Southern California environment news and trends

One (Coachella) Block Off the Grid

You know how one roll of toilet paper at CVS costs approximately one million dollars, but 36 at Costco costs just a little bit more? Group purchasing works the same way: and starting this week, Coachella Valley residents have access to a service from San Francisco-based 1 Block Off the Grid that allows homeowners to leverage collective purchasing power for solar panels. 

1BOG operates on the principle of group purchasing. Buy in bulk, and save. Assuming that big ticket items can be complicated, and it's hard to do research well enough to trust what you're geting, 1BOG suggests that homeowners should trust them. The company matches residents in a particular area with installers. The result in Coachella, they say, is a 20% discounted price. They're working with HelioPower: they say full-service solar installs will be only $5.29 per watt installed.


Morning greens: 'Cool It,' NIMBY power fights, and taxi talk

A new environmental documentary “Cool It” hits theaters today, featuring the much maligned “skeptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg. NY Times and LA Times have rather over-enthusiastic reviews; NY Times’ environmental writer Andrew Revkin has a more measured, thoughtful one at Dot Earth, along with a promise to post a short interview with Bjorn and an open call for questions for him. Above’s the trailer.

Restaurant industry prepares to fight South L.A.’s fast food ban. As the City Council prepares to take up an ordinance to severely limit new fast food restaurants, “the restaurant industry is gearing up to fight back, emphasizing the role fast-food businesses have played in providing jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities,” reports LA Times.

Only 250 taxis will operate in Santa Monica, down from 522. SM Daily Press reports the city council adopted the new franchise structure, which includes a requirement for ultra-low and super-ultra-low emission vehicles, to reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions while providing more cab drivers with a better living wage.


DWP drops solar incentives for rooftop solar - does this become Council's problem?

This week - a month after the last time they considered it - the Commissioners of the Board of Water and Power voted to drop the incentives for rooftop solar starting in January. The initial incentive's $3.56 now for every installed watt of energy on a residential property, where the DWP gets to keep the Renewable Energy Credits. Next year, that'll go down to a max of $2.80. (Some factors can alter the incentive total; I'm leaving those out to avoid a bad headache.)

A drop was always supposed to happen. it's a new market. The idea of the incentives was to move people over, to get them to dip into the new market - then the incentives drop over time. Every utility is stepping the incentives down. S.B.1 allocated money to utilities around the state for exactly this purpose. LADWP got 318 million dollars to spend through 2016.


L.A. County Board of Supervisors to consider plastic bag ban

riteaidbag plastic bags

California failed to pass a plastic bag ban earlier this year, but L.A. County’s moving forward with an ambitious plastic bag ban plan. Why? The plastic bag industry failed to meet its own voluntary reduction goals for plastic bag use.

Serious environmental activists against disposable plastic bags may remember that back in 2008, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted after much debate to give the plastic industry yet another chance to reduce plastic bag use voluntarily — 30% by 2010, and 65% by 2013. Fail to meet those goals, and a plastic bag would kick in.

I was at that meeting, and thought that the industry would surely meet the 30% reduction goal — then perhaps fail to meet the more ambitious 65% goal. I was wrong. Apparently, voluntary efforts to curb plastic bag waste failed pretty miserably. Director of Public Works Gail Farber details that failure in the letter to the Board of Supervisors recommending a plastic bag ban (PDF):


Morning greens: Green libraries, water woes, and hot laptops

A driver who hit a cyclist in downtown L.A. and fled the scene gets 90 days in jail. Reports LA Times: “The case has been closely watched by many in the city’s cycling community. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office and the city attorney at first declined to press charges against Angelina Everett, the 37-year-old fashion designer who, witnesses said, struck Magos with her white Porsche SUV while making a left turn onto 2nd Street, just west of Figueroa.”


Can we get L.A. students walking to school? Jessica Meaney, California policy manager for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, says yes in an interview with The City Fix. “It’s also about mobility and independence–creating spaces we can enjoy walking and biking to with ease. Can kids in your neighborhood run around and have independence? Can they get to school safely? If not, why not? Answering these types of questions are a key priority for the health of our communities.”