August 2008 Archives

A few weeks back I wrote on California's new proposed statewide Green Building Code. This code would be voluntary starting next year and will ratchet to mandatory by mid 2010 to 2011.

It's a huge deal for design and building industries, and for regional and local governments that are either green building leaders or laggards. More on that below.

The code, announced July 17 by Rosario Marin, chairwomen of the California Building Standards Commission, would require that all new state construction be 15 percent more energy efficient 20 percent more water efficient and up to 50 percent more efficient with landscaping water design.

Some quick updates:

  • It's a work in progress. Basic code language has been updated as late as July 30.
  • Looks like it has the strong backing of the California Building Association Industry (CBIA)
  • The announcement was met with resistance at most and indifference at the very least from the US Green Building Council, the group behind the national LEED building standards.
  • The code when legally enacted will retire nation-leading green Title 24 standards with stricter energy standards
  • As it now stands, cities or counties must file with the California Building Standards Committee before before the new code becomes law for their green building ordinances to become effective.

The upshot: the new state green building code has the potential to overrule stricter local green building regulations or less-stringent local exceptions, unless the regional or local government files first with the state for an exception.

Sounds like some interesting negotiations will be occurring on this...


Whoever thinks of Los Angeles as a car-only city hasn't been there since gas prices started their stratospheric ascent last year.

Yesterday I visited LA's Century City and West Hollywood for meetings, and was shocked to see pedestrians everywhere, dozens of buses (the Big Blue Bus on the Westside and the red and orange Metro Bus Rapid Transit lines), as well as cyclists in bike lanes zipping up and down Santa Monica Boulevard.

The numbers from my old pals at the Bureau of Census American Community Survey support what I experienced: from 2004 to 2006 LA commuter use of public transit increased from 9.5 percent of city residents to 11 percent, which is a 14 percent total increase! Walking increased from 3.1 percent of the city's resident commuters in 2004 to 3.4 percent in 2006. The upshot: only 67 percent drove alone to work in 2006 compared to 70 percent that did so in 2004.

Mayor Antonio Vaillaraigosa urged LA residents this week to ride public transit at least once a week to help clear up the city's notorious traffic gridlock. Meanhwile, the head of the Sacramento-based California Bicycle Coalition estimated this week that bike ridership in Los Angeles County has increased 25 percent from 2007 to this year.

I was meeting separately with the Los Angeles Business Council and the City of West Hollywood to explore ways in which the LA area can get greener. We discussed many initiatives the city started or is planning, including its city-wide green building ordinance and a major solar power bond for business and residents backed by the behemoth Department of Water and Power, as well as a city sustainability summit at UCLA in November.

But I'm most excited about the visible change in LA that I witnessed and eavesdropped on: Hollywood business types were talking next to me at cafes about cycling and how the city needs more bike lanes, on Santa Monica Boulevard cyberkids were texting about where they were walking next, and for once no one ever asked me if I needed a ride down the block.

Blue sky, nice ocean breeze and people are getting out of their cars in Los Angeles, even editorials in the Los Angeles Times about the importance of eating local food: 

The times they are a changin'.

Friday night I took a little spin on my bike around San Francisco, hitting the Mission District's Valencia Street.

While the new U-shaped racks are nice to have on the sidewalk in front of many businesses, the ultimate is to be able to bring your bike inside with you so can keep it safe from the elements and from those who might covet the bike, or certain pieces of it.

53403033_3127135266_m.jpgSo after a quick but distracted bite to eat of Belgium Frites with both eyes out the window at one place's rack, I rode down the bike lane (one of the first in SF--from about 1995!) toward Zeitgeist (199 Valencia Street, at Duboce). I knew bikes can be stored there on wall-mounted hooks festooned all around the outdoor beergarden.

At Zeitgeist, which I would file under "hipster-cyclist mileau," I was met at the door by a bouncer telling me there was no more space in the beer garden for bikes. He was square in form and pretty serious about not letting me through. I've seen more than 50 bikes at Z-geist before, maybe even 100, so this was a shocker.

I carefully pleaded my case, "I won't be able to spend money in your business if you don't let me in with my bike. There's no way I'm leaving this carbon fiber racer out in the street for the junkies to prey upon."

He held his goateed chin and pondered. "Alright, just don't let them know I sent you, because the racks are too full."

Sure enough there was an empty hook along the whitewashed fence in the large backyard for me to hang my front wheel upon, and spend money I did.

Note to other businesses
: cyclists will stay longer, buy more, and are more likely to return if you can allow people to bring bikes into a safe place off the streets. Or provide valet parking with a guard, as local bike coalitions do for some events, such as the SF Bike Coalition and Marin County Bicycle Coaltion.


Photo by Tom McClure

About the Author

    Warren Karlenzig
Warren Karlenzig, Common Current founder and president, has worked with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (lead co-author United Nations Shanghai Manual: A Guide to Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century, 2011); United Nations Center for Regional Development (training of mayors from 13 Asian nations on city sustainable economic development and technology); provinces of Guizhou and Guangdong, China (urban sustainability master planning and green city standards); the United States White House and Environmental Protection Agency (Eco-Industrial Park planning and Industrial Ecology primer); the nation of South Korea ("New Cities Green Metrics"); The European Union ("Green and Connected Cities Initiative"); the State of California ("Comprehensive Recycling Communities" and "Sustainable Community Plans"); major cities; and the world's largest corporations developing policy, strategy, financing and critical operational capacities for 20 years.

Present and recent clients include the Guangzhou Planning Agency; the Global Forum on Human Settlements; the Shanghai 2010 World Expo Bureau; the US Department of State; the Asian Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainability; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; the non-governmental organization Ecocity Builders; a major mixed-use real estate development corporation; an educational sustainability non-profit; and global corporations. Read more here.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

September 2008 is the next archive.

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