This evening I came across three recent news articles that align almost perfectly. They talk about SCAG, SB 375, the daft notion that California can somehow build itself out its share of global warming, and that the real saviors of humanity are to be found in the central planning departments of Sacramento. Or so they are likely tell you. Personally I have my doubts.
The article that kicks this one into gear is an op-ed written by a gent named Rick Cole, the current City Manager of Ventura. Printed in the L.A. Times and entitled "Southern California hailed as a model of sustainability" (click here), it details this guy's fantasy that because this part of the world has become about as densely packed as any area in the country, it has somehow become a showcase for all that is ecologically wonderful about current regional urban planning trends. And then there is this vision for the future:
The plan includes expansion of housing near public transportation by 60% ... and projections of more than 4 million new jobs - with public transit within half a mile of most of them. Amanda Eaken of the Natural Resources Defense Council praised it as "the strongest transportation plan" in the history of "car-loving Southern California."
SCAG's new plan is born of the realization that as a region, we have to grow up, not out. That doesn't mean Hong Kong skyscrapers in Whittier and Redlands. It does mean more apartments near light-rail stations and more vibrant mixed-use areas like the ones in downtown Pasadena, Ventura and Brea. It doesn't mean wresting the car keys from suburban commuters. It does mean making jobs and housing accessible via foot, bike, bus and rail.
This is an interesting take on Southern California's problems. Rather than overcoming what are some of the endemic shortcomings of the area, you just declare the same old thing to be good, and then proclaim victory. Couple that with unrealistic visions of a future world where everyone lives in stack and pack development and happily rides the bus, and there you are. In this our post-CRA world perhaps that is all folks like Rick Cole will be capable of doing. They no longer have the money for much else.
Within hours of this editorial a blog run by Mother Jones Magazine posted an observation about Rick Cole's op-ed. The author, a guy named Kevin Drum, pretty much nails it. His post is titled "SCAG Wants to Make Southern California More Urban," which you can access in its entirety by clicking here.
In theory, a plan like this should have almost unanimous support. Developers like it because they can put up denser buildings. Environmentalists like it because it's more sustainable. Urbanists like it because it creates more walkable communities. City governments like it because it creates a stronger tax base.
There's really only one constituency that doesn't like it much: every single person who already lives in these communities and hates the idea of dense, high-rise construction near their homes. So there's going to be fireworks. It will be interesting to see how the NIMBY bloc gets bought off.
And it looks like the fireworks have already begun. In the Bay Area the central planning authority is the Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG. An acronym almost as lovely as our own SCAG. And the attempts of ABAG to enforce Sacramento's draconian planning edicts are not being met with much joy. Here is a portion of a CalWatchdog article called "Bay Area rebellion attacks housing mandate" (click here for the whole thing).
But a lot of cities are feeling like they're being dictated to. Last Month, Palo Alto sent a 20-page complaint letter to ABAG, arguing that the jobs and housing requirements are unrealistic, not accounting for market constraints, high costs and the impacts of intensive development. City officials also believe that the plan will have a negligible impact on greenhouse gas emissions in any case.
It's those emissions that are the driving force behind the discontent. ABAG and the Metropolitan Commission are implementing the One Bay Area Plan, which is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7 percent by 2020 and by 15 percent by 2035. It's authorized by SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, and AB 32, the Global Warning Solutions Act of 2006.
The goal is to supposedly save the planet. But many local officials and residents fear it's actually a case of politicians and bureaucrats destroying their villages to save them.
"For us this is about local control," said Ravasio. "We are a small town. We want to remain a small town, which is why people moved here in the first place. We should be allowed to do that and control growth and grow in a way that makes sense for us. And not have it mandated to us by a state or regional authority like ABAG. Which is what's been happening. Which is why we took this step."
It remains to be seen whether the roar from this mouse echoes throughout the Bay Area and eventually the rest of the state. If it does, it could be the first rebel yell in a new Civil War. Or perhaps it should be called the War of Sacramento Aggression.
The article goes on to detail how many of the communities there are up in arms about things like huge housing allocations, and as a result have actually had their numbers significantly reduced by a panicked ABAG. Something caused by the large numbers of outraged people showing up at meetings, with some cities actually leaving the RPO over insane RHNA numbers. And many more cities thinking about it.
L.A. County City Attorney Costs
There is now some interesting research available from the L.A. Times that shows Sierra Madre's per capita City Attorney costs are higher than most. Out of the 88 cities surveyed, only 19 are higher on this per capita costs basis than we are. Click here.
Happy Birthday MaryJane!
We'd like to wish one of our favorite Tattler readers a very Happy 98th Birthday today! MaryJane has been a supporter of a lot of things that we here on the blog believe in, and a big shout out is definitely in order here. Thank you for all that you do, MaryJane.