I was recently invited on a fascinating inspection visit to a couple of sites operated by the largest supplier of treated water in the United States: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California

We first visited the Weymouth Treatment Plant, an impressive 150-acre site built in 1940, just before WW2 (thus its noted Mission Revival-style architecture).

The plant has a treatment capacity of 520,000,000 gallons per day: blending water delivered a combined 700 miles via the Colorado River Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct. It is also home to one of the world’s largest machine shops, housing some awesome toys.

We next visited the adjacent Water Quality Lab, which performs more than 320,000 water quality tests annually on samples gathered throughout the vast distribution systems, for the detection of bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, chemical contaminants, and toxins – thereby safeguarding the drinking water delivered to more than 19 Million Southern California residents every day.

An hour or so away, we entered the Advanced Purification Center: a high-security half-million gallon per day test facility, built as a proof of concept for near-future construction of a full-scale recycled water plant.

A unique application of membrane bioreactors significantly increases water recycling efficiency. If approved, this innovative system will have global applications, and greatly reduce dependence on imported water. The full scale initial planned construction can produce up to 150 million gallons of drinkable water daily, enough to serve 500,000 homes.

I was surprised that the MWD staff knew nothing about the Gates Foundation Omniprocessor initiative, given the inherent opportunities for cross-collaboration and mutual benefit. Then again, I was equally surprised how little attention has been paid by MWD to the opportunities for IP development and protection. Public utilities tend not to think of their own inventions and innovations as opportunities for IP and licensing growth. It is important, however, for publicly funded entities engaging in pioneering R&D to explore channels for revenue generation beyond taxpayer funding, which is subject to legislative redirection at any given time. The State of California has a history of developing globally impactful innovations, be it in water management, earthquake detection, or fire protection. Some of these innovations merit protection and consideration as foundations, upon which future R&D might be funded.

The inspection team on this infrastructure trip comprised some of the brightest and best of California leadership. Admittedly, some of the more complex engineering parlance flew over my head, but I learned an enormous amount, most notably that – once again – the State of #California is leading the way in finding and building new ways to distribute, treat, conserve, and maximize one of our planet’s most valuable resources.

 

Greetings from Sunny California!

Now is an ideal moment to take stock of our performance, and reorient ourselves in the direction of peace, renewal, introspection, and togetherness.

However challenging this past year may have been for you or your business, we hope that the net effect has been a positive one, not only to your bottom line, but to your and your colleagues’ personal sense of wellbeing. We work to live, and may we all live to make our world a little better – whether through art, commerce, social service, or whatever pursuit gets you out of bed at the beginning of your day!

As always, our firm’s marker for success is how much we were able to learn and grow, in any given year. 2019 was no exception, though it had some unforeseen moments!

Our recent engagements have taken us into a variety of new markets and fields, for which I am grateful. Whether working with the UN Foundation on their “Girl Up” initiative, restructuring a nationally syndicated radio talk show for the podcast era, or celebrating the opening of a new local business venture. Our company’s focus remains on people, sustainability (environmental and fiscal), and innovation.

 

 

Grand Opening of Los Angeles’ Artesano Tamaleria

 

Attendees at the UN Foundation Girl Up Summit

 

Personal commitments prevented me from spending my usual couple of months with our London and Lisbon teams, but more time in the Los Angeles area allowed for greater participation in some local initiatives.

We continue to enjoy supporting the great work done by the film and TV industry’s Green Production Guide team, and I enjoyed spending a day at the Produced By Conference in early June, roaming the Warner Bros lot, challenging the thousands of industry professionals in attendance to rethink and upgrade their approach to sustainable production. Personal engagement remains the foundation stone upon which fruitful change is built.

 

Leaders of the Producers Guild of America Green Initiative

 

Our firm continues to work with and advise a variety of political and educational initiatives and organizations, including the City of Burbank, where we are based. We are passionate about improving the transportation infrastructures and community health of this beautiful city – no small undertaking in an area so slavishly devoted to the automobile! We were thrilled to participate this year in some milestone events and initiatives, including the groundbreaking ceremonies for a bikeway we’ve been working on for a number of years, the continued development of a regional rapid transit system (BRT), and ongoing improvements to the intersections between our regional and local traffic infrastructures (more access for bicycles, pedestrians, and public transportation!). There has been a lot of success in 2019, but, as with all such projects, the movement is glacial and there remains much to be done!

