Edited by Tim Kowal
Dear HB Tomorrow Members and Neighbors,
Staying busy saving the world is easy.
Saving your community, now that’s hard.
Sign the Non-Toxic HB Petition!
Parade Pride… & Precautions
HB Tomorrow loves our city’s famous Fourth of July Parade! Director Linda D. Couey serves on the Parade Planning Commission, as does your humble editor’s wife, Andi Kowal. The parade is a big event, and getting bigger every year. They have gone from this:
But with over a half a million visitors over the course of the festivities, we must take precautions against this:
Someone was apprehended downtown for leaving an incendiary device in a backpack. Thankfully, the device apparently did not function and caused no injuries. But our downtown area is what terrorists would consider a high-value target. After 2001, cities like Boston began removing trash cans from high-traffic areas during major events like Fourth of July parades. That is because trash cans are an easy way for terrorists to conceal a bomb, and if the trash cans are not designed with withstand the force of a blast, could disintegrate in the blast and send shrapnel into surrounding crowds.
Our Main Street trash cans include concrete and steel varieties. But the extreme force of C4 or TNT could fragment them, sending devastating shards into dense nearby crowds. And because they are opaque, terrorists could leave bombs in multiple receptacles and travel safely out of range before detonating them.
The city should test to confirm whether they can withstand the kinds of bombs terrorists likely would use.
— By Tim Kowal
Next month, staff will unveil the results of its recent testing in Central Park West the same non-toxic Integrated Pest Management principles Irvine has been successfully using city-wide for over a year.
According to Irvine’s report, its first year saw some fits and starts. It bought up a lot of an expensive organic product before finding it was less effective than more affordable substitutes. And it worked the bugs out with other methods for working the bugs out.
Non Toxic Irvine’s preferred products are:
- Fertilizers: Nature Tech, Quantum Growth, KeyPlex 350 Organic, and Vitazine.
- Weed Abatement: Suppress EC, Weed Pharm (university trials show 20% of acetic acid is as effective as glyphosate in killing annual and broadleaf weeds with one application), Preem (for crabgrass; costs half of corn gluten and lasts longer), Fiesta, Scythe.
- Pest Control: Essentria IC3 (ants), Eco Via (knock-down spray), Ecoexempt/Essentria Jet (bee & wasp), Uncle Ian’s Gopher Bait, Brandevo PTO (mite control), Sluggo (snails), Neemix insect control.
Glyphosate will be officially listed as a known probable carcinogen on July 7. The California Supreme Court rejected Monsanto’s latest effort to de-list its Roundup product. The company remains under scrutiny following reports of collusion with EPA officials to ghostwrite reports and kill safety inspections.
This is what an EPA official told a Monsanto executive in response to Monsanto’s request to quash an investigation into glyphosate. The email, among others, was recently unsealed in a lawsuit claiming Roundup and glyphosate cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The ubiquitous product is now being found in the U.S. food supply.
Costs of going nontoxic typically break even at 2.5 years, with significant savings by year five. By testing and collaborating with Irvine, those savings could begin sooner.
WILL YOU HELP?
- We need you… to sign our petition
- We need you… to speak at Council meetings supporting Non-Toxic HB
- We need you… to spread the word!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
FEATURE: Our Part in a Historic Demographic Transformation
The Orange County Community Indicators Report for 2017 is out. The long-view takeaway: we’d better stop getting old.
In the race among the age cohorts, the 65-and-older crowd is running away with it. Today, that group comes in fourth — behind 45-64, young adults, and school-aged children — at just 14% of the population. In just 25 years, however, the 65-and-ups will almost double in size to become the largest age cohort at 26%.
The upshot is that if you are or, like me, plan to be in that leg of the relay race in the next quarter century, it would be wise to cast a glance up the road to see if there’ll be anyone to hand off the baton to.
That would be the millennials. That group, roughly ages 20-36, will make up a future workforce that looks forward to bearing the largest social security burden on the fewest shoulders in the program’s history. (And they’re off to a rocky start.) Orange County’s birthrate has fallen 6% since 2000, and the state is suffering net out-migration of its prime earning and family-rearing cohort. The Community Indicators report says we are reducing the number of OC workers for every dependent from two today to just one by 2040.
