Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Cars of America’s Youth

For those of us—and your humble blogger is one—whose formative years were spent in abject worship of the great American cars of the mid-twentieth century, this column from the Wall Street Journal will resonate.

An excerpt.

“How long before the midnight drag races return on dark and dusty roads?

“When Barack Obama announced that the government will use its fist to wave onto the highways of America cars that get 39 miles to a gallon of liquefied switch grass or something, he said, "Everybody wins."

“Everybody? What country has he been living in? This marks the end of the internal combustion engine as we knew it, and it is the way Americans have defined, designed and literally driven much of the nation's culture for as long as anyone can remember. Car culture is America's culture.

"Mr. Obama is fond of giving people iPods as gifts. I've got a playlist for Mr. Obama's iPod.

"Track 1: "Shut Down" by the Beach Boys. Clip: "Superstock Dodge is windin' out in low/But my fuel-injected Stingray's really startin' to go. To get the traction I'm ridin' the clutch/My pressure plate's burnin', this machine's too much."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Delta Vision Foundation Meeting Announcement


Friday, May 29, 2009
Julie Dixon, / 916-446-1058
Nicole Lampe, / 415-341-4521

Delta Vision Foundation Grades State Progress On Delta and Water Policy
Sacramento event will highlight lack of action on the Delta Vision Strategic Plan

WHAT: The Delta Vision Foundation (formerly the Governor’s Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force) will hold a public meeting in downtown Sacramento this Monday to release a mid-term Report Card on the state’s performance in shaping policy to restore the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and ensure a reliable water supply for California. The Report Card assesses the progress of the Governor, the California Legislature, and specific policy proposals to adopt and implement key recommendations and strategies identified in the Delta Vision Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan, released in October 2008, is designed to ensure long-term sustainable management of the Delta. For more information see:

WHEN: Monday, June 1, from 10 am to 3pm (Press availability from 3-4pm)

WHERE: California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Conference Center
1020 11th Street, 2nd Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814

WHO: Members of the Delta Vision Foundation, including:
Phil Isenberg, Chair
Monica Florian
Richard Frank
Thomas McKernan
Sunne Wright McPeak
William Reilly
Raymond Seed, Ph.D.
John Kirlin, Executive Director
Associated stakeholders

Directions to the CSAC Conference Center

The CSAC Conference Center is located at 1020 11th Street, 2nd Floor between K Street & J Street. The entrance to the center is located between the Pyramid Restaurant patio and Smith Gallery across from the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament main entrance on 11th Street. The building has a black awning with gold diamonds.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bikes & Cars

Well, May is bike month and for the first quarter, as reported by Fast Company, it appears that more bikes were sold nationally than cars, surely a first, and no wonder the Parkway trail is getting more crowded.

An excerpt.

“Both automobile and bicycle purchases fell overall in the first quarter of 2009, but in a surprising twist, bike sales trumped car sales (2.6 million bicycles vs. 2.5 million cars). And while bike sales are down 30% overall from the first quarter of 2008, it's a slower drop than car sales, which are down over 35%. Granted, bikes are much cheaper than cars--many college students can afford a brand new bike but would be hard-pressed to purchase a car. Still, Dennis Markatos, founder of Sustainable Energy Transition, thinks it is also an indicator of a growing bike culture in the U.S.”

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Planet Water

This new book, which examines the world shortage of fresh potable water, takes an entrepreneurial approach by looking at all of the opportunities for investments in the ongoing efforts to increase global water supply.

An excerpt from Amazon’s product description of Planet Water: Investing in the World's Most Valuable Resource.

“Solving the world's water problems is proving to be one of the greatest investment opportunities of our time. Already, world water supplies are inadequate to meet demand, and the problem is going to get much worse in the years ahead. The World Bank estimates that 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and about 50 percent of the world's hospital beds are populated by people who have contracted water-borne diseases. If present consumption rates continue, in 25 years the world will be using 90 percent of all available freshwater. To address the problem, trillions of dollars will need to be invested in water infrastructure projects. And while the problems are most acute in developing and rapidly growing economies, there are huge water infrastructure needs in industrialized countries, as well. In the U.S. alone, it's estimated that more than $1 trillion will be needed for water and wastewater infrastructure projects. In Planet Water, water investment expert Steven Hoffmann explains the dynamics driving the water crisis and identifies investment opportunities in various sectors of the water industry. Hoffman provides investors with the knowledge and insights they need to make informed investments in water utilities, as well as companies providing water treatment services; infrastructure services; water monitoring and analytics; and desalination services. He also discusses mutual funds and ETFs that specialize in water stocks. Investing in the water industry is certainly no pie-in-the-sky idea. Over the past five years, many water stocks have exploded in value and water stocks as a whole have outperformed the S&P 500 by a substantial amount. In Planet Water, Hoffmann provides investors with everything they need to profit from this fast-growing industry in the years ahead.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sacramento is A Fit City

The Sacramento Business Journal reports that Sacramento has come in 12th as most fit city in the US, but we dropped a place since last year.

Surely the Parkway plays a role in the fitness of the city.

An excerpt.

"Sacramento ranked No. 12 on a list of fittest and healthiest cities put out by the American College of Sports Medicine.

"San Francisco, Oakland and the East Bay came in at No. 5 and San Jose No. 13 on the list, compiled from data on healthy behavior, exercise, chronic disease, access to parks and numbers of smokers as well as other factors.

"Los Angeles came in No. 30 on the list, which counted the 50 most populous metro areas.

"Last year San Francisco was No. 4, Sacramento No. 11, San Jose No. 13 and Los Angeles No. 28.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California’s Lost Coast

We were privileged guests at the most beautiful wedding celebration we have ever attended over the weekend, and as it was such a wonderful testimony to the magnificent grandeur of the natural beauty of our state, I wanted to share it with you.

