Urban Edginess

Where the City Meets its Future.

Coastal WaterfrontAge: Twelve Years on the Coast.

This is another of my recent posts containing the column I wrote in 1987 for California WaterfrontAge a magazine published by the California State Coastal Conservancy during my time as the Conservancy’s first Executive Director. It is also the last one since I soon left after 12 years of actively pursuing the protection of California’s magnificent coastal resources. The Coastal Conservancy was a new type of governmental agency at the time, more directed environmental restoration than the acquisition of parks and open space. Since it’s creation, the Conservancy,  has completed almost 2,500 projects along the California coastline and San Francisco Bay, protected over 400,000 acres of coastal land and restored over 35,000 acres of coastal habitat, built about 215 miles of new trail and spent over 1.4 billion dollars on projects. It works in partnership with other public agencies, nonprofit organizations and private landowners.

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Twelve Years on the Coast, 1973–1985…

 


THIS FINAL Joe’s Corner marks my departure from the State Coastal Conservancy after eight years as its executive officer. It seems an appropriate occasion to reflect on my twelve years in coastal management —  a period which stretches from the early, controversial days of the California Coastal Commission to a calmer era which has seen the Conservancy establish itself and mature to address new and important issues.

I entered the field in 1973 as chief counsel to the newly created California Coastal Commission. With the mandate of the new voter-approved Proposition 20, we faced the urgent task of preventing development that threatened to destroy the resources of the magnificent California coast of which we Californians were so proud. The Commission’s regulatory powers granted to them by a vote of the people of California enabled them, at least temporarily, to accomplish this task, but regulation also led to frustration.

The Commission’s power was essentially a negative one; it could only review those projects that apply for permits. It could not build public accessways to the water, restore degraded marshes, eliminate small lots on previously subdivided property, or achieve any of the other important goals that required positive action.

When The Commission began work on developing the Coastal Plan, it attempted to remedy the inadequacies inherent in temporary regulation. Eventually, they decided on a three-part approach:

First, deal with the immediate and cumulative impacts of proposed development through regulation and the adoption of local coastal protection land use plans prepared and administered by local governments and approved by the Commission as consistent with the Commission approved Local Coastal Plan;

Second, acquire those properties containing important ecological or recreational value by appropriate State and local government agencies and qualified non-profit entities funded through a voter-approved Bond Act and;

Third, create an entirely new agency equipped to take the positive actions to restore and preserve coastal resources, guide development along the coast and provide public access and recreational opportunities for all that the existing regulatory and other agencies were unable to accomplish.

Assigned to write the Governmental Powers and Funding element of the Coastal Plan,  in addition to developing the management structures of the entities to carry out the Coastal Plan, I designed a new agency to be called the State Coastal Conservancy. I developed the concept of this new type of governmental entity based on the lessons learned from observing the successes and failures of redevelopment programs and innovative private non-profit land trusts like the one in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Ultimately the three prongs of the plan were incorporated into three separate pieces of legislation that were passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in1976. The three laws together are referred to as the California Coastal Program

The coastal bills touched every interest group in Sacramento, and the lobbying was intense. I took a legislative staff job in 1975 in order to help draft and guide the bills through their rough but exciting passage.

The first prong of the solution, local regulation, has been a slow and sometimes frustrating process, but years of interim state regulation have fundamentally changed developers’ attitudes and have improved the quality of projects they propose on the coast.

The second prong, public acquisition, has been extremely successful: as of this time (1987), 27,000 acres of coastal lands have been bought, providing twenty-two new miles of public coastline. In Sonoma County, for example, most of the coast is now in public ownership where almost none existed before 1972.

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The Sonoma Coast.

 

(Note: Today (2018) approximately one-third of California’s over 1500 miles of shoreline is in park or other environmentally protected lands.)

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Recently (2015) I visited a combined project of the State Coastal Conservancy and the California Parks Department that preserved a long stretch of the Mendocino County Coastline. 

 

The third prong, the State Coastal Conservancy,  is the subject of the remainder of this column.

The Conservancy has a dual mission: to resolve conflicts that surface in the regulatory process and to take innovative steps to solve problems regulation cannot address. In the early years of the agency, these two missions often dovetailed; we were called upon to solve crises which had stymied the planners and regulators. At Oceanside, for example, the city had proposed a wall of shoreline condominiums, unacceptable to the Coastal Commission because it would have blocked off the beach. Through a process of citizen-attended design workshops, the Conservancy was able to help negotiate a plan acceptable to all parties.

In these conflict situations, the Conservancy has tried to break the impasse by bringing an economic viewpoint to bear on the issues. Keeping the hard numbers in mind, the Conservancy has proposed solutions that meet not only the regulatory goals of the State but the economic interests of the local government and the developer.

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Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara California, a Conservancy Urban Waterfront, Public Acess and conflict resolution project. 

 

Our access program was also designed to solve a crisis of sorts — the inability of regulatory authority to open up the beach. We decided not to wait for local coastal planning to finish its tortuous course, but instead to push forward with urgently needed accessways, simple paths or stairways that would allow people to reach the water. In eight years we paid for over 110 accessways that opened up significant portions of the beach in many popular areas like Malibu and Big Sur.

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Beach Access in Malibu.

As the agency has matured, our work evolved from alleviating piecemeal crises to developing long-range and comprehensive solutions. With the access program, now that we have built the most immediately needed accessways, we are looking only at projects that fit into a comprehensive scheme for a given area. In particular, over the past few years, a great deal of our work has been in helping develop integrated programs to revitalize the waterfronts of small cities. Much of the recreational potential of the coast lies in small cities like Oceanside or Morro Bay, and we are designing overall approaches to developing that potential in an economically feasible way. Accessways often form only one component in a strategy that might include pier restoration, park development, and commercial expansion.
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Restoration of the Magnificent Santa Monica Pier was a Conservancy Urban Waterfront Restoration Project.

 

Similarly, in our wetlands program, we are not only funding the restoration of degraded marshes but we are beginning to address the larger problem of managing the watersheds that the marshes depend upon. No matter how well a wetland is restored or how securely it is protected by regulation against filling or dredging, it will not survive if a disturbed watershed dumps silt on top of it. In Tomales Bay, Los Penasquitos Lagoon, and other areas, we are using siltation devices and selected acquisitions to help control those human disturbances to the watershed which threaten the wetlands below.

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Los Penasquitos Lagoon.

I believe the Conservancy’s success will continue to depend even more on how well it can do this kind of problem-solving. Up and down the California coast, wetlands have been saved from encroaching development, access has been improved, and other pressing problems have been addressed. Now it becomes all the more important to preserve and consolidate those gains for future generations.

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Arcata Marsh, a State Coastal Conservancy Assisted Wetlands Restoration Project.

