Friday, October 31, 2008

Urban & Suburban

The current mortgage meltdown has more of an immediate impact, it appears, in the large urban centers that had been seeing strong traction for the urbanist dream as gas prices soared—now dropping—and the long-dreamed-for migration to the urban cores appeared imminent.

That all may have changed due to the always unexpected consequences of major events.

An excerpt from an article from New Geography discussing this.

“Just months ago, urban revivalists could see the rosy dawn of a new era for America's cities. With rising gas prices and soaring foreclosures hitting the long-despised hinterland, urban boosters and their media claque were proclaiming suburbia home to, as the Atlantic put it, "the next slums." Time magazine, the Financial Times, CNN and, of course, The New York Times all embraced the notion of a new urban epoch.

“Yet in one of those ironies that markets play on hypesters, the mortgage crisis is now puncturing the urbanists' bubble. The mortgage meltdown that first singed the suburbs and exurbs, after all, was largely financed by Wall Street, the hedge funds, the investment banks, insurers and the rest of the highly city-centric top of the paper food chain.

“So, now we can expect some of the biggest layoffs and drops in income next to be found in the once high-flying urban cores. In New York alone, Wall Street has shed over 25,000 jobs – and the region could shed a total of 165,000 over the next two years.

“Not surprisingly, the property crisis once seen as the problem of the silly, aspiring working class and the McMansion nouveaus has now spread deep into the bailiwick of the urban sophisticates. For the first time in years, many Manhattan apartments are selling for well below purchase price, something unheard of during the boom. In Brooklyn, a 24% drop in sales over the last three months even has boosters talking of an imminent "Brownstone bust."

“Even San Francisco – arguably the most recession-resistant big city due to its large concentration of nonprofits and "trustifarians" – is seeing prices drop for the first time in years. Far more vulnerable are fledgling neo-urban markets like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Oakland, Calif., San Diego, Memphis, Tenn., Miami and Dallas. Sales are down in most of these markets, as are prices.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Climate Control Strategy

In any formulated strategy, the outlier is always China, which has shown little indication that it will slow any of its economic expansion—and the resulting massive levels of pollution being created—to satisfy a Western request to control future climate conditions; even if those future conditions are subject to human control (which many scientists are beginning to doubt).

China is estimated to produce 2.5 billion metric tons of carbon by 2020—compared to the 1.6 billion metric tons the United States produced in 2007 and the 8.5 billion tons the entire world produces now; making any plans of the US to severely dislocate its economy to reduce carbon meaningless.

An excerpt from the Breakthrough Institute article:

“China's greenhouse gas emissions could more than double by 2020, according to a new report released by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Beijing has been reluctant to release official data on greenhouse gas from the nation's fast-growing use of coal, oil and gas. This new study from the state-run institute breaks that reticence and sends another clear reminder that China is where our quest for climate stability will be won or lost.

"To a significant degree, our planet's energy and environmental future is now being written in China," says the study's authors. And the only way that story has a happy ending is if China has access to clean and cheap energy sources to power its sustainable development…

“The net total of natural sinks for carbon is estimated at around 2 billion metric tons of carbon per year. That means if we hope to reach climate stability at any level of atmospheric concentration of CO2, net global human-caused emissions must fall below that level. Returning to lower concentrations of CO2, as US climate scientist James Hansen and others have called for, would require global emissions to fall far below the level of natural sinks, calling for at least an 80% cut in global emissions from today's levels by mid-century.

“Needless to say, if a single nation alone emits far more than that amount in the coming decades, climate stability of any kind will be impossible.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saving Habitat Entrepreneurism

The creativity of environmental entrepreneurs—those using entrepreneurial techniques to support of a mission for the public good—is alive and well in south Texas, and it is exactly the type of activity desperately needed as part of a new approach to sustaining the Parkway we envision through management by a nonprofit corporation under contract with a Joint Powers Authority of Parkway adjacent communities and Sacramento County.

You can read about it on our website news page; and here is an excerpt on the article about environmental entrepreneurship in Texas.

“There is a crossroads in Texas. Down along the Mexican border, in a four-county area, sits the Lower Rio Grande Valley—a merger of tropics and subtropics.

“The region is a convergence of ecosystems and habitats all coming together in a small area,” says Carter Smith, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “Chihuahuan desert, Tamaulipan thornscrub, the Central Flyway, and Gulf Coast influences, the Laguna Madre bay system. It is the epicenter of biodiversity.”

“To be more precise, it is the most biodiverse spot in the second most biodiverse state in the nation. And the birds love it.

“So much so, that the Lower Rio Grande is one of those “bucket list” destinations for bird watchers and wildlife viewers. They come from around the world to see nearly 500 species of birds, including Great Kiskadees, Altamira Orioles, Plain Chachalacas, the rare Hook-billed Kites, Ferruginous Pygmy Owls, and the iridescent greens and blues of the Green Jay. In his book, Fifty Places to Go Birding Before You Die, Chris Santella writes that the Lower Rio Grande is “geographically blessed from a birding perspective.” In any given year, a half dozen species of birds not found anywhere in the United States could show up in South Texas.

“The Lower Rio Grande and South Texas also is the land of big cattle ranches. The famous 825,000- acre King Ranch can be found just north of here. And since 95 percent of Texas is privately owned, most of this valued biodiversity is under private stewardship, currently facing huge urbanization pressures.

“The area also is one of the fastest growing regions of the state. Families that have run cattle on these lands for generations confront increasing challenges in keeping up with their management costs. Ranchers do not want these vast stretches of land to be a financial burden on their children and their children’s children. The threat to this special place is not just the displacement of a culture, but the fragmentation and loss of wildlife habitat. Lose the ranch and you lose the habitat.


“Fortunately, at this crossroads, stands a group of environmental entrepreneurs taking a free market approach to saving the region’s wildlife habitat and ranches. Led by John and Audrey Martin, landowners in Edinburg, their efforts combine the tradition of Texas hunting leases with the growing popularity of wildlife viewing and nature photography. The solution: Create a steady stream of income for ranchers by day-leasing private lands to nature and wildlife photographers.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Water Quality & Markets

Though the events of the past few weeks can shake the long-held assumption that the markets work well, this current uncertainty will pass and the assumption will hold.

This article from the Property and Environmental Research Center explores the way that a market approach helped enhance water quality in three regions.

An excerpt.

“In the late 1990s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began encouraging the use of market forces to improve water quality in rivers, streams, and coastal waters. The EPA realized that the command-and- control, point-source regulations prescribed by the Clean Water Act were not working.

“In some cases, every point source such as discharge from a pipe at an industrial facility was operating within the limits of EPA-sanctioned permits, but the river was still polluted. Uncontrolled nonpoint-source discharge such as excess fertilizers and insecticides from farming was generally the culprit, but agriculture was outside the EPA’s regulatory authority. In other cases, the activities of large numbers of publicly owned treatment works were not under the control of one coordinating authority.

“To the EPA’s credit, the agency has encouraged experimentation with incentives and markets to address growing water quality challenges. Three different approaches in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and North Carolina serve as examples.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Housing First

This concept is terrific but, at first glance, counter-intuitive.

