Cleaning up the Parkway

The title of this article in the Sacramento Bee is Will cleaning up the American River Parkway send more homeless people into the suburbs? 

Of course it will, and that is why the city/county needs to adopt a model that allows for rapid displacement of illegally camped people in the Parkway to a housing and service center able to safely house them in large numbers and adequately serve them in getting out of homelessness.

The plan we have been advocating for years includes sweeps to remove illegal campers, with removal to a homeless transformational campus for safely housing and adequately serving large numbers of the homeless.

A strategy needs to be applied to the Parkway as part of a larger strategy we suggest based on the Haven for Hope—especially the courtyard strategy they use for safe rapid shelter for large numbers of the homeless— program in San Antonio adapted for Sacramento, see our news release of September 28, 2015 on our News Page.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Piles of garbage, used needles and human feces from homeless campers. County leaders agreed this past week that such refuse is unacceptable, whether along the cherished American River Parkway or on residential streets and sidewalks.

But can the county crack down on parkway camping without pushing more homeless people into neighborhoods?

County supervisors launched a vigorous and unusually frank debate that will continue into the summer as they jockey for more funding to address homelessness and resident complaints.

Supervisor Phil Serna, who represents a large portion of Sacramento, including the lower half of the American River Parkway where homeless camps are concentrated, wants about 37 new park rangers, maintenance workers and animal control officers along the troubled riverbank. He envisions six patrol teams with social service workers and county prosecutors.

In 2016, park rangers cited about half as many homeless people for illegal camping compared to the previous year, drawing complaints from parkway visitors. In one instance this year, a bike commuter ended up in the hospital after being attacked by two off-leash dogs on the parkway.

“This has to be the year that we take a big, bold step,” Serna said.

“We have taken tiny little baby steps out of the recession, and I think for good reason,” he told his colleagues. “I think the responsible thing to do is to take that bold step at the same time that we’re taking other bold steps to add capacity so we can answer the question ‘Where will they go?’”

Pushback came from Supervisor Susan Peters, who said parkway enforcement will send homeless campers into the adjacent neighborhoods, which are already struggling under an increasing population of people on the streets. Peters, whose district stretches along the American River from Arden Arcade to Fair Oaks, said one of her constituents recently tackled a homeless man who walked right into his house.

The region’s homeless population became more visible in residential areas this winter after heavy winter rains forced homeless campers out of the lower reaches near Discovery Park. Even before the storms, Arden Arcade residents complained that they were seeing more homeless people in their neighborhoods than before.

Last summer, residents pushed to shut down a recycling center at Watt and El Camino avenues that they blamed for people scavenging through their household bins. In 2014, the county banned aggressive panhandling in response to complaints from suburban business owners and residents.

“When this invasion by homeless campers began in the unincorporated area is when the county started heavy efforts in the parkway,” Peters said. “If we’re going to talk about moving money out of other departments into clean up, I would rather spread it over all the areas that we represent, not just the parkway.”

Posted in ARPPS, Government, Homelessness, Public Safety

Delta as National Heritage Area?

A process we have long called for the American River Watershed—see our report (p. 30 on)—appears to be well underway for the Delta, according to this story from News Deeply.

An excerpt.

California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is a unique landscape: a maze of islands and rivers as big as Rhode Island, sprinkled with historic Gold Rush towns and teeming with wildlife amid some of the world’s most fertile farmland.

It also happens to be the heavily engineered heart of California’s water system. That labyrinth of islands within the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas also transports freshwater to 25 million people and some 3 million acres of farmland.

Yet the Delta is little-known even to most Californians, and it has no special government status as a destination.

That would change under a proposal now before Congress to designate the Delta as a National Heritage Area. It would be established under the umbrella of the National Park Service, but would mean no new regulations or changes in land use.

It would, however, serve as an important branding tool to attract tourists interested in unique American landscapes. It could also come with millions in federal dollars to help bolster that message.

If approved, it would become the first National Heritage Area in California, joining 49 others around the nation.

To explain the heritage area concept in more detail, Water Deeply recently interviewed Erik Vink, executive director of the Delta Protection Commission, a state agency coordinating the proposal.

Water Deeply: What is a National Heritage Area?

Erik Vink: I like the way the park service describes them. They call them lived-in landscapes, and they draw a distinction between [them and] national parks. We all think of national parks as places of natural splendor, and we certainly don’t think about how men and women have altered that. But that’s really the whole idea with these national heritage areas. They are lived-in landscapes and they are places where historic and cultural and natural resources all combine to form an important landscape.

The first one was established in 1984, and the very first one was called the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Area. When President Reagan signed the bill into law, he called it a new kind of national park.

