There’s no doubt that sustainably and friendliness to the environment are big deals in Santa Monica.

So, Councilman Kevin McKeown (then Mayor McKeown), councilwoman Pam O’Connor and councilman (now Mayor) Tony Vazquez trotted off to Paris, France to participate in the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) a couple of weeks ago. COP21 was an international global conference on climate change.

Last week, McKeown announced that Santa Monica had joined the “Compact of Mayors” which includes 360 cities worldwide dedicated to making steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and carbon emissions.

According to City Hall’s press handout – one of the first to come out of the new million-dollar Communications Department, “The Compact of Mayors is a global coalition of mayors and city officials pledging to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, enhance resilience to climate change, and to track their progress transparently.”

“As Part of the World’s Largest Coalition of City Leaders Addressing Climate Change, Santa Monica Demonstrates Actual Impact on Addressing, Fighting Climate Change,” the handout ballyhooed

Are we really helping the environment as our politicians suggest? Or, are we just mouthing fashionable phrases?

While “McKeown and Company” were in Paris protecting the environment, carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses were spewing from gasoline and diesel powered vehicles here in some of the nation’s worst traffic.

Misdirected and deeply flawed municipal efforts to force us out of personal vehicles and on to buses, or to walk or ride bicycles are miserable failures. If anything, they’ve created congestion resulting in tons of unnecessary carbon and air particulates

Because our policymakers are unwilling to face the fact that more than 90 percent of us use private vehicles to get to and from work, school, to shop or “just go someplace,” we’ve become an air-pollution generating machine!

In addition, City Hall’s environmental claims are defeated by the city’s development policies. Using “housing” as a wedge for driving more development has resulted in hundreds of new apartments in the development queue leading to more demand for resources and pollution.

A ten unit apartment building with 12 or 14 habitants that’s replaced by a 40, 50 or 60 unit building (with added ground floor retail space) occupied by 75 to 100 tenants is going to use a lot more water no matter how “low-flow” its shower heads are.

Our aging water and sewage infrastructure also contribute to water waste and pollution. Yet, City Hall’s priorities are about developing housing for people who want to move here rather than cleaning up our own backyard.

McKeown himself also said (at a recent Santa Monica for Renters’ Rights meeting) that he thinks renters should be exempt from any penalties arising out of increases of water use that violate the city’s own guidelines for cutbacks. How is that going to incentivize saving water and protect the environment?

It all sounds a bit hypocritical to me.

Expo’s first “hit”

The extension of the Expo Line into Santa Monica had its first accident, Thursday. An 18-wheel stake bed truck turned in front of a Metro test train on Colorado Avenue at Seventh Street. A Metro test train operated by a conductor was travelling westbound slightly behind the truck on dedicated tracks located mid-roadway.

At the intersection of Colorado and Seventh, the truck driver turned left against posted signs prohibiting such turns and was struck broadside by the train, resulting in damage to the truck and causing the Metro train to derail. Luckily, the injuries incurred be the truck driver, the train conductor and two other people on the test rain appeared to be minor.

Expect many more of these accidents, especially with Expo running at grade from roughly Nineteenth Street and Colorado to the Fourth Street at Colorado terminus.

The decision by Santa Monica’s City Council to place Expo down the middle of Colorado as opposed to an elevated alignment over Olympic Boulevard (and all the intersecting north/south side streets) favored by the Expo Construction Authority and Metro will go down in history as one of the worst decisions ever made in this city.

The Metro Blue Line that runs for a mile or two at grade on Washington Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles is one of the most dangerous/deadliest stretches of light rail right-of-way in the United States. I predict that Santa Monica’s Expo line will soon be at the top of the “hit” list because many injuries and fatalities here are inevitable.

Santa Walks Survey unscientific

Last Monday, in a guest column (“Lives are worth a few minutes” Dec. 7, Page 5) Grace Phillips founder of Santa Monica Walks – a citizen group that promotes walking – took issue with my earlier column (“Pedestrian Action Plan filled with rhetoric,” Daily Press, Nov. 16, Page 5) written about the city’s laughable and problematic methodology for “enhancing the pedestrian experience.”

After zinging me, Phillips wrote that Santa Monica Walks wants a more consumer friendly, walkable city and listed all the usual pro-pedestrian wishing points that framed a public opinion survey her group conducted two years ago.

It was designed to elicit specific responses like advocating for wider sidewalks, motoring restrictions and to generate endorsements for pedestrian enhancements and approaches. It did nothing to get honest answers to questions about a pedestrian’s real needs because Santa Monica Walks and similar groups are only interested in advocacy.

Bill can be reached at