Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If You Build It They Probably Still Won't Want To Come

Have you ever stopped to think about just how much effort is being put into getting you to take public transportation? How many thousands of people have been employed by various branches of government to bring this about, or the incredible sums in taxpayer dollars that have been invested in the cause? The people employed in marketing the effort alone is an entire industry in itself.

This truly is a staggering effort if you think about it. And that government officials would actually envision the leveling of entire low density sections of a town so that they can plan for its inclusion in the building of shiny new mass transportation corridor cities, all in the hope that maybe, just maybe, its residents might decide to walk to the nearby train station rather than drive their cars is, well, mind boggling.

And the catalyst for this in the San Gabriel Valley is the 210 Trolly? Heaven help us.

It would seem to me that creating low or no emission vehicles would be a far more agreeable solution to the greenhouse gas problem. Honda is investing billions of dollars in the creation of a hydrogen fueled engine, a proven technology that now only needs to be made affordable. Once that hits the road and the global warming issue starts to fade as an effective weapon in the war against personal transportation, what will SCAG's rationale for massive population relocation projects be then? That high density living gives people greater opportunities for social networking?

Why can't these people realize that most folks don't really want to live in a stacked box and walk to a bus, and given their druthers would choose a home with a yard and a car parked out front? Has there ever been a modern society that has gambled so heavily on a social engineering scheme with as little chance for success as this one? Or one that so obviously flies in the face of the wishes of those it hopes to involve? Southern California is now littered with failed attempts at this very sort of thing. Monrovia Commons, Rosedale, The Stuart, some place called Pasadena. Why the need to go on?

Now don't get me wrong, I honestly do not care where other people want to live or how they get to work. It is entirely their own business. What I am concerned about is those folks who are working rather hard to force feed a mandatory mass transportation lifestyle into MY town. I didn't move here because I wanted to live in a place reengineered to accommodate some state salaried planner's concept of a peoples' public transportation paradise. Complete with block after block of cookie cutter pastel flat-topped condos and minimum wage mini-marts. I moved here because I wanted to get as far away from that sort of thing as I possibly could. That might not be a fashionable lifestyle concept in some urban interior quarters, but I'm not all that concerned about it.

Believe me, 10 years of living in New York more than cured me of the romance of life as a straphanger. And that some here in L.A. County would attempt to portray such an existence as being cutting edge or a form of city-style cool is a source of great amusement here. I've done hard time in that world, and now I wish to live as a free man.

And finally, someone writing for a major publication has broken through the ubiquitous bunk and gotten it right. David Lazarus, commenting in the business section of the Los Angeles Times, identifies in a delightfully unsentimental way what it would take to turn a bucolic low density community such as ours into a sector of mandated mass transportation and stacked box living.

"It can happen," said Martin Wachs, director of transportation, space and technology for Rand Corp. in Santa Monica. "But it will only happen over a long period of time and will require a number of policy changes." ... Specifically, it won't be enough to just lay down lots of track and hope people will leap aboard trains and subways. You'll also have to discourage the use of cars -- which most Americans won't stand for -- and make our cities considerably less comfortable. Good luck with that.

Indeed. This is what David Lazurus suggests it will take to make the public transportation dream work, and convince us to abandon our current lifestyles for the brave new world:

1) Make driving highly expensive through jacked up gas taxes and road tolls.
2) Make parking costs prohibitive and spaces harder to find.
3) Redevelop our cities and suburbs to make them denser and more crowded.
4) Discourage any transportation options that are not a form of public transit.

All of which might lead you to believe that an entire generation of politicians and urban planners wants to do whatever they can to harsh your lifestyle, limit your choices, and generally make your existence as miserable as possible. Or, as Lazurus put it:

I hate to be cynical, but I simply can't imagine political leaders at the local, state or federal level telling voters that they support a big increase in gas taxes, sky-high parking fees and high-density neighborhoods.

Apparently David has never been to a SCAG or SGVCOG confab. Those boys drink that Kool Aid by the bucket.

One other article that needs to be chatted about today. It comes from Planetizen and is entitled The MTA As Stealth Development Agency. The authors, writing what is basically a positive article about L.A.'s proposed "Subway to the Sea," makes a point that to me seems like a dubious blessing.

Scarcely known to the public, or even to local urban planners, is the fact that the MTA has the power of eminent domain, in addition to its legal authorization to buy land. Indeed, not only does the MTA obtain land for subway stops, it must buy surrounding parcels for 'staging areas,' so that the heavy work of building underground can proceed.

I can't imagine the people who are losing their property for 'staging areas' are always all that excited about it, but I guess that is not to the purpose of this article. So what happens to these areas once the subway is built and they are no longer needed?

These staging areas become surplus when the subway stops are finished, creating a perfect opportunity for dense, omni-use development.

Now isn't that something? Rather than redevelopers creating high-density, transit dependent housing and businesses, it is public transportation that creates the opportunity for such redevelopment by first clearing the land through eminent domain.

