Alameda: State panel rejects proposed waterfront hotel

By

ALAMEDA — A state commission has rejected a waterfront hotel planned for Bay Farm Island despite the city of Alameda having green-lighted the project.

The Feb. 16 decision by the San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission means city officials cannot issue building permits for the 98-room hotel proposed for a vacant 1.5-acre parcel in the Harbor Bay Business Park near Oakland International Airport.

“Quite simply, the project is too large for the parcel, would significantly obstruct views of the bay and substantially reduce access to the shoreline,” said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who also serves on the commission…

“No matter what they do, this project will not fit on this site,” resident Irene Dieter said. “It’s just not compatible with it.”…(more)

 

Oroville Dam Crisis Shows Why We Must Invest In Infrastructure

huffingtonpost – excerpt (including video)

WASHINGTON ― Every few years an actual or threatened disaster highlights the state of America’s crumbling infrastructure. President Barack Obama, for example, pointed to a 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis, which left 13 people dead and dozens of others injured, in his push for more federal funding to overhaul roads, bridges and waterways.

Another potentially catastrophic situation arose in California over the weekend.

Nearly 200,000 people were told to evacuate on Sunday as workers labored to repair a severely damaged spillway below the country’s tallest dam, which holds back California’s largest reservoir. Heavy storms in recent months had pushed water levels to historic highs at Lake Oroville, which supplies water to central and southern portions of the state.

The situation was so dire at one point that officials issued warnings to multiple communities near the dam. Water levels in the reservoir receded somewhat by late Sunday, giving authorities additional time to bolster an auxiliary spillway. But a new storm system arriving later this week could fill Lake Oroville to the brim once more, with no indication of when the thousands of displaced people will be able to return to their homes.

Failure to invest in infrastructure comes at a heavy cost. Collapses in the New Orleans levee system led to mass flooding, billions of dollars in property damage and hundreds of deaths in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

One of Trump’s biggest promises for his first 100 days was to deliver a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to Congress. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) poured cold water over the idea of a large spending package in December, telling reporters he hoped to avoid “a trillion-dollar stimulus.” And with other items on Trump’s agenda ― including the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and an overhaul of the nation’s tax system ― seemingly stalled on Capitol Hill, a major infrastructure bill could take years to land on the president’s desk…(more)

RELATED:

Report: Officials ignored Oroville Dam spillway concerns 12 years ago

abcnews – excerpt

Our media partner the San Jose Mercury News reports the environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, filed a motion with the federal government in 2005, urging federal officials to require that the dam’s emergency spillway be armored with concrete, rather than remain as an earthen hillside.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the request after the state department of water resources and other water agencies said the upgrades were unnecessary…(more)

Spillway concerns have been ignored by federal and state officials for years because the government has a problem setting realistic priorities and policies. How do we reset a broken political system that ignores science ? We understand that seismic issues are not taken into account by CEQA.

How this is possible in a state as unstable as California?  These are the kind of CEQA reforms that we need to concentrate on, not administrative reforms that speed up the review critical process. How do we reform the broken system that is supposed to protect our major investments like dams and bridges? How do we turn the decision-making process into one that serves the public instead of corporate interests and political egos?

Neighborhoods all over the country are fighting  back with ballot measures like Yes on S in LA that would impose a moratorium on large development project approvals because the public does not trust the government to make the right decisions.

Oroville Dam: Motion to Intervene of Friends of the River, Sierra Club, and South Yuba River Citizens League filed on October 17, 2005: Motion

Time to pull the plug on VMT/Orcem

By Jeff Carlson : timesheraldonline – excerpt

A review of documents and communications related to the VMT/Orcem proposal reveal that the principals submitted an application before developing a viable project. The draft Environmental Impact Report prepared at great expense and circulated for public comment can no longer fulfill the legal requirements for sufficiency under the California Environmental Quality Act. Information recognized only after circulating the draft EIR exposed the fact that three quarters of the described operations will not be approved by a regional permitting authority. The project has now been reduced to a marine terminal with a slag cement plant tenant using only a quarter of the terminal capacity, without even the pretense of financial viability.

The major Vallejo Marine Terminal component of the project was described in the application, in the EIR, and in the applicant’s economic analysis as a break bulk cargo-handling operation. According to the applicants, this would “establish a key site of multi-modal and intermodal transportation and logistics, thereby enhancing Vallejo’s role in the regional and international trade economy.” Why they would think so is something of a mystery, since the cargo reports show demand for break bulk shipping has dwindled away to nothing, with the last activity recorded at any Bay port in 2006. VMT was always a business plan decades behind the times, and as it turned out not something that would be permitted by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission… (more)

Environmental Protection or Principal Constraint to Housing Production?

 : FoxandHoundsDaily – excerpt

”The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been turned on its head, becoming a full employment act for lawyers and their client neighborhood groups.

The result is that CEQA has become not a protector of the environment, but a promoter of sprawl, pushing the housing market away from existing neighborhoods and onto farmland, where the cows don’t sue.”

Those are the words of the Sacramento Bee which on several occasions both before and after this editorial appeared in 2003 has spoken critically of the state’s premier environmental law, CEQA.  That’s because rather than protecting Yosemite and the coastline, CEQA intervenes in every development project – especially housing – from downtown Oakland to suburban San Diego.

