on just two key issues; the basic preservation of public safety and access in lower K Street and the lower American River Parkway.

Marcos Bretón: Are voters happy – or apathetic?
By Marcos Bretón -
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, November 18, 2007

Someone should have materialized by now to challenge Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo in her bid for re-election to a third term in June.

No one has, save for bounty hunter Leonard Padilla, who wears stylish cowboy hats while chasing bad guys but has no chance of catching Fargo in a head-to-head run.

A clear path to four more years of Fargo would seem to be a sign of voter satisfaction with her performance as mayor for eight years.

Maybe there is deeper meaning behind a fast-approaching mayoral election with no contest in sight. Maybe Sacramento doesn't care.

Political Apathy, Part 2

In the most high profile downtown issue, executive leadership seems—so far at least—unable to close the deal, and this is one of those details of looming stature if left undone.

Editorial: Unfinished business
Published 12:00 am PST Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Friday editorial outlined three issues the Sacramento City Council must address in hearings on the railyard project: realistic financing assumptions, one-way streets and phase-in of housing.

But there's another matter that we'd like to see the city and the developer, Thomas Enterprises, settle before they seek state bond money.

Nearly 25 acres of the 244- acre railyard site lie in the course of the American River as it existed when California entered the Union. Since statehood, nearly all California rivers, including the American River, have changed course because of dams and levees. But the lands formerly under water remain public trust lands governed by what is called "Public Trust Doctrine." All 50 states have "public trust lands."

Public trust land at the railyard has been an issue since 1989, when the city began planning the site's redevelopment. It remains important because the 25 acres lie where the developer proposes a Bass Pro shop, slated as the first development. To avoid unnecessary delays, the issue should be resolved before the railyard seeks funds from the state.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Counties & Development

An interesting argument that certainly has some merit.

Editorial: Who owns the ranch?
Supervisor should cede on Placer Ranch
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 17, 2007

California counties should get out of the business of approving urban development. While counties can reap a quick windfall from such projects, they lack the capacity to provide urban services over the long run.

Want proof? Look at North Highlands. Or swaths of Los Angeles County. California needs to stop growing the Uncity. There ought to be a law.

Until the Legislature passes one, cities and counties must develop a working relationship. Cities need to grow. Counties need a reasonable share of revenues to handle their responsibilities. In Placer County there's an opportunity for Roseville and Placer to firm up this relationship. Alternately, there's a chance of a messy divorce.

At issue is Placer Ranch, a proposed 2,200-acre development on the north edge of Roseville. Developer Eli Broad has long worked with the county on a plan that would include 5,000 homes and sizable commercial and industrial space. It would also include a satellite campus of California State University, Sacramento.

Water Bill & Dams

The obvious need for dams, which Senator Feinstein recently realized and called for state democrats to also accept the obvious, has moved this bill along somewhat, but there is such a resistance to any new dams that some leaders are still seeking a backdoor way to stop them.

One hopes reason prevails and the dams stay, protected from future legislative removal.

Water deal forms, its fate unknown
Dams a key issue; Assembly hasn't weighed in yet.
By E.J. Schultz -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Senate's top Democrat are nearing a compromise on a $10 billion water bond for the February ballot, but a fight over who oversees the spending still could scuttle the deal.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata said in an interview Friday that he hopes to close the deal today and put it up for a vote the week after Thanksgiving.

"We're very close right now," said Perata, D-Oakland, who only a month ago had abandoned hope of reaching a compromise. "Not everybody gets what they want here, but they get what they need."

Both parties have agreed to make about $3 billion available for dams, which had been a major sticking point. But Democrats, who have a majority in the Legislature, want to be able to oversee the spending on a yearly basis, which Republicans aren't willing to grant.

"We believe that that creates a trap door for them to basically not approve the money for the surface storage projects," said Sen. Dave Cogdill of Modesto, the GOP's lead negotiator on water.

Klamath Dams

This appears, at first glance, to be a situation actually calling for the removal of dams, but on closer observation at least one serious question arises; where does the 70,000 people now dependent on the power from the dams get their power if the dams are removed.

So, it shouldn’t really be an argument between the cost of fish ladders or dam removal, but between the power people need to live and whether they can pay the extra cost to build fish ladders; and is a federal exemption from the regulation that fish ladders are needed perhaps called for here.

Klamath dam report raises hope of removals
Tearing out barriers cheaper than fish ladders, study says.
By Matt Weiser -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, November 17, 2007

A study released by federal regulators Friday confirms that removing four dams on the Klamath River would be far cheaper than fitting them with fish ladders, boosting hopes among Indian tribes, fishermen and environmentalists that the dams are doomed.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released the final environmental impact study as part of its process to relicense the dams near the Oregon border, owned by Portland-based PacifiCorp. The report does not recommend dam removal, but its findings may make that more likely.