Before Sunday the most beautiful wedding we had attended was in a canyon retreat center next to the ocean by Malibu several years ago—which was truly extraordinary— but this wedding in the Lost Coast area of Northern California, has replaced that as the most beautiful and enjoyable wedding celebration we have ever been blessed to experience.

From the exquisite setting, the elegant ceremony with cellist, the terrific company of the other guests, the wonderful food and service, and the absolutely stunning drive from our Bed & Breakfast room in the Victorian community of Ferndale to the wedding site at Mattole Campground along the banks of the Mattole River between Petrolia and Honeydew—surely one of the most enchanting and magnificent drives in the United States—was truly and will surely remain, one of our most treasured experiences.

The National Geographic has a nice map of the area.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

California’s Budget & the Parkway

As the budget crisis continues, one option being discussed at the state level is stopping all general fund support for parks (see highlight below), as reported in the Bee today, and unfortunately, this is a reality that might be played out in many other jurisdictions, including our county.

Parks and recreation just do not have the place in the queue—and rightly so—that public safety does; which is why many jurisdictions are forming partnerships with other government entities through a Joint Power Authority (JPA), and/or contracting with nonprofits to manage and develop funding for their prestige parks.

The solution we have proposed for stabilizing funding for the American River Parkway is to establish a JPA of local government entities to govern the Parkway and creating a nonprofit American River Parkway conservancy 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 20, 2009.

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.

“Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger abandoned plans to seek billions in emergency loans to help close a gaping budget hole Thursday, the same day that the Obama administration said it would not provide guarantees for such transactions.

“Additionally, the state legislative analyst estimated the state deficit would rise by $3 billion and proposed solutions that include a salary cut for state workers.

“The Republican governor said his decision to withdraw his proposal for $5.5 billion in short-term borrowing stemmed partly from the federal government's decision and partly from Tuesday's vote.

“The development marks more bad news for a state facing a huge shortfall, massive program cuts and an even more pressing problem, a cash-flow crunch that could leave it unable to pay all its bills by summer….

“Options included eliminating the Healthy Families program that provides medical, dental and vision care to needy children; eliminating the state's welfare-to-work program, CalWORKs; eliminating the Cal Grant program of college aid; eliminating general fund support for state parks; and trimming the number of inmates, rehabilitation programs and other costs of state prisons.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009

On the Parkway

The annual reminder from the Sacramento Bee that being on the Parkway trail can be dangerous and the rules of the trail need to be understood to give everyone a safer and more enjoyable experience.

We have long advocated that additional trails need to be constructed, (see page 15 in our report on recreation) and here you can see a drawing of a trail design that works for walkers, horses and bikes) it is obvious that pedestrian-dedicated trails need to be separate from the bike-dedicated ones, and the photo accompany the article says it all.

An excerpt.

“It's time again for our spring public service message of dos, don'ts and no-one-could-be-that-dumbs of the American River Parkway.

“Plus, we've got that great photo.

“If you've seen the shot, you know. Best. Bike. Trail. Photo. Ever. If you haven't or are just learning the ways of the trail, it's on Page D6, and it's everything you need to know. Sacramento County's chief ranger, Steve Flannery, would love to post it at parkway entrances and maybe make it into a T-shirt.

“Flannery and the county manage the first 22 miles or so of the parkway, then, roughly at Hazel Avenue and heading east, it becomes the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area and California State Parks territory. With Memorial Day weekend coming, both teams expect every foot of the trail to be busy.

“Which gets back to the larger point: 'Tis the season to get outside, perchance to go for a run, hop on a bike or just take the kids for a stroll. And where you gonna go?

“Probably, the bike trail – officially the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail – one of the longest and, I say, the best urban bike/run/hike/horse/ skate/dog/deer/skunk/ snake/various-other-critter trails in America.

“Which brings up the first and simplest point. Things are what they are out there. It's a mixed-use trail – some people will cycle fast, some will ride slow, there will be large groups of runners and cyclists, and there will be families or folks with dogs. (Also, it's always been called the bike trail, just because, so don't expect any name changes.)

“In short, as Flannery says, everyone is welcome out there – just be a good citizen.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


As a fervent admirer of the suburban lifestyle and its attendant amenities, I am always interested in new slants on the ancient way of living outside of the center city cores, and this new article from New Geography is surely that.

An excerpt.

“Much has been written about how suburbs have taken people away from the city and that now suburbanites need to return back to where they came. But in reality most suburbs of large cities have grown not from the migration of local city-dwellers but from migration from small towns and the countryside.

“It is true that suburban areas have been growing strongly, while core cities have tended to grow much more slowly or even to decline. The predominance of suburban growth is not just an American phenomenon, but is fairly universal in the high income world).

“This is true in both auto-oriented and transit oriented environments. Suburbs have accounted for more than 90 percent of growth in Japan’s metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 residents, both those with high transit market shares and those with high auto market shares, The same is true in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“In Western Europe, where vaunted transit systems carry a far smaller share of travel than cars, all growth and then some has been in the suburbs, as overall core city populations have declined. Indeed, the same trend is well underway in middle and lower income world urban areas. In such places as Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Manila, Shanghai, Kolkata, and Jakarta, nearly all population growth has occurred in the suburbs, rather than the core cities.

“As the world faces a more expensive energy future and as efforts are intensified to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it is sometimes suggested that people need to “move back” to the cities. This is a dubious and needless strategy, which reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics of metropolitan growth.

“Most suburban growth is not the result of declining core city populations, but is rather a consequence of people moving from rural areas and small towns to the major metropolitan areas. It is the appeal of large metropolitan places that drives suburban growth.

“Larger metropolitan areas have more lucrative employment opportunities and generally have higher incomes than smaller metropolitan areas. This is particularly the case in developing countries. As a result, the big urban areas attract people seeking to escape what are often the stagnant or even declining economies in smaller areas.

“There are, of course, significant individual exceptions. Virtually all of the first world core cities that have achieved a population of more than 400,000 – if they have not expanded their boundaries and did not have substantial empty land for development – experienced losses to 2000. Yet even in most of these cases, the majority of suburban growth was from outside the metropolitan areas, rather than from the core cities. For example:

• St. Louis is a champion among the ranks of population losers, having lost the greatest percentage of its population of any large municipality in the world, (dropping from nearly 860,000 in 1950 to 350,000 in 2000). Indeed, it may be fair to say that St. Louis has lost more of its population than any city since the Romans sacked Carthage. Yet, even in St. Louis, 60 percent of suburban growth was from outside the metropolitan area, rather than from the city.

• Few core cities have lost the nearly 1,000,000 residents that have fled Detroit since 1950. Yet, even in Detroit, 65 percent of suburban growth was from outside the metropolitan area, rather than from the city.

• The city of Chicago lost 725,000 residents between 1950 and 2000, yet 82 percent of the suburban growth was from outside the metropolitan area. “

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Decision Day

As another day of decision arrives, between what California has been and should be again (a vibrant and prosperous state that attracts people to it in droves, or an over-taxed, over-regulated, slowly dying on-the-vine region that has more people leaving than arriving) here is an editorial from the Wall Street Journal worthy of a read.

An excerpt.

“Californians head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of six ballot initiatives, all of which are ostensibly designed to combat the Golden State's budget crisis. If the polls are right, all but one of these measures will crash and burn -- and by wide margins. A reckoning for liberal tax and spend governance may finally be arriving.

“We have some sympathy for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was elected to fix this mess six years ago. His original mistake was to accept a token bipartisan fix when he was most popular, and once the unions crushed his reform initiatives in 2005 he had little leverage over the Democrats who run the legislature. So he's now decided to settle for the lowest common denominator reform that both parties can agree to, which isn't nearly enough considering the magnitude of the state's fiscal and economic problems.

“By far the most consequential initiative is Proposition 1A, which is favored by most of the Sacramento political class. Prop 1A creates a rainy day fund of up to 12.5% of the budget and imposes a new annual spending cap. It would divert 3% of revenues during economic boom years into the rainy day fund that can only be spent during recessions. Mr. Schwarzenegger is correct that this is a sensible reform, because for 40 years the state has endured revenue booms and busts.

“Alas, the cap is far weaker than the Gann Amendment that passed with 74% of the vote in 1979, as the sister initiative to Proposition 13, and helped usher in a decade of budget surpluses. The Gann Amendment -- until public unions neutered it in the early 1990s -- imposed a ceiling on spending at the level of population growth plus inflation; when revenues exceeded that limit, the money was returned to taxpayers.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

California & the Nation’s Economic Troubles

This column is an interesting take, with a substantial amount of truth—as one expects from Dan Walters at the Sacramento Bee—on the role of our fair state in the economic meltdown.

An excerpt.

“Memo to Californians from everyone else in the world: You folks out there in sunshine land caused this historic global recession, and it's time for you to mend your ways.

“Farfetched? Not really.

“A very good case can be made that California's developers, mortgage lenders and house-hungry but income- deficient residents, with state and local officials as enablers, created an unsustainable housing bubble. And when that bubble burst, leaving holders of mortgage bundles – many of them overseas banks – with little more than toilet paper, it created a banking crisis that spread to virtually every other segment of the global economy.

“No, it was not confined to California. It happened in a few other high-growth states such as Florida, Arizona and Nevada. But nine of the 10 top issuers of subprime and no-documentation mortgages were headquartered in California, and the state has been ground zero for the collapse of those mortgages as adjustable interest rates "reset" upward, having recorded more than a half-million foreclosures and other symbols of distress.

“Currently, another 400,000 home loans in the state are delinquent because the economic crisis that was spawned by the banking crisis means hundreds of thousands of California families have lost their incomes – folks who were reasonably good credit risks originally – and cannot make their mortgage payments.

“Even those still employed, moreover, feel threatened and are cutting back on spending, which means a big hit on the retail segment of the economy, as demonstrated by the collapse of two department store chains and the closure of dozens of auto dealerships. New car sales this year are expected to be about half of what they were a few years ago, and sales tax revenue is crashing.

“There are a few signs that the national recession could be coming to a close, but that doesn't mean California will return to prosperity soon.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

River Safety

We applaud this safety effort from public leadership to reduce drowning in our rivers, and to the Sacramento Bee and other local media who covered it.

As with most public safety related issues, a little bit of education goes a long way.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“They are two of the Sacramento region's most prized natural resources – ecological marvels that offer beauty to the landscape and recreation to its residents.

“They also offer heartbreak and loss.

“If history holds true, eight people will drown in the Sacramento and American rivers this year, most of them in the coming months.

“The victims will lose their footing on uneven river bottoms, or fall victim to a current, or tire while swimming and slip below the water's surface, becoming part of the rivers' sorrowful legacy.

“So deadly are the bodies of water that the Sacramento area's open-water drowning rate is nearly twice the national average – and growing, according to a study by Niko King, a battalion chief with the Sacramento Fire Department. (His study did not include drownings in places like swimming pools, spas or sloughs in the county.)

