Urban Edginess

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Tag: California

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

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?”

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.

Community planning: Personal retrospective

Simulation - 7

Simulation – 7 (Photo credit: onestudentry)

 

Over two decades ago I had the opportunity to manage a governmental entity that among other things, was charged with resolving conflicts between development, community and environmental concerns. We developed a process, relatively novel at the time, encouraging those involved or concerned (later to be called “stakeholders”) to solve their disagreements among themselves.

 

The process required a team of technicians that could immediately turn a suggestion into a visual representation. This included someone capable of converting the discussions as they occurred into visual and organized notes for all to see. It also included a compendium of the financial and fiscal resources currently available thus forcing the participants to consider the same type of tradeoffs government and private interests must make in deciding what can be done and how long will it take. Finally it required an entity, in this case our agency, who could more or less on the spot make commitments to carry out or support with financial resources the carrying out of at least initial elements of the agreed upon program.

 

What surprised me the most was not that we were successful in almost all cases, as we were, but that despite the heated rhetoric expressed before regulatory or legislative bodies, or in the media the disagreements were so often so slight.

 

Although conflict resolution techniques and design charrettes continue to be used almost everywhere, our particular intensive program eventually fell into disuse. That was because the urban areas included in our jurisdiction were limited in number and once the specific issues in conflict were resolved in these communities they remained so for a decade or longer. Also the process was management and personnel intensive and inevitably such activities in any organization eventually are replaced by a more procedural and careerist focus.

 

Fast forward to today, modern communications technology and social networking appears to be transforming almost everything we do, from how and where we work to how we entertain ourselves and socialize.

 

In community and urban development we now have all the information we could want at our fingertips although not necessarily organized and usable. A simple internet research shows that we have a plethora online communities dedicated to community action of one kind or another. Yet what happens when these online communities conflict with one another? As anyone who has actually been involved in assisting in the resolution of significant conflicts, good intentions and talking things out are not enough. Not only must thoughts and ideas be converted into a communications medium so that each participant has the same understanding as everyone else, but immediate unbiased response on the technical facts must be available if the enthusiasm and commitment to the process is not to wither and die waiting for it. Finally the facts of the limits must be available in a usable form to the participants.

 

Social media, in regard to community planning provides an advanced medium for sharing of information and ideas and encouraging coöperation and should the participants agree collective action. However, before collective action can occur, especially for something a complex and contentious as community planning the most difficult form of group or collective action is the resolution of those conflicts that more often than not are the reason for undertaking the collaborative planning process in the first place.

 

Modern communications technology and social networks offer the promise of real resolution of community conflicts. Nevertheless, it remains a promise that needs to be addressed.

 

 

 

 

How Modern Communications Technology Makes You and Your Community Safer

 

English: Coachella Valley © 2004 Matthew Trump

English: Coachella Valley © 2004 Matthew Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earthquake Preparedness, First Responders and Limited-Access Hybrid Communications Systems

“Articles about advances in personal electronic devices often seem focused on frivolity–playing games, seeing where your friends are eating dinner, and watching DVDs–but the real news is that these technological advances also provide valuable tools for personal and public safety.” — From a personal communication with Ruth Galanter, former Los Angeles City Council member.

A few days ago the Smart + Connected Communities Institute referenced a Berkman Center paper regarding Lessons Learned from the Great Earthquake. Included in the lessons learned was the significant effect on recovery created by destruction of or damage to electronic and other data caches. The paper urged, among other things, creation of a collaborative network to protect valuable information infrastructure in a crisis.

On September 12, 2012, California’s Seismic Safety Commission along with its technology partner Seismic Warning Systems Inc., took the initial steps to install such a system to deal with the needs of first responders to earthquake disasters in the highly seismically active Coachella Valley in California.

The system requires placing sensors every 6-12 kilometers or less along selected faults. These sensors will analyze p-waves (nondestructive waves that precede the more destructive waves in earthquakes) and, following detection of large earthquakes, send alerts to devices in major-emergency response facilities such as fire stations, public health facilities, communication facilities and the like. The devices, in turn, will pre-operate those essential functions often damaged when an earthquake hits, such as opening fire station apparatus room doors, turning on lights and displaying warnings of public safety and utility dispatch monitors, closing off gas mains, turning on emergency electric generators and so forth. Furthermore, it allows emergency services personnel to receive the early warnings by PA systems in their buildings to allow them to begin their preparation to respond to the event. Early warnings can also be sent to emergency personnel through their personal communications devices. (Variations of this system protecting individual buildings and related sites have been installed in several places around the country, including, for instance, on the Cisco corporate campus in San Jose, California and its day care center as well.)

