Entries categorized "Ethics"

Leaf blowing is also a habitat and a labor issue!

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https://funnyordie.com/2020/09/25/108532/leaf-blowers-are-the-work-of-the-devil/

 

Progress is progress, but perhaps lost in the progress to reduce the harm caused by leaf blowers to creatures large and small - with university degrees, naked, multi-legged or winged - is the need to make sure that changes in practice don't interfere with the ability of property maintenance workers to make a living and to improve their work environment, wages and skill sets... all while improving nature in our corner of the Universe.

This evening the City Council will take the long-awaited next step to study the use of leaf blowers in Davis. The agenda item should start on or after 7:20pm.

First of all I appreciate the findings of the Natural Resources Commission, though I wish their recommendation was for an earlier complete phase out than 2024. A major fault, however, is that the recommendations do not apply to commercial areas. The problem seems obvious: Pollution caused by gas blowers or stirred up by electric blowers affects adjacent properties - which may be residential, part of the proposed eventual ban - and really everywhere because of, you know, air.

Another way to look at it is that we currently ban leaf blowing when AQI reaches 1oo if that threshold is crossed by just before 7AM - and then there's no decision for a ban for another 24 hours no matter how many firestorms spring out of hell during the interval - based on an air monitor that's outside of the City, just south of West Village. But then it's okay for your commercial neighbor to blow 20 feet from your open window with your asthmatic child.

That doesn't make sense and it's perhaps I am not explaining it clearly... but I make no apologies: The proposal, though an improvement on the current state of things, is too complicated and therefore hard to enforce. By the way, commercial properties are also the residences of numerous animals who simply happen not to be human.

 

Yards are Habitat!

Leaf blowing makes yard clearance of what's perceived as waste far too easy. This kills habitat for creatures small and larger ones that eat them.It depletes trees of food. It makes it easy to put yard waste in the street, including bike lanes, even though the latter is not allowed. This threatens children on bikes. Leaf blowing is dangerous for children and other living things. It's been city guidance for years to let leaves degrade where they fall, or alternatively compost them on site. (Clean those concrete paths with a broom and a rake, very clever!)

The choice is simple: Phase out all use of all leaf blowers, allow leaf vacuums IF they don't also pollute, and ban gas-powered equipment. Do this all as soon as possible.

There's also a recommendation from the Recreation and Parks Commission based on their perspective which is that gas blowers work better than electric blowers so there needs to be more money for lots of batteries and such like -- but the way I see it is like this: In relation to air quality and the state of living environment in the city, the NRC has clear priority over Rec and Parks. It's a mistake to consider them equal - or equally relevant - Commissions on this issue.

 

It's time to bring a labor angle into this, friends!

There's more Commission missions about the emissions missing from these missives: About labor. All these guys - mostly guys - disproportionately Latino - who need jobs, jobs that are good for them, get better and give them more in healthy challenges and pay.

The leaf blowing survey results in the staff report and Commission recommendations detail the nuances of companies and how they work and what tools they use. It's not really explained why some use manual tools and some use electric - aside from the AQI-based bans. But to make things simple let's say that banning the use of blowers increases the amount of work needed, and expenses. With a deep ecological perspective it's simple to say that the people that benefit most from this - owners of properties - are simply entitled. The leaf blowing solution is artificial. 

It's not pleasant work. We need to humanize it. The goals here likely to keep the same number of people employed and to increase wages, while we improve the environment. It has to be this. We can't settle for less.

Our aim must be to improve the skill sets of workers, by having them care in a more nuanced way for yards... to plant, to collect acorns, to add habitat for bees... to build boxes and other structures for on-site composting.

We don't have a labor commission, but we do have a Social Services Commission. Perhaps also Utilities or Fiance and Budget have a role to play? Overall - and clearly - this is an equity issue and it can't be solved only through input from Natural Resources and Parks and Rec. But to be clear, it's up to the workers themselves to decide what they want.

The Council needs to go forward on the best recommendations made so far but then send this work back to these additional commissions and the citizens for more input and wisdom. We have a tremendous number of experts in related disciplines at UC Davis who will want to help. We have labor experts in the county and region who have to help.  It's not simply a matter of copying best practice from other progressive cities, but improving upon it!


Letter from DISC developers to Davis Automobile Association

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It took some digging but I found a key letter from the DISC developers to the City of Davis Association of Private Motor Vehicle Sellers and Suppliers:

Dear CDAPMVSS,

Following are what we plan on the primary characteristics of DISC in regards to your organization’s mission:

1 – Most of the day a connection by private automobile to Downtown Davis, UC Davis and West Sacramento will be extremely convenient and fast.

2 – A private automobile will be required to conveniently and quickly travel to Pioneer Elementary, Nugget (on Mace) and surrounding stores, and of course to the Davis Auto Mall (identifiable by its bicycle logo from I-80).

3 – Travel by cycling and walking to Harper Junior High and Korematsu Elementary will be significant until a crossing guard is killed and two students are injured at the intersection of Alhambra and Mace. In response we plan to place small posters at bus stops in the area to direct drivers to slow down. We were going to pretend to compromise and pretend to return to our spoken-only agreement the construction of a grade-separated crossing of Mace but in the end the Council didn’t ask for it.

