Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bike Friendly Cities

We have Davis and Southern California has, Long Beach?

Yes, according to this story from the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“A dozen notables mounted bikes outside the entrance to Long Beach City Hall late last year for the unveiling of a metallic bicycle sculpture with a lofty proclamation:

"Long Beach, the most bicycle friendly city in America," it reads in bold steel lettering under the likeness of an antique bicycle.

“It was a little premature, leaders admit.

"But we're striving for that," said City Manager Pat West, a longtime cyclist.

“While other cities spin their wheels, Long Beach is joining the ranks of places such as Portland, Ore., San Francisco and New York City that have made safe passage for bikes a priority, even at the expense of traffic lanes.

“And as Los Angeles reviews comments to a draft of a bike plan that proposes 696 miles of new bikeways, Long Beach is taking action.

"Long beach is a built-out city and yet they're finding a way to make east-west and north-south corridors that are safer and more inviting," said Jennifer Klausner, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group. "There's no reason L.A. can't do the same thing. It doesn't have to be the slow-moving cog in the machine."

“At a time when cities are cutting expenses across the board, Long Beach has raised $17 million in state and federal grants to improve its bike system through traffic improvements, education and bike share programs. In the next six months, the city will be resurfacing 20 miles of streets to include new bike lanes, part of a plan that includes painting and paving more than 100 miles of bike infrastructure.

“In spring, the city hopes to install traffic circles on less-traveled streets parallel to thoroughfares and designate them "bike boulevards" -- preferred routes for cyclists.

“Also in the works are plans to replace entire lanes of traffic with protected bikeways. And in what's bound to be a controversial move, the city is looking at taking away prime parallel parking spots -- the ones most convenient to shops and restaurants -- and putting "bike corrals" in their place.”

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Drought & Dams

One of the reasons that isn’t mentioned in this story from the Sacramento Bee, is the lack of water storage to capture whatever additional rainfall occurs in this—at least so far—very nice water season; and until we solve that issue, the rainfall, copious or not, won’t make a lot of difference.

Our population has grown substantially since the last major dams were built decades ago, and without new ones—or raising existing ones—like this previous post noting how Shasta could be raised quite a bit based on its original engineering, tripling its storage, and the construction of the Auburn Dam, would go a long way towards solving our water and flood protection needs for a long time.

An excerpt.

“The question now gurgles up from every storm drain and creek in California: Is the drought over?

“The simple answer is no. The reasons why are not so simple.

“Two weeks of heavy rain and snow – nice as it is – cannot entirely erase three years of drought statewide.

“For starters, California's largest reservoirs are far from full. This includes Shasta, Oroville and Folsom, all vital storage points for state and federal water supply canals.

“These reservoirs likely won't fill completely with the snowpack on the ground now, especially if there is no more of it by April Fools' Day.

"Until we get the reservoirs back to normal and see a normal to slightly above normal spring snowmelt coming, it would be perilous to suggest the drought is over," said Rob Hartman, hydrologist in charge at the California Nevada River Forecast Center, an arm of the National Weather Service in Sacramento. "There's a lot of winter yet to go and anything could happen."

“Beyond that, and despite the state's economic woes, California keeps growing. That means ever-greater water demand, which each year pushes total salvation from drought further away.

“Nature gives California a finite water supply, whether it's snow in the mountains or groundwater deep beneath our feet. It is now widely recognized that all of our water supplies are overtapped.

“The governor's Delta Blue Ribbon Task Force, for instance, revealed in 2008 that state officials have granted water rights equal to eight times the average annual flow in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed, which catches half of California's precipitation. Even more water-rights applications are pending.

“Climate change throws another wrench in the works. Global warming is expected to bring more rain and less snow. This will mean less water melting from the mountains to slake California's thirst through summer and fall.

“Environmental protections are another limitation. To save salmon and protect water quality in the Delta, federal officials have ruled that we must divert less water.”

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Measure A Funds Helping Parkway

The funds from Measure A, which created a ½ % sales tax increase for 20 years in 1989 and was renewed in 2004 for 30 years, will result in some improvements to the Parkway, which can be found—items and schedule—at the County Parks website.

Unfortunately, due to the dire funding situation the County is facing, the extra money might result in shortages in funding requests rather than actual additional funds.

An excerpt.

“As part of an overall strategy to generate additional, long-term and stable funding sources for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the American River Parkway Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, the Sacramento County Department of Regional Parks was selected to receive $1 million each year for the next 30 years from the Sacramento Transportation Authority in 2009 through Measure A funds.

“Measure A funds are restricted for use on commuter projects such as repairs and capital improvements to the bike trail, increased maintenance and additional ranger patrols. Because construction for improvements may result in temporary detours along the trail, this website will offer trail users access to current information about possible disruptions.

“Every year in June, Regional Parks will release a list of improvements planned for the trail. This website will offer up-to-date information on the annual project descriptions, dates for construction and any necessary detours.”

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ARPPS Letter Published

Arena plan could aid parkway

Re "Arena Story" (Page A1, Jan. 22): Thank you for the great coverage of this very grand plan.

Though a very complicated deal with several moving parts, the beauty of it is how it can help solve one of the most intractable problems on the parkway.

For many years, parkway- adjacent neighborhoods in the area stretching from Cal Expo to Discovery Park have been burdened by the public safety issues arising from illegal camping by the homeless.

The residential and commercial development of Cal Expo – as a key part of this plan – will serve the same purpose as the Township 9 development will on the south bank of the American River: bring more people to the area for legitimate reasons.

More people in the area will reduce the illegal camping and increase the public's safety in accessing the most beautiful natural resource in our community.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Urban Forests & Public Safety

The Parkway is part of our urban forest and the lack of care for it increases the concerns about crime in the Lower Reach of the Parkway (from Discovery Park to Cal Expo) due to the overgrown environment that has allowed long-term illegal camping by the homeless (which includes criminals and registered sex offenders –the sex offenders were removed after we brought their presence in the Parkway to the attention of the County Board of Supervisors and Sacramento City Council—) see our posts here and here.

