Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sierra Madre is a "Walker's Paradise"

Among the featured buzzwords contained within the SB 375 playbook are "sustainability" and "walkability." The idea being that densely built neighborhoods are better for both the environment and those who live in them because they encourage people to walk to where they're going rather than take their cars.

The notion behind all of this is to diminish what some deep thinkers have come to consider a major contributor to Global Warming, that being "suburban sprawl." Surburban sprawl is a sustainability no-no because it causes people to drive their greenhouse gas producing cars to the grocery store rather than walk. If stores and condo apartments are all stacked up together, people won't want or need to drive. Or so the theory goes.

Our friends at Wikipedia define "sustainability" this way:

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which in turn depends on the well being of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.

Good enough, I guess. Though it kind of sounds like any garden variety consultant speaking at a SCAG meeting.

One of the ways the experts gauge a community's sustainability is through its walkability. Their thinkability on this topic having been expressed through 10's of billions of words, many of which can apparently be found on the internet. One such protean thinker is Eric Fredericks, an urban planner who is also the driving force behind the Walkable Neighborhoods blog. Here Eric expounds upon that walkability theme in an interview published on another website dedicated to this topic, the suitably named Small Failures:

A walkable neighborhood completely impacts the daily lives of most of its residents - but the same can be said for just about any neighborhood. A walkable neighborhood just makes you appreciate the impacts more. For instance, typically walkable neighborhoods have multiple destinations that are within a safe and comfortable walking distance of your residence. You wouldn't even consider driving to these places because it just seems silly to drive such a short distance. So, you end up walking to places like the grocery store, the park, the barber, local restaurants, and so on. Then, you realize that in a suburban setting things are so spread out or hostile to walking that sometimes it's difficult to go to these places on foot - and maybe even frustrating to drive to them as well.

Now once John and Joe's Green Committee gets up and rolling you're going to hear a lot of this sort of talk. Previously determined and rote recital rather than any original thinking whatsoever being deeply embedded in the mission statement of this committee I suspect. And it would certainly appear that the themes mentioned above are slated to be included in our General Plan as well. With perhaps a well-versed consultant on the topic being brought in to make sure the language is precise and relevant to our future needs. After all, bringing sustainability and walkability to communities such as ours will take a lot of planning and infill redevelopment to achieve. Saving the world can be a very complex thing, and expert assistance would naturally be required.

But what if Sierra Madre already has the "walkability" thing down? Can such a thing possibly be?

There is a website called Walk Score that gauges the actual walkability of individual communities. Their scale for judging this important matter reads as follows:

90-100 Walker's Paradise - Daily errands do not require a car.
70-89 Very Walkable - Most errands can be accomplished on foot.
50-69 Somewhat Walkable - Some amenities within walking distance.
25-49 Car Dependent - A few amenities within walking distance.
0-24 Car Dependent - Almost all errands require a car.

If you go to the Walk Score page that rates Sierra Madre's walkability (click here), I think that you will find a very pleasant surprise. Our score is an extremely high 95. Which means that we have already achieved one of the major goals for sustainability, that being walkability! Which would also mean that we could already be where SB 375 demands that we be, and that the high density development that is John and Joe's only slightly veiled goal will not be necessary. We're "Green" already! Why mess with near perfection?

Of course, just because a community is as highly walkable as this one does not guarantee people will actually want to do any walking. And judging by the small amount of foot traffic you can see downtown on any given day - including weekends - it seems obvious that people here have yet to feel the magical urge to give up their cars. Which to me is the great flaw of SB 375. You can build as many condos and Metro stations as the San Gabriel Valley can possible hold, but that doesn't necessarily mean people will somehow feel the urge to start going by foot.

Though I suppose that would be preferable to taking the bus.


  1. The problem with walking to the grocery store (yes, I can pick up a day's food from Taylor's) is that I have to carry it home uphill. Count me out. Pound of burger, three tomatoes, loaf of bread, some fruit, and salad fixins we-re up to six or eight pounds. Add eggs and bacon and bingo! Three bags and no hands for the cane. Shops in SM don't carry 2X in anything but mumus from Iris Intrigue. So the walkability quotient is built on expensive cups of coffee, pricey sammies, and boutique hair salons, and framing shops. In order to be considered "walkable" is there any requirement to be "relevant"?