4 – Travel by automobile to schools outside of east Davis will be the majority mode, especially to Davis High School, and drivers will threaten students crossing E. Covell to get to Birch Lane Elementary, crossing F and 14th to get to North Davis Elementary and the high school.

5 – The TDM plan will determine that carshare is not interesting for nearly all residents who have opted to rent a parking place near their home.

6 – Caltrans has confirmed that they have no interest in assisting in building a safe and dedicated bicycle and pedestrian facility across I-80 in the vicinity of Mace, similar to their same position on the I-80 Managed Lanes project.

7 – Some residents will ride cargo bikes to Target and surrounding shops until a user is killed at the corner of Mace and 2nd.

8 – The Chevron station at Mace and 2nd will gain business.

9 – Mode share of the fare-free shuttle to Davis Depot and Downtown will be insignificant due to duration and inability to match fluctuating schedule of Capitol Corridor trains due to problems outside of their control, such as shipping traffic on the Carquinez Strait that requires bridge interruption.

Thanks, the DISC development team.


DISC 2022 Transportation - Planning Commission falls for Developer's Trick

TrapBacThe trap was set likely shortly after "DISC  2020" was defeated by voters.  When the developers of this peripheral sprawl - or I'll be nice and call it West West Sacramento - were planning to re-introduce it last year for a vote this year - they realized that a key demand was a grade-separated crossing of Mace. So they removed it from the Baseline Features... fully-intending to agree to do it as a concession.

Back story

The City Council-approved Street Standards (2016) don't mention e-bikes at all. What this means is that the width, curvature, and proper siting of infrastructure that would optimize the use of e-bikes - in particular the Type 3 variant that has assistance up to 28 mph - is totally missing in Davis, or more immediately in concepts, plans as well as development agreements and baseline features in current and near-future projects.

To address this, over two-and-a-half years ago when I was on the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Commission (BTSSC) I got support for adding an item to the long range calendar which would address it; this first appeared on the LRC in September 2019, with a possible date of December 2019 for the agenda. (It is abbreviated somewhat erroneously as "intersection design guidelines / standards"). It has been pushed back repeatedly since then, and the BTSSC did not support forming a sub-committee about it during 2020.

What this means is that significant concepts and projects which could alleviate transportation problems, such as Reimagine Russell, the new-ish Class I multi-user path on the south side of Russell (chronically and clinically-referred to as a "bike path) or smaller projects all over the city are not future-proofed for the increase of modal share for cycling we desperately need to improve everything from climate impacts to conviviality to fitness to transportation crashes. Our city is simply too large now in size to have a significant modal share with "acoustic" bicycles. Not convinced? Look at the low bike modal share from peripheral areas of town in the UCD Campus Travel Survey, which shows low share even for people with campus destinations where car parking is not always convenient, and not fare-free. It's not hard to extrapolate - necessary, as the City has essentially refused to do its own counts for years - that almost no one regularly rides from Mace Ranch or some other peripheral areas to Downtown for a coffee or beer - sort of the most normal thing in the Universe in a bicycle-branded cycling city.

SurveyCycling
UCD Campus Travel Survey 2019-2020 (pg. 30) - By bike, DISC is just over four miles from ARC, a central point on campus when considering agricultural facilities. This distance has about a 10% modal share for cycling, and includes mostly students, many who don't have their own cars.



However, as we can see from the example above, the faster type of e-bikes are quite expensive. I've seen nothing lower than just over $3,000. Though important - or all - major arteries in Davis - should be optimized for this type of bike - the idea is not only to optimize for them but make safe for all users, including on acoustic bikes - it cannot mean that this type of bike should be essentially required to live here and enjoy the purported high quality of life. Infrastructure optimized for fast bikes is also a significant improvement for all bikes, as it's direct, requires a minimum of stops, is not shared with motor vehicles... or pedestrians and dogs.

To be more precise, the goal should be the 15-Minute City. This is a relatively new standard or classification of a very, very old sometimes organic strategy to make key locations in a city within 15 min from anywhere else, for all means of transportation. This seems to also serve as a kind of proof of the bicycle modal share results in the Campus Travel Survey. It's definitely something that should be part of our new General Plan, or even worked on earlier by a joint Commission process (BTSSC, Planning... perhaps Natural Resources and Social Services...). I would argue that it should also be about effort, so a 5 or perhaps 7-minute walk is the equivalent of a 15 min bike ride. I've said that if kids can't walk unaccompanied 5-minutes from where they live to buy ice cream cones, it's a failure (and that's just one example, a single ice cream place or a truck at DISC doesn't make it sustainable.)

It's also quite important to be reminded that the City of Davis has for over four years not had a senior civil engineer with a transportation focus. Many projects have gone forward - sometimes to completion, often with significant flaws - without the benefit of this experienced and wise counsel.

 

Last Night

At the Planning Commission review of Disc 2022 last night - and early this morning - I was actually quite impressed by the comments from multiple Commissioners regarding negative transportation issues of the planned project, and even the general discussion about its unavoidable impacts and uncertainly of benefits from transportation demand management... well, at least earlier in the discussion. Commissioner Shandy was particularly right on with her criticism of planned widening of Mace - presented by the developer as a kind of unquestioned religious observance - contradicts claimed benefits for people cycling and walking. There were other positive and thoughtful comments by a majority of Commissioners.