The Klamath River was once home to the third-largest salmon run on the Pacific Coast, after the ones on the Columbia and Sacramento. But dam construction, water diversions and the poor water quality that followed have played a role in endangering those runs.

The dams, built between 1917 and 1962, are relatively small power producers, serving about 70,000 customers. The dams do not yield water supplies or provide significant flood control.

Smog Detection

Now this is a piece of technology that can really do some good, and one most people will probably appreciate very much, with funding to help those whose cars are targeted. Wow!

Smog sensors targeting vehicles in O.C.
The remote monitoring program measures emission levels. The owners of gross polluters will be offered aid.
By Jennifer Delson
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
November 16, 2007

Big Brother is watching your car.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District is targeting vehicles in Orange County this week, using remote smog sensors to nab gross polluters -- about 10% of all vehicles on Southland roadways.

AQMD officials said that because those vehicles create 50% of the smog, the state would help the owners with repair costs or pay them to scrap the vehicles.

The sensors measure emissions by projecting beams of infrared and ultraviolet light across a roadway, such as a freeway onramp. As a vehicle passes by, its tailpipe emissions absorb some of the light, and a computer calculates the pollution level. At the same time, a camera captures the license plate.

This is the first time Orange County roads have been checked by the AQMD. The district began monitoring in Los Angeles and Riverside counties over the summer.

Gross-polluting vehicles emit 100 times more pollution than average vehicles, typically because of maintenance problems or someone having tampered with the exhaust or emission systems. They aren't necessarily old cars.

The AQMD will send letters to the owners of the polluting vehicles, offering them $500 to help with repairs, or $1,000 to scrap the vehicle. Low-income motorists willing to replace their cars with a low-emission model can get $2,000.

Friday, November 16, 2007


A lot needs to be worked out that is still just hanging out there.

Editorial: Council needs to nail down details on railyard
All aboard? Not so fast, because the answers about risks and benefits matter
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 16, 2007

Logic would seem to dictate that the Sacramento railyard is a done deal. The Sacramento City Planning Commission recommended approval of the 244-acre project three days ago. The City Council seems supportive and plans three hearings, the first Tuesday.

Yet there are numerous questions hanging over this project, which could bring 12,000 residences, cultural attractions, shops, entertainment and a new transit center to Sacramento over the next three decades.

The City Council needs to insist on solid answers, to ensure that the railyard district lives up to its lofty expectations and fairly balances risks and benefits between the city and the developer, Thomas Enterprises.

As noted before, the railyard is an enormously challenging patch of dirt, complicated by issues of access, toxic contamination, track relocation and financing deadlines. Thomas and the city plan to seek up to $150 million in state bond money to pay for needed infrastructure. Thus they are racing to establish "project readiness" and secure permits by early 2008, even as they try to build a case their plan has been substantially vetted and reviewed by the public.

The truth is somewhere in between. Although Thomas and the city have worked to develop sound design guidelines and strengthen their initial plan for affordable housing, the public didn't see two key documents – the financing plan and development agreement – until late last week. That gave the Planning Commission little chance to hammer issues that need to be nailed down.

San Joaquin River Restoration

An update looks promising.

House panel OKs river restoration
By David Whitney -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 16, 2007

WASHINGTON – Legislation to restore the San Joaquin River cleared the House Natural Resources Committee by a 25-15 vote Thursday, winning cheers from environmentalists but not a single Republican vote.

"We've waited a year for this, and now we have it," said Hamilton Candee, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "This sends an important signal back to the state that this river restoration is going to happen."

"It's good to see it's moving," added Ronald Jacobsma, general manager of the Friant Water Users Association.

The measure would send water down about 27 miles of the river, which often dries up downstream of Friant Dam because the water is diverted. But the deal is far from done.

Republicans balked in unison because it would meet tough House budget rules by balancing the $170 million federal cost with a new tax on non-producing oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico. The bill's champion, Democratic Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno, promised that that provision would be changed before the measure hits the House floor.

Developers Shrinking

The development presence in Sacramento continues to contract.

Home Front: The walls are closing in on some area home building
By Jim Wasserman -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 16, 2007

Reports continue to come in about Sacramento-area home builders cutting back on overhead, mothballing projects and, now, selling land.

One reason is that banks, with their growing numbers of repossessed homes, are becoming one of the builders' fiercest competitors for buyers in this market.

There's plenty to add to recent reports that Los Angeles-based Pardee Homes, Milwaukee-based Homes by Towne and Nouveau Homes of Rocklin temporarily closed projects in Natomas, Lincoln and Elk Grove rather than slash prices deeper.