They are not an effort by the federal government to acquire land or to manage land or to put requirements on how an area is used. It’s very much an opportunity just to help promote these areas where there’s been a significant contribution in history and culture to an important landscape.

Water Deeply: What are the benefits to an area in having this designation?

Vink: There are two benefits. One is to have that National Park Service imprint over this area. That will be really useful for us in our efforts to promote visitation and tourism in the region.

The other benefit is that, with an NHA designation, you are eligible for up to $10 million in federal support over a 15-year period for efforts to establish the NHA and to help promote it. And to help develop what we call the partner sites, which are the actual physical locations that would be included – or not included, as people desire – within the NHA imprint: museums, places of cultural interest, historic sites, even commercial establishments if they help to tell that story of the landscape. Ultimately, this will mean we’ll have a website and maybe some printed material that will promote the Delta NHA and list the partner sites.

You can receive up to $1 million a year. I don’t expect it will be that much with the number of NHAs nationwide, and even more on the way. But even a little bit would be enough to help with some limited state dollars to promote the region.

Posted in ARPPS, History

California Becoming Socialist?

Perhaps, but you decide, after reading this provocative article from New Geography.

Personally, I think the pendulum will swing back fairly soon.

An excerpt.

California is widely celebrated as the fount of technical, cultural and political innovation. Now we seem primed to outdo even ourselves, creating a new kind of socialism that, in the end, more resembles feudalism than social democracy.

The new consensus is being pushed by, among others, hedge-fund-billionaire-turned-green-patriarch Tom Steyer. The financier now insists that, to reverse our worsening inequality, we must double down on environmental and land-use regulation, and make up for it by boosting subsidies for the struggling poor and middle class. This new progressive synthesis promises not upward mobility and independence, but rather the prospect of turning most Californians into either tax slaves or dependent serfs.

California’s progressive regime of severe land-use controls has helped to make the state among the most unaffordable in the nation, driving homeownership rates to the lowest levels since the 1940s. It has also spurred a steady hegira of middle-aged, middle-class families — the kind of tax-burdened people Gov. Jerry Brown now denounces as “freeloaders” — from the state. They may have access to smartphones and virtual reality, but the increasingly propertyless masses seem destined to live in the kind of cramped conditions that their parents and grandparents had escaped decades earlier.

A green people’s republic?

There is some irony in a new kind of socialism blessed by some of the world’s richest people. The new policy framework is driven, in large part, by a desire to assume world leadership on climate-related issues. The biggest losers will be manufacturing, energy and homebuilding workers, who will see their jobs headed to other states and countries.

Under the new socialism, expect more controls over the agribusiness sector, notably the cattle industry, California’s original boom industry, which will be punished for its cows’ flatulence. Limits on building in the periphery of cities also threaten future growth in construction employment, once the new regulations are fully in place.

Sadly, these steps don’t actually do anything for the climate, given the state’s already low carbon footprint and the fact that the people and firms driven out of the state tend to simply expand their carbon footprints elsewhere in their new homes. But effectiveness is not the motivation here. Instead, “combating climate change” has become an opportunity for Brown, Steyer and the Sacramento bureaucracy to perform a passion play, where they preen as saviors of the planet, with the unlikable President Donald Trump playing his role as the devil incarnate. In following with this line of reasoning, Bay Area officials and environmental activists are even proposing a campaign to promote meatless meals. It’s Gaia meets Lent.

 

Posted in ARPPS, Government, Politics

Self Esteem & Public Policy

Unfortunately they are linked, especially in California, and this book review from the Literary Review about California and self-esteem is great, though troubling, reading.

An excerpt.

The idea that all of us have a self – essential, irreducible and inherently valuable – is something that’s accepted across social divisions, party-political lines and ideological differences. The mere suggestion that the existence of the self is a belief rather than a natural law can induce the scratchy, uncomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance. Yet, Will Storr argues in Selfie, it is only a belief: in reality, human beings are inchoate creatures, acting under influences we barely comprehend and creating post-hoc rationalisations for our behaviour to sustain the fiction of coherent identity. And this is all just in the first chapter.

Each of us, explains Storr, has an internal ‘storyteller’. This is a narrative voice that turns the daily barrage of experience into a comprehensible arc of actions and reactions, positioning us as the hero of the story. The trouble is, this voice is a dangerous liar. It tells us that we are good and rational and that other people are venal and flawed. And in a world that defines a good person as high-achieving, high-status, slim and attractive, sometimes the strain of maintaining the story is too much.