When I first heard about it I thought, “What a dumb idea!”, but once I read more about it and thought about it in terms of the simple psychological equation of the Maslow hierarchy of needs—that until a human being has basic physical security it is impossible to begin addressing the higher issues of personal growth— it became obvious why it works.

However, the congregate choice—where many chronic homeless are crammed together in converted hotels or build-to-site structures, as Sacramento has mostly chosen—has proven much less successful than the leasing approach—where apartments are leased around the region—as the congregate approach tends to continue the issues leading to homelessness rather than reducing them as well as the scattered-site method.

In a recent evaluation of three programs, one of which was a program in New York which uses the scattered-site approach and two projects, one in Seattle and one in San Diego, both of whom use the congregate approach; it was found that the
scattered-site approach used by New York was significantly more successful in keeping the chronic homeless in housing for a continuous 12 month period; coming in at 62%, while the Seattle program came in at 40% and San Diego at 28%.

The preference for the scattered-site approach was written about in an ARPPS Commentary published in the Sacramento Bee April 10, 2008 and posted to our website news page May 12th.

That being said, we pray the effort continues with the success it has shown so far, and I am working with the group to help in that regard.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“The "housing first" strategy is a departure from traditional approaches, which require homeless people to be "clean and sober" to retain housing. In Sacramento and across the country, the strategy has proved effective in keeping formerly chronically homeless people off the streets and out of jails and emergency rooms.

"It solves the root causes of homelessness," said Tim Brown, leader of a city and county panel working on a plan to end chronic homelessness. "It offers people affordable, permanent housing, along with the help they need to retain it and improve their lives."

“Surveys suggest that more than 2,500 homeless people live in Sacramento, about 700 of whom have been on the streets for a year or more.

“More than 200 of those previously "chronically homeless" people have been placed in permanent housing in Sacramento so far, Brown said. Most live in single-family homes or small complexes, and more than 80 percent of them have stayed in those residences for at least six months.”

An excerpt from the companion article in the Bee about the national strategy.

“WASHINGTON-On a cold January morning in 2001,Mel Martinez, who was then the new secretary of housing and urban development, was headed to his office in his limo when he saw some homeless people huddled on the vents of the steam tunnels that heat federal buildings.

"Somebody ought to do something for them," Martinez said he told himself. "And it dawned on me at that moment that it was me."

“So began the Bush administration's radical, liberal and successful national campaign against chronic homelessness. Sacramento - led by the incoming state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, a former assemblyman - was among the first cities in the country to buy into the administration's approach. Today, the concept is at the heart of the capital city's 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.

"Housing first," the federal program is called. That's to distinguish it from traditional programs that require longtime street people to undergo months of treatment and counseling before they're deemed "housing ready." Instead, the Bush administration offers them rent-free apartments up front.

“New residents, if they choose, can start turning their lives around with the help of substance abuse counselors, social workers, nurse practitioners, part-time psychiatrists and employment counselors.

“However, residents are referred to as "consumers," and the choice is theirs.

“The help is so good and the deal's so sweet that roughly four out of five chronically homeless Americans who get immediate housing stay off the streets for two years or longer, according to the program's evaluators. In Britain, which has used the approach for a decade, the so-called "rough sleeper" population declined by about two-thirds.

“The "housing first" strategy gets much of the credit for a 30 percent decline in U.S. chronic homelessness from 2005 to 2007. The number fell from 176,000 to 124,000 people, according to the best available census of street people.”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Park Rangers in Seattle

Beefing up the public safety in the parks in Seattle appears to be having the desired impact—though one would hope they will someday attain peace office status with the ability to carry guns—and it is a strategy desperately needed here, where the lower end of the Parkway has been overrun by the same issues plaguing Seattle parks.

An excerpt from the article in the Seattle Times.

“When a man asked Corby Christensen what kind of wildlife lives in Seattle's downtown parks, the city park ranger shrugged.

"If you want to see some wildlife, you should go to Occidental Park after 8 p.m.," Christensen joked.

“Most people who approach the newly hired rangers aren't quite sure what they do. The focus is safety, not wildlife, Christensen points out. They function as part security guards, part social workers. It's a job description the city itself is still trying to figure out, and in the meantime, the seven inaugural rangers are finding the gaps that need filling on their own.

“The city hired the rangers in April as part of a plan to curb crime in downtown-area parks. The parks have long been notorious for drinking, drug dealing, prostitution and violence, as well as campgrounds for homeless people. The idea behind hiring the rangers was to reduce crime, not by chasing out unwanted visitors but rather by attracting the general public.

"There are parks that have been taken over by certain populations," said Ranger Mo Hecht. "Our job is to bring everybody back in."

“The rangers greet tourists, offer help to transients and call in police to deal with troublemakers. They can't carry guns or write tickets, but they can ask people to leave the parks and can ban people for various amounts of time.

“The $462,000 ranger program was recommended by a 2005 mayor-commissioned task force, the latest in a years-long string of tactics the city has used to try to clean up the downtown parks, all but abandoned by ordinary citizens and overrun by crime. Last year, for example, police received more than 1,300 calls and made 133 drug arrests in Victor Steinbrueck Park, next to Pike Place Market, the city's biggest tourist draw.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

California Climate Control

A plan by California to address climate control has problems, particularly for business, and this article from the California Chamber notes those.

An excerpt.

“October 22, 2008) Declaring that there are better, less costly ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions especially in these difficult economic times, the California Chamber of Commerce and a coalition representing 165 business organizations expressed concern about the billions of dollars of increased energy costs that would result from a climate change plan recently released by the California Air Resources Board (ARB).

“The AB 32 Scoping Plan contains the main strategies California will use to reduce the greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause climate change. The Scoping Plan has a range of GHG reduction actions which include direct regulations, alternative compliance mechanisms, monetary and non-monetary incentives, voluntary actions, and market-based mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade system. These measures have been introduced through four workshops between November 30, 2007 and April 17. A draft Scoping Plan was released for public review and comment on June 26 followed by more workshops in July and August, 2008.

“The ARB staff asserts that the plan will save consumers money, but their analysis relies on existing laws to promote vehicle fuel efficiency which are already on the books, independent of AB 32. The cost savings anticipated by the legislation, hides the reality that other measures in the Scoping Plan will cause electricity rates to increase by 11 percent, natural gas rates by 8 percent. Additionally, gasoline costs would go up by $11 billion a year under the plan.

“The Scoping Plan will add to the worsening economic problems facing California companies and families,” said Shelly Sullivan, executive director of the AB 32 Implementation Group. “Why not give consumers a break by adopting a well-designed cap-and-trade program that reduces the cost of cutting greenhouse gas emissions?”

"Market mechanisms such as a cap-and-trade program give companies the ability to reduce emissions at the lowest cost, either on site or through the purchase of offsets.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Crime in Parks

The remoteness of the national parks is very tempting to the large-scale marijuana growing enterprises by drug dealers and it is having a drastic—and bad—impact on the health of those parks, as this article reports.

An excerpt.

“PORTERVILLE, Calif. -- National forests and parks, long popular with Mexican marijuana-growing cartels, have become home to some of the most polluted pockets of wilderness in America because of the toxic chemicals needed to eke lucrative harvests from rocky mountainsides, federal officials said.

“The grow sites have taken hold from the West Coast's Cascade Mountains, as well as on federal lands in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.

