Shared Links for May 11th

  • Where can you get Cheap Natural Fertilizers and Soil Amendments? – A nice concise list of natural sources for garden nutrients, when your compost pile just isn't quite enough. (tagged: gardening food organic fertlizer compost biology )
  • Pinko bastion spawns capitalist solution to solar financing – Boulder city/county passed the same kind of property-tax based financing of energy efficiency (and solar) improvements on the Nov. ballot too – modeled on Berkeley, but with enabling legislation at the state level (to avoid the kind of lawsuit Berkeley had to fight over whether or not they had the power to issue such bonds). The biggest worry I had in reading the Boulder initiative though, was that they had not yet come up with a good mechanism for ensuring that the improvements which were being proposed (more insulation, solar hot water, whatever) would necessarily save enough energy in order to justify the value of the bond being created. Hopefully they’ve fleshed that metric of value out much better by now (in both Boulder and Berkeley) and it’s not possible to abuse it… otherwise I suspect you’ll get deployment of faddish fixes (e.g. sexy-sexy PV instead of solar hot water, or better insulation, or super-windows, etc) instead of the best energy improvement per dollar invested. (tagged: finance capitalism investing energy efficiency sustainability green solar berkeley boulder bonds )
  • Campaign for a Car-Free Lincoln Park, Pt. 2 – A lack of car-free options for arriving at Lincoln Park, coupled with poorly lit, unsafe parking far away from the park's main attraction means everyone just drives their cars all over the park, on the grass. Across the street, the DMV has a huge parking lot which is totally unused after business hours, which is when the park gets the overwhelming majority of its use. Why not (gasp!) timeshare the DMV lot? Hopefully no small children have to get crushed by the marauding death machines for someone in the state and city government to take this idea seriously. (tagged: cars parking transportation urban planning design )
  • FlyingConcrete – Beautiful biomimetic architecture. Curving vaulted ceilings and stairways. Rounded sleeping nooks and pillars like trees. Traditional rectilinear construction is so boring. This is lightweight concrete (cement with perlite, pumice, and other lightweight filler added instead of sand and gravel) laid up on a mesh that's been shaped such that when the cement hardens, it's a load bearing compressive structure. (tagged: architecture art concrete design construction buildings sculpture )
  • Drew Endy and Jim Thomas Debate Synthetic Biology – An unusually good discussion about the future of biotechnology, and maybe the only time I've ever really seen the "debate" format work, and elicit relatively thoughtful interaction. I think they're both dancing around the fundamental question though, of to what extent (if any) society even *gets* to make a choice on this topic. (tagged: biology biotech genetics technology science future debate longnow engineering )

Support AB 1186 for transparent parking costs

Dear Assemblymember Portantino,

I would like to urge you to support AB 1186, an effort to enhance the transparency of parking costs for easing the enforcement of California’s parking cash-out legislation.  This bill has been introduced by Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield (District 40), and is due for a hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee on May 11th.  The cost of parking is enormous, generally hidden, and heavily subsidized, producing significant distortions in the transportation choices made by Californians.  Making the price of parking transparent, and enabling those who choose not to drive to recoup those costs, removing the hidden subsidies, is in the best interest of business, transit authorities, the citizens, and California in general.  For instance, at my own institution in Pasadena, the California Institute of Technology, we are forced by city regulations to provide what would constitute a vast oversupply of parking were employees and students required to pay the true price of providing those spaces, wasting $3 million each year (approximately $1000 per person on the campus), that could be better spent on our core scientific research and education mission.  While this bill unfortunately would not directly address this waste, it is a step in the right direction, and I strongly encourage you to consider other such steps.


Zane Selvans

Shared Links for Mar 2nd

The High Cost of Parking at Caltech

Like Pasadena as a whole, Caltech’s population is growing, but we cannot expand geographically. This means both Caltech and Pasadena must increase density by building vertically or packing our buildings more closely together. Pasadena, much to the dismay of some long time residents who fondly remember the days when Orange Grove Blvd. actually passed through orange groves, now has six story live-work “transit oriented developments” sprouting up around the major business districts, within walking distance of the light rail. Similarly, Caltech has a new Chemistry building appearing between BBB and Noyes, a new Astronomy building where there used to be a surface parking lot next to Keith Spalding, and a new CS building rising up between Facilities and Avery House. Those new buildings will mean more people, and probably more cars, coming to Caltech every day.  They have to go somewhere, and our neighbors have made it clear to the City that parking them on the street is unacceptable.  Those new commuters will largely be parking in the recently completed subterranean garage under the athletic field.  However, this kind of solution to our parking demand has a cost, and I think we need to understand just how large it is in order to have a reasonable discussion about whether it’s the best solution going forward.

Continue reading The High Cost of Parking at Caltech

I want a city like this

Why is it that new housing developments in the US are filled with giant cookie-cutter houses crammed in next to each other, and burdened with ridiculous covenant requirements of lawns and four car garages, without a grocery store in walking distance?

Why can’t we have places like Freiburg’s Quartier Vauban?  (pictures on Flickr, and another, and another)  5000 people, and one main street with a speed limit of 30 km/hr, smaller side streets meant primarily for bikes and walking.  No parking on private property – all cars have to be stored in the structures at the margins of the development.  40% of the households have no car.  A light-rail connection to central Freiburg (which is all of 2 miles away).  600 on-site jobs of various kinds, including the grocery store that’s within walking distance of the entire community.  Lots of different kinds of (mostly smaller) living spaces.  Vegetable gardens and fruit trees.  Public playing fields and parks.