This was a great year for improving the city’s fiscal and functional health, and it’s been a pleasure to welcome new City Manager Justin Hess, while thanking outgoing City Manager Ron Davis for his service. Each person, though cut from different cloth, brings a standard of excellence and service worthy of appreciation. The inimitable Emily Gabel-Luddy, nearing the close of her term, will shortly be succeeded as the City’s Mayor by our other admirable friend Sharon Springer, and I look forward to a period wherein her infectious enthusiasm, love of community, and intelligence will continue to inspire and uplift not only City Staff, residents, and businesses, but the municipalities around us, as California continues to lead the way in facing the challenges and opportunities of our myriad communities.

 

Burbank City Council and Community Leaders at Los Angeles Bikeway Groundbreaking Ceremony

 

A summer opportunity to travel back to Seattle, Washington allowed me to catch up with a previous client, OneRedmond, and the numerous technology and entertainment companies with whom we collaborated during our most recent project in the area. Some very interesting progress has been made, including the establishment of a very promising Public/Private partnership serving the Greater Seattle Economic Development area. This region includes not only Seattle itself, but also the wonderful cities of Redmond, Kirkland, and Bellevue. We were also able to spend a good amount of time with another cherished client, one of the Northwest’s top event and hospitality firms with whom we are developing a growth strategy, as they expand into more strategic and global ventures relating to their already impressive core capabilities.

The Northwest region remains a favorite one, and I’m excited to see its continued growth as a hub of innovation and workforce development. The area’s renowned commitment to sustainability and community makes it an excellent breeding ground for the next generation of purpose-driven enterprises.

 

Back in Los Angeles, I was recently invited to participate in a long-overdue Mobile World Congress workshop session entitled “Women4Tech”. It was inspiring to see and talk with such a diversity of women leaders in the fields of tech, marketing, engineering, government, and creative production. Some of next year’s most compelling innovations from around the world will be coming from women-led enterprises, and we can only benefit from their contributions, guidance, and insights.

 

Women4Tech Conference at Mobile World Congress USA

At the end of last year, I was invited by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader, helping to inform and inspire communities to become more actively engaged in combating the undeniable climate crisis we all face. In addition to giving presentations to schools, local governments, corporations, and community organizations, it was an honor to be asked to establish and chair one of the newest Chapters of the global Climate Reality Project. This proved a mighty and worthwhile challenge! During the course of this past year, we recruited more than 40 passionate advocates for responsible stewardship, and together we have made a marked impact on local, state, regional, and national policy and action. We look forward to helping the organization further consolidate and maximize the energy, knowledge, and commitment of these leaders.

 

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has been a favorite organization, ever since I was a student at Duke University, helping to set up a chapter of the Center’s then-new “Teaching Tolerance” initiative. I’ve long enjoyed supporting the great work done by this laudable organization, and this year we were offered a marvelous opportunity to spend some time with co-founder Joe Levin, as we reviewed the extraordinary efforts undertaken by the SPLC, on behalf of the disenfranchised, marginalized, and oppressed members of our nation’s family. I remain in awe of their passionate zeal and commitment.

 

With SPLC Co-founder, Joe Levin

 

While 2019 provided a diversity of opportunities and discoveries, it also unhappily took away important treasures. I was greatly saddened this year to participate in memorial and funeral services for some great people, including my friend, Blake Byrne; an important mentor, David Picker; a previous boss, Michael Lynne; and former colleague and icon, Cokie Roberts. It would be pitiful to attempt here any sort of In Memoriam for such admirable people, so we will instead commit ourselves anew to conducting our professional business in a manner reflecting their integrity, passion, and service. We are sure that each of our friends, colleagues, and clients has experienced the pain of loss this year, in their own unique but equally important way, and we offer each our sympathy. Life is indeed a fleeting gift, the value of which we seem to fail to take full measure, until we find ourselves being ushered toward the exit. To borrow the latest aphorism: KonMari the year ahead, and share the joy you keep!

 

 

The future must always be seen with optimism. We are looking forward to continuing our work with our newest client: an exciting tech & creative startup venture focused on increasing access for the visually impaired to content otherwise out of reach. We’re eager to see what other opportunities and innovations present themselves next year, in markets and industries that will assuredly teach us new lessons and show us new wonders!

