Friday, October 16, 2009

Lynne Plambeck: One Valley, One Fantasy?

"Planners sometimes bend the truth to sustain work. They say things that sound like lies, but technically are not so because nobody could be expected to believe them." - N. O'Byrne

Some of the biggest laughs at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting were at the expense of SCAG and their ridiculous projections for Sierra Madre. The document our favorite regional planning authority prepared for us, known simply as the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan, was yet another of their patent attempts to tell us how to run our City. But with math as bad as theirs, who would be fool enough to take them seriously?

This line in particular raised a lot of eyebrows:

"According to the estimates provided by SCAG for baseline year 2020, the City's population is expected to increase by 32 residents for a total of 11,099, and the number of households is expected to increase by 140 for a total of 4,972 over the next 11 years."

As Kurt Zimmerman wryly pointed out, that would mean each one of those new residents would have to live in roughly 4 different households for SCAG's projections to be realized.

But concern over the accuracy of SCAG's projections is probably besides the point. SCAG doesn't exist to make sense, SCAG exists to help enable redevelopers to obtain land currently occupied by other people. To accomplish that they'll say or do anything. And since empty land is an almost nonexistent commodity in built-out areas such as ours, an entire industry had to be created to take it away. After all, how else will developers be able to make a living here? All the land is inconveniently in the possession of other people.

But as you can probably guess, SCAG's projections are a source of wonder wherever they are revealed. And in Santa Clarita environmental writer Lynne Plambeck had a field day with some of the numbers SCAG dropped on her town in its "One Valley One Vision" concoction. Originally appearing in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, her article is a nifty piece of writing, and we're going to post it all here. Keep an eye out for the similarities between our plight and that of Santa Clarita.

Lynne Plambeck: One Valley, One Fantasy?

Many of the proposed General Plan updates for both the City of Santa Clarita and surrounding areas are based on a projected huge population increase - more than double our current population - in the next decade. Such a projection will require densification and subsequent zoning changes that will increase property values for developers, but could destroy the quality of life in many neighborhoods.

Such projections are nothing new. We thought it might be interesting to re-visit a portion of an editorial by Michael Kotch, a former SCOPE president, written in 1996.

"When the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the population planning section of the county's Regional Planning Department issue massive growth projections for our valley - and when county and city decision makers (or others such as school or water boards) accept these projections without scrutiny - the first question should be, 'What the heck are they smoking?'

"If SCAG or another agency or government states that there will be 500,000 people in this valley by 2010 (and not the previous 270,000 predicted in the last plan update), many land use decision makers and utility planners scurry to convert this tentative, speculative, unproven guesstimate into a goal. 'SCAG has spoken, we must follow blindly.'

"Suddenly we are considering increased urban land uses and increasing expensive infrastructure to support the goal. Even if the emperor is on parade without clothes.

"A rational and sober analysis on this new 'goal' for the Santa Clarita Valley follows:

* "We have today about 170,000 people living here in 56,700 dwellings.
* To have 270,000 of us in the next 15 years means we need to accept 100,000 more bodies, or 55,000 more dwellings. That's a little more than 2,200 new dwellings sold every year, or six new homes a day seven days a week.
* To achieve 500,000 people in this valley by 2010 requires that we, starting today, sell 20 new homes per day. A local real estate broker reported that 20 new units sold in a month is more typical. That's far short of the goal.
* Our growth rate in the booming '80s was 5 percent a year. To achieve 270,000 we have to grow about 4 percent per year. Growth in the Santa Clarita Valley was 2 percent per year over the past six years. Achieving 270,000 is plausible, but will not happen if our economy stays flat.
* Housing 500,000 requires a 13 percent growth rate - a rate nearly three times that experienced in the expansive '80s."

Now, almost 15 years after Kotch wrote that analysis, his words ring true. Even with the rapid growth that occurred before the housing downturn, we have not reached even the 270,000 predicted in the last general plan update of 1993, far less than the 500,000 SCAG began pushing in 1996.

Estimates for current population in the SCV are around 252,000. The city's web site states that the growth rate between 2000 and 2008 was just over 17 percent, or slightly over 2 percent per year. Again, not anywhere near the projected growth rate that would put us past the 500,000 people projected by our new "One Valley One Vision."

