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No place to go but up

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 21, 1999


Last week human population surpassed the 6 billion mark. This should come as no surprise to us. We all have felt the effects of over population in one way or another. Anyone who has had to sit in I-5 gridlock can attest to this. As could teachers and students in crowded classrooms, surfers dealing with sewage and other runoff, and homeowners losing their domestic pets to struggling wildlife.

Like the rest of the world, the San Diego region has grown beyond it's carrying capacity. Residential and commercial development in coastal cities is outpacing infrastructure upgrades and improvements, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Much like the freeways, the rapid growth experienced in the past twenty years has left communities divided and natural communities completely overwhelmed. Open space has now become a treasure, and in some instances a Holy Grail, as residents begin to fight over what little remains.

Fighting is exactly what I have been to doing for the past two decades. Fighting what, is the question. I know who I have been fighting, that's the easy part. I have been fighting the agents of environmental destruction. Although we are all guilty, myself included, of wasting water, leaving the lights on, and the thousand other environmental no-no's, most of us are not bulldozing hillsides and destroying riparian habitat. We are also not building split-level people magnets, complete with queen palms and a three car garage.

As sprawl is nearing the end of it's course, infill is beginning to take it's toll on neighborhoods. This pits established residents against newcomers, who are not only crowding in next to them, but often robbing them of an ocean view long enjoyed. Is this what SANDAG means by increased density? Or do their plans go much deeper than that. Or should I say higher?

One long-time Cardiff resident told me that the new game in town is oneupsmanship. The game goes like this. If some one builds in front of you, you go too up a story. Now I don't now if this is true across the board, but it still leaves me thinking it's not long before trees start to come down. Fighting among Del Mar residents is a preview of things to come. Unobstructed views are becoming rare as city councils along the coast continue to approve all sorts of projects.

Opponents of Proposition B, the Rural Heritage and Water Shed Initiative, said that if that legislation passed higher density would be forced on coastal cities . Well the initiative didn't pass, and yet pro-development councils are doing everything in their power to increase density. SANDAG and their spin doctors on the dais seem to be embracing this sardine thing with a certain amount of glee. It is important for voters to realize that altruism plays no part in planning decisions being made here in coastal North County.

Nimbyism is no longer about keeping the undesired out the neighborhood. Now it is about trying to retain neighborhoods as increased density promotes zoning changes,which in turn requires infrastructure expansion, which in turn prompts more zoning changes. Why all the development? Certainly it has to do with keeping certain people working, namely developers and city staffs. Developers and builders make money only when they are building stuff. And to secure their jobs, planning departments county-wide must make sure the development industry continues to thrive. As an old prospector once said, "There is gold in them thar building fees."

In the last few weeks I have been doing the city council listening tour. Over and over again, citizens approach me and to ask when the madness is going to end. My pat answer is, when the voters stop voting the greedy boys and girls into office. The development industry is a special interest group that will not be content until they have chocked the last penny from our quality of life.

I also suggest they support green candidates in the next election. A good place to start is by paying very close attention to Sierra Club endorsements. Had I followed my own advice Encinitas pro-growther Christy Guerin would not be in office. Proponents of pavement would have you believe the environmentalists are selfish treehuggers, bent on starving North County. Excuse me but people trying to control the growth machine are not the ones building sprawling subdivisions, of single family hotels, on fertile farmland, not to mention every other square inch of property they can get their hands on.

News Flash. Trying to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the species that share this planet with us is not a special interest. Contrary to popular belief, man can not live on man alone. Can you say Soylent Green?

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