Thursday, October 11, 2018

The House, The Car, The Vote...and California

The 800 pound hammer in Healdsburg was stolen. Police are relying on unconventional means to find the culprit.

Before I begin I need to remind readers of two things: if they live in the state of California they must Vote No on Proposition Six...and that the 800-pound hammer that was part of an art exhibition in Healdsburg, California is still missing.

Anyway I was looking through old copies of Sunset Magazine I had bought at Recycle Bookstore in San Jose. Specifically the February 1955 issue. 

The pages of these old magazines are kind of the original blueprints for the 1955 American Dream - the kind that today looks like every house you see on the first few minutes of Flip or Flop

The advertisements in old magazines are always entertaining to look at - usually more so than 63+ year old articles, and especially the ones that sell us a product that no longer exists.  

The ad that sticks out the most for me is the one with two huge 1950s cars. Dad and son are happily washing one while mom is pulling up in another, and two dogs are just looking on. I can just picture Don Draper responding positively to being shown this image at an ad agency meeting. 

This ad is telling readers that two cars are becoming a "must" so you should buy two cars - and why not make them both Fords!

Ads like these aren't just selling a product, they're selling a lifestyle. House, lawn, and at the center of it all: cars the size of small public libraries. And oh yeah: you need two of them. 

That part makes me smirk. I've been married for 13 years and my wife and I have had only one car between us the whole time. Between bikes, VTA (even though I'm still sour they killed the express train), Caltrain, ride share, bike share, scooter share we make our world work - by the skin of our teeth. We'd like living in California more if we didn't need a car at all.

But California was designed for a world like the one in the Ford ad - one where two adults would own two big, lead gasoline cars that you would drive guilt free and not think twice about it. The trouble is the infrastructure for 1955 California (which had about a third as many people in it back then) is mostly still with us today - save for the occasional $1 billion spent on highway upgrades that just make traffic worse

An unfortunate contingent of Californians are fighting tooth and nail to keep the romanticized, normalized world of driving and suburban life intact. They want to keep selling us on the house and the car and all that comes with it. California 1955: cheap gas, heavily subsidized roads you never quite see the bill for, and distance between your home and all the things you love that can only be covered by a car.* 

But like "The Surprise Car of the Year" California 1955 is a product that no longer exists. 

This November, we can decide if we want to vote for the California preserved in a specimen jar or a new one that recognizes that a new one can be made.  Please do not vote for Proposition 6, which keeps gas cheap and auto infrastructure baked in California's DNA - and please do vote for Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 - which makes housing less expensive.*

Also if you're in San Jose, please vote Yes on Measure V - it's an affordable housing bond measure that'll bring $450 million to help build more affordable homes and that has the potential of making a lot of people's commutes shorter - short enough to potentially bring additional cyclists into our ranks. 

The election is in 27 days and it's not enough just to promise to vote - you have to promise to convince others to do the same. Do that with me and let's not let the NIMBY contingency win this time. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.

P.S. - if you're in San Jose and have a bike, a lock, about $20 to spend on groceries and want to spend Nov. 17th taking part in fun bike-based food drive, follow Cranksgiving San Jose on Facebook!

*I'm stuck by the fact that some prominent people are in favor of Prop 6 but against building more affordable housing. "Yes, let's keep gas cheap so poor people can get to the jobs we give them from the neighborhoods we assign them to that are far away from ours!"


  1. Two cars are definitely NOT a requirement for life in CA, at least in this urban/suburban part of CA. I grew up in a "one car per adult driver" household, was that way when we got married, and for the first 4 years of our marriage we had two cars. When we moved across the country to come to California, we got rid of one of the cars, it was kind of a junker, the transmission was going, and it just wasn't worth moving here. While we wouldn't want to be a "no-car" family, one car is plenty. We can still pick up our family at the airport, we can shop at costco (too far for me to do by bike with my middle-aged knees) and we can zip over the mountains for a day at the beach when we want. One car is plenty. I can walk or bike to the grocery store(s) we can walk the few blocks to my kids school (don't get me started on the parents that drive their kids to school), if we want to go somewhere farther, there's the light rail system or buses. In a pinch/emergency we could even use uber, lyft or a taxi, though personally I've never used any of those options. One car, is *plenty* between insurance, and maintenance, and the cost of car is plenty expensive, we don't need to double those costs.

    I really wish I could do Cranksgiving this year, I missed it last year due to family obligations, but unfortunately the timing is bad for me/us this year too. Hopefully for 2019 :)

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