I knew that the grade-separated crossing of Mace was a kind of sneakily-hidden prize and tried to point out in my sort of sloppy recorded comment that that a safer crossing of Mace would not on its own make DISC 2020 excellent for cycling (this is better than "cycle-friendly"), because of distance from Downtown and places further west, and besides that, safe crossings directly to the south along Mace across 80 would cost many millions and be very complicated (and at least in my head I know that Caltrans District 3 and the Yolo County Transportation District have withdrawn the earlier plan - it was supposed to be built first! - of a new bike and ped bridge across the Bypass as part of the I-80 Managed Lanes Project.)

Screenshot from 2022-01-13 02-14-21
Just an aside about the bandied about "globally-known sustainability of Davis": This was the air quality last night shortly after the meeting was over (via Purple Air)

 

 

The Trap is Sprung

Though it was fully-intended to be a positive thing and I will give credit to Commissioner Shandy, the discussion and lead-up to a vote turned sour when she proposed that a grade-separated crossing of Mace and a Class I trail across the undeveloped land south of Harper Junior High would make her feel better about the planned Mace widening and other traffic impacts. She suggested nothing about safe cycling and walking connections to other places, such as the Nugget and popular restaurants across 80. But the problem is that, for example, the area planned for housing at DISC 2022, on the north and eastern side of the project area, is more than 15 minutes away by bike from Downtown and at leat 20 to 25 minutes away from the UC Davis campus that is the raison d'être for DISC 2022! Moreover, the route has almost no optimized cycling infrastructure the whole way (varied from local streets to arteries, no protected bike paths, lack of priority at stops, etc... there is no proposal for any of this in any proposed development agreement or baseline features). But mainly it's too far by bike... never mind walking! Most of the time people - with free or with un-bundled parking - will take I-80 between campus and DISC, even more so to many facilities etc on the west side of campus related to agriculture. I-80 is such a fantastic route much of the day that nothing can compete with it, including shuttles and express buses, which I am sure will at best have a tiny modal share.  This creates huge challenges for any development more than 15 min away from key locations, and it means simply that they should not even be considered. (Oh, wouldn't it have been great if staff were directed to work on the General Plan and told the developers that there was no capacity to work on stuff that would very likely be in violation of a progressive outcome for it?)

So the Planning Commission has recommended the two elements mentioned above that are supposed to address problems on Mace to the City Council. My conclusion is that the developers will signal their intention to accept them - perhaps with a little drama - and the Council will praise them for doing so. But again, even with everything promised (e.g. shuttles, TDM) and not promised (e.g. e-bike-optimized infrastructure) there's still no place for DISC. Still no way to successfully do something better than I-80 via private vehicle for anything but a minority. There's really nowhere to walk to from DISC. Hopefully the voters will see through this ruse and others and reject DISC 2020.

Galadrieltempted
In the ALTERNATIVE timeline, Lady Galadriel was tempted by but in the end did not succumb to the Power of the Grade-Separation ring

 

Denethor
In the REAL timeline, Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, was consumed by the Grade Separation Ring and driven mad.

 

 

Question

Last night I was quite surprised when the developer said with much conviction that baseline features were not necessary to enforce the creation of certain designs and programs at DISC 2022, as these would be required by CEQA. Then why have baseline features as a solution for any of these things, in all the discussion for years up until now? If a reader could enlighten me I would truly appreciate it.

Afterword

I am all for more housing - for all income levels, but with a significant proportion below market and lower income - and workplace and related development in Davis. I have never said I was against these things in any local discussions, for example in the Davis Vanguard. But they have to be infill, they have to be on greyfields such as parking lots, industrial areas along 5th St - not only the PG&E yard - and in the eastern side of South Davis and other areas much closer to Downtown and especially for what DISC 2022 purports to be about much closer also to campus. With electric shuttles on fixed routes, optimized cycling infrastructure, a new connection across 80 around L St., mixed-use above (existing) parking lots and so on many if not close to all of the actual benefits of a project like DISC 2022 can be realized. It's not impossible, it's not rocket science, it simply requires conviction, creativity and less b.s. and false claims about sustainability. Hopefully Council, Commissions... local media... and organizations such as Bike Davis and Cool Davis re-direct the citizenry towards an alternative to DISC or a truly sustainable version of it... closer to and integrated with the City of Davis and the UC Davis campus.


No DiSC Baseline Features to Reduce Traffic and Related GHG Emissions will Produce even Greater Adverse Environmental Impacts than Those Projected in the EIR

The following email was sent to the Planning Commission this afternoon.

Dear Planning Commissioners:

Firstly, I sincerely apologize for the late hour at which these these comments are delivered to you.

I understand you have received a letter yesterday from Roberta Millstein discussing how the Baseline Features have been throttled back at DiSC 2022 relative to DISC 1.0. However, her communication only discussed the Baseline Features which were originally proposed for DISC 1.0 and then materially weakened or removed entirely in DiSC 2022.

There were a number of other important recommended Baseline Features proposed by various Commissions which never saw the light of day in either DISC 1.0 OR DiSC 2022. This communication focuses only on those unaccepted Baseline Features recommended by the Natural Resources Commission that could have profoundly beneficial impacts in terms of reducing expected traffic problems and reducing GHG emissions otherwise associated the project

According to the EIR, transportation represents 78% of the 55 million lbs of new GHGs projected to be produced by the DiSC project. In fulfilling their project review objectives, among many worthwhile suggestions, the NRC in particular recommended 3 very clearly identified Baseline Features for the project to reduce adverse traffic impacts and associated GHG emissions from the project. All were rejected by the Developer of the project.

