ALPERN AT LARGE--I wish I could, and I think many of us wish we also could, be thrilled at the environmentally-smart but still untested (and very expensive) CoolSeal coating of our streets that is planned to reduce the heating effects caused by asphalt absorption of the sun's rays, and which creates a well-known "urban heat island effect".
Well before the concept of global warming was a part of our modern daily lexicon, the heat and environmental problems associated with our streets, and the overpaving of our cities (as well as our nation and planet), was a problem that TRUE environmentalists were concerned with.
So CoolSeal very much IS a great idea ... but the timing of its implementation, and any questions as to its cost/benefit/safety ratios, will probably have most thinking individuals wondering if the timing and priority of this otherwise-venerable idea is wise ... and/or a diversion from what would be better transportation and environmental policies:
1) Fixing the roads, and repairing the infrastructure beneath the roads (sewage, electricity, and other underground infrastructure that we rely on every day) should be priority #1, and yet is NOT priority #1. For example, how soon will these whitened streets need to be torn up because the LADWP needs to replace a 100-year-old pipe?
2) Creating and expanding different rush hours throughout the day and night to enhance traffic flow, and fixing our roads, in order to minimize both damage to cars and also reduce greenhouse gases emitted as a result of our daily traffic jams.
3) Tearing up blighted and park-poor streets and regions and empty lots to create green parks and reduce our "paving over of Mother Earth” and create more livable cities with that forgotten commodity known as "open space".
4) Allowing more water to create infrastructure and single-family housing both within and outside of the Los Angeles region, so that the traffic and work/housing zones can be more evenly-distributed throughout the region and state.
5) Copying Vancouver by demanding that foreign purchasers of Californian homes pay a surcharge/tax for their purchases, and thereby lower the home prices for middle-class families, and avoid the growth of empty tracts that preclude families from living in L.A. and Orange Counties.
6) Get the data on mixed-use and Downtown housing complexes to determine the vacancy rate and establish ways to house and locate businesses near their workers and establish ways to get seniors and students near their critical destinations and reduce the need to rely on long, numerous, and avoidable car trips.
7) Prioritize tax-funded environmental and transportation initiatives in the way they were promised to the voters, so that this whitening of the roads comes across as innovation, rather than a diversion from the bad spending policies currently the norm at City Hall and Sacramento.
Environmental and transportation/infrastructure priorities rank high among the voters and taxpayers and will for some time. But the long list of ignored and non-prioritized emergency repairs leaves the CoolSeal project with a less-than-optimistic narrative.
Rather than exemplifying Los Angeles success in spending its resources well, the CoolSeal project will, at this time, and in this environment, be perceived by many (and perhaps the majority) as exemplifying the failure of our City leaders and staff to listen to the most urgent needs of their constituents.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)