Saturday, January 31, 2009

Solar Power Booming

In what is very good news, the installation of solar power panels on roofs is booming, according to this article from the Los Angeles Times.

In today’s uncertain investment market, this could be a very good investment for the future.

An excerpt.

“Despite a credit freeze that's stunting renewable-energy projects throughout the country, 2008 was a hot year for solar power in California.

“Encouraged by state rebates, Golden State residents and businesses last year installed a record 158 megawatts of photovoltaic panels on their rooftops to turn the sun's rays into electricity, the California Public Utilities Commission said Wednesday. That's more than double the 78 megawatts installed in 2007.

“Residential demand appears to be hanging tough in the face of the shaky economy. December saw the largest volume of homeowner rebate requests since the state launched the California Solar Initiative program two years ago.

"I'm encouraged to see that even in these difficult financial times we are breaking solar installation records and spurring private investment in solar projects," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. Launched in January 2007, the California Solar Initiative is an attempt to push photovoltaics on a mass scale in California to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and shore up the state's energy supply.

“Funded by utility ratepayers, the program offers rebates to those who install panels on their homes and businesses. Refunds are typically 20% to 50% of a system's cost.

“Solar modules would seem a luxury in the current dismal economy. But experts said new federal tax breaks, on top of already generous state incentives, are encouraging some Californians to take the plunge. As of Jan. 1, homeowners are eligible for tax credits of up to 30% of the entire cost of their projects.

“Those benefits had previously been capped at $2,000 per system.

“Others have concluded that putting solar panels on their roofs and cutting their power bills is a safer bet than the stock market or real estate.”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Levees, Trees & Dams

This story in the Bee that hundreds of trees will be lost along the river is a very sad one as their welcoming shade provides a pleasant place to cast a line or just watch the water go by.

Unfortunately, the reliance on levees for flood control, rather than dams, requires their removal, and that is a real shame.

There is a solution—that would obviously have to wait until funds are available—that would solve the water problems for the larger region and that is the raising of Shasta Dam to its originally engineered height of 200 feet higher than it now is, tripling its water supply, which an 2004 article from the Los Angeles Times describes.

An excerpt.

‘….From an engineering standpoint, it's a piece of cake. The dam, built between 1938 and 1945, was originally planned to be 200 feet taller. At 800 feet, it would have been the highest and biggest in the world.

“Sheri Harral, public affairs officer at the dam, said World War II and materials shortages associated with the war effort led to a decision to stop construction at 602 feet.

"The thinking was to come back and add on to it if ever there was a need to," Harral said. "They started looking at raising it in 1978."

“If Shasta Dam had been built up to its engineering limit in 1945, it is arguable that Northern and Central California would not be facing a critical water shortage now.

“According to a 1999 Bureau of Reclamation study, a dam 200 feet taller would be able to triple storage to 13.89 million acre-feet of water.”

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“Sacramentans soon will understand just how massive the region's biggest modern levee project is as workers this week begin removing 900 trees to make way for construction along the Sacramento River.

“About 800 of those trees are native oaks – mostly valley oaks – including some more than 60 inches in diameter.

“They may come to symbolize the tightrope that California walks between flood safety and habitat protection.

“The trees must go because they're in the footprint of a $619 million project to build giant new levees encircling the Natomas Basin. The project was required by a 2006 U.S. Army Corps ruling that existing levees don't adequately protect the basin's 70,000 residents.

“The Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency designed new levees up to 300 feet wider to accommodate another Army Corps rule that forbids trees and structures on levees.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Updike, Bard of the Suburbs, R.I.P.

I first discovered John Updike when we were living in Arden Park and his essays and stories are marvelous, touching a deep chord in me.

His work will be missed, but what he wrote will live on to enrapture us for a long time.

This article about him is great.

An excerpt.

“John Updike, the bard of the suburbs, died this week. He was one of the first great American writers to revel in the opportunity, beauty and convenience that the suburbs have long reflected. His voice, first found in the sixties, acted as a reasonable anchor in the tempest of radicalism that swept through the country. He empathized with the American dream rising in the raw suburbs being carved from agricultural land.

“Where ancestors once had wrestled a living from the soil, Updike’s generation found comfort, convenience and a dream. They found plenty where a generation previous only found enough to keep them alive. At a time when academics, avant-garde filmmakers and urban intellectuals scoffed at suburbia, Updike explained it. He understood the obvious reasons – “practical attractions: free parking for my car, public education for my children, a beach to tan my skin on, a church to attend without seeming too strange”. That is still what draws people to the edge of town.

“Updike viewed the miles of identical houses the middle class aspired to as the pinnacle of civilization. He was never condescending. He genuinely loved what the suburbs represented and what they offered the masses moving from the cramped quarters of the ghettos and slums of the pre-war cities. He himself knew firsthand the other source of suburban migrants – the hardscrabble rural environs where life was often both difficult and limited.

“Updike wanted nothing more than the convenience and steady food and work that he could find in the suburbs of Boston. The cold, bleak, boring hell of rural life was not for him. He saw nature as something that his religious sensibilities told him it was: a chaotic force to be tamed for the benefit of man.”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


As it grows in influence and power, our nation’s capitol is also becoming the marker for the nation itself, something rare in America though common in Europe and Asia, and that raises some concerns, considering the diffused-power ethos woven into the history of the United States.

Joel Kotkin, in this article from New Geography—with a serious dig at Sacramento—explores Washington’s growing influence.

An excerpt.

“For more than two centuries, it has been a wannabe among the great world capitals. But now, Washington is finally ready for its close-up.

“No longer a jumped-up Canberra or, worse, Sacramento, it seems about to emerge as Pyongyang on the Potomac, the undisputed center of national power and influence. As a new president takes over the White House, the United States' capacity for centralization has arguably never been greater. But it's neither Barack Obama's charm nor his intentions that are driving the centrifocal process that's concentrating authority in the capital city. It's the unprecedented collapse of rival centers of power.