You do know that there are neighborhoods within L.A. that are fighting all this, right? One of them is Windsor Park, another Park Mile. And it would appear that they are winning.


  1. In the end the urban design that will work is the one that the
    consumer chooses. People vote with their pocketbooks, and
    that is something that planners ignore at their own peril. If
    you build something that people choose not to live in, then
    it will sit empty as a monument to your foolishness. And there
    are plenty examples out that there.

  2. Housing density and transit are tied together. Sierra Madre must end the Gateway Express which was discussed yesterday because it will make Sierra Madre a transit corridor. Read below to see what Pasadena has done with in a 1/4 mile of the Allen Station and Transit Orientated Districts (TOD).

    Pasadena has really bought into the high density/mess transit balooney. The city restricts parking in designated Transit Oriented Districts (TODs), such as the Pasadena Playhouse district. Residents living in TODs who have only one parking space (as mandated by Pasadena's Zoning Code 17.50.340) may not park a second car on the street. Also development with in a 1/4 mile of the Allen Gold Line Station are to be built with a density of 48 units per acre with a minimum of 50 units in the development.

  3. Sounds like TODs are SMMSEs.

    (Spend My Money Somewhere Else.)

  4. never give up the fight, So. Pasadena has not, and there will never be a freeway through their city.

  5. 9:41, how about under their city?

  6. SM dodged a bullet - so farAugust 18, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    Sir Eric, please write an article about cities who are winning fights & how they are doing it.

  7. "210 Trolley" what a great name!

  8. If So. Pasadena can keep the freeway off the surface, preventing a tunnel will be a piece of cake.

  9. Not sure that "210 Trolly" is quiie what Metro has in mind for its biggest initiative in the SGV ever. Which makes it perfect as far as I'm concerned.

  10. I may be the only poster here who is in favor of public transportation. I happen to think that the Gold Line was the best thing that happened to the West San Gabriel Valley in a long, long time. But love for it was market-driven--I could hop on for $3 and ride to and from downtown, arriving directly across the street from my destination in a simple ride, no traffic no stress no problems, and I saved $13 per day on parking. It was reliable and reasonably clean. But I guess my point is that my love for the train was market-driven. No politicians drove up the parking or made my living environment horrible so I would ride the train. I did it because it worked for me, economically and socially.
    Would I live in a box next to a train station? Only if I absolutely had to.
    And that's where the disconnect comes in. Having inexpensive, workable public transportation does not require people to live at the train station in order to work. This is plain and simple baloney invented by people who have run out of redevelopment projects designed to prop up a failing development industry.
    If the market doesn't support rapid transit, manufacturing support for it is not the answer--certainly not constructing rat's nests cracker box "living" units next to the station. Heightened density is not the answer to anything I can think of.

  11. Today's acronym comes from the 710 Tunnel controversy, and is a variation of Not In My Back Yard, or 'NIMBY.' Our new acronym is 'NUMBY' or Not Under My Back yard. Of course, someone who greatly desires this tunnel could be called a SIMP, Sacramento Is My Pleasure.

  12. Anybody keeping track?August 18, 2009 at 11:51 AM

    You want to be horrified, check out the link to Greensward: Civitas the Tattler has.
    Looks like when Greg Galletly, aka Dorn Platz, slithered out of Pasadena's Ambassador West, after he slithered out of Sierra Madre's hillsides debacle, somebody moved in & got busy with ruining that beautiful old campus.

  13. Galletly is about to get tarred and feathered in Alta Dena for the Lincoln Crossing disaster. The Attila the Hun of developers.

  14. 11:51, Galletly doesn't have the integrity a snake does, so he can't slither. How about he skulked out of town?
    Just passed the Shenanigan shuttle traveling at a pretty good clip west to east on Mariposa.

  15. We could have a contest, not for who sees it empty, but for who sees the Shenanigan Shuttle, the Buchanan Buslet, with passengers actually in it.
    And Dr. S., I also have lived places where the public transportation was a part of life there, and really a good thing. However, here, it would add an hour on to my commute time to work, and the airport? Forget it, unless you want to add up to 3 hours on a travel day. Why wasn't a direct line to the airport one of the first things built?

  16. Amen Dr. S.:
    "Having inexpensive, workable public transportation does not require people to live at the train station in order to work. This is plain and simple baloney invented by people who have run out of redevelopment projects designed to prop up a failing development industry."

  17. Contest on! Winner will need to supply a digital photo of the Buchanabus with an actual passenger either heading to or returning from the SMV Metro station. Winner will receive a pair of Gold Line day passes courtesy of the Maundry Internet Trust (MIT). Winning photo will be posted on The Tattler along with a congratulatory message honoring your achievement.

  18. 12:35 The reason the Green Line ends in the middle of nowhere is quite simple. It was originally designed to go as far as Palos Verdes. Then the people who lived in that area realized that if they could use it to go to LA, that "others" could use it to get to them. Now it stops in a not too desirable area and you must take a shuttle to the airport.

