Thursday, November 28, 2013

Mill Valley Councilmembers on the Plaza

As one means to further dialog with the public, the city council of Mill Valley CA is holding public meetings "on the plaza". The city holds citizen participation and open communication between the Council and the community as core values of good governance. The council is also developing a communications plan through community outreach. Mill Valley Patch story here. Feedback comments from community members at Marin News here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Next Village Entrance, it's not about Smarts

Maybe the axiom by Mark Twain best explains the mental posture of Laguna Beach city council promoting the over-priced over-built Village Entrance and ineffective parking structure in June. 

Mark Twain said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

The focus of controversy in the city design proposal was to park 580 automobiles in a 4-story parking structure big as a football field, then hide the entire garage inside a public park so nobody would notice.

Despite several years of recommendations made by civic groups, expert testimony by hired mobility consultants and the overwhelming majority in public workshops opposed the parking structure , the city refused to deviate from it’s original June plan.

Despite the debunking presented by LetLagunaVote, the city council maintained their posture to support the $65 million unmodified plan.  That begs the question: do facts actually matter enough to change the minds of decision-makers?

Researchers are interested in the science of ‘communicating science’ to decision makers in order to form better policy and  manage issues like wood smoke, climate change, fracking, acid rain, Evolution, cigarette smoke and seat-belts. Through experiments researchers showed there are several mechanisms present which encourage communication or impede it depending if an ideological pre-disposition is present. (GRIST “How do you get people to give a damn about climate change?”)

It might be obvious that people not polarized by strong ideology are open to communication of new ideas posed in a consensus message. An effective consensus message might be “seat-belts reduce auto fatalities by 50%” or “97 out of 100 climate scientists agree global warming is due to greenhouse gas emissions” or “cigarette smoke causes cancer”. People with a strong affinity to a particular ideology will be more difficult to motivate by that way.

The Smart Idiot Effect, Risk vs Literacy
It is not so obvious the higher the degree of education in either liberal or conservative ideology, the more difficult it is to persuade with a consensus message (the “Smart Idiot Effect”). For these folks a persuasive argument must be delivered in a framing strategy, put threatening information in a context that makes it palatable for building consensus.

So for long-term smokers the framing message might be “digital cigarettes will stop the craving to smoke” rather than “smoking will kill you”.   

Now here's the really interesting part. The same research shows when confronted with a correction of views by substantial facts, the intellectuals dig-in their heals.  The research reads "ideological subgroups failed to update their beliefs when presented with corrective information that runs counter to their predispositions. Indeed, in several cases, we find that corrections actually strengthened misperceptions among the most strongly committed subjects”,   ( “Fooled by Certainty”, Small Wars Journal)

Does this explain the disregard-for-facts and denial from city council during the VE debacle? The research warns us to communicate persuasively you must pick a strategy that is effective for the type of people targeted, from political idealogs to community passives. They say to try different approaches to see which ones work in your world.

One researcher says those who practice communication of science facts do not invest enough in the communications in the first place. He says further “It’s a mistake to assume that valid science will communicate itself...” -LS

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sadik-Khan TED Talk

TED talk video (14:02 minutes): The Commissioner, Department of Transportation, New York City, Janette Sadik-Khan (summary below)

As Laguna Beach city leadership re-assesses their urban planning mission following the defeat of the Village Entrance proposal, there are lessons to be adopted from other cities nation-wide.

Listen to the transportation commissioner of New York City reveal how she and Mayor Bloomberg reduced traffic, improved safety and increased business revenues on the streets of New York City. Watch a re-assuring engaging humorous presentation showing results before and after, how New York City applied complete street interventions to bring these improvements.

