Saturday, July 31, 2010

Government Funding & Employee Pay

Part of the reason government is having such difficulty paying for the public services taxpayers expect to result from their taxes—like providing public safety and maintenance for the Parkway—is that public employees are receiving an inordinate share of the tax revenue, as this story from the Orange County Register notes.

An excerpt.

“Employees of state and local governments are more likely to have employer-provided pensions, health insurance, life insurance and paid sick leave than their counterparts in private industry, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. And their median wage is 40% higher.

“The data in the report released Tuesday are from the National Compensation Survey in March 2010. Wages and benefits for federal government employees are not included.

“Government officials have argued that they need to give better benefits to attract and keep good employees because the pay is less. But as the chart above shows, the median government pay is $22.04 an hour vs $15.70 in the private sector. The highest paid government workers earn $44.48 an hour vs. $37.02 in private industry.

“The most common public employee benefit is retirement benefit, or pension, which 90% of state and local governments nationally and 92% in the Pacific Region give their workers.

“But in the private sector, paid vacation is most common, with 77% of employers nationally and 76% in the Pacific Region giving it.”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Suburban Living II

Following up on yesterday’s post, here is a quote from one of the books I mentioned—Sprawl, A Compact History—regarding one of the major stated objections against expanding suburbs.

“Agriculture aside, some observers, particularly those in the largest and fastest growing cities, believe that sprawl is consuming an excessive amount of land and is well on the way to paving over the entire American countryside. The use of the prejudicial term “consuming,” even in supposedly dispassionate analysis, is symptomatic. It suggests that farmers or agricultural companies do not “consume” land but that any developer or suburban homeowner does even though the farmland is just as much a product of human action as the subdivision. In any event, by even the most generous estimates, the total amount of developed land today is probably no more than about 5 percent of the total of nearly 2 billion acres in the continental United States. Looked at another way, it would be possible to accommodate the entire population of the United States, nearly 300 million people, at suburban densities within the slightly over 65,000 square miles of the state of Wisconsin. It is also important to note that the amount of land added to the country’s supply of permanent open space, including public parks, national forests, and other areas set aside from development, has been increasing faster that the amount of urbanized land.” (p. 143)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Suburban Living

Though an editorial in the Sacramento Bee has some harsh words for developers as the ones driving planning decisions to build more suburbs, the actual drivers are the public, who—by a wide margin—want to live in suburbs (the realization of the American Dream), and the developers in our area are folks creating those communities.

This is clearly demonstrated by the facts on the ground forming the basis for many books—here are three 1) Sprawl: A Compact History, 2) Don’t Call it Sprawl: Metropolitan Structure in the Twenty-First Century, 3) War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life—and studies, most of which are reviewed at the website, New Geography.

1) An excerpt from the Bee editorial.

“It's increasingly, distressingly clear who's driving the bus on far-reaching decisions that could transform a huge swath of Sacramento County – and not for the better.

“Developers and landowners would be the clear winners from a proposal to open up nearly 20,000 acres for growth, and they have the ear of county supervisors.

“Decision-makers ought to listen instead to taxpayers and residents. Taxpayers are rightly concerned that they'll pay for providing services to new far-flung subdivisions, and residents are worried about more sprawl and air pollution.

“The proposed 2030 general plan update, which supervisors will continue discussing today, calls for allowing development along Grant Line Road near Rancho Cordova and along Jackson Highway in the south.

“If approved, the expanded urban growth boundaries would be a windfall to major landowners – Teichert Land Co.; Angelo G. Tsakopoulos, nephew of master land speculator Angelo K. Tsakopoulos; and Conwy LLC. Combined they control about 40 percent of the two areas.

“At the same time, plans are chugging ahead to build a new four-lane expressway connecting the two proposed growth areas. The proposed $800 million Capital Southeast Connector would run 35 miles from Interstate 5 south of Elk Grove to Highway 50 in El Dorado County. A bypass around downtown Sacramento, it's designed to lessen traffic congestion, but it would also invite sprawl.

“Transportation and planning experts say that the county already has more than enough room to grow – particularly with the recession and housing crash – and that opening up that much more land would significantly increase the oversupply of housing. But so far, supervisors have directed that all 20,000 acres stay under consideration.”

2) Here is a wonderful quote from a book—Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir—about growing up and living in the largest suburb in the world, Lakewood, California, from the Wall Street Journal.

The quote:

“I once thought my suburban life was an extended lesson in how to get along with other people. Now I think the lesson isn't neighborliness; it's humility. When I stand at the end of my block, I see a pattern of sidewalk, driveway, and lawn that aspires to be no more than harmless. That's important, because we live in a time of great harm to the ordinary parts of our lives, and I wish that I had acquired more of the resistance my neighborhood offers. . . . Loyalty is the last habit that more sophisticated consumers would impute to those of us who live here; we're supposed to be so dissatisfied in the suburbs. But I'm not unusual in living here for all the years I have. Perhaps like me, my neighbors have found a place that permits restless people to be still. The primal mythmakers of California are its real estate agents, and one of them told me once that this suburb still attracts aspirant homebuyers because "it's in the heart of the metroplex." Maybe it's just in the heart.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Suburban Growth

The suburbs are where people want to live—as we have posted on many times previously, here for one—and the suburbs of Sacramento are some of the most beautiful in the country, with a great climate, two magnificent rivers, mountains and ocean close by, and an easy, stable lifestyle; so any expansion of the suburbs is a very good thing.

Sacramento County is considering suburban expansion, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“Despite a home construction collapse caused by the recession, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is considering opening 20,000 acres of land to future development.

“When combined with existing open parcels, the expansion could hold a city two-thirds the size of Sacramento. Even county planners have warned that the plan would provide a "substantial excess supply" of land.

“Supporters say supervisors are being sage, freeing space for the region and its economy to grow. Detractors say they are abdicating their primary responsibility: to engineer transit-friendly "smart growth" over sprawl.

“They also point out that the move could hand a hefty profit to landowners, many of whom have contributed generously to supervisors' campaigns.

"It's going to enrich a handful of people ridiculously, filthily, to the detriment of thousands," charged David Mogavero, a local architect and spokesman for the Environmental Council of Sacramento, a coalition of environmental and civic groups.

“Three landowners – Teichert Land Co.; Angelo G. Tsakopoulos; and Conwy LLC, run by Charles Somers and Ron Alvarado – own about 40 percent of the two proposed growth areas.

“After years in the works, the general plan update to guide county growth through 2030 appears to be just months from a vote. Approval by county supervisors would open 8,000 acres of land east of Grant Line Road and 12,000 acres along Jackson Road to development.”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wonders of Nature

Here is one, from Science.

An excerpt.

“When the leaves they depend on turn a deathly yellow in the fall, leaf miner moths (Phyllonorycter blancardella) perform CPR. Even as the rest of the leaf wilts, the patch surrounding a leaf miner larva stays a bright and photosynthetically active green. Now, a new study shows that these green islands spark to life thanks to bacteria living within the grubs themselves.

“Like mammals, many insects host internal microbes called endosymbionts that help them digest meals, often passing these friends from generation to generation. Insect endosymbionts have also proven themselves keen inventors, developing new defenses for their hosts. "The more we look at endosymbionts in insects, the more people find interesting and new functions," says ecologist David Giron of the Université François Rabelais in Tours, France.

“It seemed possible to Giron that bacteria like those in the genus Wolbachia, which dwell in leaf miners, could also rewire plant metabolism. Many microbes, including Wolbachia, carry a gene also found in plants that spurs some plant cells to make hormones called cytokinins, he says. Cytokinins, which delay death in plant cells, can spur green islands on their own and are plentiful in leaf-miner islands.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Auburn Dam, Still an Option

Fortunately, there is one local congressman, Tom McClintock, who understands the importance of building the Auburn Dam, which will stabilize the water temperature and flow in the Lower American River—good for the salmon—as well as provide Sacramento a 500 year level of flood protection from its current 200 year level, which we posted on previously here and here.