 

Southern California’s wetlands will not survive without management of their watersheds; existing beaches will be overtaxed if new recreational facilities are not developed.

(Note: In 1976 when the Conservancy was created there few if any, wetland restoration projects under weigh and surprising little support for their rehabilitation.The Conservancy took the lead in wetland rehabilitation and that attitude began to change. In 1997, the Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project, a coalition of several governmental agencies, of which the Conservancy plays a significant role was created to coordinate wetland restitution and rehabilitation along the Southern California coast.)

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Bolsa Chica Wetlands Restoration.

 

The Conservancy has begun the arduous task of tackling these broader and more complex issues of land management. Over the last decade, the only new state environmental agencies created were the Santa Monica Mountains and Tahoe Conservancies, both modeled after the Coastal Conservancy. In an age of hostility toward bigger government, the success which the Conservancy has had and the support it continues to receive are welcome and promising signs for the future.

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Point Cabrillo Light Station, State Park and Restored Light Keepers’ Cottages.

 

 

Five Years on the Bay

 

IN THIS ISSUE commemorating the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, I will offer a few words on how the Conservancy has applied its multiple techniques and programs to San Francisco Bay, which came under the agency’s jurisdiction in 1981. The Bayshore, like the coast, has a regulatory agency – the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission-with the authority to limit harmful development but without the authority to build accessways or restore marshes. The Conservancy’s efforts complement those of the Bay Commission; to make the most of this relationship, the Conservancy has tried to use the comprehensive approaches which evolved out of our coastal experience.

San Francisco Bay is essentially an urban body of water. The Conservancy has therefore aimed its bay programs at urban needs. The ultimate goal of the access program is to create a shoreline trail which connects all the major cities of the bay. Between Oakland and San Jose, the trail is now almost complete. The Conservancy has funded walking trails or bicycle paths at Lake Merritt, Vallejo, Hayward, Benicia, and Palo Alto, and has funded nearly twenty other access projects. In all, the agency is responsible for a total of fifteen miles of new shoreline trails.
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That Inauspicious Beginning has Grown to This Today (2018).  

 

One of the more innovative components of the Conservancy’s access program is its barrier-free work. Five projects from Coyote Point to Benicia will change facilities to make them accessible to handicapped persons; this “retrofitting” includes installing ramps, making curb cuts, and remodeling restrooms.Hopefully, these projects will serve as models for new recreational facilities on the bay.

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Recreation therapist Bonnie Lewkowicz author of trail guides for the disabled and Brett Wilkison from the Coastal Conservancy examining Brisbane Marina to improve wheelchair accessibility.

 

Some of the Conservancy’s other wide-ranging recreational projects include a fishing pier in Napa County and a shoreline park in Berkeley planted with indigenous species. Most recently the Conservancy has funded the purchase of an extensive area along the Carquinez shoreline surrounding Port Costa. This will thoroughly preserve one of the few remaining open spaces and recreational areas in the East Bay.

The challenge which our wetlands program faces in the bay is to create and maintain habitat in urban areas. Potentially one of the most important mechanisms for this is the Conservancy’s new mitigation bank program, which works in conjunction with regulatory agencies.

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The above map shows the extent of Conservancy Wetland Projects Today (2018) in Southern San Francisco Bay.

Developers are sometimes allowed to fill or otherwise damage wetland habitat if they provide for replacement habitat somewhere off the project site. However, compliance with these “offsite” requirements has been disappointing, so the mitigation bank program was designed to make developers comply more effectively. The idea is that the Conservancy will restore certain historic wetlands on the bay and “deposit” their habitat value in a land bank; then developers with offsite requirements will have the option of simply reimbursing the agency for some portion of the habitat value. In this way, habitat replacement is achieved before the developer destroys any wetland, and the Conservancy can reuse the developer’s funds for additional wetland restoration. The Conservancy already has an agreement with the Bay Commission to carry out the program, and a pilot mitigation site on San Pablo Bay may be restored later this year.

Another way to help restore wetlands in urban areas is to use treated wastewater. On the bayfront in Hayward, the Conservancy is cooperating in a project that will use effluent to create 160 acres of freshwater and brackish marsh. The project is similar to the Arcata marsh restoration featured in the second issue of California WaterfrontAge.

Recently the Conservancy has focused on creeks which feed the bay but are threatened by encroaching urban development.

On Rush Creek, in Marin County, the Conservancy is developing an integrated strategy to purchase and restore habitat and to address the upland areas which could threaten that habitat. Projects such as this rely on a whole arsenal of techniques employed in a comprehensive approach.

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Rush Creek 

 

In the years ahead, the Conservancy will continue to help build on the regulatory and planning successes of the Bay Commission. The Conservancy is in an ideal position to play an important role in restoring diked baylands, expanding recreational opportunities, and meeting the other crucial challenges of the future.

 

 

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California WaterfrontAge: Urban Coastal Design — Dana Point and Oceanside.

 

This is the third post of a series in Urban Edginess in which I reproduce a column I had written in a magazine entitled WaterfrontAge published 40 years or so ago by the California State Coastal Conservancy of which I was the Executive Officer at the time. In my prior two posts, I introduced the magazine and its goals, and the concept of urban waterfront design and its difference from more rural coastal protection.

Here, I discuss two specific urban waterfronts. As can be seen in the recent aerial photograph of Dana Point below my optimism as to future development seems misplaced as the two small green swatches labeled Heritage Park and Lantern Bay Park the open space and parkland we required and helped improve so long ago as models for good urban waterfront design have been scarcely replicated. Nevertheless, the photograph of these coastal bluff top open space and recreational areas demonstrate the wisdom of our approach. Imagine what this would have been like if we had not intervened.

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Dana Point.

 

THROUGHOUT THE years I have effectively have been involved in coastal management, I have constantly been struck by how an otherwise commonplace waterfront development can be transformed through the inclusion of public access, both visual and physical. While the land developer’s three basic rules for successful development are location, location, and location, the rules for the public governing the shoreline should be access, access, and more access. Unfortunately, the land developer’s locational requirements and the agency’s access requirements are often considered incompatible. But on the waterfront, private development and public access can work to enhance each other. In urban waterfront design, the rule of access has a powerful effect on the rule of location. On a site near the ocean, for example, if the ocean view is blocked or if the people using the site can’t reach the beach safely and easily, then the site’s proximity to the water is of little value to developers.

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Lantern Bay Park Dana Point,

 

In California, some recent developments have integrated location and access with, I believe, spectacular results. I would like to describe two of these.
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Lantern Bay Park.

 

Above Dana Point Harbor in Orange County rises a sheer bluff. A small coastal canyon splits the face of the bluff and the property behind in two. Some time ago, a developer carved terraces in the bluff to get the fill for the harbor; the bluff now looks like a giant amphitheater facing the harbor. Despite the radical grading, the bluff remains unparalleled for viewing part of the southern California coastline, which could rival the Amalfi coast.

