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Could the southwest of the U.S. be in for a megadrought?

From Mother Jones

A new study by Cornell University, the University of Arizona, and the US Geological Survey researchers, looked at the deep-historical record (tree rings, etc.) and the latest climate change models to estimate the likelihood of major droughts in the Southwest over the next century. The results are as soothing as a thick wool sweater on mid-summer desert hike. 

The researchers concluded that odds of a decade-long drought are “at least 80 percent.” The chances of a “mega-drought,” one lasting 35 or more years, stands at somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent, depending on how severe climate change turns out to be. And the prospects for an “unprecedented 50-year megadrought”—one “worse than anything seen during the last 2000 years”­—checks in at a non-trivial 5 percent to 10 percent.

It gets worse

his (paradoxically) chilling assessment comes on the heels of another study (study; my summary), this one released in early August by University of California-Irvine and NASA researchers, on the Colorado River, the lifeblood of a vast chunk of the Southwest. As many as 40 million people rely on the Colorado for drinking water, including residents of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tucson, and San Diego. It also irrigates the highly productive winter farms of California’s Imperial Valley and Arizona’s Yuma County, which produce upwards of 80 percent of the nation’s winter vegetables.

The researchers analyzed satellite measurements of the Earth’s mass and found that the region’s aquifers had undergone a much-larger-than-expected drawdown over the past decade—the region’s farms and municipalities responded to drought-reduced flows from the Colorado River by dropping wells and tapping almost 53 million acre-feet of underground water between December 2004 and November 2013—equal to about 1.5 full Lake Meads, drained off in just nine years, a rate the study’s lead researcher, Jay Famiglietti, calls “alarming.”

Considering how much of the Colorado River Basin, which encompasses swaths of Utah, Colorado, California, Arizona, and New Mexico, are desert, it’s probably not wise to rapidly drain aquifers, since there’s little prospect that they’ll refill anytime soon. And when you consider that that the region faces high odds of a coming mega-drought, the results are even more frightening. (Just before Labor Day, over fierce opposition from farm interests, the California legislature passed legislation that would regulate groundwater pumping—something that has never been done on a state-wide basis in California before. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign it into law.)

Value investing in arenas

As a hockey fan, this kind of hurts

Josh Harris said Newark’s Prudential Center was a more important financial piece in his purchase of the New Jersey Devils than the hockey team itself.

Harris and David Blitzer, a New Jersey native and senior managing director of Blackstone Group LP, purchased the National Hockey League franchise last month in an agreement that also gave the partnership control of the Prudential Center.

Located three blocks from Newark’s main transportation hub, the $385 million Prudential Center was opened in 2007. Harris called it “one of the most modern arenas in the country.”

“And we think that with the new capital structure and the new ownership group and the new management that we put in, that we’ll be able to make this arena really realize its potential financially,” Harris said in a Bloomberg Television interview.

Harris, who bought the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers in 2011, acquired the NHL team in a deal valued at about $300 million.

Harris has already made changes to the Devils’ business personnel, hiring Scott O’Neil as chief executive officer. The former president of Madison Square Garden Sports, O’Neil is also the chief executive of the 76ers.

Harris said he viewed the Prudential Center as complementary to New York City’s two main arenas, Madison Square Garden in Manhattan and the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The home of theNBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s New York Rangers, the Garden is completing a $1 billion private renovation. The $1 billion Barclays Center, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, opened last year.

“If you’re a big concert event and you stop in New York, you’re probably going to play one of MSG and Barclays, and this arena,” Harris said of the Devils’ home.

O’Neil said in another Bloomberg Television interview last week that the Prudential Center was the fourth-highest grossing arena in the nation, behind Barclays, the Garden and Staples Center in Los Angeles. He didn’t offer specific figures or the source of his information.

Located about 11 miles (18 kilometers) from New York City, the Prudential Center has been a one-tenant building since the Nets moved to Brooklyn prior to the 2012-13 season. Harris said the venue’s concerts and special events would be enough to sustain the building without a second professional team.

“Having a basketball team, an NBA team, in this arena is not in the business plan right now,” Harris said. “We don’t think it’s necessary.”

Interesting bit of arena drama right now in New York.  You have Madison Square Garden being evicted, the Nassau Coliseum being totally renovated and refurbished, the Baclay’s Centre opening, and now the New Jersey Devils being purchased not for the team, but because it gives them access to Newark’s Prudential Centre.

In case you think this is just a New York thing, check out what MSG is doing with the old Los Angeles Forum, a building many thought would be torn down.