“Seven hundred grow sites were discovered on U.S. Forest Service land in California alone in 2007 and 2008 and authorities say the 1,800-square-mile Sequoia National Forest is the hardest hit.

“Weed and bug sprays, some long banned in the U.S., have been smuggled to the marijuana farms. Plant growth hormones have been dumped into streams, and the water has then been diverted for miles in PVC pipes.

“Rat poison has been sprinkled over the landscape to keep animals away from tender plants. And many sites are strewn with the carcasses of deer and bears poached by workers during the five-month growing season that is now ending.

"What's going on on public lands is a crisis at every level," said Forest Service agent Ron Pugh. "These are America's most precious resources, and they are being devastated by an unprecedented commercial enterprise conducted by armed foreign nationals. It is a huge mess."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Birth of the Burbs

The early suburbs in America were largely built for the returning GI’s of the Second World War, and during their time were wonders of efficient construction, luxurious living, and affordability, and even today one can be amazed at their technology, much of it borrowed from Frank Lloyd Wright.

An excerpt from the article about it.

“The term “affordable housing” has come to be associated with social programs and government subsidies, but it once meant commercially built houses that ordinary working people could afford. A pioneer of affordability was the builder Levitt and Sons, whose famous “Levittowns” were the first postwar examples of large, master-¬planned communities. The story is well ¬known. After World War II, as GIs came home and the peacetime economy gathered steam, the demand for housing grew dramatically. Levitt, an established Long Island builder, set its sights on this new market. William Levitt, the eldest son, applied his wartime experience building barracks with the Navy Seabees to traditional wood-frame construction. He organized the building site like an assembly line. Teams of workers performed repetitive tasks, one team laying floor slabs, another erecting framing, another applying siding, and so on. No one had ever built housing that way before.

“The first Levittown was on Long Island, the second in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and the third in New Jersey. The Long Island project, because it was the first and the closest to New York City is the best known, but the Bucks County development, which began in 1951, was larger and more comprehensively planned and designed. At that site, the more than 17,000 homes on nearly 6,000 acres were intended chiefly for workers employed at a nearby steel plant. The largest and most expensive of the six model homes, the Country Clubber, was for supervisors and executives, but the three-bedroom Levittowner was the workhorse of the development. It sold for $9,900, which would equal $82,000 today.

“The design of the Levittowner, like the planning of the community, was the responsibility of William’s younger brother, Alfred. Though William Levitt went on to have a long and well-publicized career as a developer and builder, Alfred, who died in 1966 (at only 54), is less remembered. He was a self-taught architect who had spent an entire summer observing the construction of one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s so-called Usonian houses, in Great Neck Estates, Long Island. Many of the Levittowner’s cost-saving features were influenced by this experience: the efficient one-story plan that combined an eat-in kitchen with the living room; the concrete floor slab without a basement; the under-floor heating; the low, spreading roof with no attic; and the carport instead of a garage. (The Usonians, Wright’s answer to affordability, were beautiful, but since they were built one at a time, they were expensive, the Rebhuhn Residence, the one Alfred studied, cost a whopping $35,000 to build in 1937, the equivalent of more than half a million dollars today.)”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Delta Vision

As reported by the Sacramento Bee, a former Sacramento mayor chaired this group and its conclusions are pretty good, but as always, the devil is in the details and those have yet to be worked out.

A excerpt.

“Independently, neither water users nor environmental groups have the full solution to meeting the water demands of a thirsty and growing California, a governor-appointed panel concluded Friday. But together they might.

“The state's Delta Vision Task Force ended nearly two years of study Friday by declaring that, with a finite supply of water at its disposal, California must do more of everything to meet its water needs.

“That includes building some type of canal to divert fresh water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the task force concluded – this state's most controversial water proposal for two generations.

“It also includes more dams, aggressive statewide conservation and unflinching enforcement of existing water laws to protect the environment.

“The plan's central theme is that water supply and a healthy environment should be co-equal goals.

"We've got to end this view that water users can rub environmentalists into the ground or vice versa," said Phil Isenberg, chairman of the task force and one-time opponent of a canal. "I used to say the Delta would be better off if nothing happened. Well, that's not true."

“At the core of the panel's work is the Delta itself, the largest estuary on the West Coast and hub of the state water system.

“Delta water serves 23 million Californians from Silicon Valley to San Diego, a supply threatened by weak levees on Delta islands.

“Floods, a rise in sea level, earthquakes – or some combination of the three – are likely to contaminate Delta waters in the future, triggering a statewide water, and economic, crisis.

“The task force favors a "dual conveyance" strategy to protect that water supply. This includes building a new canal around the Delta's perimeter and bolstering existing channels through its center.

“The system could allow more water to be diverted whenever there is a surplus. In lean years, more storage – both in dams and below ground – would mean less diversion, which would be better for the environment."

The plan can be found at

Friday, October 17, 2008

American Dream of Home Ownership Still Vital

One would have thought that with the current chaos in the financial markets emanating from what has been going on in housing that the bottom has fallen out of more than the market and perhaps, that the long-held American Dream of home ownership might be actually at risk; but such is not the case, as this article notes.

It also explores how the over-regulation of the planning process and land use policy has contributed to the ever-growing difficulty of the average consumer to easily buy a home.

An excerpt.

“Even after the burst of the housing bubble, the American Dream of home ownership has remained alive in some places. As it turns out the “bubble” was far from pervasive, and as Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman indicated in The New York Times, the housing price increases were largely limited to the areas of the nation with stronger land use regulation.

“In all, at the peak of the housing bubble, 46 of 129 US markets had house prices at or below the historic ceiling of three times household incomes (see 4th International Demographia Housing Affordability Survey. Before the bubble, nearly all markets were at or below that norm, but many have risen to double, triple or even more than three times the standard.

“The American Dream can be said to have started with William Levitt, who revolutionized home building starting with his huge Levittown, New York development in the late 1940s.

“As Witold Rybczynski wrote in a recent Wilson Quarterly article, new Levittown houses could be purchased for three times the average wage in Levittown. This bought a detached 750 square foot house, without a garage. Interestingly, this was at a time when single-income families were still the norm.

“Levittown is the birthplace of the modern American Dream. It was only after the pioneering model of Levittown that home ownership became the norm by becoming affordable to middle-income and blue collar households in America. At the end of World War II, home ownership in the United States was 40 percent. By 1960, it exceeded 60 percent and since risen to above 65 percent.

“Levittown, and the automobile-oriented urban expansion it foreshadowed, resulted in the greatest democratization of prosperity in history. Wherever mass suburbanization occurred – whether in the United States, its first world cousins Canada and Australia, Western Europe or later even Japan – we have seen the unprecedented rise of a mass property-owning class.

“This economic and social advance was built on liberal land use regulation. It would not have been possible if the policies that have poisoned housing markets from Los Angeles and Portland to Miami and Boston had been in effect at that time.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nuclear Power

This is one of the best articles I’ve read recently describing the beauty and utility of nuclear power.

An excerpt.

“Let’s begin by understanding that the scale of the energy stored at the nucleus of the atom is so great — so completely unlike anything in human history — that people are having a hard time understanding it. Everybody thinks of the atom in terms of a big, big bomb. But that’s the wrong approach. You have to think of it as a small, small amount of matter producing almost unimaginable amounts of energy. That’s what makes uranium so easy on the environment — because it takes only a very small quantity of material to produce statewide levels of electrical power.