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Lantern Bay Park and The Coast of California.

 

The owner of the property originally intended to build single-family housing on the terraces up the bluff. This would have made the site unusable to the public. Following a long struggle with the California Coastal Commission, the developer agreed to set back the housing well behind the bluff edge on the half of the property upcoast of the canyon; on the downcoast half, he agreed to build a large park and hotel complex. On the upcoast section of the bluff, the developer has constructed a magnificent series of viewing rings connected by a sinuous path winding down from terrace to terrace. The viewing platforms resemble nothing else that I have seen in their extravagant celebration of public access. If one stands on the topmost viewing area, one can see the wide arc of the coast stretching to the south as well as the pathway crossing the canyon and snaking up into the still uncompleted park downcoast. An elegant iron fence separates the viewing terraces from the building pads behind the bluff, which are prepared to take what will certainly be expensive housing. Townhouses and other structures already completed on other portions of the property provide an almost Mediterranean flavor to the area.
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Lantern Bay Park,

 

The variety of style and type in the cosmopolitan collection contrasts markedly with the Visually uninteresting development similar in the area surrounding this property. Further north, in Dana Point, access requirements imposed by the Coastal Commission have reshaped what promises to be another notable coastal development. Already, one of the most elegant hotels in California sits on a spectacular bluff. The original developers wanted to build housing there instead, but the Coastal Commission demanded that the oceanfront property be devoted to visitor-serving development. The irony is especially sharp because the hotel promises to elevate the rest of the development into the sort of resort community developers love.

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Hotel at Lantern Bay Park, Dana Point.

Dana Point is growing into what some have called the California Riviera. In this case, access requirements benefited not only the people of the state but also the community of Dana Point and ultimately those who own property there.

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View of Heritage Park, Dana Point.

 

In the community of Oceanside, in San Diego County, a much different urban waterfront project is going forward, though it too shows the advantages of integrating public access with private development. Instead of responding to development pressures, as in Dana Point, Oceanside plans to create an urban waterfront that will encourage new development. The City expects its waterfront to benefit physically and economically. Oceanside became interested in the project because its waterfront was badly deteriorated and economically depressed. The city wanted to investigate the commercial potential of the beach, which was not being realized. The first plan which the City Redevelopment Agency prepared focused on the residential and commercial uses of the waterfront property. However, some of the city’s residents were against the massive development proposed, and the Coastal Commission was bothered by the lack of open space, inadequate public access, and problems with traffic and circulation.

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Oceanside Strand.
The Coastal Conservancy was called in to develop a program with the city that would resolve these conflicts. After conducting extensive economic analyses, a series of citizen workshops, and a design competition, the Conservancy produced a plan that met most of the objections.

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Children’s Playground, Oceanside Strand.

 

The final plan approved by the city of Oceanside embarked on an extensive restoration effort. One part of the plan seeks to increase the usefulness and the value of Oceanside’s waterfront by converting a solid block of developed beachfront into a public park, called the Strand Park. As in Dana Point, the park would offer public access close to the commercial and residential development.

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View of  Bluffs and Children’s Playground.

 

As it happened, however, one large parcel of property in the designated block, containing an old apartment building, was too expensive to buy easily. The difficulty this presented was resolved when the new owners, an investment group, made it clear that they intended to rehabilitate the building in a manner consistent with the city’s plans.

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Oceanside Strand.

 

The city of Oceanside and the Coastal Commission have approved this change in the plan, and Strand Park will be designed around the new development. The Conservancy has loaned the city $900,000 to create the park. The requirement of visual and physical
access has not, in the Oceanside project, prevented development. On the contrary, the expensive renovation that this investment group is planning would have been unlikely and certainly would have been less profitable if the City hadn’t been working to enhance the waterfront area as a whole.

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Oceanside Beach and Pier at Sundown.

 

In addition to these economic benefits, the project has brought Oceanside some less expected rewards. The Oceanside Strand Restoration Study received a Meritorious Program Award from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association and a citation for an “outstanding contribution in design” from the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

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Oceanside Strand.

 

In the two very different projects at Oceanside and Dana Point, the rule of access manages to serve both art and commerce and to offer substantial rewards to the public at large, to the waterfront community, and to the private developer.

 

Note: This entire issue of California WaterfrontAge can be found at: http://scc.ca.gov/webmaster/coast_ocean_archives/0101.pdf

 

 

California WaterfrontAge: Beginning.

California WaterfrontAge was a magazine first published by California’s  State Coastal Conservancy about 40 years ago during the time I served as director of the then-new agency. The purpose of the magazine was to introduce the general public to the benefits of reclaiming for the public the nation’s urban waterfronts that forty years ago had been in a sad state of decline. New approaches toward to reverse that decay recently had been initiated in several of the nation’s cities and the State Coastal Conservancy just had been created to provide the leadership for these endeavors in California   In a prior post in Urban Edginess, I reproduced an article I had written in California WaterfrontAge about some of these projects and programs. The following is my introductory column to the first issue of that magazine.

At the beginning of any new endev­or, It Is appropriate to set out Its goals and ambitions. What we in the Conservancy hope to accomplish with the publication of this magazine is a focusing of attention upon the public benefits of sound innovative design in the renewal of our urban waterfront resources.

The name of this magazine-California WaterfrontAge-was deliberately chosen to highlight that this indeed is the “waterfront age.” After a tremendous initial growth followed by a long, slow decline, the waterfronts of our nation are now experiencing profound changes and revitalization. In almost every city with a waterfront, the old industrial and commercial uses are giving way to new recreational and living environments.

In Baltimore, New York, San Francisco, and a host of other cities, new commercial tourist attractions have either sprung up or are planned. “Festival Market Places” they are often called, and indeed they are. In other cities, parks and attractions along the waterfront designed to delight both resident and visitor have flourished. In San Antonio and Denver, for example, once-neglected riverways have been transformed into ribbons of parks and trails winding their way through the heart of the city.

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San Antonio Riverwalk.

In creating the “Urban ‘Waterfront Restoration Act of 1981,” the California state legislature stated: California’s urban waterfronts, being often the first part of an urban area to develop and. thus. the first to decay. are in need of restoration in order to be the vital economic and cultural component of the community which they once were.

A state agency, the State Coastal Conservancy, was designated as the agency to coordinate the activities of all other state agencies and all federal agencies that have programs affecting California’s urban waterfronts in order to increase the efficiency and minimize duplication of those programs.” By encouraging sound planning and design and awarding grants for the development of accessways, piers, and other amenities, the

Conservancy has become a major influence in California’s changing urban waterfront scene. More recently the Conservancy, along with the new California Urban Waterfront Area Restoration Financing Authority, has been authorized to provide $650 million in revenue bonds for the restoration of California’s urban waterfronts.