Being able to bring the principles of crime prevention through environmental landscape design (primarily thinning out and opening up sight lines) to increase public safety, into that region would be of great help.

Here are a couple links to information on the subject, one from Wikipedia and one to an academic paper.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Complex Deal is a Stunner

Though a very complicated deal with several moving parts—as reported by the Sacramento Bee—the beauty of it, is how it can help solve one of the most intractable problems on the Parkway.

For many years Parkway adjacent neighborhoods in the area stretching from Cal Expo to Discovery Park, have been burdened by the public safety issues arising from illegal camping by the homeless, some of whom are criminals.

The residential and commercial development of Cal Expo—as a key part of this plan—will serve the same purpose as the Township 9 development will on the south bank; bring more people to the area for legitimate reasons.

More people in the area will reduce the illegal camping and increase the public’s safety in accessing the most beautiful natural resource in our community.

An excerpt.

“In the past month alone, the company proposing to bankroll an arena in downtown Sacramento bought a financial-management firm in Philadelphia for $450 million and launched a $400 million fund to invest in Mexico. It teamed with the government of Abu Dhabi and a Canadian pension fund to bid $6 billion for an electricity grid in England.

“The point is, would-be arena financier Macquarie Group Ltd. of Sydney, Australia, is used to doing deals as big as a basketball arena – and then some. In Sacramento, Macquarie is prepared to pour millions of dollars of capital into a sports and entertainment complex at the downtown railyard, raising hopes among NBA executives and others that this is the plan that will finally bring a new arena to the city.

“But even Macquarie executives acknowledge the complexities in the proposal, an audacious three-ring circus that would relocate the California State Fair to the area around Arco Arena and turn Cal Expo into a real estate cash cow that would nourish the construction of the downtown sports complex.

“The entire development would take hundreds of millions of dollars and years to complete – and is being hatched in the midst of a recession that has devastated the real estate market.

“While the three projects involved "on their own are pretty usual and normal," pulling them together is the big wrinkle, Macquarie's Sacramento point man, Nicholas Hann, said in an interview this week.”

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Farmers Report

Following up on yesterday’s post, this article from the Western Farm Press gives the perspective of organizations representing women in agriculture, an important viewpoint from on the ground.

An excerpt.

“Judging from the varied reactions of viewers watching the 60 Minutes television segment, “California: Running Dry”, the state’s three-year-drought is more complicated than simply the weather, according to the president of a national coalition of farm and ranch women.

“If you look at comments on the CBS Web site, you can see how emotional people are,” said Chris Wilson, president of American Agri-Women. “But if people studied the facts of this case, they would see the devastating effects of the Endangered Species Act on not only rural people but Americans everywhere, not just California, because these farmers feed the world.”

“In a 2006 lawsuit environmental groups demanded that the pumps in the Delta be shut off to protect a small minnow-smelt. Protectors of the smelt claim it can be sucked into the pumps that distribute water to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“In August 2007, U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger ordered curtailing of the pumping of water that supplies the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta until a new biological opinion could be written, which it was in December 2008, resulting in more pumping restrictions. San Joaquin Valley water agencies challenged the ruling. As a result, in May 2009, Judge Wanger agreed the original restrictions on pumping needed to be revisited with the water agencies’ compelling argument that people are being harmed by unreasonable concern over the welfare of a tiny fish.

“According to one Californian, the drought was just as severe last year and farmers cut back on planting, but received from 10 percent to 30 percent of their water allocation through the Delta, depending on where their land was located. This year, because of the Delta smelt ruling, the allocation is zero percent. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been fallowed, almond trees pulled, and more than 60,000 jobs were lost.

“The Obama administration has addressed the California water crisis by releasing a coordinated interim action plan of six federal agencies with their list of actions to be coordinated with the state. But some say it is too little, too late.

“Carol Chandler, past president of California Women for Agriculture, stated, “There is a lot of rhetoric about conservation and restoration without addressing the need for water storage and temporary suspension of the Endangered Species Act.”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Delta Water Restrictions to be Examined

The science underlying the restrictions on water which have forced many valley farmers into dire straits, is going to be examined by the National Science Academies through the request of California Senator Feinstein; which is very appropriate considering what is at stake.

This article from the Sacramento Bee reports on the discussion around the examination.

An excerpt.

“An elite science panel's work to clarify California's water problems has become, instead, the latest front in a battle over the Delta's endangered species.

“Experts on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta say political meddling prompted the review by the National Academy of Sciences. It risks becoming a "sideshow," they say, that could delay real solutions to California's water woes.

“Water agencies, on the other hand, say the review is essential to ensure California is on the right path because the economic stakes are so high.

“The panel appointed by the academy, the nation's most esteemed science body, meets for five days starting Sunday at the University of California, Davis. It is charged with examining rules adopted by federal wildlife agencies to protect imperiled Delta fish species.

“The panel's recommendations, expected in two phases over 2 1/2 years, carry no legal weight. But they could be the impetus for new regulation, lawsuits, or both.

“U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., asked for the review in response to requests from San Joaquin Valley farmers, including Stewart Resnick, owner of agriculture giant Paramount Farms. Resnick's Sept. 4 letter to Feinstein asserts that "sloppy science" contributed to the new water and species protections.

“Resnick and other major water users in the San Joaquin Valley criticize the fish protections, imposed under the Endangered Species Act. They have sued and mounted public relations battles to avoid giving up water to help fish.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hatcheries Increase Salmon Runs

Though deep ecology inspired environmentalists will insist that hatchery salmon are not as good as the wild, the historic record of human technology enhancing, increasing, and sustaining natural resources (including the salmon ) is excellent.

This article from the Wall Street Journal reports on the increased salmon runs in Oregon, thanks to the hatcheries.