“Over the last 37 years, an average of about six people have drowned in the rivers annually in Sacramento County. In the last five years, however, that average has climbed to eight. In 2008, the last year of the study, the total was 11.

“The statistics are "alarming," King said, but critical in underscoring for the public the dangers they face at a river.

“King said many people "just don't know the hazards exist."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Our Community & Community Colleges

While the number of four year universities in the Sacramento region continues to grow; the health of our community college system—one of the best in the state and playing a larger role in the long-term economic viability of our area than may be immediately apparent—can always be rejuvenated by strategic government action.

A report from the Brookings Institution suggests a way, as noted in this news item.

An excerpt.

“To renew America’s status as the world’s leader in college attainment, the federal government needs to transform America’s community colleges and equip them for the 21st century. This long-overdue investment should establish national goals and a related performance measurement system; provide resources to drive college performance toward those goals; stimulate greater innovation in community college policies and practices to enhance the quality of subbaccalaureate education; and support data systems to track student and institutional progress and performance.

“America’s Challenge

Over the last two centuries, the United States created an advantage over other countries by helping our citizens attain formal education, generating an able workforce and technological advancement. Yet U.S. higher educational attainment, long considered a ladder to economic and social success, has stalled, and now reinforces inequalities between rich and poor America. Community colleges represent an affordable, accessible route for a wide income spectrum of students to access well-paying, high-demand jobs, as well as further education. But low degree completion rates at these institutions raise serious challenges for public policy efforts to achieve robust, broad-based economic growth.

“Limitations of Existing Federal Policy

Between 2000-2001 and 2005-2006 total enrollment in community colleges grew by 2.3 million students, more than in any other higher educational sector. The current economic downturn is spurring further increases. Yet community colleges receive less than one-third the level of direct federal government support as do public four-year colleges. This matters as economic research indicates that a relative decline in post-secondary funding diminishes degree completion. While all public colleges and universities rely on non-tuition revenue, community colleges depend disproportionately upon state and local governments, currently under severe budget pressure. Only the federal government has the capacity to raise expectations for community college performance and support the necessary investments to achieve those goals at a scale commensurate with the growing demands facing over 1,000 community colleges nationwide.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

Crisis and Contemplation

During times of great crisis—as today appears to be—it is always worthwhile to take a deep breath occasionally and contemplate the larger issues that might be driving the crisis, and one of those is surely how we in the industrialized-world club, which is the club everyone on the planet is attempting to become members of; generate our energy.

How we generate our energy to build and sustain our modern lifestyle—a lifestyle that has increased life spans, dramatically improved our health, and is slowly bringing all the people of the planet into the embrace of the wonders of the 21st Century—is crucial, and the attack on the use of carbon based sources is looked at in this article from City Journal.

An excerpt.

“Like medieval priests, today’s carbon brokers will sell you an indulgence that forgives your carbon sins. It will run you about $500 for 5 tons of forgiveness—about how much the typical American needs every year. Or about $2,000 a year for a typical four-person household. Your broker will spend the money on such things as reducing methane emissions from hog farms in Brazil.

“But if you really want to make a difference, you must send a check large enough to forgive the carbon emitted by four poor Brazilian households, too—because they’re not going to do it themselves. To cover all five households, then, send $4,000. And you probably forgot to send in a check last year, and you might forget again in the future, so you’d best make it an even $40,000, to take care of a decade right now. If you decline to write your own check while insisting that to save the world we must ditch the carbon, you are just burdening your already sooty soul with another ton of self-righteous hypocrisy. And you can’t possibly afford what it will cost to forgive that.

“If making carbon this personal seems rude, then think globally instead. During the presidential race, Barack Obama was heard to remark that he would bankrupt the coal industry. No one can doubt Washington’s power to bankrupt almost anything—in the United States. But China is adding 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electrical capacity a year. That’s another whole United States’ worth of coal consumption added every three years, with no stopping point in sight. Much of the rest of the developing world is on a similar path.

“Cut to the chase. We rich people can’t stop the world’s 5 billion poor people from burning the couple of trillion tons of cheap carbon that they have within easy reach. We can’t even make any durable dent in global emissions—because emissions from the developing world are growing too fast, because the other 80 percent of humanity desperately needs cheap energy, and because we and they are now part of the same global economy. What we can do, if we’re foolish enough, is let carbon worries send our jobs and industries to their shores, making them grow even faster, and their carbon emissions faster still.

“We don’t control the global supply of carbon.

“Ten countries ruled by nasty people control 80 percent of the planet’s oil reserves—about 1 trillion barrels, currently worth about $40 trillion. If $40 trillion worth of gold were located where most of the oil is, one could only scoff at any suggestion that we might somehow persuade the nasty people to leave the wealth buried. They can lift most of their oil at a cost well under $10 a barrel. They will drill. They will pump. And they will find buyers. Oil is all they’ve got.

“Poor countries all around the planet are sitting on a second, even bigger source of carbon—almost a trillion tons of cheap, easily accessible coal. They also control most of the planet’s third great carbon reservoir—the rain forests and soil. They will keep squeezing the carbon out of cheap coal, and cheap forest, and cheap soil, because that’s all they’ve got. Unless they can find something even cheaper. But they won’t—not any time in the foreseeable future.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Suburban Heavens & Urban Planners

As one who believes that suburban living, especially in California, is really the cat’s meow, I am always interested in articles that take a critically reasonable look at the wave of urban planning that decries suburban living and seems to want us all to live in crammed together houses without cars or yards.

This article from New Geography is one such article.

An excerpt.

“Smart Growth and New Urbanism have increasingly merged into a loosely aligned set of ideas. The benefits of this high-density housing viewpoint are fast becoming a ‘given’ to planners and city governments, but studies that promote the advantages often omit the obvious disadvantages. Here are some downsides that show a much different story:

“Smart Growth or Dumb Idea?