We’re looking at less of a safety net and more like a buddy system. So what sort of housing accommodations are we leaving for our buddies?
More Potterville than Bailey Park. Only one in four California millennials owns a home, the third worst figures in the nation, as Joel Kotkin reports. Yet the Community Indicators report points to opportunities in urban-infill mixed-use development — think Beach-Edinger corridor. But ask: would you want to raise a family there? Neither do they: because most people want to own a home before starting a family, prospects for future generations — and workforces — continue to dim, “with the lowest crude birth rate since 1907 occurring in 2016.”
Why act surprised, then, to learn that the next legs of the American relay race are thinning out?
But we have to do something to make housing more affordable, don’t we? Indeed we do. The median household income is an above-average $78,000, but the median single-family home costs a stratospheric $745,000. That’s a median multiple of over 9x! Median multiples in the U.S. were overwhelmingly below the 3.0 marker until the 1970s and remained at that level in most housing markets until the early 2000s. (Multiples of 3.0 or less are deemed affordable, with 3.1 to 5.0 range from moderately to seriously unaffordable — a multiple of 9x is cloud cuckoo land.)
The most important exception, however, was California, where decades of restrictive land use regulation, including court decisions and far stronger environmental regulation than in the rest of the nation, has been associated with huge housing affordability losses. William A. Fischel, Regulatory Takings: Law, Economics, and Politics. Harvard University Press, 1995.
High house prices are not a sign of city’s success but a sign of failure to deliver the housing that its citizens need. Demographia’s 2017 International Housing Affordability Survey ranks Los Angeles as the 8th most unaffordable housing market in the world, behind even San Francisco, London, and New York. This is confirmed by the OC Indicators report: “Orange County is less affordable than all peers compared, including the notoriously expensive San Francisco Bay Area.” That’s right: posh, latte-sipping Frisco hippies are now slapping themselves on the back telling themselves, “at least we’re not as bad as Orange County.”
One way to narrow this gap: bring wages up. Our cost of living is 87% higher than the national average, but median income is only 41% higher than average.What is our city doing to create higher-wage jobs? The biggest opportunity is in middle-skill jobs — jobs requiring skills above high school but short of a four-year degree. These jobs are in health care and professional services, among others. The cities competing well for these jobs are Irvine, Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Newport Beach. Our city is not among them.
Another idea has been “affordable housing” projects. They have superficial appeal: we need to make housing affordable, so “affordable housing” projects seem to fit the bill. But in fact, these urbanist projects are part of the problem, not the solution. Kotkin reports that high-density construction costs 7.5 times more than houses. “Affordable housing” developments actually worsen overall affordability by discouraging the kinds of development the market demands.
The reality is that high-density, “affordable housing,” and “inclusionary zoning” are all ideas that urban theorists want. What residents want is houses, not “housing” bureaucratically obliquely defined in the definitions subchapter of a policy advisory manual. They fail to satisfy the demand for single-family homes, while driving up development costs with the result of making it even more expensive to develop single-family homes. In Orange County, for example, “inclusionary zoning” imposes an effective tax of $66,000 per home — 12% of the median home price — and decreases housing production 61%.
This is by choice — policymakers’ choice. A 2014 report showed that, over a five-year period, fewer homes were built in the entire state of California than in the single city of Houston, which serves a population less than a sixth the size of California’s. California is 163,000 square miles, 25,000 of which is grazing land and 42,000 agricultural land. To put that in perspective, you could put 10 million people, four per household, into sprawling half-acre lots and consume less than 2,000 square miles — just 3% of ag land would end Californians’ Bantustani existence!
[This map shows how little land in CA is developed relative to dedicated farming and federal land. Given our waning fertility rate, a small incursion into these areas would go a long way to alleviating our young families starving for land.]
[And what about those generous federal holdings? Ignore the partisan nature of this chart and consider: the prior Republican and Democratic presidencies grabbed over 1.2 million square miles of US land. That’s the size of every state west of Kansas; it is almost one-third the entire country’s land area. We all want to preserve open space the next generation can visit and enjoy, but the next generation might need some of that space to spend the other 50 weeks of the year.]