Over $15 million in grants in more than twenty jurisdictions have been awarded by the Conservancy for projects with a direct value of over S100 million and indirect benefits amounting to many times more.

In all cases, the Conservancy has sought to promote waterfront designs which were simple and intuitively understandable, economically feasible. easily accessible. Visually pleasing, and encouraging to those uses dependent upon a location near the water.

First among these values is accessibility. People will travel farther to get to the shore or to a beach than to other recreational destinations. The accommodation of this attraction is a major goal of urban shoreline planning. In the urban waterfront more than anywhere else, the variety of uses, as well as their availability, are the standard against which success must be measured.

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Santa Monica Pier (A State Coastal Conservancy Project).

In Long Beach. the vast range of shorefront uses available to almost everyone more than offsets the clumsy grandiosity of the design. That great accessibility was due in large part to the fortunate coming together of a sensitive city planning director and ‘a state regulatory agency-the California Coastal Commission-determined to require maximum public access.

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Long Beach.

It is the goal of this magazine to highlight those projects and techniques throughout the West which demonstrate these design goals, and which present a vision of the usefulness of urban waterfront restoration and the most effective strategies for achieving it. This column is the first of a series. In future issues, we will attempt to set out some general standards for urban waterfront improvement, as well as offer critiques of specific waterfront programs past and present. We hope you enjoy
California WaterfrontAge!

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Arcata Marsh (A State Coastal Conservancy Project).

 

Note: This entire issue of California WaterfrontAge can be found at: http://scc.ca.gov/webmaster/coast_ocean_archives/0101.pdf

WaterfrontAge: The Urban Waterfront — Morro Bay and Arbroath.

Over 40 years ago, I helped draft the California Coastal Plan. Among the elements of that plan was the Government, Planning and Powers element that I authored and from which the structure of the massive California Coastal Program was drafted into several separate pieces of Legislation including: the creation of the California Coastal Commission to regulate new development along California’s 1500 mile coast; a 300 million dollar bond act to begin purchasing those recreational and environmental lands of irreplaceable value and; the creation of a novel agency the State Coastal Conservancy whose job it was to facilitate the purchase of lands needed for planning purposes (e.g. buffer  areas for coastal cities, consolidation of unbuilt out subdivisions and the like), restoration of coastal reasources threatened or degraded by pre-existing development, urban waterfront restoration, public access and coastal dependant agriculture preservation.

Shortly after the passage of the legislation in 1976, I became the first executive officer of the Slate Coastal Conservancy. During my tenure, the Conservancy published a magazine entitled “WaterfrontAge.”  It was focused primarily upon the urban waterfront, the use of land acquisitions to control the spread of urban development into existing undeveloped areas along the shoreline and general resource restoration initiatives.

After I left the Conservancy the magazine’s name was changed to “Coast and Ocean.” It’s focus was shifted from the urban environment to the rural environment. This change reflects the tension among those involved in coastal matters between two points of view. Ther are those who believed the emphasis should be on controlling the spread of existing urban development onto highly valuable resource and open space areas and to provide for those urban amenities that would encourage people to want to remain or resettle in those urban areas.(e.g. parks, recreation, visitor-serving uses.) On the other side, there are those who believe that government’s role should be focused primarily upon preventing development wherever it does not currently exist.  Of course, there are those who believe a government should not be involved at all in the business of protecting resources and regulating industrial, commercial and residential development.

Recently, while wandering through the internet, I came upon a copy of the third issue of “WaterfrontAge” from about 35 years ago. In it was my introduction to the issue. I thought it would be interesting to re-published it here to see how well it has aged.

 

I BELIEVE there are two primary elements that reappear in the urban waterfronts we consider exciting and attractive. The first element is a cluster of activities that require a waterfront location — recreational uses such as bathing or boating; commercial uses like fishing, cruise-ship berthing, boat haul-out facilities, and port operations; and environmental uses such as the wildlife sanctuary described in the previous issue of WaterfrontAge. The second element is public access: whether achieved by paths, boardwalks, or promenades, public access adds to the vitality and color of the area and certainly improves the overall value of the waterfront location, both for the public served and for the commercial ventures nearby. The variety of uses on the waterfront-sometimes in startling juxtaposition-attracts a variety of visitors. and public access increases the force of that attraction. However, it seems that these two requirements, access and water-related uses, must exist together to guarantee a lively waterfront.

In addition to these primary elements, the waterfront should provide activities for their support such as boat repair facilities, chandleries, bait shops, restaurants, and even hotels. Beyond this the normal city uses and densities are appropriate.

In my travels, I have found this pattern of waterfront development remarkably consistent in both recreational and working waterfronts. In particular, in Scotland, I happened upon a small fishing Village on the east coast called Arbroath. Its harbor. encircled by walkways and old stone breakwaters, teems with activity; recreational and fishing boats jostle one another; people strolling stop to watch the fishing boats unloading and processing their catch or to watch the fish being smoked. Restaurants, inns, and shops line the streets nearby and overlook the harbor, and the houses of residents peek out over the scene.

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Abroath

Adjacent to all this activity, a small rocky beach is crowded with bathers. But surprisingly, a few hundred yards away and still visible from the harbor, there is a wide sandy beach, backed by a handsome promenade and an empty grassy slope. The beach and its park are often deserted, in marked contrast to the busy harbor area. The contrast suggests a connection between the harbor’s development and its appeal; unlike the solitary beach. the harbor provides facilities, for a variety of activities as well as simple access.

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Arbroath and other well-known waterfront cities arrived at this pattern of development by trial and error. The pressures of competing uses on the waterfront led to the development of a variety of different industries side- by side. In addition. certain industries. such as fishing, boating and lodging enforced the need for public access to the waterfront.
Recently, the State Coastal Conservancy’ has embarked on a number of projects that seek to help establish this pattern in some of California’s urban waterfronts.

In Morro Bay. a small town in San Luis Obispo County. our application of these elements is nearing completion. The Conservancy has had a tremendous influence on Morro Bay’s waterfront.The area is particularly suitable for the Conservancy’s projects because it has
remained largely undeveloped, and our projects can influence the shape of future
development. We decided that it was inappropriate and unnecessary to attempt to redevelop the area so we decided instead to anticipate future growth and provide the structural elements around which the waterfront could develop as the city of Morro Bay grows.

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This meant that our projects aimed to manipulate the existing development pressures
into patterns which would guarantee the long-term health of the waterfront as well as provide public amenities.

