River District

In terms of someday beautifying and using the riverbanks of our two great rivers, the River District is ground center, so we hope this grant, story from Capital Public Radio, comes through for them.

An excerpt.

Sacramento is one of two California cities that are finalists for a $35 million grant aimed at developing green infrastructure in low-income communities.

The money would come from the state’s Cap and Trade program.

Sacramento’s plan includes adding a range of housing units, in the city’s River District.

Two years ago, the River District was designated as a federal Promise Zone, one of just 22 such communities nationwide. The designation opened the neighborhood up to a host of resources and partnerships.

The grant money would also be used to build a new light-rail stop, bikeways, and several other projects.

Tyrone Williams is the development director for the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency. He says the plan is to improve the River District to combat climate change.

“This is about creating walkable, living neighborhoods that have been blocked off for years by highways and industrial activities,” Williams said.

Williams says the grant committee will tour the River District in early January, with a decision expected a few weeks after that.

Retrieved December 11, 2017 from www.capradio.org/articles/2017/12/07/sacramento-is-a-finalist-for-a-grant-to-improve-the-river-district/

Posted in demographics, River Development

Trust is Needed

Especially when dealing with environmental issues where all sides are often at loggerheads, so this article from the Property & Environment Research Center is well received.

An excerpt.

Trust is important, especially so for conservation. Successful conservation depends on the collaboration of many people: environmentalists, scientists, property owners, industry, and, often, government bureaucrats. Without trust, few will be willing to cooperate for fear that others won’t hold up their end of the bargain or will use the collaboration to take advantage of them. Everyone has something to gain from maintaining trust—and something to lose if it’s eroded.

Conservation as policing undermines trust by pitting the government against the people it needs to cooperate. There’s a reason, for instance, lawyers advise everyone to demand a lawyer before talking to the police, even if they’d done nothing wrong: a cop and a suspect are not collaborating to find the truth, the cop is trying to find some way to charge the suspect for something. Thus, cooperating can inadvertently land an innocent person in the soup if they say the wrong thing without realizing it.

If a property owner knows that there will be significant consequences to an activist or bureaucrat learning about some environmental asset on her land, she’ll take great pains to forbid anyone from finding out, perhaps even going to far as to destroy the asset. That’s what happens under the so-called shoot, shovel, and shut up response to finding an endangered species on private property.

This effect is not limited to property owners who are opposed to conservation. Even those who want to be willing participants in conservation are concerned about the fallout from sharing information with government. When Texas tried to develop a conservation plan to protect the dunes sagebrush lizard in the Permian basin, one of the biggest obstacles was landowners’ concern that the state would share information about the habitat and species on their property with federal bureaucrats.

The property owners trusted the state not to use that information against them, but did not have the same trust of the feds. They feared that, once the federal agency knew where the animals and habitat were, significant regulatory burdens would soon follow, effectively punishing the landowners for their cooperation. The problem was resolved when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to let the state report data on a regional level, so that it could track how the conservation was going overall but wouldn’t have information for individual properties. Several activists challenged that agreement but, thankfully, the D.C. Circuit approved it as a reasonable compromise between the need to ensure the conservation efforts were succeeding and the need to promote trust between property owners and regulators. [Disclaimer: I filed an amicus brief supporting that result.]

Unfortunately, our too-often reliance on the administrative state to promote environmental values, rather than markets and private action, undermines trust and makes collaboration and compromise more difficult. Administrative law makes it too easy for administrative agencies to sacrifice long-term trust for short-term political gains.

For instance, this morning I will be arguing two cases in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals concerning a compromise program to recover the California sea otter where trust was essential to the program being developed, but turned out not to be deserved.

California’s iconic sea otter was nearly driven extinct by fur traders, until hunting was outlawed in the late 19th century. However, the population remained small and geographically limited for decades. In the 1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and environmental groups wanted to establish a second otter population to both increase its range and make the species more resilient to local threats, like oil spills.

The plan was controversial. Otters are voracious consumers of shell fish and would thus deplete fishery resources. And fishermen were concerned about the risk that they would accidentally “take” an otter (by getting too close to an otter or if one swam into a lobster trap), an accident that could land them in federal prison and subject them to six-figure fines. Everyone wanted to see the otter recover but there were real trade-offs that had to be resolved.