Young families need houses, not condos. Our seniors, blessed with unprecedented good health and long life and bounteous retirements, should pass on “reverse mortgages.” Our next generation needs houses with yards to raise children and keep our collective story going — sell our housing stock to them, not to the banks. A reverse mortgage sells your home to Potter so you can keep living in Bailey Park.
But the unaffordability nightmare will not end until our sister counties and the state wake up from their anti-growth policies of urban containment and expensive and difficult approval processes. California has tens of millions of square miles that can be developed, in trivial proportions to remaining preserved open and agricultural land, that could make the dream of house ownership a reality again.
— By Tim Kowal
Here are some more stories from around our community the past month:
Is the Midnight-Serving Resolution Long for the World?
Resolution 2013-24 is the resolution that limits hours of operation downtown to midnight. Yet the city has doubled the number of establishments in the past three years. And sure enough, council has begun granting exemptions from the midnight rule. How long until the midnight-serving resolution is shot through so full of exemptions it might as well not exist?
I am reminded of the fight over the expansion of the Long Beach airport. Before the expansion started, the city wanted to add several new runways and a full-blown terminal with jetways. Residents worried that this spelled the doom of their prized noise ordinance, a unique protection that restricted the number and times of flights. The city insisted that the ordinance remained intact, and that nothing in the expansion would change that – “nevermind,” they suggested, “the fact that we’re proposing to expand as if the ordinance didn’t exist.”
But the new runways and jetways surely would not sit idle long. As Publius observed of standing armies, “To render an army unnecessary will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions on paper.” The noise ordinance was a mere “prohibition on paper,” and once the city had invested millions in a state-of-the-art expanded airport, its days would be numbered. The more practical means of keeping noise to reasonable limits was to build an airport designed to honor the residents’ expectations, not to taunt them.
Here in Huntington Beach, once we have a second “bar tract” and more hotels and restaurants all built on an engine that runs on alcohol, the council, pressured by tourism interests, will not suffer any “paper barriers” to keeping fuel in the tank. Resolution 2013-24 means nothing if we are building bars as if it doesn’t exist.
— By Tim Kowal
Have you Hazed Today?
They prowl in broad daylight!
They have no fear!
Hardly a day goes by without someone reporting a coyote sighting on Facebook or Nextdoor. And many of the critters are in plain view making no attempt to escape detection.
Has it occurred to us we’re being too damn polite with coyotes? It is true that trapping or killing them is not effective — they’ll just breed in greater numbers. But right on the city’s website there’s a helpful video explaining the solution, but we all need to participate to be effective. Don’t worry, it’ll be fun, and it’s SMART…
Make yourself big
Teach someone else
(It is also effective on neighbors who don’t pick up after their dogs.)
— By Tim Kowal
HB’s Rainbow Connection
Residents Relieved that 405 Footbridge, Inviting Homeless, Will Be Removed; Disappointed It Will Be Rebuilt
Residents of Landau Lane, where the 405 breaks Heil Avenue and separates Huntington Beach from Westminster, have a complaint: the footbridge that crosses the freeway brings gang members and drug-using homeless into their neighborhood. Fortunately, the reconstruction of the 405 presents a golden opportunity to eliminate the problem, as the OCTA will be removing the footbridge. Unfortunately, OCTA will also be rebuilding it.
The Daily Pilot story reporting the issue says the bridge is also needed by elementary school children. The piece reports complaints about “homeless people and teens suspected of smoking marijuana…under the alcoves,” and “the presence of homeless people” in “alcoves and ‘other hiding spots.’” Resident photos and reports of gang markings, drug and sex paraphernalia and trash left by homeless tend to confirm this is a persistent problem.
The city and the school district, however, counter that eliminating the bridge is a nonstarter because it would add “more than 20 minutes to the [students’] walk.” But this is a curious response: there are enclosed, hidden spaces frequented by street people, but the city wants to ensure unaccompanied elementary-school kids can share those spaces? In other words, the real story suggested by the Daily Pilot piece is not “young kids may be exposed to added 20-minutes of walking,” but “young kids are currently and regularly exposed to street people in quiet, out-of-view spaces.”
