Wednesday, June 30, 2010

BP Loves This Vehicle



One day hopefully soon this Hummer H1 will only be seen behind glass at the Peterson Automotive Museum where its 12 miles per gallon highway and 10 mpg city can do no damage to the environment and people's health. 

But for now this "patriot" from Arizona (and a Sheriff no less!) is driving around British Petroleum and Al Qaeda's favorite oil-sucking American vehicle.

It is hard to believe in 2010 with all that has happened in terms of global instability due to our dependence on foreign oil and the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history in the Gulf Coast that someone would not only drive around a vehicle with not one but two gas tanks, an American flag sticker on the side and a red, white and blue license plate with the words "freedom" on it. And to add insult to injury the driver is a member of law enforcement!

I suppose the owner of this vehicle has a very different interpretation of what the word "freedom" and "patriot" means. To me it means driving less and when we absolutely must drive to use smaller, more fuel efficient cars, hybrids and soon electric cars because the most patriotic act we as Americans can do is reduce our personal dependence on dirty coal and oil.

I guess the Hummer owner hasn't gotten the message yet.

Here are more pictures of this soon-to-be relic of a bygone era.





Westside Rail Obstructionists




I was biking around the Cheviot Hills neighborhood of West L.A. and happened upon this sign in front of one of the perfectly manicured lawns of the perfect suburban home in the perfect neighborhood. Everyone is happy driving their cars from their garage to pick up the kids at soccer practice or commute to work or whatever. But God forbid the Expo light rail line invades the neighborhood and takes space away from the automobile!

This sign is fear-mongering at its worst -- when all else fails exploit the children with a sign that states "Kids and Trains Don't Mix!" Really? Then do kids and cars mix because all I see in Cheviot Hills are speeding cars screeching around every turn. That is just wonderful for children.

The Neighbors for Smart Rail organization is NIMBYsm at its absolute worst. The website states that they are against at-grade street level crossings because it will disrupt traffic, bring crime, bring more buses to the area and other factors that simply have no basis in actual reality.

They want to either force at-grade crossings underground for Phase 2 of the Expo Line project from Culver City to Santa Monica or scrap it completely in favor of just the Subway to the Sea along Wilshire.

Let's cut to the chase and say what they really mean. Disrupt traffic means an extra 5 minutes in their luxury cars because they would never consider actually riding the Expo Line. Crime and more buses means that they don't want those poor immigrant Eastsiders in their wealthy white neighborhood. Well guess what? Cheviot Hills residents want those Eastsiders to landscape their lawns, clean their homes, push their strollers and cook their food so why not make it easier for them to actually get to the Westside by building the Expo Line and providing more buses?

And once the Expo Line is built out all the way to Santa Monica maybe some of these Cheviot Hills and Rancho Park residents will learn to love riding the rails to downtown, USC, Culver City and Santa Monica and see the Expo Line as more of a blessing than a curse.

L.A. is Drowning in Wasted Water



When I see wasteful activities in L.A. I usually keep it to myself -- whether it is the styrofoam cups, containers and plastic bags at my favorite lunch place, an SUV aimlessly idling for what seems like forever in the drive-thru line at a fast food joint, illegal gas leaf blowers polluting the air or private country clubs, homes and apartment buildings illegally watering the grass on off days.

But the tipping point for me was when my own apartment complex started blasting the sprinklers last Saturday in violation of the city ordinance to only irrigate lawns on Mondays and Thursdays to conserve precious water resources.

Watering on an off day wasn't the only violation however. It is also illegal to water lawns between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., use sprinklers for more than 15 minutes and allow runoff onto streets, sidewalks, driveways or parking areas. My apartment complex violated every one of these ordinances. But they aren't the only culprits. I see wasteful watering practices all the time and it must stop. Enough is enough.

It is wrong to waste water. It is wrong to make pedestrians walk through a big puddle or walk on the street to avoid the water. It is wrong to spray parked cars, some of whom have their windows cracked open and the owners come back to a water-logged interior.

If you see illegal watering in the city please call 1-800-DIAL DWP or email waterconservationteam@ladwp.com.