An excerpt.

“NEHALEM, Ore.—Adam Rice hasn't had a job since October. The 32-year-old carpenter is a victim of the region's housing slump, one of almost 130,000 Oregonians to tumble into the ranks of the unemployed in the past six months.

“But he is working hard to feed his family: on the river.

“This month, it's steelhead, the ocean-dwelling member of the rainbow trout family beginning its return migration to Oregon. Steelhead, along with Coho and Chinook salmon, have made a spectacular return to local streams in the past year, leaving sportsmen exultant and putting food on the tables of struggling Oregonians.

“The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife hatchery here has already surpassed last year's count of 1,400 steelhead. Fisheries manager Joe Watkins calculates his crew could take in as many as 3,000 steelhead before the run ends next month—fish that will spawn tens of thousands of juvenile "smolts" that will be released to swim downstream and mature in the Pacific.

“Numbers for other species are even more impressive. More than 680,000 Coho salmon returned to Oregon last year, double the number in 2007. The Coho run was so bountiful the ODFW called in volunteers to herd fish into hatchery pens. There were reports of creeks so choked with salmon, "you could literally walk across on the backs of Coho," said Grant McOmie, outdoors correspondent for a television news team in Portland.

“And ODFW forecasters expect more than half a million spring Chinook salmon to start swimming upstream in March, about two and half times 2009's run, and nearly four times what came home in 2007. That would be the biggest spring Chinook run since 1938, when Oregon began keeping records of returning Pacific fish.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Worst Budget Shape, Illinois!

We all know how severe the budget issues in California are, but it appears Illinois is in even worse shape, as this story from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

"While California's much publicized budget battles have made the dire financial straights faced in Sacramento a topic of regular media conversation, other states are also experiencing major fiscal woes. According to experts interviewed by Crain's Chicago Business, Illinois currently finds itself in a state of de facto bankruptcy, with the state's ledgers appearing "to meet classic definitions of insolvency: Its liabilities far exceed its assets, and it's not generating enough cash to pay its bills."

"According to Crain's, "While California has an even bigger budget hole to fill, Illinois ranks dead last among the states in terms of negative net worth compared with total expenditures." The state had a record $5.1 Billion in bills past due at year's end, has failed to pay some vendors for months, and has seen the average time to pay a bill double to nearly 92 days. The state also faces rapidly mounting pension obligations, and has seen it's ability to borrow restricted by its worsening credit rating. Facing piles of liabilities, and recession reduced receipts, the state is currently "living hand to mouth, paying bills as revenues come in each day, building up cash when special payments are coming due. Cash on hand varies from day to day, sometimes dipping below $1 million".

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The American Business of Agriculture

Over the years, the ability and technology of American agriculture has fed the world, and played a major role in the growing health and longevity of human beings around the planet.

Unfortunately, an deep-ecology inspired environmental mindset that continually speaks out against large-scale scientific agriculture—which is the largest producer of food for the world—has taken hold of many in public leadership, threatening this major aspect of the American business sector, as reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

“In this high-tech information age few look to the most basic industries as sources of national economic power. Yet no sector in America is better positioned for the future than agriculture--if we allow it to reach its potential.

“Like manufacturers and homebuilders before them, farmers have found themselves in the crosshairs of urban aesthetes and green activists who hope to impose their own Utopian vision of agriculture. This vision includes shutting down large-scale scientifically run farms and replacing them with small organic homesteads and urban gardens.

“Troublingly, the assault on mainstream farmers is moving into the policy arena. It extends to cut-offs on water, stricter rules on the use of pesticides, prohibitions on the caging of chickens and a growing movement to ban the use of genetic engineering in crops. And it could undermine a sector that has performed well over the past decade and has excellent long-term prospects.

“Over the next 40 years the world will be adding some 3 billion people. These people will not only want to eat, they will want to improve their intake of proteins, grains, fresh vegetables and fruits. The U.S., with the most arable land and developed agricultural production, stands to gain from these growing markets. Last year the U.S.' export surplus in agriculture grew to nearly $35 billion, compared with roughly $5 billion in 2005.

“The overall impact of agriculture on the economy is much greater than generally assumed, notes my colleague Delore Zimmerman, of Praxis Strategy Group. Roughly 4.1 million people are directly employed in production agriculture as farmers, ranchers and laborers, but the industry directly or indirectly employs approximately one out of six American workers, including those working in food processing, marketing, shipping and supermarkets.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ground Zero

In terms of cleaning up and making safe the most trash strewn and most dangerous area of the Parkway—the area known as the Lower Reach, from Discovery Park to Cal Expo, largely due to the long term and large scale illegal camping by the homeless which local leadership struggles to properly address—ground zero is North Sacramento.

Central to improving North Sacramento is improving Del Paso Boulevard, and with the recent move by the Sacramento News & Review to the Boulevard, and the refurbishing of a large building for its headquarters, that improvement has been moved along substantially.

I spent several years on the board of directors of the North Sacramento Chamber of Commerce—finishing six years of service in December—and their valiant work over decades continues, now with a significant ally.

An excerpt from the Sacramento News & Review story about their move.

“Stir together one part Mayberry, one part bohemian arts district and one part Skid Row, and you get something like Del Paso Boulevard. The stretch of old North Sacramento (or, as it is sometimes, hopefully, called, “Uptown”) is both a historic byway and an avant-garde experiment. Here you’ll find greasy spoons and vegan cafes, halfway houses around the corner from boutique hotels, and family business that have stuck it out on the boulevard for decades alongside hookers who have, too. Welcome to Sacramento’s eclectic main street.

“Newspaper reporters parachute into the neighborhood from time to time, to write stories about how the boulevard is making a comeback, or about how it was making a comeback but is backsliding. It’s all more complicated than that, of course.

