Wednesday, February 2, 2011

"Smart Growth" Is Dead. Long Live "Intelligent Cities!"

That's the problem with planner jargon, it just wears out much too quickly. It lacks for sustainability, even when it is about sustainability. Words once fraught with deep meaning, or at least once fraught with the intention of appearing to have deep meaning, collapse under their own absurdity in time. Left naked and alone once the hype that sustained them no longer disguises the barrenness of all those failed promises.

Apparently the term "Smart Growth" is in the process of having its plug pulled by those who care. They have become very conscious that the freshness dating on it has now passed into a certifiable marketing decay curve.

But a replacement has been identified you'll be relieved to know. Are you ready for "Intelligent Cities?" Well, you probably should get yourself prepared. Because the same folks who bored us to death with the now unsustainable "smart growth" for the last 15 or so years are hopping on this new train like pilgrims heading to the promised land.

Here is how USA Today explained it recently:

Will 'intelligent cities' put an end to suburban sprawl? When the economy was roaring and housing booming, reining in suburban sprawl dominated the development debate under the name of "smart growth." Now that the economy and housing have tanked, prompting more people to stay put, growth is taking a back seat. But smarts still matter. The new buzzwords: "Intelligent Cities."

"There's a 15 to 20 year-cycle on urban planning terms," says Robert Lang, urban sociologist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "Remember 'urban renewal?' Smart Growth is near the end of its shelf life."

"Intelligent Cities," the new darling lingo of planners, reflects the times. It captures the essence of 21st-century technology that can help track when and how many people cross the street, water and energy consumption and peak hours at every transit stop. It also will soon allow bidding on a parking space via cellphone (the space goes to the highest bidder).

Honestly I don't know about all that, and anything complicating the parking of my car presents a problem as far as I am concerned. And "intelligent" is not quite the word I would use to describe the people putting me through so aggravating a procedure.

But I thought I should warn you about this terminology shift. I'm quite certain John and Joe will be using it very soon. When it comes to the use of development and planner jargon nobody is more trendy than they.

Update On Last Night's Gen'l Plan Update Steering Committee Confab

Perhaps yesterday's curmudgeonly article played a role, maybe not. I for one was not at the meeting and haven't spoken to anyone yet who was. But late last evening the following post was left here on The Tattler. It has the ring of authenticity.

The General Plan Committee agreed to discuss the Land Use Element of the Gen'l Plan on Sunday, Feb 13, from 1PM to 5PM. There will be a new EIR for the new plan. Everyone is encouraged to attend the meeting and give input. The Committee also voted to put the Gen'l Plan survey on line in the near future.

All very good news. The conclusions contained within the 1996 Environmental Impact Report to the current (and nicely aged) General Plan warns of near-exponential increases in Sierra Madre's population and "building stock" should certain GP96 items be triggered. Something that was actually attempted by the DIC with the Downtown Specific Plan 6 or so years back. Leading to its denouement shortly thereafter with the passing of Measure V by the residents of this occasionally aware town.

Deliberations on the Land Use Element portion of the new document could be the last act in this continuing drama. Or, if the festering remains of the '96 General Plan remain tucked in, probably not.

A very enjoyable CRA smackdown

Michael Hiltzik, writing for the L.A. Times, delivered a really choice body blow to the 400 or so CRAs that Jerry Brown wants to deep six. I have noticed this level of criticism in several news articles recently. The hue and cry from those well-heeled development types who benefit from this multi-billion dollar yearly state handout apparently is being disrespected by many commentators who no longer think they deserve the swag. Not when schools, hospitals and emergency services are suffering far more than they have.

Here are some of my favorite passages from Hiltzik's article, "Time to shine a harsh light on California's redevelopment agencies."

... local government redevelopment agencies lay claim every year to about $5 billion in property taxes that would otherwise go to school districts, counties and the state. But they've never had to show they're worth the money. In fact, they've never had to show that their efforts produce ANY measurable net gain in property values or employment in the state, which is the whole point of having them in the first place.

Putting schools before the development of car lots and strip malls would seem obvious to most it seems to me. But this is California where things do occasionally get a bit blurred. Especially when the glomming of our taxes are involved.

They (CRAs) now lay claim to 12% of all property taxes in the state. In some places it's even more: Fontana's redevelopment agency receives more than two-thirds of all property taxes collected in the Inland Empire city. Most of that money becomes unavailable for San Bernardino County services or schools.

With the massive teacher layoffs that are being implemented by cash-strapped school districts all across this state, do we really need to fund our CRA so that it can be decided whether or not we should buy new lamp posts?

These agencies are subject to virtually no outside oversight. Cases abound of apparent sweetheart deals between redevelopment bodies and private developers. State auditors have found some agencies consistently shortchanging their local schools and counties out of the small portion of their tax collections state law requires them to hand over.

Hiltzik's conclusion?

The fiscal crisis is forcing state government to scrutinize and prioritize every expenditure. Programs shouldn't be exempt just because they've gotten a pass for 65 years now. Gov. Brown's implicit challenge to the redevelopment lobby is simple: "Put up or shut up."

And to think I didn't vote for Brown. What was I thinking?