“Let’s look at some numbers. Fossil fuels, as you know, are a concentrated form of solar energy. Plants capture sunlight and use it to create long hydrocarbons. When these plants or algae are fossilized over millions and millions of years they become oil, coal and gas. In the process, the energy is concentrated. Coal has about twice the energy density of wood and oil and natural gas are about double the density of coal.

“Sunlight and wind and so-called “renewables” are even more dilute than wood, by a factor of about 10 to 50. When you’re thinking in terms of industrial quantities, the amount of sunlight falling on any square yard of earth is miniscule — about enough to power one 100-watt light bulb. That means collecting solar energy consumes huge amounts of land. If we covered every building in the country with solar panels, we could probably get enough electricity to supply our indoor (about 8 percent of our consumption) — and that only in the daytime. The solar thermal plants being considered in Florida and California — where they used mirrors to concentrate sunlight to boil water — will cover a hundred or more square miles to match one coal or nuclear plant. We’re building these things because the federal and state governments are providing huge tax subsidies and many states are even mandating that utilities buy the power. But once the size and expense of these projects becomes clear, a lot of people are going to start to object.

“The same goes for wind farms, which will also cover hundreds of square miles with 65-story structures. The problem with wind is that it is totally unpredictable and very difficult to integrate onto an electrical grid. At least solar electricity is there when you need it — on hot sunny days when everyone turns on the air conditioning. Wind comes and goes at it pleases but tends to blow hardest when it’s not needed — at night and during the spring and fall. Biofuels, another form of “alternate energy,” ran into trouble last winder when people suddenly became aware of the huge amounts of land they consume. We’re now fomenting 30 percent of the corn crop and replacing only 3 percent of our oil — plus pushing up world food prices. The U.N. is calling biofuels a “crime against humanity.” Supporters talk about “cellulose ethanol” but it’s never been done and they’ve been trying for almost a hundred years.

“Now let’s look at nuclear. Remember, when we talked about the energy density of fossil fuels and renewables we talked in factors of 2 thru 50. Do you know what the density factor is for uranium? It’s 2 million. A pound of uranium gives you 2 million times as much energy as a pound of coal. That means you can run a whole city for a week with a lump of uranium you can hold in one hand. In fact a 110-car “unit train” of coal has more energy in the uranium traces in the coal than in the coal itself.

“Let’s see what this means in practice. The average 1,000-megawatt coal plant must be fed by a unit train arriving at the plant every day. Such trains now leave Cheyenne, Wyoming every 12 minutes carrying coal from the Powder River Basin to power plants from Nevada to Arkansas. More than half the nation’s rail freight is now coal. In fact, it’s straining the whole infrastructure and we may have to build new rail lines before long.

“Now lets’ look at nuclear. A 1000-MW nuclear reactor is refueled by a single tractor-trailer arriving at the plant once every eighteen months. The fuel rods are only mildly radioactive and can be handled with gloves. Over their four-and-a-half-year life cycle those fuel rods will put zero greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the coal plant across town will spew 3 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s why we have a problem of global warming.

“Where does all this energy come from? To understand, you have to look at Einstein’s famous formula, E = mc2. Everybody knows about it — Mariah Carey named her latest album after it — but how many people understand exactly what it means?

“E = mc2 means matter can be transformed into energy and energy can be transformed into matter. The important thing is that co-efficient — the speed of light squared. That’s a very, very large number — about one quadrillion. That means a very, very small amount of matter can be transformed into a very, very large amount of energy. That’s what happens when we put uranium in a nuclear reactor.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disc Golf & A Sad Story

1) Disc golf would be a wonderful addition to the recreational venues on the Parkway, especially in the lower third area where it is crucial to encourage legitimate usage to reduce the current proliferation of illegitimate usage such as the homeless camps which are connected to crime, pollution, habitat destruction, and the inability of the adjacent community to safely recreate in their area of the Parkway.

An excerpt from the article about a disc golf event in Rocklin.

“High winds couldn't keep disc golf enthusiasts away from this weekend's Northern California Series Disc Golf Championships tournament at Johnson-Springview Park in Rocklin.

“Fashioned after the traditional game of golf, disc golf requires players to use flying discs instead of balls and clubs and throw them at a target above the ground.”

2) A very sad story from the Sacramento News & Review about a homeless couple that just came to town; and tragically, a profile congruent with too many of the chronic homeless illegally camping in the Parkway.

An excerpt.

“That’s why I started doing heroin. Because I felt like I was working so hard to change the world and nothing was happening,” he says.

“Meet John, 19. He’s covered in dirt, grime and grease, not-so-fresh-off-the-train after freight-hopping from Oregon. His dark-olive overalls look like MC Hammer pants on his toothpick frame; he can’t weigh more than 125 pounds.

“We left town because we were doing too much heroin. It was stupid up in Portland,” she says.

“Meet Audrey, 20. She’s got a cutting smile, sweet freckles, dreadlocks, a pierced nostril and thin-rimmed glasses that her face has outgrown. She pats her 2-year-old dog, Maxwell, who sports a hood ornament around his neck.

“The couple has been in Sacramento for a few days, resting this early Thursday evening in front of a Subway on J Street downtown, about a block from where a panhandler shot a man last month. Cloudy skies threaten: There will be rain. But no worries: A guy kicked down some methadone, so John and Audrey are happy. And talkative.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Newspapers Tanking

As the newspaper business seems to be tanking around the country, this insightful article from American magazine, talks about what may be done to stop the slide into irrelevancy, and with our local paper one of those so sliding, especially relevant.

An excerpt.

“An Industry in Crisis

“Make no mistake about it, this is a crisis. Speaking in May to a group of journalists, Rupert Murdoch pointed out that, as his own newly acquired Wall Street Journal reported, “in the last five or six months, the average newspaper had seen its ad revenue drop 10 to 30 percent.” A decade and a half ago, the average daily circulation of the Post was 832,232; it is now 638,000. The Washington Post Company’s operating revenue in 1999 was $157 million; last year it was $66 million. Newspaper consultant Mark Potts has examined the overall financial picture for American newspapers and, as reported by Charles Layton in the June/July issue of The American Journalism Review (AJR), predicts that “by the year 2020 print ad revenue will be about half what it is today,” leaving newspapers with “six more years of economic pain—continued cuts in staff, newshole and newsgathering resources—before they even start to turn a corner” with improved revenue from Internet advertising.

“The scariest problem,” AJR reported, “is that many papers won’t share in the online growth….And even as the industry as a whole survives, we may begin seeing, pretty soon, big American cities with no daily newspaper.” As Potts puts it: “It’s going to be really bloody, incredibly devastating. And I think there are going to be a lot of major metros that don’t make it.”