“Since SN&R recently moved its offices to Del Paso Boulevard, it seemed like a good time to take a look at what’s going on in our new backyard. Yes, we found a neighborhood trying to shake off the effects of a bad economy and a bit of a bad reputation. But it’s also a place of surprising diversity, where people are trying new things, sometimes because that’s all they can do.

“It’s a very tenacious neighborhood,” said Kim Scott, a painter and one of the founders of SurrealEstates, an artists’ housing development just off the boulevard. During boom times and bad times, the area (roughly the stretch from Highway 160 to El Camino Avenue) has been a magnet for artists and others (like SN&R) escaping the downtown scene for one reason or another.

“It’s not just because it’s cheap. It’s because it’s interesting. It doesn’t yet have the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” Scott explained. That’s what she likes about the neighborhood. She doesn’t like it when TV news reporters confuse the area with Del Paso Heights, and the fact that the neighborhood still doesn’t have a grocery store.

“This too will pass, said Dan Friedlander, a Del Paso developer, booster and dreamer who has invested heavily in some cool and quirky real-estate projects—like The Greens, a retro-chic hotel and art space that was once a cheap and somewhat notorious Arden Motel.

“Del Paso will be an amazing street someday,” Friedlander said. “We are halfway there.”

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sacramento Green

The idea that Sacramento can become a center for green business has been developing for awhile, and though the Bay Area would seem to have the strongest case for much of the private venture capitalism that could push green business forward, Sacramento has the governmental capacity.

As much of the economic stimulus for green technology will emerge from public policy and the corresponding legislative funding streams, this gives us a leg up, and it is one that appears to be working, as this article from the Sacramento Bee reports.

An excerpt.

“When it comes to the nation's efforts to curb global warming, few places are more important than Sacramento; it is here that California's groundbreaking laws and regulations are written.

“That, local business leaders say, gives the region a major boost in its effort to become a hub of the developing green economy. They are looking to green tech – also known as clean tech – as a way to strengthen and diversify Sacramento's job base.

"The hope is that in clean tech, companies will want to be located in Sacramento to be closer to the regulatory process," said Steven Currall, dean of the Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Davis.

“In other ways, though, Sacramento seems an unlikely candidate to emerge a winner among the many regions trying to build a green-tech industry. Sacramento lags the Bay Area when it comes to raising money for new companies, and its previous efforts to establish itself in the high-tech and biotechnology industries faltered.

“Still, business development officials say green-tech companies are showing unprecedented interest in opening shop in Sacramento, despite the bad economy.

"It's a wave of activity like we've never seen," said Bob Burris, deputy director of the Sacramento Area Trade and Commerce Organization, the region's nonprofit business recruiter.

“Although there's no official method for counting green jobs, one leading advocacy group says Sacramento is doing well on that front. Palo Alto-based nonprofit Next 10 recently released a study concluding that Sacramento led all California regions in percentage growth of green jobs from 1995 to 2008, with an 87 percent jump from 7,019 to 13,102.

“By Next 10's count, Sacramento has more green jobs per capita than the Bay Area, Los Angeles or San Diego.”

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Regulation vs Technology

What has created the wonderful economic and social environment we all enjoy is a balanced combination of both, with a decidedly strong lean towards technology—technology often funded by government—and as this article from the Breakthrough Institute notes, it is crucial to keep that in mind, when voices calling for the stronger regulatory lean suggest otherwise.

An excerpt.

“Has America forgotten its own history? Do we remember nothing about what made us a great nation?

“Americans are like screaming schoolboys over the latest technological toy - iSlate! Google phone! 3D TV! - without acknowledging, for even a minute, that so many fundamentals for these technologies, and many more, were delivered by Defense Department contracts.

“Given our collective technology amnesia it's little wonder that America's Most Important Columnist has convinced so many Times readers that pollution regulations rather than government investments in technology are crucial to America winning what he cheesily calls "the Earth Race."

“If Thomas Friedman needed a refresher, he could have easily met his colleague Andrew Revkin by the water cooler and asked him to summarize the state of clean energy innovation and the technology gap we need to overcome. Revkin would have directed Friedman to read something like this piece, that Revkin wrote for the Times in 2006.

“This past Sunday, Friedman pointed again to China's emerging dominance of clean tech and suggested the best way for America to compete is through cap and trade and putting a price on carbon, just like the Chinese.

“What's that? China has neither cap and trade nor a price on carbon? How can it be, then, that it is surging ahead of the U.S. in clean tech?

“Friedman never says. But his argument is clear. China is passing us by in clean tech because of their massive government investments in infrastructure and technology. Therefore, he concludes, we need to do the exact opposite by instating "a price on carbon and the right regulatory incentives" and "a price on carbon" and, again, "a price on carbon."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

East Bay Regional Parks District

This marvelous park district began 75 years ago as an association of people wanting to protect and preserve 10,000 acres—unsecured at the time—for future generations.

The story of their accomplishments—it is now 100,000 acres—is remarkable, and reveals what can happen when people work together to build something wonderful for everyone.

Though the vehicle used by East Bay—a park district—is not as viable for our Parkway as what we suggest, a partnership between local governments working through a governing Joint Powers Authority contracting with a nonprofit organization for daily management and philanthropic supplemental fund raising; the outcome certainly could be.

An excerpt from East Bay’s website about their history.

“The Park District’s Formative Years, 1929 to 1945

“Park advocates immediately began to see the 10,000 surplus acres as a “Grand Park” stretching 22 miles from Lake Chabot in the south to Wildcat Canyon in the North. The Olmsted/Hall feasibility study was completed in 1930, and contained compelling statements about the need for parks in general along with a detailed plan for the 10,000-acre Park.