The starting point of Storr’s book is an effort to understand why people become suicidal. It’s a hugely important subject, and a compelling one too, but Storr is (of course) a storyteller himself, and the way he tells the story of suicide raises the alarm. In the first few pages he enumerates, with great specificity, the ways in which various people have killed themselves. This is a reckless way to address suicide. In fact, it’s explicitly advised against by the Samaritans, since detailed descriptions of suicide methods are known to be a trigger for imitations.

It’s an especially disturbing lapse because one of Storr’s major concerns here is the transmissibility of attitudes and behaviours – or, in other words, culture. He constructs a history of the self from the ancient world to the present day, arguing that the idea of ‘self’ we carry has been formed by critical intellectual developments: Aristotelianism, Christianity, the self-help ethos of the Victorian age, Freudianism and, finally, the American West Coast self-esteem doctrine that has emerged in the age of mass connectivity and neoliberalism (Storr gets points here for using the word ‘neoliberalism’ to refer specifically to free-trade policies allied to individualism, rather than simply as a vague bogey word, and for acknowledging that it has brought prosperity as well as the crash of 2008).

The nearer we come to the present, the more finely Storr discriminates between movements. This leads to some odd distortions. Plato is only briefly mentioned, although the idea of essences is far more strongly associated with his work than with Aristotle’s. Christianity is treated as a singular entity, with no consideration for the way the Reformation and Protestantism profoundly altered the standing of man in relation to God. In 1611, John Donne wrote: ‘every man alone thinks he hath got/To be a phoenix’. This suggests that, despite what Storr claims, individualism flourished long before the cults of California.

Storr is at his very best when recounting the madness of the hippy retreats where self-esteem – now almost universally accepted to be a good – was first promoted as a cure-all. The lack of evidence for self-esteem’s alleged benefits cannot really be overstated, yet self-esteem was the principle upon which therapeutic communities such as the Esalen Institute were founded in the 1960s and 1970s (the institute later became notorious for the bullying practices of its leaders and for suicides among its attendees). It even informed government policy in California thanks to the work of the legislator John Vasconcellos in the 1980s and 1990s.

Having won California, self-esteem went on to conquer the world. And so here we are, living with the first generation to have been raised entirely on the intoxicating mantra of its own excellence. Storr argues provocatively that an obsession with promoting self-esteem has led to an increase in narcissism, and he has some interesting research data to back up this claim. He’s on less solid ground with his suicide hypothesis: if a crushing mismatch between expectation and reality were the cause of suicide, and if self-esteem artificially inflates expectation, then we would expect suicide rates to have risen following the self-esteem boom. Instead (in the UK at least), they fell between 1985 and 2007, at which point they began rising. The causes of that rise are difficult to pinpoint but are likely to include both the effects of the 2008 crash and social contagion through online networks.

Retrieved June 13, 2017 from https://literaryreview.co.uk/knowing-me-knowing-me

 

Posted in Politics

Parkway Rangers & The Parkway’s Skid Row

Parkway Rangers:

We now have 25 Rangers looking out for our County Parks and Parkway and that is the most in a long time.

They are doing some pretty good work out there and it is often dangerous work.

They deserve our continuing gratitude and always our best wishes.

You can give them a gratitude shout-out at http://www.regionalparks.saccounty.net/Rangers/Pages/RangerStewardship.aspx

The Parkway’s Skid Row:

Skid Rows develop largely as the result of inaction by public leadership—or wanting to contain a problem—allowing a public area of a city, or in this case, of a park, to sink into degradation by not appropriating the proper resources—including leadership—to ensure it remains safe and welcoming for residents and other visitors.

That this has happened to the Parkway from Discovery Park to Cal Expo and the long period of time that public leadership has allowed illegal camping on the Parkway is why it has—sadly and tragically for the adjacent neighborhoods and the homeless—become the Parkway’s Skid Row.

According to this April 21, 2017 article from the New York Times, this allowance is a status that has existed for many years.

Some excerpts, with bolding added:

SACRAMENTO — For Robert Friend, home was a tent pitched down by the American River off 12th Street. It was quiet, secluded in the bushes, a respite from life on the pavement downtown.

Or at least it was until the storms came.

“I got flooded out,” said Mr. Friend, 48, looking weary on a recent afternoon as he stood on the sidewalk he had escaped to a few blocks from the river. “This is the worst winter I’ve known in the 10 years I’ve been here. Last night and the night before I was just under a tarp, waiting it out. It was freezing-raining all night long.”

The rains that lashed California this year, continuing with yet another wave of downpours through last weekend, have pulled this state out of a historic drought. But they also exposed the extent and agony of homeless women and men who have long made homes along the banks of the now-swollen rivers across California, and particularly in Sacramento, a city of 480,000 where a largely hidden community has lived on the outskirts since the Great Depression. According to city and state officials, about 2,700 of the 118,000 homeless people in California live here….

