A Sprawling Debate

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Your recent article criticizing efforts by Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Brown to encourage more compact development [“How Not to Fight Global Warming,” by Jill Stewart, April 18-24] erroneously suggests that there is “little basis in science” for concluding that increasing residential density will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. In fact, there is abundant evidence to confirm what common sense suggests: that with compact development, people walk more, drive less and generate fewer greenhouse-gas emissions, typically 20 to 40 percent less.

As the well-respected Urban Land Institute noted last year “[the] link between urban development patterns and individual or household travel has become the most heavily researched subject in urban planning, with more than 100 rigorous empirical studies completed.” Its “meta-analysis” of many research studies found that households living in developments with twice the density drove one-third less than those living in low-density sprawl. Another series of studies over the past 15 years, mostly in California, found that increased density leads to fewer vehicle miles traveled. A U.S. EPA study last year likewise determined that “infill” development — building in already developed urban areas — “reduces overall travel, congestion and emissions from cars,” and that compared with other air-pollution policies, “these reductions are both significant and cost-effective.”

California faces great challenges in cutting the growth of greenhouse gases and meeting the ambitious target of its climate-change law, AB 32. Because close to 40 percent of our statewide emissions come from cars and trucks, we must be especially creative in searching for ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled. The Attorney General’s Office has been working cooperatively with dozens of local agencies to help develop such solutions. Is compact development by itself sufficient? Of course not; many other strategies also are vital. We need to make our homes and office buildings greener, use more efficient appliances and lighting, conserve water, install rooftop solar systems and recycle building materials. Can it help? Of course — and not just in reducing greenhouse gases. More compact development also will reduce smog, preserve farmland, protect wildlife habitat, save water resources, encourage more walkable (and healthier) neighborhoods and help make California a better place to live.

Clifford RechtschaffenSpecial Assistant Attorney General, California Department of Justice

Jill Stewart responds: Many residents of crowded urban areas are low-income and must use transit. In cities where many middle-class residents do live in compact housing and do use mass transit, the National Traffic Scorecard this week showed their congestion is as bad as that in sprawling suburban cities. Los Angeles was worst of all, yet very close behind were dense, transit-served New York, followed by dense, transit-served Chicago and San Francisco. Sprawling, more suburban Houston and Dallas were seventh and fifth. Scientists at the University of Georgia are seeking funds from the National Science Foundation for fundamental answers that California politicians cannot possibly know: How do different development strategies affect urban temperature and precipitation processes? A top EPA scientist, Christopher P. Weaver, visiting professor at Rutgers University’s Department of Environmental Sciences, lauds the nascent efforts to find out which kinds of development actually feed global warming, but adds: “Even if [such studies] ended up showing the negative effects of suburbanization, the second issue would be to determine how negative these effects are.”

One compelling piece of data is already known: Accord­ing to the U.S. Census, as income rises, transit use drops. In short, those who can afford to drive, drive.Weather Chasers

You folks write a hard-hitting story on weathercasters [“Sunny and Mild,” June 6-12], and yet you don’t show a photo of Jackie Johnson in a tight skirt and low-cut sweater? You call yourselves first-rate, cutting-edge journalists? You’ve gotta be kidding me.

Dale DanielLos Angeles

Okay, I was excited to look at the article by Gendy Alimurung but disappointed that Jackie Johnson (Channel 9, Channel 2) was missing! How could anyone miss this lovely, graceful young weather reporter? A picture would have been enough.

Ray MortorffLos Angeles

How could you devote only a passing “mentor” mention to the stunningly delicious Maria Quiban of Channel 13, who should have rated her own full-page color pinup? Last year, one of that nutty newscast’s e-mail “questions of the night” asked viewers to name their favorite cars. I wrote that my selection was “as exotically beautiful as Maria Quiban.” The Divine Miss Q, who was doing co-anchor duties that evening, dropped the reference to her sexy self when she read the e-mail on camera. But the knowingly smoldering look in her midnight-mischief eyes would have burned off a marine layer.

James DawsonWoodland HillsWomen Are Alive … and Writing

How can you possibly run a series of articles on “The Novel: It’s Alive” [Weekly Literary Supplement, May 30-June 5] without including as either novelist or reviewer a single woman? What century are you writing in — the 19th? 18th? Even then, women shared the spotlight with men. You feature novels by Georges, Salman and Dave (or at least his effect) and articles by John, Thomas, Nathan and Marc. Even in Marc’s survey, there are no novels by women pictured. Lovely that we’ve had a woman running for president — now let’s see if L.A. Weekly can acknowledge women novelists.

Anne EggebrotenSanta Monica

Editor’s Note: Among the women writers mentioned in our most recent Weekly Literary Supplement on the novel are Marianne Wiggins (whose novel The Shadow Catcher was pictured), Lydia Davis, Francine Prose, Joy Williams, Geral­dine Brooks, Ann Patchett, Helen DeWitt, Colette, Jane Austen, Louise Erdrich, Kate Atkinson. In addition, the week before WLS, we featured Marisa Silver’s The God of War, and this week’s book section looks at the career of Edna O’Brien.

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