More pictures from the scene of the crime:





Amoeba Music Goes Green

When a business goes green it is something to be recognized and celebrated. So kudos to Amoeba Music of Hollywood for doing their part to help the planet.

Patronizing green businesses is a statement in itself so I bought a book from Amoeba called The Carbon Buster's Home Energy Handbook: Slowing Climate Change and Saving Money. It claims if you follow the tips you can save up to $17,000 over five years.

On a recent visit to the record store's iconic Sunset Boulevard location I snapped some pictures of their environmentally-friendly efforts.





California Public Utilities Commission Making Waves


The California Public Utilities Commission has been in the news a lot lately in terms of transitioning to renewable energy. CPUC is taking the initiative ahead of passage of the Climate Bill in Washington so kudos to them for making progress and leading the way into America's clean energy future.

California Utilities Make Progress on 20% by 2010 (CleanTechnica)
Great news on the clean energy front as the California Public Utilities Commission reports that utilities generated 15.4% of their energy from renewables in 2009.

San Diego Utility Charges Ahead With Electric-Car Plan (Grist)
 In other CPUC news,  the commission approved a pilot project proposed by San Diego Gas & Electric to set variable rates for electric car charging.

CPUC Rolls Out Smart Grid Deployment Initiative (The Examiner)
Last Thursday the commission approved a plan to digitally upgrade the power grid for the 21st century ahead of a national smart grid plan.

Other Green News Headlines from the Golden State:

Jerry Brown kicked off clean energy revolution in California once, aims to do it again (Grist)


California Green Chemistry (Environmental News Network)


Fisker to Make Electric Cars in Old GM Plant (Tree Hugger)


Got Storm Water? L.A. Now Has Standardized Plans For Runoff Infiltration (L.A. Times)


Streetlight Project Radiates Savings (S.D. Union-Tribune)


Fast Test for Ocean Waste Hits O.C. Beaches (O.C. Register)


Wilshire Bus-Only Lanes Move To Environmental Review Stage (Streetsblog)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Climate Refugees' Screens at L.A. Film Fest


While pundits debate whether climate change is man-made or a natural phenomenon, the Pentagon and our military are busy preparing for the future climate wars that could come as a result of millions of people displaced by global warming in places such as Bangladesh, the Pacific island nations and many other hot spots around the world.

That is just one of the urgent messages relayed in the film "Climate Refugees," which screened Friday night downtown as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival. The unspooling took place outdoors at California Plaza on a perfect SoCal evening with a cool breeze, clear skies, palm trees and a full moon as the backdrop.

Audiences were treated to introductions from the film's director Michael Nash, environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr. and Senator Barbara Boxer with a taped video message from Washington. Boxer is one of the many dignitaries and politicians who have seen the film, which was screened at the Copenhagen Climate Conference in addition to Sundance and other film festivals.

Sadly the millions suffering because of climate change are not given the same rights that political refugees get because the United Nations and other world bodies and nation-states don't recognize them. Therefore, the millions left homeless by such disasters as cyclones in Bangladesh are denied access to other countries and left to fend for themselves in a country that is literally drowning because of rising sea levels and warming waters that produce deadlier cyclones.

Nash's journey took him all over the world to put a human face on climate change.

"What we found was an intersection that is taking place in societies where overpopulation, overconsumption, lack of resources and a changing climate are all colliding with each other to the likes that I don’t think anyone has ever thought possible."

Begley seized the moment to call for all of us to not only hold government and corporations accountable for the Gulf Coast oil spill disaster, but to also look at what we are doing to create the demand for so much oil.

"The biggest vote that we have is our purchasing power -- our use of kilowatt hours and our use of fossil fuels," Begley told the audience. "We need to do everything we can to create less demand so that there is less of this happening. We need to show corporations and government that we mean business too. This is a catalyst. This is a wake-up call. We have to turn this into action."

Click here for the "Climate Refugees" website and check out the trailer below.



Thursday, June 24, 2010

America's Infrastructure Emergency


America's infrastructure received a D grade point average from The American Society of Civil Engineers last year and needs a 5-year investment of $2.2 trillion to move up to a B grade.