He spoke of the importance of the Auburn Dam in a recent speech.

This editorial from the Sacramento Bee, notes Congressman McClintock’s unwavering commitment to Auburn.

An excerpt.

“Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove is a rock-ribbed Republican who staunchly opposes expanding the federal government, even if a project benefits his district.

“So it gets attention when he teams up with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, of all people, to push for a national historic site near Coloma….

“Now that McClintock has crossed that Rubicon, there's another urgent matter in his district that deserves his attention.

“The Auburn State Recreation Area, one of the most popular treasures in the state parks system, draws nearly a million hikers, rafters, mountain bikers, horseback riders and others to its rugged canyons each year. But it is in jeopardy because the federal Bureau of Reclamation plans to cut off funding next year.

“The area needs more facilities and some tender loving care – and the best approach could very well be to get the National Park Service or National Forest Service to partner with the state.

“Granted, it might be a bridge too far for McClintock, who still desperately wants someone – federal taxpayers, perhaps? – to build the colossal Auburn dam. ("The Auburn recreation area is destined to become Lake Auburn," he says.)

“On that, however, he's swimming against a strong current. There's intense, vocal opposition, and no apparent state or federal money to pay for the project. Until the state water board reverses its December 2008 revocation of water rights, the plan is officially dead.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crime in Parks

This new series from the Sacramento Bee can be understood as hinging on these three elements, increasing the number of parks, not adding more rangers, and less visitors, highlighted in these excerpts from the story.

This is similar to the issues occurring in the American River Parkway, issues our organization was founded to help resolve—increased Parkway usage as the surrounding population increases, while ranger presence (and public safety) is decreasing due to County funding problems.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Crime is on the rise in California's state parks, up nearly threefold in the last decade, according to Department of Parks and Recreation data analyzed by The Sacramento Bee….

“As crime increased and the department added a dozen new parks, ranger staffing levels remained flat and salaries did not keep pace with other law enforcement jobs. Nearly 30 percent of ranger positions now are vacant – 131 out of 449, 18 more than a year ago….

“Visitors to state parks seem to have noticed the growth in crime. A 2007 survey by the state Parks Department found people citing gang activity, alcohol and drug use, and concerns about personal safety, as reasons to stay away.

“The department also found visitors spending less time in state parks for the first time in at least a decade, bucking a national trend.” (highlighting added)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Privatization & Nonprofits

The governor in New Jersey has just received a report on privatization, as reported by Governing, and it has some interesting components that apply directly to nonprofits managing public resources, as we suggest be done with the American River Parkway—see our strategy and news page.

An excerpt from the Governing article.

“The New Jersey Privatization Task Force has delivered its final report to Gov. Chris Christie -- and he's excited about what he's reading, calling it a path to a more efficient, cost-effective government. The report highlights more than $200 million in potential cost savings.

"In March, I asked the Privatization Task Force to develop a strategy that would reduce the size, scope and cost of state government," said Christie. "What they have provided is a path for change that will benefit New Jersey's taxpayers..."

“The report recommended privatizing services in a wide variety of areas from highway maintenance to prison food services, from toll collection to vehicle inspection. It includes a brief overview of recent privatization efforts in New Jersey and other states. "There have been -- and continue to be -- numerous successful privatization successes in New Jersey," notes the report….

“Most interesting is the report's call for a centralized entity whose sole purpose is to promote competitive efficiency within New Jersey's state government:

“States that have had the most success in privatization created a permanent, centralized entity to manage both privatization and related policies aimed at increasing government efficiency. Such an entity can constantly evaluate agency performance, and implement and oversee privatization initiatives in a consistent way across state government. New Jersey would be well served by an entity whose mission is to seek government efficiency and create competition for service delivery. It should assist government agencies in developing a “business case,” for any proposed privatization...”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Water Wars

Western water wars are legendary and those in California mythic, so one would expect this new report advocating using less water, will certainly ramp up the battle lines, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt.

“Californians need to take significantly less water from the state's single largest supply, according to a state report that could lay the foundation for more limits on water shipments to the Southland.

“The State Water Board document provides new ammunition in the intensifying battle over the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a source of water for roughly two of three Californians and a long-time victim of the state's great thirst.

“The draft report, released Wednesday, acknowledges that the delta's many environmental problems extend beyond water diversions. But it concludes that restoring the delta's collapsing fisheries and hydrologic rhythms are "fundamentally inconsistent with continuing to move large volumes of water through the delta for export."

“The study, authorized by state legislation passed last year, outlines standards that, if adopted, would substantially reduce the amount of water that could be diverted from the Northern California delta in most years.

“Exports to the San Joaquin Valley and the Southland could drop 30% under the flow standards and diversions from the delta's northern tributaries could be slashed by 70%, according to board estimates.

“But the report is just that. It carries no regulatory clout. To take effect, the flow standards would have to survive a long process that would inevitably be influenced by the same political pressures that have for decades contributed to the delta's decline.

"It would obviously devastate water supplies," said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a major importer of delta water. "Nobody is proposing … this is what we're going to do — because that clearly wouldn't work."

“In a statement, Bob Nelson, executive director of a major Central Valley irrigation agency, the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, called the board report "a purely theoretical exercise with no application in the real world."

“But delta advocates said the flow criteria would not be so easy to toss into a filing cabinet: They were drawn up by the water board at the Legislature's request and touch on the same legal doctrines that forced Los Angeles to take less water from the Mono Lake basin in the Eastern Sierra.

"I think this is something that cannot be shelved. This has to have weight," said Cynthia Koehler, senior attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund.

“Couched in repeated caveats — that it was not a formal ruling and did not take into account the state's other water requirements — the report focused on how much water is needed to protect the delta's "public trust resources," including fish, wildlife, and navigation. The answer: a lot more.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Historical Treasure

In a rare bi-partisan effort members of California’s congressional delegation team up to save a very important historical site near the American River and the gold discovery site in Coloma, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“WASHINGTON – Calling it another "Plymouth Rock," Republican Rep. Tom McClintock is proposing that the Department of Interior take over a 271-acre ranch near Coloma as a national historic site.

“Normally, McClintock is no fan of expanding government, but he's making an exception for the project in his 4th Congressional District.

“McClintock has an unlikely ally in his endeavor, Democrat Barbara Boxer, who has introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

“Under their plan, the federal government would use private money – including $1 million from the Sierra Nevada Conservancy – to buy the Gold Hill Ranch in western El Dorado County. It would be preserved as a national site of historical and cultural value, and ultimately could be developed into a public park.

“The project is gaining attention because of the political odd couple that's promoting it on Capitol Hill.

“McClintock, one of the House's most conservative members and no fan of earmarks that benefit his district, and Boxer, one of the most liberal senators, do not have a history of working together on legislation….

“Backers of the project say it has international value because the ranch was home to the former Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, recognized as the first Japanese settlement in the United States. And it includes the grave site of Okei Ito, the first Japanese person to die on American soil, at age 19.

"I've always supported preserving the history of our nation," McClintock said in an interview. "In this case, it's the Plymouth Rock for every American of Japanese ancestry."

“McClintock, who introduced the bill last year and reintroduced it two weeks ago, said the legislation would not appropriate any additional federal money for the project. Instead, he said, it would authorize the acquisition of the property out of the Interior Department's existing budget.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


While various reports attempt to quell the already existing skepticism that dramatically increased after the email controversy heated up, this editorial from the Wall Street Journal puts the attempts—which won’t work—into context.

