For years I have gone on about sprawl in a way resembling Chicken Little and the falling sky incident. So you can imagine my delight when President Clinton's State of the Union Address included "a $1 billion dollar Livability Agenda to help communities save open space, ease traffic congestion, and grow in ways that enhance every citizen's quality of life."
Granted the president could only muster enough courage to say the "E" word once, but I take my victories, no matter how small, where I can get them. Speaking about environmental concerns without mentioning the environment is a the mark of a true craftsman, and Bill's lip service was heard by millions of people around the world.
Using words such as; preservation, wilderness, open space, and quality of life he was able to avoid the substantial issues of over-population, water scarcity and loss of biodiversity. The question we should ask ourselves is how we can use his tentative recognition of over development to our advantage.
Last week a group of business leaders met at the Mission San Luis Rey to discuss the future of the San Luis Rey River Valley. Considering that one of the featured speakers was Bob Campbell, executive director of the North County Economic Development Corporation, I think it is safe to say that restoration was not on the agenda.
Speaking for the Great San Luis Rey Area Planning Council, John Steiger has been quoted as saying "In a short few short years, the Great San Luis Rey area will reach a population of more than 1 Million people." Hence the reason for an event to discuss "one of the most prime pieces of underdeveloped Southern California real estate." What do you think the chances are that they served Gnatcatchers in a wine sauce for lunch?
Underdeveloped is a very frightening word, and does not bid well for the residents of Oceanside and Bonsall, not to mention the river itself. Mission Valley in San Diego is a perfect example of what putting economics before the environment looks like. When looking down into that valley it is difficult to believe that a river runs through it. Except of course when it floods during winter rains.
Recently SANDAG, another organization represented at this development pep rally, has been telling people of San Diego County to expect a population increase of a million more people. Why is this? And why must we acquiesce to their predictions? Considering that San Diego County has very little water of it's own, shouldn't we start to discourage people from settling amongst the sprawl we call home.
At the rate we are widening roads, we will not have any room left to place homes. So where do we put all these people? In high-rise apartments, I don't think so. We value our "space", and anything that blocks the view of our photochemical sunsets is out of the question. Unless of course it is meant to accommodate tourists. Accusing these planners of ignoring the environmental reality of the mess we are in would be futile because the ideology of a cancer cell does not include guilt.
With all that said, what do you think the chances are of the Greater San Luis Rey Area Planning Council asking me to give the keynote speech at their next group hug? Probably about the same chance the California Gnatcatcher has surviving the next millennium.