The first thing to consider is that arenas are costing $300 million dollars at least with many heading towards the $500 to a $1 billion range (depending on land prices).  Older arenas like Nassau and The Forum now have tremendous value, if you can call a $100 million renovation a value, in part because modern arenas have become so expensive, they aren’t viable in non-premier markets.  Remember that the City of Edmonton is paying a subsidy to the Edmonton Oilers to operate their new arena and Glendale is paying a large subsidy to the Coyotes to manage their arena.

LAX

 

While I think this is cool, I also find it depressing.  If we ever built such a thing in Saskatoon, we would use it for advertising rather than art.

Michael Maltzan, “Identity, Density, and Community in the Un-Model City”

 

 

Time LAX

A wonderful time lapse of Lose Angeles.  It made me remember how much I miss L.A. and how much I would love to live there some day.

Mission 26

The Endeavour’s last mission.

The face of the U.S. recession

Quik

Skateboarding through the streets of Los Angeles.

Design for the homeless

The Atlantic Cities has a fantastic post about excellent design and homeless shelters.

Sometimes when Theresa Hwang is visiting a project site, maybe the 102-unit Michael Maltzan apartments rising from the corner of East 6th Street and Maple Avenue on the edge of downtown Los Angeles, pedestrians will stop and gawk and inquire about what’s coming.

"What are you building?" they invariably want to know.

"It’s housing."

"Can we move in?"

"Well," Hwang then responds, "are you formerly homeless?"

And this always throws people for a loop. Hwang’s organization, the Skid Row Housing Trust, has been renovating and providing permanent supportive housing for the city’s homeless for more than 20 years. But more recently, dating back to a first collaboration with Maltzan about eight years ago, the Trust has been building its own developments that remarkably mimic market-rate condos. Really striking market-rate condos.

The strategy is built on the idea that high design matters for the homeless, too, because it changes the dynamic between these buildings and their residents – and between both of them and the communities in which they’re located. Nothing can deflate the NIMBYism that inevitably accompanies social housing quite like a building that looks like this:

Homeless shelter in Skid Row

Compare this to how we build shelters in Saskatoon and the rest of Canada.  Design makes a difference in mental health and these designs are spectacular.

It’s not the big cities that are the key to the United States recovery

It’s the Tampa Bay, Phoenix and 255 other cities that will determine the health of the United States economy

Collectively, large cities — which we define as metropolitan areas with a population of 150,000 plus — in the United States are the center of gravity of the economy, generating almost 85 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and nearly 20 percent of global GDP today. While New York and Los Angeles, the two American megacities with populations of more than ten million, have continued to tower above all others among the 259 large U.S. metropolitan areas, it’s the 257 "middleweight" cities — with populations of between 150,000 and 10 million — that generate more than 70 percent of U.S. GDP today. The top 28 middleweights alone account for more than 35 percent of the nation’s GDP.

It is America’s large cities, and particularly the broad swath of middleweights, that will be the key to the U.S. recovery and a key contributor to global growth in the next 15 years. Large cities in the United States will contribute more to global growth than the large cities of all other developed countries combined. We expect the collective GDP of these large U.S. cities to rise by almost $5.7 trillion — generating more than 10 percent of global GDP growth — by 2025. While New York and Los Angeles together are expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 2.1 percent between 2010 and 2025, the top 30 middleweights (measured by GDP) are expected to outpace them with a growth rate of 2.6 percent.

What’s the formula for success?

Even when narrowing our focus to the strongest performing cities, again there is no single path to success — no unique blueprint that all urban leaders should pursue. The cities that outperform their peers simply find ways to make the most of the economic opportunities they face, get lucky, or both. Some cities have been able to reinvent themselves; many others make the most of their endowments or their location.

Even in these important middleweight cities, growing is going to be tough

The coming years are not going to be easy. As households and the government pay down debts built up before and during the recession, growth could be dampened for many years. Cities that have experienced real estate booms and busts will find recovery particularly hard going. In Orlando and Phoenix more than half of mortgage holders are in negative equity. In Las Vegas, it’s two out of three. And there are still pockets of stubbornly high unemployment — two-thirds of all the jobs lost during the downturn were in states that accounted for only 45 percent of the U.S. population.

Bike Friendly Los Angeles

A guide to cycling in the most car driven cities in the world, Los Angeles

Los Angles’ reputation as a car-only town has been cracking for years, and recently that reputation may have crumbled for good. The much hyped “Carmageddon” (in which a section of the 405 freeway was closed down for a day) did not, as many predicted, bring chaos. Rather it did the opposite, providing tangible evidence that Los Angeles is not as hopelessly auto-dependent as previously thought. More importantly, cyclists used the shutdown as an opportunity to showcase what they had long known — that biking offers a viable alternative to what is arguably the city’s Achilles heel, namely a transportation infrastructure overly-geared to personal cars.