“This is most obvious in economic affairs, an area in which the nation's great regions have previously enjoyed significant autonomy. But already the dukes of Wall Street and Detroit have submitted their papers to Washington for vassalage. Soon many other industries, from high-tech to agriculture and energy, will become subject to a Kremlin full of special czars. Even the most haughty boyar may have to genuflect to official orthodoxy on everything from social equity to sanctioned science.

“At the same time, the notion of decentralized political power – the linchpin of federalism – is unraveling. Today, once proudly independent – even defiant – states, counties and cities sit on the verge of insolvency. New York and California, two megastates, face record deficits. From California to the Carolinas, local potentates with no power to print their own money will be forced to kiss Washington's ring.

“Americans may still possess what the 19th-century historian Frederick Jackson Turner described as "an antipathy to control," but lately, they seem willing to submit themselves to an unprecedented dose of it. A financial collapse driven by unrestrained private excess – falling, ironically, on the supposedly anti-Washington Republicans' watch – seems to have transformed federal government cooking into the new comfort food.

“To foreigners, this concentration of power might seem the quintessence of normalcy. As the sociologist E. Digby Baltzell wrote in 1964, elites have dominated and shaped the world's great cosmopolitan centers – from Athens to Rome to Baghdad – throughout history. In modern times, capital cities such as London, Paris, Moscow, Berlin and Tokyo have not only ruled their countries but have also largely defined them. In all these countries (with the exception of Germany, which was divided during the Cold War), publishing, media, the arts and corporate and political power are all concentrated in the same place. Paris is the undisputed global face of France just as London is of Great Britain or Tokyo is of Japan.”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Budget Crisis

This article makes a good case for the over-all strength of the California economy in contrast to the one being made by California government; and it is always good to see another side when crisis clamor is in the air.

An excerpt.

“Humans have been around for tens of thousands of years. And yet, as recently as a thousand years ago, there was a broad consensus -- even among the most highly educated -- that the world was flat. The problem with "consensus" is that it becomes groupthink. If an idea has no challengers, it becomes difficult to disprove and those who speak against the established orthodoxy are always marginalized.

“There seems to be a consensus in California that we have a "Budget Crisis." But if "crisis" is defined as a situation where impending disaster is a probable outcome -- think Cuban Missile Crisis – then the notion that California is in the midst of crisis needs to be challenged.

“In support of the crisis mentality for California's predicament is the contention that California is "going to run out of money" by February. This is inaccurate for two reasons. First, even with significant reductions in tax revenues to the state and local governments, California remains a tax producing behemoth. Because of its $1.6 trillion economy, California will generate tens of billions of dollars more than next-ranked Texas.

“The distinct nature of California's economy reveals the second inaccuracy. It is not California that is running out of money, it is California government that, more accurately, has a cash flow problem. And government is going to run out of money only if one assumes a continuation of the rate of spending based on previous years. But why should we be forced to make this assumption?

“It is not a "crisis" if you are merely driving down the freeway. It is a crisis if you fail to slow down when you get to your exit. Reducing government expenditures when revenues decrease should be as natural as slowing down a car when approaching an off ramp -- and we can do it without invoking the "C" word.

“You want a real crisis? Talk to the folks at Circuit City and Mervyns. Except for inventory liquidations, there is no more revenue coming in the door. Could those corporations and thousands of other small and large businesses going through bankruptcy have avoided this fate with a ten or fifteen percent reduction in revenue? Probably.”

Monday, January 26, 2009


This article by former Indianapolis mayor Stephen Goldsmith is an excellent analysis of the benefits of privatization, particularly in an era of shortages of public funds for public services.

An excerpt.

“Local and state officials across the country now face urgent questions concerning how to fund infrastructure deficits and gaping budget holes. Last year, for example, New York Governor David Paterson surprised many with his announcement that he would consider leasing state assets (such as bridges and highways) to private contractors to fix the budget. This has triggered a round of arguments for and against the idea of privatization.

“Most of the voices in the debate focus on the wrong issue — public ownership — while ignoring the real issue: public value.

“The privatization debate is consumed by political rhetoric taking the place of careful analysis. Some on the right argue that private ownership is always more efficient (i.e., a more efficient monopoly) and some on the left claim that corporations are corrupt and that it is somehow un-American for companies to make a profit delivering public services, even if they do it better, faster and cheaper than government.

“In fact, determining whether to sell or lease a public asset should depend upon the terms of the deal itself and the uses of the proceeds. But these nuanced and difficult questions rarely surface in the public debate. This is partly because few governments, including at the federal level, have a distinct capital budget, reducing the incentive for long-term investments and encouraging financial sleight-of-hand. Furthermore, many cases show that asset sales are last-ditch attempts to fill budget gaps rather than principled efforts to provide public goods at a better price.”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sacramento's Tent City

This editorial from the Bee raises several questions, but in relation to the downtown or midtown areas of the Parkway where a tent city site appears to be headed, the biggest question wasn’t raised.

What impact has the current homeless services concentration already had on that area of our community and what will be the additional impact with this new enhancement of services?

Conceptually, the idea of a tent city for the homeless—especially during troubling economic times—makes a certain amount of sense, and a case can be made that it is a compassionate response.

However, the important thing to remember about policy concepts are the details, and we need to ask what the impact has already been, and will be, with the continued concentration of homeless services in the Richards Boulevard, North Sacramento, downtown, and midtown areas, on the long-suffering residents and business people in those neighborhoods.

All of which Bob Slobe’s concerns directly address.

It is very clear that the impact on the Parkway has already been devastating and any increase in use as a homeless encampment would—we fear—only increase that devastation, regardless of the well-meant intent and whatever kind of supervision occurs.

A Google search turned up this interesting comment on the homeless encampment mentioned in the editorial, Dignity Village in Portland, the only homeless encampment authorized by a local government in the United States.

“I am a local who knows only limited things about the village, but I know a little more about the responses to the village. Of course there are a lot of people in favor of it - as it is, but they dont know how to expand it for other homeless people. In other words, it has about 60 people living there, and there is an estimated 2000 that sleep outside any given night.