“As one who published his first newspaper article more than half a century ago, in the University of North Carolina student paper, The Daily Tar Heel, and who has remained continuously employed in newspapers ever since graduating from UNC in 1961, I find “devastating” exactly the right word. Like innumerable others, I cannot separate the professional, financial, and cultural loss now occurring from the simultaneous personal loss. Not to be melodramatic, but the world in which I have spent my entire adult working life is falling to pieces before my eyes. Thanks to the Post’s generous pension plan, Social Security, and other modest sources of income, I’ll be okay until the Grim Reaper comes for me, but it’s heartbreaking to watch the decline, and perhaps the fall, of the business that I love…

“My impression is that now, when newspapers need to change as never before, too often they are floundering, caught between a past they don’t want to lose and a future they find (understandably) hard to comprehend. The situation was succinctly summarized for AJR’s Layton by Conrad Fink, a former newspaperman who now teaches “newspaper management” at the University of Georgia. Newspapers have to change, he said, “And we’re going to have to be damn fast about it. We’re behind the curve now. We’ve been talking, talking, talking for years. I don’t think we can delay any longer.” He’s right, and he’s especially right if “we” are editors at some of the country’s most famous big-city newspapers, from The Boston Globe to The Miami Herald to The San Francisco Chronicle to—yes—The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times. The big three—The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal—have more than their share of problems, but difficulties at metropolitan dailies whose reach is primarily local and regional are far worse. Their circulation and print advertising revenues are falling but, as Layton points out in AJR, their Internet advertising revenues are not even coming close to making up the difference. Their websites are not attractive to local advertisers because a significant percentage of their Internet viewers live outside the print circulation area, and they aren’t attractive to national advertisers because they can reach much larger national (and international) audiences through other websites, including those of the big three.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sierra Public/Private Partnership

In what is a continuing trend within public administration, state government forms a partnership with nonprofits to protect the Sierra Range, very good news from the Sacramento Bee.

It is the type of partnership we advocate for the Parkway, and it is important to remember that the Parkway is falling behind about $1.1 million annually just in maintenance, according to the American River Parkway Financial Needs Study Update 2006 (p. vii), so it is impossible to care for the Parkway up as it was intended to be cared for, let alone to improve it by adding new land and expanding its educational and recreational assets.

The solution we have proposed for stabilizing funding for the American River Parkway is to establish a nonprofit organization to contract with a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of local government entities, to manage the Parkway and provide a supplemental fund raising capability through philanthropy, which you can read more about on our website’s news page in our press release from January 18, 2008.

This is the model being used by the Central Park Conservancy to manage Central Park in New York—and the Conservancy raise’s 85% of funding needed by Central Park—and the Sacramento Zoological Society to manage the Sacramento Zoo, which they have wholly done since 1997 under contract with the City of Sacramento.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“TRUCKEE – From the shores of Donner Lake on Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger praised the creation of a private, non-profit coalition – the Northern Sierra Partnership – to work with government to protect open space, forests, watersheds and step up efforts to respond to climate change.

"While we are faced with great challenges today, economic challenges ... we should not lose sight of other important issues," Schwarzenegger told a group of regional environmental and business leaders. "We should go ahead and really do everything we can to protect the environment."

“The governor said $25 million has been raised for the partnership, including commitments of $10 million each from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Morgan Family Foundation.

“The partnership is an alliance of five organizations – the Feather River Land Trust, Truckee Donner Land Trust, Sierra Business Council, The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land. Eventually, the group hopes to raise $100 million, which, combined with public funds, will protect more than 100,000 acres.”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parkway Fire Announcement

Bike trail temporarily shut down by blaze
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, October 12, 2008

Windy conditions and heavy undergrowth turned a brush fire on the American River bike trail into a two-alarm blaze that crews managed to keep from spreading to nearby apartment buildings and offices.

Firefighters responded about 3:55 p.m. to the blaze on the bike trail near the Campus Commons Golf Course, Sacramento Fire Department officials said in a news release Saturday night.

Sacramento County park rangers temporarily closed the bike trail at the fire site.

No firefighters were reported injured,and the cause has not been determined, officials said.

– Bill Lindelof

Suburbs are the Future

A new law passed by a Sacramento legislator, reported by the Sacramento Bee, hopes to reduce the historic move to the suburbs that has been characteristic of America since the beginning, and, as so many things done by the legislature, it is going counter to the preferences of most people, who love the suburbs and continue to want to live there or already do.

SB 375 will build more dense housing for those folks who want to live in mid or downtowns and that is a good thing; but it will have a negative impact on the development of suburbs—where an overwhelming majority of families want to live—and that is a bad thing.

This recent article notes the facts about the love affair Americans have with the suburbs.

An excerpt.

“I entered the field of futures research in 1981. No, not futures – contracts to deliver a certain commodity at a certain price at a date certain (God, I wish I had) – futures research, as in scenarios, trends, strategic planning and market planning. Unfortunately the place was soon lousy with what I call “futurism”: extrapolations of the unsustainable to make the improbable look inevitable.

“A current example: suburbs are doomed because of high energy prices (peak oil!), the housing bubble, the obsolescence of the internal combustion engine, and yes, global warming (and what hasn’t been blamed on global warming?). Besides, the urban renaissance is underway; people want to live in the city for the culture, food, music and hipness, don’tchaknow. This is what I read in the Freakonomics quorum on the future of suburbia (New York Times, 8/12/08), and in The Atlantic magazine (“The Next Slum,” Christopher Leinberger, March 2008), The International Herald Tribune (“Life on the fringes of U.S. suburbia becomes untenable with rising gas costs,” 6/24/08), and elsewhere, ad infinitum.

“Well, I could be clever and say that predictions of the demise of suburbs are premature, be in fact they are just plain apocalyptic and absurd. Suburbs are the nexus of American life, have been for decades, and will certainly remain so (because, like, where else are we going to put the next 100 million Americans). Suburbs are where the majority of Americans today, and in the future, live, work, shop, create, consume, recreate, educate and, perhaps most importantly, procreate.

“Suburbs remain home to a majority of Americans and a plurality of American families. Suburban population, business and job growth each outpace those of cities, have done so for decades and will likely continue to do so. In fact, from 2001 to 2006:

• 90% of all metropolitan population growth occurred in the suburbs (American County Survey, US Census Bureau)
• Job growth in suburbia expanded at 6 times the rate of that in urban cores (Praxis Strategy Group)”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

K Street Settlement

Finally, and one hopes this actually results in creating a hospitable area in that part of K Street, which could become a real destination for tourists if it becomes safer, reduces aggressive panhandlers, and beautiful rather than its current condition which can best be described as blighted.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee.

“The Sacramento City Council approved a settlement Tuesday with downtown property owner Moe Mohanna that will clear the legal logjam blocking redevelopment of the bleakest stretch of K Street.

“Approved unanimously by council members meeting in closed session, the settlement of the city's eminent domain lawsuit against Mohanna includes payment of $18.6 million in city redevelopment funds for his nine properties in the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street.

“Mohanna also has agreed to drop the various lawsuits he filed against the city.

“Mayor Heather Fargo said the settlement probably will be finalized in Sacramento Superior Court by the end of this week.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rancho Cordova Development

A new development was recommended for approval by Sacramento County Planning Commission, consisting of about 1,400 acres, and best of all, it has plans for trail space connecting to the American River Parkway.

An excerpt from the Rancho Cordova Post article.

“The development plan includes 4,883 units of residential in various densities and 4.2-million square feet of other development, including 1.3 million square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment venues and 2.9 million square feet of office space and fine art venues, among other things. The area would also include 480 acres of open space and parks and a network of biking and walking trails that would be conveniently linked to the American River Parkway and the Hazel Light Rail station.