The plan required the consent of Congress, so it would only go forward if a political compromise could be struck. Fortunately for the otter, a compromise was reached. Congress passed a statute authorizing the Service to move ahead with the plan on the condition that it adopt and implement several protections for the surrounding fishery and fishermen (including a limit on how far otters could expand into the fishery and an exemption from prosecution for incidental take). The fishermen abandoned their objections, trusting that the protections mandated by the statute would protect them.

Although the population grew much slower than the Fish and Wildlife Service initially hoped, today, there is a large and growing population of otters in Southern California thanks to the agreement. The otter has exceeded its population recovery goal in each of the last two years and the federal government credits the thriving Southern California population (which has been growing at 13% the last 5 years) as playing a big part in that recovery.

So you’d expect everyone to be happy, right? Wrong. In 2012, the federal agency declared the program a failure—despite the healthy and growing population—based on the population’s slow growth more than 20 years earlier. For that reason, the agency declared it would no longer honor the statute’s requirements to protect the fishery and the fishermen.

Retrieved December 11, 2017 from http://www.perc.org/articles/environmental-bureaucracy-undermines-trust-needed-promote-conservation

Posted in Environmentalism

Water Managers Incompetent?

California Water Alliance makes a good case in this statement that they are, and from my perspective, they are correct in making that case.

The statement.

This week, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) set an initial water allocation for our State Water Project at 15 percent for cities and farms. During the 2016-2017 water year the state allowed nearly 50 million acre-feet (16 trillion gallons) of water to run unimpeded into the Pacific Ocean.

The inability of California’s water managers to capture abundant water in very wet years like 2016-17 rests entirely in the state’s water managers’ hands and their past decisions. No water storage infrastructure has been built by the state in California since 1978, and it shows a lack of focus intertwined with a mule-like unwillingness to address and solve California’s long-standing water problems.

“It is pathetic and inexcusable that we recently celebrated the third anniversary of the Proposition 1 Water Bond’s passage without a single water storage projects being approved, yet watched helplessly as 16 trillion gallons of water washed away into the Pacific Ocean between October 2016 and today,” said Raul Riesgo, interim executive director, California Water Alliance (CalWA). “In a matter of five to six months California regulators were able to put together complete regulations for legalizing marijuana yet, over a period six times as long, they couldn’t approve a single water storage project as our state suffered through drought and began to recover.”

“After one of the wettest years in California’s history, DWR announced a water allocation for the 2018 calendar year of just 15 percent to most State Water Project contractors in cities and farm areas,” Riesgo said. “Those contractors serve over 26 million of the state’s 39 million residents in California.”

“Although the 2012-2016 drought is officially over, those residents stand perched on the brink of another regulatory drought that seemingly never ends,” Riesgo concluded.

Retrieved December 9. 2017 from https://californiawateralliance.org/showing-californias-water-managers-incompetence/


Posted in Government, Shasta Auburn Dam, Water

Suburbs are Booming, Urban Centers Not so Much

Contrary to the urbanist’s hopeful narrative, the suburbs are doing great, urban centers not, as this story from New Geography reports.

An excerpt.

The past decade has seen a gusher of books arguing for and detailing the supposed ascendency of dense urban cores, like the inimitable Edward Glaeser’s influential Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier, and about the ‘burbs as the slums of the future, abandoned by businesses and young people, like Leigh Gallagher’s The Death of Suburbia: Where the American Dream Is Moving.

But as we show in Infinite Suburbia, the new book we co-edited, the vast majority of American economic and demographic growth continues to take place there.

Let’s start with people.

Cities are about people. Where they move suggests their reasonable aspirations.

Even when Levittown was being built 70 years ago, there has always been a portion of the population — particularly the young, well-educated, affluent and often childless — that craves the density and excitement of downtown (CBD) life. But this group — heavy with members of the media — consequently attracts vastly outsized attention.

In fact, 151 million people live in America’s suburbs and exurbs, more than six times the 25 million people who live in the urban cores (defined as CBDs with employment density of 20,000+ people per square mile, or places with a population density of 7,500+ people per square mile—the urban norm before the advent of the automobile) of the 53 metropolitan areas with populations over one million.