Last week came another move in the continuing downsizing of the region's building industry. Arizona-based Meritage Homes closed a Sacramento division it opened in the late 1990s. The builder laid off about a dozen people and merged its operation into the Concord-based East Bay division, said Bay Area region president Dennis Welsch.

"What we did was we had support services in Sacramento, human resources, accounting, purchasing and back shop functions, that we pulled back to Concord," he said.

Sales and construction continue, said Welsch, at the firm's 10 projects in West Sacramento, Lincoln, Elk Grove, Roseville, Plumas Lakes in Yuba County, and Reno and Sparks, Nev.

Meritage, which in recent years has ranked among the capital region's top 15 builders, is among the first big publicly traded builders to close a Sacramento division. Denver-based Richmond American Homes also has closed a local headquarters.
San Jouquin River Restoration

Bay Spill

The costs begin being tabulated.

Calculating the cost of the S.F. oil spill
By Gilbert Chan -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 16, 2007

Environmental consultants rank last week's oil spill in the San Francisco Bay, the worst there in nearly two decades, as moderate in terms of its financial repercussions. Dagmar Schmidt Etkin of Environmental Research Consulting in New York estimates the impact will be as much as $155 million, based on an economic model developed for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Here is the breakdown:

Socioeconomic impact: $50 million to $100 million

Judging from the past, experts expect a number of ripple effects from the spill.

However, not everything can be anticipated immediately.The consequences include:

• Damage to real and personal property, including pleasure crafts.

• Closure of beaches, parks and other recreation areas.

• Extra expenses and income loss by commercial and sports fishing companies.

At the urging of industry, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suspended the fishing season until Dec. 1, interrupting the region's popular Dungeness crab season, valued at $7.8 million last year. Some fear the spill may threaten the catch in the future. The herring season, which normally begins in December and netted more than $400,000 in 2006, also could be affected. The long-term impact on marine life cannot yet be quantified, environmental toxicology experts said.

• Lost revenue at tourist-related businesses, shipping companies and recreation-oriented ventures. Even though much of the seafood haul sold at Fisherman's Wharf is caught offshore or elsewhere in the Pacific, industry veterans fear the oil spill will color consumer perceptions and decisions.

Lake Davis Update

Fish-killing chemicals dissipating
By Jane Braxton Little - Bee Correspondent
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 16, 2007

PORTOLA – Lake Davis and the surrounding forest area are gradually returning to normal since California officials dumped 16,000 gallons of poison into the reservoir to eradicate non-native northern pike.

All of the chemicals are dissipating, said David Spath, who has regularly tested the reservoir water for the state Department of Health Services since the September treatment.

Rotenone, an organic insecticide used to kill all the fish in the lake, is largely gone, Spath said. The chemicals used to disperse rotenone remain detectable, but all levels were reduced when lasted tested Nov. 5, he said. The U.S. Forest Service has lifted a portion of the public closure imposed before the poisoning.

Lake Davis, its shoreline and all roads leading directly to the reservoir will remain closed to the public until officials determine the area is free of rotenone and its constituent chemicals, said Michele Jimenez-Holtz, a spokeswoman with the Plumas National Forest.

Spath had no estimate of when the chemicals might all be gone.

The California Department of Fish and Game has promised to stock Lake Davis with 117,000 rainbow trout once it is free of chemicals.

Department officials conducted the $16.7 million poisoning project to prevent the invasive pike from migrating downstream into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where they feared they would decimate the state's native and commercial fishery.

Oak Park Development

The ongoing tragedy of this story is very sad, from such promise a short time ago.

Oak Park wants action
Kevin Johnson fails to show up for meeting about progress in his renovation plan for properties.
By Terri Hardy and Phillip Reese -
Published 12:00 am PST Friday, November 16, 2007

For a month, Oak Park community leaders anticipated a presentation from representatives of former NBA all-star Kevin Johnson, detailing plans for resuscitating his flagging economic development efforts and fixing his dilapidated properties.

They're still waiting.

Johnson was a no-show at Wednesday night's meeting of the Oak Park Redevelopment Advisory Committee, and top officials from his St. HOPE Development Corp. who did attend provided scant details, drawing criticism from the committee and audience.

"Let's get real and stop acting like you are better than everybody else," scolded committee Chairwoman Edenausegboye Davis.

Al Williamson, who oversees commercial properties for St. HOPE and lots and other properties for Johnson's for-profit Kynship Development, insisted progress was being made. He alternately dismissed and sidestepped findings from an October Sacramento Bee investigation that half of Johnson's organizations' 37 Oak Park properties have amassed city violations in the past decade and many have been vacant for years.