Cale Traylor stood a few feet from a blue tent close to the American River, a dog barking in the background, late last month. The people who live here call themselves the River Dwellers, Mr. Traylor said, and he was once one himself.

Mr. Traylor, 37, slept not far from this spot during a five-year binge of alcoholism, drug abuse, petty crime and homelessness. He knows how to navigate this world that was once his own: Keep a respectful distance when approaching; carry a bone to distract an unleashed pit bull that might come bounding out of the brush.

There was a rustle inside the tent, and James Guidi, a Vietnam War veteran, emerged, a dazed look on his face.

Mr. Guidi, 65, said the riverbanks had been his home for eight years, and he is one of the few who has stayed here through the winter. The night before, he slept in a tent left behind by someone who had wandered on. But earlier in the week he had to sleep on the ground as the storms blew through, tearing away the tarp that provided him scant protection.

“I slept in a puddle,” Mr. Guidi said. “It was more terrible than any time I had in Vietnam. I can compare it to over there.”

Mr. Traylor’s struggle with homelessness began when his father committed suicide in 2010, when he was 30, and continued until he was sent to the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi in 2015 for stealing a car and trying to outrace the police. When he disappeared after his father’s death, his family wrote him off as a lost cause.

Mr. Traylor said he was sober now, studying electronic automation at Sacramento City College. He sees his mother and sisters regularly.

“There used to be a ton of cover,” he said, pointing to a spot along the river. “It was an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality. If the police can’t see you, then they typically leave you alone. When the water went up, it washed away all their coverage.”

Mr. Guidi said he didn’t care that his campsite was largely deserted as people fled the rains. “I’ve been living by the river here and there, off and on, for eight years,” he said. “People get along.”…

The storms have forced women like Susan Zemansky, 58, who has been homeless since she lost her job at a Subway sandwich shop four years ago, out of the bushes. Ms. Zemansky, peering out of a slit of her tent on a sidewalk on B Street, told of huddling for warmth as the rain pounded on her tent before she escaped.

“The river was coming up way high,” Ms. Zemansky said. “The rangers came and made us move. We had 20 minutes to get out of there, 20 minutes before we flooded.”

Ms. Zemansky is now easy to spot, another homeless person living along the street, watching the cars drive by. People stop by to offer supplies — “bananas and stuff” — and words of encouragement. But she said she was eager to return to her spot on the river.

“There’s a lot of traffic here, and you’ve got to get up every day and pack,” she said. “I’d rather be by the river. The river is peaceful. It is quiet.”

Retrieved April 21, 2017 from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/us/californias-deluge-of-rain-washes-away-a-homeless-colony.html?_r=0

Marcos Breton wrote an excellent column in the Sacramento Bee this past Sunday http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/marcos-breton/article154026369.html about the Parkway, indicting Supervisor Phil Serna—in whose district the Parkway Skid Row is located—will ask for a doubling of money for parks.

We do support more money for parks but still believe the problem is largely not lack of money but lack of political will. As the Breton column notes, West Sacramento has solved the illegal camping problem on its side of the river.

An excerpt:

“As a city, we can do better to help people such as Samuel Cunningham, whom I met this week when walking the parkway with Serna.

“Cunningham, 35, is a former drywall worker who lives near the river. He became homeless after a back injury prevented him from working and found temporary refuge at the Union Gospel Mission near the railyard before heading to the parkway. He got meals at nearby Loaves and Fishes, the city’s massive homeless charity.

“He said he once lived on the West Sacramento side of the river but won’t go back because authorities there strictly enforce a no-camping ordinance. “They don’t play,” he said. “They arrest you and throw your belongings in a dumpster. They held me for six hours and then released me in Woodland in a beautiful pale blue jumpsuit and flip-flops.”

Retrieved June 5, 2017 from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/marcos-breton/article154026369.html

This is not a good way for people to have to live and this is not a good way to treat our Parkway.

We can do better on both counts.

Maybe more political will, rather than more money, is what is really needed.

Posted in ARPPS, Homelessness, Public Safety

Sacramento, 18th Most Suburbanized City in America

Why we love living here, Sacramento’s population is over 98% suburban.

This story from New Geography examines suburbanized cities, and Sacramento’s listing is found in the last graph of the story.

An excerpt.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday, in a photographic spread, trumpeted the 70th anniversary of Levittown, the New York suburban development that provided the model for much of the rapid suburbanization that occurred after the Second World War in the United States. Levittown’s production line building also set the stage for the similar suburbs of cities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.

