Monday, October 15, 2012

It Has Finally Happened - McMansions Are Now Sustainable

It had to happen. Everything can now be considered sustainable. The world has been saved through the manipulation of language. If only we'd known it was going to be this easy. McMansions, "clean coal," nuclear power, miles long traffic tunnels, freeways filled with trucks and, of course, an entire downtown of transit village development foisted upon us by various concerned lobbies in Sacramento. All sustainable.

Transit Village Development being our current local burden to bear. Something parroted with a Stepford-like precision by local persons of note wishing to become a commission. All so that their voices can speak with an authority most people in this town will never have, and done because certain invested parties of influence want to cash in on your birthright while making you believe it will be good for you.

I guess you could call the phenomenon Greedhead Gases.

There used to be an environmental movement, you know. Back in the 1970s or something. It spoke about the need for clean air and water, and taking care of nature by keeping it pristine and just the way God made it. And this movement developed its own language and ways of looking at things, much of which seized the popular imagination and became a part of the daily lives of millions of people.

But now all of that is apparently the fodder for selling the very things once recognized as the antithesis of sane environmental management. Even that symbol of egregious global destruction itself, the McMansion, has now been proclaimed both green and sustainable.

On the always informative City Watch news site, Dick Platkin, teacher of city planning at USC's Price School of Social Policy, shares the following in an article titled, "Debunking LA's Urban Legend: Green McMansions" (click here).

New York might have alligators roaming its sewer system, but LA can now boast of its own urban legend: “green” McMansions.  Yes, that’s right; in Los Angeles, McMansions, those boxy, oversized, energy-demanding suburban houses plopped into the middle of older neighborhoods are officially considered to be sustainable development.

How could this be?  After all, McMansions require huge amounts of energy to assemble their building materials and move them to job site.  Furthermore, the houses themselves are massive, which means enormous heating and air conditioning bills, even if their windows are double-paned, their walls padded with extra insulation, and their restaurant-sized refrigerators and stoves Energy Star rated.  

Then we need to consider their multiple bathrooms and heated outdoor pools and spas, the most energy intensive features of modern houses.  

Other McMansion features also have their detrimental environmental effects.  During demolition they release dust and asbestos into the air.  After construction, their large patios, pools, spas, and double driveways reduce natural open space.  Combined with their elimination of parkway trees and landscaping for driveway cuts, the cumulative result is a heat island with less penetration of rainwater.

Given this environmental profile, some advanced jurisdictions, like Marin County, require a full energy audit of all new houses larger than 3,500 square feet.  Many other cities, like West Hollywood, simply restrict the size of R-1 homes to prevent McMansions.

But, certainly not in Los Angeles where the treatment of McMansions has raced in the opposite direction.  Our city government offers a “green” incentive to contractors so they can super-size their McMansions.  Finally, all this is done through a misnamed ordinance, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.  It purports to stop mansionization, but, in fact, does exactly the opposite. 

Just like the Patriot Act, that curbs civil liberties, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, that stops the regulation of derivatives, and the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 that bars the EPA from regulating soot, the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance -- despite it name -- is deliberately filled with enough exemptions and bonuses to permit McMansions to still be built by-right in most of Los Angeles.  

Anyone surprised? Welcome to the Green Credibility Crisis (GCC).

Moody's looking at a new round of debt rating cuts

Perhaps you recall that not too long ago Sierra Madre was forced to accept a reduction in its water bond ratings. This was after our water rates had been increased because we needed to prevent our water bond ratings from being reduced. Which, of course, they were. It's how things work around here. 

Now water rates have to go up again because we need to repair infrastructure. Which was supposed to be the reason why they were raised the last time. At least it was before it turned out that it wasn't. Later, of course, it turned out this was to help keep our bond ratings from falling. Which, as we've noted here, they did.

As complex as the City of Sierra Madre's finances may seem to some, apparently we are not among the only "agencies" (adding that one to the bad word list) facing the wrath of Moody's. A place where they lack the civility to go along with whatever version of reality our City Hall happens to be pumping at the moment. And after all, the government of the United States of America had its debt rating cut not that long ago. So certainly we aren't the only financial Titanic on these stormy seas.