An excerpt.

“The latest study purporting to absolve the scientists involved in November's Climategate scandal was published this month. On predictable cue, we received a letter from our admirers at the United Nations Foundation and the Natural Resources Defense Council urging us to "set the record straight" on "these bogus scandals." Having devoted considerable space to Climategate, we're happy to do that, though not perhaps as our admirers would want.

“Climategate is media shorthand for the debate over the content of thousands of emails and documents that were released without authorization from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU). At its core, the scandal was as much about the integrity of the scientific process as it was about the quality of the science. Leading climate scientists were caught advising each other to delete potentially compromising emails, stonewall freedom of information requests and game the peer review process to exclude contributions from skeptical colleagues.

“The Climategate emails also revealed a habit among climate scientists of trimming their scientific sails to the political winds, sometimes by emphasizing temperature and environmental trends at the alarmist end of the spectrum.

"I tried hard to balance the needs of the science with the IPCC, which were not always the same," wrote East Anglia climatologist Keith Briffa to Penn State's Michael Mann in April 2007. The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is the U.N. body whose lengthy reports are supposed to be the gold standard for what the world knows about climate change.

“For anyone who believes that science benefits from transparency, Climategate was a very good thing. The scandal prompted reporters, bloggers, independent scientists and parliamentary committees to take a closer look at the "settled science." A widely cited claim by the IPCC that Himalayan glaciers would all but vanish by 2035 was debunked. Another stunner about a potential 40% decline in the Amazonian rainforest "appears to have absolutely no scientific basis at all," according to Roger Pielke, Jr., an environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado. Other attention-getting IPCC assertions turn out to have been based on the work of environmental pressure groups and popular magazines.

“At a minimum, then, Climategate ought to have prompted some soul-searching among climate scientists about the need for greater openness, less politics and a more balanced treatment of the data. Which makes it all the more unfortunate that last week's "Independent Climate Change Email Review," commissioned and funded by the University of East Anglia and chaired by Muir Russell, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, amounts to a 160-page evasion of the real issues.

“One such evasion concerns the science of climate change itself. The review insists that it found nothing "that might undermine the conclusions" of the 2007 IPCC report, to which the CRU was a significant contributor. But that's only because it explicitly refused to look. The review says its "concern is not with science, whether data has been validated or whether the hypotheses have survived testing," but rather with "the honesty, rigor and openness with which the CRU scientists have acted."

“In other words, the review assumes the validity of the global warming "consensus" while purporting to reaffirm that consensus. Since a statement cannot prove itself, the review merely demonstrates a weakness for circular logic.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Eppie’s Great Race Sets Record

A wonderful Parkway event that brings people from all over to the banks of the American, set a participation record this year, as reported by the Rancho Cordova Post.

An excerpt.

“The 37th annual Eppie’s Great Race enjoyed record participation today with 2,092 athletes competing in the popular summer event. The last record was set in 1988 with 2,006 race participants.

“Winner’s of this year’s event include:

“Ironman: Vic Vicari, 51, Sacramento (1:44:24)
“Ironwoman: Nicole Young, 39, Cameron Park (2:02:30)

“Eppie’s Great Race consists of a 5.82-mile run, 12.5-mile cycle and a 6.35-mile paddle on a racecourse located on and along the American River in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova.”

Monday, July 19, 2010

Changing Parks Management & Funding

The recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee comments on the recent deficit driven decisions to seek another way to manage some parks in the County Regional Parks division through contracts with nonprofit organizations.

This is a strategy we have been advocating for some time for the American River Parkway.

Due to its signature status among regional parks, with core elements—the bike trail and Lake Natoma—even being known internationally, it lends itself to the philanthropic fund raising crucial to survival under nonprofit management.

An excerpt.

“As Sacramento County moves to make drastic budget cuts across the board, the entire regional park system is threatened.

“Rangers are being cut by half, which means no routine patrols at many facilities, which will have to accept only "on-call" ranger services. Seasonal maintenance staff also are being cut by half, which means restrooms will be cleaned infrequently, and broken park amenities will be removed but not replaced or repaired.

“County funding has been zeroed out for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, which has provided nature tours, Maidu Indian programs, camps, school field trips, wildlife counts, birding classes, art workshops, aquatic labs and live animal exhibits to thousands of people each year.

“The 345-acre Gibson Ranch equestrian facility, working ranch and demonstration farm – the northern anchor of the regional park system – will close after Labor Day. It has been open only Fridays through Sundays this summer. The horse boarding facility (with 60 boarders) will remain open, operated by the longtime concessionaire, currently operating on a less-than-ideal month-to-month agreement.

“This dire situation has created a new grass-roots effort to come up with options for taking the regional parks system out of county hands and placing it with some independent agency. But this will take some time to develop and will have to be decided by voters.

“In the meantime, necessity has spawned new ideas for public-private partnerships, where some park units will be publicly owned but privately managed by nonprofit organizations.”

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Sacramento is blessed with two historic rivers running through it, and turning their waterfronts around from many decades of neglect has begun, but leadership still needs to consider the stultifying reliance of passive open space—especially along the American—that tends to keep people away rather than inviting them in.

The sanctuary aspect of the Parkway is vital and wonderful, but it needs balancing with the needs for public safety and full community access.

The dangerous conditions in the Lower Reach (Discovery Park to Cal Expo) are a prime example of passive open space policy contributing to a public safety threat because the area has been allowed to become a haven for long-term illegal camping by the homeless.

This article from the Project for Public Spaces notes—point 8—that deficiently and offers several more suggestions to turn around waterfronts.

An excerpt.

“As more cities envision their waterfronts as lively public destinations that keep people coming back, PPS outlines the following principles to make that happen. They are not all hard and fast laws, but rules of thumb drawn from 32 years of experience working to improve urban waterfronts around the world. These ideas can serve as the framework for any waterfront project seeking to create vibrant public spaces, and, by extension, a vibrant city…

“2. Create a shared community vision for the waterfront

“Unlike a master plan, a vision process does not lock a project into a prescribed solution. It is a citizen-led initiative that outlines a set of goals–ideals to strive for–that set the stage for people to think boldly, make breakthroughs, and achieve new possibilities for their waterfront. Because a vision is adaptable and can be implemented gradually, starting with small experiments, it often becomes bolder as public enthusiasm for making changes builds and the transformation of the waterfront gains credibility.

“3. Create multiple destinations: The Power of Ten

“PPS has found that an effective way to structure a vision process is to set a goal of creating ten great destinations along the entire waterfront, an idea we call the “Power of Ten.” This focus on destinations, rather than “open space” or parks, enables a genuine community-led process to take root. Once ten destinations have been identified, then nearby residents, businesses, community organizations and other stakeholders begin to define the uses and activities they want to see at each place. Ideally, each destination should provide ten things to do, which creates diverse, layered activity, ensuring that no single use will predominate.

“This process is open-ended–so that the result can fulfill the hopes of people involved in the process. This cannot happen when it is assumed from the outset that the goal is to build, say, a park, which may narrow the range of possible outcomes and prevent some of the best ideas from ever seeing the light of day….

“8. Use parks to connect destinations, not as destinations unto themselves

“In a similar vein, parks should not serve as the raison d’être of the entire waterfront. Passive open space puts a damper on the inherent vibrancy of waterfronts, evident in cities such as New York, Vancouver, and Toronto that have relied too heavily on “greening” their waterfronts without mixing uses that draw people for different reasons at different times. The world’s best waterfronts use parks as connective tissue, using them to link major destinations together. Helsinki, Stockholm, Sydney, and Baltimore have employed this strategy to fine effect.”