“The city government is sort of at a place where they dont know what to expect if they authorize more of these villages. As it is now, because of how much trouble and controversy the village caused for the city back when it was founded, the city basically has decided there wont be any more of them. It goes much deeper than that, but there are so many entanglements about such things as fire code safety, personal liability for risk of injury (on this public property) as well as every other kind of standardized regulations for organized multiresidential establishments.

“So, I have been homeless more than one time in Portland, and I have been familiar with homelessness for about five years now in this city. The homeless people I have met, resent the village and everything about it.

“Mainly because "everyone" knows that it cannot be duplicated, or made bigger, or anything else, except to be eventually choked out by stiffer regulations from the mayor's office. If it is not for that, it would be from several "sensitive" citizens of the same neighborhoods that simply do NOT want the homeless people nearby. The village cannot assist anyone not affiliated.”

The Wikipeida Dignity Village entry is also informative.
An excerpt.

“Designated by the Portland City Council as a campground, Dignity Village is exempt from many building codes which have traditionally been used to close down shantytowns. Shelters in the community might at any time consist of tents, hogans, tee pees, light wooden shacks, or more substantial structures built using principles of ecofriendly green construction such as hay walls and recycled wood. Light clay straw housing was built in 2003 at part of the City Repair Project's Village Building Convergence…

“Dignity Village is aligned in general with the Green Movement although as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, it cannot officially endorse specific parties or candidates. The site has been visited on numerous occasions by politicians from various political parties, and it enjoys a good amount of political support among city politicians and political candidates.

“Dignity Village is an intentional community which endorses or practices many socialist/communal principles.

“Little information is currently available on police/fire/city service issues, although in 2004, the campsite was allowed to hook up to city sewers for the purpose of sanitary disposal of shower water. Toilet facilities are provided by portable toilets.”

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee Editorial.

“After years of debate, Sacramento city and county officials are studying several sites to create a legal encampment for the homeless near Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento.

“Not surprisingly, the idea is coming under harsh attack from some property owners in the area. Critics such as Robert Slobe fear it will further burden the Richards Boulevard area with blight and add to trash, fires and other problems along the lower American River Parkway.

“No doubt the idea of a legalized tent city is controversial. Strip away concerns over location, and one is left with an ethical quandary: Is it acceptable for society to sanction people living in tents and makeshift structures? Should Sacramento be condoning a Hooverville?

“These important questions need to be balanced with others: Is it acceptable for authorities to keep rousting the homeless from illegal encampments, month after month? Would a sanctioned encampment be a more humane alternative? Would it possibly reduce the problems caused by illegal encampments along the American River and other places?”

Saturday, January 24, 2009


This article notes how the state government in Oregon worked to reduce fossil fuel consumption but then, as a consequence, saw its tax revenue fall, so now it wants to tax mileage by having all cars install a GPS device letting government know where and how much you drive so they can calculate your taxes.

What’s wrong with this picture?

An excerpt.

“For years, Oregon has been diligent about reducing the state's dependence on fossil fuels, but its environmental consciousness has come at a stunning price -- gas tax revenue is down $4.8 million a year compared with 2006.

“That drop, caused by lower fuel consumption and a slowing economy, has prompted Oregon to consider a new way to pay for road repairs: Democratic Gov. Theodore R. Kulongoski's upcoming budget calls for a highway tax based on mileage, not gasoline purchases.

“A state task force will look at equipping every new vehicle in Oregon with a Global Positioning System to record every mile driven and where. Motorists would pay at the gas pump based on how much they drove, no matter how fuel-frugal their vehicle.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Homeless Tent City in Sacramento?

What is particularly sad in this story from the Sacramento Bee is exactly what Bob Slobe—a member of our organizational leadership and the person for whom our Parkway Advocate Award is named—mentions; the overwhelming burden placed on already struggling folks, in the siting and allowing of homeless camps in one of the poorest sections of the city virtually destroying the ability of those adjacent communities to recreate safely in the Parkway.

This has been the status quo for many years now and it is very disheartening—even given the poor economic conditions we are currently witnessing—to envision actual governmental support of these neighborhood destroying measures.

If local government truly wishes to establish tent cities they need to be some place where the surrounding communities are not materially and criminogenically degraded—as the first call of public leadership is to protect the public.

An excerpt.

“Sacramento homeless who illicitly camp along the American River Parkway and on city sidewalks may soon be able to live in tent communities sanctioned by government and police.

“Police, city and county leaders and homeless advocates are seriously considering several potential locations for communities that would allow campers to live free from police interference and offer basic services such as running water and portable toilets.

“Mayor Kevin Johnson told The Bee he is open to the concept.

"I am actually optimistic that we're going to get something done," said Mark Merin, who has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city and county on behalf of homeless people who by choice or circumstances live outdoors rather than in shelters. Merin argues that ticketing homeless people for illegal camping violates their constitutional rights.

“The idea of sanctioned homeless camps, which would have to be approved by the City Council and Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, undoubtedly will face opposition from property owners in affected areas.

“North Sacramento developer Robert Slobe, for one, said tent communities would "burden the poorest neighborhoods in the region," including his own, with more problems.

"Homelessness will not go away any time soon, but we can no longer burden our working poor and their open spaces with the full weight of the problem," Slobe said. "It is a burden to be shared by all."

“Some 2,500 homeless people live in Sacramento, and several hundred of them are camping outside at any given time, surveys suggest.

“For years, area cops and park rangers have engaged in a kind of chess game with them. Tent communities pop up on sidewalks, on the American River Parkway and in front of shelters, and nearby residents and business owners complain. Police roust everyone under the threat of citations and seizure of possessions, and the homeless pull up stakes and go elsewhere, only to return weeks or months later.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Local Budget Deficits

The shortage of funds the city and county are facing will—as it always does—have an inordinate impact on the parks and open space areas, and that is another spur to consider other methods of funding our signature parks.

Signature parks, like the American River Parkway, have such a high profile and are enjoyed by so many people from way beyond the neighborhoods adjacent to them, that they are rather easily promoted as vehicles for philanthropic fund raising; and there are firms that specialize in this type of large-scale fund raising.