Government spending statistics point to years of neglect and misplaced funding priorities. According to the website usgovernmentspending.com, in fiscal year 2010 total federal spending on transportation is $106.5 billion and other spending including energy and water supply is $109 billion for a total of $215.5 billion. Compare this to the $895 billion in defense spending and a dire picture is painted.

While we are spending billions in taxpayer money building roads, bridges, power lines and water pipes in Iraq and Afghanistan, here on the home front our outdated 20th century infrastructure is literally crumbling before our eyes.

The History Channel recently aired a disturbing documentary called "The Crumbling of America" about how desperately we need to upgrade our roads, bridges, power grid, sewage and water systems or improving our rapidly decaying infrastructure will cost much more than $2.2 trillion down the line.

Here is a preview of the 2-hour special airing on The History Channel.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Green News Headlines: Thursday, June 24

LOS ANGELES

The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles recently published two pro-public transit opinion pieces urging L.A.'s large Jewish community to support the 30/10 Initiative for better and bigger mass transit in the Los Angeles region. It is encouraging to see the major newspaper of record for the Jewish community publish these two stories. One of the pieces urges synagogues to set up public transportation committees and give public transit directions to worshippers. What a great idea!

SAN DIEGO

'Care for Our Coast' campaign raises $566,000 (S.D. Union-Tribune)
A campaign to improve beaches in San Diego County has raised $566,000. "Care for Our Coast" will spend the money on dune restoration, cleanup projects and recycling efforts at Bolsa Chica, Carlsbad, Huntington, Malibu Lagoon and San Onofre state beaches.

Green SoCal Lives...In D.C.!


Rather than hand it off or terminate it, I decided I'm going to continue blogging about Southern California's new green economy from the vantage point of living in our Nation's Capital.

So Green SoCal won't be going anywhere, but it will look a bit different.

California is at the forefront of the clean energy revolution and therefore has a special relationship with Washington as the Obama Administration, Congress and the Federal Government place the climate crisis and clean energy at the center of debate and policy.

From L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's frequent cross-country visits to lobby on behalf of federal funding for the 30/10 Initiative, to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (and whoever takes his office in November) visiting Washington often to meet with high-ranking officials and politicos about California's cutting edge clean-tech sector -- there is a mutually beneficial relationship between D.C. and California when it comes to the new green economy.

I hope to provide Southern Californians with the highest quality news and analysis with a first look at the issues coming out of Washington that no other SoCal-based blog is able to provide.

I look forward to continue growing Green SoCal from Washington, D.C. as the "next industrial revolution" ramps up like we've never seen before. If you have any questions or comments please email me at jmarks09@hotmail.com. I'm always looking for new ideas on how to improve Green SoCal.

Thanks much.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Goodbye Green SoCal


Next month I'm moving back to Washington, D.C. after nearly nine years living in the Los Angeles Basin.

Once I am settled in I hope to continue blogging about clean energy issues and the new green economy in our Nation's Capital. But I'll keep blogging on Green SoCal until my mid-July move so stay tuned for more news and analysis from the front lines of California's clean energy revolution.

After booking my flight on Virgin America I donated to the website Carbonfund.org to offset my carbon footprint from the plane trip. My $22 donation for renewable energy offsets the two tons of CO2 emissions from a cross-country flight. Click here to go carbon neutral when you book your next flight.

In the nearly nine years I've lived here I've seen change happen slowly in car-crazy California. But there are signs pointing in the right direction for the region. Gridlock and greenhouse gas emissions helped to pass Measure R -- a half-cent sales tax for public transit in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. That Angelenos would choose to tax themselves during this recession is proof positive that they know the status quo is unsustainable and change must happen.

And even more exciting is the real chance that the twelve Measure R projects will be built in 10 years instead of 30 thanks to the visionary leadership and diligence of L.A.'s eco-friendly Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. It isn't easy changing L.A.'s deeply ingrained car culture, but Mayor V is doing his damndest to turn The City of Angels into a public transportation paradise.

There is also a large and growing bicycle community in L.A. that is becoming more politically active and empowered. I've seen a noticeable increase in bike commuters in the city and the bicycle infrastructure is on its way to being world class with the release of the 2010 Bike Plan. The project will paint hundreds of sharrows, install bike-friendly signage and eventually create a bicycle network of over a thousand miles across this sprawling metropolis.

So Measure R and the Bike Plan are two of the biggest examples of how this region is changing and I can't wait to come back and visit in 10 years to ride the Purple Line subway all the way from downtown L.A. to Santa Monica (or at least Westwood).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Business Spotlight: Mixt Greens


The environmentally friendly and healthy fine food phenomenon called Mixt Greens has spread from its original location in San Francisco to Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

Here in L.A. we are fortunate that 2009's "Best Healthy Lunch" in the Bay Area has opened two locations -- one right in the heart of Miracle Mile's Museum Row on Wilshire Boulevard and the other downtown on South Grand Ave. in the Bunker Hill neighborhood. Click here for contact info.

As a regular patron I can personally attest to the high quality of the organic salads and sandwiches. And it is empowering when you can design your own salad and know that all the ingredients are nutrient-rich and sustainable. But it isn't just the food that gets an A+ in being sustainable. Although I know of no other restaurant that encourages customers to drink cucumber water instead of tap water to conserve precious water resources. The design of the restaurant itself is carefully constructed to be as enviro-friendly as possible. Features include zero-VOC paint, Durapalm palmwood from plantation grown coconut palms, 3-compartment trash station (compost, recycle and landfill) and a green wall showcasing "indoor urban agriculture."

I wanted to find out what else makes Mixt Greens so special so I tracked down the Miracle Mile location's General Manager Ami Lourie to ask him. Here is Lourie speaking about what makes Mixt Greens eco-friendly and why they chose to locate in the Miracle Mile neighborhood.





More pictures:






Cane Toads: The Conquest


It is common wisdom that messing with nature has unintended consequences. Well, the Australians put that law into practice when they brought the cane toad to the continent from Hawaii in 1935 in hopes of containing the greyback cane beetle, which was destroying Queensland's sugar cane crops.

Instead, the toads breeded like crazy and started a relentless migration across northern Australia towards the west coast. To this day the westward migration continues and now the world will know about this epic environmental blunder through the film "Cane Toads: The Conquest."

Filmmaker Mark Lewis has made Australia's first digital 3D feature film and let me tell you, the Navis from "Avatar" have nothing on these toads when they are virtually jumping off the screen and onto your lap.



"Conquest" had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Friday night followed by a Q&A session with Lewis. Somehow he was able to take what could have been a dry, boring science film and turned it into an instant classic that will be sure to gain a cult following and be used as a warning to be careful when messing with nature. Just ask the Australians living in the Northern Territory, Queensland and now Kimberley. There were initially 102 toads released in 1935 and there are now 1.5 billion and counting.

Observations From Off The Grid

Ditching my car and getting off the grid was one of the best decisions I've made since moving to Los Angeles. Instead of inhibiting my freedom and mobility, it has actually enhanced my quality of life through finding creative transportation solutions by public transit, bicycle and foot. Here are some observations from my first two car-free weeks in Los Angeles.

GOING SOLAR IN HOLLYWOOD

It is amazing what you notice when you aren't revving up the rpms and screeching the tires in your leased BMW. For example, I saw this new eco-friendly development while biking around Hollywood. 



The Gatsby Hollywood website claims that it is metro L.A.'s first certified green, all-solar SmartHome community. In addition to getting energy from the sun, the property will feature drip irrigation landscape areas to capture and retain water run-off, low or no Volatile Organic Compound interior materials and much more. Click here for all the great environmentally friendly features of The Gatsby Hollywood homes.


HOLLYWOODLAND HISTORY


My friend recently moved to the Beachwood Canyon community in the Hollywood Hills so we parked our bikes at his place and walked up to the nature trails that offer spectacular views and natural scenery between the Hollywood Sign and the Griffith Park Observatory. On the way we walked through the historic Hollywoodland neighborhood which was first developed in 1923. Some people might not know that the Hollywood Sign was built to advertise a real estate development and it wasn't until later that the "land" was removed from the sign. Below is one of the two stone gates that were originally built in 1923 as the official entrance to the Hollywoodland real estate development.




