A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I wished our “green” City Council would initiate and pass a strong ordinance that would phase out old wood-burning fireplaces, outlaw them in new construction and/or require a stiff annual operating permit.

That loaded up my G-mail box. Julie Mellum e-mailed, “I was delighted at your excellent and riveting choice of words regarding wood smoke — the silent killer. Minneapolis — where I live — is totally polluted with wood smoke, and I’ve been fighting it for eight years. It is causing reproductive birth defects in children and asthma attacks a la mode.

“The Harvard School of Public Health claims that fine particle pollution (of which wood smoke delivers the majority of it in most states) is a cause of premature death in 3 percent of our population — which is about one million people. Mostly due to asthma attacks and heart attacks. … Keep up your great work in getting this issue publicized.”

However, holiday wishes do come true. Regular reader Joe Palazzolo forwarded an article from the Voice of San Diego Real Estate Blog. “Starting March 9, 2009, in the Southern California Air Quality Management District (AQMD)… builders may no longer build wood burning fireplaces. The South Coast Air Quality Management District passed Rule 445 (March 7, 2008) which regulates permanent indoor and outdoor burning devices. If you live in this district (including Santa Monica), you may also not even add a hearth wood-burning fireplace in any of your remodel plans.”

“For those that already have wood-burning fireplaces,” it continued, “they will soon have their use of those fireplaces curtailed or may soon see an outright ban from using them. It seems that any fire from burning wood does not qualify in the country’s quest to ‘Go Green’.”

It’s unfortunate that City Hall completely missed the boat on this — once again proving that protecting the environment here is mostly political hot air.

Smoke and mirrors<p>

The proposed 969,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village Center development at the former Paper Mate site on Olympic Boulevard is attracting a lot of attention.

At the project’s first community meeting Dec. 15 in Virginia Avenue Park, developer Hines unveiled concepts for public comment prior to Planning Commission review Jan. 27. City planning director Eileen Fogarty kicked off the “show and tell” by explaining how this proposal generally meets the criteria of the new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) with its sustainability, community benefits and combination of office, retail, commercial space, workforce and low-income housing — all on a transit corridor.

Conceptual elevations and site plans were viewed by approximately 100 residents, interested individuals, developer and city personnel. Hines’ Colin Shepherd glowingly pointed out the project was directly across Olympic from the future Bergamot Station Expo rail stop and quoted a statistic that said people who live within 1,500 feet of a rail stop are 80 percent more likely to use the rail line. The key phrase here is “more likely.” It’s not the same as “will ride” the rail line. It’s a nonsense statistic.

Shepherd never explained how thousands of center tenants and visitors would cross Olympic to the Expo stop. Maybe flashing, in-road, pedestrian crosswalks to add to traffic congestion? Perhaps a bridge? A tunnel, maybe?

With the center’s amenities, most persons could live and work on site with little need to leave, thereby reducing traffic impacts, Shepherd said. This prompted neighbor Liz Kane to say that suggesting nobody would ever go outside the complex was unbelievable and compared it to a jail.

The site plan showed, short, new, “cut through” streets to “echo” the grid pattern of residential streets such as Princeton and Harvard streets north of Colorado Avenue. But, they don’t connect because of existing large office developments on the south side of Colorado and on both sides Pennsylvania Avenue behind Hines’ proposed project.

The new, tree-lined streets would “T” into Olympic because of Expo railway tracks, Bergamot Station, city yards and Interstate-10 on the other side. These streets will likely demand additional traffic signals on Olympic, thus creating even more gridlock and traffic diverting to Colorado, Broadway, Pico Boulevard and Mid-City, Pico and Sunset Park residential streets.

Shepherd also described a performance amphitheater in the courtyard of “creative and artists” residential complex where music and entertainment could occur anytime including weekends and evenings. Seriously? In the middle of housing?

Shepherd said the maximum height would be 81 feet for the office/commercial space — three feet shorter than the 84-foot high Water Garden across 26th Street. That, and an overall average height of 71, feet was presented as if the developer were doing everyone a favor.

Finally, the gun metal cladding depicted in preliminary renderings was apparently recommended by “a planning commissioner” to reflect and pay homage to the warehouses and industrial buildings at Bergamot Station. Besides being terrible advice, it’s ugly, pedestrian and boring.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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