Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Heritage Foundation Terms SB 375 Style Legislation "Lifestyle Modification." And Now It Is Going National?

So you knew that an idea this bad couldn't stay ours exclusively for very long. It now appears that the solons running Washington DC these days are in the process of adapting SB 375-style climate legislation and taking it coast to coast. In an article entitled The Oberstar Transportation Plan: A Costly Exercise in Lifestyle Modification, author Ronald D. Utt lays it all out. This from The Heritage Foundation:

In June, Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN), chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, introduced a 775-page bill - the Surface Transportation Authorization Act (STAA) - which would reauthorize the federal highway and transit programs that expired on September 30 for another six years.

Now there are a number of things that Oberstar's STAA would do. Shift resources away from freeways and to public transportation being one of them. Centralizing all transportation decisions in Washington would be another. But here is the kicker, and something anyone familiar with SB 375 will recognize immediately:

As written, many provisions of STAA have two primary purposes: 1) Deterring the use of automobiles; and 2) Forcing residential and commercial development into higher density urban communities where public transit, walking, and bicycling would be the main form of transportation.

So how would this forced return to the urban core tenement towns of 80 years ago be accomplished? Well, there is already a federally-funded apparatus in place called regional planning councils. And amongst them we can include organizations like SCAG. Which, if this federal legislation should become law, would empower the SCAGs of this country beyond their wildest dreams. Think of the bold new RHNA requirements they could cook up for us with Uncle Sugar covering their backs.

To do this, Oberstar's bill would encourage and require states and metropolitan planning organizations to use new land use regulations that would lead to much higher densities than Americans now prefer.

And who would these metropolitan planning organizations (like SCAG) be answering to in this quest to chase Americans into newly developed urban cores and crowded public transportation? Would you believe that there is an organization called the National Association of Regional Councils, or, you got it, NARC? Another unfortunate acronym rears its ugly head. But think of the career ladder! From COG, to SCAG, to NARC. Joe Mosca's dream made real.

But I digress. Ronald Utt goes on to make this important point:

One of the principal reasons given for the need to enact these bills relates to greenhouse gases and the environment. But evidence on fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions as they relate to different modes of travel and land use patterns reveal that the provisions of STAA would yield little or no benefit to the nation or the environment. Instead, both would impose great costs and inconveniences on American citizens and business.

Among the articles Utt cites as support for his claims here was published in the MIT Technology Review. Entitled "Forget Curbing Suburban Sprawl: Building Denser Cities Would Do Little to Reduce CO2 Emissions," its author, Phil McKenna, spells it all out:

Urban planners hoping to mitigate CO2 emissions by increasing housing density would do better to focus on fuel-efficiency improvements to vehicles, investments in renewable energy, and cap and trade legislation now being voted on in Congress, according to the (National Academy of Sciences et al) study released Tuesday. It concludes that increasing population density in metropolitan areas would yield insignificant CO2 reductions ... Even if 75 percent of all new and replacement housing in America were built at twice the density of new current developments, and those living in the newly constructed housing drove 25 percent less as a result, CO2 emissions from personal travel would decline nationwide by only 8 to 11 percent by 2050, according to the study. If just 25 percent of housing units were developed at such densities and residents drove only 12 percent less as a result, CO2 emissions would be reduced by less than 2 percent.

Of course, McKenna could be making a mistake here. He probably thinks cool and reasonable science is enough to win the day. But if those serving in the House of Representatives are anything like the cast of characters fattening up in our state legislature, they couldn't care less about the science involved here. Their true priority here would be paying off national realty and building associations and their lobbyists with some highly profitable mass urban core building opportunities. Backed up with generous allotments of federal money, of course.

Utt makes one more point that deserves some airing out. Apparently this sort of thing has been tried before, and the results were not very good.