The Embarcadero had become crowded with commercial uses which had come to exclude other uses. Our first project was to open the area to public use by planning two public parks at either end of the Embarcadero. From the Embarcadero, the view of Morro Bay’s striking harbor had been gradually cut off by restaurants built over the water on pilings. Ironically, the commercial value of the view had led to the development that threatened that very view, one of the major tourist attractions of the area. One Conservancy project extends viewing platforms from the streets that end at the harbor’s edge; these platforms also provide physical access to the harbor by including ramps leading down to floating docks. The docks are to be used by visiting boaters, who would be able to dock there and visit the city’s restaurants and shops. This improved access has created considerable interest among private developers, who see a likely market for visiting boaters.

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The local commercial fishing industry. containing the largest active fleet in southern California was enhanced by a Conservancy grant for a new commercial fishing pier for tying up fishing boats and unloading the catch. By ordinance, the commercial fishing fleet on the northern end of the Embarcadero is protected from the pressures of lucrative visitor-serving development. However, the city administrator at Morro Bay, Gary Napper, considers the fishing fleet’s activities a major tourist attraction. Visitors come to the pier especially to watch the fish scooped from the boats the dropped in a cascade into the carts on the docks on their way to the nearby processing plant. The push to diversify the uses of the waterfront has included recent plans to make a major fish-processing plant stretching from downtown to the Embarcadero itself, which should improve the quality of that product and provide an interesting fixture for tourists to visit.
Most recently, the initial steps have been taken to provide some public financing for the construction of two hotels to support the rehabilitation of Morro Bay’s waterfront. In contrast to this large-scale commercial development, part of the Conservancy’s program at Morro Bay has been the restoration and preservation of the extensive dune areas north of the town center.

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Mayor Bud Zeuchner considers the economics of the waterfront’s development secondary to the need to preserve the aesthetic value of the setting, which is considerable. He believes that the Conservancy’s projects have successfully combined the conflicting pressures (to develop commerce, to preserve natural beauty, to encourage tourism) into a compatible system. The final product, he anticipates, will be a waterfront where water and land both meet the people and meet the people’s needs. The comprehensive plan which embraces Morro Bay’s waterfront does not allow anyone use to intrude on any other, yet still encourages a great variety of water-dependent uses of the waterfront.

Every effort has been made to pattern Morro Bay’s waterfront after the liveliest urban waterfronts, like that at Arbroath. The Conservancy’s projects have sought to combine commercial, recreational, and environmental elements of water-dependent activity. to juxtapose these uses for more efficiency and interest, and to provide sufficient access to the waterfront to encourage visitors.

Although it remains to be seen if Morro Bay’s waterfront. which is bound to grow, develops into the lively and productive setting we find in the world’s most successful waterfronts, I think a good start has been made.

15560_MorroBayEstuary

The Problem with Electric and Self-driving Automobiles:

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I support the movement toward electric vehicles and self-driving automobiles. They are a necessary component of any comprehensive assault on the looming crisis of human-induced climate change. There is, however, an emerging problem that should be examined and solutions proposed and implemented— the sooner the better.

The automotive system in the United States, as it is in most countries, can be described as predominately individually owned vehicles operated on collectively owned and maintained public rights of way. In the US, this system of right of ways is funded, not from the government’s General Fund, but chiefly by a type of user tax based upon levies on gasoline and other petroleum products used to power the vehicles.

Since about the turn of the Century, miles driven per person have fallen consistently year after year. Increased mileage rates per gallon of gasoline have risen putting additional stress on the various Highway Trust Funds. Major replacement of aging bridges and tunnels must now use the government’s general funds if they are to be repaired at all.

What will happen to the nation’s roads and highways during the 2020s when electric cars and trucks are expected to make up significant portions of the vehicles using the nation’s roadways? They are now given a free ride. That cannot continue. Solutions should not wait for the crisis to occur that may leave the highway fund in a hole that it may never be able to fill.

Although there appear to be several credible ways to resolve this emerging problem, we are talking about changing a nation’s entire system for funding its most significant transportation network upon which its economy is based. It will take time to work out the politics, procedures, and technologies of any system we settle on.

We should be doing this now before not after the crisis hits us.

Musings on the Recent Coup at the California Coastal Commission.

 

Those who know me know that many years ago I played a role in the fight to protect coastal resources. As chief counsel to the initiative created California Coastal Commission, I managed the development permit process and wrote most of the Governmental Powers and Funding element of California Plan from which the California Coastal Program emerged from the legislature in 1976.

That program consisted of three parts. The first part was to reconstitute the California Coastal Commission with significantly expanded jurisdiction and very specific rules and standards with which to regulate new development.

The second part created a new entity, the California Coastal Conservancy because some resources were too valuable to be left to the vagaries of a regulatory process and their preservation often inconsistent with the mandates and programmatic requirements of the state’s park and wildlife acquisition agencies and finally to restore those resources where pre-existing development damaged or degraded them.

The third element was a bond act to fund the Conservancy and the other land acquisition agencies.

Following completion of the Plan, I joined the legislature as a staff consultant to a Special Senate Committee on Land Use. When the original bill we had drafted reflecting the plan faltered I served as staff for then-Senator Jerry Smith and worked to successfully shepherd all three elements of the plan the program through the legislative process.

Later, I became the first Executive Officer of the Coastal Conservancy and when I left and went into private practice, I sometimes represented, as an attorney, those to whom the markedly increased value we had created for those who obtain a coastal development permit was irresistible.

I write the foregoing as background and evidence that I have some experience in coastal matters that enables me to comment and analyze the importance of the political coup that has recently occurred reflected by the removal of the Commission’s Executive director Dr. Charles Lester who I do not know and about whose competency I have no opinion.

Some have said the coup benefits the development community at the expense of coastal resources. That is undeniably true, but its import more sinister.

The Coastal Commission has been remarkably effective in carrying out its mandate to assure that new development does not irreparably damage irreplaceable environmental and recreational resources along the coast. It is, however, also notable and often missed that, among governmental agencies, its process up until now has been remarkably open to all and free of secret influence and collusion.

Since its creation, the Commission has adopted ever increasingly strict regulations on disclosure and the behavior of all the participants in the process including the staff and the commission itself. Decision making has been brought out into the public arena.

True, I and others have at times criticized the Commission for notable failures to protect a specific resource or the staff for callous behavior and its tendency to avoid preserving or restoring a resource where it could in favor of simply denying development, but on the whole, the process seems to work and has grown over the years to be relatively free of corruption and political influence despite the public fishbowl in which it is forced to operate and the financial strength and political power of many of the interests involved .

Those seeking permits had to rely on those knowledgeable about the Commission’s procedures and provide generally technically competent information to the Commission. The Commission Staff, in turn, had to develop the ability to analyze the information and present their conclusions in public. Communications from those trying to influence Commissioners were disclosed. The public had access to the information and reasonable confidence in the independence and competency of the process.

Now, at least for the largest of development interests, I fear this action to remove the Executive Director has pulled the real decision making back to Sacramento where accountability is often hidden; where money talks and not technical analysis; where laws can be ignored in return for favors.

The Governor, Jerry Brown, cannot continue to deny complicity in this. He has simply chosen bad old government corruption and secrecy over open government.

Is this the end of the Coastal Commission as an effective guardian of the Coast? Certainly it opens the way for the largest and most destructive of developers to have their way with those coastal resources remaining in private hands.

As for the Coastal Program as a whole, it is in generally good shape. For the past 40 years, vast amounts of critical resource lands have been removed from the vagaries of the regulatory process where David Brower once told me, “All our victories are temporary and all out defeats permanent.” Local communities, land trusts, and state agencies have begun the process of restoring those resources on public lands damaged by pre-existing development.

Once during the battle for passage of the various pieces of Coastal Legislation a legislator asked me, “I fly all over California and when I look down I see lots and lots of wild natural lands why do you want to stop development on this little bit?”

“That’s just the point,” I responded. “With all that land, much of it not particularly sensitive, why do you want to build on this irreplaceable resource?”

The real reason why local governments often have to raise taxes or revenue or go bankrupt:

I usually hate it when a post begins with something like, “I was going to write about___ but___.” So I won’t. What I was going to write and did is included at the end of this Diary. It is basically a discussion of some studies regarding growth, development, and physical planning that appear in a blog called, “Strong Towns,” that I found interesting.

What I did decide to do, however, is meander a bit and speculate about some things that the blog suggested to me.

Having a career arc extending from running one of the more active at the time civil rights groups existing during the dark ages of the movement, writing much of the plan and legislation for what still remains one of the nation’s most significant land use control programs, California’s Coastal Program, and administering major portions of it, chairing California’s High Speed Rail Authority, interspersed with attempts to save the world within the counter culture, reforming a state’s mental health laws, a religion’s liturgy, a city’s approach to homelessness and so on as well as succeeding and failing at various professional, personal and financial endeavors more times than I care to admit, I have developed the arrogance to believe wholeheartedly that experience breeds wisdom and I know what I am talking about. I also have never found a run-on sentence I have written that I have not fallen in love with. (Note, for the literalists reading this, actually I do not believe that experience equals knowledge and success implies competence. There is too much anecdotal and scientific evidence floating around that supports that they do not to think otherwise.)

Because of my interest in physical planning and development and its interplay with economic, social and political thought and action, I found the studies described in “Strong Towns” worth noting for the simplicity with which they identify the problems they examine. The authors of the blog write from the perspective of consultants arguing for adaptive reuse of existing urban areas. Despite the potential self-promotion, their analysis appears spot on. They do however, it seems to me, fail to recognize that the syndrome they criticize in the suburbs eventually may repeat themselves even in the “walkable cities” they envision.

About 80% of the posts I have written, here and in other venues like Daily Kos, attempt to address, sometimes well and other times not so well, a simple contention that there may be a ghost in the machine we call humanity. That unless we consider the possibility that humanity rather than the apex of evolution may be little more than a doomed branch of the evolutionary tree and compare the implications of each assumption, we may be limiting our ability to understand what is happening and what needs to be done to assure our own happiness and survival.

For example, Malthus’ analysis of the relationship between population and resources may be only the tip of the iceberg. Consider the following from the ever perceptive Brad DeLong:

“To put it another way: In 1870 the daily wages of an unskilled worker in London would have bought him (not her: women were paid less) about 5,000 calories worth of bread–5,000 wheat calories, about 2½ times what you need to live (if you are willing to have your teeth fall out and your nutritionist glower at you). In 1800 the daily wages would have bought him about 3,500 calories, and in 1600 2,500 calories. Karl Marx in 1850 was dumbfounded at the pace of the economic transition he saw around him. That was the transition that carried wages from 3500 calories per day-equivalent in 1800 to 5000 in 1870. Continue that for another two seventy-year periods, and we would today be at 10,000 calories per unskilled worker in the North Atlantic today per day.
Today the daily wages of an unskilled worker in London would buy him or her 2,400,000 wheat calories.
Not 10,000. 2,400,000.”

Even were we to convert from fossil fuels to renewable energy will we as a species also be able to restrain our seeming insatiable desire to consume ever more resources in order to secure better lives? I am not so sure, but at least, if we do eliminate fossil fuels, we will have a little more time to see if we can figure things out.

So let’s look at what “Strong Towns” had to say:

The Real Cost of Infrastructure Development

A report, a few years ago, from “Strong Towns” a development think tank argues that the first generation of suburbia was built on and maintained by savings and investment, but the second was built and maintained by borrowing tons of money. We are now entering the third generation. We are out of savings and investment and easy money, now what do we do?

They also point out that in every case they studied, the useful life of an infrastructure investment paid for by borrowing from the private market was less than the time it took to pay back the loans. What this means is that almost every community that invested in infrastructure by borrowing will likely face the need to substantially raise taxes or file for bankruptcy should growth slow or stop.

Finally, the report found that, in almost every case where a developer paid for or otherwise donated infrastructure improvements as part of its development in return for the community assuming responsibility for operation and maintenance of the improvements, eventually the community required a tax increase to pay for their continued maintenance and replacement.

It used to be that in embarking on an infrastructure project, the costs for future operation and maintenance were budgeted for and automatically carried over to subsequent budgets or, as another way to handle it, operation and maintenance funds were established and funded as part of the original budget. One of the centerpieces of the Reagan Revolution was abolishing this practice so that his administration could appear to have cut spending in the budget while also permitting them to raid the sequestered maintenance funds to use on other programs. I know this because I was high-level bureaucrat during his administration as Governor of California and saw it first hand. Not only did this practice push-off the burden onto to future generations (like ours today) but by masking the true long-term costs, it encouraged the orgy of borrowing that marks current governmental policy worldwide. This was neither traditional liberal nor conservative orthodoxy, but a cynical ploy to obtain and hold power by pandering to the economic elite.

If it comes either to pandering to the rich or pandering to the average person, I know which side of the street I would prefer my elected politicians to set up their cribs.

At this same time, Wall Street and the banking industry were just getting geared up to promote new products to fund government by financing a host of long-term investments that would in fact rarely be paid off. Their representatives prowled the offices of both Governor Jerry Brown and Ronald Reagan as well as the State Legislature arguing that the State’s capital investments were under leveraged. They argued that trough the magic of leveraging existing capital projects money could be freed up to allow the leveraging of future good and needed projects without ever needing to raise taxes. It seemed like magic, money for nothing.

Jerry Brown, as was his predilection, was more than dubious but many of those surrounding him bought into it urging him to consider the parks and natural areas that could be preserved and the jobs created from the projects funded. Brown ultimately gave in, but to his credit, the projects he did agree to were smaller and fewer than those urged on him by his advisors.