In addition, as the Japanese study recommends, mechanisms for protecting the data in major data centers can be installed that automatically trigger data-saving measures and customer-transparent operations, such as switching over to redundant systems. Key personnel can then be notified that such operations have begun so they can take whatever additional actions may be required.

These types of pre-disaster management triggering systems, when combined with personal communication technology, could be called “limited-access hybrid communications systems.” Access could / would be “limited” to a particular set of users (e.g., executives, emergency personnel, facilities managers). “Hybrid” in the sense that the mechanical / electrical systems and the communications systems are intended to operate in tandem. (Of course, one could argue that a mapping application used to find driving directions becomes a hybrid system or perhaps a “mash-up” when the user jumps into his car and drives to his destination–or uses GPS while driving–but it is difficult to classify the user as a member of significantly limited user group…. Anyway, if anyone has the need for a better definition and has some ideas about it, I am all ears.)

Another example of a somewhat similar of system but focused more an individual property and personal security would be those home and facility security systems that notifies security personnel and the property owner via their mobile devices if something on the property has gone amiss — such as a break-in, a fire or even an appliance left running while an owner is on vacation — and allows for the remote operation of various systems on the property from the mobile devices.

Many medical and emergency public service personnel today carry smart phones, pads and notebook computers containing applications that assist them in carrying out their duties. Although they are clearly trained in the skills required for dealing with emergencies in the field, the amount of information required to manage complex modern emergency field equipment and execute the various protocols for dealing with the variety of medical issues they may confront while dealing with the other effects of the crises, (e.g. fires, structural stability and the like) makes reliance on human memory for procedures and protocols unsatisfactory, if not downright dangerous. The time pressures these individuals work under makes referring to handbooks and texts unwieldy and time-consuming even if they were able to carry around all the volumes required to cover every eventuality they may meet.

To deal with this problem, applications have been developed covering a host of those emergency protocols and procedures. These are not simply informational applications, like for example a handbook digitalized on to a smart phone, but often are applications capable of guiding and responding to the emergency personnel’s real time needs during operation of the equipment and execution of the protocols that may be necessary to save a life.

For example, the American Heart Association has produced a number of applications carried by many emergency services and medical personnel that contain protocols, procedures and check lists for operation of appropriate equipment and treatment of cardiac problems in the field. Many more applications like this exist and their number is increasing, especially in emergency medical and disaster prevention and recovery activities.

This appears to be a growing and welcome phenomenon. In fact, I recently heard that there may be applications under development by several international organizations that could assist medical personnel in treating biohazards in the field to stem their spread across national boundaries.

As Ruth Galanter mentions, discussion about modern mobile communication devices and their associated applications often focus on social media, games, and other ways to simplify some daily activities even if they do not necessarily simplify daily life itself. But the ability of these devices — often used in concert with various Internet applications–to extend the range and efficiency of various critical, disparate systems — some hard-wired and some virtual should not be overlooked in community planning to address community development and maintenance needs. No longer just an issue of budgets, personnel and existing infrastructure, community and emergency response planners need to ask also if application of modern communication technology can make whatever it is they are trying to prepare for simpler, quicker, cheaper and more effective.

When the forest fire advances on your house and you are packing the car to flee, you really won’t care about playing games! You will want the Fire Department rushing to your aid and the comfort of knowing they know what to do when they get there. Technology can take care of this.

 

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):

Aggordong to “Strong Towns” a development think tank that concentrates on the costs of suburban growth and development, we are in the third cycle of suburban development in the United States. The first generation of suburbia was built on savings and investment. The second was built and maintained using tons of borrowed money.


Although prepare by “Strong Towns” to reflect US suburb growth patterns, the above chart applies to 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 resembles this.