Is Big Ed Roski getting dissed?

They might worship him like a God over at the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, but for the big city boys Roski is apparently just another Gold Line commuter tramp. This from yesterday's

The L.A. billionaire has proposed a nifty NFL stadium in the City of Industry, but I'm afraid it's no match for the well-orchestrated - and detail hidden - push for a downtown stadium. Tim Leiweke and his AEF+G juggernaut are holding a press conference this morning announcing their $700-million naming-rights deal with L.A. based Farmers Insurance, and the cast includes Eli Broad (on video), Magic Johnson, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Council members Jan Perry and Janice Hahn.

I'm not sure who Ed Roski might have in his stable of celebrities to match that kind of star power. Besides himself, of course.

Maybe Paul Rusnak?


  1. If it weren't for the Tattler we'd be in the dark about the hard work the General Plan Update Steering Committee does. It's important. It's under appreciated. We need to support the Committee! City Hall Council Chambers on Sunday, February 13th from 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.

    Thanks Crawford! You might consider dropping by yourself.

  2. OMG! Sierra Madre is an Intelligent City already. Can we just sit this one out? Do we really have to jump into the fray? Maybe just a jingle we can all hum at Council meetings?

  3. Wouldn't Mayor Mosca talking about the concept of 'intelligent cities' be a conflict of interest?

  4. "It also will soon allow bidding on a parking space via cellphone (the space goes to the highest bidder"

    Beautiful! Only the wealthier citizens get to have parking spaces? Oh yeah, the rest of the people can take the public transportation.
    Sounds like the old Soviet Union to me.

    CRA.....we've been needing to get rid of it for decades. Let's hope we finally can.

    General Plan Committee Meeting for all residents:

    CITY HALL-1:00 to 5:00 pm. Sunday, Feb 13th.
    Be there! It's our city.

  5. If you care about Sierra Madre you need to be there February 13. This
    Is as big a meeting as you will ever see in this town.

  6. The medium is the message. It's going to take four flipping hours to decide that doubling the population of Sierra Madre is ludicrous?!

    New Agenda:

    No growth. Sustain the village. Meeting adjourned.

  7. Great slogan: Sustain the Village.

  8. The Land Use Element is key to understanding where Mosca wants to take this community. If there is any indication that he doesn't want a change in the current numbers, then all his talk about "preserving this precious jewel of a city" is out the window. This is a very big moment.

  9. 7:41, do you mean an oxymoron?
    Mosca talking about intelligent anything.

  10. Use your head for something other than a hat rackFebruary 2, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    What all cities need, is an intelligent electorate. This includes Sierra Madre, where the citizens seem to believe they are unique and special. If the voters are intelligent the rest will take care of itself.

  11. The day Mosca moves out of town will one of intelligent growth for Sierra Madre.

  12. "Intelligent Cities" have moronic mayors.

  13. The CRA's were a perfect target for the sleaziest of the sleazy developers. Sort of like an old school cartoon when the wolf was drooling and licking his lips watching the little piggies, being our pink and playful tax dollars. Let's keep a good thought that the Gov is perfectly aware of the wolf's true nature and that the complete corruption of the good intention of the CRAs was probably in the works even before the agencies were formed.

  14. In an intelligent city they microchip all the politicians.

    Is new report done and being presented to you, who is doing that one?

  15. A stadium in downtown LA - another reason to avoid that whole area.

  16. From Wikipedia, a small part of intelligent cities:

    The three dimensions of intelligent cities: Intelligent cities evolve towards a strong integration of all dimensions of human, collective, and artificial intelligence available within a city. They are constructed as multi-dimensional agglomerations combining three main dimensions (Komninos 2006, 17-18; Komninos 2008, 122-123).

    This is what happens when grown men play with video games.

    Intelligent people and cities will stop until they are stabilized.

  17. About Roski, the industry stadium is in the suburbs. All the true Urbanites will want it over there by the Staples Center. The stadium in LA is the one that will be built. Roski and his Arnold favors have run out of juice. Besides Roski is really showing his senility by regressing in time. He has had his last hurrah, and this stadium is indicative of a man that does not age gracefully.

  18. Didn't the Tattler cover Roski before, and the small but loud group of activists who were mowed down for his stadium dreams?
    This is very very good news for those activists.
    And it's much better to put the NFL in the concrete jungle than in the suburbs.
    Blade Runner anyone?

  19. 9:23, I just tried the Tattlers search bar, and typed in Roski. Paydirt!

  20. I'm going to posit that artifical intelligence has been operating in Sierra Madre for about ten years now. We've all been witness to it's results. Let's go with human and collective. It'll leave out the G4 and the Green Committee but what the hey, right?

  21. The idea that city employees can sit at a computer all day and modify our behavior is an interesting one. That used to be a theme of science fiction movies 50 or 60 years ago. Though at the time it was meant to horrify you.

  22. Poor Ed. He's a player in City of Industry, and his mighty powers can cause much fear in the neighboring communities. But L.A.? They just don't seem to care.

  23. Another Tattler readerFebruary 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM

    Hey, Faithful Reader at 9:26!

    Thanks for the heads up on the new Tattler Search!

