Homeless Camp Waste is Toxic Storm Discharge

As reported by this story from CBS Local News.

An excerpt.

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Wednesday’s massive storm had rivers rising all around our area. In Sacramento County, the surge of water swept away toxic waste from homeless camps and sent it all downstream.

One section of Steelhead Creek, hit hard by toxic debris from homeless camps, grabbed the attention of geologist Roland Brady.

One day after the storm, Brady came out to see the aftermath.

“I wouldn’t drink it,” Brady said. “I would never drink it. What you’ll see are places that look like a solid waste disposal site, with a creek flowing through it.”

The storm is now sending all that waste through the delta and out to sea.

“And that’s what really frustrates me, is that there’s very good control over just about everything else, but here it just happens in an enormous volume, every time it rains,” Brady said.

Brady is a volunteer steward of a mile long section of Steelhead Creek, where homeless camps have created massive piles of waste and debris.

Photos show the mess along his section of the creek in December, ahead of the largest ever clean up in the creek’s history. Crews removed 100,000 pounds of homeless camp debris

“What we didn’t get, is in the water,” Brady said. “What we did get, is not in the water.”

Sacramento County approved $5 million in increased funds to clean up areas along the American River Parkway last year.

Brady says on Steelhead Creek, east of the El Camino bridge, no agency is claiming responsibility for cleaning as of now.

Retrieved January 18, 2019 from https://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2019/01/17/storm-toxic-discharge-waterways/


Posted in Homelessness

Supervisor Frost Reports on Homeless Program

This is very good news, posted on Supervisor Frost’s  Facebook page.

The Facebook Post:

At the beginning of 2018, Sacramento County launched an ambitious new program that attempted to prioritize getting the 250 homeless people who cost the most amount of money each year in taxpayer dollars, into permanent housing. Some of these homeless people are costing the county upwards of $150,000 a year, so it made sense to me to focus our efforts on getting them off the streets. Now that it’s been around a year since we launched that program, I wanted to explain to you how the program works, and share with you the exciting news regarding how successful it has been.

As soon as the program was established last year, the Sheriff’s department in coordination with Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services and the Sacramento County Department of Technology established the list of the 250 people costing the most money. These costs primarily come in the form of emergency room visits, jail visits, and utilizing alcohol, drug, and mental health services — all of which can be quite costly.

Once the 250 people were chosen, they were assigned to individual case managers, who then had the job of physically locating them in the community. This is no easy task, and can often be one of the largest obstacles to getting them treatment. Once they are found, they are told that they are eligible for fast-tracked housing and services, but convincing them to take part in it can be its own challenge. On average, this is the 7th housing program they have been affiliated with, and their level of trust with the government has often eroded. Many remain skeptical that they aren’t going to just get put on another list where nothing happens.

Once they sign up for the program, the case manager helps to clear any obstacles that may prevent them from getting the assistance they need. They will ensure they have met all their court requirements, are taking the proper medications, have a valid identification card, have a social security card, etc. After all these obstacles are lifted, they are then placed straight into housing that is wrapped in social services on-site.

The housing currently available to them are apartment style units that are located in the Del Paso Heights area and in South Sacramento. We are using apartment style housing for a couple key reasons. First, it allows us to acquire the number of units we need in a much faster and more affordable way. Second, it allows us to save on staffing costs, since our social services staff stays on-site instead of travelling long distances between visits.

Many of my constituents were skeptical when this program was announced because they thought it would be a waste of time. They felt that these 250 homeless people would never accept county services. To be honest with you I had some doubts as well, but remained optimistic that even if we were able to house a small portion of this segment of the homeless population, it would be a successful program.

I am thrilled to be able to report to you that 196 of the 250 have signed up for the program (including the #1 most expensive person), and 109 of them have already been housed! This is an incredible feat, and I am thrilled with the result thus far.

I know it is easy to become frustrated and jaded when trying to tackle the growing problem of homelessness in our community. The problem is so large that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. But if we focus on prudent solutions to this problem that are mindful of protecting taxpayer dollars, we can make some positive strides in the right direction, and this program is evidence of just that.

Retrieved January 17, 2019 from https://www.facebook.com/SupervisorSueFrost/posts/2019368771700864?__tn__=K-R

Posted in Government, Homelessness

Lot of Water, No Place to Store

Auburn Dam sure looks good about now, as this story from the Weather Channel notes a lot of rain coming.

An excerpt.

California will be under a siege of storm systems this week that will send rounds of soaking rain across the state and snow into the higher terrain.

