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Posts from the Streetsblog CA Category

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Bike to Work Day Open Thread

Yes, it should be every day, but it’s still fun to get out and cheer on or be cheered on in recognition of the general awesomeness of riding a bike. Also, Bike to Work Day/Week/Month is a great way to get people to try riding. People don’t want to be left out of the fun, and biking is usually such a quiet, almost invisible activity. Today is a day to get out there and make some great big public celebratory noise about riding a bike.

Below are some photos and some highlights of the goings on around California. Send more photos to melanie@streetsblog.org and we’ll post them here. Read more…

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Oil Industry Tries a New Tack: Blowing Smoke at CA’s Climate Change Policies

CARE is paying for Facebook ads to get some traction for its faulty reasoning.

CARE is paying for Facebook ads to get some traction for its faulty reasoning. OMG! Dollars are burning!

The major lobby group for the California oil industry has launched a new, and particularly dimwitted, effort to denigrate California’s climate change policies. Californians for Affordable and Reliable Energy, or CARE, one of the Western States Petroleum Association’s front groups (as reported in Streetsblog several years ago), started a new website that purports to show how the state is wasting its money on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But its thesis makes no sense.

Right up front, the website declares authoritatively that the cost per ton of carbon is $12.80, and that therefore any higher amount paid to remove greenhouse gases from the air is a waste of money. It even provides a handy chart comparing what California pays for greenhouse gas reductions through programs like the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program to the site’s definition of the “actual cost” of that pollution. Its inevitable conclusion: California is wasting huge amounts of money.

Except that the comparison makes no sense. As Bruce Mirken of the Greenlining Institute puts it, “This isn’t comparing apples to oranges. It’s comparing apples to building new orchards.”

The figure of $12.80 reported on the website is, give or take a few cents, the current price paid per metric tonne of carbon by industries that emit greenhouse gases under California’s cap-and-trade system. Cap-and-trade works by putting a cap on total allowable emissions, and then charging industries actual money for the pollution they emit. The price is set by auction, which means it’s driven by demand, and depends on how many “credits” are available for purchase and how many industries want to buy them. It has nothing to do with the actual cost of carbon in our atmosphere—it’s just the current going price, at auction, of the credits.

So it’s a little disingenuous to pretend that California only needs to spend $12.80 per ton to remove greenhouse gases. In fact, more than disingenuous, how about deeply cynical. Evil?

It’s not as if you can go to the store and buy a carbon reduction. Read more…

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Caltrans State Bike and Ped Plan Listens in Los Angeles

Brian Cox, Jax Bicycle Center, speaks with Brett XXX, Alta Planning and Design, about Caltrans State Bike & Ped Plan. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Brian Cox, Jax Bicycle Center, speaks with Brett Hondorp, Alta Planning and Design, about Caltrans State Bike & Ped Plan. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Caltrans is hosting a series of meetings around the state to get input on the California State Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan (CSBPP). The plan kicked off last year and is expected to be completed and approved by Caltrans management in early 2017.

The plan’s goals are ambitious: by 2020, triple bicycling and double walking.

Unlike most local bike plans, this one will not be a map with lines showing where bicycle facilities go. Instead the CSBPP will be a policy document showing how Caltrans can improve walking and bicycling on facilities it manages. Many of these are freeways, but in many locations these routes also form Main Street commercial stretches. In addition, the plan will evaluate Caltrans processes to ensure projects and programs support walking and biking.

To give input on the plan, there is one more public meeting at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Folsom Community Center at 52 Natoma Street in Folsom. Interested parties can also give input by filling out a survey at the CSBPP website. While you’re there, sign up to receive email updates on plan progress.

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#DamienTalks 35 – Mike Gatto and Parking Placard Reform

Parking placard abuse.

#DamienTalksArguing for reforms in the placard system is one of the few times parking reformers don’t sound overly wonky to the larger car driving public. In California, one out of every eight drivers has a disabled parking placard, a number which doesn’t correlate to data concerning how many drivers SHOULD have such a placard.

This abuse of the placard system creates a ripple effect of unsafe street conditions, a distorted view of our car parking stock, and worst of all undercuts the value of the placard to those drivers who are actually disabled.

Today #DamienTalks with Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-SFV) about AB 2602, his legislation that seeks to reduce placard abuse through two common sense reforms attacking the supply of and demand for disabled placards to those who don’t really need them. Gatto’s legislation sailed through committee last week.

Also moving in the Assembly is Gatto’s “Parking Bill of Rights” which takes a broader look at parking issues.

We’re always looking for sponsors, show ideas, and feedback. You can contact me at damien@streetsblog.org, at twitter @damientypes, online at Streetsblog California or on Facebook at StreetsblogCA. Or, if you want to reach Asm. Gatto, he can be reached at twitter @mikegatto or at his webpage, MikeGatto.com

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California Legislative Update: Bikes, Transit, Environmental Justice, More

bikeatCapitollabel2Today is the deadline to pass any policy bills that have a fiscal impact out of all California legislative committees, so the last two weeks have seen a flurry of long hearings. Here’s a quick recap of pertinent bills.

