Southern California environment news and trends

Regional transportation plan could mean more buses & bikes; southern California might want that

Opponents to public transportation point to its sometimes sizable price tags. Or to the fact that it's often mandate-driven, and thus, the argument goes, vulnerable to political vagaries, like the need to snap a photo of someone putting people to work. But what if most people just want it? 

The Southern California Association of Governments is the planning agency for Imperial, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and tomorrow it's going to vote on what's called its "Regional Transportation Plan."  Law requires them to make that document every four years, setting goals and priorities for transport. This time around, it's combined with a "Sustainable Communities Strategy." SB 375, the state's smart-growth-strategies law, requires the same planning agency to think about how to make the region's growth circulate better. 


One more thought about railyard air from UCLA's Sean Hecht

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Covering the railyard air lawsuit was an interesting opportunity to revisit a story I hadn't seen in a while. KPCC was all over railyard air when the CARB was sussing out ways it might be able to regulate pollution from railyards. But in the end, state air regulators decided to act on zero of thirty-some recommendations that staff made about acting on railyard air emissions. (So it's been a while.)

Obviously, one fascinating wonk legal question is whether NRDC can succeed in applying RCRA to air pollution. (I really have to force myself to remember that the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act is for solid waste, and not sludge; I wonder if judges have the same problem.) But there's a wholly deeper angle UCLA Law Professor Sean Hecht mentioned to me; I wasn't able to get it into the story. Hecht said: 


A tale of two bills: AEG's fast-tracker & the bigger picture

Two pieces of legislation now on Governor Jerry Brown's desk would streamline (or "fast track" if you prefer that) the state's legendary environmental review process called CEQA. To me, they seem pretty different. Since they're complicated, I'm breaking them down. 

SB 292 would apply only to the Farmers Field/AEG stadium project proposed for downtown Los Angeles. AB 900 would apply to what it terms "leadership projects" that meet certain criteria - either put forward by agencies or endorsed by the governor. (I've got a lot of open questions about that one.) 

It's worth pointing out how the AEG stadium bill differs from AB 900, and what all that means for Governor J.B.


1. It should make a Farmers Field where car traffic is at least 10 percent less than any other NFL stadium. The law places specific reporting and monitoring requirements for counting car trips ("trip ratio") on AEG, not just for a year, but for the first five years, and if it's not working by then, the city has the right to make AEG do stuff differently. For its part, the city is supposed to re-visit the question of how to come in with fewer car trips than any other stadium, and it has authority over the project for its entire life. 


Questions about CEQA fast-track legislation now on Governor Brown's desk

Please forgive me for completely missing the news that AB 900, the environmental review fast-tracking bill about which I wrote last week, is further along. Apparently the hollowed-out bill that was filled in with CEQA reforms for Senate votes a week ago has also passed the Assembly - it had to have been after 3:30 AM Saturday, since the Senate still had the bill then, but since I wasn't on a cot in a Capitol hallway, I don't know exactly. 

Eric Richardson of Blogdowntown and I had a lively discussion about this last week. So I decided to read the text of both the AEG stadium speeder-legislation (SB 292) and the big-scale assembly bill that would do the same thing for a whole cohort of anonymous future projects.

In this post I'll lay out some major provisions of AB 900 and raise questions about their impact on CEQA, the state's long-maligned, elephantine, planning law that keeps the legal industry in business


Doing the math on sea level rise & coastal erosion in Malibu, Venice, and locally

The fun part of covering an economic study of sea rise’s coastal impacts is seeing what the math looks like without politics to distort it.

And sea walls at Zuma and Broad beach don’t math out, San Francisco State University economist Philip King and his fellow researchers say in the new study we reported on. “[A]n overwhelming majority of benefits are directly tied to protecting residential structures at the back of Broad Beach.” Those high-value homeowners were instrumental in getting a 4100 foot emergency seawall up at Broad Beach in 2010. King’s report says that if it’s maintained, “nearly all of the recreational and habitat benefits associated with this stretch of shoreline will be lost in the near future as water levels rise.”

Venice has its challenges, too. At that beach, they’ve already started nourishment projects: shoveling more sand into the maw that the sea leaves behind just doing what it do. King’s team says more shovelfuls would be good in the future (though they note potential ecological consequences). “Additional nourishment projects could help minimize recreational losses due to sea level rise; the placement of winter berms could also help reduce the impacts of flooding following large winter storms.”