And just to back that bold statement up, here is a report from Bloomberg titled, "California Cities Face Downgrade On Debt" (click here). There is a whole list of famous city names on the list, including those of a couple of our neighbors.

The debt of 30 California cities, including Oakland, Fresno and Sacramento, has been placed under review for downgrades because of economic pressures in the state, Moody’s Investors Service said.
The examinations may affect $14.3 billion in lease-backed and general-obligation debt issued by the municipalities, the New York-based company said yesterday in a statement.

“California cities operate under more rigid revenue- raising constraints than cities in many other parts of the country,” Eric Hoffmann, who heads Moody’s California local government ratings team, said in a statement. “Combined with steeply rising costs, these constraints mean that these cities will likely recover more slowly than their peers nationally, even if the state’s economic recovery tracks the nation’s.”

Communities in California have struggled to stay afloat by cutting staff and services to make up for a drop in sales and property tax revenue in the wake of the recession. Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes have gone into bankruptcy court since June.

Moody’s said it identified the credits as part of a broader review started in August of 95 rated cities in California.

The general-obligation bond ratings of Los Angeles, now Aa3, fourth-highest, and San Francisco, Aa2, third-highest, are on review for upgrades, Moody’s said.

Cities with debt under review for downgrades include Azusa, Berkeley, Colma, Danville, Downey, Fresno, Glendale, Huntington Beach, Inglewood, Long Beach, Los Gatos, Martinez, Monterey, Oakland, Oceanside, Palmdale, Petaluma, Rancho Mirage, Redondo Beach, Sacramento, San Leandro, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Maria, Santa Monica, Santa Rosa, Sunnyvale, Torrance and Woodland, Moody’s said.

In addition, the pension-obligation bonds of several issuers were downgraded, Moody’s said, including Downey, Fresno, Oakland, Oceanside, San Leandro and Santa Rosa.

Happy Monday. And please, don't run with scissors. Things are bad enough already.

http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

49 comments:

  1. I liken the environmental movement to a new religion. There is no convincing anyone that has "seen the light" about saving the environment that some of their beliefs are faulty. I'm all for conserving everything from water to paper to plastic, but really, I don't need the preaching of a Green Commission to tell me how I should live my life. Its bad enough that government is getting to a nanny state, let alone my fellow Sierra Madrians.

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    1. Absolutely, 5:14 am!

      GLOBAL WARMING ENDED 16 YEARS AGO!

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2217286/Global-warming-stopped-16-years-ago-reveals-Met-Office-report-quietly-released--chart-prove-it.html

      We do not need any damn "green committee" here in Sierra Madre.
      We all care about trees, wildlife, recycling our trash, conserving water and most of us do not care to over build this city, not downtown, not our hillsides.
      This bogus "green committee" are puppets of the over development dirt crowd. The "downtown investors club".
      Worse than that, they are puppets of the majority of politicians in Sacramento (and Washington) who want to centralize, globalize and tax and spend us into bankruptcy. Hey, politicians! It doesn't work. It's not working all over the globe and it's not going to work. You do not get your self out of debt by spending more money!

      I hope everyone who cares in Sierra Madre will stongly protest this establishment of a GREEN COMMISSION, it's bad enough we have a committee let alone a costly useless (except to the dirts) Commission.
      A BIG NO TO THIS!!!!!!

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  2. Didn't you get the email? We can build our way out of global warming and the water shortage! Stack and pack housing is the cure for all of mankind's ills.

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    Replies
    1. Please,let's not stop at one "Boondoggle".Let's keep the stacking and packing uber development going and going...Water!No problem..Just keep raising the rates.Will they protest sure but we'll swindle the results of any petition they give us.We got away with it before and we'll take them again!

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    2. One has to admit:This has a certain ALICE IN WONDERLAND quality in it.

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  3. Phat Solar had a home demonstration here in Sierra Madre a few week-ends ago. The homeowner did a solar roof on his backyard patio (not a pool cabana as there was no swimming pool) and we talked about this application that I had also seen at the parking lot for Temple City High School and CalTech. One thing I learned was that solar applications in northnern California are prompted by the sense of protecting the environment, but in southern California...?...to bring down electrical costs due to the huge consumption of energy in our oversized, overappointed homes: pool, spas, McMansion square footages, etc.