  2. the only thing worth walking to downtown is the Buc.

    just can't walk home.

  3. funny, when I see our Councilmen downtown (Mosca and Buhanan), I always see them getting out of a car

    never see Moran except maybe at Lucky Baldwins

    I couldn't pick Nancy Walsh out of square dance lineup

  4. Nobody wants to walk. Isn't that why the horse was domesticated? So this is the future according to these idiots? Going back to stone age transportation? The foot?

  5. the height of stupidity is the concept of the current council and that of a few years ago is that if we build out downtown then in inconveiveable theory more people will shop and visit downtown.

    however, part of the downtown plan proposed by the band of idiots is to include multi-story parking garages...?

    more cars, more traffic, congestion? yeah, that's what us long term residents want.

    all that will happen is the current customers will stay away in droves, it'll be easier to drive to Hasting Ranch or Monrovia for overpriced coffee and 9 dollar sandwiches

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Um, no 8:28. That is wrong.


    " So the walkability quotient is built on expensive cups of coffee, pricey sammies, and boutique hair salons, and framing shops. "

    This so feels like the Emperor's New Clothes to me. Film yourself walking around Pershing Square with a score of 100. Do a casual walk to the grocery store. That would be hilarious.

    Hey I don't know maybe you can survive on nothing but cocktails and coffee. Maybe this is how the hips stays so thin.

    Walking is important, but this software is nothing but pure crapability. Would not so much be a problem if not every major new media was flinging it around like it meant something.


  9. Mr. Green Jeans (son of Charley Chantry)August 21, 2010 at 8:40 AM

    Dear Sir Eric, I'm confused. Just what do all these young virile disciples of the greenest green think they're going to do? Get people to hike home with six bags of groceries or five gallons of paint or a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood? Maybe it's time to conjure the ghost of Charley Chantry and put pack mule stations from one end of town to the other.

  10. The Angel Charley ChantryAugust 21, 2010 at 8:41 AM

    I hear and obey young masters. Joe and John and the Bobbleheads are already making plans to store the great piles of donkey doo.

  11. Gives new meaning and direction for the Green Committee.

  12. Damn Browne, you honed in on that one like a bee! How have you been? In case you all are not aware, Browne Molyneux is the brains behind the excellent (and at times hilarious) Bus Bench blog. A public transportation advocate and a skeptic at the same time. Not an easy tightrope to walk, but she does make it work.

    And yes, I must confess, her blog is where I first read about Walk Score.

  13. I'm going to take some of that walkability down to the Buc and get
    in some drinkability. Tho' if I overuse that ability I could very well
    turn green.

  14. Walking even with groceries can work if there is a reasonable system of public transportation. We don't have one in this town. So if 8:11 wanted to walk downhill to shop, and then could catch a timely bus for the uphill part? Yeah, it works in many parts of the world. But not here.

  15. Wouldn't that defeat the purpose, 9;55? A bus going up the hill would be just as bad, or even worse, than a car.

  16. Nuh uh 10:18. The idea is that people will actually walk, and not want to bother with the car, if the trip to the store gets easier. What is that ghost shuttle doing when it is not making empty runs to the metro stop? C'mon, it's three square miles here - could loop the whole thing in 20 minutes? Why not have it go up & down the streets - people would use it, would walk more, would leave their cars at home....but don't misunderstand - I am in total agreement that we are already satisfying any green/sustainable mandate that SacJohn & SacJoe want to shove at us.
    I've lived in countries where most people were too poor to have cars, and the public transportation, the busses, really work well at getting people around.

  17. Maybe a rope tow and city issued roller skates would help with the hills?

  18. If you ever lived in the bay area you get where the walkability folks are coming from. It is truly nightmarish to drive/park in Oakland and San Francisco, so you hoof it to save lots of time and headaches. And there really are a lot of local businesses that support residential areas, close together. The big mistake is in projecting those cities on all of us. Apples & oranges.

