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Power pole giants need to be stopped

Environmentally Speaking

Posted: September 3, 2008 6:14 p.m.
Updated: November 5, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
As giant power lines come marching through the north end of our valley, and even those who lobby consistently for more and more growth cry foul at the loss of their views and damage to their neighborhoods, maybe it is time to look at the bigger picture.

We cannot continue to build tract homes and sprawl out in the manner we have in past decades if we want to maintain our quality of life. We cannot. More tract houses in outlying areas mean more traffic on the freeway.

They mean continued unhealthy levels of ozone and particulate matter from car and diesel truck fumes. They mean each and every one of us must re-landscape to cut down on water.

They mean infrastructure, from schools to sewers, will be stressed to the breaking point, and that costs, and therefore our taxes, will go up to pay for it all.

Is this mantra of unbridled growth really what we all want? I don't think so. And recent neighborhood actions prove me right.

The slumbering giant of public opinion in the form of local homeowners' associations is finally stirring. Neighbors are organizing as never before to take City Hall by storm.

From protests over the huge traffic problems created by the City Council on Benz Road to demonstrations against a high-rise office building expansion euphemistically dubbed a "hospital expansion," neighbors have come out to speak against city actions.

From people in Newhall protesting a proposed 13-story hotel next to their homes, to others saying "no" to a Newhall dump that the city tried to say was a recycling center, to this week's Planning Commission meeting during which residents protested a road expansion that would send thousands of new car trips within 15 feet of their homes, people are just saying enough is enough.

This is "NIMBYism" at its finest. Although developers often use this acronym in a negative manner, to us at Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment, it is an honorable and praiseworthy term.

It means that people are willing to get out and speak up for their neighborhoods and quality of life because they care. They come to a planning meeting or council session to speak their minds. It is the beginning of grassroots democracy.

So how do we stop those marching power pole giants? We need to ensure that mitigation measures on development projects are followed.

Another big-picture solution - decentralize power with rooftop solar panels. If each and every one of us in SoCal had solar roofs feeding the energy grid, there would be no need to bring power from faraway centralized power production operations. This idea is beginning to take root, but it needs local encouragement and legislation to make it happen.

And one last big-picture suggestion - we urge all the neighborhood groups that have been protesting bad planning proposals in their local area to get involved in the city and county General Plan update.
It is a chance to demand drought-tolerant landscaping and water efficiency for all new development to reduce the demand on our water supply.

It is a chance to require updated "green" building standards that reduce energy requirements in new development. It is a chance to propose new requirements that discourage urban sprawl and encourage transportation-efficient housing that reduces traffic and air pollution.

Both the city and the county will be releasing an environmental impact report for the local General Plan update, which they are calling "One Valley, One Vision."

The county of Los Angeles has also just released the EIR for a countywide General Plan update. These updates are longterm visions that will eventually affect our neighborhoods.

We urge every neighborhood association and all the residents who have made trips to City Hall over the past several years to get involved with these plans and make sure that they provide for the community we will want to live in for the next 20 years.

Your voices are being heard at City Hall; now it's time to make sure they will continue to hear you in the future through these general plans.

Lynne Plambeck is president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment. Her column reflects her own view, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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