Over the last seven decades, the United States has become a predominantly suburban nation. In 2011-2015, 85 percent of the population in the 53 major metropolitan areas (over 1,000,000 population) lived in the suburbs or exurbs. This is based on analysis at the small area level (zip code tabulation areas) from the American Community Survey that classifies population based on demographic data (Figure 1).

Generally similar findings have been made about Canada and Australia by research teams led by Professor David L. A. Gordon of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Gordon and his Canadian team pioneered this type of analysis, which is not dependent on core municipality versus surrounding area analysis. Core municipalities often do not reflect the realities of metropolitan areas because they vary so greatly in their share of metropolitan area population. For example, the city of Atlanta has only 8 percent of the metropolitan area population, while San Antonio has more than 60 percent of the metropolitan area population.

Suburban Nation: United States

Many people, including urban analysts, are unaware of the extent to which American cities have become suburbanized. But the former mono-centricity that characterized most metropolitan areas at the end of World War II has been replaced first by multi-centered suburban employment development (polycentricity) and more recently by dispersion of employment. As early as 2000, more people worked in dispersed worksites in the major metropolitan areas, including New York, than in the downtowns (CBD’s) and suburban office centers, according to research by Bumsoo Lee and Peter Gordon. City Sector Model analysis shows that CBDs lost two percent of their market share from 2000 to 2015, based on a City Sector Analysis of County Business Patterns data. It seems likely that the trend of dispersion has continued (Figure 2)….

There are a total of 34 metropolitan areas that are 95 percent or more suburban. These include examples such as Atlanta, at 99.2 percent San Diego at 98.9, percent Sacramento at 98.3 percent, Austin at 97.9 percent, Denver at 96.9 percent and Portland at 90.0 percent.

Posted in demographics

Homeless Illegally Camping at Courthouse Rousted

As the Sacramento Bee reports; finally a robust response, and the same strategy needs to be applied to the Parkway as part of a larger strategy we suggest based on the Haven for Hope program in San Antonio adapted for Sacramento, see our news release of September 28, 2015 on our News Page.

An excerpt.

Homeless campers were absent from the landings of downtown Sacramento’s Gordon Schaber Courthouse for the first time in months early Tuesday, but the rousting of 36 people by California Highway Patrol officers late Monday is only part of a remedy still being worked out to clear campers from the courthouse grounds, a Sacramento Superior Court spokeswoman said.

The CHP’s operation late Monday provided a possible clue to future actions, but Kim Pederson said it was unclear whether patrol officers will make a return visit.

“We had to reach some sort of temporary solutions,” said Pederson of the patrol’s action, even as advocates for the homeless cried foul.

Bob Erlenbusch, a national advocate for the homeless based in Sacramento, criticized the move, saying court officials “didn’t want a proactive solution. They wanted a reactive solution.”

Erlenbusch, president of the National Coalition for the Homeless, spoke Tuesday from Washington, D.C., where he is attending the national Housing Not Handcuffs conference discussing legal and political strategies to “end the criminalization of homeless people.”

“So, we move people away from the courthouse, where many felt it was safe and we’re moving them into more dangerous conditions out in the community,” Erlenbusch said. “We push people off the American River, away from (Sacramento) City Hall and now we’re playing pingpong with them at the courthouse. We continue to tell homeless people, ‘You can’t be anywhere.’ The ‘unwelcome’ mat is out all over the city.”

The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department typically oversees protection of the building during operating hours, said Officer George Granada, a CHP spokesman. Afterward, the CHP’s Capitol Grounds unit takes the lead in responding for calls to the courthouse, one of the roughly 100 state-owned buildings in their jurisdiction, Granada said….

For months, dozens of campers have called the courthouse property, raised high off city sidewalks at 720 Ninth St., an overnight way station, to the chagrin of court leaders and others left to contend with the trash and human waste left behind.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne Gilliard, who leads the court’s security committee, had gone as far as to the label the landings turned camps a “biohazard,” citing the amount of urine and fecal matter pressure washed each morning by maintenance crews.

Meanwhile, Sacramento County sheriff’s court security reported finding intravenous needles on their morning rounds. Cleaning crews have said they have been accosted by campers when they started their work.

In recent weeks, sheriff’s deputies have stepped up afternoon patrols and taken to gathering in large clusters at the courthouse’s west entrance and outside its doors at the end of the workday – a show of force to reassure court staff and customers and likely to send a message to would-be campers.

Pederson said the result has been fewer campers, less waste and a “happier clientele.”

Posted in ARPPS, Homelessness