Search This Blog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paper or plastic? How about just Paper

Image from LA Times. All Rights Reserved.
This past Tuesday, Los Angeles County officially banned all plastic carryout bags from use in unincorporated portions of the County.  The vote marks a big environmental victory for LA County, with the potential to severely reduce the amount of plastics polluting our waterways and urban landscapes.  Admittedly, the ban remains imperfect, particularly because it only affects unincorporated portions of the County, but with more than 1.1 million residents being affected, the scale of the ban is still quite significant.   The LA Times has great coverage and recap of the vote, including comments from its detractors, and comparisons of the ban to similar efforts in California and beyond.  Below is an except:
. . . .

The ban, which will cover nearly 1.1 million residents countywide, is to the point: “No store shall provide to any customer a plastic carryout bag.” An exception would be made for plastic bags that are used to hold fruit, vegetables or raw meat in order to prevent contamination with other grocery items.

If grocers choose to offer paper bags, they must sell them for 10 cents each, according to the ordinance. The revenue will be retained by the stores to purchase the paper bags and educate customers about the law.

“Plastic bags are a pollutant. They pollute the urban landscape. They are what we call in our county urban tumbleweed,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said.

Mark Gold, president of the Santa Monica environmental group Heal the Bay, said previous county efforts to promote recycling of plastic bags at grocery stores was a failure.

“You cannot recycle your way out of the plastic bag problem,” Gold said. “The cost of convenience can no longer be at the expense of the environment.”

The measure is a significant win for environmental groups, which suffered a major defeat in Sacramento at the end of August with the failure of the state Senate to pass a sweeping plastic bag ban that won the support of the state Assembly and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger amid heavy and costly lobbying by plastic bag manufacturers.

But the ban could cause confusion. The action by the Board of Supervisors only covers the unincorporated areas of L.A. County, covering some neighborhoods like Altadena, Valencia and Rowland Heights, but doesn't cover 88 cities in L.A. County. City councils could adopt a similar ordinance.

Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich  raised the prospect that small mom-and-pop shops could suffer financially because they won’t be able to buy paper and reusable bags in great volume, and could force low-income people to buy bags to pick up pet waste or carry their lunch.

“At a time of economic uncertainty, with a large number of businesses leaving our state and community this would not be an appropriate time ... to impose this additional regulation,” Antonovich said.

Opponents of the ban told the supervisors that a legal challenge to the ban is still a possibility.

With the Tuesday vote, L.A. County’s measure is more stringent than similar bans adopted elsewhere in California, Gold said.  

San Francisco’s ban, which passed three years ago, is less restrictive because it still permits grocers to offer bioplastic bags made from corn starch, which are imperfect because they also do not degrade in the ocean, Gold said. Bans in San Francisco and Malibu also do not add a surcharge on paper bags, Gold said, which does not give consumers an incentive to switch to reusable cloth bags.

. . . .

SM Civic Center Park - Updated Concept

Image from Field Operations. All Rights Reserved.

The updated concept for the Santa Monica Civic Center Parks was presented to the community last Saturday, featuring a dynamic synthesis of the three previous concepts based on feedback from the community, with additional design detailing.  The preferred concept from the last meeting was the Arroyo Wash concept, with added facets from the other concepts, and the new concept promises an interesting coastal park with elements people might recognize from other recent Field Ops work such as the High Line.  Check out the entire presentation here, and get ready for the next community meeting on January 29th.   

Friday, November 12, 2010

Westside Subway Route Approved

Proposed Route for Purple Line Extension.  Image from LA Times.  All Rights Reserved.
The future of public transit in Los Angeles took a meaningful, if not controversial step forward a few weeks ago when a general route for extending the Purple Line to the westside was approved.  Despite protests from Beverly Hills residents, and concerns about the likelihood of finding funding the project, the step marks an important opportunity for cultivating an effective mass transit system for all of LA. Here is the announcement from the LA Times:
Development of a long-awaited subway link from downtown Los Angeles to the Westside took a giant leap Thursday when county transportation officials selected a general route from the Wilshire-Western station to the veterans hospital in Westwood.

The decision by board members of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority sets the stage for the trickier business of going block by block to establish the precise path and determine where to place stations.

Construction is set to begin in 2013 after a final environmental impact review.

MTA staff had recommended the 9 1/2-mile route to the veterans' hospital because of higher ridership projections. The estimated cost of that option is $5.15 billion.

Four other options were under consideration by the board, which included Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has stressed the need for a Westside "subway to the sea" throughout his tenure as mayor.

Those included a nine-mile extension from the Wilshire-Western station to Westwood-UCLA; a 12-mile alignment to the beach in Santa Monica; a route to the veterans hospital campus plus a spur to West Hollywood; and a 12-mile link to Santa Monica plus the West Hollywood spur. The estimated costs of the projects ranged from $4.2 billion to $9 billion.

Also under consideration Thursday was a $1.37-billion regional connector through downtown Los Angeles that would allow light-rail users to travel across the county without time-consuming transfers.
The westside has certainly been their own worst enemy in gaining access to rail (or perhaps preventing access to the westside by others via rail), but this proposed route, along with the Phase II extension of the Expo Line underway in Culver City slated to terminate in Santa Monica, could dramatically improve the opportunities for LA residents to effectively move throughout the city without having to get into a car.  Great coverage of the decision can be found at the LA Times and Metro Source Blog, and below is an image from the Metro Source Blog highlighting the potential rail linkages to the Westside. 

Map of Proposed Purple Line Extension and Expo Phase II alignment.  Image from Metro's Source Blog.  All Rights Reserved.

Arid Lands Lecture Series

So this post is a day late and a buck short for last night's lecture featuring Aziza Chaouni and Liat Margolis, but the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University is featuring another excellent series of lectures on Thursdays this fall and winter.  The theme for the series is "Excavating Innovation: The History and Future of Drylands Design."  Recent lectures have covered such topics as the "Waters of Rome" and "Out of Water".  More information about upcoming lectures is listed below in their recent press release, and can also be found at

Excavating InnovationThe History and Future of Drylands Design
Lecture Series: 2010_2011
The human need for water has ordered landscapes, given rise to culture, and shaped architecture + urban form throughout history.

Excavating Innovation: The History and Future of Drylands Design
 examines the role of water engineering in shaping public space and city form, by using arid and semi-arid sites in India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and the New World to explore how dryland water systems throughout history have formed and been formed by ritual, hygiene, gender, technology, governance, markets, and, perhaps above all, power.

Excavating Innovation: The History and Future of Drylands Design brings together historians, urbanists, and contemporary designers to selectively excavate global historical case studies and reveal relevance to contemporary design practice.
Katherine Rinne:  The Waters of Rome
Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Aziza Chaouni + Liat Margolis
:  Out of Water

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Morna Livingtson
:  Steps to Water

Thursday, November 18th, 2010 

Nan Ellin, PhD:  
Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Vinayak Bharne:  
Urban Water Crisis/Perspectives from South Asia
Thursday, February 10th, 2011