These are some of the reasons why those of the Green persuasion have been pushing this "walkability" meme in such a big way. Because if you are walking you aren't burning anything carbon based beyond some of the composite materials in your sneakers. Thus saving us all from the end of the world. Or at least our continued existence in it. The world, of course, would go on without us. Probably quite well.
Sierra Madre's Green Committee came up with a lot of goals for us to ponder a few months back. These goals, which they quite solemnly called "The Environmental Accords," are of United Nations origin of all things, so they didn't actually make them up themselves. Rather they adopted much of the language from some the UN's "Accords," which were previously designed for all the world to include in their development planning regimens.
And as kind of a summary of that dream, the Green Committee supplied the City Council, along with the General Plan Steering Committee, the following inspirational language designed to push us towards what they perceive as being greener goals. This from their "Environmental Accords."
Adopt urban planning principles and practices that advance higher density, mixed use, walkable, bikeable, and disabled-accessible neighborhoods, which coordinate land use and transportation with open space systems for recreation and economic restoration. This goal is dependent on the General Plan Update process. The City would need to adopt principles and practices within their Planning efforts towards these goals. Staff believes this to be a pivotal consideration in the General Plan Update. It is also subject to AB32 and SB375 considerations.
Unfortunately for the Green Committee, when translated into terms that most people use in their daily discourse, these "Accords" would be about as popular in Sierra Madre as head lice at a preschool ice cream social. What they are calling for here is a radical realignment of our downtown area and replacing it with something strikingly similar to what was proposed in the Downtown Specific Plan. The notion being that if you stack and pack low and moderate income housing up to the sky, and squeeze convenience stores onto the first floor, plus throw in a few bus stops, people will give up their automobiles and walk. Thus somehow saving the world from global warming.
Which to my way of thinking is really quite a stretch. After all, if you look at a few thousand years of human history you can plainly see that one of humanity's greatest goals is to avoid walking as much as possible. It is the slowest way to travel, at times painful, and it can make you sweat more than most like. Especially in the summer. And isn't it a bit presumptuous to claim that condos can save the world? I think so.
Plus, this being Southern California and all, if you make lower cost housing available to people, what is the most obvious thing they will want do with the money they've saved? Buy a car, of course. A cheap place to live and a cool car being important parts of the dream most here embrace. After all, this isn't New Jersey.
But despite all of the above, I have some uplifting news for today. We apparently do not have to change a thing. There is a very useful website out there in the digital ether called WalkScore.com. And what they do is rate almost every town in the United States for its "walkability." That is, accessibility to housing, shopping, and entertainment, with as little reliance upon the automobile as possible. And the fabulous news here is that they have rated Sierra Madre as being "Very Walkable!"
If you click here you will be taken to the WalkScore.com webpage for Sierra Madre. There you will see that out of a possible maximum score of 100, we have an 86 rating. Which, using math that I am not quite certain I understand completely, puts us into their Top 10%. The average score being 49.
What this indicates to me is that our predominantly low density and tree filled suburban paradise of a town has already achieved many of the more important goals set aside for us by the Green Committee's Environmental Accords. With the good news being we don't have to change a thing since we are already there.
Hopefully this will attract the attention of the General Plan Update Steering Committee and be included in their deliberations and recommendations. It really is some very good news.