So whom does such a large projection benefit and who does it hurt?

It benefits developers, engineering firms, concrete contractors - anyone who would have to supply services to support such a large projection.

It hurts taxpayers who must pay for all that expansion even though the actual people most likely will not arrive. It will be reflected in tax increases, water and sewer charge increases and money spent to expand schools that may in fact be unnecessary.

It will hurt the environment by promoting and "visioning" expansion beyond our carrying capacity. Santa Clarita has some of the worst air pollution in the nation. More cars and more vehicle trips will add to that. Do we have enough water for all these people?

How will we manage the traffic when many roadways are already at level D and cannot be expanded?

So as we move forward in our discussion of One Valley One Vision with yet another huge population projection, the city and the county, out of common decency, must put those clothes back on the emperor and not parade such naked exaggerations. Don't make our plan "One Valley, One Fantasy."

---------------------------- ------ ---- --- -- - -

Great stuff. And it is nice to see that people in other places are also up on the bizarre farce that typifies so many of SCAG's efforts. As a matter of fact, I'd say there are probably quite a few cities out there that are fed up with SCAG and its nutty projections and assumptions. All we need to do now is get out there and find them.


  1. I don't know about you, but my family drives through Santa Clarita Valley as quickly as possible on our way north and tries desperately to never need to get off the freeway for gas or food or a potty stop as it adds too much time to trip fending our way through the traffic in that urban planner's nightmare. Look for it to get worse if SCAG and RHNA runs away with SCV some more. It really was countryside once upon a time.

  2. The author of this article asks: "But with math as bad as theirs (SCAG) who would be fool enough to take them seriously?"

    Obvious answer. Joe Mosca and John Buchanan.

  3. Councilman Zimmerman also wryly remarked to Developer Servicing Department head Mr. Castro something like, Thank you for clarifying what cannot be clarified.

  4. The article is a welcome find from another sane person. One point, that perhaps there should be a reversal of the cause effect relationship as stated here:
    "many land use decision makers and utility planners scurry to convert this tentative, speculative, unproven guesstimate into a goal. 'SCAG has spoken, we must follow blindly.'"
    Kind of hard to tell who's doing the speaking, but my impression of SCAG is that it's a parasitic suck up organization. It would be, then, those who are sucked up to who 'have spoken' and SCAG scurries.

  5. We need to form CASS (Cities Against SCAG and Sacramento). It may start small but it will grow once the word gets out. Any city who has applealed their RHNA numbers should be contacted first.

    SCAG isn't working for the cities.

  6. One thing that SCAG and COG do successfully is networking. They
    bring together the supporters of insane development, plus those
    who gullible enough to believe their nonsense, and form them
    into a group of advocates. Those who believe as we do, however,
    have no such organization. Nor are we lavished with taxpayer dollars
    to form anything like SCAG, etc. Somehow we need to overcome that.

  7. Pasta writes:
    "We need to form CASS (Cities Against SCAG and Sacramento)".

    This is a great idea, Pasta.

    Sir Eric, thanks for bringing this to our attention. I know you'll be in contact with Lynn.

    Lynn Plambeck! Please connect with Sierra Madre?
    We have 3 councilmembers who would surely welcome your input.

    We can do this, Sierra Madre. We can fight them!

  8. With people like Old Kentucky supporting the fight, we can succeed.

  9. An opposition group to this stuff is probably in the works...

  10. I think one of the reasons SCAG gets away with putting out such garbage data is nobody ever calls them out on it. Planners and staff in most cities just click their heels and set off to create local scenarios that sound plausible enough to dupe the residents. I doubt much that SCAG puts out could stand any real scrutiny.

  11. Good point, Ed.
    It's really encouraging that people are starting to wake up and question Sacramento and their special interest run legislature.

  12. Yeah, a near depression, vast debt, and the sense that things are going to hell in a hand basket does have that effect on people sometimes. Hopefully the voters will throw a vast number of our legislative idiots out on their plump lobbyist fed posteriors and wake Sacramento up as well.

  13. Joe Mosca and John Buchanan are hired hands for their employers, the energy companies that are beholden to the centeralization and development interests of California.

