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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
July 17, 2000


Is anyone safe from the Carlsbad City Council? While other cities are recognizing the importance of Highway 101, Carlsbad is looking to completely erasing the historic roadway and with it the Ponto community. Instead of appreciating the luxury of undeveloped open space along the coast, the freebooting five will not rest until coastal Carlsbad resembles the chaos of Newport Beach.

Staging a land grab under the guise of redevelopment, the city of Carlsbad is using Ponto residents as pawns in a development scheme which requires their neighborhood to be considered blighted, so that the property surrounding the Encinas power plant can be "redeveloped" into hotels and retail space.

The intent behind the creation of a redevelopment district along Carlsbad Blvd., is about utilizing the industrial wasteland between the power plant and the millions of consumers crawling by on Interstate 5. By sacrificing the residents of Ponto to the growth machine, Carlsbad will open even more coastal land to intense densification. According to Planning Director Michael Holzmiller, the realignment of Carlsbad Blvd. is included to secure funding sources. I read this as subsidized development.

Willfully practicing the politics of blight, the City of Carlsbad has yet to connect the Ponto neighborhood to the city's sewer system and denies requests on the part of residents to make improvements to their properties. Adding insult to injury Carlsbad Planning Director has the nerve to state publicly that the Ponto neighborhood is underutilized. As if the homes, and lives of the people living in them was not a sufficient use.

Considering the City of Carlsbad would do no less, home owners should not be forced to add their properties to a "redevelopment district" if it was not in their best interests. If I understand the libertarians correctly, this is referred to as property rights. Ponto property owners would be smart to wait until the city develops all around them. Because then and only then will they get top dollar.

Officially Carlsbad is only 57 percent developed, as if that questionable equation justifies the feeding frenzy on the part of city officials. Obviously restraint is not considered smart growth in Carlsbad. Gone is any pretense to agriculture, unless you count the McFlowers fields. In twenty years this pleasant coastal community has metastasized into the sprawling suburban city of Everywhere, USA. It's now eating it's own.

Having long been a champion of redevelopment, watching Carlsbad blatantly gerrymander district borders to force growth, and significant increases in density reminds me of a similar case. In 1992 the City of Vista declared 73 acres of open space and a section of Buena Vista Creek, as blighted. This qualified the area for redevelopment funds. Making way for Walmart, Starbucks, and Old Navy, the city decided that a creek, and the native species it supported, was better replaced with parking lots and shopping carts.

One way or another, Ponto is history. The latest victim of the growth machine, whether by clean cut of bulldozers or a slow suffocation, this too will become a quaint memory of the good old days when open space wasn't a threat to the status quo. I suggest everyone in North County make the time to visit Ponto, and what's left of undeveloped coastal Carlsbad, before it is gone. This small neighborhood is a reminder of a time when not everything was about selling out to the highest bidder.

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