My thanks go not only to my colleagues, but to clients and friends alike who have welcomed us this year into their offices and labs, as well as onto the many studio lots and sets! The opportunity to learn from and watch you invent inspires me on a regular basis!

 

 

Wishing you the peace, renewal, and togetherness to which I alluded at the beginning of my post, I close, grateful for a year where the positives outweighed the negatives, and in the hope that this trend continues robustly in the year to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicholas de Wolff

 

California State Senator Scott Wiener and I communicated with one another several times during his campaign to push SB 827 through the legislature, and I warned very early on during our exchanges that the singlemindedness that gave him the courage and conviction to introduce and champion such disruptive legislation would be the very undoing of its hopes for success.

I do not delight in being proven right in this case, because the intent behind this bill was and remains laudable. Urban zones, especially in California, are in desperate need of increased housing inventory. That said, the housing most needed in many of our cities is not luxury condominiums or lofty apartments for the well-heeled. What is sorely lacking in major municipalities is thoughtfully centralized housing for the people who keep our cities alive: the teachers, city workers, restaurant and store staff, and other citizens presently struggling through daily commutes to work in places where they cannot presently imagine ever being able to live. A healthy community caters to its best and most conscientious citizens, irrespective of their income, net worth, gender, color, or creed. Our cities have lost sight of this dictum. Another element in ensuring the health and well-being of our urban societies is protecting the best core differentiating characteristics of each of these communities. Senator Wiener’s bill did not satisfy its critics on either count. Desperate circumstances do NOT always call for desperate measures.

Senator Wiener made it very clear to me how disdainful he was of early critiques, and his dismissive answers to polite questions in numerous online forums repeatedly undermined his chances at developing transversal support. It was only after a groundswell of opposition presented itself, from such quarters as the Sierra Club and the LA Times, that he begrudgingly agreed to revisit the details of his proposed bill. The damage had been done, however, and he had alienated too many potential interests, who might have proven invaluable in developing a piece of legislation that could have been truly revolutionary, if somewhat more nuanced than the original form.

My hope now is that Senator Wiener learns from this experience. He was not wrong in his general objective. He was incorrect in his specific approach. Credit is due, though, to the Senator: for lighting a match under municipalities whose bureaucracies have for too long kicked this can down the road. The warning bell has been rung, and it would not behoove our cities to meet Senator Wiener’s unfortunate strategy with their own arrogance and hubris. Change is due, and I sincerely hope that when Senator Wiener looks to revisit the matter, he will find that local legislatures will have done the job well enough to both adequately approach his noble aspirations and meet the needs of the community they more knowledgeably serve.

My ideas and initiatives sometimes seem unconventional to many, but I have never been so vilified as when I first proposed a new streetscape redesign in the City of Burbank, California, back on September 21st, 2009. One member of the City Council actually accused me of being part of a United Nations conspiracy to rob US citizens of their rights! Thankfully, the party responsible for that particular point of view is no longer in a position of municipal authority.

I spent nearly 2 years vociferously campaigning for this redesign, supported by my fellow City Commissioners. It was an uphill battle, greatly aided by smart advice from my friend Janette Sadik-Khan, during her tenure as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation.

A number of city residents, reliable members of the NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) constituency, enthusiastically sought to paint (if you’ll forgive the pun) my initiative as an unrealistic and socialist land grab (I’m not making this up!). Groups such as the hard-working Walk Bike Burbank got involved, working diligently to educate citizens on the potential health, safety, and community benefits of our initiative.

Nearly 8 years later, we are vindicated, in the excellent article below. One street. 8 years. At this rate, a fully multimodal transportation infrastructure is still a long way off. I will, however, not surrender my firm belief that our cities need to be more accessible, inclusive, diverse, and community-oriented than they presently are. With more than 82% of citizens living in urban areas, it is more important than ever to ensure that we make our cities more livable, walkable, bikeable, workable, breathable, and affordable.