One of which is represented by the chair of our Endowment Advisory Group, William Schopfer, who is president of the local firm Fund Development Associates.

The option of forming a Joint Powers Authority, which we announced on yesterday’s blog is a good place to start.

An excerpt from the latest article about the city's deficit.

“Councilwoman Bonnie Pannell compared the city's budget crisis to a sinking boat.

“Councilman Rob Fong said the problems are "structural."

“Anyway you put it, the picture isn't pretty.

“At the very least, that picture came into a bit more focus Tuesday, when the city's finance director briefed the City Council on how severe the situation has become.

“The highlights: a $10.5 million shortfall in the current budget year, two departments that are overspending their budgets and the strong likelihood that more layoffs are coming.

"This is really bad and we need to figure out how to get out of this," said Councilwoman Lauren Hammond.

“Leyne Milstein, the city finance director, said several factors are contributing to the current fiscal year's shortfall.

“An estimated $9 million of the gap has been caused by a drop in city revenue, most of it from sales tax figures that are 11 percent below what city officials projected just last year.

“Another $3 million is due to the overspending of the Police and Fire departments.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Press Release: Call for Parkway JPA


For Immediate Release
January 21, 2009
Sacramento, California


Call for a Joint Powers Authority for the Parkway

The American River Parkway is the most important recreational area in our region, but it has been struggling for several years with some serious problems that have not been dealt with effectively, which we think can be best addressed by forming a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to govern it.

Because of the Parkway’s unique nature as the signature park area in our region, spread out over several separately governed areas, it may be best served through stakeholder Parkway communities within the joint governing entity of a JPA

Another signature park area in our state governed by a JPA —which can serve as an excellent model—is the San Dieguito River Park.

JPA governance will give our Parkway a higher potential for dedicated management and philanthropic fund raising capability instead of having to raise taxes—particularly if the JPA supports eventual formation of a nonprofit conservancy dedicated to the management and ongoing funding of the Parkway—necessary to preserve and enhance its premier local and national status.

We will be investing the next five years in two strategic directions; one concerning the JPA, the other ongoing.

We will focus on encouraging local government to create a JPA—the one idea from our five years of research into practical approaches—that can most significantly impact the critical issues negatively impacting the Parkway.

Our ongoing work will focus on continuing to help build a community knowledge base around the results of our five research reports.

More information about our strategy, including an example of an American River Parkway Joint Powers Agreement, is available on our website.

Organizational Leadership
American River Parkway Preservation Society
Sacramento, California
January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Walking School Buses & Bike Trains

A truly innovative, and also so lovingly old fashioned, the walking school bus and the bike train is the elegant solution to safely getting to school for children, and one of our board members is involved in organizing this great alternative to walking or biking alone.

Here is an excerpt from the Bee article describing this and other methods of getting to school that don’t involve driving, like back-in-the-day for many of us old-timers, when walking or biking to school was the method of almost everyone.

“Reid Briggs, principal of Pleasant Grove Middle School in the Rescue area, said the number of students walking and biking, as well as riding skateboards and scooters, to the campus has increased significantly since a sidewalk was installed along heavily traveled Green Valley Road near the school.

"Today, there are nine bikes out there. In past years, we would have had none," Briggs said on a recent cold, foggy day.

“The number of students walking to school has increased from two or three to about 30, Briggs said.

“In suburban communities like El Dorado Hills, where many students are walking or biking to school, Barton recommends educational programs to boost the number.

“Rebecca Garrison, executive director of the 50 Corridor Transportation Management Association [and ARPPS Board Member], works with schools in El Dorado County and the Folsom Cordova Unified School District to promote activities such as the annual Walk to School Day in October. She encourages schools to organize "walking school buses" and "bike trains."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Folsom Dry & Our Water Policy

Though we still have a lot of rainy season ahead of us—and one prays that there is plenty of rain & snowpack to fill it—the current dry state of Folsom is another reminder of how completely the public leadership in the region and the state has failed to develop a rational water policy.

An excerpt.

“From the moonscape of Granite Bay to high and dry Brown's Ravine, Folsom Lake is looking pretty empty these days – about half as full as normal.

"It's a long walk from the parking lot to the water," said California State Parks' Folsom Sector Superintendent Dan Tynan.

“Unfortunately for thirsty Folsom Lake, there won't be too much rain or snow this week. Clear skies after morning fog are forecast for most of the week. There's only a slight chance of rain Thursday and Friday.

“Water is regularly released from the reservoir – which can hold almost 1 million acre-feet of water – for hydropower and flood control, for fish habitat and for municipal users. An acre-foot of water is about 326,000 gallons.

“The average amount in Folsom Lake this time of year is about 443,000 acre-feet. Currently, there are only 217,000 acre-feet in the lake.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

50 Expansion Approved

In what looks like a great deal all around, the expansion of Highway 50 from Sunrise to Watt looks to be a go and that is very good news for the commuting public; though it remains to be seen whether anyone will ever ride the light rail promised as part of the deal (or all light rail for that matter) in numbers sufficient to pay for itself, as most highways do through the various taxes connected to automobiles, trucks, and suburban developers.

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee article.

“A Sacramento judge gave his OK Friday to what's being called a landmark agreement between state officials and environmentalists to allow carpool lanes on Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova.

“The lawsuit settlement, brokered this week by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, clears a major sticking point in state budget negotiations, legislative leaders said.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has insisted the Highway 50 project and nine others statewide be fast-tracked as part of an economic stimulus package attached to a state budget agreement.

“Legislative Democrats balked on Highway 50 in particular, saying the state should not pre-empt an ongoing environmental lawsuit.

“With Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley's signature in hand, state Transportation Department officials say they plan to start work late this summer on seven miles of carpool lanes between Sunrise Boulevard and Watt Avenue.

"The earlier the better," Caltrans head Will Kempton said. "It's a shot in the arm to the local economy."

“Caltrans planners say the freeway widening will smooth traffic on what has been a troublesome corridor, where congestion occurs in both directions, morning and evening, as some commuters head to downtown Sacramento, others to Rancho Cordova's office parks.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Parks & Open Space Cash Crunch

As this article from the San Francisco Chronicle makes clear, the current period of time will be especially bad for parks and open space projects due to the shortage of cash at most local levels of government.