“One goal of Smart Growth is to move our society away from dependence on cars, and many Smart Growth plans intentionally make it difficult to drive through the neighborhood, making walking more inviting. Smart Growth planners advocate short blocks in a grid pattern to distribute traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) evenly within a development. These short blocks produce a multitude of 4-way intersections, and add a multitude of those trendy “turnabouts,” to make a bland site plan look more interesting.

“But all of this together destroys “flow”. On the other hand, in a grid planned neighborhood you might drive a straight line with an occasional turn, giving the impression of a much shorter drive than a curved subdivision. But with short blocks, a driver must stop completely, pause, then when safe accelerate through the intersection onto the next intersection, then repeat… multiple times. This scenario uses a tremendous amount of energy; the car eats gas. …

“Nobody can argue against the character of a tree-lined street… no one, that is, except the city Public Works department that must maintain structures being destroyed by trees growing in close confines to concrete walks and curbs. Smart Growth/New Urbanist compact front yard spaces are typically 10 feet or less. This simply cannot provide for enough room for tree growth when there is a 4’ wide walk typically a few feet away from the curb, the area where street trees grow. Without trees to define the street, these solutions have very little organic life to offset the vast volume of paving in front of each porch”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Homeless in LA

The results of a concentration of services in one area of Los Angeles—a situation all too common in many cities, including Sacramento—reveals the desperate measures and crimogenic environments that many in the homeless population create as they struggle to survive, in an article from the Los Angeles Times.

It is another story in a long parade of stories that lend credence to the scattered-site approach to services—especially housing services—we wrote about in a Commentary published in the Sacramento Bee May 12, 2008 and posted to our website—third press release post down.

An excerpt from the Los Angeles Times article.

“Los Angeles police have discovered that the shuttered Channel 13 studios on La Brea Avenue in Hollywood has become a haven for homeless squatters.

“Officers found squalid conditions inside the landmark building, including discarded hypodermic needles, piles of trash, makeshift bedding in office cubicles and human filth on the floors and walls.

"I was disgusted. There was literally a hill of trash, 3 feet high and 20 feet wide in the middle of the main office," said Arthur Gallegos, the LAPD's senior lead officer for the area. "They had water and electricity. The offices were like hotel rooms, including a television and a clothing dresser. They put pornography up on the wall."

“Police moved in and evicted more than a dozen squatters. But Peter Nichols, Founder of the Melrose Action Neighborhood Watch, said that it represents a larger problem for the area, especially in the deteriorating economy.

"Police have discovered encampments on roofs of businesses, in crawl spaces under homes, in the yards of foreclosed or unoccupied homes or apartments and behind garages on homeowners' properties," Nichols said. "It should be noted that in almost all these cases, it hasn't been people seeking shelter, it's people doing drugs, illegal sex acts or hiding stolen contraband."…

“Gallegos said that in many of his contacts with area homeless a high percentage have warrants or previous arrests. Several of the transients who had occupied the old KCOP building had previous arrest and prison records. …

“Transients already are drawn to the area by services that include free food, medical care and a needle exchange.

"There is no reason for them to leave," Gallegos said.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Idealism Meets Realism

Having a pristine environment where it is always green is an ideal probably all of us can agree would be worth having, but the path to it often lies through some serious thickets of reality, as this article from the Bee about green power and power lines notes.

It is also an issue that developed in Australia, reported by the Wall Street Journal.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“In the summer heat, Rockney Compton's spring-fed koi pond doubles as a swimming hole for his three kids, and in the spring it is a water bowl for his dogs.

“The pond is a centerpiece for an almost postcard-worthy vista of green, tree-lined hills near Round Mountain, a quiet stretch of Northern California's Shasta County.

“What keeps this landscape shy of perfect are the high-voltage power lines that cut through Compton's property, built in the 1960s to funnel electricity from mountain reservoirs to urban customers far away.

“Compton can't do anything about those lines. He believes he can, however, help halt plans to build two more sets of massive transmission towers and power lines through his tiny community, 28 miles northeast of Redding.

“The $1.5 billion project envisions stringing 600 miles of new lines from northeast California to Sacramento and the Bay Area with a targeted completion date of 2014. It would be the largest power infrastructure venture undertaken in Northern California in nearly two decades, sponsored by a consortium of 15 Northern California municipal power providers, including Sacramento Municipal Utility District and the city of Roseville.

“But it's also a new front in an emerging, nationwide fight over green power that pits environmental concerns against each other.”

An excerpt from the Wall Street Journal article.

“It's turning out that the biggest problem with carbon taxes is political reality. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has just announced he will delay implementing his trademark cap-and-trade emissions trading proposal until at least 2011. Mr. Rudd's March proposal would have imposed total carbon permit costs (taxes) of 11.5 billion Australian dollars (US$8.5 billion) in the first two years, starting in 2010. This would have increased consumer prices by about 1.1% and shaved 0.1% off annual GDP growth until at least 2050, according to Australia's Treasury. Support has fallen among business groups and individuals who earlier professed enthusiasm for Aussie cap and trade.”

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Riverfronts

We heartily agree that the riverfronts need to be developed and this article from the Bee is an excellent plan for the Sacramento River, but public leadership also needs to look at the American River as—especially in the North Sacramento, downtown and midtown areas—it's plagued by large scale illegal camping which has long created a public safety issue for neighborhood families (or tourists staying at downtown hotels) to safely recreate there.