#NeverGiveUp

After 7 years of study, the new Verdugo Avenue redesign proves safer for everyone

By Patrick Dickson|Apr. 24th, 2017

Back in 2010, the City of Burbank began a pilot transportation safety-study by reconfiguring some of the traffic lanes on Verdugo Avenue to include a center turn lane and bicycle lanes.  Prior to this, Verdugo was a solid four-lane street with two lanes in each direction.  Verdugo was chosen because of its lower vehicle traffic relative to other parallel streets, its residential character, and because the street serves a number of locations attractive to bicyclists and pedestrians.  Indeed, the Downtown Burbank Metrolink station, the Olive Recreation Center, John Burroughs High School, Lincoln Park, the Buena Vista Library, the Mary Alice O’ Connor Family Center, and the Verdugo Recreation Center are all accessible and connected by Verdugo.

The new lane-reconfiguration was initially installed March 2010 and since then, every conceivable aspect of its new operations has been closely studied and monitored by the City.  Originally a four-lane arterial street with no center turn lane, Verdugo Avenue was reconfigured into a three-lane roadway that added a center turn lane, maintained two motor vehicle through lanes, and added bicycle lanes between Olive Avenue and Hollywood Way. The purpose of this reconfiguration was to reorient the street to match the two-lane segments on each side of the corridor, improve motor vehicle and pedestrian crossing safety, calm traffic, and add bicycle lanes as identified in the City’s Bicycle Master Plan.

Immediately after the new configuration was implemented, the City did not see a significant impact on travel times, but did see slightly reduced the number of collisions.

Then, after a prescribed 18-month review of this new lane configuration, further analysis confirmed the results of the first six-month review and further demonstrated the reconfiguration did not impact travel times, yet continued to reduce the number of collisions occurring there.  In order to expand the scope of this study to include further statistics on Verdugo – the City began collecting additional vehicle counts, bicycle counts, vehicle travel times, and safety statistics.

What has been revealed by this safety program is that westbound Verdugo travel times remain relatively constant, but eastbound travel times have increased slightly by a little less than two minutes overall.  It has also been shown that vehicle queue lengths increase at the peak hour at Buena Vista and Hollywood Way.

Yet, average daily traffic volumes on Verdugo Avenue continue to be consistent with the data collected in 2010 and 2011, and continue to support the observation that Verdugo carries the same number of cars with three lanes that it did previously with four lanes. Burbank’s observation supports the theory developed from many other cities where these reconfigurations have been done that reducing through lanes and adding a center turn lane does not affect roadway capacity on streets with volumes of 18,000 cars per day or less. Without a center turn lane, the innermost lanes of four lane streets must be used by both left turning and through vehicles; thus removing two inefficient through lanes and replacing them with a dedicated turn lane achieves a similar level of roadway capacity.

According to a recent Burbank public staff report, counts taken in March 2017 by the City confirm that cyclists indeed use the bicycle lanes on Verdugo Avenue, though the volumes continue to be lower than initially counted when the bicycle lanes were installed in March 2010. Bicycle count variability is due to a variety of factors including weather, time of year, and the activity of nearby schools and parks. Bicycle surveys for all periods were conducted while school was in session and weather was not inclement.

Biggest benefit proves to be dramatic drop in severe collisions

While decreasing travel times naturally appeals to motorists; decreasing serious injuries caused by collisions is every motorists’ need.  Now that the Verdugo Avenue reconfiguration has been in place for over six years, and because the facility has been operating for so long, the city has been able to take a comprehensive look at accident data that occurred six years before and six years after the reconfiguration. It becomes obvious to all residents that the changes in accidents are the most compelling reason for maintaining Verdugo Avenue in its current configuration. The number of accidents that occurred before and after the reconfiguration declined by about six percent. However, the types of crashes that occurred changed dramatically. The most severe crash types – head-on crashes, broadsides, and overturned vehicles – declined substantially. In particular, head-on collisions were reduced from nine collisions to zero, and broadsides were reduced 24 percent according to a recent Burbank staff report .

The City report also suggests the dramatic reduction in severe crashes may also be attributed to the installation of the two-way left turn lane and the reduction in travel lanes, which reduces the number of vehicle conflicts at each intersection along the corridor. While severe collision types decreased, rear-end and sideswipe collisions increased after the installation of the reconfiguration. Upon first glance, the reconfiguration should have decreased rear-end collisions due to the new center turn lane. The increase in these collisions is not believed to be directly related to the reconfiguration; instead, many experts believe these crashes could be due to the increase in distracted driving due to smartphone use. In 2010, it was estimated that 20% of people had smart phones. In 2016, this has climbed to 77%. The rise in rear-end and sideswipe collisions is likely attributed to distracted driving. If rear-end collisions are removed from the analysis, there were 62 crashes in the six years prior to the reconfiguration and 43 crashes after the reconfiguration, or a reduction of 31 percent.

