Rangelands and greenfield development

Note: I discovered yesterday, to my chagrin, that I had a number of draft posts dating back to early 2013, which I’d never finished. So I’m going to post them now, all in a flurry. Some of these issues I’ll get back to and do an in-depth and up-to-date post, and some of them I probably never will.

The topic was going to be greenfield development in Sacramento County, Rancho Cordova, Elk Grove, and Roseville, and how it will be impossible to achieve greenhouse gas reduction targets if the governments allow this type of sprawl or super-sprawl development to occur.

Original 2014-12-29:

Lost California rangeland is said to pose greenhouse gas risk (SacBee 2014-12-28)

New Study: Where Have All The Rangelands Gone? (The Nature Conservancy 2014-10-23)

Whither the Rangeland?: Protection and Conversion in California’s Rangeland Ecosystems (PLOS ONE 2014-08-20)


Levee path

Note: I discovered yesterday, to my chagrin, that I had a number of draft posts dating back to early 2013, which I’d never finished. So I’m going to post them now, all in a flurry. Some of these issues I’ll get back to and do an in-depth and up-to-date post, and some of them I probably never will.

Original 2013-01-07: Stories, editorials, and letters to the editor on the topic of the river levees in the Pocket and Little Pocket area were in the news this week. A small group of homeowners, some of whom have encroached on property that does not belong to them, are arguing against public access that would provide a continuous path along the Sacramento River. The levees were built with public money, local, state and federal, and it seems to me that property owners have no valid rights to prohibit access.

Added 2015-08-17: The legal situation is diverse, depending upon the history of each individual levee. Sometimes the levee was built with an easement “on top of” private land, in which case the property owner has some say about the levee, but the easement agreements never gave exclusive use. In other situations the land on and beneath the levee is the property of a levee district, in which case it is entirely the right of the levee district to manage access. However, since these levee districts are quasi-public agencies (they were chartered and received or receive public funds), there would need to be a compelling reason to deny public access. I never got around to the research that would be necessary to document the situation, which may well vary by the levee section, for this levee along the Sacramento River.

River Cats: no such thing as free parking

RaleyFieldThe River Cats recently announced that they were going to make parking free and have expanded parking space for the upcoming season (SacBee). And they are raising ticket prices.

Free parking? There is no such thing as free parking. The car drivers are now receiving a subsidy to drive, at my expense. Have the River Cats not heard there is a trend away from free parking and towards motor vehicle drivers paying the true cost of that choice? This is not a good sign for livability in West Sacramento, or traffic management on both sides of the river, or greenhouse gas reduction. Just when West Sacramento seemed to be overtaking Sacramento in interest and progressive ideas comes this regressive idea.

Many game attendees have been walking across the Tower Bridge from Sacramento, some because they’ve parked in downtown or old Sacramento, and some walked from their homes or light rail. These people will now be paying for parking that they aren’t using. I won’t be subsidizing car drivers, and I won’t be attending.

The map above shows the areas I think are available for parking around Raley Field, though this needs to be field checked. Of course much of this area will eventually be developed with housing and other development, but for the time being there hardly seems any shortage of parking.

Rangeland conversion threatens GHG goals

rangeland to exurbs, USGS photo
rangeland to exurbs, USGS photo

A research paper posted on PLOS entitled Whither the Rangeland?: Protection and Conversion in California’s Rangeland Ecosystems highlights the problem that exists everywhere but is a particular concern in the Sacramento area. Though the paper is pretty science-y, and does not emphasize the carbon impact of rangeland conversion, it is worth a read for all the other impacts and loss of public resources and ecosystem services entailed when rangelands are converted. It say this about Sacramento:

“The vast majority of the development in the Sacramento Metro region occurred in the grasslands and woodlands leading to the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento, with large conversions directly adjacent to the existing urbanized area (Figure 5).”

The SacBee article “Lost California rangeland is said to pose greenhouse gas risk” puts this rangeland loss in the context of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals required by A.B. 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. From the SacBee article:

A study by UC Davis plant scientist Louise Jackson found that conversion from rangeland to irrigated cropland correlated to a threefold increase in greenhouse gas emissions per unit of land. When rangelands were converted to development, that number increased exponentially. Urban areas account for 217 times more greenhouse gas emissions.

I’ve asked Louise Jackson for more information on this statistics quoted, but so far no response.

My take on all of this is that we cannot possibly meet our climate change goals if we continue to convert rangelands to exurbs. This development form, which Sacramento so dearly loves, and the surrounding counties like as well, is simply not tenable if we are to have a future free of traumatic climate instability and warming. Every greenfield development, which in this area is almost always a conversion of rangelands, must be stopped. Now.

Sustainable Communities Grants in Sacramento region

The California Strategic Growth Council just announced Sustainable Communities Planning Grant and Incentives Program, detailed in “SGC Awards Grants to Boost Smarter Urban Planning in CA Cities” on Streetsblog LA.

The Sacramento region received:

  1. Accelerating Local Implementation of Sacramento Region Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy, $885K (Sacramento Area Council of Governments)
  2. Downtown/University Gateway District Plan, $591K (City of Davis)
  3. Sacramento Intermodal Phase 3, $492K (City of Sacramento)
  4. Pioneer Bluff Redevelopment Master Plan, $378K (City of West Sacramento)

Cordova Hills decision today

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors will likely make a decision on Cordova Hills today. The hearing is scheduled for 2:00 at 700 H St. Recent news items on Cordova Hills include:

Climate Change

20120318-102104.jpgThe Sacramento News & Review this week included an insert from the City of Sacramento entitled Climate Change in Your Hands. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. I’m not sure if it was also in the Sacramento Bee, since I don’t read the Bee regularly. The insert is remarkably strong in its support of climate change, without any of the tea party denialism that shows up in so much of the printed and broadcast media.

The graph at right shows the transportation element of greenhouse gas emissions for Sacramento, and it is the largest, at 48%. The city’s Climate Action Plan (at http://sacgp.org/cap.html) has a goal of reducing vehicles miles traveled (VMT) by 7% by 2012 and 16% by 2025. Both seem to me rather weak goals, but are nevertheless imperative as at least a starting point.

“Cruising the green lane” on John “Bucky” Perez talks about his shift to biking rather than driving the five miles to work. He talks about the money savings, the health benefits, and that biking gets him energized in the morning and unwound at the end of the day.

The “What can I do” sidebar list seven individual actions, including checking your Walk Score (which I posted about yesterday). The others are: 1) support sustainable land use initiatives; 2) think about moving; 4) try finding a job closer to home; 5) telecommute; 6) shift daily trips to walking, and 7) drive more efficiently. Each of these is worth exploring in more detail.

These may seem like pretty big changes, particularly where you work and live, but think about that fact that most people these days change jobs a number of times and residences several times. Each of these changes is an opportunity to make a decision for sustainability.