We recommend that the approvals for this project not be granted until the Developer has agreed to the NRC-recommended Baseline Features identified below.

Respectfully submitted,

Alan Pryor

Continue reading "No DiSC Baseline Features to Reduce Traffic and Related GHG Emissions will Produce even Greater Adverse Environmental Impacts than Those Projected in the EIR" »


Dramatic reduction in Baseline Features in DiSC 2022

Screen Shot 2022-01-11 at 9.10.17 PM
The following email was sent to the Planning Commission in the evening of Jan 11, 2022.  (The agenda for the meeting can be found here):

Dear members of the Planning Commission,

I am writing concerning item 6A of your meeting tomorrow (Jan 12), the public hearing on the DiSC 2022 project.

As you may recall, for a project that will be facing a Measure J/R/D vote, the Baseline Features (BFs) are key.  The BFs are the only features that are guaranteed parts of the project.  In contrast, any features that are part of the Development Agreement can be changed by the City Council.  So, in terms of what the project is, and what the voters will be voting on, it is extremely important to know what the BFs are.

As it turns out, a number of BFs have changed or been eliminated in the change from the old DISC (rejected by voters in Nov 2020) and the current DiSC 2022 proposal.  Here is my count:

  • 19 BFs essentially unchanged
  • 2 features enhanced
  • 5 BFs changes due to reduction in the size of project (e.g, less housing)
  • 7 BFs that offer a weaker version of feature unrelated to changes in project size
  • 13 features eliminated altogether (appeared in old DISC but not in DiSC 2022).

Of course, whether these changes are important or not is for you and others to determine, but some of them are arguably important.  Indeed, there are changed or eliminated features in each of the main categories, reducing the sustainability, housing, transit, etc., features of the project.

I urge you as Planning Commissioners to query the developer about all of these changes in order to determine if they are justified.

Attached please find a spreadsheet that shows these changes.

The BFs for old DISC can be found online in the following document: http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/CommunityDevelopment/Documents/PDF/CDD/Aggie%20Research%20Campus/20-111%20-%20DISC%20Project%20Ballot%20Measure.pdf

Sincerely,

Roberta Millstein
Davis citizen
Former chair, Open Space & Habitat Commission

**** Download Baseline feature comparison *****


Sign the Petition: PRESS PAUSE on the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project

This is a summary of our longer Petition that can be found and signed at https://chng.it/fJWfym9Gx6

We are Yolo residents concerned about the potential adverse impacts of the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project. On Tuesday, 11 January at 1:00 pm the Yolo Board of Supervisors will discuss and vote on the application. We urge the Supervisors to vote NO.

Here we emphasize Risk of Water Contamination, Loss of Prime Farmland, and Liability.

Continue reading "Sign the Petition: PRESS PAUSE on the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project " »


Mercury Contamination in Cache Creek: We Need More Answers

By Charles B. Salocks, PhD

 Teichert Construction is applying for a Yolo County permit to mine gravel on more than 250 acres of land in lower Cache Creek west of Woodland that is now being used for agriculture.

This proposal is problematic because the Cache Creek watershed naturally contains substantial deposits of mercury ore. It includes a US EPA Superfund site, Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine, located at the east end of Clear Lake.

According to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), at the end of 30 years the mined property will be reclaimed: approximately two-thirds of the land area will be converted back to agricultural use and one-third will become a permanent water impoundment (or ‘pond’) and turned over to the County. The property will not be restored to its original state, at least not in the foreseeable future.  

A toxic compound called methylmercury is produced by certain types of bacteria that live in water and sediment where the concentration of dissolved oxygen is very low. This condition can occur at the bottom of ponds or lakes, such as the reclaimed water impoundments in lower Cache Creek where open pit mining has already occurred.

Continue reading "Mercury Contamination in Cache Creek: We Need More Answers" »


Restoring the Roots of Life in a New Era

Existing-gravel-mining
Existing gravel mining along Cache Creek. Photo credit: Charles Salocks

 

By Nancy Price and Don Price

Recently the Yolo County Planning Commission held two public hearings on the proposal submitted by Teichert Materials to carve a new open-pit gravel mine on the 319-acre Shifler farm, three miles west of Woodland along lower Cache Creek. If approved, the proposed gravel mine would operate six days per week for 30 years.

Climate advocates, the Yolo County Farm Bureau, neighboring residents of the Wild Wings community and others concerned about the project’s many environmental impacts spoke and submitted letters to the Planning Commissioners. After more than ten hours of discussion, the Commission voted 4-2 this month to recommend dramatically scaling back the project to protect prime farmland.  

Citizens raised concerns about formation of toxic methylmercury sediment in the wet pits already lining lower Cache Creek, risk of contaminated fish, and the potential that such deep mining could puncture holes in the groundwater table and contaminate  the water supply.

“This decision signals we are in a new era of planning for resilience and cannot ignore irreversible impacts to land, water and public health. Land that can be used to grow tomatoes and wheat to feed people should be used as if our lives depended on it – because they do,” observed Alessa Johns, a concerned citizen and retired UC Davis professor.

