Sprawl? Smog? The New California Says No.

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine

Dispatches, April 1999


Sprawl? Smog? The New California Says No.
Only in la-la land could the same

By Melba Newsome

Only in La-La Land could the same society that embraced bumper-to-bumper traffic and smog warnings now embark on an all-out jihad against urban sprawl and air pollution. These days, the Golden State is setting new standards for ecologically innovative legislation. Here are a few of our favorites.

Charge It! It's rush hour, you arrive at LAX 20 minutes before your flight, and (surprise) you can't find a parking spot. Then you see one ù in fact, a whole slew of them, right outside Terminal One. But unless you're driving an electric vehicle, forget it. These and other special parking spaces throughout the city ù each outfitted with an individual battery recharging station sponsored by whatever business owns the real estate ù may help explain why auto-choked L.A. is a leader in the tiny but burgeoning movement to adopt electric cars (which run 97 percent cleaner than their gas-fed cousins). Over the last two and a half years, nearly 500 of these priority spaces have cropped up at the Los Angeles Zoo, Universal Studios, Disneyland, and assorted Hilton hotels around town. "Getting the businesses to donate the electricity wasn't hard," says Edison EV spokeswoman Gloria Quinn. "It was the parking spots they didn't want to give up."

Hydro-Foiled: It's a little-known fact that running a jet ski for seven hours emits more smog-producing hydrocarbons than driving a new car 100,000 miles. Hence the state Air Resources Board's recent mandate to cut emissions from new marine engines and personal watercraft by 75 percent in 2001, and then by 90 percent in 2008. During December hearings, ARB officials listened to manufacturers rail against these "antibusiness" regulations, rolled their eyes, yawned collectively, and passed the measure without opposition. "I don't feel good about anybody losing their job," says Tim Carmichael, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Coalition for Clean Air. "But maybe they should look for a new line of work."

Down on the Farm: Residents in rural Ventura County take their farming seriously ù so seriously, in fact, that they're determined to preserve the region's "agricultural feel," code for, depending on your point of view, either (a) the bucolic tranquillity of its many citrus groves or (b) the dust, pesticides, and pungent emanations of its cow and pig operations. Last November, Venturans passed one of the strictest slow-growth ballot initiatives in the country, mandating that prime agricultural and rural lands not be rezoned for development until 2020 without voter approval. The move could presage similar initiatives in other parts of the nation. Those in the agricultural trenches, however, aren't thrilled at the prospect. "Farmers are cash poor and dirt rich," carps Rob Roy of the Ventura County Agricultural Association. "And now they can't even sell their dirt."

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