The real reason why local governments (and larger entities as well) often have to raise taxes or revenue or go bankrupt:

Case study: “Free roads’ are a myth”:

A group of high-value lake properties petition 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)

High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Joseph E. Petrillo Presentation to the Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, December 2003.

Map of planned high speed rail lines in Califo...

Map of planned high speed rail lines in California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thank you very much, Ms. Duffy.

I want to thank The Commonwealth Club for inviting us and holding this panel discussion, because this is a most appropriate and auspicious time for such a discussion. We will soon begin the Environmental Impact Report review process. Therefore, we expect that the profile of California’s program for high-speed rail will be much higher among the public throughout the state as a result of those hearings and the studies. It’s also auspicious because, as Ms. Duffy mentioned, the vote on the bond act to fund the system is scheduled for November 2004.

Before introducing Mehdi Morshed, I’d like to make a few comments about my thoughts about high-speed rail. I’m a new chairman. I was just elected and started my term on the first of July. The invitation was issued to my predecessor, Mr. Rod Diridon, and I want to thank him for the work that he did during those two years in bringing this program to the state that it is today, on the verge of actual implementation.

Now, some of my thoughts on high-speed rail: First, what we’re trying to do. This is a statewide program. It’s designed as an intercity program to transport people at high speeds between large population areas in Northern and Southern California. It is not a solution to short-haul commuter transportation problems. Sometimes we get confused and think that they’re one and the same; they are not. To have high-speed rail, it could take as much as 40 miles to bring [a train] up to speed and slow it down. So, by the nature of it, the stations have to be long distances from one another in order to make the system work at the maximum efficiency.

On the other hand, one of the most important things in any system like this, especially the high-speed system, is the location and the ability of the stations on the high-speed rail to connect with all of, or as many of, the regional and local transportation systems that exist so that ridership is increased, but basically so that people can go from car or commuter train or bus to the long-distance transportation provided by high-speed rail.

The high-speed rail system, in my opinion, when implemented will become the backbone of the future transportation system here in California, taking people long distances at very high speed to locations where they can transfer and travel around to regional and local destinations.

I firmly believe high-speed rail transportation will change the face of California the way the California Water Project, the freeway projects, and even the initial railroads of the last century did.

But in addition to those vast economic changes and growth that will be generated by high-speed rail, the high-speed rail system that we’re looking at here in California is one of the few public works projects, certainly that I know of, that has been designed from the beginning with environmental benefits as one of its core values. We believe – and I think our studies are beginning to show that and will be exposed more in the final Environmental Impact Report – further residential and commercial development necessitated by the natural growth of population in California, which is slated to be much more than 50 percent over the next 35 years, that the high-speed rail system will use up less land to accommodate that growth than any of the transportation systems that we have studied. Air quality obviously is one of the things that will be enhanced over what the air quality would be were we to continue the growth in traveling through these air and automobile transportation corridors at the same growth rate that we have seen in the past. These and other environmental benefits, as well as social benefits, will be detailed in the Environmental Impact Report.

These types of benefits are equally important, but often unappreciated benefits to a program such as this, and are often not calculated in the traditional cost/benefit analysis. For all of you that I assume will look at the high-speed rail Environmental Impact Report and the plans, please try to keep in mind that there are more than local cost benefits to a high-speed rail system; there are huge, subtle benefits to the state as a whole.

Again, I thank you for having me here, and now I’d like to introduce the Executive Director of the High-Speed Rail Authority, Mr. Mehdi Morshed. Now Mehdi told me that he didn’t want me to mention much about him, because it embarrasses him, but I’m an attorney. Although I promised my fellow Authority Board members that I would not talk too much at our meetings, I didn’t say that I wouldn’t talk a lot at speeches and meetings, and so I will embarrass Mehdi to some extent.

I think of Mehdi as a Mr. California Transportation, because for the last 20 years in the Senate, everything, literally every policy change and direction in financing for transportation in California, passed through his experienced hands. Many of the initiatives that he worked on during that period really affect us today, from driving rules to vehicle safety and emission standards. He also has assisted in creating what we consider this state’s major transportation agencies: the California Transportation Commission, which coordinates most of the transportation in the state, and the High-Speed Rail Authority, whose program you are going to be discussing today. Mehdi will give us a presentation on where we are today in the development of California’s high-speed rail system.

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