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DamienTalks 40 – Brown’s Housing Legislation with Jason Islas

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Support Streetsblog California today. Click on image to make a donation.

Today, #DamienTalks with Jason Islas, the editor of Santa Monica Next. This podcast featured Islas a couple of months ago to discuss a proposal by Assemblymember Richard Bloom to make it easier to build more housing.

#DamienTalksThe spirit of Bloom’s proposal lives on in a rider to the California Budget by Governor Jerry Brown. Islas will discuss that rider and why, in his view, the legislation would help ease the affordable housing crisis in California, especially the overheated markets in Los Angeles and the Greater Bay Area.

The legislation is controversial, next week we’ll have someone in opposition featured on the podcast. We’re going to try and cover both sides of this issue, as there are a lot of good people on both sides of the conversation trying to protect communities and increase our state’s housing stock.

This week’s #DamienTalks is also the first interview given by Islas since Santa Monica Next was awarded the “Excellence in Communication” prize from the American Planning Association in Los Angeles. Just in time for our fundraising drive, “Next’s excellence” is a credit to the work done by the entire Streetsblog California team. So if you support our efforts, please consider donating today!

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.

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Caltrans Bicycling/Walking Survey Closing Soon, Draft CA Plan This Fall

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Support continuing coverage of Caltrans and statewide bicycle and pedestrian issues on Streetsblog California. Click on image to make a donation.

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Caltrans is developing the first-ever statewide effort to provide guidance on bicycle and pedestrian planning

As part of the process to develop the first-ever statewide bike and pedestrian plan, Caltrans has been collecting general information from people about their current walking and bicycling experience. The survey, available here, closes on June 30.

So far the department has collected about 2,500 responses from around the state. The information will be used to help formulate a draft California State Bike and Ped Plan, with the completed plan due in February 2017.

While at the State Bike and Ped Plan website, sign up for updates on the next phase of public outreach. A webinar about the plan is being put together for some time in late July or August. When the draft plan is released this fall, there will be “another round of public engagement,” according to Scott Forsythe, who is managing the effort for Caltrans.

The plan’s website is also due for an update in the next few weeks.

So far Caltrans has held ten regional workshops—well, nine, with the tenth happening in Eureka tomorrow—with local agency partners to gather feedback about coordinating on bike and pedestrian issues. The regional workshops gathered about 170 representatives from cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations, health departments, and law enforcement agencies. Bicycle and pedestrian advocates were invited to attend as well. See earlier SBCA coverage of a recent state plan workshop in Los Angeles.

The regional forums were an “early outreach effort,” according to Forsythe. A summary of the input from the forums will inform the draft plan. Then, in the fall, “there will be further opportunities for public input to the plan. We’re still looking for the best way to reach out to get the most effective input,” said Forsythe.

Currently Caltrans is developing draft objectives for the plan, with the help of a technical advisory committee made up of representatives of about forty planning agencies, state agencies, and advocates. The advisory committee “is a good cross section of California,” said Forsythe. “It includes representatives from urban areas and rural areas, mountain communities, coastal communities.” The advisory committee provides feedback on the draft objectives, and will help with developing strategies to meet those objectives and performance measures to evaluate whether they are being met.

The plan’s objectives are based on the six goals already developed for the statewide California Transportation Plan 2040. “There was an extensive statewide effort to develop the CTP goals,” said Forsythe, “and they apply to this plan.”

The goals in the CTP are a good start for a bike/ped plan. They are to: Read more…

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CA Legislative Update: Active Transportation Program, Bikes, and Budget

bikeatCapitollabel2California budget negotiations have moved into high gear with the naming of Senate and Assembly members to the bicameral budget conference committee. Leaders of the two bodies named five members each—up from three in previous years—and the conference committee held its first hearing this morning. The committee’s job is to find agreement among the three competing state budget proposals before June 15, when it must submit a final version to both houses to be voted on. The final budget agreement must be signed by the governor by the end of the month.

More on the budget, and the transportation issues that remain to be worked out, after the jump.

ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION PROGRAM

Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) saw his bill A.B. 2796  pass unanimously yesterday on the Assembly floor, and now it goes to the Senate. The bill requires a minimum of five percent of funds in the Active Transportation Program (ATP) to be allocated for planning and community engagement in disadvantaged communities, and a minimum of ten percent of ATP funds to be programmed for noninfrastructure purposes, such as education and encouragement activities.

The California Transportation Commission (CTC), which is in charge of allocating funds to the ATP, has resisted awarding funds for plans and programs, setting aside only two percent for planning in the most recent round of funding. The commissioners have made it clear that they prefer to fund building things: paths and other infrastructure. While this is good, it has put communities without money for planning—including small, rural, and low-income communities—at a disadvantage in the complex, competitive application process for ATP funding. Bloom’s bill is an attempt to make the process a little more fair.

It also acknowledges something that the CTC seems reluctant to recognize: that education and encouragement programs are necessary to get people to change their behavior, and actually use the infrastructure that communities are building. Programs like Safe Routes to Schools have seen their funding threatened and reduced with the CTC’s focus on infrastructure.

The CTC’s opposition hasn’t stopped its progress through the Assembly, but it may mean amendments in the Senate.

BIKES

The “Ride Side by Side” bill, A.B. 2509 from Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), is running into trouble. The bill’s author tried to add the word “safe” to existing law that requires a bicycle rider to ride “as close to the right as is either safe or practicable to the curb or roadway edge” but the words in italics above were deleted from the bill’s language. Apparently “safe” is just too subjective (and the legalese “practicable” is not?) for some legislators and their staff.

The intent of the bill is to clarify, for law enforcement and everyone, that it is okay for bicycle riders to ride side by side under certain circumstances—for example, while in a bike lane. But even that has met with stiff resistance and perplexity in committee hearings, where legislators, while protesting that they support bicycling, have made it clear they think riding side by side is a dangerous activity that will cause chaos in the streets.

The bill passed the Assembly and has been referred to the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

BUDGET

The California Bicycle Coalition has issued an “action alert” on the budget, urging people to contact their legislators and encourage them to support increased funding for the ATP while they negotiate the details. The Assembly and Governor’s proposals includes this increase, but the Senate version does not. A call is especially urgent if you live in a district represented by one of the Budget Conference Committee members (see end of this post for a list of members).

Read more…

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U.C. Institute For Transportation Studies Vies For Increased State Funding

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UC ITS research supports livability globally. One example is this ITS UC Davis report quantifying the benefits of urban cycling. Image via ITS UC Davis.

California’s 2016 budget may include additional funding for sustainable transportation research, education, and outreach.  The California Assembly’s proposed budget includes a $3 million increase for the University of California Institute of Transportation Studies. The funding increase was shepherded through the budget subcommittee by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, a SBCA Streetsie award winner. The budget item will now be considered by a conference committee.

Over the years, University of California Institute of Transportation Studies research has substantially helped California’s ongoing transition to livable streets and sustainable transportation. The Institute supports research centers at several U.C. campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, and Los Angeles – each engaged in exploring and important topics and producing useful data for policy makers, planners, and advocates throughout the state.

There are numerous ways that the UC ITS research has played important roles in advancing livability throughout the state, and indeed the world:

Through its engineering and planning programs, UC ITS produces more transportation professionals each year than any other US institution. Graduates of the UC program work in city and county planning departments, transit agencies, nonprofits, and planning and design firms. Streetsblog California Editor Melanie Curry is a graduate of UC Berkeley’s Transportation/City Planning program.  Read more…

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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

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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…