Accomplished using previously approved Measure R funding

The City of Burbank is now poised to extend the bicycle and pedestrian friendly improvements on Verdugo Avenue.  Previously approved funding sources for this nearly $900,000 effort comes from a combination of grant funds, local match, Measure R Highway funds, and Transportation Development Act (TDA) Article 3 funds, if required, to construct the project without using any City General Fund dollars. This project is eligible for all of these funding sources, and will provide the following improvements:

    • Install left turn arrows at Buena Vista Street and Hollywood Way to reduce conflicts with pedestrians, including those walking to the Buena Vista Library, Lincoln Park, and the Mary Alice O’ Connor Family Center. This will also decrease left turn delays at the two busiest intersections on Verdugo Avenue. The left turn arrows will only be triggered when there are four or more vehicles waiting in the left turn lane.
    •  Upgrade the flasher at Virginia Avenue: to use button actuated rapid flashing beacons to enhance safety for pedestrians walking to Jordan Middle School and the Olive Recreation Center.
    •  Upgrade signals at Buena Vista Street, California Street, and Catalina Street: with new traffic poles, bicycle detection, countdown pedestrian signals, and pedestrian buttons to enhance safety for pedestrians.
    •  Install traffic cameras at California Street and Victory Boulevard: to monitor traffic congestion and operations.
    •  Install striped bicycle lanes between Clybourn Avenue and Cordova Street and between Virginia Avenue and Victory Boulevard.
    •  Install striped bicycle lanes between Olive Avenue and Victory Boulevard to connect to existing bicycle lanes at Main Street. A small four-block segment of this stretch will be marked as a signed bicycle route (no separate lanes) in the eastbound direction because the street here is narrower than the rest of Verdugo.

New Verdugo Avenue proven safer for everyone

Verdugo Avenue has been one of the most extensively monitored streets in the City, and updated data shows that the street continues to efficiently accommodate motor vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians without substantially increasing congestion or delay. More importantly, the reconfigured Verdugo Avenue has reduced collisions and increased the safety for all roadway users, particularly by significantly reducing severe crashes like head-on collisions and broadsides.

Given that the street continues to operate safely and efficiently for everyone, and is demonstrably much safer for motorists, Human-City Burbank recommends further expansion and increased application of these low-cost proven safety and humanizing-type transportation improvements throughout Burbank by adopting this successful, proven and time-tested, “Verdugo Avenue Reconfiguration Model” for many additional appropriate Burbank locations using new Measure M local return revenues as required.  This type of roadway reconfiguration has been thoroughly proven to dramatically improve safety by providing more inclusive and complete streets that more equitably benefit everyone in Burbank.

Director of Policy & Planning for Walk Bike Burbank, local chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Patrick is also a member of the Burbank Transportation Commission representing active transportation interests for the benefit of everyone.

California’s dirty air caused more than $193 million in hospital-based medical care from 2005 to 2007 as people sought help for problems such as asthma and pneumonia triggered by elevated pollution levels, according to a new study. While much work has been done previously to catalog the economic impact of air pollution across California, the study is the first to quantify the cost of hospital-based medical care caused by the dirty air.

More info here:
http://www.rand.org/news/press/2010/03/02/

Full report here:
http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/2010/RAND_TR777.pdf

We pass ballot initiatives with no method of funding. We put our legislature in a straitjacket with a 2/3 vote requirement on budgets and then ask them to fix our state’s problems. We make it easy to cut taxes, but impossible to raise them, meaning that a small majority can deprive the state of needed revenue. . . .We killed the dominant school funding mechanism by passing Prop. 13 and then demanded that the state fix it and fund our schools. . . . We want to protect OUR programs and cut THEIRS. . . . We are our own worst politician and our own worst enemy. We, the short-sighted, instant-gratification seeking, detail averse, California public. We refuse to see the difficult choices, nuance, and complicated details of public policy, yet we give ourselves the power to make laws that can virtually never be repealed.

LA Times reader Brandon Ruiz, quoted in 12/27 article about California’s political year.