  19. Grab you coat, and get your hat, leave your wories on the door step. Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street Can't you hear the pitter-pat? And that happy tune is your step. Life can be so sweet on the sunny side of the street. Jimmy McHugh 1930

    He must have had Sierra Madre in mind!

  20. The only way people are going to walk is if the world runs out of oil. And believe me, we'll have far bigger problems to worry about than if downtown Sierra Madre is walkable or not.

    I take it that the dolts who come up with this rubbish are on some government payroll or other?

  21. The idea of having the now mostly empty shuttle change its route and stop within two blocks of most streets in SM, stop at Albertsons, library, park and downtown, and not go to the gold line (empty 99% of the time) was scuttled by the powers to be.

    Now, suppose you want to do that today. With Round-About's current circular route, you have to walk several blocks to catch it, shop at Albertsons, go to the Gold Line with your groceries, go back to SM via SM Blvd. Ride it around to where you got on, walk several blocks back home. Total route without stopping along the way, 50 minutes. To even cut out the gold line run would be a good start.

  22. The Shenanigan Shuttle only exists so the City Hall types can proclaim that we are part of the Gold Line transportation corridor. Which means we are eligible to get socked with a huge RHNA number once the SCAG types get their orders from Sacramento and CARB.

    Nobody at City Hall gives a damn about what might work for Sierra Madre. They're just checking off boxes on their resumes so they can get the hell out of here.

  23. Existing streets can only handle so much traffic, so development beyond existing capacity just overloads the whole system, it's not just about parking massive numbers of cars.

    That's why nobody can get to anywhere in a 10 mile radius in under an hour in the LA area, and on the westside, it's twice that. So people end up not driving at all, staying close to home. That changes the growth pattern of course.

    Businesses and industry/professional orgs are starting to migrate to online meetings, webinars and conferences using laptops and local conference room screening instead of having everyone drive to a destination because of this. It's becoming very cheap to do this with equipment that everyone's got now.

    That means that most travel will be local business and residential, which also means the mega developments will no longer pencil out, since the market base (consumers driving long distances) isn't there anymore. Online purchasing makes those things dinosaurs, especially when the gas prices go up.

    Emphasize local markets and outlet stores that serve the existing population. Nobody will take light rail just to go to a specific store, they'll order stuff online. Assuming the job market comes back anytime soon.

  24. Mr. Other VisionedAugust 21, 2010 at 12:07 PM

    Being from NY, I can tell you that density, while definitely being most dense, does absolutely nothing to alleviate greenhouse gases or any other form of pollution. Plus I do not believe that a majority of people really long to live in small lightless apartments in the midst of a vast warren of similar small lightless apartments. Nor will the state parking their fannies near a bus stop change their preferences for automobiles.

    These problems will be solved when personal transportation technology progresses beyond the internal combustion engine. Which will happen. And at that time all these CARB/SB375/AB32/CARB/BIA/CAR/Schwarzenegger-Steinberg monuments to central planning insanity will completely empty out as the population runs as quickly as their cars will take them towards the light.

  25. Preach it, Mr. OV!
    Maddening isn't it, that the building industry co-opted the greenishness of it all, and government has gone off on that wild goose chase instead of full speed ahead on evolving beyond the destructive internal combustion engine.

  26. It's all about making money for their friends, 12:16. That's all it ever was.

  27. The eventual outcome of "high density" dwellings is better known as "tenaments". Older, larger cities tried this 75 years ago. Eventually they had to tear many of them down because of: crime, deterioration, ethnic concentrations, blight, and no public support. We are on the cusp of nothing new. Its been tried and it failed.

  28. The bus bench site (thanks for the link) lists one of my pet peeves:
    LAX is in the category of Most "unsustainable" stations by the Walk Scores. Damn isn't that the truth.
    All you need to know about Southern Californian public transportation planners and how seriously they take the residents of the area lies in the fact that there is no good way to get from anywhere to the airports.
    Well ok, maybe if you live next to one of them.
    No one n my family wants to make the LAX trek, so we have learned to fly Burbank when possible and if not possible, hire drivers - and not those shuttles either, that will circle airports endlessly trolling for more fares, and adding hours onto your trip back home.
    Like I said, the planners don't care a lick about getting people around in an economical way, or we'd all have easier access to the airports.

