Sustainable Communities


Car Dependent Californians

By Alan Kandel

First, some statistics.

There are 22 million Californians driving, according to Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters. Golden State population numbering an approximate 38 million people strong, that roughly 58 percent of us drive is one thing. But having 27.5 million motor vehicles at our disposal with which to do this – what is this saying?! What it says is: for every driver there exist 1.25 cars or five automobiles for every four motorists. Do we Californians love our cars or what?!

Water Everywhere, Water Nowhere

By Rev. Jimm COnn

As every resident of the Southland must know by now, this month marks the centennial of the Los Angeles Aqueduct. When, in 1913, the valves were first turned and water rushed down the last hillside between the Eastern Sierra and the San Fernando Valley, William Mulholland, the brilliant self-taught engineer who guided the project, and whose career would end when the St. Francis Dam collapsed, famously said, “There it is. Take it.”

Time for California Lawmakers to Ban the Bag

Jenesse MillerBy Jenesse Miller

"But they're so convenient." Really?

The main, lame argument I hear in favor of the ubiquitous single-use plastic bag is that it's convenient. And that it's difficult to remember to bring your own reusable bags when you're out shopping. Even the most responsible environmentalists among us have occasionally arrived at the grocery store and realized we've forgotten our trusty reusable bag (you know, the ones with the logo of our favorite public radio station proudly displayed) and had to juggle a few items on the way home on our bikes or in our electric or biodiesel cars.

High Speed Rail: Relief for California's "Mega-Commuters"

By Robert Cruickshank

New data from the US Census Bureau has found that Northern California has the largest proportion of "mega-commuters" in the country - defined as morning commutes of at least 50 miles and 90 minutes. The numbers aren't huge - 2% of workers in the Bay Area core are mega-commuters - but it is a clear sign that something is not working in Northern California.

Darrell Steinberg to Unveil CEQA Reform Bill

By Robert Cruickshank

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Thursday that he intends to propose a bill today that would reform the California Environmental Quality Act.

The proposal is co-authored by Senator Michael Rubio, but it has also been shaped by the blue-green alliance of unions and environmentalists who have joined forces to oppose bad reform:

"There will be an outline of a bill with detail intent," Steinberg said in an interview with The Chronicle editorial board Thursday. Or, as his press secretary Rhys Williams explained, what comes out Friday "will signal the intent of where the law wants to go."

What Would Ideal CEQA Reform Look Like?

By Robert Cruickshank

There's been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about various proposals to reform the California Environmental Quality Act. But the most interesting proposals are those that have been around the longest.

I first delved into CEQA back in 2009 when covering an article that argued CEQA could be the biggest obstacle to California high speed rail. At the time, I touted a 2006 study by the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association - SPUR - titled Fixing the California Environmental Quality Act. SPUR's approach was to follow the successful model of Oregon, where for over 40 years sprawl has been effectively if not totally limited in favor of light rail and infill development. SPUR's goal was to promote greater urban density through smart, holistic planning processes. CEQA is primarily designed as a tool to block bad projects but does nothing to encourage good projects, which is what we need.

California's Environmental Leadership: Making Progress Amid Economic Recovery

By Ann Notthoff

What California does makes a difference. When President Obama increased national mileage standards last year, he built on the pioneering work that Senator Fran Pavley started here in 2002. We dream big, we take big steps and when it comes to environmental and public health protection, nobody does it better. With his new budget proposal today, Governor Brown has a chance to build on our state's strong record of environmental and public health protection.

High Speed Rail Should Stay in Central Bakersfield

By Robert Cruickshank

Some Bakersfield residents, opposed to the current plan to bring bullet trains into central Bakersfield, are arguing for pause on the EIR for that portion of the route. Their argument is that the planning is flawed – but they’re only saying that because they just don’t want a downtown train station:

A kind of “time out” was proposed last week as a way to forestall lawsuits and rethink options on the proposed high-speed rail route into and through Bakersfield.

How Long Before Life-Endangering Air Pollution Becomes A Top-of-Mind Concern?

By Alan Kandel

Houston: We (California) have a problem, a Texas-sized problem.

With the climate change debate front-page news, the fight to combat air pollution is every bit as important in my book; perhaps even more so. If not, what is this saying?

California's San Joaquin Valley is the place I call home. The Valley is among the nation's worst offenders.

So that which is being spewed into the air in California's central interior, where is it coming from? The following is from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.

Will California Reap Growth Rewards with the Sustainable Communities Strategies Initiative?

By Alan Kandel

Houston: We (California) have a problem, a Texas-sized problem.

California used to be the envy of the country - at one time, maybe of the world even. Ours was the land of plenty; it still is. The Golden State's number one industry - agriculture - is a cornucopia, a veritable cash crop to the tune of $32 billion per year - handily. The central San Joaquin Valley's contribution, incidentally, is about half.

But where acre after productive acre of the highest quality farmland once existed, much has been paved over. And left in its wake: sprawl, traffic congestion and deleterious air pollution. And the dirty air is pervasive. How problematic is it?