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Parkway Closures and Detours

County Parks Announcement

Guy West bicycle bridge at Sacramento State to close from July 18 to August 24

The Guy West pedestrian bridge will close this summer for five weeks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will do levee improvements on both sides of the river. The levee will be closed, but the bike trail beneath the bridge on the north side will remain open.

Bicycle Detour Near Campus Commons Golf Course to be in Effect in September/October 2010

There will be a detour of bicycle trail between miles 6 and mile 7 (Northrup/Campus Commons Golf Course) to an alternative bike trail during levee work. Stay tuned for further information and detour maps.

Levee Widening Project in Carmichael to Begin in August/September

The U.S. Corps of Engineers will be widening the levee in Carmichael, between Arden Way and Harrington Drive. Construction staging will occur in the overflow parking lot at Arden Way. There will be three days when the construction will close access into and across the Harrington access. Bicycle and equestrian trails will remain open during construction.

Mile 22 Retaining Walls Project Underway July 6

Starting at 7 a.m., the bike trail will be closed until August 1. View detour map. View more about Measure A projects.

Friday, July 16, 2010

K Street Drama Continues

In the never-ending futility of developing the lower-end of K Street, the City Council has chosen an approach I dearly hope brings my hometown the downtown it deserves, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“The decades-long effort to revitalize downtown Sacramento's K Street got a second wind Tuesday night.

“The City Council voted 5-4 to negotiate with two development teams proposing to build more than 200 housing units, shops and restaurants along two downtrodden blocks of the K Street Mall.

“The vote spurned a more elaborate proposal by developer Rubicon Partners to bring a year-round market similar to San Francisco's Ferry Building, a music venue and a 10-story housing complex to K Street. That plan faced at least a $50 million funding gap.

"We need to be more realistic," Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy said.

“By voting to negotiate with local developers D&S and David Taylor for a combined proposal for the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street, the city in essence agreed to hand the firms $42 million worth of downtown properties it has spent years acquiring.

“Officials with both D&S and Taylor's firm told city officials they could complete their projects by 2012. In the end, that quick turnaround – along with proposals described as more modest than Rubicon's – pushed the council vote.

“For at least a decade, the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street have been a source of hope and frustration for city officials.

“In 2005, the city chose Joe Zeiden, owner of the Z Gallerie furniture chain, to redevelop the worn 700 block with upscale retail shops. At the same time, it picked a team including longtime property owner Moe Mohanna to develop the even more devastated 800 block.

“The city spent about $24 million acquiring properties to help with a complicated property swap, but Mohanna balked when it came time to turn his buildings in the 700 block over for Zeiden's use. In late 2008, after the city sued him, Mohanna agreed to sell his K Street properties to the city for $18.6 million.

“But by that time the economy was starting to falter, and Zeiden backed away. In 2009, his furniture company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

“The proposals by Rubicon, D&S and Taylor were the latest chapter in the city's fight to bring life to K Street.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Suburban Movement

Movement to the suburbs continues, as this data-driven article from New Geography notes.

An excerpt.

“Anyone who challenges the notion that the long predicted exodus of people from the suburbs to the city has been wildly overstated is sure to generate some backlash from urban boosters. Alan Berube of the Brookings Institution contends in a New Republic column that "head counts" better reveal city trends than property trends or the massive condo bust. He points to a Brookings Institution analysis by Bill Frey, entitled "Texas Gains, Suburbs Lose in 2010 Census Review," which compares trends in major cities and suburbs, but offers not a sentence demonstrating any actual population “loss” in suburbs (his point is that their growth rates have declined).

“However, Berube has a point. Head counts are the issue. The annual Bureau of the Census "head count" of domestic migration reveals that the suburban to urban core exodus is as elusive as it has ever been. Gross population totals reveal nothing with respect to movements between the suburbs and the core. There is no doubt that core city population trends have improved, and this is a good thing. However, there is not a shred of evidence that suburbanites are picking up and moving to the cores.

“Domestic Migration: This is indicated by a "head count" of migration trends during the decade and during the last year. Each year, the Bureau of the Census estimates the number of people who move between counties (domestic migration) and the number of people who move into metropolitan areas from outside the nation (international migration). The data is estimated at the county (equivalent) level, which means that, except where cities are counties (such as Baltimore, San Francisco and others), individual core city data is not available. Thus, the analysis has to rely on core versus suburban counties in metropolitan areas (Note 1).

“In short, the nation's urban cores continue to lose domestic migrants with a vengeance, however are doing quite well at attracting international migration. Thus, core growth is not resulting from migration from suburbs or any other part of the nation, but is driven by international migration.

“The following analysis covers all but four (48) metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population as of 2009. San Diego, Las Vegas and Tucson are excluded because they include only one county, so there is only a core county and no suburban county. New Orleans is excluded due to the special circumstances of the huge population losses from Hurricane Katrina.

“Generally, domestic migrants are leaving the nation's largest metropolitan areas. Between 2000 and 2009, a net 1,900,000 domestic migrants moved to areas of the nation outside the largest metropolitan areas (Table 1). Domestic migration losses occurred 24 of the 48 metropolitan areas. In the last year (2008-2009), the net domestic out-migration for all 48 regions in total was 22,000, 90% below the 2000-2008 annual rate. A somewhat smaller number of metropolitan areas, 22, experienced domestic migration losses in the last year. Most observers, including Berube, trace this diminishing loss to the recession, which has made movement in any direction more difficult over the past two years.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

An Urban or Suburban Future?

An informative debate between the advocates of each, as reported--with anti-suburban bias showing--by Fast Company.

An excerpt.

“Last Wednesday night, Joel Kotkin--a futurist and (sub)urban historian--squared off in a debate against Christopher Leinberger, a developer, consultant and proponent of "walkable urbanism." The topic: "America 2050: What Will We Build." The pair tangled on four key issues: demographics; housing supply & demand; transport; and density. Kotkin was in hostile territory: a roomful of Manhattan architects and academics belonging to the Forum for Urban Design.


“Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million, is commonly labeled an apologist for sprawl, he’s more like its Gorbachev, seeking to reform an unsustainable institution from within. He believes that sheer population growth will save the economy as America adds another hundred million people in the coming decade, mostly through immigration. While China ages disastrously and Europeans die off, young immigrants will more than offset the earnings of the retiring Baby Boomers, replenish the heartland, and resuscitate our moribund construction industry.

“This bodes well for suburbia, he argued. Upsetting conventional wisdom, studies show boomers retiring close to home, while immigrants are increasingly making the suburbs their first stop, and millennials see a suburban future for themselves as well. He sees them following the same path as their parents -- marrying, moving to the suburbs, and settling down to raise a family. Collectively, these three groups will sop up the estimated surplus of 22 million large-lot homes by 2025.

“But Leinberger produced his own statistics, refuting Kotkin’s numbers and demonstrating that the percentage of married couples with children versus those without had hovered around a 50-50 split when suburbia was constructed in the 1950s; today the ratio is more like 33-67, on its way in the coming decades to 14 percent with children and 86 percent without -- obviating the need for yards and good schools. Surburbia is massively overbuilt, awaiting a second baby boom that isn’t coming.”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Climategate Whitewash

If you have been following the Climategate story, you have probably heard that various reports have come out recently claiming nothing was determined to have been improper.

This story from the Wall Street Journal examines those claims.

An excerpt.

“Last November there was a world-wide outcry when a trove of emails were released suggesting some of the world's leading climate scientists engaged in professional misconduct, data manipulation and jiggering of both the scientific literature and climatic data to paint what scientist Keith Briffa called "a nice, tidy story" of climate history. The scandal became known as Climategate.