Diminished Quality of Life - In enacting this or similar legislation, the U.S. would be following the sorry land use and development policies that the United Kingdom embraced in 1947 when it enacted the Town and Country Planning Act. Designed to preserve the rustic nature and charm of Britain's countryside, the act empowered the national government to create laws and regulations to concentrate most housing and commercial development into existing urban centers. As a consequence, the U.K. now has the smallest and most expensive homes of any advanced country.

That the federal government could now be engaged in creating laws designed to, in Utt's words, "substantially alter lifestyles by creating regulations, subsidies, and penalties to crowd development, create higher population densities, and compel people onto public transit," is kind of disturbing. Disturbing in that if all this somehow becomes law it would represent the largest instance of direct central government control over the private behavior of citizens ever in this country.

So it now looks like Sacramento's war against the planning rights of small cities could soon be going national. And if so it could be one of the largest power grabs by the federal government ever. Something that I am sure would be as much a cause for celebration down on K Street as it was in the offices of the BIA and CAR here in California when SB 375 passed.


  1. Did anyone else think it was strange for John Buchannan's --Sierra Madre School to be holding its fundrasier at the Stuart? The Stuart is the high density transit apartments next to the Gold Line. Last year he and his wife were very involved with the fundrasier.

  2. You ever been to The Stuart? It's stuck right next to the 210. The roar of freeway traffic going by is unbelievable. And the air quality has got to be awful. I can't imagine how bad it must be for the young children living there. There are signs all over the place practically begging people to renew their leases. Apparently tenant retention is a big problem there, and like most redevelopment projects like this there are a lot of empty units.

  3. That development is hideous.
    Typical ghetto they want to push folks into.
    These people are criminals who are forcing this on the people of So. Calif.

    What if we eventually find out this "climate change" is just bs? Not man made at all?

    Then what? Global cooling?

  4. Ultimately, we should follow the path of a good socialist state, building even bigger high density flats. Require pass through check points to make sure you are only going to work within an allowed radius from your living unit as determined by the state. Urban passport check points.
    Perhaps using your carbon footprint credits as currency.
    With our technological society, it should be realtively easy to track.
    Think of all the great jobs that would be created by having people monitor all this. Think of all the fines and penalties that can be levied !
    All power to the state!!! Comrades unit for the common good of the state. Power to the people!!

  5. This reminds me of the fallout shelter craze when I was a kid. Everybody in the neighborhood was building them in hopes of saving their families from the nuclear war everyone was expecting back then. Then one day an expert came to town and gave a speech about this topic. Apparently, according to this expert, the shelters weren't going to be much good because the effect of an expected nuclear strike would move our entire neighborhood about 5 miles east. After that they were mostly used for storing yard tools.

    The problem of auto emissions and greenhouse gases will probably be solved within the next ten years. Already Honda has made some significant breakthroughs on a hydrogen car. And once that happens all these so-called transit villages and transit oriented developments sit empty unwanted. Like a 1960s bomb shelter.

  6. At least bomb shelters were underground and people chose to build them. We did not have to look at our neighbors bomb shelter. SB375 is being crammed down our throats just like the RHNA allocation.

  7. Good point, Zav.

    What motivates Joe and John to promote these horrible ideas?

    Are they actually lobbyists for the energy companies or are they promoting a way of life the majority of people do not want? Or both?

  8. Curiously no one is forcing folks to live in the Stewart, it's not cheap to live there, and the 210 is not going anywhere or getting quieter. So why do people move in? It's not like there aren't plenty of apartments in the area that are less expensive.

  9. What motivates John and Joe is the biggest question out there right now for me. What exactly is in it for them? City Council members, God bless them, are the hardest working volunteers of all. But in the end it is a part time job performed by people who also have full time jobs. So why have John and Joe turned this stuff into something else? Because it does give the appearance of being meddlers on behalf of interests that have nothing to do with good government here in Sierra Madre.

    So what gives?

  10. 9:30 - True that people do move in to the Stuart. It does have some attractive amenities, after all. And don't discount the effect of the full time sales staff on site, complete with a "wheel of fortune" style promotion offering free goodies. But the real question should be is do they stay. And the answer to that one appears to be no.