“A thousand spirited East Bay residents joined the East Bay Regional Park Association, and met at the Hotel Oakland to sponsor the park project described in the Olmsted/Hall report. They stressed that the park would be kept natural, providing recreational opportunities and employment during the depression. Since the new park would stretch along the ridgeline from San Leandro to Richmond, serving residents in two counties and nine cities, a new type of agency was needed. Legislation was quickly drafted to create a regional agency, following the water District model, that could then acquire and operate the park. In 1933, Governor James Rolph signed the bill authorizing the formation of the Park District, subject only to a vote of District residents. A massive get-out-and-vote campaign in the seven cities between San Leandro and Albany preceded the November 4, 1934 election. Richmond and El Cerrito wanted to be included, but were forced by Contra Costa County to withdraw before the election even though most of the new parkland would be in Contra Costa County. The vote to form the East Bay Regional Park District passed by a stunning 2 1/2 to 1 margin (71%) during the depth of the Great Depression.

“The newly elected park board held its first meeting on December 10, 1934. However, acquiring all of the “Grand Park’s” 10,000 acres at one time was not likely since the Water District’s asking price was $3 million dollars, and the Park District’s annual budget was only $194,000. After 18 months of unsuccessful negotiations, a three-member board of real estate experts helped establish the value and phasing of payments for the first acquisition. On June 4, 1936 the park board agreed to purchase 2,162 acres from EBMUD, at a cost of $656,000 to be paid in installments over the next five years, for what would become the District’s first three parks at Upper Wildcat Canyon (Tilden), Temescal, and Roundtop (Sibley). At the same meeting the board agreed to provide the $63,428 in local funds to qualify for $1 million in federal funding needed for park development projects.

“After working six months without pay, Elbert Vail was hired as the District’s first general manager at a monthly salary of $300. With six new park employees hired and with funding in place, work on the new parks could begin using Civilian Conservation Corp crews, Works Progress Administration crews, and private contractors. A CCC Camp at Tilden provided housing for crews working on park development, and in an amazingly short two-year period, Tilden and Temescal were ready to be opened for public use. The first acquisition of EBMUD land for Redwood Park occurred in 1939, and the District’s fourth park was developed and opened the following year.

“By early 1942, World War II emptied the park workforce when WPA, CCC workers, and park employees joined the war effort, leaving the four new parks under "caretaker" operation for the next three years. However, District parks played an important role in supporting the war effort by providing recreational facilities for the military and for residents working in local war related industries. The Army leased the Tilden CCC camp for use as a training facility. The Army Defense Command also leased 500 acres at the south end of Tilden where an early warning Regional Radar Center was constructed, with housing and support facilities for 500 soldiers, to monitor aircraft and ship movement along the central California Coast.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

American River Bike Trail, A Nevada City Perspective

An article about the bike trail, at YubaNet, from a recent visitor from Nevada City (who also received our input) and it is a very nice perspective.

An excerpt.

“Jan. 13, 2010 - During the winter months, when snow and mud cover local bicycle trails in the foothills, a 32-mile long bike trail in Sacramento County offers a paved sinuous path through the heart of the American River Parkway.

“Known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Bicycle Trail, the path flows from Folsom Lake at Beal's Point State Park and ends at Discovery Park just outside downtown Sacramento where the Sacramento and American rivers converge.

“Begun in the 1950's as a way to protect a slice of open space from development, the parkway is a natural unbroken corridor managed mostly by the Sacramento County parks department and kept tidy by area non-profit groups and volunteers.

“Though surrounded by busy city and suburban life, the 5,000-acre interior of the parkway offers an outdoor sanctuary for people, wildlife and native plants.

“You really feel like you're in the middle of nowhere. You can get away, where you can't hear sounds, of traffic, or anything," said Annie Parker, spokesperson for Sacramento County parks department.

“Each year, five million people come to picnic, ride horses or bicycles, hike, walk the dog, bird watch and enjoy native flora.

"We get more visitors than Yosemite," said David H. Lukenbill, founder of the American River Parkway Preservation Society.

“To Nevada County residents with a different perception of what wild is, the parkway isn't exactly solitude and chances are slim that you will encounter a bear or mountain lion during your visit. Look for egrets and hawks, Blue and Live Oak, mining and Native American history and soon spring wildflowers. For those who struggle with steep foothill bicycle climbs, the Jedediah Smith trail is relatively level spotted with a few manageable hills.

"It's a gorgeous ride that borders the river the entire time," said Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation.

"It's full of different nooks and crannies for everybody."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

County Funding Shrinking Again

In what has become a long, slow unwinding of programs and resources built up over decades, the funding for Sacramento County continues to erode, as this report from the Sacramento Bee notes.

Being close to the bottom of funding priorities, parks and recreation—including the American River Parkway—will clearly suffer some more hits.

Our solution is outlined in several postings on the news page of our website

An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee report.

“Sacramento County will cut another $15 million from its $2 billion general fund budget in the next two months to cover revenue shortfalls and begin repaying money the county borrowed last fiscal year.

“This latest deficit comes after the Board of Supervisors laid off nearly 800 employees last summer. And these new cuts won't be the last.

“Officials are projecting next fiscal year's deficit could top $100 million. "We are still in very difficult economic times, as is the state of California," Sheriff John McGinness said.

“The continuing weakness in the economy means less revenue is coming in than county analysts had projected. Money from the state to pay for social services is down about $1.8 million, said Tom Burkart, the recently named county budget officer.

“Burkart had been filling in on an interim basis following the August retirement of Linda Foster-Hall.

“Property tax revenue appears to be down about $2.3 million from initial projections. Another source of state aid is down about $3.2 million.

“Money from document filings is down $2 million, and revenue from the hotel tax is down $500,000.

“In all, general fund revenue is down about $10 million this fiscal year from initial projections, Burkart said.

“County officials also are recommending the supervisors begin addressing the county's past reliance on reserves and other one-time funding fixes by making another $5.3 million in cuts.

“In the past 12 months, the county transferred close to $60 million to the general fund from other internal funds. By law, the county must repay those funds and is scheduled to pay back $11.9 million in fiscal year 2010-11.