HB Tomorrow asked the city manager’s office this question. Its response: the city has not confirmed the presence of homeless as no one has complained yet except one resident, and she is probably just concerned about her property value. But a petition signed by over 50 residents in the community, and photos like the one above, tend to confirm the problem is real.
The resident the city referred to is Jennifer Cary, who collected the signatures for the petition — nearly every affected resident in the community signed it with no opposition reported. Ms. Cary does not deny she, like any homeowner, is concerned about the effects nearby gang and homeless activity will have on property values, but that these are quite obviously secondary to the crime, safety, and quality-of-life issues. Indeed, Ms. Cary has small children, as do others in the neighborhood, who all worry about the safety of children and adults against the elements invited by the footpath. Indeed, every crime and quality-of-life issue affects property values at some level, but it would be cynical to dismiss residents’ legitimate concerns for neighborhood safety and quality by recasting them in purely economic terms.
The city also reiterated to HBT that Pleasant View School students need the bridge. But only 11 kids use the footbridge, as counted by Ms. Cary and her husband. To shave 20 minutes off the walk of these 11, taxpayer money is apparently no object: the city “is fully supportive” of reconstructing the footbridge, with a ballpark cost somewhere in the low millions.
But leadership’s concern for student access seems oddly selective: Neither the city nor the school district provide any bus service or any similar accommodations to any other students, and in fact there is no mandate that they do so. Why the insistence on this particular student-transportation program?
Given the city is intent on inviting these 11 students to use the bridge, then, surely we owe them safe passage. So Ms. Cary requested that leadership at least lock the footbridge during non-school hours, to discourage gang members and street people from using the bridge at the same time as the children. Again, the city balked. In addition to a sudden bout of cost-consciousness, the city cited another concern: some people might wish to take an evening walk or bike ride. HBT has not been able to locate these folks, but they likely are not to be found among the 51 people on the Huntington Beach side of the bridge, judging from Ms. Cary’s petition. One suspects, then, that this interest belongs primarily to the folks on the Westminster side of the bridge.
To its credit, the OCTA indicated it would be receptive to modifying the design of the footbridge if the city asks for it, and the city has indicated it intends to work with OCTA to achieve design changes that eliminate the alcoves and hiding places. We will follow this story to see if those changes are implemented.
The city is also correct when it stated to HBT that there is no single solution to the problems created by homeless and street people that works for everyone, and that eliminating the footbridge here would only move the problem elsewhere. The underlying problem is unaffordable housing, and as noted in our feature story this month, the cause has more to do with the misguided benevolence of faraway policymakers. But the charge of local leadership is to direct the effects away from our homes and schools. We do not have the luxury of compartmentalizing homelessness as a problem awaiting some grand solution, and ignoring its effects in the meantime.
Until a Nobel-prize-worthy solution to homelessness surfaces, leadership’s primary charge is in the small stuff: relocating the problem from high-sensitivity areas like homes and schools to low-sensitivity areas. In the future, leadership should more seriously consider ideas that take the problem out of our neighborhoods.
— By Tim Kowal
Assistant City Manager Ken Domer Leaving for Fullerton
Assistant City Manager Ken Domer is leaving us this month to serve as Fullerton’s city manager. We thank him for his work in Huntington Beach and wish him the best!
Huntington Beach Concert Band sponsors its annual Summer Series!
Celebrating their 44th anniversary this year, the Huntington Beach Concert Band will once again sponsor its Summer Series of 11 free Sunday concerts, June 25th to September 3rd in Huntington Beach Central Park. More information on the Concert Band Facebook page.
“The concerts are organized and sponsored by the Huntington Beach Concert Band as a community service,” said Tom Ridley, who has conducted the band for 40 years.
The Huntington Beach Concert Band Summer Series will take place in the natural amphitheater area in the park behind Huntington Beach Central Library, 7111 Talbert Ave. at Goldenwest Street. Concerts start at 5 p.m. All are invited to bring picnic dinners and beach chairs or blankets to enjoy the concerts.
Is there an issue that’s not getting the attention it deserves? Let us know!