“Now a supposedly independent review of the evidence says, in effect, "nothing to see here." Last week "The Independent Climate Change E-mails Review," commissioned and paid for by the University of East Anglia, exonerated the University of East Anglia. The review committee was chaired by Sir Muir Russell, former vice chancellor at the University of Glasgow.

“Mr. Russell took pains to present his committee, which consisted of four other academics, as independent. He told the Times of London that "Given the nature of the allegations it is right that someone who has no links to either the university or the climate science community looks at the evidence and makes recommendations based on what they find."

“No links? One of the panel's four members, Prof. Geoffrey Boulton, was on the faculty of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences for 18 years. At the beginning of his tenure, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU)—the source of the Climategate emails—was established in Mr. Boulton's school at East Anglia. Last December, Mr. Boulton signed a petition declaring that the scientists who established the global climate records at East Anglia "adhere to the highest levels of professional integrity."

“This purportedly independent review comes on the heels of two others—one by the University of East Anglia itself and the other by Penn State University, both completed in the spring, concerning its own employee, Prof. Michael Mann. Mr. Mann was one of the Climategate principals who proposed a plan, which was clearly laid out in emails whose veracity Mr. Mann has not challenged, to destroy a scientific journal that dared to publish three papers with which he and his East Anglia friends disagreed. These two reviews also saw no evil. For example, Penn State "determined that Dr. Michael E. Mann did not engage in, nor did he participate in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Central Park Conservancy: The Back Story

The role that the Central Park Conservancy—the nonprofit organization that has been managing Central Park for some time—has played in our development of a strategy for seeing the American River Parkway be managed by a nonprofit, is well known by our members and those who have followed our organization.

Philanthropy Magazine has profiled the major philanthropist whose leadership, vision, and money, set in motion the renewing of Central Park the Conservancy was responsible for.

An excerpt.

“In 1969, legendary investor Richard Gilder moved his stockbrokerage firm’s offices from Wall Street to midtown Manhattan and started walking to work each day across Central Park. The native New Yorker had not realized until then how drastically a few years of bad government had ruined and degraded what he recalled as his idyllic childhood playground. Everywhere, he saw smashed streetlights, shattered benches, drug-dealing thugs, and spaced-out bums. He knew that the trash-choked weeds hid infected heroin needles, and the bushes, muggers. Hardly a blade of grass grew on the lawns, now pocked dustbowls that rain turned to mud.

“I was totally horrified,” Gilder says. “But I think horror is a tremendous thing to have on your side. It is so stark, it just drives you to action.” He launched a two-decade-long campaign to save the 843-acre park, which he capped in 1991 with a $17 million gift—over $27 million today—to restore the Great Lawn at the park’s heart to its Elysian green. That dramatic gesture of daring generosity made us demoralized New Yorkers believe for the first time that our crime-ridden, nearly bankrupt city could become the world’s capital once again. It restored our optimism and self-confidence, reminding us that human ingenuity can solve problems human folly has caused. Some philanthropic gifts, after all, can lift a whole community’s spirit….

“Seed Capital

“Central Park had been Gilder’s backyard ever since he was a boy. In the 1930s, his New Orleans–born mother, the daughter of Jews from Alsace-Lorraine who settled in Mississippi in the 1830s, walked him daily around the park in his stylish wicker perambulator. He played softball there most afternoons after school at P.S. 166 and then P.S. 6. On weekends he rowed on the lake or sledded down the hills. When he returned to his hometown in the mid-1950s as a young stockbroker—a profession he fell into by accident after school at Mount Hermon, Yale, and an unhappy few months at Yale Law—he played a ferocious game of touch football there with fellow Wall Streeters every single fall and winter Sunday for years, rain, shine, or snow.

“In 1968, Gilder left A. G. Becker to start his own stockbrokerage firm “after I had a little disagreement with the boss.” By then, Mayor John V. Lindsay had transformed Central Park into a case study in how not to run a city. Lindsay, the quintessential 1960s limousine liberal, had turned almost every foolish idea of the era into public policy. His Welfare Commissioner, Mitchell “Come-and-Get-It” Ginsberg, had more than doubled the welfare rolls in the name of social justice, deepening the city’s social pathology; his Parks Commissioner, Thomas Hoving, had invited huge crowds to trample Central Park’s lawns into hardpan at rock concerts and at “Hoving’s Happenings,” celebrations of the era’s supposedly free spirit.

“Lindsay’s belief that police should ignore supposedly “victimless” crimes like graffiti vandalism, drug dealing, public urination, and public drunkenness defaced and despoiled public spaces, none more so than Central Park. As we New Yorkers walked across that desert in those days—through the dust and stink of human and canine waste, past the muttering and disheveled deinstitutionalized madmen, under the hard, aggressive stares of the drug dealers—we knew it was not our park. It was theirs. And since such disorder breeds serious crime, we also knew, as the city’s murder rate skyrocketed up to six per day, it was as unsafe as it was unsightly.

“Unlike most New Yorkers, Gilder would not stand for this. “You don’t really realize how something becomes a part of you and you come to love it, until someone insults its dignity,” he says. So he went to see Hoving’s successor, August Heckscher, to see what he could do. Wall Street tycoon George Soros made a similar offer of help shortly afterward, Gilder recalls. “They told him there was another crackpot who’d been messing around; maybe you two guys should get together.” So the two investors decided to go long on Central Park. They sponsored a study showing how private money, a private Board of Guardians, and modern management could rescue the derelict park, and they set up the Central Park Community Fund to begin turning the study into reality.

“By then Abe Beame was mayor,” Gilder recalls dryly. “He hated Manhattan: he was from Brooklyn. He had no use for parks.” For four years, Gilder felt he was tilting at windmills. “We made very little progress, because the mayor was against us.” Beame had a revolving door for Parks Commissioners, with a new one every year, “so we’d just get used to one’s prejudices, and he was fired,” Gilder recounts. “But we weren’t doing any better; we had four successive executive directors. Every time they fired somebody, we fired somebody.” The fund bought a few trucks and some needed equipment for the park’s demoralized, inefficient union workforce, but its main accomplishment was merely to hang in there. “Here’s what I learned from this,” Gilder says: “If you have a good idea, it’ll build, no matter how you screw it up.”

“When Edward Koch took over City Hall in 1978, “the sun burst through,” Gilder says. The new mayor’s Parks Commissioner, Gordon Davis, invented the position of Central Park Administrator for a dynamic urbanist, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers. Rogers was running what she calls a “teeny, peanut” nonprofit, the Central Park Task Force, that she had started as a youth summer-jobs program in 1975. The entrepreneurial Gilder did what entrepreneurs do: he recognized talent, backed it, and egged it on. His community fund merged with her task force to form the Central Park Conservancy, of which Gilder was a founding trustee. “He was an investor, he would say,” recalls Rogers, “and he was investing in, you know, me—and the belief that this could be done.”

“The Central Park Conservancy laid out a master plan for managing and restoring the park, and set about gradually executing it, zone by zone, project by project, as it could raise money. Harlem Meer, on the park’s north edge, turned from a fetid, garbage-choked cesspool back into a crystalline pond, its burned-out boathouse resurrected into a steeply gabled, cupola-crowned romantic confection in pink and green, looking like it had been there since Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed the park just before the Civil War.

“The Central Park Conservancy laid out a master plan for managing and restoring the park, and set about gradually executing it, zone by zone, project by project, as it could raise money. Harlem Meer, on the park’s north edge, turned from a fetid, garbage-choked cesspool back into a crystalline pond, its burned-out boathouse resurrected into a steeply gabled, cupola-crowned romantic confection in pink and green, looking like it had been there since Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed the park just before the Civil War.

