Hazy Central Valley skies with a slight chance of clearing still holding true

The title: “Hazy Central Valley skies with a slight chance of clearing,” is a metaphor. That was posted Dec. 1, 2013.

640px-California's_Central_ValleyWhat that was really all about was progress – or rather lack of it. Unfortunately, in California’s San Joaquin Valley, as long as I have resided here, it has pretty much been a case of “willy-nilly building.” Now I know progress means different things to different people, but it is important to not confuse “progress” with “growth for growth’s sake” – they are not the same.

There has, without a doubt, been Central Valley-based building aplenty. The costs connected with building following a development (or growth) trajectory and paradigm that has overwhelmingly been both horizontal and haphazard, have been steep – and that’s putting matters mildly.

If you think uh-uh, think again.

Every day in California’s heartland no less than 110-million-miles of vehicle travel are logged.

“Patterns of urban growth characteristic of post WWII North American development have created cities and regions that are centered upon and are dependent on the car to meet transportation needs. Located largely at the urban fringe, this pattern of suburban, or greenfield, development is typically dominated by housing-only enclaves consisting of single family homes with two-car garages and a hierarchical road system (with one way in and out). Here, land use functions are isolated (residential, commercial, employment), origins and destinations are farther apart, infrastructure design is oriented toward the automobile, and low population densities are not conducive to public transportation. With the automobile as the only realistic transportation mode for suburbanites in these sprawling communities, commuters are faced with increased driving distances and increased congestion. All told, this pattern of growth has resulted in deteriorating urban air quality and human health, increased emissions of greenhouse gases, limited transportation and housing choice, inefficient use of infrastructure, and communities that are less able to meet the needs of their residents,” authors Greg Dierkers, Erin Silsbe, Shayna Stott, Steve Winkelman and Mac Wubben of the Center for Clean Air Policy in “CCAP Transportation Emissions Guidebook – Part One: Land Use, Transit & Travel Demand Management” wrote.

There is no more accurate a description of growth in the Golden State’s mid-section than that right there. As harsh-sounding a reality though this may be, that’s what we have, whether we like it or not.

Over and over again I keep hearing – from a variety of sources, no less – that the health costs in the Valley from the effects of polluted air are a staggering $6 billion yearly. Add to this that one-in-five San Joaquin Valley residents suffer from and must deal with asthma.

So, when one local print news journalist appeared to question why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made its decision to convene its Mon., Feb. 2, 2015 meeting/hearing in Sacramento, the purpose of which according to what I understand was to get public and other input regarding proposed tightening of an existing smog standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a presumed more health-protective 65 ppb to 70 ppb standard and not hold said meeting/hearing in the San Joaquin Valley which, by the way, has some of the worst air quality in the nation, I was not at all surprised, especially considering this particular correspondent pointed out that the San Joaquin Valley in 2014 recorded 99 exceedances of the daily National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone while the Sacramento area recorded just 30 for the same year. Anyone from the Valley who gave first-hand testimony, well, that required their traveling to the State Capital to do so.

Getting back to my original “Hazy Central Valley skies with a slight chance of clearing” entry, there was at least one “the-glass-is-half-full” reference, this, of course, being:

“In Sacramento County Superior Court on Monday, Nov. 25th, Judge Michael P. Kenny in one case ruled to rescind approval ‘of the 2011 funding plan,’ expressed The Sacramento Bee editorial board in the op-ed: ‘High-speed rail proceeds in fits and starts.’”

“The good news is that the project can move forward but maybe at a slower speed which is tantamount to operating under a yellow-light condition which in a railroad context would signify a medium-speed approach, more or less.”

Metaphorically speaking – a ray of sunshine shining through an otherwise overcast sky.

I am happy to report on this Feb. 4, 2015 day, California high-speed rail is moving forward and in this approximate 24,000-square-mile Valley, there is some real progress being made for a change.

The kind that can give a resident of this vast Valley hope.

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