“The project is located between Hazel Avenue and Prairie City Road south of Highway 50 and will be the first building venture for GenCorp. Sacramento County is preparing a final EIS for the County Board of Supervisors hearings that will occur later in the year. The project also will need approvals from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service before any more can be done.”

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Saving the Salmon

Storing enough water to allow humans to live safely and prosperously within the great valleys of California required dams, and the state and nation created a system of dams in the early part of the last century that have served us well; though had the project been completed—Shasta Dam built to it intended height tripling current storage, and Auburn Dam finished—we would have been in even better shape.

A consequence however, was the cessation of the salmon’s ability to travel all the way up the rivers it chose to spawn in. The various methods that have been taken to save the salmon runs—while not creating the conditions originally existing—have been very successful and this story from Smithsonian magazine talks about the major role played by the hatcheries, even during this current decline.

And the role is really major, in fact, as the article notes: “between 50 percent and 90 percent of the Sacramento River's "wild" fall-run chinooks are actually born in hatcheries”, which certainly is a clear call to build more hatcheries.

“The sudden decline of California's chinooks, most of which originate in the Sacramento River, has shaken scientists as well as fishermen. Typically several hundred thousand adult fish return from the sea to the river in the fall. Last autumn, only about 90,000 made it back, and fewer than 60,000 are expected this year, which would be the lowest number on record. "Usually when something like that happens, you can point to something dramatic, an oil spill, closing of hatcheries, an earthquake," said Donald McIsaac, executive director of the Pacific Fishery Management Council, the regulatory group that advised U.S. officials to halt this year's salmon fishing. But no such catastrophe has been definitively linked to the shortage…

“We were there because the hatchery was taking a historic step. Usually, the federal facility—at the northern end of California's Central Valley—releases the juveniles out its back door into Battle Creek, which feeds into the Sacramento River six miles downstream. This year, though, natural resource managers had decided to load 1.4 million fish, about a tenth of Coleman's total stock, into trucks and drive them roughly 200 miles south to San Pablo Bay, above San Francisco Bay, bypassing the entire river, a tactic that state hatcheries have been using for years. I had already been startled to learn that between 50 percent and 90 percent of the Sacramento River's "wild" fall-run chinooks are actually born in hatcheries, which were created to compensate for the loss of spawning grounds to dams. Every autumn, hatchery workers trap returning adults before they spawn and strip them of sperm and eggs. The offspring are incubated in trays and fed pellets. Now this latest batch would not even have to swim down the river.” (highlighting added)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Helping the Community

The Baby Boomer generation is oriented to helping and many are now retiring, promising an explosion of volunteers to the nation’s nonprofits—so we devoutly wish—and this new report focuses on that.

An excerpt from the News Release from AARP about the report, with a link to the full report.

“Tens of millions of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, while not as civically active as the Greatest Generation in their younger years, are healthier, living longer and appear ready to increase their civic participation. In an effort to better understand the civic behaviors and attitudes of Americans and to help ground the research in the stories and perspectives of the Boomer and Silent Generations, AARP commissioned a series of focus groups and a nationally representative survey of Americans ages 44-79 (“Experienced Americans”).”

An excerpt from the report.

“The central message of this report is that tens of millions of Baby Boomers and members of the Silent Generation, while not as civically active as the Greatest Generation in their younger years, are healthier, living longer and appear ready to increase their civic participation in retirement.

“Sadly, Americans from these two generations believe they will leave the world in worse condition than they inherited it. Many who do not currently volunteer feel they have not been asked, and volunteers and non-volunteers alike identify barriers and motivations that help point the way forward. The sheer number of Boomers provides an opportunity to have a transformative effect. We believe there is significant potential to increase volunteering and civic engagement in America, particularly among regular volunteers, churchgoers, Boomer women, African Americans, and Hispanics, and to design policies and initiatives that tap the talents of these extraordinary generations.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Finances & The Big Mac

As we struggle to understand what is happening in the financial world, other than a huge restructuring of corporations and sectors—happening every generation or so—and the taking of profits from distressed securities prior to further depression, perhaps this essay using the various prices on the Big Mac can help, though I doubt it, but it is interesting.

An excerpt from the essay from the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas.

“Readily tradable goods—oil, chemicals, metals and agricultural commodities, for example—tend to sell at world prices. Nontradable goods and services—housing, cab rides and such personal services as haircuts—are largely insulated from global competition, and their prices can vary from place to place.

“Whether goods are tradable, nontradable or somewhere in between influences the international transmission of price fluctuations. Rising prices in tradables are highly likely to spill across borders, while rising prices in nontradables are not. A better understanding of factors that determine prices should help the Federal Reserve and other central banks incorporate foreign price movements into monetary policy decisions.

“That brings us to the Big Mac and what it can teach us about pricing. McDonald’s iconic hamburger is a tiny bit of the world economy, but it’s often used as a rough gauge of relative prices across countries. Since 1986, The Economist magazine has been publishing a Big Mac Index, comparing the hamburger’s international prices. The index shows how much Big Mac prices vary from one country to the next. What’s less well known is the extent to which Big Mac prices diverge across the U.S., regions, Texas and even Dallas. The reasons for the disparities help us sort out how international, national, regional and local factors shape prices—at least for one product.

“World Prices

“The Economist concocted the Big Mac Index with a sly wink and didactic purpose—“to make exchange-rate theory more digestible.” The Big Mac stood in for the market baskets of goods and services that economists use to measure purchasing power parity, an alternative to market exchange rates for comparing output or consumption in different countries.

“The attractive feature of the Big Mac as an indicator is its uniform composition. With few exceptions, the ingredients of the Big Mac are the same wherever it’s sold.[1] Other global products could be used for a prop in this exercise—a Coca-Cola, a Starbucks coffee, an iPod—but, over the years, the Big Mac Index has been a quick guide to prices in many countries. In July, The Economist presented Big Mac prices in local currencies and U.S. dollars for 45 countries, showing a range from $1.70 in Malaysia to $7.88 in Norway.[2] The U.S. fell into the middle of the pack, with an average Big Mac price of $2.99 (see abbreviated list, Table 1). These differences are typical of the price disparities The Economist has found over more than two decades.”

Monday, October 06, 2008

Green Manhattan

A very funny—while completely serious—article from the New Geographic about growing crops in Manhattan high rises.

An excerpt.

“In the Seventies, thanks to environmentalism, grand engineering projects fell out of favor. E. F. Schumacher and J. R. Tolkien were the new gods. Skyscrapers and dams were passé. Utopia was a sod-roofed hobbit hole designed by Amory Lovins. But human fascination with large-scale projects could not be satisfied by designing high-tech composting bins in the backyard. So now we have the arrival of something new: It’s the gee-whiz engineering boondoggle of yesteryear resurrected with a thin veneer of greenwash turning it into... Call it a greendoggle.

“Inside a high-rise was that farm
Ee-yi ee-yi O

“Scientific American, a once-sober magazine that seems to be going down-market along with National Geographic, has just published its own flashy Earth 3.0 issue, with stories like “MisLEEDING? When Green Architecture isn’t Green” and “China’s Eco-City.” On page 74 you will find “GROWING VERTICAL”: Cultivating crops in downtown skyscrapers might save bushels of energy and provide city dwellers with distinctively fresh food.” The hero of the article is Dickson Despommier, a microbiologist at Columbia University, who proposes growing food downtown in glass-walled buildings.