We wrote a letter to the editor about riverfront development that was published, and it is posted here.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“In Sacramento, Interstate 5 remains a great physical barrier between downtown and the river. But The Bee's own Eleanor McClatchy and other civic leaders did the region a big favor, fighting to move the route three blocks from the river, saving most of the Old Sacramento historic quarter.

“In doing so, they sowed the seeds for developing the beauty of the waterfront in Sacramento and West Sacramento as an attraction for residents and visitors. Since the late 1960s we've seen the creation of Old Sacramento as a state historical park; the arrival of the State Railroad Museum; the docking of the Delta King riverboat, the creation of a pedestrian/bike trail, Raley Field and more. What's missing is a way to tie both sides of the river with a transportation network that moves people without adding new traffic congestion.

“Here's my dream.

“Let's make it a priority to link both banks of the Sacramento River with a streetcar system.

“Other cities have seen the value of a transportation network in reclaiming their waterfronts. In Portland, Ore., for example, a streetcar line began with a study in 1990, groundbreaking in 1999 and opening in 2001. And just at the end of April, the city received federal funds to build a three-mile extension for a riverfront loop – across Broadway Bridge in the north, along the east side of the Willamette River, and then across the river once again to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

“Savannah, Ga., just opened a streetcar line in its historic district last year. It was a five-year effort. A big plus to this project is that the streetcars are fitted with an onboard generator fueled by used cooking oil from Savannah's restaurants, eliminating the need for unsightly overhead wires.

“In the Sacramento region we have many noteworthy arts, cultural and sports venues, but they're "scattered and developed in isolation." That was the conclusion of a January study, "Planning for Civic Amenities in the Sacramento Region," commissioned by Valley Vision, the American Institute of Architects Central Valley and Urban Land Institute Sacramento.

“This is especially true of the waterfront, where facilities are strung out along a three-mile stretch of the Sacramento River. We need to tie together the river's attractions with easy access, building on existing and historic rail lines. I envision three stages in creating a transportation loop:

“Stage 1: Expand use of the existing rail excursion line that runs south from Old Sacramento along the Sacramento Southern rail line.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

California’s Dead Canary

Another article reminding us that our state is in trouble—in addition to our fires, budget crisis, and water shortages—we are also seeing more people leaving California than are arriving, and that is not a good thing.

These articles are not always pleasant to read, but if we are to be able to respond intelligently to the latest political idea to save the day, we need to become as well-informed as possible.

An excerpt.

“Canaries were used in early coal mines to detect deadly gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide. If the bird was happy and singing, the miners were safe. If the bird died, the air was not safe, and the miners left. The bird served as an early warning system.

“Domestic migration trends play a similar early warning system for states. California’s dynamism was always reflected by its ability to attract newcomers to the state. But today California’s canary is dead.

“Here’s the logic. If net domestic migration is positive, the state’s economy is reasonably sound. Economic growth, taxes, housing, and amenities are strong enough to keep people where they are and attract others. If net domestic migration is negative, it usually means that lack of economic growth, taxes, quality of life, and housing have deteriorated sufficiently to drive people away. This happens despite the inevitable pain of leaving the security and comfort of family, friends, and familiar surroundings.

“California has been a destination for migrating workers and families since 1849. They came form every state and from around the world. Often the migrants faced tremendous challenges and hardship. Illegal immigrants from Mexico and other developing countries still must leap over such barriers. Often, California’s migrants came in waves. The 1850s, 1930s, and 1950s all saw huge surges tied to huge events – the Gold Rush, the Depression and the post-war boom. But even between these waves, California consistently experienced a steady inflow of new immigrants.

“Immigration has been good for California. The new residents brought ambition, skills, and a willingness to take risks. They found a state with abundant natural resources, from oil to rich soil and ample, if sometimes distant water resources. Together with the people already there, they created an economic powerhouse. They built cities with amenities that rival any other. They fed much of the nation and large numbers overseas. They did this while persevering much of California’s unique endowment: the vast coastline, the Sierra Nevada, and the deserts.

“California, with 12 percent of the United States population, became the world’s sixth largest economy while managing to maintain the aura of paradise at the same time. Opportunity and housing were abundant. California was a great place to have a career and raise a family.

“Most recently, though, this has begun to change. California is no longer a preferred destination, at least for domestic migrants. The state’s economy is limping along considerably worse than that of the nation. Opportunity is limited. Housing is relatively expensive, even after the dramatic deflation of the past two years, except for some very hard-hit and generally less attractive inland areas. Taxes are high and increasing. Regulation is onerous and becoming more so. Many California communities are outright hostile to business.

“Consequently, net domestic migration has been negative for 10 of the past fifteen years. International migration to California remains positive, but that reflects more on the weakness of the economies and the attraction of existing ethnic networks than the intrinsic superiority of California. This represents a sea change: anyone predicting it fifteen years ago would have been laughed out of the room.”

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bike Month Calendar

As noted in an earlier post, this is bike month and for additional information you can access the County Parks Department webpage, which notes an event today, which is looking to be beautiful one, as well as a full calendar for the month:

"Ride this Saturday, May 9th
May 9, 2009 – 10 a.m. to noon
Garcia Bend Park on Pocket Road

"Festivities begin at 10 a.m. at Garcia Bend Park on Pocket Road, with tables of information and helmet decorating contest for the kids.

"Ride the Pocket Greenbelt bike trail along the Sacramento River and stop for refreshments at La Rivage. Head back for a 10 mile round trip, or continue with the Pocket peleton into Old Town for a 20 mile round trip.

"Questions? Call 206-6064."

Friday, May 08, 2009

Parkway Fundraising

If Sacramento County, and the cities of Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Sacramento form a Joint Powers Authority to govern the Parkway—as we suggest in our strategy, Section V—and then create a nonprofit conservancy to provide daily management and fundraising; over time, much of the funding instability that has been plaguing the Parkway would dissipate.

