Southern California environment news and trends

Commission OKs year-round seal barrier on La Jolla beach

Seals Occupy La Jolla's Children's Pool Beach

David McNew/Getty Images

Spectators watch slumbering harbor seals from behind a rope barrier at Children's Pool Beach.

A contentious battle regarding a year-round rope to protect seals living at Children’s Pool beach in La Jolla came to a head this week, with the California Coastal Commission voting unanimously to approve the permanent barrier. As reported by the La Jolla Patch, the vote came after hours of often-emotional testimony from more than 60 speakers debating the pros and cons of such an enclosure. During testimony, videos were shown of people on both sides of the issue “interacting negatively towards each other.”

“What I think is going on here is not a problem with the seals and it’s not a problem with the rope. It’s a problem with people,” said Commissioner Dayna Bochco during the proceedings. “Nothing will work unless all of you are willing to work together. There are no humans here to be sympathetic with.”

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California cities rank on new U.S. public transportation list

Expo Line Test Run

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The Exposition Line train at the La Cienega/Jefferson station after finishing a test run.

According to a new report, five California locales placed among the top 25 American cities for public transportation.

The rankings were determined by exceedingly useful website Walk Score through a series of calculations resulting in a “Transit Score” which “measures how well a location is served by public transportation, and is based on data released in a standard open format by public transit agencies.”

In California, San Francisco rated the highest, coming in second overall with a transit score of 80, just one point behind the top-rated city of New York. Los Angeles just missed the top ten, scoring the 11th spot just behind Portland, OR and ahead of Milwaukee, WI. Walks Score considers L.A. the 13th most “walkable” city in America, citing downtown L.A., Koreatown and Mid-City as the best neighborhoods for getting around on foot. Los Angeles is sure to rank even higher on the site’s next survey, given the completion of the new L.A. Metro Expo Line that recently opened for service.

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Public transportation use on the rise across America

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David McNew/Getty Images

In 2011, Americans took a whopping 10.4 billion trips on various means of public transportation. According to an update from the American Public Transportation Association this week, that’s an increase of 2.3 percent from the year before. It’s also the largest that number has been since way back in 1957. It should come as no surprise that the top spot is still held by 2008, when the U.S. saw gasoline prices soar north of $4 per gallon. Sound familiar? 

“Two top reasons for the increased ridership are higher gas prices and in certain areas, a recovering economy with more people returning to work,” said Michael Melaniphy, the president and CEO of the APTA in a press release. “Since nearly sixty percent of trips taken on public transportation are for work commutes, it’s not surprising to see ridership increase in areas where the economy has improved.”

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Electric vehicle sharing service finds success in San Diego

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rising gas prices continue to reap dividends for electric and hybrid industries. As we reported recently, Toyota reported a massive jump in Prius sales over the month of February, attributed in part to consumers fighting back against the cost of gasoline.

Now a report out of San Diego says that car2go, North America’s first all-electric car sharing service, has registered more than 6,000 users who have taken over 25,000 trips in the company’s 300 vehicles in just the first 100 days of availability.

"At a time when the cost of fuel is reaching record-high prices, San Diegans are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on fuel and for more cost-efficient modes of transportation; and car2go is a very logical choice for them," said Nicholas Cole, president and CEO of car2go in a company press release.

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California is still America’s most solar-powered state

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You can breathe easy, Team California Solar: we’re still Number One.

According to a report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the state of California is responsible for close to half of America’s photovoltaic activity through 2010 (869 megawatts of installed capacity out of the nation’s total of 1,831 megawatts).

Within the state, San Diego reigns as California’s top solar-powered city, according to a new report from the Environment California Research & Policy Center. The city boasts more than 4500 solar-topped homes, businesses and government facilities, double the number of just two years ago.  San Diego accounts for close to 37 megawatts of the state’s sun-juiced energy.

“San Diego didn’t become the state’s Number One solar city by happenstance,” said mayor Jerry Sanders in a press release. “It was the result of local policies and programs that encourage investment in solar power.”

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