“Restorers healed the broken, graffiti-smeared sandstone and crumbled bricks of Bethesda Terrace, where wayward teens had congregated nightly for a decade to smoke dope and misbehave, and transformed it back into New York’s most meltingly beautiful spot. Backed by brightly colored rowboats gliding serenely on the willow-bordered lake, the bronze angel stretching her arm over the great, repaired Victorian fountain seemed as miraculous to us New Yorkers as the angel who enchanted the biblical Pool of Bethesda’s waters so they could cure the sick of any disease they had.

“Almost as miraculous was the renewal of the park’s workforce. As skyrocketing taxes to fund government’s various nostrums, coupled with the crime and decay those nostrums produced, drove taxpayers out of the city, New York flirted with bankruptcy, and public-sector employment had to shrink. “The fiscal crisis really worked in our favor,” Rogers explains, “because you could no longer say, ‘You’re taking away the job of a union man.’”

“Gingerly, the conservancy brought in as replacements its own restorers, planters, tree experts—soothingly called interns—who “had to work alongside of and not threaten” the remaining city employees, whose work rules the budget crunch also changed. “You didn’t any longer need three men to prune a tree,” says Rogers, “one man to climb and one man on the ground to hand up the tools and a motor vehicle operator to sit in the truck and wait.” Understandably, “a them-and-us tension” lingered, she recalls, which was finally resolved in 1997, when the city elevated its public-private partnership with the conservancy into a contract for the total management of Central Park.

“But that happened only after Gilder’s grand gesture brought the conservancy’s efforts to spectacular fruition. Rogers, Gilder says, is “one of those tigresses,” and “you want to just keep throwing red meat at them as long as their mouths can open.” By the start of the 1990s, though, “Betsy began to run out of steam,” Gilder says. “She was a little bit like Grant in 1864, holed up there in Petersburg and not getting anywhere. And I said, ‘Betsy, what would it take to more or less finish the park?’”

“Fifty million,” Rogers shot back.

“So I kept thinking about it,” Gilder recalls. “Fifty million I can’t do. But business is pretty good; it’s going to take four or five years to do what Betsy had in mind. Could I somehow come up with $17 million over this period of time?” That would be a third of $51 million: he would challenge the city to match it with another $17 million and the citizens of New York with the final third. Now a trademark of Gilder’s philanthropic entrepreneurship, the challenge grant would not merely amplify the force of Gilder’s own contribution, giving him leverage to accomplish more. Equally important, he says, it would give him and other would-be donors a “needed critique and a market judgment” to be sure their idea made sense. “Matching is a very good way to do that, I’ve learned: if you aren’t going to be with me, then maybe the idea stinks.”

“This idea sang, the money poured in, and once the huge, 55-acre Great Lawn sprang back to life in velvety, shimmering green, connecting all the other improvements around it, New Yorkers suddenly realized they had the park back, whole and pristine, and they flocked into it. With such a magnificent, manicured, orderly public space at its center, the whole city stood poised for the urban rebirth that the 1990s accomplished. “You could even say we were a leading indicator,” Gilder beams. “As the park began to improve, the rest of the city did too.”

“None of this—the new drains, the sprinklers, the imported topsoil, the careful gardening—is about ecology or being “green,” of course. It is a triumph of cultivation, nurture, and artifice, for the park is a consummate work of art that humanizes, tames, and exalts nature’s raw material, like the great man-made work of art that is the city itself. Especially to someone like Gilder—who struck his old friend Judith Berkowitz, when she met him decades ago, as “the incarnation of everything you ever thought of when you thought of urbane New Yorkers”—Central Park is a stage set for the drama of urban civility, a democratic theater where, says Gilder, “rich and poor, black and white, young and old” mingle harmoniously and watch the spectacle that is each other.

“It’s like being at a concert,” Gilder remarks, and the park is at its best “when it’s crowded, and they’re all respectful, and they’re all drinking in the cultural experience.” From 1990 to 1993, Gilder’s impulse to restore New York’s civility and vitality led him to chair the Manhattan Institute, an urban-policy think tank from whose City Journal Mayor Rudy Giuliani joked that he “plagiarized” the policies that revived Gotham.”

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Two New York Parks

Central Park and the way it has been managed—through a nonprofit conservancy under contract with the city—has served as a model for how we would like to see the American River Parkway managed, and this story from the New York Times comparing two signature New York Parks, Central and Prospect, is insightful.

An excerpt.

“From: Vaux Populi
To: A Little Bit Country
Subject: Upper Case Thought

I admit I was surprised when the idea of a friendly joust over the respective merits of Central Park and Prospect Park was first proposed to us. It had never occurred to me that anyone seriously considered the two parks comparable. I have nothing against Prospect Park. I have actually been to Prospect Park. It is, as I recall, in Brooklyn. I am sure that if I found myself near it again and had nothing better to do, I would be happy to watch the grass grow, or whatever it is people do there. But seriously. I look forward to sharing with you why Central Park is not only the most visited, most famous, most beloved, but also — wait, I’m going to need the caps lock button for this — THE GREATEST URBAN PARK ON EARTH.

“From: A Little Bit Country
To: Vaux Populi
Subject: Blushing Horses

I’m sure Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the architects of both these parks, would be surprised by your surprise, as Prospect was their clear favorite. It’s widely understood among landscape architects that Central Park was a mere practice run, and Prospect Park the true masterpiece — like God making man before woman.

I didn’t know Manhattanites actually used Central Park. It’s a wonder you’re even able to, since it’s so entirely overrun by tourists. Though I did once ford a treacherous river of Lycra-clad bikers to find a small flat spot of grass where Upper East Siders sardine together in search of the perfect tan. Ah, park as annex to gym and tanning salon! Inspired!

Consider, by way of contrast, our Long Meadow: the pastoral ideal at its finest, with undulating hills dotted with ancient trees, among which a diverse array of humanity frolics with happy abandon. The difference between our parks is that mine is full of New Yorkers in their own gorgeous backyard, and yours is full of suburbanites snapping pictures out of pedicabs.

I’ve got nothing against tourists. I just don’t want to be around a lot of them all at once, especially when I’m trying to relax. But they do have the darnedest accoutrements — their horse carriages, for example. Everyone on them seems so embarrassed. Even the horses are mortified.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010


In a trend that should continue, government is getting out of the type of service that is better provided by the private sector—economically and efficiently—and it is a trend vigorously exemplified by the new governor in New Jersey, as this story from North Jersey News notes.

An excerpt.

“New Jersey would close its centralized car inspection lanes and motorists would pay for their own emissions tests under a sweeping set of recommendations set to be released by the Christie administration today.

“State parks, psychiatric hospitals and even turnpike toll booths could also be run by private operators, according to the 57-page report on privatization obtained by The Star-Ledger. Preschool classrooms would no longer be built at public expense, state employees would pay for parking and private vendors would dish out food, deliver health care and run education programs behind prison walls.

“All told, the report says, New Jersey could save at least $210 million a year by delivering an array of services through private hands.

"The question has to be, ‘Why do you continue to operate in a manner that’s more costly and less effective?’ rather than, ‘Why change?’ " said Richard Zimmer, the former Republican congressman who chaired the task force.”

Friday, July 09, 2010

Two Rivers Strategy

As the recent editorial in the Sacramento Bee noted, creating recreational access to the rivers in Sacramento is a great enhancement of our quality of life.

While recreational access work along the Sacramento is moving forward, that along the American has remained sluggish, partially due to the deep funding restrictions faced by Sacramento County, the management entity of the American River Parkway.

Our strategy for providing supplemental funding to the Parkway—creating a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) of adjacent governments and the JPA creating a nonprofit organization for management and fundraising—promises a more robust avenue for the type of Parkway enhancements sorely needed.

An excerpt.

“As Sacramento starts another week of temperatures in the high 90's, here's a special treat for those who want to spend some time along the city's Sacramento River.

“The riverfront has a new section of promenade with some great features for walkers, bicyclists and those who like to lounge as they view the river.

“The official opening of the first phase of the Riverfront Promenade extension – from O Street to R Street – was June 2, but people are only slowly discovering it.

“Walk or bike south from Tower Bridge in Old Sacramento and you'll find a 20-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path, new overlook of the 700-foot-wide river, benches, a set of three concrete lounge chairs that are amazingly comfortable and an R Street pocket park that includes a "cloud vessel shade structure with fog mister."

“The shade structure looks less like a cloud than the internal skeleton of an old wooden ship, a fish or a dirigible, but art is in the eye of the beholder. The artist, Ned Kahn, is known for incorporating natural processes (fog, water, currents, tornados, etc.) into his work. It's a nice addition, and on a 100-degree day that spray of water is more than welcome. Kids, certainly, and kids at heart will find ways to stand under it and enjoy a soaking.

“The California State Railroad Museum's excursion train runs alongside the promenade – a treat to watch, especially when the old steam engines are running.”

Thursday, July 08, 2010


As today’s article in the Sacramento Bee reports, running along the 8.8 mile Olmstead Loop Trail in Cool can be a wonderful adventure, but hazardous—primarily from having to share the trail with horses and bike riders.

This is the situation also shared by the American River Parkway trail, and we researched some options to increase the enjoyment and reduce the danger in our 2008 report, The American River Parkway: Recreation, Education & Sanctuary, A Vision & Policy Primer, beginning on page 15.

1) An excerpt from the Bee article.

“Olmstead is also one of the area's first multiuse trails. Once called the Knickerbocker Trail – for the canyon creek about halfway in – the loop in 1993 was renamed for Dan Olmstead, a local hiker and mountain biker who sought detente with equestrian users and pushed to open the area to all forms of transportation.

“Ironic, then, that in the ongoing skirmish among equestrians, mountain bikers and hikers/trail runners in the foothills and on other Northern California trails, Olmstead has become something of a ground zero.

“Which is why I made sure to hit the ground running no later than 8 a.m. on a Friday. There's a reason Olmstead is often so crowded: It's a gorgeous, peaceful trail for a family outing, yet varied enough to keep boredom at bay. In contrast to other trails in the Auburn recreation area, Olmstead isn't daunting but still provides a sense of pleasant isolation and maybe even an encounter with a family of deer.

“My idea was to run the Olmstead clockwise, taking advantage of the flat, oak-lined grassland in the first three miles before descending and ascending in equal measure for the challenging (for both runners and hikers) next four miles until a gradual rolling meadow serves as a cool-down before returning to Cool….

“For the first two miles, the run was a fortress of solitude: not a sound save for my breathing and the shush of my feet against the overgrown grass encroaching on the single-track trail….

“But anyone could clearly see – and feel – that this was a well-trod, multiuse path. I don't know which was more prevalent: the, uh, pungent mementos left by the horses or the deep ruts left by mountain bikers in the rainy season. I could see how some hikers might get annoyed dodging such obstacles, since those in sneakers leave the smallest footprints.

“In fact, just before the descent to Knickerbocker Creek, I happened to be looking down to keep solid footing as I rounded a minor switchback. I heard this high-pitched wail: "WHHHHOOOOAAA!"

“I was 10 feet away from two women astride hulking, lathered steeds. Were they going to let me pass on their right? Neigh. Or, rather, nay.

“Established trail etiquette, reinforced by triangular signs ubiquitously posted, calls for bike riders to yield to hikers and equestrians, and hikers to yield to horses.

"Get off the trail!" she said harshly as I stopped in my tracks.

“The skittish horse bowed her head and tossed her mane like Paris Hilton, then snorted as loudly as a car horn. Slightly freaked, I stepped off, pronto. As the two riders sauntered past, the horsewoman who admonished me smiled and said, "You're fine now, darlin'."

2) An excerpt from our report.


"An issue that has long festered on the current trail arrangement in the Parkway is the lack of safe and enjoyable trail space for walkers and equestrians comparable to the paved trail used predominantly by bike riders, who naturally feel it is their trail.

"One good trail layout is that suggested by the Rails to Trails organization and it is a good place to start discussions for the Parkway.

"From their website, here is what they have come up with.

"It is a trail space approximately 40 feet wide, with 12 feet for bikes, 3 feet of plantings, 10 feet for walkers, 3 feet of plantings, and 12 feet for horses."

3) Another great option for the Parkway trail realignment, though we didn't include it in our 2008 report, is to use the existing levee for the walking trail.

This would probably require less improvement than cutting a new pedestrian trail.

By adding better paving, benches and water fountains, and continuing the trail in the areas where there is no levee, you could create a very nice pedestrian trail, with great views and plenty of space.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Suburbs are Loved

For awhile there it appeared—to many—that most people really did want to live in the inner city rather than the suburbs, but that was just a little bit of self deception on the part of urban planners and the developers who bought into the myth.

The truth has been noted by New Geography.

An excerpt.

“Pundits, planners and urban visionaries—citing everything from changing demographics, soaring energy prices, the rise of the so-called "creative class," and the need to battle global warming—have been predicting for years that America's love affair with the suburbs will soon be over. Their voices have grown louder since the onset of the housing crisis. Suburban neighborhoods, as the Atlantic magazine put it in March 2008, would morph into "the new slums" as people trek back to dense urban spaces.

“But the great migration back to the city hasn't occurred. Over the past decade the percentage of Americans living in suburbs and single-family homes has increased. Meanwhile, demographer Wendell Cox's analysis of census figures show that a much-celebrated rise in the percentage of multifamily housing peaked at 40% of all new housing permits in 2008, and it has since fallen to below 20% of the total, slightly lower than in 2000.

“Housing prices in and around the nation's urban cores is clear evidence that the back-to-the-city movement is wishful thinking. Despite cheerleading from individuals such as University of Toronto Professor Richard Florida, and Carole Coletta, president of CEOs for Cities and the Urban Land Institute, this movement has crashed in ways that match—and in some cases exceed—the losses suffered in suburban and even exurban locations. Condos in particular are a bellwether: Downtown areas, stuffed with new condos, have suffered some of the worst housing busts in the nation.

“Take Miami, once a poster child for urban revitalization. According to National Association of Realtors data, the median condominium price in the Miami metropolitan area has dropped 75% from its 2007 peak, far worse than 50% decline suffered in the market for single family homes.

“Then there's Los Angeles. Over the last year, according to the real estate website, single-family home prices in the Los Angeles region have rebounded by a modest 10%. But the downtown condo market has lost over 18% of its value. Many ambitious new projects, like Eli Broad's grandiose Grand Avenue Development, remain on long-term hold.

“The story in downtown Las Vegas is massive overbuilding and vacancies. The Review Journal recently reported a nearly 21-year supply of unsold condominium units. MGM City Center developer Larry Murren stated this spring that he wished he had built half as many units. Mr. Murren cites a seminar on mixed-use development—a commonplace event in many cities over the past few years—as sparking his overenthusiasm. He's not the only developer who has admitted being misled.

“Behind the condo bust is a simple error: people's stated preferences. Virtually every survey of opinion, including a 2004 poll co-sponsored by Smart Growth America, a group dedicated to promoting urban density, found that roughly 13% of Americans prefer to live in an urban environment while 33% prefer suburbs, and another 18% like exurbs. These patterns have been fairly consistent over the last several decades.”

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A Growing Suburb

Reflecting the long-held reality that people want to live in suburbs, especially new ones that are somewhat out in the countryside, the suburb city of Roseville is ranked as one of the fastest growing in the state, as reported by the Sacramento Bee.

An excerpt.

“The super-suburb of Roseville has powered through the recession, emerging as one of the state's fastest-growing cities while other former boomtowns sit fallow.

“Roseville's regional market share for new houses has more than tripled during the housing downtown, said Greg Paquin, a Folsom consultant to the home-building industry.

“With nearly 300 housing starts in the first three months of 2010, the growth frontier of west Roseville reveals scenes sometimes forgotten in a troubled housing market: yard signs hawking window blinds and crews digging trenches for sprinkler lines. Trucks roam the streets carrying rolled-up lawn sod.

“The growth is fueled by new arrivals like Eric and Sarah Fitzsimons, who moved from Arizona to Roseville this year. They wanted a family-friendly neighborhood with good schools and easy driving to the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe.

“They bought a $370,000 house with solar panels on the city's west side, where much of the growth is occurring. They're still jazzed by it all.

"Everything so far has been great," said Eric Fitzsimons, who travels the West as regional sales manager for American Bio Medica Corp., maker of drug testing kits. His wife, a nurse with Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, seamlessly transferred to Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael.

“Some analysts say Roseville's twin attractions – perceived high quality of life and plenty of developable land – mirror home-building hot spots such as Dublin in the Bay Area and Irvine in Southern California. Only at prices in the $300,000s.”

Monday, July 05, 2010

Independence Reflection

Now that the fireworks are over, the flag is put away, and the barbeque is cool—though in our house the clean-up from the feast still lingers—it is a good time to reflect on the great and noble ideas upon which our country is founded, ideas which still ring true in the hearts of Americans.

An excerpt from an article from the Heritage Foundation.

“The Fourth of July is a great opportunity to renew our dedication to the principles of liberty and equality enshrined in what Thomas Jefferson called "the declaratory charter of our rights."

“As a practical matter, the Declaration of Independence publicly announced to the world the unanimous decision of the American colonies to declare themselves free and independent states, absolved from any allegiance to Great Britain. But its greater meaning-then as well as now-is as a statement of the conditions of legitimate political authority and the proper ends of government, and its proclamation of a new ground of political rule in the sovereignty of the people. "If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence," wrote the great historian Samuel Eliot Morrison, "it would have been worthwhile."

“Although Congress had appointed a distinguished committee-including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston-the Declaration of Independence is chiefly the work of Thomas Jefferson. By his own account, Jefferson was neither aiming at originality nor taking from any particular writings but was expressing the "harmonizing sentiments of the day," as expressed in conversation, letters, essays, or "the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc." Jefferson intended the Declaration to be "an expression of the American mind," and wrote so as to "place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent."

“The structure of the Declaration of Independence is that of a common law legal document. The ringing phrases of the document's famous second paragraph are a powerful synthesis of American constitutional and republican government theories. All men have a right to liberty only in so far as they are by nature equal, which is to say none are naturally superior, and deserve to rule, or inferior, and deserve to be ruled. Because men are endowed with these rights, the rights are unalienable, which means that they cannot be given up or taken away. And because individuals equally possess these rights, governments derive their just powers from the consent of those governed. The purpose of government is to secure these fundamental rights and, although prudence tells us that governments should not be changed for trivial reasons, the people retain the right to alter or abolish government when it becomes destructive of these ends.

“The remainder of the document is a bill of indictment accusing King George III of some 30 offenses, some constitutional, some legal, and some matters of policy. The combined charges against the king were intended to demonstrate a history of repeated injuries, all having the object of establishing "an absolute tyranny" over America. Although the colonists were "disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable," the time had come to end the relationship: "But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."

“One charge that Jefferson had included, but Congress removed, was that the king had "waged cruel war against human nature" by introducing slavery and allowing the slave trade into the American colonies. A few delegates were unwilling to acknowledge that slavery violated the "most sacred rights of life and liberty," and the passage was dropped for the sake of unanimity. Thus was foreshadowed the central debate of the American Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln saw as a test to determine whether a nation "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" could long endure.

“The Declaration of Independence and the liberties recognized in it are grounded in a higher law to which all human laws are answerable. This higher law can be understood to derive from reason-the truths of the Declaration are held to be "self-evident"-but also revelation. There are four references to God in the document: to "the laws of nature and nature's God"; to all men being "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"; to "the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions"; and to "the protection of Divine Providence." The first term suggests a deity that is knowable by human reason, but the others-God as creator, as judge, and as providence-are more biblical, and add a theological context to the document. "And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God?" Jefferson asked in his Notes on the State of Virginia.”

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Friday, July 02, 2010

K Street Drama, Act 3,333

Another plan to redo the apparently unredoable, but hope springs eternal, as reported by the Sacramento Press.

An excerpt.

“They brought Sacramento the Citizen Hotel and its restaurant, Grange.

“Now that same team is proposing an even more ambitious downtown project. Calling themselves the Sacramento Alliance Team, the partners behind the Citizen Hotel are seeking Sacramento City Council approval to redevelop the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street Mall.

“Two weeks before a council vote on the matter, they held an open meeting on the plan's centerpiece: a 35,000-square-foot public market, tentatively called the California Boqueria, that would showcase the state's food and wine at the corner of Eighth and K streets.

“Two of the partners, Rubicon Partners co-founder Kipp Blewett and Grange Executive Chef Michael Tuohy, encouraged about 120 people at the meeting to sign an online petition, e-mail the council and tell their friends about the project.

"What we really need is your support to move forward with this," Tuohy said at a Citizen Hotel reception featuring California wine, artisan cheeses and local produce. "It's about telling the city of Sacramento that this is very important and this is what we need and this is what you want."

“Four teams — including the Sacramento Alliance Team — answered the city's request for proposals to redevelop the troubled K Street Mall blocks and submitted ideas in March. Last month, a selection committee created by the city recommended two other teams to develop those blocks. Those teams, led by developers David Taylor and Cyrus Youssefi, were also endorsed earlier this month by the Downtown Sacramento Partnership board, of which Blewett is president.”

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Parkway Needs This Technology!

1) An excellent tool for keeping the Parkway clean and safe, as reported by Governing.

2)Sacramento County Parks posts info for July 4th, which includes a fee increase.

An excerpt from the Governing article.

“The New Haven Green was littered with trash. Using a Web application called SeeClickFix, citizens used their mobile cellphone cameras to photograph the problem and send their complaint to city hall. But instead of waiting for the public works department, citizens in the neighborhood became aware of each other's concerns through the community feature of the SeeClickFix site, and decided to clean the park up themselves.

“The ability of geographic information systems (GIS) to empower citizens to actively participate in the delivery of public services is growing, especially in local governments, according to a recent IBM Center report by Dr. Sukumar Ganapati. (A helpful video version of the report is also available.)

“GIS technology empowers citizens to participate in co-delivery, allowing individuals and small groups to take part in local problem solving, often acting more quickly and effectively than government alone. Not everything can be co-delivered, of course. Many government services take expertise, like building inspections, or authority, like arresting speeders. Still, there are many ways in which citizens can be involved if provided the tools. At the local level, the technology is being used for a variety of functions that are changing the citizen-government relationship.

“Using GIS, government serves as a platform for providing and sharing information. Following are several examples of how governments are doing this.

“Citizen-volunteered GIS. Web 2.0 services are allowing citizens to become directly engaged in co-producing services. For example, OpenStreetMap is a free map of the world that can be edited by anybody to collaboratively map details in communities for crimes, environmental monitoring, parking or even the use of stimulus monies!”