Signed by Governor Ronald Reagan in 1970, CEQA exists to assess and mitigate environmental impacts of development.  CEQA says:  “It is the policy of the state to . . . take all action necessary to provide the people of this state with clear air and water, enjoyment of aesthetic, natural, scenic and historic environmental qualities.”  The statute goes on to direct all public agencies “to develop standards and procedures necessary to protect environmental quality.”

Yet, CEQA is the most deliberate and often-used means to stop or seriously delay a development of any kind.  The tales of CEQA stifling housing production are legion.  But consider an environmental impact report (EIR) done in 2011 to bless a solar plant, no less, in San Luis Obispo County.  Before they were done, development skeptics – using CEQA – demanded, among other things, analysis and mitigation of the project’s aesthetic, agricultural, biological, cultural, geological, public service, transportation and water-use profile.  The final report was several hundred pages long…(more)

Proposed legislation calls for more affordable overnight accommodations along the California coast

By Dan Weikel : latimes – excerpt

Going to the beach may become more affordable if state legislators pass an Assembly bill introduced this week to increase inexpensive lodging along the coast.

The measure by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-Chula Vista) calls on the California State Coastal Conservancy to create a program that would preserve and add to the number of low-cost hotels, motels and hostels in coastal areas, particularly on parkland.

The bill would require the conservancy to work with the California Department of Parks and Recreation and to develop a separate pilot program to explore the development, maintenance and operation of affordable accommodations by the private sector and nonprofit organizations.

“I grew up in a working-class family and got to enjoy the beach. There was easy access then,” said Gonzalez, who introduced the bill on Monday. “Now, people who grow up like I did don’t have that opportunity. Even for a middle-class family it can be cost-prohibitive to enjoy the beach.”… (more)

 

Solar Could Beat Coal to Become the Cheapest Power on Earth

by Jess Shankleman and Chris Martin : bloomberg – excerpt (includes video)

Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.

In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.

Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”…(more)

Researchers: Abandon Neighborhoods, Avoid Flood Zone to Limit Sea Level Rise

By Kevin Stark : sfpublicpress – excerpt

Understanding the sociology and politics around word ‘retreat’ 

San Francisco is partway through a years-long process of proposing elaborate — and incredibly expensive — engineering fixes to the looming prospect of sea level rise. But the current sketches of a future city buttressed by dikes, levees and seawalls, which could cost tens of billions of dollars over coming decades, overshadow an increasingly accepted alternative: moving away from the waterfront.

Some experts in climatology, urban planning and demographics argue that physical barriers offer only the illusion of protection and that cities should accept that some neighborhoods will need to be abandoned.

Karen O’Neill, a Rutgers University sociologist who studies “climate migration” worldwide, argued that city planners should entice people to move away from vulnerable areas where flooding could be exacerbated by climate change.

The “protect your way out of the whole thing” approach is folly, she recently told an energy reporter at Bloomberg View… (more)

 

California Eyes Climate Leadership Role, But Trump’s EPA Holds a Key on Cars

By Lauren Sommer : KQED

California Gov. Jerry Brown is vowing to lead the nation on climate change, as the Trump administration pulls back. But the Trump administration could get in California’s way.

In his annual State of the State speech, California Gov. Jerry Brown had one key message about climate change: perseverance.

California has rules limiting carbon pollution from cars, but it can’t have those rules without permission from the federal EPA.

“We cannot fall back and give in to the climate deniers,” Brown said. “The science is clear. The danger is real.”

And just as President Trump took the oath of office on Friday, California acted, releasing its latest plan for tackling climate change. This includes renewable energy and putting millions of electric cars on the road.

It’s a challenge Brown first made in December, when climate scientists from around the world met up in San Francisco.

The mood at the conference had been dismal. Scientists were worried about losing federal funding for research and even the NASA satellites that collect basic climate data… (more)

Audubon slams oyster project’s legality

by Paul Mann : MadRiverUnion – excerpt

EUREKA – Audubon California and EarthJustice, the San Francisco-based environmental law advocate, charge in a joint statement that the lawful certification of the Coast Seafoods Company’s expanded oyster farming project must be ruled out.

The reason: the Final Environmental Impact Report has not received “an adequate review” under the 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In a nine-page letter submitted Jan. 18 to Jack Crider, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, the two organizations acknowledged the series of modifications made to the 471-page environmental impact report in response to voluminous public comment.

But the two groups argued that “both the project and its impacts remain enormous and have yet to be fully analyzed and disclosed as required by the CEQA.”… (more)

It is our policy to track the media on these subjects. Please post comments on the source. Not sure this is a positive way to approach food production when there is a need to feed human beings and the interior department closed down a farm recently in California. People do need to eat and oysters clean the water, so this argument does not win me over, especially when the administration is threatening to cut imports of other foods by increasing import tax. We should perhaps increase local food production.

California clears hurdle for cancer warning label on Roundup

By Sott Smith : yahoo – excerpt

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed-killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat despite an insistence from the chemical giant that it poses no risk to people, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.
California would be the first state to order such labeling if it carries out the proposal.

Monsanto had sued the nation’s leading agricultural state, saying California officials illegally based their decision for carrying the warnings on an international health organization based in France.

Monsanto attorney Trenton Norris argued in court Friday that the labels would have immediate financial consequences for the company. He said many consumers would see the labels and stop buying Roundup.

“It will absolutely be used in ways that will harm Monsanto,” he said.

After the hearing, the firm said in a statement that it will challenge the tentative ruling… (more)