“The county balanced this year's budget with more than $23 million in one-time money.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Designing Our Cities

The ideas surrounding the look of the cities and suburbs we live in are very intriguing, and this article from New Geography is a good one, and with certain applicability to Sacramento.

An excerpt.

“Investment in commercial development may be in long hibernation, but eventually the pause will create a pent-up demand. When investment returns, intelligent growth must be informed by practical, organic, time-tested models that work. Here’s one candidate for examination proposed as an alternative to the current model being toyed with by planners and developers nationwide.

“Cities, in the first decade of this millennium, seem to be infected with a sort of self-hatred over their city form, looking backward to an imagined “golden era”. The most common notion is to recapture some of the glory of the last great consumerist period, the Victorians. During this time, from the 1870s to the early 1900s, many American towns and cities were formed around the horse-drawn wagon and the pedestrian. This created cities with enclaves of single-family homes and suburbs that seem quaint and tiny in retrospect to today’s mega-scale subdivisions and eight-lane commercial strips.

“One bible for the neo-Victorians was “Suburban Nation,” a 2000 publication seething with loathing and anger over urban ugliness. In a noble and earnest effort to repair some of the aesthetic damage, the writers proposed a grand solution. Their goal was essentially to swing the development model back to the era of the streetcar and the alleyway, the era when cars were not dominant form-givers and families lived in higher density and closer proximity.

“In the last decade, this movement gained traction with hapless city officials often tired of hearing nothing from their citizens but complaints over traffic and congestion. They embraced the New Urbanist movement which promised to turn the clock back to an era of walkable live/work/play environment of mixed neighborhoods. In the new model, the car would at last be tamed.

“Yet, looking at most of these communities, the past has not created a better future. More often they have created something more like the simulated towns lampooned by “The Truman Show”. These neo-Victorian communities ended up with some of the form of that era, but devoid of employment and sacred space. They also created social schisms of low-wage, in-town employers and high-salary, bedroom community lifestyles marking not the dawn of a new era but the twilight of late capitalism as the service workers commute into New Urbanist villages while the residents commute out.”

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Central Park Conservancy, a Model of Nonprofit Parkway Fundraising and Management

The model we have always looked to for guidance on how effectively a nonprofit in partnership with government could manage the American River Parkway is the Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit organization which manages Central Park in New York City under contract with the city, raising 85% of the required funding for the Park in the process.

The other innovations that they have been able to bring to Central Park are remarkable and were written about in this article from the Property & Environment Research Center.

An excerpt.

“Most people consider New York City more a concrete jungle than an environmental oasis. Gotham’s seemingly endless cement, asphalt, and steel keep it almost beyond nature. Yet an environmental hot spot has bloomed within America’s largest, most dense metropolitan center. Central Park’s 843 acres of lawns, trees, and lakes, make excellent habitat for, among others, nesting woodpeckers, migrating chickadees, and vacationing Homo sapiens. Thanks to an initiative that employs many of the free-market-environmentalist principles that PERC espouses, Central Park may be in its most magnificent shape since opening in 1859.

“After its mid-1970s near-bankruptcy, New York and Central Park were in similarly precarious shape. This former urban refuge had devolved into a rectangular showcase of despair. The Great Lawn was nicknamed “The Municipal Great Dustbowl.” Next to a torched building, trash floated in the Harlem Meer. Few could sit and lament this, since so many benches were broken.

“It was another park and another era when I was a university student and our horticulture class made a field trip to Central Park,” Douglas Blonsky recalls. “It was in such disrepair— landscapes were reduced to bare ground, historic buildings and structures were dilapidated and covered with graffiti, garbage was strewn everywhere—that we soon retreated to a bar on Madison Avenue.”

“In 1980, several philanthropists and activists launched the organization that Blonsky now leads. The Central Park Conservancy informally began to address the Park’s urgent needs. It privately funded overdue repairs to Gotham’s battered retreat and rehabilitated the Great Lawn, Turtle Pond, and Azalea Walk, among other areas.

“The Conservancy turned a literal tragedy of the commons into acres of accountability. Under “Zone Management,” the Conservancy divided the Park into 49 separate sectors.

“Each Park supervisor and uniformed gardener is now held accountable for the condition of his or her zone,” explains Conservancy spokesperson Kate Sheleg. “Accountability is the single most important factor that the Conservancy employs in the management of Central Park.” She says this policy “fosters a sense of ownership and pride among the gardeners as well as the volunteers assigned to each zone.” Merit-based pay for Conservancy employees partially reflects how well they clean and cultivate their respective zones.

“Graffiti is removed within 24 hours,” Sheleg adds. “Visible litter is removed by 9:00 each morning and continuously throughout the day; trash receptacles are emptied daily; lawns are carefully maintained; broken benches and playground equipment are fixed on the spot.” Roughly 180 regular volunteers help perform this ongoing maintenance.”

Friday, January 08, 2010

Open Letter


January 7, 2010

Susan Peters & Don Nottoli, Sacramento Board of Supervisors
Kevin Johnson, Mayor, Sacramento
Steve Cohn & Ray Tretheway, Sacramento City Council
Linda Budge & Robert McGarvey, Rancho Cordova City Council
Andy Morin & Ken Howell, Folsom City Council
Janet Baker, Director, Sacramento County Regional Parks
Jim Combs, Director, Sacramento City Parks & Recreation
Joe Chinn, Assistant City Manger, Folsom
Robert Goss, Director, Folsom Parks & Recreation

Dear Committee Members:

As you continue your work to ensure the American River Parkway is sustained and enhanced for the future of all the communities that treasure and use it, we would like to offer you our suggestions concerning the Parkway Joint Powers Authority (JPA) your committee is tasked with considering, as it relates to Parkway management and funding.

We support the JPA idea your committee is working on, though not the tax increase currently coupled with it, and would ask you to consider the concept of creating a nonprofit organization to provide daily management and supplemental funding through dedicated philanthropy.