In fact, ten of those 53 metropolitan areas (including Charlotte, Orlando, Phoenix and San Antonio) have no urban core at all by this measure, according to demographer Wendell Cox. The New York City metropolitan area is America’s only one where more people live in the urban core than in the suburbs — and it’s about an even split there.

In the last decade, about 90% of U.S. population growth has been in suburbs and exurbs, with CBDs accounting for .8% of growth and the entire urban corps for roughly 10%. In this span, population growth of some of the most alluring core cities — New York, Chicago, Philadelphia— has declined considerably. Manhattan and Brooklyn, have both seen their rate of growth decline by more than 85% since 2011. Nationally, core counties lost over 300,000 net domestic migrants In 2016 (with immigrants replacing some some of those departees), while their suburbs gained nearly 250,000.

The canaries in the coal mine

Three key groups — seniors, minorities and millennials — all prefer the suburbs.

More than 10,000 boomers turn 65 each day; between 2015 and 2025, the number of senior households, according to the Joint Center on Housing Studies at Harvard University, will grow by 10.7 million. By 2050, the over-65 population will have doubled to 80 million.

Despite much talk about seniors moving “back to the city,” the Census numbers suggest the opposite. Since 2010, the senior population in core cities has gone up by 621,000 —compared to 2.6 million in the suburbs. The share of seniors in both the inner core and older suburbs (those built before 1980) dropped between 2000 and 2010, while it’s grown substantially in newer suburbs and exurbs. A recent survey by Pulte Homes found that most boomers are seeking places near nature and with large garages; not exactly what you are likely to find, much less afford, in San Francisco. The “back to the city” phenomena, like many urban trends, is largely restricted to the wealthy.

Minorities, too, have headed for suburbia. Already the majority of African-Americans in the nation’s one hundred largest metros live in the suburbs; in 1990, 57 percent lived in inner cities. Since 2000, reports Brookings, the percentage of immigrants living in suburbs has shot up five points, to 61 percent. Overall,76 percent of the growth in the foreign-born population between 2000 and 2013 in the largest metro areas occurred in the suburbs.

More than one-third of the 13.3 million new suburbanites between 2000 and 2010 were Hispanic, with whites accounting for one-fifth of suburban growth in that period. And as Asians have become the biggest immigrant group arriving in America, many are skipping cities altogether. The Asian population in suburban areas grew 66.2 percent between 2000 and 2012, nearly twice the 34.9 increase in the core urban population.

But the most significant shift relates to Millennials. Roughly two-thirds of them, according to a recent Wall Street Journal survey, want a suburban experience for their future families. Census data, as analyzed by the website 538, shows that not only are people aged 25 to 29 about 25% more likely to move to a suburb than city, but that 30 to 44 year olds are leaving cities for suburbs at a much faster clip than they did in the 1990s. The National Association of Realtors sees the same trend, with young buyers shifting to suburban locations.

Some of this reflects the consequence of success in some cities, expressed in soaring prices, but much of the change is fundamentally about growing up. Research by economist Jed Kolko shows that urban residence continues to drop precipitously with age. This also comports with the findings of surveys from the Conference Board, the Urban Land Institute, and the National Association of Homebuilders, which found that 75% of millennials favor settling in a suburban house, but only 10% in the urban core.

This process will accelerate as millenials begin, albeit often later than previous generations, to start families. Some 1.3 million millennial women gave birth for the first time in 2015, raising the total number of U.S. women in this generation who have become mothers to more than 16 million.

Retrieved December 4, 2017 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/005815-the-urban-revival-is-urban-myth-and-suburbs-are-surging

Posted in demographics

Big Dams Should be Built & Maintained by Big Government

And this article from KQED is an object lesson in why, because even if, as we well know, big government screws up all the time, they still have the financial and staff resources to bring to the table when dealing with large projects, something state governments rarely do have.

An excerpt.

Federal regulators have asked the officials who operate Oroville Dam — and who are in charge of the $500 million-plus effort to rebuild and reinforce the facility’s compromised spillways — to explain small cracks that have appeared in recently rebuilt sections of the dam’s massive concrete flood-control chute.

In a previously undisclosed October letter, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission told the state Department of Water Resources to document the extent of tiny cracks that have showed up in some of the spillway’s brand-new concrete slabs. FERC also asked DWR what, if any, steps might be required to address the issue.

