Council meeting diary

We’re going to work in reverse tonight. The council is talking about how to get Fremont to use fewer greenhouse gases. A city staff member is admirably doing the lord’s work trying to make this simple, but there are a lot of charts, graphs, equations and acronyms.

I’m left wondering  how many calories I would have needed to consume today to have any chance of digesting this. If only I had a burrito.

One idea: Better asphalt could help improve gas mileage.

Another idea: Stricter codes for lighting in buildings and parking lots.

Third idea: No more single-serving bottled water for city folk.

Fact: City operations only account for 0.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Question: Do other cities penalize residents for sprinkling during the hottest times of day.
Answer: No

Quetion: How much does city save if it banned gas-powered lawn mowers. It would save a lot, right?
Answer: No, It wouldn’t. So it doesn’t matter.

Quiz: What  does MTCO2e stand for?

Fact: The council still has to have community meetings and won’t pass anything to do with this until next year.

So let’s got back in time an hour to when the council was talking about the Patterson Ranch project. That’s the big subdivision near Coyote Hills Regional Park, that has slowly shrunk from about 1,500 units to about 500 units — all east of Ardenwood Boulevard and bounded by Ardenwood, Paseo Padre, Alameda Creek and some railroad tracks.

Environmentalists are happy that the project has been scaled back so dramatically and that all the residential development would be east of Ardenwood, which is farther from the park.

But the school district is still concerned that the new plan doesn’t include a new Elementary School FUSD’s Steve Betando said that the two nearby elementary schools are way overcrowded and if there’s no school at Patterson Ranch, all the parents are going to have to drive their kids to school.

That could pose some traffic issues since the plans only show two entrance and egress points for the subdivision.

A couple of council members brought up the idea of allowing the school district to build on city parks adjacent to the two Ardenwood District elementary schools, with the city replacing the parkland, probably on the Patterson site.

This project has always had an amen corner with local pastors because it proposes up to two churches west of Ardenwood Boulevard. Only one pastor spoke in favor of that this time around. Josh Wroten of Morningstar Church said churches are needed in Ardenwood. He said there are no churches in the district, which makes sense because I don’t think there’s a big Christian population there.

The planner overseeing this project for the Patterson Family is Richard Frisbie, a former Fremont staffer. He’s got a sharp wit. When asked about cooperating with the school district, he said that the district has had five superintendents since he’s been working on the project and they all keep retiring. But he noted, the district had just hired a new superintendent. “He’s only 51 years old, so maybe he won’t retire,” Frisbie said.

The council generally likes the new proposal. Anu Natarajan wishes it was more innovative, but it seems like most of the council is happy that many environmentalists appear ameliorated and they’re not going to stop a project that looks like everything else in Ardenwood. The big issue seem to be the schools. Also there’s the question about whether those two churches will get built.

The council just talked about Patterson Ranch tonight; no votes or anything like that. The environmental impact report still hasn’t been completed. It’ll be interesting to see if the council takes this up again this year with the election season fast approaching. This project isn’t supposed to be finished until 2025.

City people estimate Patterson won’t come back to council until January, 2011. I’ll remember to eat a big dinner before that one.

Matt Artz


  1. I recommend we shut down highway 880 and 680 to reduce greenhouse gas emmisions in Fremont. Also corking Fred Diaz and Bob Wasserman’s speeches would have an equal result.

  2. Speaking as somebody who’s made a lot of noise regarding schools the past few months, I’m glad to see that we’ve managed to bring it up as a point of discussion. Mr. Frisbie gave a smart answer regarding the superintendents, but what the developers need to understand is that they need to work in conjunction with the board itself.

  3. Question: What does bottled water consumption and watering lawns have to do with CO2 emission? Was there even one scientist in the council chambers that evening?

  4. Answer: using water consumes power for pumping and sometimes diverts it from generating hydro power. Aside from power, lawns suck up a lot of water that could be left in the environment to maintain rivers and wetlands. We still have a small lawn, but now that grey-water systems are legal I’m looking into how to put our shower water into the lawn without killing it or creating a Super-Fund site.

    Drinking bottled water uses a lot of energy (and petro-chemicals) for making the bottles and trucking it around. Bottled water is a huge boondoggle, especially in areas where the tap water tastes pretty good.

  5. Many brands of bottled water – like Aquafine – are just tap water bottled in non-biodegradable plastic, trucked hundreds of miles, and sold to you at a big profit.

  6. @Marty: Good question, Marty. Seems like some of the info that the city staff presented conflicts with info I’ve picked up from other sources.

    1. Gasoline-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers are a major source of air pollution. Don’t know what the Carbon load is relative to all the cars out there — probably pretty minor — but air quality would be better without them. And there’d be a lot less noise pollution without gasoline powered leaf blowers!