“Scientific American, of course, gushes over the idea as a way to plan “more sustainable cities,“ sustainability being the ultimate planning buzzword of the moment. A brief internet search reveals widespread discussion of vertical farming—not only Professor Despommier’s vertical farms and feedlots, but proposals for raising produce on green roofs downtown.

“At first sight, the idea seems plausible. True, vertical farming would be a non-starter if urban rents were higher than rural rents. But we all know that land is just as cheap in downtown Manhattan as it is in rural Nebraska, right? One wonders, though, why farming moved off the island a more than a century ago.

“Professor Despommier claims that food grown indoors would be pesticide-free, unlike that dirty outdoor produce. Once again, totally plausible. Big American cities are as free of rats and roaches as Ireland is of snakes. The Museum of Natural History has a glass case containing the last rat found in New York City, way back before World War I. (Just don’t look down at the tracks when you are waiting for a subway).”

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Arden Arcade

The Sacramento Bee reports the good news that the effort to incorporate the area in Sacramento County—the unincorporated 13 square mile area located between Ethan Way on the west and Mission Avenue on the east, north of Fair Oaks Boulevard, and south of Auburn Boulevard—is still alive, which, considering the relative health of the newer cities in our region compared to the older, is a strong vote for the value of subsidiarity.

You can follow the effort on the Arden Arcade website.

An excerpt.

“Arden Arcade's cityhood effort has been re-energized by state legislation extending a financial boost to new cities.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill into law last week, and it could translate into millions of dollars for a new city of Arden Arcade – should supporters get enough residents in 2010 to vote to form a city.

“But the legislative action came too late to revive a moribund Rio Linda-Elverta cityhood effort. Organizers pulled the plug on their incorporation drive 13 days ago.

“Senate Bill 301, by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, removes a July 2009 deadline for newly formed cities to be eligible for startup funds.

“Romero said her focus was on East Los Angeles when she drafted the bill, but she quickly learned there were more communities that could benefit from it.

"The local issue was really a statewide concern," Romero said. "If we ever want to see another city incorporate in California, we needed to address this issue."

“Joel Archer, chairman of the Arden Arcade incorporation effort, said it gives new life to the cityhood drive. "It means full-speed ahead," he said.”

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sky is Falling, We Need a Law

A great essay on the human proclivity to proclaim a disaster—based on current statistical projections—then when it doesn’t occur, as a result of current statistical facts, still insist it will.

An excerpt.

“This year marks the fortieth anniversary of an influential yet little known manifesto. In the December 1968 issue of Science magazine, within months of San Francisco’s “summer of love,” University of California biologist Garrett Hardin published his revolutionary essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons.” In barely a dozen pages, cited ever after by countless public-policy articles, Hardin argues the iron necessity of the political regulation of human fertility to avoid “the evils of overpopulation.” His argument has proven a major moment in the ongoing transmogrification of Western civilization from regimes of vaguely Christian citizenship, into autonomous public administrations bearing the sovereign authority of science.

“In “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Hardin means to dig out the very roots of modernity and “explicitly exorcize the spirit of Adam Smith in the field of practical demography”—which is to say, spontaneous, autonomous parenthood. He argues that there is no “technical solution” to the problem of overpopulation and pollution; the newly invented Pill will not in itself reverse the glowering Malthusian storm. Individualistic rationality inexorably leads to the over-use, over-crowding, and destruction of the “commons,” humanity’s shared resources. This Tragedy of the Commons is never more inevitable than in the case of “the desire for children,” the “commons in breeding.” What Hardin calls a “moral solution” is urgently needed…

“Though even scientists may be tempted to lie in service of good causes, Hardin’s prevarications do not touch the deeper, underlying revolution in thought to which he has contributed: the mutation of a merely theoretical dilemma—with an unspecified time-frame—into an immediate practical necessity, that is, treating a mathematical projection sub specie aeternalis as an immediate crisis sub specie temporalis. The claim to rule may be wisdom, but the regime is not Plato’s paradoxical philosopher-king, contemplating the Whole. The modern scientist sees necessity through a stove-pipe specialization, blithely unaware that other specializations (such as economics) may question his premises (as Hardin’s have been mocked by Colin Clark, Roger Revell, Julian Simon, Nicholas Eberstadt, and others).

“Politicized scientists ignore political reality. Communities are always threatened by a legion of disasters, “not single spies, but in battalions,” unique, unpredictable, but rarely calamitous. To the rationalist hammer, however, all the world seems a mathematical nail. In trying to deduce policy from science, cosmological demagogues sink beneath the level of prudent praxis, the careful weighing of character and opportunity, down to the level of techne, like accountants generating simple answers to easily defined but irrelevant problems. As Hegel also quipped: “Who thinks abstractly? The uneducated.” The Regime of Science is no philosopher-king, but rather an Aztec astronomer-priest, committed to human sacrifices lest the sun fail to rise tomorrow.”

Friday, October 03, 2008

Illegal Camping, A Change Coming?

Buried in this Sacramento Bee story about the local mayor’s race is a strong hint that perhaps the long allowed illegal camping along the American River Parkway might be finally halted…a reality devoutly to be wished; though merely moving them to another camping site is not the answer for the long term.

What we proposed in our 2008 research report: Recreation, Education & Sanctuary, posted on our website, is:

"The greatest antidote to a lack of public safety in the Parkway, in addition to the increase of the presence of law enforcement, is to significantly increase the legitimate usage through more developed recreation, all of the amenities that the supplemental funding raised by bringing the Parkway under the daily management of a nonprofit organization could help develop.

"Homeless camps are becoming very entrenched in our area, which most experts attribute to the concentration of services providing essential domestic service—feeding, showering, hangouts, medical, schooling for children, etc—without a corresponding demand to become involved in the type of services leading to a cessation of the homeless condition—job seeking training, vocational training, substance abuse counseling, etc; which has created an image of Sacramento in the perception of many of the homeless, particularly those with no inclination to change their condition, to migrate here.

"Helping the homeless—and all others less fortunate than we are—is most certainly a mandate each community should undertake, but it is also a mandate each community needs to be involved in with a vigorous effort tying the provision of domestic service to a utilization of reformative service.

"The one area where this does not hold true is in the delivery of service to the chronic homeless, where providing housing first—which we support—has been found to be the one step a community can do that really impacts the chronic homeless who have been homeless for so long and become so fundamentally degraded in initiative and responsibility that beginning with the security of housing is really the only program that seems to work for them to begin utilizing reformative service on their own; but for the general homeless who are only recently experiencing hard times and often still retain many attributes of personal responsibility, the tying of the communities help to the homeless helping themselves has to become the mantra.

"What we see in our own backyard is great opportunity for leadership to continue developing the livable communities so enjoyed by so many families, and surrounding one of our country’s great urban parks—our very own Parkway— which we can do so much more to preserve, protect, and strengthen.