  11. Following up on the comments of Poster 9:31, I'm also mystified by the political career of Joe Mosca.

    He's made it a point to join as many regional governmental and quasi-governmnetal commitees, sub-committes, commissions, boards etc out there. But, as best I can tell, none of those entities has ever done anything positive for the City of Sierra Made. In fact, SCAG is responsible for regional housing needs assessment numbers that are the basis for over-development initiatives like the Downtown Specific Plan.

    Can it be that he's simply padding his resume in anticipation of running for higher political office?

  12. 10:17 poster. Yes, Joe is padding his resume. He was disappointed when his fellow Council Members rejected his efforts to pad his resume with the position of Sierra Madre Mayor. He'll be even more disappointed when he is not re-elected in April 2010.

    I thank God every day that Kurt Zimmerman (and not Joe Mosca) was Mayor during the Santa Anita wildfire of April 2008.

  13. 10:17, If Joe has done all of this as a way of either running for higher office or, something he is more suited for, an apparatchik within the state or county bureaucracy, I'd say he's made a real muck of it. Because while he certainly has delivered precious little for the people of Sierra Madre, what has he gotten for those whose opinion he really cares about? Joe is pretty much a failure both ways.

  14. A @ 10:17 am, too bad his resume doesn't include a column for attendance and performance in addition to the various organizations and commissions for which he is signed onto. I believe it would tell a vastly different story.

  15. Didn't the Mayor have to fire Joe for not attending SGVCOG

  16. 10:27. I'm with you. Joe has failed the DIRTS, DICS and their development friends miserably. I'm at a loss to understand why they even showed up during the last City Council reorganization to support his bid to become Mayor. They should have realized: (1) he'd never become Mayor and (2) if he became Mayor, he would be unable to implement their over-development policies.

  17. Joe's the only person I know who's been fired and still attends meetings, introduces his fellow councilmembers, and even speaks for them (as in last Tuesday's meeting when Don Watts was trying to explain a point). Funny, he doesn't act fired, and I'll be his resume still lists him as a SGVCOG muckity muck.

  18. the guy has cojones

  19. I disagree, 10:50

    He is an idiot and a sociopath.
    A weak beta male trying to move up the ladder to what he believes he is "entitled" to- a political career.

    In any event, he is not good for Sierra Madre and I pray he'll not be re-elected.

  20. Good point, Investiblogger. And it kind of proves the point that SGVCOG isn't really run by elected city officials, but has its own permanent bureaucracy just like any other state organization. Bart Doyle hasn't been an elected official for years, but he still pretty much runs the show ther. I'll bet he sends Joe out for coffee!

  21. Joe better start bringing back more than coffee, or we'll find ourselves another puppet.

  22. If you were starting from scratch: build your freeways, light rail and the like first! So, since the ranchero system was her first, small settlements around water sources of which there was enough when there were just a few Spaniards on horseback (notice this discussion already starts from the point where the first nations people were handily anialated) you cannot start from scratch. Now we have communities punched into fragments by the freeways and people want to live by them? Should be light industry, then shopping, then rentals, then condos, then single family residents. Opps, you then you get to the foothills. So, stop already!

  23. Do you take that with milk, sir?

  24. Developers taste like chickenNovember 12, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    Good Day Sir Eric and Tatt's, I found a good site to go with Sir Eric's topic de jour today, it is "naisinforcentral, the title is Sustainable development and or Agenda 21" I used yahoo. It has a sense of humor and a list of warm and fuzzy words, for sir eric and vid's for the "what do you mean they want us to live like the george jetson's, in cluttered sustainable green built condos and take mass transit, and give up personal property rights, cars, and they decided 20 years ago but felt it better not to upset us until they had it in place" folks..