However, if you can see opportunity within crisis, it is an excellent time to consider a different governance and supplemental financing structure for the Parkway.

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 as it was intended to be cared for, let alone to improve it by adding new land and expanding its educational and recreational assets; particularly during troubled economic times.

The solution we have proposed for stabilizing funding for the American River Parkway is to establish a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of local government entities, to govern the Parkway and contract with a nonprofit organization to provide management and 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.

Another superb example is the San Dieguito River Park in San Diego, California—an excerpt from their website:

“The San Dieguito River Valley Regional Open Space Park Joint Powers Authority, also known as the San Dieguito River Park, is the agency responsible for creating a natural open space park in the San Dieguito River Valley. The Park will someday extend from the ocean at Del Mar to Volcan Mountain, just north of Julian.

“The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority was formed as a separate agency on June 12, 1989, by the County of San Diego and the Cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Poway, San Diego and Solana Beach. It was empowered to acquire, plan, design, improve, operate and maintain the San Dieguito River Park.”

An excerpt from the SF article.

“California's fiscal crisis has derailed 4,000 conservation projects across the state, from restoration of tidal marshes on San Francisco Bay to expansion of the coastal trail, and threatens major land acquisitions on the Sonoma, Big Sur and Mendocino coasts, state officials say.

“Facing a cash crunch, state officials notified 1,100 groups last month that they were losing $647 million in environmental grants that were tied to bond funds issued under voter-approved propositions. Now most of the groups can't meet deadlines to apply for matching funds, pay contractors or fulfill obligations under purchase agreements. Many of them are laying off staff and shutting down work.

"We're very disturbed. There are projects all over the state that could be building parks, improving people's quality of life and providing jobs," said Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation.

“Goldstein, who worked to win funds to restore Yosemite Slough on Candlestick Point in San Francisco's Hunters Point, had to tell plan designers to stop work - which could delay cleanup and restoration of the 34-acre site for bayside wildlife habitat and public access.

“The California Coastal Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Board and other agencies that dole out bond money instructed land trusts, cities, resource agencies and small nonprofits to suspend all work paid from bond sales as of Dec. 17.

“Projects are expected to be halted at least until the state passes a budget and improves its financial standing enough that investors will consider California bonds a solid investment.

“Today, the State Pooled Money Investment Board, which includes the state's treasurer, controller and finance director, will meet to consider whether to ease the freeze on financing for schools, roads, levees, environmental protection, veterans homes and others. The staff has recommended releasing $500 million until the end of the fiscal year in June.”

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Delta, Water & Governance

The final Delta Report is out, reported by the California Chamber of Commerce, and key points are calls for more water storage, a canal, and new governance; specifically mentioning a conservancy for management & fund raising, similar to that which we suggest would fit contractually well with the Joint Powers Authority we call for to govern the American River Parkway.

An excerpt.

“(January 15, 2009) After two years of work and countless meetings by stakeholders, the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force and the Delta Vision Committee, the final report outlining strategies to safeguard the fragile Delta and provide a reliable source of water for millions of Californians was sent to the Governor on December 31.

“The report lays out an ambitious timeline over the next two years to jumpstart strategies.

“Most controversial in the report are the recommendation for dual conveyance of water through and around the Delta and a proposal for a governance council.

“The Delta Vision process was created by executive order in 2006 tasked with finding common ground on the two coequal goals of improving water supply and protecting the fragile resources of the Delta. The disastrous flooding in Louisiana underscored the precariousness of the Delta levees protecting thousands of residents, thousands of acres of farmland and the drinking water source for 25 million Californians.

“Conveyance and Storage

“The report concludes that a dual conveyance system would seem to be the best option to improve water quality in the Delta and provide a reliable source of drinking water to those served by the State Water Project.

“Levees would need to be strengthened to withstand natural disasters like floods or earthquakes. More flexibility to control water flows at certain times of the year would be necessary to balance environmental needs with water supply needs. A peripheral canal would provide flexibility.

“The proposed canal is not a new idea. It was originally proposed in the 1980s, but was the subject of a referendum. More recently, academics have released reports that the peripheral canal must be considered if the Delta is to be preserved. Continuing drought conditions add a sense of urgency to the need to fix the Delta and yet provide sufficient water for people of the state.

“Other key elements of the final report include proposals to build two new reservoirs (the locations are not specified). Additional water storage provides the State Water Project operational flexibility to manage flow requirements for environmental purposes, to improve water quality in the Delta and assure a reliable water supply.

“The plan also calls for fast-tracking the construction of the peripheral canal by the executive branch through the Department of Water Resources. A 1984 legal opinion from the state Attorney General suggests that the Governor could direct Department of Water Resources to break ground on the peripheral canal without approval from the Legislature….

“A new Delta Conservancy would also be established to develop a strategic plan to perform restoration activities in the Delta region, including purchasing and managing lands. The Conservancy would be empowered to enter into contracts, buy and sell land and other property and receive and expend grants as it sees fit, among other powers.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dog Bakeries & The Economy

There are so many shopping and consumer venues we take for granted in today’s economy that were just not even thought of years ago; both a tribute to American entrepreneurism and a lot of discretionary income with the tendency of many Americans to live on the happily extended credit capitalism so often provides.

This article examines that state of affairs in the present crisis.

An excerpt.

“What will happen to the dog bakeries? I ask this question, because this line of business (and perhaps many others) escaped my attention for so long. I saw my first one years ago in suburban St. Louis. As one interested in economics, poverty and history, it struck me that dog bakeries represented a perfect symbol for the many “discretionary” business lines that have been established in recent decades in what has been called the consumer economy.

“This discretionary economy consists of businesses for which do not exist in societies with little discretionary income. It includes in its ranks a host of businesses that did not even exist before the last couple of decades, from dog bakeries, to Starbucks, tony cafes, specialized clothing stores and personal fitness centers. While these businesses might have been attractive to the households of the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, people just didn’t have enough discretionary income to support them.