Many readers may not realize that gravel mining in Yolo Country goes way back to the 1870s. By the 1970s, concerns arose over the impact of open-pit mining in the main Cache Creek channel. It took until the mid-1990s for the county, the mining industry including Teichert, and a group of concerned citizens to restrict mining to outside of the main channel, create the Cache Creek Conservancy, and begin a program of remediation and restoration.

Continue reading "Restoring the Roots of Life in a New Era" »


Valley Clean Energy launches an innovative program for agricultural customers to reduce grid stress and save farmers money.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a $3.25 million, 5-megawatt pilot program that simplifies energy pricing for agricultural customers and provides lucrative automation incentives to adjust schedules to match grid conditions.

VCE(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is excited to announce that the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a $3.25 million pilot program to deploy automation systems, mainly for irrigation, that are responsive to the power grid at subsidized or no cost to farmers.

Partnering with TeMix and Polaris Energy Services, VCE will implement the 5-megawatt program starting in the summer of 2022. TeMix invented the technology that creates and transmits dynamic electricity rates that are sensitive to grid conditions, and Polaris is the leader in agricultural demand flexibility.

Building on state-funded research and development by TeMix and Polaris, the Agricultural Flexible Irrigation Technology (AgFIT) pilot program will provide VCE agricultural customers with automation systems and software to easily purchase energy at the lowest prices possible while meeting their crop and operational requirements.

The pilot tariff gives price signals through the simplified rates to incentivize farmers to shift their electricity use. Electricity is not just cheaper when renewables are plentiful; shifting the electricity load off expensive peak times reduces carbon emissions because renewables can be relied upon more heavily, rather than using more carbon-intensive electricity due to higher demand.

As seen in the previous pilot by Polaris and TeMix, growers in the program enjoy a bill savings of 10–15% for shifting energy consumption from the hours when the grid is under the greatest stress to hours when renewable electricity is plentiful. Additionally, incentives for the automation systems of their choice save approximately 30% on labor costs while improving crop quality.

Continue reading "Valley Clean Energy launches an innovative program for agricultural customers to reduce grid stress and save farmers money." »


Valley Clean Energy Hires New Program and Community Engagement Analyst

Sierra-1(From press release) Valley Clean Energy announces the hiring of Sierra Huffman as its new program and community engagement analyst. VCE is the local electricity provider for the cities of Winters, Woodland and Davis as well as the unincorporated portions of Yolo County.

Huffman is responsible for developing and implementing programs, maintaining stakeholder relations, opening avenues for community engagement, and using analytical methodologies to educate and inform. With nearly two years of experience with community choice aggregators such as VCE, Huffman has brought relevant skill sets to the team.

Before joining VCE, she created greenhouse gas reduction measures for Humboldt County’s Climate Action Plan and established long-term planning goals for Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s Repower+. Much of her work focused on energy prices and rates, electric vehicle adoption, rooftop solar installations, and gas appliance retrofits.

She also completed an internship with Silicon Valley Clean Energy before coming to Yolo County.

Continue reading "Valley Clean Energy Hires New Program and Community Engagement Analyst " »


Diverse Group Opposes Teichert Shifler Gravel Mining Project at Dec. 9 Yolo County Planning Commission Hearing

I would like to alert you to the rapidly growing opposition to a 30-year deep pit gravel mining project proposed by Teichert, Inc. alongside lower Cache Creek in Yolo County, just three miles west of the City of Woodland.

The Yolo County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on this project as Item #12: consider a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors regarding certification of the Environmental Impact Report and approval of the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project on a site west of Woodland, CA, including certification of the General Plan Amendment, Rezone, and other associated approvals.  The public hearing, via zoom or telephone,  will take place on December 9, beginning at 8:30 AM.

Nearby homeowners of the WildWings community, defenders of a unique Patwin-Wintun Tending and Gathering Garden, toxicologists, climate advocates and an Episcopal minister are among a diverse group urging the Yolo County Planning Commission to reject the Final EIR and oppose the rezoning of prime farmland to allow the gravel to be mined. 

Attached is a Comment Letter submitted on December 8, 2021 to the Planning Commission and signed by over 100 opponents of this ecologically destructive mining project.

Please contact the following individuals for further information and interviews:

Charles Salocks, Toxicologist, Retired, California Environmental Protection Agency, cbsalocks@gmail.com
Ann Liu, Retired CTA, UCCE Master Gardener, skip2mylew@gmail.com
Alessa Johns, Professor Emerita, University of California, Davis, alessajohns@gmail.com

Thank you,

Nancy Price

Download Memo to Commissioners and Supervisors on Teichert Shifler Issues Final

Continue reading "Diverse Group Opposes Teichert Shifler Gravel Mining Project at Dec. 9 Yolo County Planning Commission Hearing" »


Russell Sprouts Little Imagination

ReimagineInvertedDoes imagination require or at least benefit by transparency and a truly robust public process?

For a year or so the City of Davis, UC Davis and Yolo County have been working with the private consultancy Toole Design and the public to "Reimagine Russell Boulevard".  City of Davis staff plan to update the City Council at this Tuesday's Council meeting.

Following are comments I made on the survey which was planned to close on November 12th but is open as of this moment...

My comments are split into two parts: First I focus on the process, next on the design. Process, today. Design, tomorrow (or Tuesday morning).

*****

1 - The project inexplicably has two websites, one for "administrative" reasons. There's never been an explanation for this.