"However, the single most important issue impacting recreation, education, and sanctuary, is the lack of public safety, particularly in the lower third area of the Parkway, where illegal homeless camps have been allowed for years, and where even park directors privately warn people not to venture alone.” (pp. 35-36)

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“Thursday was another busy day for both candidates, who are picking up the pace of the campaign as the Nov. 4 election approaches.

“Just before Fargo's news conference, Johnson took reporters on a tour of a homeless camp near the American River. He was joined by representatives of the police and fire unions.

"Typically, we allow the camps to exist," said Mark Tyndale of the SPOA. "If we shut down all the camps, these people would be wandering the streets of downtown Sacramento."

“Johnson said he would convene a group of community leaders to come up with a new plan to address the population of homeless people who live on the river, some of whom resist going into traditional homeless shelters. Johnson said his plan would complement Sacramento's existing 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.

“Citing the example of Phoenix, he suggested the possibility of a tent city to house people like those who live in the camp he visited Thursday.

"I think it's something our city needs to talk about, because this sort of stuff needs to be more controlled," he said.

“A dog silently stood watch over the camp Thursday morning as television and print reporters trooped after Johnson along a levee looking over the clutch of tents, an old couch and other odds and ends of domestic life assembled under tarps hung from trees. A nearby gully was filled with garbage.

"There's a hazard out here," Johnson said of the similar camps that dot the American River Parkway between Discovery Park and California State University, Sacramento. "We need some tough love. These people need to be re-assimilated into our society."

“He stopped to chat with Twana James, 40, who said she had lived outside along the river for 13 years. James said she camps alone and is afraid of being attacked. She said she would go to a shelter, but not without her pitbull puppy.

"If I could take my dog, I would go," she said. "I don't want to go without my dog."

Thursday, October 02, 2008


As the quality of life continues to improve in the United States—notwithstanding the occasional economic eruption—the access to the waterfronts in our communities also improves.

Historically relegated to warehouses, dumps, and worse, as is so evident in our waterfronts in the downtown and midtown areas, especially along the American River, they are now seeing more attention and that mirrors what is going on nationally, as this article from Projects for Public Spaces notes.

An excerpt.

“We are seeing a dramatic rise of interest in waterfronts, as people everywhere seek great public spaces that can be enjoyed by the community as a whole. Eighteen months ago, PPS devoted an entire issue of our Making Places newsletter to waterfronts, showing their enormous potential for sparking city-wide revitalization.

“This resulted in a flurry of activity as groups from all over the world contacted PPS about how to apply the principles of Placemaking to seafronts, lakeshores, riverbanks and creeksides in their own towns. While the rediscovery of waterfronts is a welcome trend, we are finding through our fieldwork that many promising projects are being undermined by easily avoidable mistakes. Crucial knowledge about what works and does not work for waterfront is, unfortunately, not being shared among cities.

“This all-new Waterfronts edition of the PPS newsletter is devoted to showcasing lessons from around the world about how waterfronts can become great public assets for everyone to use.

“Dangers along the Waterfront

“Because waterfronts are being redeveloped so rapidly and at such a large scale, there is often not enough opportunity for the experimentation, evaluation, and information sharing that is crucial to the evolution of any great urban space. The result is that waterfronts in many cities are making the same mistakes over and over, particularly in limiting public use through misguided privatization schemes.

“Based on our vast experience, PPS believes that waterfronts are successfully revitalized through public-private partnerships that work together to create new opportunities for recreation, tourism and entertainment. If cities and community organizations collaborate with private developers to create a series of attractive destinations on and near the waterfront, the impact on the local economy will be greater than when these parties act in isolation.” (highlighting added)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sacramento State Growing & New Parkway Leader

1) As the continued development of Sacramento State begins to bring new housing online, the news is good for the Parkway as it will increase traffic there, which helps decrease the problems with illegal camping and crime.

This recent article from the Sacramento Business Journal (requires subscription) gives a hint of what is to come.

An excerpt.

“Part of Sacramento State’s effort to become more of a residential campus, the 123,000-square-foot recreation portion will have free weights, exercise machines, an indoor track, racquetball courts, basketball courts and a climbing wall. The 28,000-square-foot health and wellness portion will have an urgent care center, a pharmacy, dental services and health-education rooms.

“General contractor McCarthy Building Cos. Inc. is already on board, and completion is slated for the summer of 2010. The university got McCarthy involved before architects Hornberger+Worstell finished the drawings in order to help fix costs and keep the project on budget, Richardson said. When about 40 subcontractor bids went out in July, Sacramento State kept a list of options ready to cut costs, such as not finishing out all the racquetball courts right away.

“As it turns out, the sub bids came in under our budget, so we are able to finish those as part of the project,” Richardson said.

“The health and wellness center dovetails with the Broad Athletic Facility completed earlier this year. The $11 million Broad project replaced the old Hornet field house.

A place to call home

“Also part of the residential scene is a new dorm started last year and expected to be ready by next summer for the start of the 2009 school year.

“Instead of the traditional separate dorm rooms, the new building has suites of two to five bedrooms and two bathrooms. Each suite has shared kitchen space with microwave ovens and refrigerators.

“The first new dorm since 1990, it will add 608 beds to the campus, expanding the current capacity by more than half. The school also leases lofts off campus at 65th Street and Folsom Boulevard for student housing.

“The four-story building will encompass 209,000 square feet and cost a projected $61.6 million. In addition to the apartment-style dorms, it also will have retail food areas and several areas for studying and meetings.”

2) In the same issue of the Sacramento Business Journal (subscription required) is an interview with the new executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation, focusing on the volunteer issue.

An excerpt.

“Dianna Aguilar likes her job. She thinks the American River Parkway “is the most beautiful parkway in the country,” and the job she gets paid to do is to make it even more beautiful…

“You say there’s disagreement over whether volunteers should be cleaning up the parkway. What’s that about?

“We have been using volunteers to clean up the parkway for 25 years. On Sept. 20, we had about 1,362 people, all volunteers, working on 23 sites on the parkway clean-up project, including three creeks that flow into the parkway. Sponsors for the project included Raley’s, the California Coastal Commission, Whole Foods, SMUD, The River Park Homeowners Association, the East Sacramento Homeowners Association, the Buffalo Chips Running Club and Crystal Geyser Water.

“We put the trash we pick up in piles, and the county picks it up. We have to weigh it (this year there were 20,000 pounds), and within two hours we have to fill out lengthy forms for the California Coastal Commission reporting how much glass, how much metal, how much of other various ingredients we pick up.

“It’s not all garbage. There’s eye glasses, keys, tires and some stuff you don’t want to know about.

“So where’s the problem?

“Current state law requires people working on public projects to be paid the prevailing wage. Cleaning the parkway is a public project, and under the law, we would have to pay the people cleaning it up. There is also legislation exempting certain categories of public works projects, such as our annual cleanup. But the exemption will expire Dec. 31 of this year unless Gov. Schwarzenegger signs legislation extending the exemption for another three years. What that means is, unless the exemption is extended, come Jan. 1 we will have to start paying our volunteers, or not pay them and risk getting fined by the state.

“Basically, there are two union organizations lobbying to block the extension, the California Federation of Labor and the American Association of County and Municipal Employees. For us, putting the words “volunteers” and “public lands” together means people picking up trash, pulling out invasive plants and planting oak trees to develop a new canopy.”