We support the JPA board composition—two (2) members from the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, two (2) members from the Sacramento City Council, one (1) member from the Rancho Cordova City Council, and one (1) member from the Folsom City Council.

We support the formation of a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), but would ask you to consider including a member of the CAC, chosen by the CAC, to sit on the JPA board.

We believe that the ability of dedicated management and raising supplemental funds philanthropically, which the managing nonprofit could do, is a much more effective way to develop the level of funding that is needed.

As an example, the Central Park Conservancy—the nonprofit that manages Central Park in New York City—raises 85% of the funding needed by Central Park, and I am sure we would all agree that the American River Parkway is as valued a resource to us as Central Park is to them.

The type of public safety, access, and vandalism problems adjacent neighborhoods have to deal with—illegal camping in the Lower Reach, late night carousing at Paradise Beach, Parkway users parking in neighborhoods impacting residents, and business encroachment issues—could all be much more effectively responded to through a nonprofit organization able to respond directly to these local issues.

The history of nonprofit organizations working to benefit the Parkway is a very positive one and this type of expansion would be congruent with that history.

With your leadership, and the deep love our many communities have for the Parkway, the development of a proactive and productive funding and management policy for the future can be assured.


Governing Board,
Michael Rushford, President
Kristine Lea, Vice President
David H. Lukenbill, CFO, Senior Policy Director
Rebecca Garrison, Director

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Salmon Run

While the run seems to be smaller, as reported in the Sacramento Bee, the fact that the hatcheries are doing their job is good news, and consideration should be given to expand hatcheries, which we’ve posted on previously.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Salmon didn't make the big fall comeback in Central Valley rivers that anglers and nature lovers yearned for, raising the likelihood of a third year of fishing restrictions.

“Some areas saw more fall-run chinook return from the ocean to the Sacramento River and its tributaries. This includes the American River, where the state's Nimbus Hatchery spawned about 40 percent more salmon in 2009.

“But the run as a whole seems likely to turn out the same or slightly smaller than in 2008, which was the smallest year ever recorded.

"We are really upset," said Dick Pool, president of Pro-Troll Fishing Products, a Bay Area manufacturer of salmon fishing tackle. "Every appearance is the fall run returns this year (2009) may set a new record low."

“The Central Valley fall chinook is arguably the most important salmon run on the West Coast. It makes up virtually all of the commercially harvested salmon in California and Oregon.

“The run's poor condition led regulators to ban all commercial salmon fishing in both states in 2008 and 2009. Recreational fishing was banned in 2008 and severely limited in 2009.”

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Water Report

The Public Policy Institute of California has published a new report on California’s water problem, and incredibly does not mention—in the section noting Sacramento is the most at risk major city in the country of flooding—that the only method of raising the level of flood protection from the current 200 year level (after the Folsom Dam improvements are completed) to 500 year level, is by building Auburn Dam.

A couple of our recent blogs, here and here, address this.

It is the continuing inability of environmentalist think tanks to not acknowledge the obvious, that contributes to the lack of good information public leadership needs to make informed decisions about our water problems.

An excerpt from the author’s commentary on the new report.

“The sweeping package of laws designed to overhaul California's troubled water system demonstrates that the Legislature can address this urgent issue in a difficult fiscal and political environment. But it is only the first step toward more sustainable management of California's water.

“The state still needs to find ways to pay for water infrastructure and critical improvements in aquatic habitat, whether or not voters approve the $11.4 billion bond that is part of the package. The bond is at best a partial solution: More local funding will be needed under any circumstances. If public policy discussions focus solely on the water bond, we'll miss an opportunity to build on the other reforms.

“For example, the laws' new governance structure for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta lays the groundwork for sustainable management of this critical region, which is facing a multiyear drought and new environmental restrictions on its water exports. Many water users think - mistakenly - that a simple solution to these problems exists, whether it's gaining an exemption from the Endangered Species Act or building a peripheral canal to move water around the delta. But new governance is only a start. Necessary future actions include developing a strategy to improve habitat and to secure the proper water flows for imperiled native fish.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Salmon & Streams

Most of us probably think of the larger rivers—which have mostly been dammed to provide water for communities and agriculture—when we think of spawning salmon, but many make their way up the smaller rivers and streams to spawn, and this story from Coast and Ocean examines how many of these smaller spawning areas are being enhanced for the salmon; which is very good news.

An excerpt.

“In 2001, a small miracle occurred in a stream south of the city of Arcata: the salmon came back. Lots of them. The stream, called Morrison Gulch, flows into Jacoby Creek, which empties into Humboldt Bay. Biologists knew it had once been spawning ground for salmon, because for several years they had counted hundreds trying to make their way upstream to mate--600 in one winter alone.

“But an old culvert under Quarry Road blocked the way; not one fish could make the jump into it from the pool below. Faced with such a barrier, some fish will try to find other places to spawn; others will die of exhaustion from their futile attempt to reach historic spawning grounds.

“Then, in August 2001, the County replaced the Quarry Road culvert with a wider one and regraded the stream above and below to raise the channel, allowing the fish to move freely through the new culvert. With the barrier gone, the salmon moved right back into the stream. That winter, biologists counted 70 coho returning to spawn, and the following winter they observed 238 adults and 116 redds (spawning nests).

“What happened in the Jacoby Creek watershed is happening, or beginning to happen, in many watersheds along the coast from Del Norte County to Monterey. In the past ten years, through collaborative efforts by counties, state and federal agencies, private landowners, and nonprofit organizations, almost 300 miles of streams have been reopened to salmon and restored to conditions favorable to the fishes' survival. At a time when everything else seems to be going wrong for West Coast salmon, this achievement is a ray of sunshine.

“Culverts and other small stream barriers may seem trivial compared to the large and intractable difficulties salmon face--drought, water diversions, hydropower dams, changes in ocean productivity--but there are so many of them that they have effectively locked fish out of huge areas of spawning habitat. A 2004 report by the Coastal Conservancy identified more than 19,000 barriers in California's coastal watersheds, at least 1,400 of them severe or impassable.