Above: One of the original interconnected granite stairs built in 1923 that is used by joggers and brave tourists today. Below are more pictures from Hollywoodland and the area around the Hollywood Sign. This tree must have been over a hundred years old and the house next to it was built in the 1920s.






LAKERS IN LOS FELIZ

I took the Metro Red Line to Los Feliz to watch Lakers-Celtics Game 7 at a bar on Vermont Avenue. It was fun watching all the purple-and-yellow clad fans riding the subway and bus. But I did feel bad for a guy in a Celtics jersey waiting for the bus after the Lakers won the championship. He was getting a lot of trash talk from rowdy Lakers fans.



Memo to Metro: If you want to get more people to take public transit to the Laker games, then you are going to have to get one of the actual Laker players on this advertisement. I wouldn't pay to see these two guys play ball.



THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: L.A. LIVE

If Corporate America had its own city it would look like L.A. Live. Nowhere in this city are the glaring contradictions between the haves and have-nots more visible than at L.A. Live. My friend and I rode the Olympic Boulevard bus with the worker bees from the Westside to see a screening at the L.A. Film Festival, which moved downtown this year from its usual digs in Westwood Village. 

The Regal Cinemas at L.A. Live is an interesting location for an "independent" film festival. It was surreal seeing indie film buyers and sellers surrounded by giant corporate advertisements as big as the moon. 

The problem I have with L.A. Live is that it is has no soul and no restraint in terms of plastering advertisements on every blank wall in the area. Even the new J.W. Marriott/Ritz Carlton features a gigantic Coca Cola ad on the side of the building. Speaking of, this new humongous hotel is a sight to see. It is wondrous and grotesque and over the top all at the same time. You have to see it to believe it because I guarantee you've never seen a hotel quite like this one. I've been to a lot of surreal places in this surreal city, but  the J.W. Marriott/Ritz Carlton is hands down the strangest of them all.

Here are videos and photos of my trip through the looking glass.












BIKING FROM MIRACLE MILE TO MALIBU

Last Saturday I took a 16-mile bike ride from my apartment in the Miracle Mile to the Getty Villa museum on Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. The fact that my friend and I arrived after the museum had closed is another story. But the ride was an adventure to say the least. One lesson learned: Do not bike down Sunset Boulevard. There are many stretches were there is only a very narrow sidewalk or dirt path on one side of the road and the sidewalk abruptly ends on one side and starts up on the other side of the street so you have to cross Sunset which is a risky endeavor with speeding cars coming around hilly corners. I'll never bike down Sunset again and don't recommend it.

To start the trip I biked up to the intersection of La Brea and Santa Monica Boulevards in West Hollywood and then biked down Santa Monica. This sign would seem to indicate that WeHo is bike-friendly.


But a little farther west down Santa Monica Boulevard there was another sign that would indicate that this neighborhood is not bike friendly considering there are large swaths of Santa Monica Boulevard that don't have bike lanes. So where is a biker supposed to go when the busy street is dangerous and the sidewalk is off limits?


Finally the bike lane started but there is little room for error when you are squeezed between vehicles traveling on your left and cars parked on your right. A better model for a bike lane is placing it between the parked cars and the sidewalk. It is much safer.


In Beverly Hills there is a great example of how to properly build a bus stop. This bus stop provides shade to people waiting on a hot sunny day and aesthetically it is nicely designed, providing dignity to bus riders.


After stopping for a picture at the Getty Villa we biked down PCH to Santa Monica and then down Wilshire to Westwood Village before hopping on the bus back to the Miracle Mile. Altogether it was about a 25-mile bike ride. But next time we'll leave earlier so we can actually go inside the Getty Villa.


At least we were treated to a rare sea lion sighting while eating lunch at Gladstone's Seafood Restaurant in Malibu.



Enter Agent ID # 1003 on the Buy Page for 1 Free Quart.