  19. I agree with Dr.Staccao, the Gold Line is great, I ride it every day to work. Senior pass is $14 a month. It's also very nice if you get stuck with Jury Duty downtown.

  20. senor small lettersAugust 18, 2009 at 1:54 PM

    What I've heard is that the cab companies howled and Metro decided the train would pull up short of LAX.

  21. Still no Loony Views News? Is there a golf tournament somewhere?

  22. I heard the airport shuttle and taxi people made huge contributions and now the green line goes with in spitting distance of the air port, but you can't get there.

  23. DragonSlayer: It is atrocious what is and will be happening around Allen Ave. Have you seen the East Colorado specific plan? It details how much more transit oriented development is planned. As you know, Allen south of the 210 is narrow and residential; however, they acknowledge in the plan that this will become a major route, traffic issue. But yet, they proceed. Do you live in Pasadena? If so, perhaps we can exchange emails thru Sir Eric (?) and build a coalition with other like minded folks.

    Also, for Sierra Madrean's, I believe the definition of the transit zone extends within a 1/2mile radius of the station.

  24. It has made me sick for years to see all the over development and high density building that has not only been allowed but encouraged in Pasadena. It is only greed by developers and the people at city hall. I do not live in Pasadena.

  25. True Freedom, I just took a look at a PDF called The Executive Summary of The East Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan.
    Pasadena is lost, lost, lost.

  26. TF: You ever want to write something about the Pasadena situation, I'd be glad to run it.

  27. crazy conspiracy theoristAugust 18, 2009 at 3:00 PM

    I was trying to find who put that swell little specific plan together - surely it was some of the usual suspects. But no luck so far...

  28. TF,
    please do keep us informed on the situations in Pasadena.
    If the dirts ever take back our city....God Forbid......we'll probably be incorporated with Pasadena soon enough.

    CCT.....keep searching.....we need to know!

  29. The East Pasadena Specific Plan was done by RRM Design Group/ RRM Institute

  30. Crazy conspiracy theoristAugust 18, 2009 at 3:51 PM

    Well that figures. They're out of Oakland.

  31. senior small letters is correct, it was the shuttle and taxi driver's union that stopped the Green line from going right into the airport. This one from Antonovich in response to a direct question at a meeting.

  32. Here's the info on the East Pasadena Specific Plan from RRM Design Group


    All the documents and details, maps, etc. are on the City of Pasadena website, search the name at


  33. OK: I'll definitely keep y'all in the loop! Each city is not an island unto itself. Development in Pasadena definitely has the potential to impact Sierra Madre's quality of life, air quality, water availability, etc.

    Sir Eric: I'd love to contribute, though, your writing style is so enjoyable to read.. I might be a little embarrassed by my prosaic style.

    Anon: Thanks for the links to the RRM site. I need to check if my local copy (downloaded from the city's site) matches...

  34. Actually, I misspoke. The Allen Transit Village is detailed in the East Colorado specific plan.

    There are seven "specific plan areas" for Pasadena.. with East Pas, East Colorado being two of them. Details on all seven can be found here: http://www.cityofpasadena.net/planning/deptorg/commplng/GenPlan/sp.asp

  35. Developers can rationalize anything if they can get the financial backers (Other People's Money). Look at the Las Vegas method of building out of a recession and a water shortage (!!!!)


  36. 3:52...I find that a little hard to believe, that the cab drivers union has enough clout to manuever the MTA, just look where the Green Line DOES end..Hughes, Raytheon. Direct TV, McDonnell Douglas..me thinks lobbyists got the Green Line to service big Corporate and Antonovich is using the cab drivers union as a scape goat..me thinks.

  37. Hey Sierra Madreans, what passes for the local paper is online.

  38. One of the silly old men who are flattered into giving this crook money, came through again for her, I would imagine.
    Some of you old fools should read this blog.
    Or maybe you just don't care she is a stone cold crook?

  39. The Looney Views News has hit the street. 3 days
    late and with little of interest to anyone. Nothing
    but sand and broken glass in those noggins.

  40. Gold line in importantAugust 18, 2009 at 8:32 PM

    .....Super shuttle/Big Blue Van is still is the best way to get to the airport.
    ...Dr S: many agree with you. The Gold Line is fabulous and reliable. Park your car for free and go anywhere (but sadly THE GETTY) in LA and great parts of So Cal.
    ....pluz, we cannot be a part of Pasadena...ever.

  41. 8:32, the shuttles might be OK to get to the airport, but there couldn't be a worse way to get back home. Some of those drivers will circle endlessly until the vans are stuffed to the gills, and then take you on an extended tour of LA.
    We actually have a nice gal here in town, Airport Annie, who will drive you & pick you up. Competitive rates.

  42. About 20 years ago, Pasadena began giving Density Bonuses, meaning you could put more units on one lot under certain circumstances. What were those circumstances? Cute design, more shrubs, flowers, professional design, etc. So it didn't take long for everything to begin to look the same. Laughable, except that it's not funny.


The Tattler is a moderated blog. Annoying delays when posting comments can happen. Thank you for your patience and understanding.