“Even obstacles that are not completely impassable to adult salmon can exhaust the fish before they reach spawning grounds, or keep juveniles, which can't jump as high as adults, from reaching tributaries that serve as safe havens during floods. "It's a huge problem," said Tom Weseloh, North Coast manager for California Trout. "If you've got a barrier at the mouth of a watershed, the whole watershed is impaired."

“Long before people knew about the life cycles of anadromous fish, they understood that salmon needed to be able to move freely up- and downstream. In his 2003 book King of Fish: The Thousand-Year Run of Salmon, geologist David R. Montgomery wrote of a 12th-century English statute requiring that English rivers "be kept free of obstructions so that a well-fed three-year-old pig could stand sideways in the stream without touching either side." Pigs were not at issue; the purpose was to protect salmon.

“Despite many such laws and restrictions over the centuries, the needs of fish have rarely been considered when roads and other structures were built, until recently. In California's early days, many coastal roads were cut right next to creeks for the logging industry, and streams were constricted and blocked by pipes and culverts. In 1935, federal fisheries biologists surveying streams in the Klamath and Shasta National Forests reported that culverts were cutting off salmon from the Klamath River and other main streams, and recommended that small bridges be used instead. They were ignored.”

Monday, January 04, 2010

Shasta Dam

Too many people forget the reason dams were built in California, and this article reminds us of why Shasta was built.

An excerpt.

“You don’t go out fishing on the Sacramento River above Red Bluff without “a cushion for your tush,” according to the locals. The water floating your raft or rowboat is too darn cold, especially when the salmon are spawning. This mid-summer chill isn’t natural in a river you could once walk all the way across in warm shallows, or swim through without turning blue. But then, not much is natural about the way water flows out of the mountains down into California’s Central Valley anymore.

“Ever since workers poured 6.5 million cubic yards of concrete into a canyon above the town of Redding, backing up the waters of the Sacramento, Pit, and McCloud Rivers for 35 miles behind Shasta Dam, Californians have been less thirsty and freer of floods. It’s dams like this that Buford Holt, a biologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, says have “made possible a bounty of food production and kept us functioning as a state, because obviously we don’t have any rain for six months out of the year.” His agency runs the world’s largest water development and management system: the Central Valley Project, with 20 dams, 11 power plants, and 500 miles of canals. Shasta is one of California’s five large foothill dams around the Central Valley that help control floods and store snowmelt for water customers up and down the state (the others are Oroville, Folsom, New Melones, and Friant); hundreds of smaller, private dams criss-cross rivers up in the mountains, built long ago by miners, private landowners, PG&E, and various public entities.

“Standing on the top, looking down the sheer, streaked face of the 602-foot-high dam, you cannot help but feel a wave of vertigo. Everything around the dam seems small and far away--snow-topped Mount Shasta in the distance, the other end of the green-blue lake created by the dam, the specks of ducks bobbing in the light chop, the pin-sized pines along the river at the bottom of this massive edifice.

“Inside the dam lie some hollow galleries, but it’s mostly solid. Touring these inner hallways, visitors will see swastikas imprinted on some pipes, evidence that those ordering plumbing supplies during the dam’s construction (1938 to 1945) got some from Germany before World War II broke out. Newer hardware includes a device that enables operators to withdraw and release water from different lake depths--selecting the coldest bottom water, rather than the warmer upper layers, so that the eggs of spawning salmon stuck below the dam won’t die in the river. That’s why you need a cushion to boat on the river.”

Sunday, January 03, 2010


It appears that Wikipedia has had some issues around writing about global warming, as this article from the American Spectator notes.

An excerpt.

“Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal drawing attention to the rise of "online hostility" and the "degeneration of online civility." He (and coauthor Andrea Weckerle) suggested ways in which we can "prevent the worst among us from silencing the best among us."

“I agree with just about everything that they say. But there is one problem that Mr. Wales does not go near. That is the use of Wikipedia itself to inflame the political debate by permitting activists to rewrite the contributions of others. All by itself, that surely is a contributor to online incivility.

“The issue that I am particularly thinking about is "climate change" -- or global warming as it was once called (until the globe stopped warming, about a decade ago). Recently the Financial Post in Canada published an article by Lawrence Solomon, with this remarkable headline:

“How Wikipedia's green doctor rewrote 5,428 climate articles.

“Solomon draws attention to the online labors of one William M. Connolley, a Green Party activist and software engineer in Britain. Starting in February 2003, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. I continue with a two-paragraph direct quote from Mr. Solomon's article:

“[Connolley] rewrote Wikipedia's articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug. 11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band [of climatologist activists]. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world's most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band [of activists] especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.

“All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn't like the subject of a certain article, he removed it -- more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred -- over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley's global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia's blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.”

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Salmon Runs Improve

In this report from the Union Democrat, the salmon runs in a couple California rivers are looking to be improved from last year, and that is very good news.

An excerpt.

“More salmon swam up the Stanislaus and Mokelumne rivers to spawn this fall than during last year's run, though their numbers remain below historic averages.

“The number of salmon making their way up the Tuolumne River, meanwhile, likely fell in 2009, a year after its first gain in nearly a decade.

“Already, almost 1,200 Chinook salmon have journeyed up the Stanislaus River, compared to 923 during last year's fall run, according to preliminary figures from FISHBIO Environmental, a consulting group that monitors the salmon run for the region's irrigation districts.

“It is the first step in a slow rebound for the river's salmon population, which hovered between 3,000 and 8,500 from 1997 to 2005, according to California Department of Fish and Game data.

"It's positive to see that there are increasing numbers of fish," said Erin Strange, fisheries biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service. "We hope it continues to rise."

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Have a very Happy New Year and enjoy the weather, the holiday, and the football!