2 - On the admin. website there is a list of representatives of some sort from the city, the Community Steering Committee.  Two of them told me that they were not happy that it was only a sounding board and not really official - and there's no way specific way indicated to reach them. Additionally I was informed by a Committee member that they were not provided access to raw data from the first survey earlier this year. My impression is that the City learnt its lesson from the Downtown Plan process and decided to formally reduce democracy in the project. If no one visits the admin. website they won't even know about these people. At the very least the budget of nearly half a million dollars (!) didn't allow the consultants and so on to do more than a few public sessions over a year's time.

Continue reading "Russell Sprouts Little Imagination" »


Thinking like a Little Tomato

What should Davis's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan focus on?

TomatoesBy Roberta Millstein

In March 2019, Council adopted the Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency and Proposing Mobilization Efforts to Restore a Safe Climate which states that “the City of Davis commits to taking significant action to move toward net municipal and community carbon neutrality in the short term with maximum efforts to implement carbon reduction actions by 2030; and accelerate the existing 2050 Davis carbon neutrality goal to a 2040 target. The City of Davis and City Council will…accelerate a robust update to the Davis CAAP and integration with the City’s updated General Plan.” (emphasis added). https://www.cityofdavis.org/sustainability/2020-climate-action-and-adaptation-plan-caap

The City has asked for our input into a set of 29 draft action items for the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) that City could take to achieve its Climate Emergency Resolution.  Which should our top priorities be?  Should any of the draft actions be modified, eliminated, or combined?  Should any of the proposed actions that didn't make it into the "top 29" be promoted? 

I suggest that in order to answer this question, we must "Think Like a Little Tomato."[1]  In A Sand County Almanac, conservationist (ecologist, forester, hunter, professor) Aldo Leopold famously urged us to "Think Like a Mountain." In that essay, Leopold was concerned with the consequences of focusing solely on preserving deer population numbers, something that turns out to be at the expense of everything else on the mountain (the wolves, the plants and trees, the mountain itself).  Instead, he implies, we need to think about the entire land community. 

Now in Davis and surrounding areas, deer and wolves are not so much in play, but tomatoes (and other agricultural crops) are, as well as the other plants and animals who live in and around our urban and agricultural areas, some with dwindling numbers, like burrowing owls and Swainson's hawks.  This land community – our land community, since humans are very much a part – is increasingly threatened by severe climate change impacts: hotter summers, hotter and bigger and longer-lasting fires, smoky air, drought, flood.  Arguably, ignoring our land communities and their habitats is exactly the attitude that has brought on our climate emergency, and as we address climate change, it is the attitude that needs to change.

Continue reading "Thinking like a Little Tomato" »


Mining project needs to comform to Yolo County's climate goals

By Nancy Price

On Wednesday, November 10, the Yolo County Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on the proposed 30-year Off-Channel Surface Mining Permit for industrial mining on the agricultural Shifler property. On December 14, the Board of Supervisors meets to consider final approval of the Permit.

At the time the Draft EIR was being prepared, on September 29, 2020, the Yolo County Supervisors passed Resolution 20-114 – A Resolution Declaring a Climate Crisis Requiring an Urgent and Inclusive Mobilization in Yolo County (“2030 Climate Emergency Mobilization Resolution”). This goal is stated in Yolo County’s 2011 Climate Action Plan and elements of the County’s General Plan.

A 6/31/2021 Press Release elaborates, the Supervisors “passed a resolution declaring a climate crisis requiring an urgent and inclusive mobilization of countrywide resources to initiate a just transition to an inclusive, equitable, sustainable and resilient local economy while also supporting and advocating for regional, national and international efforts necessary to reverse the climate, social justice, and economic crises. As an immediate goal, the Board voted to create a new Climate Action Plan for the County with the intent of reaching a carbon negative status by 2030.”

Given the magnitude of Teichert’s 277 acre industrial mining and reclamation project, the Supervisor’s must direct the new Yolo County Climate Action Commission to report on Teichert’s application and EIR documents, and that the ecological assessment called for in the “Climate Emergency Mobilization Resolution” be adopted and implemented.

Teichert must prioritize and commit to how they will achieve the county’s 2030 reduction goals such as solar-power generation at the Woodland Plant, conversion of vehicle fleets and other measures. The proposed carbon absorption capacity of reclaimed agricultural land on the Shifler property needs further study before this mitigation measure is considered viable. The proposed purchase of carbon credits to mitigate or offset Teichert’s GHG emissions is fraught with challenges in monitoring, reporting, and guaranteeing actual, quantifiable carbon reduction.

To conclude, the magnitude and scale of industrial mining for 30 years to 2052 runs counter to the County’s publicly stated climate actions goals and the process they have established to attain those goals by 2030.


DISC Traffic Problems and Associated Vehicular Emissions will not be Solved by the Proposed I-80 HOV Lane Expansion nor Near Term Adoption of Electric Vehicles as Proponents Claim

Myths and Facts about Impacts of Freeway Lane Expansions on Traffic Congestion and Adoption Rates of Electric Vehicles

By Alan Pryor

Executive Summary

Proponents of the proposed DISC project claim that the projected traffic congestion associated with the project will be solved soon in the future by the hoped-for I-80 freeway HOV lane expansion easing roadway congestion. The proposed freeway expansion project envisions the addition of one HOV lane on each side of the I-80 freeway freeway from from Hwy 113 on the west to the I-5/I-50 interchange in Scaramento and the I-80/Reed Ave interchange to the east.