    It is our responsibility as citizens to vet any forthcoming candidates for city council as to their bias to special development interests.

  14. The nonsense just keeps piling up SGVCOG meets in buildings owned by Southern California Edison. One of SGVCOG's biggest priorities is enforcing SB 375, which is supposed to help reduce greenhouse gases and slow global warming. What companies produce the most greenhouse gases? Electricity producers. And who is the biggest electricity producer around. Southern California Edison. I mean you just can't make this stuff up.

  15. Tattler's FED UPOctober 16, 2009 at 10:50 AM

    These cities do not follow like sheep:
    They don't belong to SCAG
    Aliso Viejo
    Costa Mesa
    Fountain Valley
    Garden Grove
    Laguna Hills
    Palos Verdes Estates
    Rancho Santa Margarita
    San Jacinto
    San Juan Capistrano
    Santa Ana
    South Gate
    Temple City
    Twentynine Palms
    Villa Park

  16. I would love to see Sierra Madre on that list...

  17. Thanks for posting this list Fed Up.

    Let's add Sierra Madre to it.

  18. Great list Fed Up. Interesting breadth of city types on it. Some rich, some poor, some big, some small. That's a great sign and very appropriate for Sierra Madre.
    I'm all for saying adios to SCAG, but our honest council reps may want to give it a try - the change from the inside of the organization approach.

  19. I'd like to be a fly on the wall at the SCAG meeting when Don Watts says, "I have a question..."

  20. 11:21
    I'm sure he'll have more than one question! LOL

    Recruit supporters, MaryAnn and Don, if there aren't any there......adios amigos.

  21. Let us be the 19th on the Honor List!Fire the the bums in City Hall including the attorneys.Support the THREE!

  22. You left out Irvine

  23. Follow the Money! The richest among us are 1st, followed by Corporations, followed by Unions, Associations, followed by Mystery Money. They meet, they and talk, they lubricate with money and voila magic happens....they prevail and do as they wish (witness the Faust deal by Tim Rutten for Roski and his play pen) The LA Times sold out. What these folks don't anticipate is that there is power in the populace and discord like here in SM can make a difference. Lets give it a try.

  24. Met Lynn Plambeck years ago and she is one tough, informed, hard working woman. So informed as to all of the issues and a true environmentalist, and is not afraid to stand up and call BS when warranted. An incredible potential ally and one that needs to be cultivated as she is one of the best.Dedicated to the preservation of Calif. and it's resources, no one can pull the wool over her eyes.Strongly recommend contacting her. She is one of the few knights in shining armor with incredible intelligence and political savvy and has not caved. A rare quality and individual.

  25. Tattler, thank goodness we have you to tell us the truth about what is going on in town.
    The Sierra Madre Weekly has some hysterical accounts in their new edition.
    Whoever covered the council meeting was confused that John Buchanan's was Kurt Zimmerman!
    I kid you not.
    Pick up a copy, read about Joe's loss, and see that Buchanan's weak defense is quoted as Zimmerman's.
    Then take a look at the article on Carter & Stonehouse - you'll see that their attorney and her firm are listed as the developers!
    What is up with the Weakly.

  26. The Weakly is just pathetic. Maybe they're in competition with Harriet "Susan" Poole for worst newspaper in town? If that is the case, it looks like the competition is fierce!

  27. For those of you who have followed the sad events in El Monte these last few months, therte is now more. According to the Star News, El Monte City Manager Jim Mussenden was arrested in a prostitution sting last night.

    You know, that is some PD they have in El Monte. First they bust John Leung from Titan for fraud, then they get their City Manger for picking up hookers? Damn.

  28. Still read the papersOctober 16, 2009 at 3:07 PM

    I've seen a campaign to involve the citizens of El Monte in the next election. Hope there's a big response.
    The City Manager's illegal tastes should help voter turnout.

  29. Jim "Super Fly" Mussenden is a member of the SGVCOG as a member of something called the "City Managers' Steering Committee."

  30. While Pasadena is closing elementary schools, such as Noyes and Linda Vista, due to declining enrollment and fewer kids.

  31. I wonder how the DA's investigation into the Titan mess is going. Been awfully quiet in that quarter.