In early November, DWR told the dam’s federal overseers in a cover letter to a classified memorandum that steps taken to build a stronger spillway — such as an added layer of steel reinforcement — caused the hairline cracks.

The letter said the agency found “the hairline cracks are a result of some of the design elements included to restrain the slabs and produce a robust and durable structure.”

The letter added that the cracking “was anticipated and is not expected to affect the integrity of the slabs.”

FERC did not respond Monday to requests for further details on the extent of the cracks. But in a Nov. 21 letter, it said it had reviewed the Department of Water Resources report and agreed with the department’s conclusion that the cracks “do not warrant repair at this time.”

DWR spokesperson Erin Mellon said in an email Monday evening that hairline cracks are “something you expect to see” in concrete slabs as massive as the those in the rebuilt spillway, which measure 30 feet by 37.5 feet. “These cracks are not abnormal, nor do they cause a concern,” she said.

Mellon said DWR will continue to monitor the concrete and that the agency, along with the spillway contractors and outside experts, is looking at a refinement to the concrete mixture to minimize cracking.

“However, considering these hairline cracks do not cause a concern, the mixture may remain the same going forward,” she said. “We anticipate that hairline cracks would still form even with a refined mixture.”

DWR’s Nov. 7 letter to FERC mentions a technical memorandum that the department classified as critical energy/electric infrastructure information, or CEII. Under post-9/11 federal law, CEII documents can be viewed by members of the public or media only if they agree to sign nondisclosure agreements — a provision that effectively places them beyond public view.

The upshot is that the evidence for and reasoning behind DWR’s statements about the cause of the cracking is not available for independent assessment.

Robert Bea, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at UC Berkeley and a veteran analyst of structure failures, said that DWR’s letter leaves “a lot of uncertainties regarding the implications of the reported micro-cracking.”

Bea, who heads a Berkeley-affiliated group that has issued several reports this year highly critical of DWR’s management of the Oroville facility, added that cracks in the concrete surface are potentially serious and require urgent attention.

“Cracking in high-strength reinforced concrete structures is never ‘to be expected,’ ” Bea said in an email. Even small cracks could increase stresses in the concrete when it is under “service loading” — for instance, when large volumes of water hurtle down the structure at speeds approaching 90 mph.

The cracking also “develops paths for water to reach the steel elements embedded in the concrete and accelerate corrosion,” Bea said. “Such corrosion was responsible for the degradation and ultimate failure of the steel reinforcing in parts of the original gated spillway.”

Retrieved November 28, 2017 from https://ww2.kqed.org/news/2017/11/27/feds-ask-state-to-explain-cracks-in-new-concrete-on-oroville-spillway/

Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam

1,000 Bikes in Tunnel Bike-Chop in Homeless Encampment

Bicycle chop shops are common in homeless encampments, but this one recently found along a river in Orange County, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, was something else.

An excerpt.

A half-loaded handgun, an underground bunker accessible from a wooden hatch camouflaged with dirt, and more than 1,000 bicycles tucked in a separate tunnel were discovered along the Santa Ana River trail near a former homeless encampment where residents were recently displaced, Orange County Sheriff’s Department officials said this week.

The county began clearing more than 150 homeless people from the area between Warner and Edinger avenues on Nov. 7 after months of complaints from nearby condominium residents about unsanitary conditions and other nuisances at the encampment.

Sheriff’s Lt. Jeff Puckett said the recent finds seem to add credence to Fountan Valley neighbors’ complaints that conditions along the river were unsafe.

“We’ve collected data over the last 2½ months that shows there’s a large criminal presence in the encampments, and this evidence would seem to back that data up,” Puckett said.

He said the Sheriff’s Department has made more than 260 arrests in the past several months in various encampments along the river trail in connection with crimes such as robbery, assault and trespassing.

However, homeless advocates have contended the county is criminalizing homelessness and shuffling the camps’ population around instead of solving the growing problem.

The county plans to permanently close the west side of the flood control channel between 17th Street in Santa Ana and Adams Avenue in Huntington Beach as it prepares to start maintenance of Orange County Flood Control District property along the trail, officials have said.

Before maintenance begins, Orange County Public Works officials have been tasked with cleaning debris and trash from the former encampment in Fountain Valley.