    He got caught by the Sierra Madre practice of "valuation" building permit cost that later got changed with a state-wide survey of building permit costs that the Sierra Club conducted. Manhattan Beach/Barstow $0, Sierra Madre then, $3,000-$5,000 now $550.00.

    Public policy is slow to change but will with good information and enough economic incentive. We made a mess of the environment with utter disregard for our health and safety (Ohio river on fire, Hinkley, California, etc.) for the almighty dollar and we will clean it up when there is a profit to be made or it costs too much to keep on destroying as fines and costs of clean-up outweight the profit.


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  4. There has been a water shortage in Southern California for decades, eons, forever. Think "Upper Sonoran Desert", not English Garden cottages as so many in Sierra Madre insist on in their landscaping plans - it's their gawd given right. Water shortage? Think stolen water since Hetch Hetchy, since the Colorado pipeline, and the aqueduct. Think Sierra Madre's water is somehow different and that the diety gave it to us for our own use? That we're somehow special... think again.

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  5. Disinformation just keeps comingOctober 15, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Anonymous at 7:24 am

    That article is a pure disinformation campaign funded by the big oil companies and disseminated by those who want to discount the climate change we're experiencing. Even the superficial argument they present about temperature change is based upon simplistic and erroneous interpretation. The true measure of climate change is the increasing levels of carbon in the atmosphere which triggers violent weather, increasing temperatures and increases in ocean acidification. This causes disintegration of the living systems that support life.

    Start with the EPA site to get a basic education in real facts

    http://epa.gov/climatechange/science/

    And some more discussion of human-caused climate change, and some solutions, can be reviewed here

    http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/

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    Replies
    1. I don't necessarily disagree with you. But I believe the point of this article is that so much of what is portrayed as "sustainable" or "green" development is not. Do you think building a transit village in downtown Sierra Madre as written into the Green Committee Accords is right for Sierra Madre? That is the issue today.

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    2. I do disagree with 8:34
      Why should we believe government agencies?
      They have been known to lie to us.
      Global warming is a scam. In fact the biggest scam ever presented to the people of this planet.

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    3. Disinformation just keeps comingOctober 15, 2012 at 8:52 AM

      I understand that, but posting that kind of stuff propagates it, unless there's a qualifier posted with it.

      And of course these "green" labels are fraudulent marketing schemes. That serves to undermine legitimate efforts at streamlining the supply chain and focusing on non-carbon energy sources.

      What many people in the USA fail to understand (Europe doesn't fall for this because they've been sustainable for decades) is that reducing the human footprint starts with passive design that creates the absolute minimum of impact. THEN one includes solar/wind strategies to bring the structures to Net Zero. Along with that are strategies to recharge groundwater with swales and use urban forestry to mitigate the heat island effect.

      UNpave, as it were, which is the opposite of the McMansion trend. Which will change fairly soon in the face of extreme water and power bills. Nobody's going to want to pay for all that, it's already showing in the upper end housing market.

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  6. 8:41, how about the NASA scientists? Are they liars too?
    http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/

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    Replies
    1. The radical environmental movement was borne by socialists who, rather than admit the dismal failure of their ideology, rationalized that the only reason capitalism didn't fail is because evil capitalists exploit the environment.
      If you notice, the only energy sources Marxists support are those which can't be used on a large scale: wind and solar.

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    2. That's just nutty

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    3. Edition is a little bit to the right of Ghengis Khan and they are pretty big on solar energy. They push it because they make a lot of money off of the patents they hold. I do not see them is heavy hippies in any way. Quite the opposite, actually.

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    4. The socialist argument again?.... give me a fn break!

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    5. Bravo, 9:35 am! That's most intelligent post I've read on this thread this morning!

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    6. Oh, now it's the BIG Oil Companies fault. Where have I heard that argument before. (like our current financial situation is the BIG Oil Conpanies fault?) As the first poster of the morning wrote, to attack the greenies is to attack their religion. Nothing one can say to shake their belief. Yes, we need to conserve. Yes, we need to do what we can to keep a clean environment. But not the draconian measures that the greenies have put forth in their Accords.

