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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
September 27, 1999


You have got to hand it to the people running the show at Carlsbad city hall, because you always know where they stand on the development issue. Unlike other North County cities, Carlsbad is very up front about their pro-growth priorities. Aside from Mayor Bud Lewis mistaking himself for an environmentalist, this council is quite clear in their understanding of how things are going to be.

Although city councils such as Encinitas and Oceanside take heat for their bickering and conflicting agendas, this is far more favorable than a Stepford council embracing what they see as inevitable. While believing that a little effort is better than none,the Carlsbad City Council has decided in mass to allow a 25 percent loss of their city's remaining Gnatcatcher habitat. This is what they call habitat management.

The intended purpose behind the Carlsbad Habitat Management Plan is, using the words of City Staff, "To conserve and protect sensitive biological habitats, and the plants and animal species that occur in these habitats, while allowing future, public and private, development." This is known as an environmental platitude, more strident environmentalists would label it Greenwash. Either way, it does not go far enough to protect the local species facing imminent extinction.

"While allowing development" is the operate phrase, such language provides a loophole large enough to drive a bulldozer through. It also allows for the future taking of endangered habitat. Council members need only point to this language to justify encroachment into "protected" wildlife corridors. Not that this has been a problem in the past.

Notice how this the document is not called the Carlsbad Habitat Conservation Plan. The root word of management is man, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the difference between managing and conserving a give habitat. Disneyland is a managed environment, as is Legoland. What exactly is being conserved in these parks, but a paradigm based on consumption.

At the public hearing discussing the Carlsbad Habitat Management Plan, Mayor Lewis said "I wish Carlsbad was like it was in 1958," he went on to say that "when you have an attractive place like Carlsbad, people are going to come here and build." Considering the Mayor and City Council are planning to erase 5 breeding pairs of gnatcatchers and the 51 acres they need to survive, to build a golf course, it seems those people are already here.

Also being planned for the remaining key habitat areas, is cluster development. Continuing to show his true priorities, when sharing his concern that clustering meant higher densities Mayor Lewis said "I don't want to increase densities that would affect my quality of life." Can someone please inform Mr. Lewis this is exactly what he's been doing for the pass eight years. It seems to me that the Mayor of Carlsbad is quite comfortable living in a vacuum. And why not, it seats five comfortably and has an ocean view.

Mayor Bud asked if I opposed the Carlsbad Habitat Management Plan. My answer was two-fold. First I questioned if it went far enough, and how that could be known without a comprehensive Environmental Impact Report. Carlsbad City Staff believes saving 75% of remaining gnatcatcher habitat is enough. Enough for what? Enough to keep the Building Industry Association off their back? Or enough to see that the California Gnatcatcher survives? Without an Environmental Impact Report all the numbers in the document are unsupported and arbitrary.

The second part of my response was simply, "Good intentions are not enough." I'm living proof of that.

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