“Stores specializing in accessories for the bathroom simply did not exist in the immediate post World War II years. There was little, if anything, akin to a Gap store, a Banana Republic or an Abercrombie and Fitch. Few people had either access to or membership in gyms or personal fitness centers. Gyms in those days were often barebones affairs for roughnecks as opposed to the fashionista hangouts of today.

“Even in the 1960s and 1970s, many of the businesses we take for granted today simply did not exist. There were no Starbucks coffee shops. If you wanted espresso, you looked near a college campus or found an Italian neighborhood. Big box stores specializing in pets had not proliferated. Instead there were small stores crowded with everything from hamsters and turtles to birds and bulldogs. I suspect there were no dog bakeries.

“It would be most difficult to reliably estimate the size of the discretionary economy. Much of the discretionary economy lies embedded in the larger service sector. By 2007, the share of private employment in the nation in services had reached 2.5 times the rate of 1947. Within that vast sector are companies which provide goods and services our forebears lived without like gyms, boutique coffee and dog bakeries.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Suburban Renaissance

Here is a very interesting article from the New York Times on what to do with all those suburban homes that are now empty due to the foreclosure crisis.

An excerpt.

“For a long time now I’ve been obsessed with suburban and exurban master-planned communities and how to make them better. But as the economy and the mortgage crisis just seem to get worse, and gas prices continue to plunge, the issues around housing have changed dramatically. The problem now isn’t really how to better design homes and communities, but rather what are we going to do with all the homes and communities we’re left with.

“In urban areas, there’s rich precedent for the transformation or reuse of abandoned lots or buildings. Vacant lots have been converted into pocket parks, community gardens and pop-up stores (or they remain vacant, anxiously awaiting recovery and subsequent conversion into high-end office space condos). Old homes get divided into apartments, old factories into lofts, old warehouses into retail.

“Projects like Manhattan’s High Line show that even derelict train tracks can be turned into something as valuable to citizens as a vibrant public park. A brownfield site in San Francisco has been cleaned up and will house an eco-literacy center for the city’s youth. Hey, even a dump (Fresh Kills, on Staten Island) is undergoing a remarkable metamorphosis into a recreation area.

“But similar transformation within the carefully delineated form of a subdivision is not so simple. These insta-neighborhoods were not designed or built for flexibility or change.

“So what to do with the abandoned houses, the houses that were never completed or the land that was razed for building and now sits empty?”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Building Roads Builds Communities

In this article by the head of the California Dept. of Transportation the argument is made, once again, to open funding for roads—the addition to Highway 50 as one example—and it is an argument that should have carried the day long ago.

The environmentalist movement who oppose roads, claim adding more lanes to freeways encourages “suburban sprawl” or, to those of us who live in suburban Sacramento, better known as “our community”; and we are a small part of the vast majority of people who already do live—or someday dream of living—in a suburban home, with a yard for the kids to play in, relatively safe from crime, and pretty good schools.

An excerpt.

“In a column published in The Bee Jan. 8, Richard Seyman of the Environmental Council of Sacramento implies that the governor wants to "eliminate" environmental protections in the process of delivering the 10 projects in question. What the governor originally proposed was an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act and a permit streamlining process to accelerate the delivery of this targeted work in a way that would still protect the environment.

“The proposal is very similar to exemptions from CEQA that have been granted by the Legislature in the past, and would require Caltrans to consider and mitigate identified impacts for the projects. All 10 of the projects have already completed environmental reviews or are well along in the process. Four of the projects are within the existing state right of way, and only six require an accelerated permitting process.

“To make his case, Seyman focuses on the proposed Highway 50 High Occupancy Vehicle lane project included in the list of projects that the governor is seeking to advance. This project is part of the 20-year Regional Transportation Plan, meaning it has been approved by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and has met air quality conformity requirements for the region. In addition, the HOV lanes are a part of Measure A, a sales tax-funded program that garnered the support of 75 percent of area voters in November 2004.

“With respect to consideration of a transit alternative in this corridor, there is already a light-rail line running parallel to Highway 50.”

Monday, January 12, 2009

K Street, The Endless Punching Bag

It is inevitable that when city leadership has done such a poor job for such a long time in renewing one 10 or 12 blocks of downtown that the endless critical comments do seem just that, endless.

Here is a particularly good set of them, from SN&R.

An excerpt.

“Last year Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Bretón called it “a triumph of entrepreneurial spirit over decades of decay in the urban core of Sacramento.”

“Funny how decay always makes a comeback. The Three Monkeys Grill at the end of K Street is now closed.

“The trendy sushi restaurant and bar was touted by city development officials, armchair planners and cheerleaders of the Mikuni-fication of everything (apologies to Richard Hansen) as a diamond in K Street’s rough.

“Back in the fall of 2007, while the city was slapping around landlord Moe Mohanna with one hand, with the other it was shoveling $640,000 at the owner of the Three Monkeys building, to pay for facade improvements and structural repairs.

“Now, the spot is closed indefinitely, and the city’s Development Services Department is trying to figure out if there’s any way to put together a bailout.

“So here we are again, at the end of another year of the endless war against blight on K Street—ground zero in a “merged downtown redevelopment area,” around since 1955, having sucked up $300 million in public money. Bites is no Libertarian, and thinks government can do wonderful things to make our lives better. But when it comes to K Street, the city needs an exit strategy.

“For example, the city is spending $4 million on “streetscape improvements” to the area—which will at least make K Street the most gorgeously designed no man’s land in the city.” (Highlighting in original)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jerry Brown and Green Sacramento

As a former resident of our fair city, the former governor and current attorney general has some ideas for the developers in our area, and though they may hurt, and though they may be built upon faulty science, he is bound and determined to see them implemented.

This article from Sacramento News & Review reports.

An excerpt.

“The state attorney general wants Sacramento to stop talking about what it plans to do about global warming and just do it.

