Playing With Politics

A Blog on Law, Politics, Planning, Development, and Other Vices

Archive for August, 2011

$45 billion or $100 billion. Which is cheaper?

Posted by Roobs on August 26, 2011

The cost to NOT build the California High-Speed Rail project has never been zero.

Critics of California’s High-Speed Rail project usually have their eyes fixed on one part of the project – the bottom line.  The most common line of attack against the project is its cost, estimated around $45 – $60 billion (depending on who you ask).  They call it a “boondogle” because they say it is just far to expensive for the state to undertake.  As a post in the California High-Speed Rail Blog points out, critics’ arguments rest on one assumption: That we are to spend $45-$60 billion on HSR or we don’t build it and spend $0.   This, of course, is not true.

From CAHSR Blog:

This claim has always been utterly false. The cost of doing nothing is not zero. Californians are going to have to get around their state somehow, and as population grows and gas prices rise, the cost does too. The cost of expanding freeways and airports to meet the travel demand HSR will meet is estimated at $100 billion. Compared to that, HSR is a bargain.

Anyone who goes shopping can tell you that if you can buy the same thing for a cheaper price, then you do it.  Californians will need to travel around our state whether we build HSR or not.  To suggest that we can do so for nothing is not only false but utterly irresponsible on the part of officials and critics.  Over the next 25 years, California’s population will increase from 38 million residents today to 50 million by 2035, a lot of that growth will happen in the Central Valley.  The fact of the matter is that we are going to build something, either more freeway and airport capacity or HSR in order to meet the transportation demand that will come. High-speed rail is and always has been the cheaper alternative to expanding freeways and airports.

From CA HSR Authority, numbers derived from submitted 2004 EIR:

Statewide, over the next two decades, California’s HST System would alleviate the need to spend more than $100 billion1 to build 3,000 miles of new freeway, 5 airport runways, and 90 departure gates to meet the transportation needs of a growing population. In fact, the San Joaquin Valley is projected to grow at a rate higher than any other region in California. Three counties—Merced, Madera, and Fresno—are projected to grow by 68% by 2035.

So when critics are saying we can’t afford to spend up to $60 billion on HSR, what they are really saying is we can obviously afford to spend $100 billion on more freeways, airport terminals and runways and other costly and less efficient modes of transportation.  In other words, critics would rather Californians pay more than pay less.  Does that make any sense?  No. No it doesn’t.  High-speed rail is a cheaper, more efficient and environmentally friendly means to meet the transportation demands of Californians now and in the future.

Check out the rest of the post at California High-Speed Rail Blog.

Roobs is a masters student at UCLA in the Department of Urban & Regional Planning with concentrations in Transportation Planning & Policy and Urban Design & Development. He has a BA in Legal Studies and Sociology from UC Berkeley. Roobs is a former Waterfront Commissioner for the City of Berkeley and former paralegal for a law firm specializing in real estate development. 


Posted in Economic Development, Politics, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

East Coast being insufferable about the West Coast

Posted by Roobs on August 24, 2011

Now famous picture of DC earthquake devastation

Following the 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia, east coasters and media essentially panicked.  Buildings were evacuated and thousands, if not millions of people went to the streets during the rare seismic event.  But when all was said and done, the earthquake caused minimal damage across the East Coast with no major injuries or fatalities reported.  Those of us on the West Coast essentially had a field day with this news.  Californians deal with earthquakes everyday with larger earthquakes happening more frequently.  In fact, in the last 10 hours, there have been two earthquakes in California.  A 4.2 magnitude earthquake in Central California and a 3.6 magnitude earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area.  So it comes as little surprise that when Californians saw their East Coast brothers and sisters overreacting to an event that caused little damage, we decided to poke fun.

Twitter and facebook blew up with Californians poking fun.  A lot of them focused on welcoming the East Coast to the earthquake club.  Some in California also went further to point out that, yes, the East Coast may have been overreacting.  But it looks like not all East Coasters can take their punches with that famous New York attitude.  I’m not entirely sure it was a joke post or a serious attempt at a rant, but the people at – an internet gossip site – apparently are crying (literally?) foul over the West Coast’s attitude with a post entitled: “Californians are being insufferable about this earthquake.”  I’m assuming it was a serious attempt at a rant considering they wrote a post later on in the day on how Californians are overreacting to an oil tanker on a train that burst into flames causing the evacuation of 4,800 people.  In any event, Gawker (and the East Coast), all I have to say is… get over yourself.