    2. Properly synchronized traffic lights along the main avenues would probably save a heck of lot of gasoline. Having hoards of cars doing the stop-and-go along Mowry during peak traffic hours probably wastes a huge amount of gas every day.

    3. How about getting rid of every other street lamp? Everyone is worried about public safety and poorly lit neighborhoods, but if I recall correctly, there’s been study after study that has shown no relationship between street lighting and crime.

    4. Plant more trees! Of course, they’ll require water, but they are great carbon sinks. Every pound of biomass takes something like 3 pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere!

  7. This is an interesting topic. I have strong doubts that any significant amount of water is diverted from hydroelectric power. As Charlotte mentions, most brands are filtered tap which is acquired down stream from hydro plants.

    It is a consumable, which consumes energy to produce and deliver. But so does baby formula, ziplock bags, iphones, chewing gum, and Prius’s. Can we ban those too?

    I think this is a convenient way for the “conscious” among us to stroke their self-congratulatory nether regions, IMHO.

  8. Here’s some facts about bottled water:
    o it takes 3 times as much water to make a plastic bottle as it does to fill it
    o the amount of oil used to make the plastic water bottles used in the U.S. in a year would provide the fuel for one million cars for a year
    o people in the U.S. use two and a half million plastic water bottles PER HOUR and 80% of them are not recycled

    And it’s totally unnecessary – you can refill one of your old plastic water bottles with tap water and carry it with you, saving money and the environment.

  9. Marty: Don’t conflate general water use, which has a lot of impacts in addition to power consumption, with the bad effects of using bottled water. They are not the same issue.

    Charlotte gave a good summary. Bottled water is not the biggest use of energy in this country, but it just plain wasteful and trash creating. When I go to the park, empty water bottles are the most common trash I see, more than even cigarette butts.

    Baby formula, zip-lock bags and chewing gum at least satisfy a need of some sort (Hey, I’m not advocating recycling chewing gum!). Bottled water is driven by imagined convenience and by a real effort by water companies to convince people that tap water is not safe or stylish.

    My kid (the one who is pestering me to buy a hybrid) is reading a book “Bottled and Sold”, it is infuriating to read how these companies base their marketing on promoting bogus scare stories about public water.

    So the question is: do you want to be a sucker, waste money, waste energy and create trash so you can make snarky comments about people who are trying to improve things?

  10. One thing… I really doubt a lot of these “good ideas” would have a big impact on the city of Fremont’s carbon footprint if they are just policies for city workers. It would take life style changes by the majority of the residents to have a real impact. Having the city make changes would help promote the ideas, but the people have to buy in and follow through.

  11. Bruce, There are a plethora of issues related to bottled water use. CO2 output and Climate Change (TM) is not one of them, which is the context in which it was brought up.

  12. How about timing traffic signals on our major thoroughfares. Kill like 3 birds with one stone with that one.

  13. There are a couple of comments about traffic signals among the others. FYI, I believe every signal, except the isolated ones, on city controlled intersections (not state highways) are controlled by a computer which senses traffic and gives priority to the major flow. That is why, when you try to make a left turn from Mowry, you wait and wait until the major “platoons” (traffic engineering term) of cars moves through. Generally, if no cars are waiting from a signal, it stays red until a car comes up, then it waits for the through traffic.

    The computer is located in the Development Services building at 39550 Liberty Street. Maybe the city ought to offer tours periodically.

  14. The main north-south surface streets like Paseo Padre Parkway are on the central controller during the week. I’m not sure what the hours are specifically, seems like 7-9:30 in the morning. Problem is if there’s a Monday holiday, which means no “platoons” heading south, the central controller is still in command. So, like Gus said, you can wait and wait and not a car goes by while you do. That 90 second cycle feels like three minutes!

  15. “Do other cities penalize residents for sprinkling during the hottest times of day.”

    Some cities in LA county do indeed. So… Yes.

    Yeah, but you wrote “other cities” not other Bay Area cities.

  16. Marty: did you read what Charlotte wrote about petroleum use for bottling and shipping water? Wasted energy definitely is part of the issue. But for the City of Fremont to mandate no bottled water for it’s workers is really a symbolic gesture. There are times when it is just too convenient, maybe they could invest in some more water jugs, make sure they are easily available, and discourage buying flats of bottled water. ‘Nuf said for me.

    Platoons, huh? That’s a new use of the term for me.

  17. Fremont has way too many traffic lights in general and way too many left hand turn arrows. In San Francisco most intersection that have traffic lights DON’T have arrows. How can they do it? Drivers are allowed to use their brains that’s how, unlike Fremont which I suspect will soon consider us to stupid to make right turns without an arrow giving us permission.

