To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Assumption Of Leisure (Or: Sorry Larry, No Parking No Shopping)


Saturday, January 25, 2014
So-called Smart Growth advocates have an issue that really gets their undergarments into an unkind twist, and that is personal transportation. Yes, your car. Another is single family homes, but we can talk about that later. Let's just say for now that they have some control issues.

The notion that you, the independent private citizen, should have the ability to whisk yourself about God's great creation pretty much free from the grasp of those who wish to save the world by putting folks into a little green box, and for your own good mind you, is upsetting to them. It drives Smarties kind of nuts, actually. Or maybe I should say it walks them kind of nuts.

The problem is that like most high maintenance people they are a bit dangerous if ignored. And honestly, who would ever want to pay attention to them? Life is far too short to listen to people who think they'd be doing the world a favor by making you get out of your car and onto a bus. Or even force you to walk for that matter.

The human race has been looking for easier ways to get around since the dawn of time. What is the point of reversing all of that now? Do you really want to bring back the goat cart? Especially when cars have never been cooler? Especially the emissions free electric ones?

Besides, if walking is so good, why are we always the ones expected to do more of it? As far as I can tell the trust fund planning elite of Pasadena has hardly put itself on a Rusnak diet. Go check out the parking lot at Pasadena City Hall some fine day and you'll see exactly what I mean.

The latest incarnation of Joy In The Misery Of Others Syndrome (the acronym would be JITMOOS for those of you who believe that makes it look more official) can be found in the latest column by Pasadena Star News mainstay Larry Wilson. Portentously entitled "The quest for dignity and even happiness in our cities" (link), it speaks to us in this firm a manner:

Yes, I did take it as a compliment, thank you very much, when the L.A. Times last week followed up on a column I wrote a year ago about putting Pasadena’s main drag on a “street diet” by writing the same story and running it as the front-page centerpiece.

It’s a fascinating idea, after all, and so counterintuitive that it tends to get folks riled up. Take lanes away from Colorado Boulevard, where the little old lady used to drive her super-stock Dodge? Slim down Route 66? Put in pop-up parklets in what were formerly precious parking spaces?

Well, there goes the Rose Parade, one reader wrote in to us. Actually, the parklets can be moved, and the parade doesn’t need anything like six lanes — four traffic, two parking.

And the next day a reader wrote to the Times about her worries for the future of our downtowns if traffic lanes are taken away: “everyone will be walking to avoid the resultant gridlock.” I could hear the shouts of “Yes!” from the likes of pedestrian advocate Jeff Speck (“The Walkable City”) from 3,000 miles away.

Two points that cry out to be made. The first is something called the Assumption Of Leisure (AOL). Walking, or riding Southern California's rather inconvenient, and frankly edgy, public transportation systems, takes time. Lots and lots of it.

Certainly it would be nice to be able to saunter about sampling interesting foods and coffees while gazing in awe at the many fine products being offered by shops along the way, but who in the world has that much time?

Most of us have to work for a living, and unless people should suddenly develop a passion for getting up at 3AM, I don't see exactly how anyone is going to make it to their daily due on time. And what if you suddenly have to pick up your boss at the airport? You'd better start running now, working man.

I suppose life in a desirable downtown walking utopia would be nice and all, but it is also rather expensive I've been told. To pay the kinds of rent needed to afford oneself of such a lifestyle takes a lot of wherewithal, and for most people that involves quite a few hours of toiling at the office. Trust me, you're going to need a car for that one.

Here's the other thing. No parking means no shopping. And it's not like I'm talking about a boycott or anything. I've never enjoyed long and pointless stop lights quite as much as the ones I've waited for in Pasadena.

It's just that if I want to take the family down to the Cheesecake Factory for something rich and filling, they're not going to be quite as enthusiastic about the idea if I tell them that because of the parking problems we're going to have to take the bus.

We, the happy dinner party with money to burn, would just naturally want to decide on another option. One where we can make better use of our leisure time by driving ourselves. Chamber of Commerce, please take note.

I guess my point here is that what Larry Wilson is advocating for here is something only available to a relatively small, and rather privileged, portion of our society. For the rest of us having to walk everywhere would be pretty much a return to stone age misery.

Parklets and all.

The other end of the spectrum

MSN Real Estate has an interesting article up called 5 ways to fight the McMansion expansion. It is a thoughtful piece, and one that makes many useful points. You can read them for yourself if you click here.

But what really piqued my jaded interest is the following comment, left there by someone who does not think highly of McMansions.

Life at the McMansions:

Hubby: Honey, where are the kids I haven’t seen them since Tuesday of last week?

Trophy wife: They’re in the playroom with the x-box, playstation, computer and ipod. I’ll text them.

Hubby: Haven’t they been outside lately?

Trophy wife: No.

Hubby: Should we take the Hybrid (Escalade) to McDonalds for a happy meal? We can get them another (crappy little plastic) toy (made in China). I’ll set up the DVD and playstation so we don’t have to hear the little brats screaming on the way there. Oh, have you seen my TaylorMade golf clubs?

Trophy wife: Tomorrow I have to drive to the cleaners, the post office, the grocery store, the mall and the daycare. But, I can probably pick up a new set at the Sports Authority. You know, the new one right in between the PetSmart and the Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s just behind the Wal-mart and Home Depot. I hope I don't lose my Escalade Hybrid (that says "H Y B R I D" in 8" font down the side) in the giant sea of a parking lot. I’m so glad we got smart and went green.

Hubby: I know, isn’t life great? I’m so glad we moved to Chipper Creek in this wonderful master planned neighborhood of Blandville Oaks. Everything I need is right here.  Isn't America just grand?

There has to be a middle ground around here somewhere.