BIKES

Riding side-by-side is okay: Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) has a bill, A.B. 2509, that would clarify existing law that it is not illegal for bikes to ride side-by-side in certain circumstances. It passed the Assembly and now awaits its assignment to Senate committees.

TRANSIT

Transit passes for veterans: S.B. 951 is also known as the Golden State Patriot Passes Program from Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg). The bill would use money from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to develop a pilot transit pass program for veterans. The bill unanimously passed the Environmental Quality Committee this week.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

Fair representation: The issue of environmental justice, and the effects of policies on low-income communities in the state, seems to be gaining some traction in the California legislature, at least among some Democrats. Republican lawmakers, however, are sticking to the party line that the economy trumps fairness, and also, usually, the environment. Unfortunately some members who aren’t Republicans are also falling into that trap, including people wielding power as committee chairs.

For example, two bills that would have reconfigured major decision-making bodies to include representatives of low-income and otherwise disadvantaged communities were shot down in the Assembly Transportation Committee. They got a hostile reception from committee chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley), and some Democrats on the Committee were not willing to stand up to him. The two bills, A.B. 1982 and A.B. 2382, would have added representatives to the California Transportation Commission, which allocates the state’s transportation funding, and to the High Speed Rail Authority.

On the other hand, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee was much more receptive to several similar bills. S.B. 1387 from Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) easily passed that committee with a 5-2 vote, which fell along party lines. That bill, in addition to forcing the South Coast Air Quality Management District to consider the impacts of its actions on disadvantaged communities, would add three new members to the SCAQMD board, all representatives of environmental justice organizations.

Read more…

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Transportation Committee Hears Bills: Active Transpo, High-Speed Rail, More

AsmHolden4-16

Assemblymember Chris Holden presents his transit pass bill; Asms. Richard Bloom and Eduardo Garcia listen at right. Image: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

A marathon hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee yesterday was a sign of looming deadlines in the California legislature. It was also an illustration of the strange and sometimes surreal world in which California’s laws are debated and created.

An hour before the hearing, a coalition of groups working on equity and transportation presented a package of bills at a press conference. At the time, the press was downstairs watching Governor Brown sign the minimum wage bill, but upstairs the room was packed with supporters, a group of whom had driven all the way from Fresno. Assemblymembers Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), and Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) presented bills aimed at improving transportation options for people who need the most help, including creating a free transit pass program, increasing funding for the Active Transportation Program, and providing representation for disadvantaged communities on the California Transportation Commission.

Some of those transportation equity bills were among the 22 bills the Transportation Committee heard and discussed over the course its five-plus-hour hearing yesterday afternoon. The Transportation Committee meets next week to consider additional legislation. That promises to be another long hearing as the committee works through a large number of bills in a few short weeks.

HIGH-SPEED RAIL

Among the bills heard yesterday were attempts by Republicans to stop California’s high-speed rail project (CAHSR). These bring the total to eleven such efforts, according to Keith Dunn, a consultant for the Association for California High-Speed Trains, who testified at the hearing. These bills, like earlier similar bills, received few votes. They may well crop up again, but for now they are dead in the water.

This time around the anti-high-speed rail bills were:

  • A.B. 1717: Since the High-Speed Rail Authority changed its plans and decided to build towards the Bay Area first, rather than to L.A., Assemblymember David Hadley (R-Torrance) proposed that CAHSR’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund money be taken away and given to other rail projects.
  • A.B. 1768: High-speed rail is a waste of money and the bonds currently used for it should be used instead to repair roads and highways, said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Plumas Lake).
  • A.B. 2049: Assemblymember Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) wrote pretty much the same bill as Gallagher’s.
  • A.B. 1866: Assemblymember Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) wants the high-speed rail bonds to be taken away and spent on water projects.

SPECIALIZED LICENSE PLATES

Three bills heard in yesterday’s meeting aimed to create a specialized license plate program to raise money for specific causes. Such bills have run into trouble in the past, with a moratorium on their proliferation causing hard feelings between legislators about pet causes. Committee Chair Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) warned that not only do the bills face an uphill battle, but their effectiveness as fundraising strategies is questionable: several past such attempts, he said, did not get enough applicants to start production of the particular specialized plate.

Nonetheless, the committee passed two of them: a “bicycle pathways” plate with proceeds going to the Active Transportation Program (A.B. 2303, Holden), and another that would support local food banks (A.B. 2131, Maienschein).

Read more…

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CA Transportation Funding Should Reflect State Goals

To increase biking and walking, California needs to put its money where its mouth is. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog California

To increase biking and walking, California needs to put its money where its mouth is. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog California

Transportation funding in California has, as SBCA readers must know by now, reached a “crisis.” Shrinking gas tax revenues, combined with an increasing reliance on local sales taxes limited to specific transportation projects, have left our overbuilt and under-maintained highways, roads, and bridges without enough funds to keep them in a basic state of good repair.

