Back-to-Back Jacks

"Modern Family" and MLB hit it out of the park Wednesday night.

Last night, I enjoyed an amazing half hour of TV after our Rosh Hashanah dinner. Yes, I’ll have something else to atone for a week from Saturday, but it was worth it.

Watching Red Sox Nation and the tomahawk-chopping, unPC  Braves complete some of the most epic tank jobs in baseball history within minutes of each other was almost more joy than I could stand. The fact that the longshot Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to win in extras (including a two-out bomb in the ninth to tie the Yanks) made the night’s drama even more incredible.

But the greatest serendipity of the night came after my wife and daughter kicked me off ESPN to feed their addiction to “Modern Family.” As usual, the writers embedded parallel and goofy plotlines in the 22-minute episode. The rewarding twist came when the starving couple of Cam and Mitchell went to a fundraiser at the Malibu beach house of Mitchell’s boss.

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LID at Last in L.A.

Rain barrels will be sprouting up all over L.A. now under a newly approved Low Impact Development ordinance.

Today the city of Los Angeles took a giant step forward on its long-promised goal to green itself — one new development at a time.  After three years of negotiations, hearings, educational forums and technical discussions, the City Council voted 13-0 to support a Low Impact Development ordinance.

The vote means that nearly all new development and redevelopment in Los Angeles will have to treat rainwater as a resource rather than just a flood risk by early next summer.  The approach is groundbreaking (or concrete breaking) in its wide-ranging application to all significant new and redevelopment – even single family homes.

So what does it mean from a practical point of view?

All new and redevelopment must capture and reuse or infiltrate 100% of the runoff generated by a three-quarter inch rain. As a result, development will be greener, flood control risks and runoff pollution will be reduced, and local groundwater supplies will be augmented. Single family homes will only have to include rain barrels, cisterns, rain gutter downspout redirects to landscaping, or rain gardens to comply with the ordinance.

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Chico Bags a Big Win

ChicoBag's Bag Monster Image

ChicoBag Monster scores a win over the Plastics Industry

In a victory for sustainability, the nuisance lawsuit filed by Big Plastic against reusable bag entrepreneur Andy Keller has been settled. The SLAPP suit, designed to silence Keller’s small ChicoBag company in its claims that single use plastic bags are an environmental and economic nightmare, resulted in a settlement that requires both sides to provide citations for their stated facts.

Considering how fast and loose the plastic bag industry has been playing with the facts, there’s no question that the settlement favors Chico.

More important, the settlement demonstrates that the bag manufacturers bullying tactics will not succeed at intimidating California’s green businesses to stop fighting for a clean environment.

All too often, you hear rhetoric from corporate fat cats that we need tort reform to eliminate frivolous lawsuits to help businesses. Here is a case where anti-environmental businesses brought the frivolous lawsuit. I wonder if Big Plastic has learned that lawsuits designed to hamper start-up sustainable businesses only give their industry a bad name.

Supporting green businesses helps our economy and protects the environment. In this case, Keller has stood up to polluters with an unequivocal answer to the decades old question: “Paper or plastic?” Andy answered, “Neither. Buy reusable.”

Let’s hope that his courage is rewarded by record sales and a consumer population that agrees with him at the cash register.

Go With The Flow

Transparency has cost the Bureau of Sanitation.

About six months ago, the city of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Sanitation (BoS) started setting up dozens of meetings with the public and the environmental  community on the city’s wastewater system upgrade plan and the need for a major increase in sewer service charges. After all, the BoS had frozen fee increases 14 out of the last 20 years. And it’s held the line the last three years at height of the recession, but wastewater infrastructure waits for no one.

BoS sought to demonstrate that the sewer infrastructure and its four sewage treatment plants (Terminal Island, Glendale, Tillman and Hyperion) are in danger of falling apart. The deteriorating pipes and plants pose a significant risk to public health and safety. Emergency repairs on the infrastructure may cost the city infintely more than replacing it. The delayed maintenance also exposes the city to costly litigation, enforcement and penalties.

Heal the Bay was founded in 1985 on the issue of decaying sewer infrastructure.  Some Santa Monica Bay bottom-dwelling fish had tumors and fin rot, and there was a dead zone seven miles out in the middle of the Bay where Hyperion dumped its1200+ tons of sludge every day.  Also, million gallon sewage spills were commonplace.

After the city rebuilt Hyperion and major sections of the sewer infrastructure, the dead zone went away, the massive sewage spills decreased in frequency, and the Bay began to heal.

However, in the late 1990s, the frequency of sewage spills started to rise again.  Then Santa Monica Baykeeper sued the city and the end result was an agreement to repair and replace much more of the sewer infrastructure.  Just as important, the city ramped up its sewer inspection and repair program.  The end result was a more than 80% drop in sewage spills.  The days of students walking through raw sewage-filled streets on their way to school were a thing of the past.

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Shark Fin for All

Shark fin dumplings: not a "luxury" item

On Sunday morning, our family schlepped out to Rosemead for my niece’s 17th birthday. The destination for Isabel’s festivities was Sea Harbor, one of my brother Jonathan’s favorite dim sum places in the county. After all of these decades of grubbing with Jonathan, I generally don’t even bother looking at a menu or making an order. However, since it was a seafood palace AND the big vote on AB 376 is scheduled for today or Wednesday, I decided to see what shark fin soup went for on the menu.

Much to my dismay, not only did I see three different kinds of shark fin dumplings on the menu, but now the taste of extinction is affordable for all. The myth of shark fin’s availability for weddings and banquets is just that. In today’s society where shark fin dumplings have become a staple at dim sum, everyone can indulge in the consumption of the ocean’s apex predators.  Continue reading

Playing Hooky

The Wedge today: One heavy wave worth skipping work for.

Today, the Regional Water Board agenda looked a little light and Heal the Bay’s water quality director, Kirsten James, and environmental engineer, Susie Santilena, had the issues pretty well covered.  I was going to come in at the usual time Thursday to start lobbying on AB 376 (Fong and Huffman’s shark fin sales ban) and SB 568 (Lowenthal’s Stryofoam packaging ban).  Instead, after checking out the surf report, I decided to drive down with my son Zack to check out the waves at the Wedge in Newport Beach.  As a tourist.

I’m almost 48, and I’ve never been to the Wedge when it was super big.  I’ve seen hundreds of photos, but my few times going down there, the surf was pretty pedestrian.  Today, I finally got the chance to see the insanity in person. 

There were about a thousand people lingering close to shore, standing on top of a six-to-eight foot sand cliff that the surf carved out.  Four TV cameras and at least as many professional photographers recorded the action, tracking about a dozen bodyboarders in the water.  For the first 15 minutes, there wasn’t a wave bigger than two feet.  I felt like I was waiting for the tsunami at Santa Monica’s Palisades Park earlier in the year.

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