“California’s top cop Jerry Brown hasn’t been shy about forcing local governments around the state onto the global-warming bandwagon. In 2007, he sued the county of San Bernadino and then threatened to sue the city of Stockton to make them comply with the state’s climate-change plan. Now the A.G. is getting involved in the writing of Sacramento’s general plan—the once-in-a-generation document that guides future development.

“The plan is due to be adopted by the Sacramento City Council in late January. But this summer, as city staff was putting the finishing touches on an environmental-impact report for the plan, Jerry Brown’s deputies intervened, saying the plan skirted Sacramento’s responsibility to help fight global warming.

“We thought we were doing a great job. We thought maybe we’d get a letter from the A.G. saying we were doing a great job,” said Tom Pace, the city’s long range planning manager. Instead, he got a letter saying nice try, but there was “substantial room for improvement” in the city’s plan.

“The city’s general-plan process has been underway for four years. During that time, planners and policy-makers have crafted a whole range of development guidelines, including rules on housing affordability, the city’s development boundaries and the mix of office, commercial and residential properties.

“The plan anticipates nearly 40 percent population growth in the city. Planners estimate that there will 100,000 new housing units, 140,000 new jobs and 200,000 new people in the city of Sacramento by the year 2030.

“The last big overhaul of the city’s general plan was in 1988. Back then, the phrase “suburban sprawl” hadn’t entered common usage. Even the notion of “global warming” was still unfamiliar to most.

“Recognizing the realities of the 21st century, Pace says the city’s new general plan turns the old development patterns upside down. The new plan calls for the two-thirds of future growth to be directed into already developed areas of the city. That means shoehorning thousands of new homes, shops and offices into downtown, into empty lots in existing neighborhoods and along existing commercial corridors, like 65th Street and Florin Road.

“By contrast, one-third of the new growth will be “greenfield” development, constructed on presently undeveloped land in areas like Delta Shores, the south part of the city, or Greenbriar and the Panhandle in Natomas.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Zero Tolerance on Panhandling

This move by Dallas (after the jump read the comments, which are excellent and similar to what we find here) to control the panhandling and hassling of the public in the downtown area is commendable and one hopes it has the desired results.

One also hopes that someday our downtown considers implementing a similar policy, which extends to public intoxication and sleeping in public.

An excerpt.

“Dallas police, aided by a private force of security officers employed by business advocacy group DowntownDallas, will today begin enforcing a "zero tolerance" policy that applies to panhandling, as well as other minor offenses such as public intoxication and sleeping in public.

"It is critical that the private and public sectors work together to continue these types of public safety efforts which continue to improve our community," DowntownDallas President and Chief Executive Officer John Crawford wrote in an e-mail last night.

“The policy takes effect just as 24 additional police officers begin patrolling the downtown area, which in recent years has added several thousand new full-time residents primarily living in formerly vacant office towers converted into apartments and condominiums.”

Friday, January 09, 2009

The Delta, The Parkway & Governance

Independent governance of valuable natural and public resources is becoming a strategy of innovative public policy, and so it is with the condition established by the Nature Conservancy to support the peripheral canal, as this article notes.

This is also the policy we advocate for the Parkway, independent, dedicated governance through a joint powers authority contracting with a nonprofit organization to provide management and fund raising for the Parkway, which is suffering mightily during a period of shrinking government funding.

An excerpt.

“One of the nation's largest environmental groups has decided to support building a controversial new water canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“In a statement expected today, the Nature Conservancy calls a canal diverting the Sacramento River around the Delta an "essential component" to restore the estuary and protect water supplies. It thus becomes the first major environmental group to publicly support the project.

“But the conservancy wants a new and independent governing agency formed first, to ensure that the canal is operated both to enhance the environment and protect water supplies. Resolving such thorny issues is why the group chose to express conditional support for the canal now.

"We need to explore something that's new and has more independence, and we need to do that as soon as possible," said Anthony Saracino, the conservancy's California water program director. "The trick really isn't in the engineering; it's in the governance."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Green House

A great award for Folsom, reported by the Bee, as a house built there garners a national award for environmental efficiency.

An excerpt.

“It began as a one-of-a-kind house, a partnership between the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and a Folsom home builder, to test the newest green-building techniques.

“It turned into one of the greenest, most energy-efficient homes built in the United States.

“Tuesday, SMUD announced that a new 1,940-square-foot Mormon Street House near Folsom's historic downtown received a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C. The Davis-based Davis Energy Group inspects and verifies materials and practices that lead to the certification.

“The highest honor in green home building, the designation is thought to be the third for a new house in California and first in the capital region. The other two are in Santa Monica and the Oakland Hills.”

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Sacramento Transportation Planning

A new plan released by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) continues the unbalanced approach to governmental transportation funding; allocating over 40% percent (compared to 20% by the Federal government) of funds to the tiny minority of people (about 1-3%) who use mass transit, bikes or walk, and only a little over 50% for the huge majority (97-99%) of people who transport themselves by car.

I blogged on an excellent article about transportation spending awhile ago.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“The MTP2035 invests $41.7 billion in a variety of programs and projects: $14.3 billion for transit; $12.4 billion for road maintenance; $11.3 billion for road capital projects; $2.3 billion for programs, planning and transportation enhancements; and $1.4 billion for bicycle and pedestrian projects.”

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


It is good to see the continued growth in midtown, as reported in the Bee, and one hopes it eventually spurs the corresponding energy in downtown, though without a new perspective on how to approach K Street—which our new mayor might just have—that could go a-begging.

An excerpt.

“Plans for another multistory condo complex in midtown could soon be moving forward despite continuing hard times in the housing market.

“The project in question is at the southeast corner of 16th and P streets, on land owned by the Capitol Area Development Authority.

“Three developers have responded to the agency's request for proposals on the site – and all will be presenting their ideas at a CADA board meeting Jan. 30.

“A final selection could come March 20, leaving enough time for a particularly quick-moving developer to get permits and financing, demo the existing building there and still begin new construction by early next year.”

Monday, January 05, 2009

Illegal Camping Concern Spreads

It is very good to see other organizations expressing concern, such as this article from Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, (p. 1) and taking an active interest in the illegal camping situation in the Parkway, which has virtually destroyed the ability of the folks in the adjacent communities to enjoy their part of the Parkway safely.