Proponents also claim that the associated vehicular greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from the increased traffic to and from the DISC site will be substantially eliminated by the mass adoption of electric vehicles reducing tailpipe GHG emissions

Unfortunately, science shows us that the proposed addition of the two HOV lanes on the 20.8 mile stretch of the I-80 freeway expansion (one HOV lane on each side of the freeway) will actually induce further traffic and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) on this stretch of the freeway. Methodology developed by the UC Davis National Institute of Sustainable Transportation (NIST) shows this phenomena is due to both short and long-term driver behavioral changes including taking longer and more frequent automobile trips, route shifts, and transportation mode shifts away from public transportation. The cumulative impacts will result in no relief from the current plague of I-80 freeway congestion.

Further, mass adoption of electric vehicles will take decades to substantially replace existing aging fossil fuel-powered vehicles resulting in no near term decreases of the additional GHG emissions resulting from new traffic associated with the DISC project. These emissions directly threaten the Davis goal of carbon neutrality by 2040 and Yolo County's goal of net negative carbon emissions by 2030.

Myth #1 – The Proposed I-80 Expansion will Greatly Reduce Freeway Congestion for DISC Commuters Leading to Decreased Congestion for Local Drivers on Mace and Covell Blvd.

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Activists Launch Fossil-Free UC Davis Campaign

DecarbonizetheUC
UC Davis students protest in Davis on 9/24/21 demanding an end to fossil fuel use across the UC system. Credit: Stephen Wheeler

(From press release) As the United Nations-sponsored COP26 climate conference begins in Glasgow, UC Davis faculty, staff, and student activists today announced a petition and educational campaign asking the university to commit to ending fossil fuel use by 2030. The petition also asks that specific policies for doing this be adopted by the end of 2022.

Although UC Davis has made progress in improving the energy efficiency of its operations and buying cleaner electricity from off-campus, annual on-campus emissions from Davis and Sacramento campuses have remained steady at about 150,000 metric tons of CO2 since 2008. Most of these emissions are due to the university’s large methane-fueled heating and cooling plants. 56% of campus energy use continues to be generated directly from fossil fuels, mostly fracked methane. Climate activists ask that heating and cooling systems be electrified using renewably generated electricity.

UC Davis installed a 16MW photovoltaic array in 2015 which provides about 11% of campus electricity. The university is also converting campus heating and cooling pipes from steam to hot water in a program called the “Big Shift,” a step that will make electrification easier. But the campus has yet to commit to ending fossil fuel use. In a recent message to the Chancellor, activists said “The Big Shift is just one step in the right direction. Other steps need to be identified asap, and UCD commitment to ending fossil fuel use articulated.”

UC Campus emissions
According to data released by the University of California Office of the President following a Public Records Act request, on-campus (Scope 1) greenhouse gas emissions have remained steady at most UC campuses since the late 2000s. Credit: Adam Arons and Eric Halgren

The UC system has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 for on-campus emissions and purchased power. But while purchased electricity has gotten cleaner, on-campus emissions have yet to fall at any UC. To meet the 2025 goal, campuses plan to buy carbon offsets, which claim to reduce GHG emissions elsewhere in the world.

However, there are major questions whether offsets would represent permanent and verifiable GHG reductions that would not have occurred otherwise.[1] The UC Office of the President has so far been unable to identify nearly enough offsets for UC campuses. Activists ask that campuses instead end fossil fuel use and commit to electrifying operations.

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Comments for the Natural Resources Commission review of DiSC 2022

TrafficThe following comments were shared with the Natural Resources Commission at its meeting last night and are reposted here with permission of the author.

This is Alan Pryor speaking as a former 12-year NRC Commissioner. I think it's telling to review a comment made by a Planning Commissioner at a hearing on this project last year.

"You want this to be the most sustainable, innovative tech campus in the United States. But you have come to us with a car-dominated, auto-centric proposal on the edge of town, far from the capitol corridor station, not linked to good transit, with huge parking lots and parking structures. Widening Mace to accommodate more traffic is not the answer. It's going to induce more traffic."

Nothing has functionally changed with this project since then except its size is been reduced by less than half but the applicant is now proposing transportation features that are even less conducive to non- automotive forms of transportation.

For instance the applicant is now refusing to construct the previously agreed upon off-grade crossing to allow arriving pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross six lanes of Mace Boulevard during rush-hour traffic. How is that possibly welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrian employees arriving on the west side of the street or to school kids living at the project trying to get to school and back each day without a parent driving them.

Also, the original proposal was an environmental nightmare in that it projected over 83,000,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent emitted each year. The new estimate is about  45,000,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent per year - or about 4.5% of the City's current carbon footprint for this one project alone. All of these emissions would have to be later eliminated for the City to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 but the developer has not proposed how they will do this.

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Use of American Rescue Plan Funds (ARP) to obtain an Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Report

Street-treesThe following letter was shared with the Davisite this morning.

Dear City of Davis ARP Subcommittee:

The City of Davis' urban forest is comprised of trees, gardens, green spaces and other natural areas. This urban tree canopy provides a myriad of benefits making our communities cleaner, safer and healthier while reducing the costs associated with many services. Managing, monitoring, and enhancing this important resource is critical to sustained economic development and environmental health.