  29. My last horrific experience at LAX (which matches with the horrific airlines) was at lot C the day before Thanksgiving. I arrived at lot C three hours before my 10:00 A.M. flight. but alas the parking ticket spitter was out of tickets. I backed out and pulled into the large white striped "no parking area" at the lot entrance trying to figure out where to go. A LAX Airport Police Car pulled up and with malice told me to "move on". I asked him where I might find a lot that was accepting cars and he "said he didn't know". I asked him to report that the parking ticket spitter was out of tickets and could I wait for someone to bring tickets. Again he didn't know who to contact, and I needed to "move on". LAX serves as a beacon for everything that is bad in Transportation. To use a youthful term it SUCKS".

    And speaking of Burbank, last August my American Airlines MD80 flight took off from Burbank then proceeded up the 210 freeway, landed at Ontario to "take on fuel", an "unscheduled stop" took off again, and proceeded to Dallas Ft Worth where we were an hour late. We proceeded from Terminal C to A where we got into a horrible situation with American Personnel because they had fille our conecting flight with "stand bys". Having boarding passes we insisted they remove the stand bys and give us our seats. Our luggage did not arrive in Detroit on our connecting flight. Los Angeles Airports and American Airlines deserve each other. They both SUCK.

  30. I go out to Ontario once in a while. For some reason you can
    catch earlier flights there. It's great for San Jose flights. You
    can make a 9AM meeting without having to spend the night
    before in a hotel.

  31. I once had to pick up my wife at Ontario at 5:00 on a Friday.

  32. LAX always brings to mind the film Koyaanisqatsi.

  33. Frequent LAX travelerAugust 21, 2010 at 4:16 PM

    Take the Gold Line to Union Station, pick up the Flyaway to LAX! Flyaway runs all night, 30 to 45 min to LAX. First Gold Line leaves about 4:30 am. It's a piece of cake. Can't get to Burbank or Ontario yet.

  34. Community Services decided the north-south, no more than 2 blocks to a stop route the Ad Hoc Transportation Committee suggested wouldn't work. Something about it would cost money to replace the bus stop signs...

    The AHTC also recommended cutting out the mid day trips to Sierra Madre Villa Station because the Metro buses all stop there anyway but were over ruled by Community Services. No doubt in order to support SB375...

  35. Sacramento money pays for those shuttles, so city hall feigns indifference. I guess they've forgotten that we also pay state taxes.

  36. My impression is that people in Sierra Madre walk for pleasure. In the evenings, people are out walking to enjoy the quiet, fresh air, get a little exercise, walk their dogs, etc. It's not because they can get to the grocery store on foot. I walk in the evening because I'm going to visit a friend and perhaps have a couple of glasses of wine. I haven't heard of too many drunk walking arrests and I'd rather skip the experience of the SMPD arresting me for a DUI. Thanks anyway. But I digress.

    But mostly people iu Sierra Madre walk because it's safe to do so. I am pretty sure that high density condo box construction will increase their feelings of safety, particularly after a bunch of people have been imported to inhabit these nightmares. If anything, I think the whole situation will be worsened. Frankly, I think people would rather walk in the canyon among the bears than deal with high development downtown.

    Talk about bogus social engineering.

  37. I think I've finally figured out what John Buchanan means by "green jobs." Human powered pedicabs in a high density car free environment. Peddling drunks home from the Buc being the kind of green future the youth of Sierra Madre can look forward to with great anticipation.

    Just don't call them rickshaws.

  38. From today's

    "Maywood is billing itself as the first American city to outsource all of its city services. In an odd twist, officials say it can provide even better services because the shift will help it save money and close a $450,000 shortfall in its $10 million general fund budget.

    For instance, the contract with the sheriff's department costs about half of the more than $7 million spent annually to maintain the Maywood police department, Prado said. And patrols will be increased."

    According to the article Maywood is the first city to have outsourced all of it's City Hall functions. Elected officials (City Council and City Clerk) remain in place.