An excerpt.

"Bicyclists and other users of the Sacramento Northern bikeway access to the American River Parkway are keenly aware of the illegal camping, loitering, drinking and other substance abuse that occurs between the trailhead off C Street (between 19th and 20th streets ) and the “Pipe Bridge.”

"While this activity doesn’t bother some people, it prevents others from using the access trail in downtown Sacramento to reach the parkway because they are afraid of being the victim of a crime. Every time there is a murder or high-profile crime in this area behind the Blue Diamond Almond complex, that perception is underscored.

"The latest murder occurred on April 30 [2008]. An article in the Sacramento Bee described how longtime illegal camper Michael Tinius, 47, was stabbed to death near the access trail by two men when he intervened to protect another illegal camper.

"Two men were arrested and charged with the murder of Tinius and attempted murder of the man Tinius was trying to protect."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hoover’s Zoning

A very nice comment on the zoning codes that this article claims hurts the development of those great places that people love to congregate in and suggests scrapping the codes, and it is a pretty good case.

An excerpt.

“What is the single most significant change that can be made in every town and city in America? One that would aid economic development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, foster healthier lifestyles, reduce dependence on foreign oil, protect open space and wildlife habit, and reduce wasteful government spending?

“Scrapping zoning codes.

“Take any great place that people love to visit. You know, those lively tourist haunts from Nantucket to San Francisco. Those red hot neighborhoods from Seattle’s Capital Hill to Miami Beach’s Art Deco district. Those healthy downtowns from Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinois to Charleston, South Carolina. What do they all have in common?

“The mix of uses that gives them life are outlawed by zoning in virtually every city and town in all 50 states.

“Widespread adoption of zoning is a legacy of Herbert Hoover. As Commerce Secretary, he pushed zoning regulations to cure “the enormous losses in human happiness and in money, which have resulted from lack of city plans which take into account the conditions of modern life.” He championed the “Standard Zoning Enabling Act” to address “the moral and social issues that can only be solved by a new conception of city building.” After the Supreme Court upheld zoning in 1926, zoning — and sprawl — spread from sea to shining sea.

“The high court based its decision on the need to protect health and safety by “excluding from residential areas the confusion and danger of fire, contagion and disorder which in greater or less degree attach to the location of store, shops and factories.” The quite sensible idea that people shouldn’t live next to steel mills was used to justify a system of “zones” to isolate uses that had lived in harmony for centuries. Suddenly, new neighborhoods were segregated by income, and commerce was torn asunder from both customers and workers. Timeless ways of creating great places were ruthlessly outlawed.”

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Delta Canal

This article from the Bee reports that a peripheral canal could be built without legislative or voter approval as it is already authorized.

An excerpt.

“A panel of state leaders is calling for California to begin building a canal to divert water around the Delta by 2011, without approval from lawmakers or voters.

“The final report released late Friday by the Delta Vision Committee, made up of five state Cabinet secretaries, thrusts the controversial canal into the top tier of California political battles.

“The canal would divert a portion of the Sacramento River around the Delta in order to protect a freshwater supply serving 25 million Californians from earthquakes, floods and sea level rise. It is a modern-day version of the peripheral canal rejected by voters in 1982.

“Natural Resources Secretary Mike Chrisman, chairman of the committee, asserts that the state has the authority under existing laws to build the canal. The price tag is at least $15 billion, and many water agencies that would benefit have said they would pay the bill.

"We think it's a reasonable goal to set," Chrisman said of the 2011 construction target. "We don't need the Legislature to do that. We already have that authority. Some members of the Legislature don't agree."

Friday, January 02, 2009

Wishing & Fishing

Be careful what you wish for seems appropriate in this story about the protected—due to a 1972 law—sea lions eating the protected salmon at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers.

The well intended wishing to protect the sea lions may be contributing to the decline in salmon fishing, at least for the human fishers; sea lions are doing just fine. :)

An excerpt.

“Ask a Sacramento angler for reasons why Central Valley salmon populations have crashed over the past two years, and this is likely to be high on the list:

"Dozens of sea lions that live between Rio Vista and Verona year-round," said Sacramento fisherman Terry Horst. "That's a major problem because they eat tons of fish a day."

“Scientific brain power has been applied in thick doses to many aspects of the alarming fish declines in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta – from weather patterns to water pollution. No one with a science degree, however, has had anything to say about sea lions.

“Now Mark Dendy, a professor of biology and natural resources at American River College, has produced a survey of the Delta sea lion population. And, yes, there are resident sea lions, though not nearly as many as fishermen think.

“According to Dendy, five individual California sea lions live most of the year in the Sacramento River. They account for most sightings between Isleton and Colusa.

“These five spend much of their time in the river near downtown Sacramento, at the confluence with the American River. Dendy has seen them eating catfish and striped bass. But their favorite appears to be chinook salmon – as many as one every 45 minutes...

“Since 1972, the Marine Mammal Protection Act has made killing and harassing sea lions a crime. The law followed steep population declines caused by hunting for fur and blubber, and it was a success.

“The population of California sea lions is not endangered and now could be as high as 300,000, with an annual growth rate near 6 percent, according to 2007 federal data.”

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Hatcheries as Atonement?

Environmentalism as religion is a topic we have blogged on several times and we addressed the concept in our 2006 report (pp. 19-31); and every once in awhile the belief peeks out from its scientific cover as in this story describing salmon fish hatcheries as ‘atonement’ for dams.

Rather than ‘atoning’ for the ‘sin’ of building dams, fish hatcheries are an excellent example of human technology at work increasing the ability of the natural order to replenish itself, as human beings have been doing for millennia.

An excerpt.

“Salmon hatcheries report on their egg collection

“The Nimbus Hatchery on the American River has met its annual quota for spawning fall-run chinook salmon, collecting 6.7 million eggs from returning adult fish.

“This will allow the Department of Fish and Game to meet its target to raise and release 4 million young salmon as a regulatory atonement for the loss of natural habitat caused by dams.”