The Reagan administration on the other hand, bought into it because many of its senior officials came out of the financial industry (The Democrats had not yet peopled their administrations with ex-financial industry personnel) and it appeared to be a good way to transfer tax revenue and spread profits around to the administration’s supporters while appearing to benefit the economy without raising taxes.

As a result, there followed an orgy of borrowing by all levels of government to fund and pay for capital expenditures. It was seen as a good way to obtain infrastructure without raising taxes. The products themselves were structured by the lenders. The resulting financial structures were often more complex than they had been previously. The legions of bankers, economists and financial advisors that descended on government pushing the loans clearly outmatched the ability of public bureaucrats, whose job it was to protect the public purse, to adequately analyze the fiscal implications of the deals. They were also cowed by the politicians who had bought into the program hook line and sinker and clamored for the projects. They also were pressured to approve the deals by their bosses, many of whom came from the industry and hoped to return there when their stint in government was over.

As a result, questionable loans were made. Things that had not been regularly financed before began to be so. At times, in the case of financing infrastructure projects, exaggerated estimates of the life of what was being financed and things like increased maintenance costs as the infrastructure aged were forgotten.

This system did not collapse like a punctured bubble as it often does in the private market because as my grandfather an owner of a construction company advised (and Paul Krugman confirms), one should contract with the government whenever they can because the government always pays their bills, no matter the state of the economy. The profits may be smaller and the money worth less because of inflation, but you had your money. (Alas, as the financial industry crept further and further into the operation of government, they demanded their profits match those they could receive in private deals. They then began to insist that government guarantee that their profits not be discounted through inflation even though the inflation may have been caused to a great extent by their own activities. As far as I know, not a single investigator has studied how and why this happened.)

Eventually, both Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor climbed aboard the bandwagon. They were followed by a host of political appointees from the industry who given their experience with these things joined government as advisors and executives. Whether they were liberal or conservative they could see nothing amiss. Republicans were happy taxes were not being raised during their watch while the private market got the contracts for the work. Democrats were thrilled for the jobs.

The real reason why local governments often have to raise taxes or revenue or go bankrupt (Hint, it is not from spending on social programs, education or public security):

According to “Strong Towns” as described above, we are now in the third cycle of suburban development in the United States.

Although “Strong Towns” analysis reflects US suburb growth patterns, it most likely also applies to larger areas and their infrastructure development including countries. What we build and pay for with debt [whether public or private] generally has not included accounting for replacement costs or operation and maintenance beyond the infrastructure’s estimated life cycle, which as a rule is less than the payback period on the bonds used to build it in the first place. This would be like borrowing for your weeks food agreeing to pay it back in installments over two weeks, then borrowing the following weeks food on the same terms hoping that somehow the nourishment can be converted into increased earnings. The syndrome compulsive gamblers suffer resemble this.

Case study: “Free roads’ are a myth”:

A group of high-value lake properties petitions the city to take over their road. They agree to pay the entire cost to build the road — a little more than $25,000 per lot — in exchange for the city agreeing to assume the maintenance. As one city official said, “A free road!”

Question: How much is the repair cost estimated to be after one life cycle and how does that compare to the amount of revenue from these properties over that same period?

Answer: It will cost an estimated $154,000 to fix the road in 25 years, but the city will only collect $79,000 over that period for road repair. To make the numbers balance, an immediate 25% tax increase is necessary along with annual increases of 3% with all of the added revenue going for road maintenance.
(See Strong Towns for more examples)

The author introduces their studies with the following:

Since the end of World War II, our cities and towns have experienced growth using three primary mechanisms:

Transfer payments between governments: where the federal or state government makes a direct investment in growth at the local level, such as funding a water or sewer system expansion.

Transportation spending: where transportation infrastructure is used to improve access to a site that can then be developed.

Public and private-sector debt: where cities, developers, companies, and individuals take on debt as part of the development process, whether during construction or through the assumption of a mortgage.

In each of these mechanisms, the local unit of government benefits from the enhanced revenues associated with new growth. But it also typically assumes the long-term liability for maintaining the new infrastructure. This exchange — a near-term cash advantage for a long-term financial obligation — is one element of a Ponzi scheme.

The other is the realization that the revenue collected does not come near to covering the costs of maintaining the infrastructure. In America, we have a ticking time bomb of unfunded liability for infrastructure maintenance. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates the cost at $5 trillion — but that’s just for major infrastructure, not the minor streets, curbs, walks, and pipes that serve our homes.

The reason we have this gap is because the public yield from the suburban development pattern — the amount of tax revenue obtained per increment of liability assumed — is ridiculously low. Over a life cycle, a city frequently receives just a dime or two of revenue for each dollar of liability. The engineering profession will argue, as ASCE does, that we’re simply not making the investments necessary to maintain this infrastructure. This is nonsense. We’ve simply built in a way that is not financially productive.

We’ve done this because, as with any Ponzi scheme, new growth provides the illusion of prosperity. In the near term, revenue grows, while the corresponding maintenance obligations — which are not counted on the public balance sheet — are a generation away.

 

____________

Today’s Quote:

“Sicarius… celebrated the feast of the Nativity… with Austrighiselus and the other neighbors…. The priest… sent a boy to invite some of the men to come to his house for a drink. When the boy got there, one of the men he invited drew his sword and did not refrain from striking him. He fell down and was dead…. Sicarius… took his arms and went to the church to wait for Austrighiselus. The latter heard about this and armed himself…. [B]oth parties suffered harm…. Sicarius got away unnoticed… made for his homestead… leaving behind… his silver, his clothes, and four of his servants who had been wounded. After he had fled, Austrighiselus broke into the building, killed the servants, and took away with him the gold, the silver, and the other things. When they appeared later before the people’s court, the sentence was that Austrighiselus was to pay the legal penalty for manslaughter…. Sicarius, forgetting about these arrangements… broke the peace… invaded the home, killed father, brother, and son, and having done away with the servants took all their belongings and their cattle. When we heard this, we grew greatly perturbed…”
Gregory, Bishop of Tours.

“Perturbed?” Freaked out is more likely I would think.

The Destruction of Urban Life in the Syrian Saddle Through Misuse of a Common Resourse

While there may be several claimants for responsibility for the current crisis in the Middle East, I believe the following article describes the most likely culprit. Although Climate Change may have exacerbated the situation, as the article demonstrates, not all contributing factors are direct causes. It is simply the Tragedy of the Commons played out on a larger scale.

How Russia and Western Style Capitalism Set the Stage for the Horror that is Syria Today — and no it is not about oil.

Over-exploitation of an ecosystem

The Syrian steppe covers 55% of the country’s territory. This vast steppe land, together with portions from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, has been grazed sustainably by nomadic indigenous pastoralists (Bedouins) for centuries (if not more). Each tribe and clan was linked to certain seasonal pastures and this ensured the sustainability of the grazing — a practice finely calibrated on the need of plant regeneration.

