Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Grayson Dirty Energy GWP Meeting Report

The Glendale Water & Power Commission meeting last night was very well attended, with over 50 members of the public taking time out from their busy lives to oppose the Grayson dirty energy proposal and advocate for a cleaner Glendale. We had to wait over 2.5hrs to have our say, but when the time came, 21 people got up and spoke against the project in its current iteration, and not one member of the public spoke in favor of the proposed $500 million dollar expansion. My comments to the Commission are below. I was very moved by the sincerity and depth of knowledge of those who showed up.

Two big takeaways from the meeting for me were:
a) GWP's General Manager Steve Zurn admitted that this proposal is the result of lack of foresight from GWP a decade ago [video], when they could have foreseen the need for modest, phased upgrades to the plant to smoothly bridge the gap towards cleaner energy sources, but failed to act.
So the geniuses who didn't foresee the need for phased upgrades now propose throwing $500 million dollars away on a massive fossil fuel plant expansion right as cleaner, less expensive alternatives are becoming available. Inexcusable.
All of the Water & Power commissioners asked some good questions, particularly Roland Kedikian and Sarojini Lall. All of the commissioners saw the need for upgrades to Grayson, but questioned the size of the GWP proposal in the face of projected energy needs. Everyone seemed baffled by GWP's failure to include cleaner alternatives in a diversified matrix of solutions instead of one giant outdated fossil fuel plant.
If you didn't make it out to last night's meeting, there is another meeting on Thursday, October 19th. Also, please e-mail the members of the Glendale City Council and and ask them to do what LADWP did and commission an independent study of cleaner alternatives. The public also has until 11/3 to submit comments to Erik Krause in the City Planner’s office: ekrause@glendaleca.gov

Please watch Daniel Brotman's point by point takedown of the rationale given by GWP:

Full video of the meeting is here: http://glendale.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=17&clip_id=6426

Some highlights:
0:00-1:18 draft EIR presentation
1:18 questions from commissioners begin
1:45 stranded asset questions
1:48 retirement age of boilers question from kedikian
1:49 "should have planned for this 20 years ago" answer from Zurn
2:05 discussion of lack of alternative energy analysis
2:13 discussion of projected capacity vs need, and excess capacity
2:16 "balancing this out" comments from avanessian
2:24 public comment begins with a thorough takedown of the proposal from Professor Daniel Brotman
2:42 me
....lots more speakers...
3:23-3:34 additional comments from commissioners
3:35 oral communications, 1 additional speaker against

Previously: Don't Let GWP Increase Air Pollution in Glendale

Monday, October 9, 2017

Don't Let GWP Increase Air Pollution in Glendale

Glendale Water & Power proposes spending $500 MILLION DOLLARS to replace nearly all of the existing, aging Grayson Power Plant (which produces around 16% of Glendale's electricity) with a much larger fossil fuel powered natural gas power plant.
Digging through the draft EIR, here it is in black and white on page 4.3.34. THE NEW PLANT WILL INCREASE MAXIMUM EMISSIONS in Glendale relative to the old plant:

Despite vague GWP claims that the new plant would be "cleaner," the proposal significantly increases the generation capacity of the plant far beyond what is required for Glendale's needs, and it is designed to be run much more often than the current plant, which is now mainly used only at peak times. The result is if you are anywhere in Glendale, Burbank, Atwater Village or Eagle Rock, you and your children will breathe more pollution every day under this proposal than you do today.
This astoundingly expensive proposal is especially misguided given that much cleaner renewable alternatives to a gas powered plant are available now, and prices for renewable energy solutions are falling dramatically every year. Additionally, the state legislature passed SB350, which mandates 50% clean energy in California by 2030, and this year nearly passed SB100, which would require 100% clean energy in California by 2045. Does it make sense to make a decades long $500 million dollar investment right as the price of clean alternatives plummet and state mandates make it a strong possibility that the plant would need to be retired well before it's paid for?
The timing of this proposal is so profoundly bad it makes you wonder if GWP spent top dollar on VHS tapes just as DVD players were getting cheap. California currently has a glut of electricity, and electricity use across the state is FALLING due to more efficient appliances and the rapid adoption of residential solar. In fact, the L.A. Department of Water & Power recently put all of their similar "repowering" projects on hold until they can more thoroughly investigate cleaner choices, rather than locking in decades of expensive and dirty fossil fuel power generation.
We in Glendale must demand better from our government and require them to protect our health while preparing Glendale's electrical system for a cleaner future. A gas powered plant was forward thinking in 1941, but it's a huge step backwards in 2017.
I'm reprinting this excellent information sheet from the Glendale Environmental Coalition, which makes a well informed, fact-based argument as to why this is the wrong idea at the wrong time at the wrong price. Please read, investigate and take action.
-scott (yes, this is important enough to dust off the 'ol blog!)

Glendale wants to rebuild the Grayson gas plant at San Fernando and Flower. They call it a “repowering” but it is actually an expansion which will produce vastly more power than Glendale needs and place a huge financial and environmental burden on residents for 30 years. They are rushing headlong into the project without having fully considered clean energy options. We call on the Mayor and City Council to pause the CEQA process and conduct an honest and independent study of the alternatives to this big, expensive and dirty project.

Grayson will impose huge financial costs and economic risks on residents

  • Glendale plans to take out a bond for $500 million to finance the project (about $7,500 for a family of four). Residents will be on the hook for repaying this plus interest over 30 years.
  • Glendale has not been transparent with its financial assumptions and there are serious risks. They are expecting to generate extra power and sell it on commodities exchange.
  • First, what happens if they can’t sell the excess power at a profit? California is facing a power glut right now and prices are low. GWP is betting our financial future on prices rebounding. Do we really want our city playing in the markets with our money? Anyone remember Enron?
  • Second, California utilities must be 50% renewable by 2030 while Grayson is 0% renewable. GWP expects to make up the lost renewable portion by purchasing external power but so are many other utilities. This will lead to a spike in the cost of renewable power and a substantial risk to Grayson’s financing. We should instead build local renewable energy for price security.
  • Third, California’s cap and trade program requires all power producers to pay a cost per ton of CO2 emitted. The price is expected to go up significantly but GWP is sticking with their low ball assumptions. Are they fooling themselves or just us?
  • Grayson sits on a mapped Liquefaction Hazard Zone which makes it susceptible to ground movement in the event of an earthquake – not unlike what we recently saw in Mexico City. It is likely that the gas and water lines leading to the plant will rupture, causing explosions and fire, or at best putting the facility out of commission when we need it the most. Clean energy alternatives are not subject to these kinds of risks.

The $500 million proposed plant will generate 175% of Glendale’s need

  • With the combination of today’s Grayson and electricity imports, Glendale currently has over 400 megawatts (MW) of power capacity. This is enough to cover Glendale’s needs which average about 225 MW in summer months and can spike up to almost 350 MW a fews days per year. The proposed expansion would increase the capacity to over 500 MW. That means Glendale would be sitting on 45% more electricity than needed at our absolute peak. Who will buy it?
  • This power excess increases over time as residents install more rooftop solar and energy efficiency drives down demand. By 2035, if the Grayson expansion goes ahead, GWP will have almost 550 MW of power vs. a peak demand of 300 MW, or an excess of 75-80%.
  • Why is Glendale proposing to oversupply like this? GWP’s internal documents show how GWP plans to sell excess power at a profit to other cities. Glendale wants to speculate in the power markets to make up for its non-utility budget problems! They will say that they need the excess capacity for emergency power but Grayson is on an earthquake liquefaction zone and in a flood zone so having a single point of failure power plant is not a safe backup power source.

An expanded Grayson will damage our environment and health

  • The proposed plant will increase greenhouse gas emissions at a time when California is aggressively moving to cut climate pollutants and many neighboring cities are setting zero carbon targets. Are we willing to accept being so out of step with the rest of the State? Do we want to contribute to more extreme heat, drought and fire risk?
  • The new plant will emit more pollutants into surrounding neighborhoods because much of it will now be running 24/7 to maximize sales (the current plant operates more as a backup for when demand peaks). These pollutants – carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulates, and volatile chemicals (VOC) like Benzene, Formaldehyde, Toluene, etc – add to our smoggy skies and are known causes of asthma; cancers; heart and kidney disease. They will affect not only nearby residents, schools and businesses but a broad region including Glendale and neighboring Burbank and NELA. The air in the area already fails to meet federal guidelines. We need less pollution, not more.
  • Demolition of the existing facility and soil remediation will take at least 26 months and stir up lung-piercing particulate, asbestos, and other unknown toxins that are better left intact.

There are clean energy alternatives today and more are on the horizon

  • There is over 400 MW rooftop solar capacity in Glendale. On top of this, acreage at Scholl Canyon (assuming the dump is closed) and elsewhere could accommodate large solar installations contributing another 70 MW of capacity.
  • Glendale could move faster on energy efficiency to meet its peak power needs through building retrofits, incentive programs to households and other programs at a fraction of the $500 million it would cost to build Grayson. The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use!
  • Large-scale commercial battery energy storage facilities are becoming common and are already cheaper per megawatt-hour than gas solutions - and prices are plummeting. A massive rooftop solar project combined with battery backup would provide the capacity and emergency power we need and also take advantage of the significant federal money that is available.

  • GWP is trying to scare us with dire warnings of plant failures and blackouts, but these are empty threats. We can continue to use the existing units for several more years. If absolutely necessary, GWP could adopt a phased approach by purchasing one or two small, fast-ramping gas units as an insurance policy against summertime demand spikes. There are many low-cost, low-risk options that do not require spending $500 million and which would keep our options open to transition to a clean energy future.
  • Email Glendale City Council members and ask them to do what LADWP did - commission an independent study of clean energy alternatives. The public also has until 5pm on Nov. 3rd to submit comments to Erik Krause in the City Planner’s office: ekrause@glendaleca.gov.
  • Attend hearings at City Hall (613 E Broadway, 2F) on October 16th at 6pm or at the Grayson plant (800 Air Way) on October 19th at 6pm, or attend BOTH!


Ok, Scott here again. Some further reading:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Car vs Fire Hydrant At The Americana

Reader Nina Mudick sent in this spectacular photo of a Mercedes vs. traffic signal vs. fire hydrant collision taken outside The Americana at Brand this Sunday. Welcome to #helloGlendale, Bourbon Steak! You are now one of us.

Here's a video taken shortly after the incident via Youtube:

Meanwhile, on Glendale's eastern border, this is what you currently see when entering city limits via Colorado Blvd (photo via @greyrot):

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spectacular Photos of Presidential Helicopters Over Glendale

Today President Barack Obama visited Dreamworks Animation in Glendale, marking his second visit to Glendale as President. His retinue of helicopters landed at Toll Middle School in Glendale before the motorcade departed for Dreamworks. I took these photos of the helicopters departing Toll's playground.

The President travels in one of two identical VH-3D Sea King helicopters - the helicopter with the President aboard is known as Marine One. The two Sea Kings were also accompanied by two enormous CH-53E Super Stallion support helicopters. Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) is the squadron responsible for Presidential helicopter transport.


Earlier in the day, I was able to catch a glimpse in the distance of Marine One descending towards Toll.

This video from Father Vazken Movsesian of St. Peter's Armenian church shows the Presidential entourage's visit to Toll most comprehensively, as it was taken from inside the police perimeter.

Here's the best video I've found of all four helicopters lifting off from Toll.

Here's MY video of all four helicopters lifting off. Apologies for the shaky quality, I was shooting the video with my left hand and taking the stills you see above with my right!


A History of Presidential Visits to Glendale*

President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at Dreamworks Animation in Glendale today. Inspired by a rare presidential visit to the Jewel City, here's a list of documented visits to Glendale made by Presidents of the United States. If I'm missing any, please let me know:

President Barack Obama, 2010 and 2013
In 2010, President Obama did a radio interview in the Unum Building in downtown Glendale. He is scheduled to speak at Dreamworks Animation today.

President Bill Clinton, 1996
In 1996, President Clinton spoke at Glendale Community College and had lunch at the Rocky Cola Cafe in Montrose afterward. In 1992, while President-elect, Clinton stopped in Glendale to shop at the Glendale Galleria.

President Gerald Ford, 1976

President Harry Truman, 1948
Truman made a brief campaign speech in Glendale during his successful 1948 re-election campaign.

President Herbert Hoover, 1932
The earliest record I could find of a presidential visit to Glendale was made by Herbert Hoover, who visited the Jewel City in 1932. Looks like he's having a great time!

Visits by Presidents to Glendale that were not made during their term:

Richard Nixon, 1952, 1956, 1962

Ronald Reagan, 1940 and 1966
In 1940, Ronald Reagan married actress Jane Wyman in Glendale at Forest Lawn's Wee Kirk of the Heather church. In 1966, Reagan visited Forest Lawn again, this time as governor of California.

If I'm missing any other documented visits, please let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Truth Behind The Meatball/Glendale Bear "Copyright Dispute"

Sarah Aujero, the creator of "The Glendale Bear" persona, is a friend. I’ve spoken with her regarding most of these events as they unfolded, and she has extensive documentation backing up her story.

Sarah created the Meatball/Glen Bearian/Glendale Bear twitter account in April 2012. Her tweets recounting Meatball’s tales of life in Glendale were hilarious, and the account became wildly popular, rapidly garnering nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter. As the account became popular, Sarah copyrighted various derivations of the name to protect herself legally from imitators (several sprang up). The popularity of her account dramatically raised the profile of the hungry bear who kept returning to Glendale and turned it into a national news story. When the bear was recaptured after having been relocated and having returned to Glendale twice already, the attention she brought to the story was instrumental in saving the bear’s life. 

A sanctuary in Colorado offered to take in the bear, and Sarah starting selling Meatball-related merchandise related to the bear (much of it designed by me) to help raise funds for Meatball’s relocation. When the bear was prevented from being sent to the Colorado sanctuary by a Colorado state law; Lions, Tigers & Bears in Alpine, where the bear was being held temporarily, was good enough to step up and take the bear in permanently. Despite having no legal obligation to do so, Sarah donated all of the profits from the merchandise that were initially for the bear’s relocation to LTB (and has receipts). Sarah was also able to get her employer to match her donations, so in total she has been directly responsible for nearly $4,000 in donations to Lions, Tigers & Bears.

In addition to directly donating all merchandise profits (times two, since her employer matched those donations), Sarah promoted Lions, Tigers & Bears’ own fundraising efforts and events, and encouraged her fans to donate directly to the sanctuary. Meatball is a star fundraiser: since that time, Lions, Tigers & Bears has raised nearly $250,000 towards a new bear habitat intended for Meatball and several other bears. At a $100 a person fundraising event I attended at LTB with Sarah and several other friends from Glendale (Sarah bought my ticket, and also bought tickets for several family members), Bobbi Brink, LTB’s founder, told the story of Meatball, and, while a person in a “Meatball” bear costume danced on stage, in a few short minutes raised nearly $30,000 in pledges specifically for the new bear habitat. Sarah’s guests from Glendale, including me, all pulled out our checkbooks and donated to the new habitat.

Enter the book.

Sarah was contacted by a publisher interested in publishing a children’s book about Meatball that Sarah would write. Sarah contacted LTB with the good news:

Hi Bobbi, 

I left a message on your voicemail earlier today. 
Would love to speak with you briefly about an opportunity that came up. 
A publisher contacted me about writing a children's book about Meatball. 
I only want to do it if I can donate part of the proceeds to him at the sanctuary. 
I'm excited about this opportunity and I hope something can be finished in time
for the Christmas party and the Rose Parade. 
Please give me a call so we can discuss this further. 


Bobbi Brink, founder of LTB, spoke to Sarah on the phone: an LTB donor had ALREADY written a children’s book with Meatball that they were planning on publishing. This had never been mentioned to Sarah previously. Sarah contacts LTB’s PR person, Jen:

Hi Jen [LTB PR person],

I just got a call from Bobbi and she told me they already have a children's book coming out for him and will be available starting mid-November. 

I'm really excited about the book coming out, and it will be really great publicity for the fundraiser. Unfortunately, I'm also disappointed that I was completely kept me out of the loop on this one because there are some things that need to be discussed. 

Legally, I registered the copyright to his name first, since April 2012, as soon as the Twitter account started getting a lot of buzz and months before Meatball was sent to LTB. As such, it would be advisable if the sanctuary's attorney (&/or whomever is representing the author and the rights to the children's book) contact me as soon as possible, before the book is released.

Also, I would like to work out an arrangement to still release my own children's book for Meatball and I will donate a portion of the proceeds to the sanctuary as originally planned. 

Hope to speak to you soon,

Jen, the PR person responds:

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for your email. I have been meaning to email you after I spoke with Bobbi on Wednesday but hadn't had a moment to do so. I'll certainly work with the LTB team to determine the next best steps. Can you tell me, exactly, what you registered for his name (i.e., his public name, "Meatball," or his "Twitter" name, "Meatball the Glendale Bear)? 

Thank you, and we will be in touch soon!


Sarah responds:

The copyright registration is for all of it, "Meatball" - "Meatball the Glendale Bear" - "Meatball the Bear" and "Glen Bearian."

The trademark is for "Meatball" and "Meatball the Bear" both of which have been in use since April 2012 and sold in commerce since August 2012. I dont want to prevent the sanctuary from raising money in any way nor jeopardize the protections of his name.

The whole point of the registrations was to prevent anyone else from taking advantage of the name and fail to donate the proceeds to the sanctuary, as I have been doing from the beginning. As such, the sanctuary can certainly sell Meatball items to make money for itself but there are licensing and other legal issues that need to be discussed as soon as possible. 

Thanks again for your help!

On October 25th, Sarah was sent and told to sign a legal document from Lions Tigers & Bears’ lawyers that required her to sign over all of her copyright and trademark rights related to Meatball; hand over domain names, turn over existing merchandise, “cease and refrain” from using the Meatball copyright (which would mean handing over or closing @theglendalebear), and “in exchange,” be allowed to return to Lions, Tigers and Bears to visit Meatball. 

In a nutshell: we’ll twist your arm by banning you from visiting the bear you helped save unless you sign everything you’ve created over to us.

Sarah refuses to sign.

In an October 31st e-mail from Sarah to LTB:

You're more than welcome to continue using the name(s). And I will continue to support this bear and the sanctuary. Thanks again for taking such great care of Meatball.

November 1, Bobbi responds:

The attorneys will reach out to you

Bobbi Brink
Founder, Director
Lions Tigers & Bears 

On November 12th, after the story broke and in the wake of negative media attention, Bobbi issued the following statement on the LTB facebook page

At no point has LTB demanded control of the twitter handle (@TheGlendaleBear) or formally banned Sarah from the sanctuary. The issue at hand is that LTB has a book at the publisher in which all proceeds will go to Meatball the bear. This book cannot be published because of Sarah’s trademark on the Meatball name. We asked her participation, and she not only declined but threatened with legal action, leaving us unable to move forward with publishing, which would result in the inability to fundraise for the bear.

Let’s review this against the settlement agreement that LTB sent to Sarah and insisted she sign:

"At no point has LTB demanded control of the twitter handle (@TheGlendaleBear)"

Okay, let's check that one:

"or formally banned Sarah from the sanctuary."

Let's check that one too:

"This book cannot be published because of Sarah’s trademark on the Meatball name. We asked her participation, and she not only declined but threatened with legal action, leaving us unable to move forward with publishing, which would result in the inability to fundraise for the bear."

Sarah didn’t “threaten legal action” - she offered them a gratis license that would accommodate their book and fundraising needs but would still keep her trademark protections intact. She explicitly and in writing granted them use of the name for free so they could publish their book and continue to fundraise.

So here are the two key facts that make this entire affair ridiculous:

1) Sarah has, in writing, given Lions, Tigers & Bears permission to use the name Meatball without restrictions, for free.

2) There is no dispute as to who owns the actual copyright and trademark - Sarah registered the copyright in April 2012 and has sold Meatball related merchandise (which activates the trademark) since long before Lions, Tigers & Bears was involved in the Meatball saga. (And though she had no legal obligation to do so, Sarah has donated all profits from Meatball-related merchandise to Lions, Tigers & Bears.)

Anyways, that’s about where we are at the moment. Frankly, the way Sarah has been treated by LTB and the lies they have told make me angry. Despite this, Sarah continues to support Lions Tigers & Bears, but won’t sign away her creative work to visit the bear that she has worked so hard to help. Viva Meatball!

On a more positive note than this absurd episode, Meatball will be featured on the City of Glendale's Rose Parade float this year. On November 23rd the City of Glendale will be holding a fundraiser that includes a meatball tasting competition featuring various meatballs from local restaurants (Sarah's idea!); proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the float and Lions Tigers & Bears. Again, despite the misguided idiocy detailed above, Lions Tigers & Bears does good work and the real bear deserves your support.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Weirdly Lit Bloomingdale's Opens In Downtown Glendale*

Bloomingdale's opens today at the corner of Brand and Broadway downtown Glendale. During the day, the building looks a million times better than the drab brick fortress that existed before.

At night, however, the embedded lighting seems both underlit and overlit in a way that's distracting, and some have brought up safety concerns. The LEDs are way too bright, but the rest of the exterior is barely visible at all. Lowering the intensity of the LEDs and adding some upward pointing lights at the corners of the building to provide some soft illumination of the building itself would decrease the harsh contrast and be less distracting. You can also see in the picture that the streetlight on the corner wasn't working, which further increases the contrast between super bright and super dark. When I compared the reality of the lighting to the rendering of the "night view" presented to the City Council*, I was struck by the difference.

Despite these details, which will hopefully be worked out, it's good to have this corner activated again. For many months, three of the corners at Brand and Broadway were vacant. As of this week, all four corners are occupied and bustling with activity.

*Update: I found this description of the lighting system on page 25 of the council packet:
Lighting: Portions of the mosaic facade containing glass will be back lit to produce a glowing pattern at night. At the northeastern corner of the building where the panel systems meet, a gap between these systems will be lit and create a strong vertical light well. Additionally, the upper floors step back slightly from the black tile first floor to create a small shelf for concealed lighting that will wash the mosaic pattern with light. This effect would be accentuated if a reflective material such as stainless steel projected 8 inches from the roof to "catch" the up-lighting and create a thin cornice of light.
Is the lower concealed lighting just not operational yet?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Downtown Glendale Building On Fire Again*

Last night's fire at 233 N. Brand apparently rekindled and is still burning as I write this. Downtown Glendale resident Erik Yesayan sends the following photos:

*Update at 8:20pm: the latest photos from the scene show the fire apparently under control. Let's hope it stays that way this time!