  39. Sierra Madre is quietly building an infrastructure to support its disabled and aging population. Dial A Ride, Gateway Coach, the Senor Commission, City Staff dedicated to the care and feeding of seniors, and the Home Healthcare Partners are just the beginning. Dr. Sammi is on to something. Several major supermarkets have an on-line grocery service - point and click, delivery to your door the next day. Hart House senior services feed and entertain a significant portion of the town's elders at a subsidized rate far below what one could expect to pay at a coffee shop, or even in some cases the cost to prepare meals at home.

    Sierra Madre's population is quietly being stratified into families with young and school age children and adults without children entering their retirement years.

    That's it folks! Little League and soccer, or dancin' with Nancy at the Senior Center. A sad commentary on an otherwise vibrant small community.

  40. Sierra Madre's senior population is about 45% of its total residents. I can see the proposed condos being marketed as safe senior housing in a walkable community AND being sold. Look at how quickly the Senior Housing facility was filled up. Remember NO ONE is being forced into condos in Monrovia, Arcadia, Pasadena, and in the near future Sierra Madre. They may be vacant right now but only because the real estate market is in a downturn. They're attractive to older single adults without families, especially those who chose to travel and don't want to be tied down by housekeeping, groundskeeping, and maintenance. Condo living may not be for everyone, but it's certainly a viable option for some.

  41. It's not the condos we're so disturbed about, it's the four and five story monoliths on the boulevard that are so offensive. With their great gaping maws of underground parking disgorging dozens of cars onto Baldwin and Sierra Madre Boulevards. The impact of multitudes of newcomers who are attracted by the "ambiance" of "walkability" and "concerts in the park" and the annual 4th or 5th of July Parade that makes headlines across the country. It's the selling of Sierra Madre as an "All American Town". I can see the PR now, "Yes! You can go home again." Just like when you were a kid and your parents sheltered you from the world. Come to Sierra Madre where it all begins...

  42. You make it sound like we're about to become home to Del Webb's Hokey Pokey Estates!

  43. Brings a whole new twist to the term "walkers paradise."

  44. u really think that the people who moved into town in the last dozen years and paid outrageous prices for homes are really going to walk to Albertsons or to Starbucks from the the outer reaches of Sierra Madre?

    this just another bs campaign being pitched by bs salesmen.

    buchanan's green campaign is just another way for him to get noticed and be somebody in the community it must kill him that he couldn't be anybody in Pasadena or Arcadia but had to settle on Sierra Madre to be a minnow in a small pond.

  45. The vacant lot on sierra madre blvd one block east of baldwin is for sale, I saw some escalade people looking at it, here we go gang!

  46. The new Looney Views News is less loony than usual this week (no Henderloon articles, though Hale "Bopp" Hamilton has a column), but they do have a picture of the newly gussied up Killed Nursing Facility. No mention of the Blight Law, or that it was originally agendized by Kurt Zimmerman. Or first talked about on here The Tattler. I'd say that Susan has tried to rewrite history here, but that would involve the risky assumption that she can write.

  47. Perhaps questions before the city council about what happened to the blight law, and calls to the council members got to them before the City Manager could "investigate" the status of the ordinance. I'm guessing that "investigation" was a quick call to the owners tipping them off that the natives were getting restless.

  48. 9:07 u must be dreaming if you believe that the developers are going to build affordable condos for seniors, even their first proposals were 85 - 90 % regular market priced condos and a few were "affordable", meaning smaller tiny and still priced at a premium per sqare foot rate. I recall a realtor telling me that "affordable" in Sierra Madre means $ 800,000 but then the market plumeted

    3:12, I was wondering when that lot was going to be maxed out. A few years ago, I almost bought the house next to it and envisioned looming condos or a small housing tract built to an inch of the property line.

    Nobody walks in LA.

  49. That word "affordable" is almost always used when these sorts of things are in the planning phase. Once the units are actually built the word becomes "luxury."

  50. Hmmm .......10:37 if you are speaking of the lot directly west of empty lot you say you almost purchased, that home has not been up for sale for quite a while and it is also zoned professionally .......are you making things up? I say scrape it, dig it, build it, sell!

  51. Sell it to who? The SGV is filled with unsold properties just like the one you're proposing here.

    Have you considered changing your first name to Eaton?