We generally stick to our own knitting here, but there’s cause for concern in the community of business over the story that led the Los Angeles Times’ issue of Dec. 27.
The piece reported that the state’s Air Resources Board was reversing a long-held “warning” that cities and counties should “avoid” approving new residential developments within 500 feet of freeways.
The warning was based on “years of research linking traffic pollution to asthma, heart attacks, and other health problems,” according to the Times, which also reported that “residential development along freeways has surged in the decade since” it was issued.
The recent reversal of the apparently toothless old warning was framed as a concession to reality. We need housing of all sorts in California, the thinking goes. The Times reported that a new “advisory” from the Air Resources Board concedes that point, emphasizing “design rather than distance, recommending anti-pollution features such as air filters, sound walls, and thick vegetation as ‘promising strategies’ to reduce the health risks from freeways.”
You got all that? State agency issues warning to cities and counties. Cities and counties ignore warning. Local newspaper hashes out the reaction and back-and-forth.
It’s notable that the same day’s Wall Street Journal offered a report about manufacturers throughout the U.S. “racing to promote their products for electric and self-driving cars” in the works by major automakers and others.
It’s just as notable that neither electric vehicles nor self-driving cars were mentioned in the L.A. Times report –and that’s a worry for a number of reasons. Chief among them: Our state government seems to be falling into the trap of fighting the last war when it comes to automobiles, air pollution, and residential development.
Air filters, vegetation, and sound walls might remain sensible suggestions for residential developments around freeways come whatever may. It’s likely, however, that anyone who has been near an electric vehicle can readily see the wisdom of reconsidering the timing, mix, and degree of such mitigation measures.
There is a reality – a now – that certainly matters when it comes to housing, the environment, and the health of our community overall.
The recent bureaucratic grind reported in the Times seems decidedly set in the past, in any case.
The community of business – including everyone from developers to window manufacturers to landscapers to auto makers – has every reason insist that regulators keep one eye on the future that’s hurtling toward us as we enter 2018.
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