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    7. It's big corporate, not just big oil. Goes waaay back.


      http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-post-bush-regime-a-prognosis/7693

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  7. To me, it's a sign of the collapse of a culture when it is no longer possible to know who's telling the truth. The climate change deniers say it's a hoax being done so vested interests can make money; the climate change supporters say that the climate deniers are brainwashed by information from vested interest who are manipulating them to keep their old destructive industries as the fat cats. I tend to agree that the deniers are the ones being hustled, but the real point is, everybody claims to be the pure side, and accuses the other side of greed.

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    1. It is all big time politics played on a national scale. What is important here is how this plays out in Sierra Madre. How do we deal with the mandates and agendas that have seemingly fallen out of the sky. I personally don't give a bucket of hot spit about the rest of that crap.

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  8. I'll tell you whats Nuts!Another commission for which the city pays good money to Staff and attorneys to sit listening to airy fairy palaver over something very controversial and questionable.Of course this is in perfect keeping with the eccentric and dubious policies which continue to be forthcoming from the City's management and city council.

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    1. Listening to Alva give his "make the city just a little bit greener" speech was painful. The prospect of having to hear that crap over and over again is a frightening one.

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    2. It is called "greenwashing."

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    3. 11:10 am
      YES, this is true, it is totally NUTS to form a stupid, senseless, expensive (to us) Green Commission.
      It is beyond nuts!
      So far, you have the most sensible post of the day!

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  9. You want to put solar panels in? Fine, get out your checkbook.

    Don't expect every other CA and US taxpayer to pay for it (aka tax credits.)

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    1. I was looking into solar panels until I discovered that I would still have to pay a Utility Tax to the city on electricity made by my equipment. That plus it would be Edison that would be collecting it. I want to get rid of those people, not pay them a tax on electricity that I produce.

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    2. Simple solution, put your money where your mouth is, install enough solar panels with battery storage capabilities, go totally off-grid, you pay nothin to nobody.

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  10. So, y'all need to go to the next City Council meeting to share your thoughts about the Green Committee/Commission.

    AB32, SB375, along with building mandates already in force, make a Green Committion superfluous.

    Side note: I agree with the poster last week who said Nancy Walsh tipped her hand when she noted that the city can get grant monies when we have a Green Commission. That's nice, but do we really want to sell ourselves for funds that we will have to use for transit villages?

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    1. That is what this is all about. of course. Development. Why else would Buchanan and Moran be flogging this thing? They want to resurrect the DSP so their pals can get their money back. It always goes back to that.

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    2. Walsh absolutely misused the council member report time to advocate for the commission status.
      What was she thinking? Or had someone told her to work it in at some point in the meeting, and she clumsily chose that one?
      Both she and Moran have already said what they are going to do. So much for open minded discussion and evaluation.

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    3. Same old song and dance from Josh and Nancy. With a nice new coat of green paint, of course.

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    4. Green used to be my favorite color. Looks like it may be blue after the DSP comes back to life through the "green committee/commission".

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    5. It is about money. It always is.

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    6. Yes, it is always about money, no matter what they say.
      It always about money and if it's coming from the dirts, it's also corrupt.

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    7. I trust no one that actually types "y'all"..that, my friends, is the start of our demise.

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    8. I watched that show once. Except for the kid, how come none of those people have necks?

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  11. Think of the problems the Downtown Investors have making development acceptable to the residents of Sierra Madre. Think of all of the attempts they have made to try and make it happen. None of them to date have worked. Now they want to try and convince you that development is green, and will make the world a better place. Don't they have any idea of how ridiculous that sounds? It's development. It isn't the rain forest or where the polar bears live. If they wanted to do something nice for the environment they'd all be downtown with their shovels and pails planting petunias. But they aren't, are they.

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    1. Why should they? It looks to me like they have a majority of City Council carrying their water.

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    2. They've been at it for years, and have the built anything? Nope. We have beaten them every time.

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    3. In a town predicted to run out of water you're encouraging the residents to landscape the downtown with petunias? How about carrots and radishes and tomatoes for the seniors? Or Xeriscaping? Out of water for development does not mean we have water for lawns and flower gardens.

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    4. Is there such a thing as drought resistant development?

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