I am requesting that sufficient ARP funds are dedicated to allow for: (1) A complete analysis of Land Cover and Urban Tree Canopy; (2) Assess an Ecosystem Benefits Analyses, including: air quality, energy, stormwater, and carbon; (3) GIS-based and other tools to model strategic tree canopy development scenarios; and (4) Complete training for Davis Tree Canopy Partners, such as Tree Davis and the Tree Commission, on use of these tools to accomplish management objectives.

Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Report (UTCAR) would be a onetime use of ARP Funds and benefits all living animals and humans regardless of gender and group stereotypes, including race, age, ethnicity, ability level, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. An UTCAR would bring data from various studies to evaluate and understand the extent and value of the region’s trees and to provide a benchmark of the urban tree population, land cover, and the value of the current and potential future urban forest.

The data and tools produced will enable planners, managers, and commissioners to develop strategies for community development, air quality enhancement, energy conservation, stormwater management, and community forest management.

The UTCAR would be conducted in a manner that defines and quantifies various environmental and economic benefits of the region’s tree canopy, known as ecosystem services, focusing on air quality, energy use, stormwater, and carbon sequestration.

The dynamic modeling tools developed for this project would allow planners and managers to envision and plan their desired future urban forest. With these tools, users identify and prioritize strategic tree planting areas based on management objectives, and create alternative designs and cost/benefit scenarios at a regional-scale or for specific sites.

Though the City of Davis' urban forest is relatively young, it nonetheless provides substantial benefits that can be quantified, monetized, forecasted and enhanced over time with proper planning and management. To maximize the function and value of the urban forest resource, it is critical to target canopy increases strategically and to educate policymakers and citizens about the benefits of urban tree canopy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Tracy DeWit


Leeward Renewable Energy, Valley Clean Energy Sign 15-year Solar-Plus-Storage Power Purchase Agreement for Willow Springs 3 Solar Facility

Project to provide 72MW of solar power, 36MW of battery storage for Valley Clean Energy customers

(From press release) Leeward Renewable Energy (Leeward) and Valley Clean Energy (VCE) announced today that they have entered into a 15-year solar-plus-storage Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) involving Leeward’s 72-megawatt (MW) solar and 36 MW (144 megawatt-hour) battery storage Willow Springs 3 facility in Kern County, California.

VCE’s board of directors approved the PPA on October 14. The Willow Springs 3 project will supply enough reliable, clean electricity for approximately 27% of VCE’s 125,000 customers in Yolo County, California, by the end of 2023. The agreement will also support VCE in achieving its goal of having a 100 percent carbon-neutral portfolio by 2030.

As part of the agreement, Leeward will contribute to VCE’s local workforce development and sustainability efforts in Yolo and Kern counties to support local hiring and training.

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Letter to the Tree Commission re: DiSC 2022

Red leaves
One of Davis's urban trees

To Davis Tree Commission:

In regard to the DISC proposal (Item 6B on your agenda this evening),  I support your subcommittee's recommendations and encourage you to recommend them as a "baseline feature".

Given that the size of the proposal is already known, recommendation of a specific number of trees should be achievable (as it was during the previous iteration of the proposal).

I understand that the developer is proposing to satisfy shade requirements via the use of solar panels or trees. Unfortunately, this type of "choice" will increasingly be used by developers, as we've already seen in regard to Sutter Hospital's expansion. It may be that developers generally prefer solar panels, to help them meet other requirements (and to claim that a given proposal is "green", while simultaneously eliminating "greenery" in regard to trees).

At some point, the city itself will need to come up with a clear policy regarding the use of solar panels vs. trees for given situations. While either can be used in parking lots, trees (unlike solar panels) require soil and space to survive. As such, solar panels are suitable for a wider variety of locations (such as rooftops), while trees are not.

Until/unless the city comes up with a clear policy (supported by the tree commission), I would encourage the tree commission to not be distracted by an "either/or" choice, and simply focus its efforts on recommendations regarding trees and the benefits they provide.

Sincerely,

Ron Oertel


Comments to the Tree Commission concerning DiSC 2022

Screen Shot 2021-10-19 at 9.55.57 AMThe following was emailed to members of the Tree Commission this morning.  The Tree Commission is scheduled to discuss the revised MRIC/ARC/DISC project, now dubbed DiSC 2022, at its meeting this Thursday, Oct 21.  If you wish to comment on the project yourself, see instructions on the agenda for the meeting, located here.

Dear members of the Tree Commission,

I am writing to you as a former commissioner (10+ years) and Chair of the Open Space and Habitat Commission (OSHC), having completed my term last December. I was involved in analyzing what is now being called the DiSC 2022 project in all of its iterations, so I hope you find my comments helpful in your discussions.

I think it's great that you appointed a subcommittee to review all the materials, given that the changes are more extensive than the City has stated – this is not just a project that has been cut in half, as your subcommittee's analysis shows. I endorse your subcommittee's recommendations and encourage you to adopt them as a body in the strongest possible language, remembering that the only way to guarantee that a promised feature will be in the actual project is for it to be designated as a "baseline feature." A cautious route would have you even recommend that the relevant ordinances be satisfied (this was something that the OSHC did last time), since there is a history of the City Council bending its ordinances, including ordinances concerning trees (it is my belief that they did this in the recent Sutter parking lot decision).

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