May 2012

Los Angeles to become largest US city banning plastic bags

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to move forward with a controversial ban on single-use plastic grocery bags – a move designed to reduce landfill waste and debris in local waterways.

Los Angeles will become the largest city in the United States to impose a plastic-bag ban, with some 7,500 affected stores and nearly 4 million residents. The city council vote, which took place Wednesday, sets in motion a months-long process including an environmental review, enactment of an ordinance, and a phase-in period that affects larger stores first, according to news reports.

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Gov. Jerry Brown has decided to push through a plan to build a peripheral canal around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to siphon fresh water out of the Sacramento River before it enters the Delta and ship it to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Los Angeles, says the group Restore the Delta.

The outline of the plan was relayed Thursday in a phone call by Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird and on Wednesday by Department of Water Resources Deputy Director Jerry Meral in a phone call to the Five Delta County Coalition, according to Restore the Delta.

But a spokesman for Mr. Meral says he knows nothing about such a call and a spokesman for Mr. Laird flatly denies any decision has been made.

Click here to read more at Central Valley Business Times

China’s Landscape Architects Undo the Damage of Development

Chinese landscape architects are buffeted by two trends changing the planet: the information technology revolution coming out of the U.S. and one of the largest mass migrations in history, the current process of urbanization in China, said Liang Wei, PhD, a landscape architect and professor at the Beijing Tsinghua Urban Planning & Design Institute (THUPDI), at the American Institute of Architects convention in Washington, D.C. Liang said 10  million new residents are moving into Chinese cities each year, with one billion new square feet being built to accomodate the influx. By 2020, China will be 65 percent urban, which means landscape architects, planners, and architects have an unbelievable amount of work to do to make these new cities more livable, sustainable, and scalable while also undoing the worst environmental damages.

One example of this is the new 680-hectare Beijing Olympic Forest Park, designed by Hu Jie, ASLA, head of the landscape architecture department at THUPDI. The project, which has picked up an ASLA professional award among others, was a team effort led by Hu that included some 200-300 experts from many disciplines. A new mountain, Yangshan Hill, was built out of the reclaimed debris from the new Beijing subway and Olympic stadium construction projects. In the same way, the new 20-hectare lake was filled with reclaimed water. The lake water, which is residential grey water, as well runoff, rain, and flood water, is cleansed through a man-made 4-acre wetland, where it’s then used to maintain the landscape.

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The ability of the Chinese landscape architects and community to transform this dump into a paradise is truly inspiring… and it makes the idea of developing a series of river parkways and connecting them throughout the the Calaveras River Watershed seem that much more feasible! – Jeremy

The state of California sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday to fight rules that could eliminate trees on levees in Sacramento and statewide.

The Department of Fish and Game filed the suit in federal court in Sacramento, alleging the Corps’ levee maintenance policy violates the Endangered Species Act and other laws. Fish and Game initially sought to join a similar lawsuit filed last year by Friends of the River and other environmental groups, but was denied on technical grounds.

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In an interview with Charlie Rose on “CBS This Morning” May 18, Governor Jerry Brown called for tax hikes to bring down a budget deficit of nearly $16 billion – while promoting the construction of a budget-busting $14 billion peripheral canal or tunnel.

Brown’s estimate of the cost of the canal at $14 billion is up from the “over $10 billion” estimate he made in January.

However, the real cost of the canal, proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to divert more water from the California Delta to corporate agribusiness and Southern California, is much larger. Economist Jerry Kasower in 2009 estimated that the actual cost of the project would range from $23 billion to $53.8 billion, depending on whether a canal or tunnel is chosen.

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