Over the last four decades the Southern California Association of Governments has evolved as the largest of nearly 700 councils of government in the United States, functioning as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for six counties; Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Imperial. The region encompasses a population exceeding 18 million persons in an area of more than 38,000 square miles.
As the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Associations of Governments is mandated by the Federal government to research and draw up plans for transportation, growth management, hazardous wasted management, and air quality. Additional mandates exist at the state level.
The underlying issue is, of course, development because without development there would be no need for transportation. In simple terms, a pro-development agenda is aided by transportation planning which is protected by Federal law, established with Federal funding and imposed on regions, counties and cities within the MPO.
Hence my report on the joint meeting of the Regional Council of SCAG, Southern California Leadership Council and GLUE, which is the Global Land Use and Economic Council. It was touted as an historic meeting and a forum for comments and discussion on the challenges of implementing SB 375 during recessionary times. In fact it was a dog and pony show with a list of impressive Who's Who folks from a variety of agencies and arenas including:
Dave Fleming - Co-chair of SCLC (Southern California Leadership Council)
Former Governor Pete Wilson
Former Governor Gray Davis
Greg Williams - GLUE Chair
Mary Nichols - ARB (Air Resources Board)
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass
With the exception of former governor Wilson, who advocated caution in the implementation of SB 375, the above, as expected, were cheerleaders for implementation.
Comments advocating caution were reinforced by several members of the LA and Orange County business communities. Supervisor Antonovich offered some short term, cost effective solutions for implementation to reduce greenhouse gases while the data surrounding the whole issue is evaluated and also suggested that caution be exercised before quality of life issues are significantly compromised.
A number of comments embraced prioritizing quality of life issues and the economy. lack of jobs and discretionary income make regional planning more of what Mayor Pro Tem Watts has termed "fantasy meeting absurdity."
A number of speakers called out the discrepancy in data framing the whole global warming agenda (which is the basis for the Air Resources Board to establish a methodology to reduce greenhouse gases and the underpinnings of SB 375.) They indicated that to craft legislation on faulty, incomplete or misinterpreted data is simply not smart and advocated deadline extensions and re-evaluation.
Having said all that, I will offer SCAG President Jon Edney's summary of the historic meeting. Paraphrased but accurate in sentiment: It's true that the data on global warming is under debate and that there are two opposing views. But no matter what side you sit on SB 375 is not a bad thing, SB 375 is a GOOD thing and we should move forward.
Public comment was limited to 15 minutes with 3 minutes per person, and speakers were selected from pre-submitted speaker cards. So do the math.
More evidence that SCAG doesn't really care about the opinions of those affected by its policies, and functions more as Sacramento's central planning policy enforcer rather than anything even remotely approaching an organization based on cooperative decision making. "SB 375 is not a bad thing, SB 375 is a good thing and we must move forward." About as dismissive a statement as I've heard in quite a while.
Mayor MacGillivray went on to discuss the CEHD (SCAG's Community, Economic & Human Development Committee) and a tax scheme they've cooked up to help implement certain aspects of SB 375. And again it involves the removal of traditional city powers (in this case certain kinds of taxation) and putting them into the hands of a central governing authority. Joe Mosca, who belongs to the CEHD but only shows up to its meetings when MaryAnn and Don do, has been aware of these developments for quite some time. Yet somehow he has never seen fit to share any of that information with the people of Sierra Madre. But all of this will be discussed in a future post.
One of the most controversial aspects of SB 375 is its claim that building high density condo developments in low density cities such as Sierra Madre will somehow save the world from global warming. A bizarre claim designed more to help the ailing California construction and redevelopment industries than anything else. And repeatedly throughout SB 375 literature it is claimed that automobiles are the primary source of greenhouse gases, and therefore must be replaced with public transportation and through the building so-called "transit village" style redevelopment. The tendentious oxymoron "smart growth" is often used as well.
But is this actually the case? Steve Burrows, writing for the publication Design Intelligence (which I came across on Laurie Barlow's very wise Greensward: Civitas site), contradicts this erroneous assumption.
It has been estimated that 70 percent of the average city's greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, and the energy consumption of these buildings is projected to triple by 2050. It is also estimated that 70 percent of current buildings will still be in use in 2050.
So if buildings are the chief producers of greenhouse gas emissions in already densely populated city neighborhoods, with the electricity production to sustain them also a factor, how can a process that will squeeze additional buildings and people into already high density areas make the situation any better?
I don't suspect anyone with that question on their speaker card would ever get called on to talk at one of Jon Edney's meetings. We all know how he feels about opinions that are not in line with those of the people he really answers to.