The storms will be guided toward California through a strong jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, guiding three separate weather systems to the West Coast this week.

This string of stormy weather actually kicked off last Friday into Saturday, when an initial weather system made its way into the state. The rain from that storm triggered a mudslide on the Pacific Coast Highway near Malibu, California, early Saturday, forcing it to close for a time.

The next storm in this parade is now spreading rain into parts of central and Southern California.

Here’s the general timing and potential impacts for these storms this week.


Monday-Early Tuesday: The next in this series of storms will arrive in the state to begin the workweek. Most of the precipitation may fall in Southern California, but some will also spread into parts of Northern California. Significant snowfall is expected in the mountains of Southern California above 5,000 feet, with at least some snow falling as low as 4,000 feet.

Tuesday-early Wednesday: Another fast-moving system will make its way into the state, continuing the potential for rain and mountain snow.

Wednesday-Thursday: This final storm in the barrage will be the strongest and wettest, capable of delivering heavier amounts of rain and Sierra snow. Parts of northern California may also see high winds as the cold front moves in.

Potential Impacts

Rain: At least 3 inches of rain are likely through Thursday night from the coastal ranges of northern California to the L.A. Basin. Foothill locations below snow-level in the Sierra Nevada could also see 3 inches of rain or more.

Snow: Several feet of snow will pile up in the Sierra Nevada, particularly from the final storm later this week. Travel will be impacted on passes depending on the snow level. Significant snow will also coat the mountains of Southern California particularly above 5,000 feet early this week.

Flooding: Flash flooding is possible, especially by late-week as the ground becomes more saturated. Some debris flows and mudslides are probable where brief heavier rain rates persist, especially in the burn areas of California.

High Surf: The storms will also create dangerous surf and rip currents along the California coast. Stay away from the water when high surf advisories or warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service. A high surf advisory is currently in effect for parts of the Southern California coast through Tuesday.

Retrieved January 14, 2019 from https://weather.com/forecast/regional/news/2019-01-10-california-storm-parade-rain-snow-middle-january

Posted in Shasta Auburn Dam, Water

Desalinization News and It’s Real Good

Especially for California, and it comes from US News & World Report.

If we would invest in this technlogy and more in nuclear energy California would actually be the forward leading place it now mistakenly claims to be.

An excerpt.

The Trump administration is hoping to reinvigorate a technology long dismissed as too expensive or energy-intensive to help solve a water crisis that has seen drought grip swaths of the American West, sparking deadly wildfires and legal battles over supply.

The Energy Department last month declared that it’s spending $100 million over the next five years to create a research and development hub on desalination, a process that converts seawater and brackish inland water into freshwater.

Announced roughly five years after Congress appropriated the funds under the Obama administration, the planned hub comes as once-periodic water shortages have become perennial, if not ever-present, in American communities, forcing policymakers to rethink how residents get freshwater – and reconsider technologies they’d once shelved.

The investment is widely seen in the research field as a moonshot effort, the best attempt yet to jump-start the kind of advancements that would make the elusive process energy-efficient and cost-effective and make a resource out of vast unusable deposits like the saltwater that covers two-thirds of the earth’s surface.

“The significance can’t be understated. Something like this has been a long time coming,” says Jonathan Brant, associate professor of environmental engineering at the University of Wyoming.

“We’re faced with a real water crisis, and the main solution to that is going to be able to tap – in an environmentally sustainable and economically sustainable way – saline water sources.”

Desalination is costly and enormously energy intensive: Israel and Australia – two of the driest nations on Earth – are by far the world leaders in desalination, largely by necessity. While Israel draws more than half of its water from desalination plants – and more than 85 percent of its municipal water overall is reused – desalination plants in the U.S. provide less than 0.002 percent of the water consumed in the country each year.

That doesn’t mean there are no desalination plants in the U.S.: One study from 2016 pegged the tally at over 1,330 plants. The largest, in Carlsbad, California, supplies 50 million gallons a day to some 110,000 residents in San Diego County. The process, in fact, was pioneered in the U.S.: The Bureau of Reclamation funded an office on saline research as early as the 1950s.

In the past half-century, however, while there have been some innovations, the techniques for separating salt and other molecules from H2O haven’t greatly changed.

One method largely involves simply heating water until it evaporates, leaving behind the salt and other deposits that made it undrinkable. The other process – the one most in use today – is known as membrane separation, which involves pressing huge amounts of brackish water against a net filled with microscopic holes, each small enough to allow H2O molecules to pass through while filtering everything else.

