Parasitic Architecture is Not What it Seems

The concept is attractive. Taking advantage of an existing superstructure and utility conduits, developers can simply add new units on the sides and top of a residential building. In theory, this can save money, preserve the original building and create new housing in areas where housing tends to be in short supply and high demand.

In practice, parasitic architecture often ends up being a controversial aesthetic experiment, wherein buildings of historic value have their exterior facades debased – or enhanced, depending on who you ask – with odd protuberances. Or it finds expression in “adaptive reuse” projects that rely on public subsidies to create overly expensive additional housing units.

A classic example of parasitic architecture blazing a path into the aesthetic frontier of urban design is the Museum of Military History in Dresden, Germany. In this case, a 135-year-old stone building had grafted onto its square, classical façade a massive steel and glass triangle that juts skyward like the prow of a ship. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. A Wall Street Journal architecture critic compared the new section to “a piece of shrapnel freshly fallen from the sky.”

Enthusiasts proclaim the beauty is in the incongruity, but the practice has many detractors. During the 1980s, architects saved the facades of many historic Washington, D.C. downtown offices and built superstructures behind them – spurring critics to refer to them as “facade-omies.”

There are plentiful examples of historic public buildings expanded with ultra-modern structures. The Pablo Serrano Museum was […] Read More

Green Bureaucrats Are Destroying California’s Ecosystems

California’s political elite consider themselves, and the state they control, to be the most environmentally enlightened in the world. They’re not. Well intentioned but misguided policies, combined with hidden agenda from special interests using environmentalism as cover, have resulted in “environmentalism” often causing more harm than good to the environment.

Some environmentalist policies that might otherwise be obviously suspect are justified in the name of combatting climate change. The prime example of this is the hundreds of billions Californians are spending to convert the electricity grid to “renewable” energy. If it weren’t for their zero emissions claim, nobody would endorse carpeting the land with thousands of square miles of wind turbines, or hundreds of square miles of photovoltaic arrays.

But even if the climate emergency narrative is accepted, does it matter if the consequences to the environment from developing “renewables” is as bad, or worse, than any realistic climate crisis that we’re likely to confront in the next several decades? What is the long-term cost to the environment of doubling or tripling the amount of electricity generated in California, in order to convert the residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors of the economy to use 100 percent electrical energy? What would the environmental cost be to accomplish this only using wind and solar energy technologies, meaning California’s existing wind and solar capacity would have to increase at least ten-fold?

The environmental cost of California’s determination to expand wind and solar capacity is already felt around the world, in […] Read More

California Water Facts for Legislators

Everyone in California agrees that water policies need to adapt to changing times. There is even growing agreement that enforcing draconian reductions to farm water allocations (which will eliminate all but the most powerful corporate agribusinesses) and outlawing household outdoor watering will not only fail to solve the problem, but is a tough and undesirable solution. And so the debate over more rationing versus more water supply projects goes on.

Missing from the debate over water policy in California, however, especially among the state legislators who need to do something about it, are some basic overall metrics regarding how much water we need, what various types of water projects cost, how much potential capacity each type of project delivers, and how much energy is involved. Here’s a summary.

When quantifying macro variables of this nature, first it is important to note that for any project category, costs are not uniform. A wastewater recycling plant, for example, will cost more to construct and more to operate depending on the type of wastewater it has to process. The cost to build and operate a conveyance to deliver water from a recycling plant or desalination plant direct to the consumer or to a storage facility will vary depending on the length of the conveyance and any necessary elevation changes. So these are rough numbers. They are nonetheless vital to begin a more informed discussion of water policy options in California.

The primary measurement used to describe large amounts of water are units of […] Read More

Pension Costs Are Still Eating Government Budgets

About 20 years ago, I read an ad in a local Sacramento newspaper that said “Get a government job and become an instant millionaire.” The ad went on to describe how public bureaucrats in California enjoyed benefits private sector employees can only dream of, including a guaranteed retirement pension worth the equivalent of millions of dollars in a private 401K plan. I’d had no idea. Most people still don’t.

Pension finance, and how pension obligations affect government budgets, remains one of the most consequential elements of public policy that nobody has ever heard of. Until someone is elected to a city council, or a county board of supervisors, and sees first-hand how pension payments crowd out other budget items, the typical response to pension policy debates is one of befuddlement or indifference.

But as they say, even if you are indifferent to pensions, pensions are not indifferent to you. Also about 20 years ago, a series of pension benefit enhancements enacted by gullible elected officials, egged on by aggressive pension system managers and public employee unions, led to pension payments moving from a negligible portion of civic budgets to ravenous monsters that threatened to drive into insolvency every government agency in the state. The result has been higher taxes and fewer services, and everyone feels that.

To begin to cope with out of control pension costs, in 2013 the California State Legislature enacted PEPRA, the Public Employee Pension Reform Act, which reduced the pension benefit formulas for new government […] Read More

The Sustainable Alternative to Renewables in California

Anyone serious about ushering California into an electric age, much less the entire world, faces immutable facts that are indifferent to passions and principles. With algebraic certainty, these facts lead to uncomfortable conclusions: It is impractical if not impossible to achieve an all-electric future by relying on solar, wind, and geothermal power, supplemented by more novel power generation technologies such as harvesting the energy in waves and tides. And even if it were done, it might not be the optimal solution for the environment.

A few years ago, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, Mark Jacobson, completed a report that quantified what it would take, in terms of the installed base of renewable generating and storage assets to move California to a 100 percent net zero energy economy. Relying primarily on over 20,000 wind turbines with an average capacity of 5 megawatts each, along with utility scale solar farms, an analysis published in March 2022 by the California Policy Center estimated the land requirement for this undertaking at over 10,000 square miles on land, mostly for wind farms, and over 15,000 square miles offshore, also for wind farms.

