Tag Archives: Lancaster

The Green Way Out

Scott Gold at the LA Times reports today on a massive solar project that may alleviate some of the pain felt in the Antelope Valley:

The buzz in the Antelope Valley these days is about a company called eSolar, which is putting the finishing touches on a thermal solar energy facility here — 24,000 mirrors that glitter like diamonds when you approach on Avenue G. There are plans for several more facilities in the area, all larger, the company says.

Local officials are atwitter at the possibilities. Visitors and investors are expected from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A slew of jobs would be created; there were 225 people working last week on the Avenue G facility alone, most of them locals. Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said the solar plants could be the catalyst to restoring the sort of “intellectual excitement” that existed when aerospace, still a vital industry here, was the only game in town — when “if it went up, it came out of here,” he said.

“Now, we’re going to go a long way toward saving this world,” the mayor said. “Right here in Lancaster.”

I think it’s important to classify projects like this as what they are – INFRASTRUCTURE projects.  Too often we confine ourselves to thinking about infrastructure as solely referring to fixing roads or building physical structures like bridges.  A 21st-century energy creation system is the most important infrastructure improvement we can make, one that will not only create jobs but save billions in public health and environmental degradation costs.  Any stimulus from the federal government that includes infrastructure improvements should help incentivize companies like eSolar, as well as laying down high-speed broadband lines throughout the country, building a transferable energy grid, etc.

In the recent past in California, the way a depressed city could revitalize their economy was to bring a prison into town.  Now, the potential of green jobs is being realized, making the future (pardon the pun) sunnier:

It’s heady talk, and people are listening. Lancaster and the surrounding valley are suffering, even by the standards of a community that long ago acclimated to a boom-and-bust cycle. Many here are living on the edge, and some beyond, with tens of thousands more expected to arrive in coming years.

There is a sense that development cannot come fast enough, not with shops closing, one in five people living in poverty, high unemployment and the highest mortality rate in Los Angeles County. Not with so many houses falling into foreclosure that the city of Lancaster has gone into real estate — buying and renovating empty homes to slow the decline of neighborhoods.

“It’s bad,” said William Turner, 21, who got a job installing eSolar mirrors through a temp agency. He is among those vying for one of the full-time positions the company will offer soon; competition will be fierce and many of those hired will be overqualified for their jobs, officials said.

“People around here are really hurting,” Turner said. “We need a change.”

The new energy economy is California’s way out of the economic crisis.  Whether it’s building solar and wind plants or transferable energy grids or carbon capture and sequestration retrofitting or green building add-ons or the next generation of green cars, the potential for bringing hope to downtrodden communities, creating millions of jobs and protecting the planet is great.

Lancaster Leads The Way

More like this, please:

While other cities are hoping for federal aid to help them address the problem, Lancaster is using city funds to buy, renovate and sell vacant homes. The need is clear….

So far, Lancaster’s Redevelopment Agency has agreed to spend more than $4.1 million to acquire and refurbish 41 homes. The city took ownership of the first six properties beginning in May….

Lancaster’s program mainly targets depressed neighborhoods. The city is paying between $80,000 and $110,000 for the properties and will accept bids from contractors to renovate them. Proposed repairs would include environment-friendly features such as drought-tolerant landscaping and tankless water heaters. When sold, the city hopes to recoup the price paid for each home, including the cost of renovation. But Brubaker said the goal is to keep the selling price reasonable for a family of four whose income does not exceed about $71,800 — California’s average salary for qualifying for subsidized housing.

This is precisely what governments need to be doing right now. The right-wing effort to use government to stimulate homeownership has been a catastrophic failure, leaving the global economy in ruins, millions of families bankrupt and without a home, and California facing a very uncertain future.

Lancaster’s model is more along the lines of what should have been tried all along, and what is now a priceless opportunity. The foreclosure crisis has left cities like Lancaster with a huge glut of empty houses while everyone else struggles with still-high housing costs, as homelessness rises. It’s a small move to rectify a massive misallocation of capital and resources, but the bubble’s collapse provides opportunities for affordable housing that should be seized.

It’s good that Lancaster is also promoting sustainable renovation, something that is often overlooked in the foreclosure crisis – too many cities simply want to recreate a failed 20th century model of car-dependent, resource-wasting suburbia. And Lancaster’s move isn’t a long-term solution nor a sign that suburbia is still viable – we do still need to redefine the California Dream by promoting greater urban densities. But that doesn’t preclude governments from using the foreclosure crisis to create truly affordable opportunities for Americans to own homes.

The details matter, and the public has to be engaged to ensure that cities don’t use this as a way to give away refurbished properties to developers or speculators. Still, it’s good to see some California cities getting smart about how to deal with this crisis.