    Unfuzzy unwarm words/orgs to better arm yourself:
    Agenda 21 UN programe millenium
    Local Agenda 21 communities
    NGO's non governmental organizations
    H A B I T A T
    Maurice Strong & The earth charter,

    And if you are truly a MIPS, search phil schnieder, and his testimony that on a visit to the UN, he observed a meeting of high ranking human officials taking orders from 4 tall grey aliens.

  25. Good God.
    I realize that here in our small town we are fighting overdevelopment and defending preservation (the real preservation - not the Mosca/Buchanan kind of preservation) as small links in a long chain that has made Sierra Madre possible. Activists fought before us, we're fighting, and hopefully there will be others in the tradition coming after us. So goes the sweep of history in our little place here, and the struggles we go through as a part of a larger effort with the residents who have cared enough over the years to participate in shaping the city government.
    But to think of this fight as going on in the whole country is overwhelming. It is as though we are at war as a nation, a new kind of civil war, with those among the development/construction/realty power structure who are the greediest, and who are causing terrible destruction, while pretending to be helping.
    Mind boggling.

  26. Resident with a questionNovember 12, 2009 at 2:20 PM

    Somebody is going to have to explain to me how turning a low density city like Sierra Madre into a high density city like much of Pasadena is going to curb global warming. I'm sure there must be an explanation of the processes at work.

  27. How about those acronyms?
    Isn't it weird that the make up such ugly sounds.
    Kind of like a fantasy/sci fi writer would do for language on a bad, bad planet.
    Or language from the wicked monster tribe.
    "Cog scag narc bia car" chanted the mob in their guttural snarls.

  28. Resident with a question, that is the most maddening thing of all.
    There are real problems that we need to deal with, real needs to protect the health of the environment.
    BUT these dysfunctional people turn that into a grab for power and don't fix the real problems - just some of the tag alongs to the real problems.
    This is like having a broken pipe in a wall, and having the plumber think you need a new sink. Wrong solution!

  29. About Joe Mosca's ambitions, I found it revealing the night he was so gracious to the Scags who came to try & talk the council into giving them another thousand bucks. Joe's schtick is fawning. He's building a career that has nothing to do with Sierra Madre by fawning, and being the earnest young 'un. He positively glows when he's on the topics that are outside of town.

  30. Great. We need someone who can kick butt and instead we have a cocktail party socialite who hates the townies. How'd we get so lucky?

  31. Joe Mosca hates Sierra Madre, he hates the people of Sierra Madre.
    He is insanely jealous of Kurt Zimmerman and contemptious of MaryAnn MacGillivray and Don Watts.
    He may have fooled a few naive people in town, but not many.
    Joe will be soundly defeated in the upcoming election. Hopefully, even a worse beating than Tonja Torres (another fraud) got in '06.

  32. MIPS are armless yellow rabbits in a video game; the rest of the references are to UFOs, large greys, and out and outjust plain crazy...

  33. Actually MIPS stands for the Maundry Institute for Paranormal Studies. This isn't to say that at times such things cannot take on the appearance of small yellow bunnies without arms, but it isn't the most common form that's for sure.

  34. Developers taste like chickenNovember 12, 2009 at 4:25 PM

    anonymous 2:29

    It is from the October 29, 2009 story..

    Maundrys Institute for Paranormal Studies

  35. 3:42 sounds overwhelmed. Anybody have a gingersnap?

  36. I checked the SCAG website and on November 18, 2009 they are throwing a free SB 375 regional workshop. At the ontario convention center 2000 e convention center way starts at 8 am observation and note taking might be appropriate

  37. Well, either note taking or letting loose a live skunk.

    Depends on your political philosophy I guess.

  38. A couple of Chinese proverbs describe a gatherng of Sacgs well:

    Mu hou er guan
    Restless moneys in tall hats

    Zhi lu wei ma
    Pointing to a deer and calling it a horse

  39. Sorry about the typos. Gathering of Scags:

    Bu ke sheng shu
    Innumerable persons were implicated

  40. Sacramento should be in session from Jan 1 until Jan 2. Let the cities govern themselves.