And then there’s the Public Records Act, California’s landmark law giving the public, mostly via news media, access to official documents, with some exceptions. Unfortunately, the list of PRA exceptions seems to be growing as legislators, who are not inclined toward openness in the first place, protect their fellow officials and/or do the bidding of powerful interests. The current session has had 79 bills involving the PRA. While most of the proposals amount to innocuous boilerplate, the Legislature is moving those that create more exceptions and blocking those that would expand access.
Germany has fashioned itself a new brand for the 21st century as the global green leader, but it’s nowhere close to meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets it set for itself. The German government has targeted a 40 percent reduction of GHG emissions by 2020, as compared to 1990 levels, but with less than three years to go the country remains far from achieving that goal. Berlin already admitted that the 40 percent goal likely wasn’t possible, and instead lowered its sights to a 35 percent reduction, but even that seems unlikely now. A new study from the green think tank Agora Energiewende says Germany is likely to achieve only a 30-31 percent reduction.
It should come as no surprise that when the California Legislature recently began the process of divvying up proceeds from the state’s cap-and-trade auctions, a cavalcade of local officials, community activists and lobbyists rushed to Sacramento, with hands out.
Billions of dollars burning a hole in the state’s pocket has that effect on people, and the competition is fierce. Appeals from advocates to fund pet projects were spread over two days in late August, in windowless rooms before sometimes distracted officials. The requests are for cash for electric vehicles, to create green spaces, even for machines to cut pollution from cow manure.
Brevity is prized in this legislative equivalent of speed dating, which plays out in front of committees in the Senate and Assembly. There’s scant time to make the case for your cause. Talk too much, and you risk irritating the panelists. Nobody wants the stink eye from the people with the purse strings.
One common refrain among housing advocates and politicians is that high-rise construction is a solution to the problem of housing affordability. The causes of the problem, however, are principally prohibitions on urban fringe development of starter homes. Critics also note that high-rises in urban neighborhoods often replace older buildings, which are generally more affordable. One big problem: High-density housing is far more expensive to build. Gerard Mildner, the academic director of the Center for Real Estate at Portland State University, notes that development of a building of more than five stories requires rents approximately two and a half times those from the development of garden apartments. Even higher construction costs are reported in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the cost of townhouse development per square foot can double that of detached houses (excluding land costs) and units in high-rise condominium buildings can cost up to seven and a half times as much.
California lawmakers introduced legislation Friday to bypass a key state environmental law that would dramatically ease the construction of rail, bus and other transit projects connected to Los Angeles’ bid to host the Olympic Games in 2028. Under the bill, any public transportation effort related to the city’s Olympics bid would be exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s primary environmental law governing development. The law, known as CEQA, requires developers to disclose and minimize a project’s impact on the environment, often a time-consuming and costly process that involves litigation. The measure, Senate Bill 789, also provides major CEQA relief to help the construction of an NBA arena for the Los Angeles Clippers in nearby Inglewood.