    I just tried it too.

  24. It has been there for a while. I use it all the time. Tons of research in this blog's file!

  25. I love the search bar, which I only saw a couple of days ago. Before that I was scrolling through months and years.

  26. eeeuuu. Just saw the Patch article blurb about Sierra Madre moms we want you. As the New Yorker said AOL would do - moms are one of the chief targets.
    Guess our patch got the communique from headquarters.

  27. Perspective as in Cities. You can be smart but not intellegent. You can be intellegent but not smart. Rare is the time when intelligence and smart are combined in one head. People usually stumble on one or the other.

  28. Right behind the CRA house of cards is the "Water Trail". Today's LA Times discloses the salaries of six figure public employees. Not surprisingly many of these public dole hacks get their bucks from "Water". Water Districts, Depts of Water & Power, Govt Assoc's like SGAG etc. All have their hand in this public trough. It appears that when the facts eventually come out, the "Water Trail" will make all other government grab bags pale in comparison. The really big bucks are there for the taking.

  29. Maybe if Brown is really in tune with what has been happening, the sustainability of our very sustainable town won't be destroyed as a result of the sustainability push!

  30. George, surely the pro-development crowd wants to preserve our sustainability - just pretty it up.
    Prettier sustainability.
    Face lifted and tummy tucked sustainability.
    A trophy village.

  31. It seems obvious to me that any city electing the likes of Joe Mosca and Josh Moran has no business calling itself intelligent.

  32. Anybody who doesn't show up at that meeting
    needs to have their head examined.

  33. I Have Some QuestionsFebruary 2, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but is being on your cell phone bidding on a parking spot really what you should be doing when driving a car? And what do all the bidders do, gather around the empty spot until the municipal version of EBay decides who the lucky winner is?

    This isn't intelligent at all. It's plain idiotic.

  34. expert in tic tac toeFebruary 2, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    The best training for political involvement is the game of chess.
    See many moves ahead.

  35. Very funny Tattlers about how stooopid our current leaders are (some of) and don't want to make y'all feel bad, but those stooopidos? Kicked the smart people out of city government (most of.)
    Somebody on that team is not so stupid after all.
    Just wish we had known about the dirty and well executed smear campaigns earlier, the reversal of what was really true, the attribution of victimhood to a scoundrel.

  36. I wish we were better informed too, 1:14, but I am really at a loss about how to counter such big lies. It's like when you say to someone, no that's not what happened, or that's not true, they just don't want to believe it. Case in pointy, people who still, at that late date, think Henderson is innocent. Imagine.

  37. point taken, 1:14. But what have they done with their victory? Besides getting caught in the water rate lie. Buchanan is now in his eighth year of trying to get development into Sierra Madre? Besides the One Carter disaster (which happened in the first year of his first term) what has he accomplished?


  38. True 1:25, but don't leave out that misery waiting in the wings, Stonehouse.

  39. Buchanan will not accept the blame for Carter. Take off glasses, pause, sigh with avuncularity, "It was not popular, but necessary."

    But he will accept the credit for the paramedics (that is if he can get Joe's grip off of that shining accomplishment), and anything else good that has come about.

  40. Whoever engineered the election for the Downtown Investment Club and the Poor Persecuted Pro-Development Party must have dropped out of the picture around the water hike. Lying about the reason for a water rate increase is a baffling choice.

  41. Buchanan came real close to screwing us over with a new 7 million dollar library. If he hadn't been caught in his lies about the impending disaster of our water pipes, he and Mosca would have skipped merrily along and they'd be overloading the city with massive projects and a water infrastructure designed to allow us to over double our population

  42. Don't forget the Cong. Church. They have been very quiet for a long time. Perhaps the change in the economy has slowed their expansion plans.

  43. I expect John Buchanan and his three amigos to start talking bonds very soon. Repairing our bond rating is what the water rate hike was all about.

  44. I don't know when the library re-do got traction, maybe before Buchanan, but I do know that you can go on the PBWS architects site and see the plans.
    Under projects, institutional, page 6. And oh yeah, the firm has a sustainable design section now.

  45. There is no way in heck that they can use water funds to fund a library. Pure and simple. And, the current library is NOT in the CRA zone. So, that is why Buchanan was so eager to suggest a "land swap" for the skilled nursing facility, which is in the CRA zone. Watch and see what happens to the General Plan update when it comes to land use. We need to be on our toes to make sure something doesn't get slipped in to change the zoning of the SNF.

  46. Please, Mr. Councilman John Buchanan--
    Do not take out any more bond money for future projects.
    Do not make the little children in Sierra Madre cry.
    That would not be nice.
    It would be really mean to make us very poor in the future.
    When we finish school will we find jobs?
    We will not be able to pay off this big amount of money for a long time.
    My mom said it is a "bond indebtedness."
    I don't know what that means. I do know that I don't get enough allowance to pay for a new library.
    Your friend,
    Sierra Madre's next generation

  47. The General Plan Committee needs everyone's eyes, ears, and brains. They are smart people but they are only people. They can't be expected to catch every nuiance that may be thrown at them. Get the red lined copies at City Hall and follow the changes. PLEASE.


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