    If you don’t like sitting at an intersection in the middle of the night when there is clear visibility and not a car in sights ask yourself “Why am I allowing an inanimate object that changes color mechanically to control me? Why am I surrendering the magnificent ability of my brain to THINK and REASON and PERCEIVE and my ability to decide over to a wind-up alarm clock?
    Because you’re scaarrreed? Of something that “might” be there? …but isn’t …
    How long after would you sit there “after 90 seconds seems like three minutes” in your idling car at an empty intersection.
    That would be determined on just how stupid and blindly obedient you’ve let yourself become.

  18. Tony, I feel your pain, but take this into consideration regarding left-turn arrows. I recently visited a city that does not have them. We were in one of the busiest shopping districts it has. The only way we could turn left at a signal was to wait until the light turned red (because the oncoming traffic ignored the yellow light). It would sometimes take three or four cycles for it to be your turn to run the red.

    The buried sensors we have on a number of our city streets work very well, when allowed to function. The problem comes with the central controller. It has no idea what the traffic volume is. A COF traffic engineer, who has never physically witnessed the volume, determines the cycle time based on gathered data.

    It would be interesting to figure out how much additional fuel and how much additional pollution is being generated from idling cars.

    Oh, one other thing. Would it be possible to standardize left-turn signals so they all operate on the same pattern, either before or after the through traffic signal? It seems to be a crap shoot at any Fremont light. But, I’m sure the city engineers have data to support their reasoning for that too.

  19. Bruce, it is a symbolic gesture. I strongly believe that these people don’t understand the basic elements of climate change and try to hop onto any enviro-bandwagon thinking that they are even remotely related. The issues related to driving patterns and efficiency will have an actual impact and the city should focus in that arena, wrt CO2 output.

    And while plastic is an oil product, so is the packaging of essentially every single product in the supermarket, from cereal bags, to the cellophane on meat, to juice and milk containers, etc, etc. Aluminum and glass take tremendous energy to produce as well.

    I expect that those making environmental policy at the least understand the proposed mechanism of global warming. These people obviously do not, if out of a handful of issues available they chose bottled water – which has a negligible effect on CO2 output.

    Maybe this bit will help you understand my position: Say Sarah Palin said we need a strong military because it’s God’s will. You’d agree that we should have a strong military, but you’d be a idiot to think it’s because of the reason she provides, or you’d be offended that she’d use religion to promote her agenda. We’ll I’m offended.

  20. One way to reduce traffic signals is to replace them with modern roundabouts. Not the little traffic circles we have in some neighborhoods, not the old-fashioned giant rotaries like on the East coast. Google “modern roundabout” for some examples.

    We’re unlikely to see these on arterials, but I can think of a few smaller signalized intersections where a modern roundabout would be ideal. For example, Peralta/Dusterberry.

    To reduce traffic signal on arterials we’d have to reduce access to the neighborhoods and shopping centers along the arterials. For example, on Fremont Blvd near the Hub: You could remove either the signal near Chili’s or the signal near Elephant Bar. Or both. Make those driveways right-turn-only in and out. So if you’re going to Chili’s from the south, you’d turn left at Walnut, right at the Target driveway, then drive past the Target entrance. I’m not sure that would be an overall improvement.

    And if you want to get from Noah’s to Office Max, you wouldn’t be able cross Fremont Blvd anymore. You’d have to go to Walnut or Mowry to cross. That might be okay for motorists, but what about pedestrians?

  21. MTV, I plan many of my trips based on a pattern of as many right turns as possible.

    Roundabouts work, but keep in mind that many of our local population have immigrated from countries where traffic signals and stop signs are merely suggestions.

  22. VOR, my point about converting those intersections into right-turn-only is it cuts off crossing and left-turning traffic at those spots. It’s trading arterial throughput for permeability.

    In a world where traffic signals and stop signs are suggestions, roundabouts are a good thing since they have no signals, and only yield signs.

  23. I think roundabouts would do wonders for body shop business in town.

  24. Hey VoR! I’m not in pain, you are. As you sit at an intersection trying to make a left hand turn but can’t because there’s too much traffic and it’s made up of “shoppers” some of our country’s most notoriously stupid slugs.
    The problem wasn’t that there wasn’t a left-hand turn arrow, it was that you didn’t you your BRAIN to THINK. If you had you might have come up with an option or two. Such as…”I’ll just go straight and turn right at the next block.” let me know if you can’t figure out the rest.

    One other thing concerning stupid left-hand turn arrows. In real cities,unlike here, if there happens to be a need for one, when the light for oncoming traffic turns green the arrow goes from solid to flashing red until the signal for OC cars turns red and then the arrow turns green for a short time. Please pass that along to our “central controller/traffic guru” who I doubt exists but if he or she does should be canned for someone that is able and willing to use their….everybody…..BRAIN! to what?……THINK!

    Then get on a bike before your butt gets any flabbier and your coordination any worse.

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