Puckett said officials found a .357 Magnum containing three empty shell casings — indicating to authorities that it had been fired — near the camp. The Sheriff’s Department is investigating where the gun came from.

When public works crews arrived to clean up trash two weeks ago, they discovered more than 1,000 bicycles tucked into a tunnel along the concrete river bed in Santa Ana, just south of the river’s Fairview Street overpass.

“I’ve been doing this job for 20 years and even I was stunned by that one,” Puckett said.

Workers dragged out the bikes and hauled them to a storage yard.

Puckett said the department at some point will likely allow the public to look at the bikes in an effort to reunite people with lost or stolen property.

Authorities said there were indications that someone was living in the area of the bikes, but they haven’t identified whom that might have been or how and why the bikes were obtained.

Authorities said they don’t know how many of the bikes might have been stolen.

“Common sense would usually dictate if you have 1,000 bikes in a tunnel, some of them could be stolen,” Puckett said.

On Thursday, county officials found a man-made bunker six feet underground along the trail. A plywood trap door opened to wooden steps, which led to a 10-by-10-foot living space reinforced with wood beams. The room was tall enough for an adult to stand in, authorities said.

Retrieved November 19, 2017 from http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-river-trail-bikes-20171117-story.html

Posted in Homelessness

Scattered Homeless Housing, Best Way to Go

This article in the Sacramento Bee notes it is being considered.

It is a concept we first suggested Sacramento adopt years ago—May 12, 2008—in an article published in the Sacramento Bee and on our new website at http://arpps.org/news.html

Excerpt from the Bee article.

After months of developing plans for a San Francisco-style “full service” homeless shelter housing 75 men and women under one roof, Sacramento County staff are recommending – at least in the short-term – a plan to put those homeless people in 15 rental homes scattered across the county.

The original plan, approved by county supervisors in March, was to create a “Full Service Rehousing Shelter” – a 75-bed, dormitory-style facility with indoor and outdoor space on a large lot, with good access to transportation in a compatible neighborhood. The shelter was intended to help homeless people transition to jobs, permanent housing and public benefits.

Unlike at other shelters, the county would allow homeless people to bring their pets, partners and personal items to encourage them to stay in housing rather than seek independence on the streets.

But county officials could never find a location that fit the bill after evaluating 50 sites, including county and private properties, according to a staff report ahead of a Board of Supervisors discussion scheduled for Tuesday. Sacramento County staff earlier this year would not identify which neighborhoods or sites were evaluated when asked by The Sacramento Bee.

“Given the lack of available or suitable options within the limits of the budget, staff explored the use of leased rental properties to create a scattered site interim housing model,” wrote Ann Edwards, the county’s director of the Department of Human Assistance. “Use of this approach can effectively address short-term sheltering needs with a quick startup time and a reasonable cost.”

The shelter plan is just one of several new county initiatives intended to address a growing homeless population. Last week, the county approved a plan to spend $44 million over the next three years to provide services to homeless people, including drug and mental health treatment.

In March, the county approved a package of four programs aimed at easing the homeless crisis. In addition to launching the Full Service Rehousing Shelter, supervisors voted to redesign the family emergency shelter system, sustain longstanding programs at risk of losing federal dollars and launch a Flexible Supportive Housing Program that pairs housing with mental health services and addiction treatment for those facing the biggest obstacles.

The programs were expected to cost the county $5.6 million in the current budget year and $8.3 million annually after that. The county budgeted $2.35 million for the first year of the rehousing center, with an expectation of spending $1.65 million a year to operate it.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Nottoli, along with Supervisor Phil Serna, toured San Francisco’s Navigation Center in March, seeing it as a model for what Sacramento County could accomplish. He said the consolidated approach creates some efficiencies by having intake and transportation all in one place.

But with winter coming and the county unable to find one central location, switching gears to scattered housing makes sense, he said.

“I think it’s important to do something now,” Nottoli said. “We are moving into the cold and rainy season. I think we ought to jump in and go with this.”

Under the scattered approach, the county would reach agreements with providers to house five homeless people each in 15 locations across the county. An in-home monitor would work at each site. Residents would receive transportation to appointments. Compared to the full service center, the scattered model would have lower initial costs and a faster ramp-up time, officials said.

Retrieved November 14, 2017 from http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/homeless/article184459578.html

Posted in Homelessness