In theory, Jacobson’s recommendations would work, insofar as this stupefying quantity of wind and solar power, properly buffered with battery storage assets, would nearly double the capacity of California’s energy grid. Jacobson’s scheme estimates California’s average electricity output expanding to just over 100 gigawatts. In 2019, the most recent year for which complete data is available, California’s […] Read More

How the Government Union Machine Conquered California and Corrupted Our Elections

With the November 8 election already one week ago, we already are conditioned to accept that some final results will not be known until December 16, five weeks later. Counting proceeds at a crawl in counties up and down the state, and those among us with housebroken political sentiments are expected to be impressed at the diligent performance of our election professionals.

In truth, however, no major nation on earth takes this long to count ballots, and no state in America takes as long as California to count ballots. As of November 14, there were still 15 races for a seat in the U.S. Congress that remained undecided. Eight of them, more than half, are here in California.

What has happened to the election process in California is a travesty. For over 30 years, political power has steadily drifted towards what is now a one party state. Democrats control all the higher state offices, from Governor to State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and none of that will change. In the state legislature, Democrats control what is referred to as a mega-majority in both the assembly and the senate. Unlike a super-majority, where two-thirds of the seats in a chamber are occupied by members of a single party, a mega-majority means that three-quarters of the seats are controlled by one party. That, too, will not change once final results are announced.

The reason for this dominance by one party can be misleading, however, because it isn’t a party so much as […] Read More

Mob Rule and the Death of Trust

It’s been clear to millions of Americans for decades that the media was biased, that the Democratic Party and their government employee union allies controlled and corrupted big city elections, and that the “climate crises” and the threat of “white supremacy” were being oversold. These and other annoyances were perennial. But for many skeptics, the level of mistrust remained tolerable. The system itself was resilient. Nothing is perfect. The tide can turn. The good guys could still win. The 2015 arrival of Donald Trump on the national political scene changed the rules. The system not only revealed itself to be even more fraudulent than most people had previously believed, but it became malevolent.

For over six years, representatives of every established institution in the country have stereotyped Americans who voted for President Trump as bigots, idiots, ignoramuses, haters, psychopaths, and traitors. The virulence of this condemnation has escalated each year, culminating during the 2022 mid-term election cycle with a full-court press to tag anyone who supports the former president as a fascist and and potential “domestic terrorist.”

Those who openly proclaimed their support for Trump, even if they expressed themselves with tact and rational arguments, focusing on his policies, and even while acknowledging Trump’s often confrontational persona, lost lifelong friends and faced threats to their livelihood. By the millions, they were made to feel unwelcome in their own country.

Anger breeds anger. Contempt breeds contempt. With Newtonian certainty, the disgust has become mutual. But on one side, with rare exceptions, […] Read More

How to Be a Successful Politician in California

The following conversation never happened. It is for the reader to decide to what extent, however, this conversation reflects political reality in California today.

Candidate: It’s a surprise that you contacted me. I never thought I would run for office, I don’t know how to run a campaign, and I’m not well informed on any of the things I might have to manage if I get elected.

Government Union Operative: That doesn’t matter. We have profiled you and determined you will be a viable candidate and develop into a politician we can count on.

Candidate: But I don’t even know how to begin this process!

Government Union Operative: Don’t worry about that, either. Here are all the forms you need, already filled out. We’ll just put in your name and personal information, and then you’ll sign them. We will submit them. We will follow up.

Candidate: Where will I get my money to campaign? Where will I find a campaign manager?

Government Union Operative: We do everything for you. We’ve found a treasurer who will process all of your donations and expenditures, and all you have to do is approve them. We have a campaign consultant who will run your campaign for you. And we will run a separate independent expenditure campaign which allows us to avoid campaign contribution limits, and you will not have to do anything.

Candidate: What about my opponent?

Government Union Operative: Don’t worry. We will outspend your opponent by whatever amount necessary to ensure victory. […] Read More

The Shared Scarcity Agenda of Predatory Investors and Extreme Environmentalists

In a long-planned rally at the California State Capitol last month, San Joaquin Valley farmers protested new laws that impose taxes on their irrigation wells. In Madera County, where most of these farmers came from, the new tax is as high as $246 per acre of farmland. If you’re trying to irrigate a few sections of land to grow almonds, that tax adds up fast.

It would be bad enough for these farmers merely to restrict their access to groundwater, particularly since new laws are also restricting their access to river water. But the timing of this tax couldn’t be worse. The cost for diesel fuel has doubled, fertilizer cost has tripled, and shipping bottlenecks prevented farmers from selling their produce to export markets, flooding the domestic market and driving the price down.

Less revenue. Higher costs. And now a per acre tax on wells. Speaking at the farmer protest, state Sen. Melissa Hurtado exposed the hidden agenda behind the ill-timed regulatory war on farmers. “Financial speculators are buying farmland for the water rights,” she said, “and then they turn around and sell your water right back to you.”

Hurtado is right. The immutable algebra of this predatory financial strategy goes like this: As regulatory oppression drives farmers out of business, investors move in and buy their land. Meanwhile, these investors support environmentalist restrictions on river withdrawals for irrigation and oppose water supply infrastructure projects (using environmentalist justifications), in order to […] Read More

How the Scarcity Agenda Benefits Oligopolies

AUDIO: How financial speculators benefit from politics designed to create scarcity, and how environmentalism is used as the moral justification for scarcity policies. Edward Ring with Kara McKinney on OANN’s Tipping Point.

Foreign Firms Siphoning Water From America’s Southwest

Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.