Both methods are expensive: Salt forms strong bonds with water, and the molecules are not easily separated. While freshwater has traditionally cost about 50 cents per cubic meter in an average U.S. market – and sometimes as little as 10 cents per cubic meter – desalinated water costs as much as $2 per cubic meter, and sometimes even more.

Such costs can be spread out: In parts of California and Texas, for example, desalination plants provide a fraction of the local water supply – only a quarter or a third of the water may come from a treatment plant and the rest from traditional, cheaper sources. The plants also demand huge amounts of energy: In Texas, for example, less than 3 percent of the state’s water through 2022 will come from desalination, according to a state report, but its treatment will account for 9 percent of the water sector’s electricity demand.

“For the last 15-20 years we’ve been up against this thermodynamic barrier,” Brant says. “What we need is a paradigm shift from traditional methods to alternative technologies.”

Already the Energy Department announcement has sparked phone calls and flurries of emails between scientific silos that wouldn’t otherwise cross paths: biologists talking with materials scientists talking with engineers. The hope is that such cooperation – greased by the infusion of government cash – could yield the kind of critical breakthrough that would change how the U.S. and perhaps the world gets its water.

“They have created this movement among scientists and engineers nationwide to get to know each other and build alliances to apply for the grant, and that means that all these people who are working on their piece of the puzzle are getting to know each other,” says Brent Haddad, a professor of environmental studies at the University of California – Santa Cruz who specializes in urban water management and who plans to apply for funding from the hub. “That’s a benefit to this project already, and they haven’t funded a dollar.”

Retrieved January 7, 2019 from https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2019-01-04/a-moonshot-for-solving-americas-water-crisis

Posted in Technology, Water

Many Millennials Love the Suburbs/Exurbs

Actually almost everybody does, but this article from New Geography focuses on the Millennials, who still are “somewhat more inclined than the general public to live in the urban core”. (final paragraph of excerpt)

An excerpt.

America’s suburbs and exurbs continue to dominate population growth among post-college Millennials, those aged 25 to 34 in the 53 major metropolitan areas. This is indicated by data in the just released 2013/2017 American Community Survey (ACS), which provides a mid-decade snapshot of US demography. With its middle sample year of 2015, the 2013/2017 ACS is most representative of the middle of the decade between the 2010 and 2020 censuses (Note 1).

Population Change

Between 2010 and 2013/2017, the national number of 25-34 year olds increased by more than 2 million. This analysis uses the City Sector Model (Figure 5), which classifies small areas (ZIP codes, more formally, ZIP Code Tabulation Areas, or ZCTAs) in metropolitan areas in the nation based upon their function as urban cores, suburbs, or exurbs (Note 2).

The 2013/2017 ACS data indicates that 78.9 percent of the age 25 to 34 major metropolitan area growth since the 2010 census has occurred in the suburbs and exurbs (Figures 1 and 2). Overall, the suburbs and exurbs represented nearly 1.725 million new 25-34 residents.

The suburban and exurban gains were largest in the Earlier Suburbs (generally post-World War II inner suburbs), which attracted 42.0 percent of the increase (915,000). The Later Suburbs (generally outer suburbs), accounted for 26.1 percent of the growth (570,000), while the Exurbs (generally outside the continuously built-up urban area), captured 10.8 percent of the 20-34 population growth (235,000).

The urban cores accounted for 21.1 percent of the 20-34 population growth, or 460,000 new residents. Most of this was in the Inner Ring, with 18.3 percent of the gain (400,000). The CBD (central business district) accounted for the balance of 2.3 percent (60,000).

Distribution of Population

The post-college Millennial population is somewhat more inclined than the general public to live in the urban core (Figure 3). This is especially evident in the CBD, where the share of 20-34’s is 80 percent higher than that of the total population. Both figures, it is critical to note, are very small (2.3 percent versus 1.3 percent). This propensity is also shown in the Inner Ring, where 20-34’s are about a quarter more likely to live than the overall population.

Retrieved January 7, 2019 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006186-suburbs-and-exurbs-dominate-mid-decade-millennial-growth

Posted in demographics

Local Transit, Why it’s so Bad

Excellent article from City Lab, with hat tip to Pike Oliver’s Urbanexus, http://www.urbanexus.com/

An excerpt.