Here is an excellent excerpt from a book Public Parks, Private Partners, how a nonprofit can help a park with fundraising.

“1. Fundraising

“Fundraising is one of the most common activities that nonprofit organizations get involved in, not only because their tax-exempt status makes them eligible for funds from foundations and more attractive to individual donors, but also because it allows them to articulate concrete, visible park needs and goals. A nonprofit's ability to dedicate funds directly to a park project is particularly attractive to a city with a big vision but lack of funds to implement it. Fundraising also can serve as a park advocacy tool and raise awareness of the work of the nonprofit organization. It generally centers around three types of park needs: to supplement annual operating budgets, to implement capital projects, and to establish an endowment to ensure ongoing park maintenance, restoration, and management.

“Fundraising for annual operating funds to supplement existing public operating budgets often involves membership drives and frequent low cost events, which have the added benefit of exposing infrequent or non-park users to the park and stimulating and encouraging longer-term involvement. Though donations are typically small, park outreach is great. Concession sales and educational programming fees are other sources for raising money that are often channeled into annual operating funds. Because they do not translate into visible projects in the park, and because some philanthropies will not give for this purpose, many nonprofits consider operating funds to be the most difficult kind of funds to raise.

“Fundraising for capital campaigns tends to rely more on personal solicitations to individual and corporate donors than on events. Once the capital money is raised, design and construction is often carried out by the parks department or contracted out to private firms. Fundraising for endowment campaigns, like capital campaigns, tends to focus on larger donations from private individuals and corporations as well as matching grants from foundations. Of course, public partners can provide fundraising help as well, acting as agents to receive federal, state, and local grants and opportunities, and pursuing grants from government sources.”

Thursday, May 07, 2009

College Square Again

A very nice editorial from the Bee on the wonderful development happening at Sacramento State, which will have great ramifications for the Parkway, as more students and staff wind up living closer to it and able to access it regularly, which will also increase Parkway public safety.

It is also adding yet another enhancement to the surrounding neighborhoods, already great places to live.

An excerpt.

“Leaders at California State University, Sacramento, have set an ambitious goal to transform the university into a residential, destination campus.

“As part of that, they have asked the important question: "Is it possible to create a 'college town' in the middle of a large metropolitan city?"

“The answer is yes – with the right mix of interest and persistence from the university, city and a private developer.

“In fact, with the university's Destination 2010 plan and the city's 2030 General Plan and specific area plans, leaders of both town and gown have committed to the idea of a mini-downtown.

“These plans call for housing and retail centered around the Sacramento State campus and the 65th Street light-rail station. They also include easy pedestrian and bike access.

“And it's all starting to come together. The university is beginning to be a hub in the area, visible from Highway 50.

“For example, at the corner of 65th Street and Folsom Boulevard, you can now see shops and loft apartments for more than 300 students. These are close to the Hornet Tunnel, which brings students under the Union Pacific railroad tracks to campus in a short four-minute walk.”

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Coyotes in the Parkway

A nice article from the Sacramento Bee on one of the more interesting creatures living in the Parkway.

Can't wait for the book.

An excerpt.

"In 2003, Guy Galante bought a field guide to the wildlife in and around the American River Parkway, that 23-mile ribbon of forest and field that stretches from downtown Sacramento to the Nimbus Hatchery.

"I wanted to photograph everything in there," he recalled.

"That simple pursuit inspired a far deeper connection with this vast but vulnerable natural playground, where all manner of wild things soar and swim, run and burrow, scavenge and forage, hunt and kill.

"For Galante, it also became an obsession – one that inspired more than 5,000 photos of the animal that proved most elusive when he first set out with checklist and camera in hand.

"Lurking in the midst of 7 million human visitors each year are dozens of coyotes, publicity-shy but hardly panicky. They appear in the open every so often, long enough to trot back to their dens or run down a rabbit with the kind of grace and speed their cousins on leashes can only dream of.

"One by one in those early days, Galante (pronounced gal-ON-tay) checked things off – wild turkeys, hawks, deer, otters, beavers, all kinds of snakes.

"But there was one that was still there on the list: the coyote. A year went by, and I finally saw one, so at least I knew they really existed," said Galante, a trim and bearded 36-year-old who lives in the Arden Arcade area.

"But it wasn't until 2005 that I finally photographed one. It was Labor Day. I was super high from that experience. It was the high of all highs."

"Time passed. Galante bought better camera equipment. He couldn't stop thinking about the coyotes, how wild they were, how familiar.

"Why coyotes?

"I think this is ingrained in our brain pattern," he said. "Humans and dogs have been together for thousands of years. I think it's in our DNA."

"In 2008, he decided to pursue the coyotes of the parkway every day for a full year, with the hope of compiling the effort into a large-format book."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gold Discovery Site

Coloma is one of the most important historical sites in American history as the place where gold was discovered in California, bringing the world to the American River and changing the history of America on the world stage in the process.

The project to reroute Highway 49 to increase traffic flow—which would have the added benefit of allowing the Marshall Gold Discovery site to more fully establish itself—as reported in the Sacramento Bee, is an excellent one, thought the local residents concerns concerning development have to be addressed.

I first heard about the idea to reroute the highway around Coloma from State Parks Ranger Sugarman several years ago while visiting with him to possibly consult with a foundation he was involved with to help fund the work, and he related a story which has always put the discovery of gold into the context I think it fully deserves.