Here's a summary of Janette's presentation:

  • City streets are a large asset hidden in plain sight
  • Update street assets quickly inexpensively and it's popular
  • Cities are global marketplace, humanity's future is the future of cities
  • Design of cities is key issue to accommodate growth
  • Today pedestrians take shelter, cars go fast as possible
  • Maximize mobility efficiency by allowing cycling and transit
  • Better mobility raises city revenues
  • Better mobility choices improve public health/fitness
  • 350,000 people (shoppers) walk through Time Square per day
  • NY Time Square used a 6-month pilot program to test ideas
  • Success is measured by good results and driven by data
  • -Pedestrian injuries down 33%
  • -Travel time down 17%
  • -Pedestrian injuries down 33%
  • -5 new flagship stores
  • -Retail rents doubled
  • Brooklyn project: sales up 172% in 3 years
  • 57 miles of dedicated bus lanes
  • 50 new pedestrian plazas
  • Build it and they will come because people flock to public space
  • Focus on how infrastructure improves quality of life
  • No need for big planning studies, no computer models
  • You need a development plan with a mission and goals
  • You need to know where going and why
  • Re-allocate automobile space to pedestrian space
  • Do bold experiments to watch results
  • Get a buy-in: show how project worked well in pilot programs
  • Get a buy-in: allow experiments for change, allow change-back
  • "More people on foot is better for business" Macy's
  • Use quick-action approach, add paint, seats, transit, cycle lanes
  • Use inexpensive removable materials to allow changes
  • NYC built first 30 miles of parking protected bike lanes
  • -They show 49% increase in business sales
  • -They show 47% decrease in commercial vacancies
  • -They show 50% reduction in street accidents
  • -64% NY approve bike lanes, politicians would enjoy poll numbers this good
  • Safety in numbers: no net increase in injuries despite increased usage
  • City Bike Share Program launched in summer of 2013
  • Dispenses 6000 bikes across NYC, average daily ridership 36,000 trips 
  • Program shows 3 million trips, 7 million miles ridden already
  • Riders are diverse as NYC, young old male female black white
  • It is possible to improve a city's major asset: the streets
  • -it's quick
  • -it's cheap
  • -results are immediate
  • -popular with people
  • re-imagine your streets they are hidden in plain-sight.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Community Workshop Scheduled Tuesday 12 November 6:00pm

View of site for 65 more parked cars
UPDATE: Good News! In a decision during the public workshop November 12 the city council rescinded their earlier 3:2 vote to proceed with the Village Entrance and parking structure. Will the city mindset seek to appease the Parking Gods or will they study better religion? Stay tuned for further developments. -LS

In it's continuing quest to disguise car parking facilities as a Village Entrance, the city purchased the Christmas tree lot for $5.3 million to pave another parking lot. The p-lot designed for 65 cars will cost $92,230 per parking space when completed. Please attend the next city sponsored community workshop at City Hall to hear the proposal.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The New Deal: Seeking Compromise in Legacy Parking

In preparation for another public workshop to review a parking lot extension in place of a parking structure, the Laguna Beach City Council is wisely considering better alternatives albeit with a proposal entrenched in legacy planning.

In "Path Opens to Town Entry without a Car Garage" Jennifer Erickson writes "Rita Conn, chair of Let Laguna Vote, which draws support from political liberals and conservatives, called on the council to postpone finalizing the land deal until after next week’s workshop as a “good faith” measure, and to rescind its original vote approving the project."

Meanwhile advocates for a balanced mobility plan in Laguna Beach remind the Council, planning officials and concerned residents that "You don't know a thing about parking until you read this book."

The Workshop is Tuesday November 12 at 6:00pm City Hall.  -LS

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Let's Try a Smarter Elephant

Don't miss that title: "Automobile Dependence & Denial"

Back Cover:

"The United States has slipped car-by-car and road-by-road into a massive dependency on a transportation system which has become a public addiction. Until we kick this suicidal habit, the nation's efforts to escape dependency will be frustrated by public subsidies-the free use by motorists and the trucking industry of costly urban space and municipal services (which are far greater than generally understood)."


"The Elephant in the Bedroom not only analyzes these often ignored intertwined problems, but also outlines practical ways in which we could turn this devastating system around and start to unravel the complicated grasp on our lives held by the internal combustion engine"


Stanley Hart, civil and structural engineer, Cal Berkeley
Alvin Spivak, mechanical engineer, New York University

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Contrast of Two Beach Cities

The city of Newport Beach is very busy designing a Bicycle Master Plan. Their open-house meeting is today at 4:30pm, the public is invited to attend. 

Meanwhile Laguna Beach purchased another land partial at $5.325 million plus $670,000 for asphalt paving to park 65 more cars, that's $92,230 per car.  This purchase  supplements the planned Village Entrance and parking structure for $65 million.  

Does anyone see the contradiction in urban planning policy for these two neighbour beach cities?