These pastoralists of Arabia are known to have been pioneers in establishing ‘protected areas’ (hema): certain pastures were relieved from grazing, permanently or temporary, in order to allow keeping the whole ecosystem healthy and functional.

The beginning of the ecological degradation and destruction came with the modern state, so keen to uncritically import ideas of maximization of agricultural yields from the Soviet Union: in particular the central government decided to nationalize the steppe in 1958, establishing de facto an open access system — a well known recipe for ecological disaster.

Through this arrangement the customary link between the natural resource and its user was interrupted — abruptly disowning the traditional ecological knowledge of this ancient people. The pastures, not managed and protected anymore by the tribes, started to be over-grazed by free-ranging pastoralists.

A major role in this unfolding disaster was played by affluent urban investors who threw thousands of livestock into the steppe turning the grazing into a large-scale, totally unsustainable, industrial practice.

A similar sort of story of gross mismanagement took place in the eastern part of the Syria’s steppe land, the territory east to the Euphrates, allocated to intensive agriculture via irrigation through underground water.

Water has been pumped from limited underground reserves without much control for decades — so that wells had to be dug every year deeper and deeper with increasing consumption of fuel.

Year by year, desertification sets in.

The alternation of wet and dry periods (sometimes lasting up to 5-7 years) is a key structural and natural feature of this kind of environment. The relentless ecological degradation of this semi-arid fragile ecosystem produced a gradual and steady decrease of its resilience in the face of cycles of droughts made increasingly more severe and frequent by a long-term regional drying pattern linked to the greenhouse effects.

Note that increasing the resilience of ecosystems is actually one of the key natural solutions as adaptation to climate change, as it is currently referred to within the circles of climate change international aid work.

While in the past the steppe was able to recover even following intense periods of droughts, during the past decade pastoralists and farmers have started to complain about a sharp and ineluctable reduction in soil fertility and an increase of frequency of fierce dust storms due to erosion.

An evident desertification process has been on display across the steppe land for quite some time. Recommendations to reduce the ecological pressure on this fragile environment — from myself and others — went unheard.

Ecological crisis fans the flames of rebellion.

Following a recent cycle of intense drought during 2006-2010, the agriculture system eventually collapsed in eastern Syria greatly facilitated by an abrupt halt of government subsidies and consequent soaring prices of fuel for wells.

At the same time, the ecological impoverishment of the rangelands reached unheard-of levels. “The drought only brought to light a man-made disaster,” said a local journalist from eastern Syria to the International Crisis Group in 2009.

This combined ecological crisis of croplands and rangelands created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the rural areas of the country, followed by massive internal displacements, that the government clearly failed to tackle and manage.

For the first time ever Syria, known to be proudly autonomous in terms of food production (and actually even exporting food), had to rely on a massive international emergency food aid in 2008.

It is therefore not a coincidence that the uprising in 2011 started in provincial towns rather than in the major urban centres of Damascus and Aleppo, Francesca De Chatel argues, aptly defining the rebellion as a “rural Intifada” — one in which Bedouin tribes of steppe origin played a key role.

The same sort of conclusions were reached in analyzing the triggers of the Darfur war that that took place from 2003 to 2010 not far from Syria. Darfur suffered from precisely the same sort of over-exploited semi-arid ecosystem, while one again rural and indigenous people were the victims, including nomadic pastoralists.

Gianlucca Serra, UN — FAO.

A comment on City Planning:

“Recent developments in the global system of cities present a curious paradox. With the cost of communications declining almost to zero and substantial, though less dramatic reductions in transport costs, there is now little technical requirement for most kinds of production to be undertaken in any particular location, or for elements of production chains to be located close to each other. This fact has had dramatic consequences for the organization of manufacturing industry. Simple production chains involving the import of raw materials, usually from developing countries, for processing in a specialized centre, have been replaced by far more complex structures.

Yet, in important respects, the dominance of a small number of ‘global cities’ has never been greater. In this paper, it is argued that the dominance of global cities reflects a desire for clustering on the part of finance sector professionals and corporate executives. It seems likely that such clustering provides private benefits by enhancing the value of personal contacts, but reduces the efficiency and profitability of the corporate sector.”
John Quiggin. Abstract to Cities, Connections and Cronyism. 2006.

More Thoughts about the California Coastal Commission

A few years ago I spent two days with Stevie and Norbert Dall. Norbert is busy trying to write the definitive history or California’s coastal protection legislation. The amount of research he has done amazed me as did his memory of people, places and events during those times( over 30 years ago). I believe that Norbert and Stevie are probably along with Peter Douglass and perhaps Bill Geyer and Ruth Galanter the people with the longest continuous involvement with the coastal protection movement in California. In Ruth and Bill’s cases, however, for the past decade or so they have become much less involved.

As for Peter Douglass, but for the last 20 years or so controversial years as Executive Director of the California Coastal Commission, his impact on the course of things coastal has been mostly in his own mind. Peter was, by far, the earliest of all of those who have spent at least portions of their careers in coastal protection. He worked as an aid to Senator Siroty during the failed attempts in the late 60’s and early 70’s to push coastal protection legislation through the legislature. He later attempted to take un-justified credit for drafting the initiative, known as Proposition 20 that was successfully passed by the California voters in 1972 and set up an agency to plan the future land use of the coast and regulate development so as not to impede implementation of the plan. During the period of Proposition 20, while I served as Chief Counsel for the Commission, as far as I could tell Peter’s involvement in either the planning or the ongoing regulation was almost nonexistent.

Following completion of the Coastal Plan in 1975 and the submittal of the proposed implementation legislation to the legislature, most of us active at that time were determined to keep Peter as far away from any decision-making and participation as possible. Nearly all of us believed that not only was he incapable of understanding the complexities of the Plan, the legislation and the political strategy that was developed, but he had shown a distressing tendency to urge weakening of the protections whenever opposition presented itself. I had assigned on of the Commission’s staff members to sit with him every day and make sure he did nothing more that edit the legislation.

After the passage of the entire Coastal Program, Peter again disappeared from any involvement and for a while busied himself in an unsuccessful attempt to find work in the private sector. Ultimately he took a job as a not so respected member of the reconstituted Coastal Commission staff. Finding himself ignored, he resumed his search for other work when a series of unfortunate events, including resignation of the existing executive director, he, to the dismay of many in the environmental community, was chosen to succeed the departing director.

Over several years of ineffective management, his removal many on all sides of the development process urged his removal. Fortunately for Peter, the development community, through the inept handling of the move to remove him by the then Republican Governor, pushed the most radical members of the environmental community to rally around him and defeat the putsch, and Peter the Wishy-Washy seeing which side of his bread was buttered was reborn as an anti-development crusader.

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