One hundred years ago, the United States had a public transportation system that was the envy of the world. Today, outside a few major urban centers, it is barely on life support. Even in New York City, subway ridership is well below its 1946 peak. Annual per capita transit trips in the U.S. plummeted from 115.8 in 1950 to 36.1 in 1970, where they have roughly remained since, even as population has grown.

This has not happened in much of the rest of the world. While a decline in transit use in the face of fierce competition from the private automobile throughout the 20th century was inevitable, near-total collapse was not. At the turn of the 20th century, when transit companies’ only competition were the legs of a person or a horse, they worked reasonably well, even if they faced challenges. Once cars arrived, nearly every U.S. transit agency slashed service to cut costs, instead of improving service to stay competitive. This drove even more riders away, producing a vicious cycle that led to the point where today, few Americans with a viable alternative ride buses or trains….

The maps illustrate the vast swaths of urban areas untouched by full service bus routes. For those who do live near one, it’s quite likely that the bus wouldn’t get them where they need to go, unless their destination is downtown. A bus that comes once and hour, stops at 7 pm, and doesn’t run on Sundays—a typical service level in many American cities—restricts people’s lives so much that anyone who can drive, will drive. That keeps ridership per capita low.

What happened? Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

Retrieved December 31, 2018 from https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/08/how-america-killed-transit/568825/

Posted in Transportation

Single Family Housing Banned in Minneapolis

Wow, that seems pretty extreme, as reported by New Geography.

An excerpt.

In a recent article published in Housing Wire (and in many other places), it was told that Minneapolis will abolish single family housing as part of the Metropolitan Councils 2040 plan. Much of the reason seems to be based on the idea that people in single family homes are discriminating against minorities and the poor, who can only afford apartments, although of course many people of color own homes, or would like to.

Yet, it is not at all reasonable to assume that new high density multi-family housing will fulfill the expectations of the social engineering crowd. And at the same time, it may weaken the very strong community and neighborhood structure that has made Minneapolis such an appealing place.

When I moved to Minneapolis in 1983 from Dallas and Houston, (and originally from Detroit), I was amazed at the lack of blight. Living in the Detroit area, you can drive for hours south of 8 Mile Road and not see affluent well kept neighborhoods – just blighted areas that resembled leftovers from a war zone. Yet, drive for hours around Minneapolis – a city similar in age to Detroit, and you would be hard pressed to find any area that could be considered even remotely downtrodden.

Coming from Detroit and later from Houston, there was a racial undertone to both. Yes, things have improved over the decades but the divide still remains. This underlying racism was something I hated about living in Detroit, and to a lesser extent in Houston. In 1983, when I moved to Minneapolis, the racism seemed almost non-existent at the time, but back then the city was mostly white Nordic-Germanic of populous.

In Detroit, the wealthy flashed their success in their clothes, cars, and homes, and those that cannot afford such luxuries sometimes felt compelled their credit as a way of financing the appearance of being a ‘class above’. This too always bothered me. When I moved to Minneapolis, the person passing in an old Pontiac and conservatively dressed could be a janitor or CEO of a major corporation. Yes, they probably lived in a Lake Minnetonka Mansion, but did not likely flash their wealth as in other cities. This also was refreshing.

When we wrote the chapter in our book titled Prefurbia on redevelopment of blighted cities, we were going to take some local pictures but could not find a single area that could be described as blight. Instead, I used pictures that I took in Detroit!

Of course, the city has changed since I’ve moved here, it’s less ‘white’ and more racially mixed, but the areas of concentrated poverty are still very low for a major city.

Minneapolis’ problem is not that there are too many single family homes – it’s that the real estate prices are too high to justify low density redevelopment. Allow me to explain. If a developer wanted to re-develop a 10 acre area in Detroit, they would pay almost nothing for the land. Not so in Minneapolis. Because there is no such blight, even the land under the worst existing homes would cost at least $100,000 to buyout each existing home – possibly more. Assuming that the 10 acres in Detroit or Minneapolis would be in a tight ‘urban grid’ layout, about 40% of that 10 acres would be in the form of street and right-of-ways as well as easements. Assuming that in both cases, the right-of-ways and easements could be abandoned – much of that area could in theory be recaptured to create a more cohesive ‘neighborhood’. e can also assume the city grid would be at a density about 5 homes to the acre. So, 10 acres X 5 = 50 homes x $100,000 = 5 million dollars for the Minneapolis site vs. $5 for the blighted Detroit land.

Retrieved December 19, 2018 from http://www.newgeography.com/content/006174-the-mask-is-off-minneapolis-declares-war-single-family-houses

Posted in Environmentalism, Politics