Last year the need for a solution was so urgent that Governor Brown called a “special legislative session” on transportation funding, but the process so far has produced little. Some legislators proposed “bold” funding ideas, including raising the gas tax. Increasing the gas tax is long overdue, but meets such knee-jerk opposition that just bringing up the subject counts as a bold action. A lack of focus, and an inability to come to an agreement about how to “fix” what is a royal mess, means that so far no solution is forthcoming.

Meanwhile the yearly state budget process is underway again, with hearings to begin in earnest in the next few weeks. Governor Jerry Brown made his budget proposal in January, and will issue a “May revise” after tax day when state revenues are clearer.

In addition to the state budget, legislators are deciding how to spend the forty percent of last year’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) that remained unallocated. This money comes from cap-and-trade and must be used to further reduce greenhouse gases. In this case, having such a large chunk of extra funds has created a sort of paralysis because everyone wants some of it.

While transportation is only part of the budget, it is a big one, and how we invest transportation dollars now will have an impact on the state for many years.

Governor Brown’s proposed budget includes a couple of new sources of income for transportation funding, but it is unclear how he will make them happen. In addition to raising gas taxes, Brown proposed a “road improvement charge” that would be added to vehicle registration fees. However, both proposals need approval by two-thirds of the legislature to pass, and Republican members continue to oppose raising taxes or adding fees. The new sources of funds would add $4 billion to Brown’s transportation budget—so if they do not pass, transportation spending could be in jeopardy.

Read more…

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A Few Bad Bills

bikeatCapitollabel2The California legislature is back from spring recess and the process of hearing and arguing about bills is beginning in earnest. In the next few days, Streetsblog California will talk about some exciting bills coming up that may need your support.

But first, we’ll take a quick look at a few bills that are not so good. For the most part, the transportation bills listed here take the wrong approach.

Transportation funding is in a crisis, but Sacramento isn’t offering many solutions. The danger is, with agreement so hard to come by, any compromise on funding might lose sight of other state goals, such as clean air, avoiding climate change, and fairness. We’ve made serious mistakes in the past, as eloquently noted by US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx a few days ago when he talked about how freeways destroyed low income neighborhoods. So it’s crucial that when we talk about transportation funding, we get away from the status quo—no more widening highways, speeding up traffic and otherwise encouraging driving. People need real choices about how they move around.

Meanwhile, California’s cap-and-trade system is bringing money into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). That fund looks like a cash cow to some legislators. The bills listed here play fast and loose with the GGRF, which by law is supposed to be used to further reduce greenhouse gases, with an emphasis on disadvantaged communities that have historically paid a higher price, in every way, for the environmental degradation brought by industry.

Read more…

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Assemblymember Gatto Introduces Parking Reform Bills

Assemblymember Mike Gatto. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

Assemblymember Mike Gatto touting parking reform this morning. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

At a downtown Los Angeles press event this morning in front of Caltrans District 7 headquarters, Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-L.A., Glendale) explained two parking reform bills he recently introduced.

A.B. 2602 takes on parking issues related to disability placards. Disability placard abuse is a major parking issue for many cities, including Los Angeles, but change needs to begin at the state level to allow cities to implement solutions.

Gatto outlined the magnitude of placard abuse issues, citing state statistics: of 24 million CA drivers, three million have some form of disability parking placard, whether a permanent or temporary placard, or a disabled person license plate.

“Something is wrong,” proclaimed Gatto, when one in eight California drivers claims a disability.

Municipalities cannot ticket cars parked at expired meters if they display a handicapped driver’s placard. Thus, perfectly healthy scofflaw drivers regularly use illegally obtained placards to both cheat the city out of parking revenue and to turn a public parking space into their personal space because they are under no obligation to move their car.

In 2012, Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez conducted his own placard sting and discovered that many placards were being illegally used by healthy drivers. Numerous other more recent governmental and media stings have shown placard abuse to be an ongoing issue.

Gatto had planned to introduce disability placard legislation in the 2013-14 legislative session, but delayed the bill to work more closely with disability advocates. Gatto stated that his office is working with advocacy organizations, some of whom support the bill in its current form.

Gatto also stumped for A.B. 2586 , the so-called “Parking Bill of Rights.” From a livability perspective, this measure is a somewhat mixed bag. It promotes variable-priced parking, but also places some restrictions on how and when localities can enforce metered parking.

These bills will likely change in the course of the legislative process. After the jump is a summary of where they stand right now.  Read more…

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Santa Monica Assemblymember Bloom Takes Aim at CA Housing Shortage

bikeatCapitollabel2California State Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has set his sights on tackling the dire shortage of homesand the resulting affordability crisiscurrently facing the state.

Bloom, whose district includes Malibu, Santa Monica, West L.A., Brentwood, and Beverly Hills, currently has three bills pending—A.B. 2501, A.B. 2299, and A.B. 2522—that seek to lower barriers to new housing production in cities throughout California.

“California is faced with a critical housing crisis. It has already caused severe escalation of housing prices, making the state less affordable to those living in poverty, our state’s workforce, and millennials,” said Bloom.

“If this crisis isn’t solved, our economy and quality of life will diminish as ever larger shares of people’s net income goes towards their housing,” he said.

Details about specific bills after the jump. Read more…