He was guiding a group of Japanese tourists around the park, and while talking to them, a small group broke off and went to the specific site, on the American River South Fork, where gold was first taken out by James Marshall. They stood there for awhile, quietly talking among themselves, and then, while standing there, bowed very formally towards the river. Later, he asked them why they were bowing, and they told him that they were honoring, “the place where America found her power.”

The wealth from the California Gold Rush played a very large role in growing America from a regional entity to a world power, and it is a history that needs preserving.

An excerpt.

“A new route for Highway 49 in El Dorado County might improve safety and traffic flow, but some residents fear it also would increase pressure to develop rural lands.

“Built to link California's Gold Rush towns, Highway 49 between Coloma and Placerville follows an old wagon road alignment. It also winds through Placerville's narrow residential streets and bisects Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma.

“Although it provides a scenic route for leisurely travel, transportation officials say the highway is not adequate to handle increasing traffic loads. A study was recently launched to identify alternative alignments for an approximately 13-mile stretch between Coloma and the town of El Dorado.”

Monday, May 04, 2009

May is Bike Month

With the cool air, it is a good time to get out biking on the Parkway, and the Rancho Cordova Post reports on the various activities.

An excerpt.

“The creators of Bike Month, the League of American Bicyclists, encourage residents to use ride their bikes for both recreational and non-recreational (riding to work)activities. If you need a little extra support sticking to the commitment, log in to the May is Bike Month website, to create an account and officially log in your biking hours. While searching through the site, you will also find the total number of registered cyclists, and the cyclists who have logged the most cycling hours. You can see an Air Quality Impact report that shows how much air pollution has been avoided and how much gasoline has been saved due to local cyclists.

“Last year saw nearly 6,000 participants log over 1,240,000 miles during the month of May, marking the first Million Mile May.

“On May 21st celebrate Bike Month at the State Capitol. The day will be filled with music, raffle prizes, and bike shop booths. Other events are planned through out the month all over the Sacramento area. Rancho Cordova residents are encouraged to take advantage of the great bike ways along the American River. There will also be employer challenges and rewards, safety clinics, and energizer stations.”

Sunday, May 03, 2009

College Square

An absolutely stunning project is being discussed for Sacramento State University.

It would become a great boon to the Parkway, placing many new residents a short walk away, and as a consequence, increasing the level of public safety in the area.

An excerpt.

“Harvard Square in Sacramento? Under an unprecedented proposal that's been been quietly brewing here for months, a private developer would invest up to $500 million to build an "urban village" of housing, shops, restaurants and offices on the California State University, Sacramento, campus.

“The concept, with construction paid for entirely by the developer, is drawing intense interest from university and city officials.

“It was submitted last fall by national developer Clark Realty Capital of Arlington, Va., and has been the topic of high-level, hush-hush discussions since then.

“Many consider it a make-or-break opportunity for Sac State to transform itself from a commuter school into a vibrant, 24-hour campus.

“CSUS President Alexander Gonzalez tells us Clark's proposal could potentially advance the goal of making Sac State a "destination" university. But, he says, "we're really just beginning the discussion … to see what this brings the university." To go forward, the plan would need approval by the CSU board of trustees.

“City officials, meanwhile, are downright ecstatic about the project, which could be under construction by 2012.

“Assistant City Manager John Dangberg says it would establish an "exciting Harvard Square-type" urban grid near the campus' southern entrance along Highway 50, while spurring investment to the city's redevelopment area around Folsom Boulevard and 65th Street.”

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Parks Last in Funding Queue

Unfortunately, the Parks and Recreation Departments during most municipal budget deficits are cut the deepest, and that is precisely the major reason for our call for the Parkway to come under the governance of a Joint Powers Authority, which could then create a nonprofit conservancy to provide daily management and a philanthropic fund raising capability to build funding stability during rough financial times.

The importance of well-maintained public open space is crucial to a community at any time, but perhaps even more so when personal family budgets are stretched and the ability to recreate and seek temporary sanctuary in a local park is treasured.

An excerpt from today’s Bee story about the cuts to the city budget.

“Nearly 200 workers face losing their jobs and many city services would be decimated under a proposed budget released Friday by the city of Sacramento.

“The budget, aimed at closing a $50 million deficit for the 2009-10 fiscal year, would result in the elimination of 387 city positions, 189 of which currently are filled.

“It also would mean that the budgets for most city departments would be cut by more than one-third.

“As a result, park lawns would go uncut, after-school programs would suffer, and blighted lots would remain unchecked by code enforcers for longer periods.

"The city of Sacramento has never gone through anything like this," Assistant City Manager Marty Hanneman said. "This is historic in nature."…

“One of the departments facing the most severe cuts is Parks and Recreation, which could lose up to 145 positions, including 57 maintenance workers. As a result, garbage is likely to pile up in parks, grass would become overgrown and pool hours would be shortened, city officials said.

“Craig Powell, chairman of the parks committee for the Land Park Community Association, said those cutbacks would be devastating.”

Friday, May 01, 2009

ARPPS Letter Published in the Bee Today

Look to the rivers

Re "Right mix elusive for K Street" (Our Region, April 26): In the endless discussions of what to do about K Street, it is often remarked that part of the importance of fixing it up is that it is the center of Sacramento.

I would propose that the real center of Sacramento are the two rivers that frame the city. As those rivers are continually embraced by the city, it will ultimately create more momentum to solve the great K Street conundrum than any specific plans directed toward K Street itself.

Beautifying and developing the riverfronts of the Sacramento and the American will create an adjacent recreational destination for downtown visitors that currently does not exist, primarily due to public safety issues. Examining other river cities reveals the tremendous magnet developed riverfronts create for a city's downtown.

– David H. Lukenbill, Sacramento
American River Parkway Preservation Society