Are Californians being insufferable about the earthquake?  Probably.  However, is it justified?  Of course it is.  Here’s why:

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Posted in Pop Culture | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How City Beautiful Can Help: The Psychology of Recovery

Posted by Roobs on August 23, 2011

Washington DC was the first US city to use City Beautiful concepts when redesigning its Mall

Washington gets a lot of flack lately for reasons both justified and not.  But one complaint many are jumping on is President Obama’s specific jobs plan, or lack thereof.  Obama is now scheduled to give a speech near Labor Day on what he plans to do about jobs and reducing the deficit, presumably in response to the increasingly loud crys from Democrats and Republicans for him to do so.  The real question is what is he going to propose?  We are getting a better picture on what the President is planning: extending the payroll tax credit and extending unemployment benefits. There is also talk of some infrastructure component to the plan as well.  The infrastructure component is where I want to focus this post.

President Obama has shown many that he’s more of a lover, not a fighter.  Despite coming from Chicago politics, he has not been eager to pick a fight with austerity driven members of the GOP and Tea Party.  Instead, he deals and comes back with very watered down plans that don’t do much to help our ailing economy, and in many ways hurts his own political clout and re-election bid.   Obama should take a look at some of the principles of the City Beautiful Movement of the early 20th century to help see why a big push to fund infrastructure, like roads, rail, bridges and buildings, can prove extremely beneficial to not only the economy but to people’s perception of where we are as a nation.

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Does The WeHo Mayor Think Gays and Families Don’t Mix?

Posted by Roobs on August 21, 2011

West Hollywood has been a haven for the LGBT community  since its incorporation in 1984.  Though it has always been identified as a pro-LGBT city and area of Los Angeles County (what I like to call the Castro of LA), it has never enjoyed an official designation.  On August 18th, the West Hollywood News (aka: WeHo News) reported that the West Hollywood City Council voted to direct staff to begin looking for ways the city can begin to officially identify Santa Monica Blvd. between Doheney Dr. and La Cienega Blvd. as “Historic Boystown”.

The desire to name the strip as “Historic Boystown” has not been without controversy.  First, the Lakeview neighborhood in the City of Chicago has long been known as “Boystown” before West Hollywood was even a city.  The decision to identify a part of West Hollywood has spurred a debate between cities over who is the “real” boystown.  But now the West Hollywood Mayor, John Duran, has added himself with a gaff to the WeHo News.

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Posted in LGBT, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

How Not to Handle a Protest

Posted by Roobs on August 16, 2011

Yesterday, The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit authority (aka: BART) did the world a public service.  By shutting down stations, previously shutting down cell and data services and all in all pissing people off, it showed other government agencies how NOT to handle a civic protest.  In other words, had BART demonstrated some very basic common sense in crisis management, or at the very least spent the last decade watching protests around the world, it would have known preventing a planned protest from happening isn’t the best way to calm people down.

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Posted in Law, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Missing the Forest Because of the Trees: Gentrification

Posted by Roobs on August 6, 2011

Gentrification is sometimes thought of as a third-rail topic – touch it you die.  Gentrification has become so controversial that the mere mention of it can elicit strong and passionate debate. Proponents of gentrification say it improves neighborhoods: by improving the physical environment of a neighborhood, gentrification also improves the quality of life for residents, new and old.  Critics, however, see gentrification as a tool by wealthy developers and urban professionals to displace an undesirable bloc of the population – usually minorities.  But in all the kerfuffle of debate, many are unwilling to look at the real causes of the problems they see.  Studies are showing that gentrification doesn’t actually do all that critics have long accused it of.  Additionally, critics of gentrification often are calling for it, just leaving out the name.

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Posted in Economic Development, Politics, Race & Identity, Urban Planning | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »