Global warming and city action

Dear Editor:While many people worry about global warming, the response seems to be stuck at two ends of the spectrum: individual conservation, or action by some high and distant authority (the federal government, or China).

Still, there are many actions that can be taken locally which will both reduce emissions and make our lives more locally comfortable. Here are some ideas, in no particular order:

Require that all replacement and new roofs be cool roofs. We installed a cool roof when we replaced our roof a few years ago and it has kept our house cooler with less A/C. I look around our neighborhood at all of the dark roofs, and you'd think that we lived in the Arctic and were trying to heat our houses! Cool roofs come in all kinds of colors and materials including asphalt shingle, tile, composite tile, and metal. This would not only reduce the A/C load but also reduce the "heat island" effect.

Require that trees be planted in all parking lots (for example, one tree for every five spaces). Our parking lots are shimmering urban deserts. Parking lot trees would keep our cars, parking lots, and city cooler, and soak up carbon dioxide. Plant more trees everywhere. Compared to Whittier, Lakewood and Norwalk, Downey seems to have a deficit of trees, especially skyline trees that impact the scene and announce to everyone "Here is a welcome respite from the urban desert". Imagine cool, shady streets.

Tier water rates and promote private xeriscaping by creation of a special beautification award. Our city has taken some great steps in xeriscaping public land, I especially love the plantings on Florence and Brookshire which attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. More needs to be done.

Stop mansionization. You know, homes are meant to be built to the scale of the surrounding neighborhood. If that rule had been enforced, we would not be burdened with ugly, abandoned/ foreclosed McMansions in neighborhoods that are primarily single story ranch homes. An 8000 sq foot house for two is not only an eyesore, it's an economic drain on its owners in recessionary times, and a conservation nightmare.

Allow multiple-use zoning, densify parts of Downey, and plan walking-friendly neighborhoods - which means more than planting sidewalk trees and installing sidewalk lighting. I see, for example, that the city has made the sidewalks along Lakewood walking-friendly, it's too bad there is no place to walk from and no place to walk to. Walkable neighborhoods mean that residences and frequently-used services - such as ATMs, coffee shops, schools, and grocery stores - are within walking distance of each other. Good urban planners with GIS programs can help.

As an aside, and on purely aesthetic grounds, I think a barrier to making Downey a truly attractive city is the relative density flatness. If you look at Pasadena, it has both high-rise areas and very low density neighborhoods. Downey's scale doesn't fit a high-rise zone, but a more dense area- especially one which combines residences and attractions creates a kind of "city energy", while creating more park/open space provides areas to relax.

Create more parks, especially in south Downey. Seen from the air, Downey lacks park space. On the ground, our parks are really crowded. We have a geographical feature - a river bed - which can be rehabilitated with native vegetation into an attraction rather than an eyesore. Going native provides a habitat for climate-stressed species.

Many of the possibilities require little money. What they DO require, however, is a well thought-out master plan which is created with an eye towards both climate change and making Downey an efficient and attractive place to live and work.

Perhaps these have all been addressed in Downey's master plan. If that is the case, I congratulate our Planning Department. Joan Niertit Downey

********** Published: August 16, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 18

OpinionEric Pierce