Vanity Fair tries to explain Mel Gibson

Apparently “total idiot” isn’t enough.

…one hot Los Angeles night in July 2006, Gibson, who has a history of drinking problems, was stopped for going 80-plus in a 45-m.p.h. zone on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. An open bottle of tequila was found in the car; his blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit. When arresting officer James Mee gave him not a script to read—an indulgence that is not uncommon in those parts—but a citation instead, Gibson said out of nowhere, “Fucking Jews … the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” And then he added, “Are you a Jew?” Even those who had withheld judgment when he released The Passion of the Christ cried “Aha!”

The reaction in Hollywood was swift. Sony head Amy Pascal, who had earlier refused to consider him for a role in the studio’s remake of All the King’s Men, now suggested an industry boycott, while Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel denounced Gibson in the Huffington Post, writing, “The entertainment industry cannot idly stand by and allow Mel Gibson to get away with such tragically inflammatory statements. … Now we know the truth. And no amount of publicist-approved contrition can paper it over.” Sidney Sheinberg, the former president of MCA, simply called Gibson a “putz.”

And that was only Act One. Four years later, having separated from his wife, Gibson became embroiled in a riveting, highly publicized battle with Oksana Grigorieva, a dark-haired, sloe-eyed Russian beauty, with lips fixed in a permanent do-me pout. This new scandal was a gift from, well, heaven for Gibson-bashers and voyeurs everywhere. She accused him of breaking her front teeth with a blow that glanced off her jaw and grazed the chin of their infant daughter, whom she was holding at the time. Even more damaging were audiotapes of Gibson roaring imprecations at her while panting and grunting like an animal, which were leaked to RadarOnline.com and released last July. Gibson is heard saying that Grigorieva deserved a “bat to the side of the head,” that if he wanted he could plant her “in a … rose garden,” and that “I am going to come and burn the fucking house down … but you will blow me first.” Castigating her for wearing provocative clothing, he also said, “You look like a fucking bitch in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of niggers, it will be your fault.” The blizzard of charges and countercharges that have buffeted him ever since have made him a fixture on the gossip sites.

So what caused it?  Alcohol.

In private, he has been remorseful. “He told me that when he drank this whole other character came out, and it was very self-destructive,” Dean Devlin recalls. “He said, ‘It’s not like I won those fights. I lost every one of them.’ It was behavior that he was not proud of. He confessed that there were these demons that he always fought, and he was doing everything he could to redeem himself.”

And a lot of anger.

If Gibson has largely succeeded in keeping his anger under wraps on movie sets, all too often it surfaced in interviews. It wasn’t only what he said but how he said it, the violence of his invective. He never just muttered, “I don’t like so-and-so,” or even “I hate so-and-so.” Once he got going, he quickly wandered into the valley of evisceration, dismemberment, and death. In 2003 he famously denounced New York Times columnist Frank Rich for scolding him about The Passion of the Christ, saying, “I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. … I want to kill his dog.” Speaking about one of his unauthorized biographers, he once said, “I have to pray for the guy who did it so I don’t kill him. Because the motherfucker hasn’t got any balls. He’s a pussy and I hope I never meet him, because I’d tear his fucking face right off!”

Or his dad.

The truth is, nobody really seems to know what makes Gibson tick. But all roads lead back to Hutton Gibson. Donner observes, “Mel is a product of his father. We love our parents, they can do no wrong, and if they teach us lies, it begets a tremendous conflict in our lives. If you delve into that, you’ll learn a lot of things about him.” According to one source, Gibson and his father “both remember every single thing they ever read. Verbatim. The problem with that is that you don’t really have a filter, over what’s credible and what isn’t credible.”

Life on Skid Row by Sam Slovick

A series of videos about life on Skid Row by Sam Slovick and Good Magazine



Slovick also wrote a series of cover articles for L.A. Weekly which helped shape the debate.

Note to Self:

If I am ever on the run and fearful of extradition to the United States, don’t have my lawyers taunt the District Attorney’s office for lack of effort in having me extradited.

Roman Polanski’s attorneys helped provoke his arrest by complaining to an appellate court this summer that Los Angeles County prosecutors had made no real effort to capture the filmmaker in his three decades as a fugitive, two law enforcement sources familiar with the case told The Times.

Photo Friday: Metal

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall.  My submission for Photo Friday’s Metal.