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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
August 7, 2000


"Progress is inevitable", is a mantra heard a great deal these days. On face value this would seem to be true, considering most people in North County believe there is absolutely no way to stop the growth machine. If this is in fact true, the question becomes, whose definition of "progress" do you use. If progress means destroying what currently exists to make room for bigger and better, our future will have no foundation in which to ground itself.

The latest loss is the destruction of the adobe recreation center, built by Vistans in 1941 as a community gathering place. Being cleared to make way for yet a retail shopping center, this piece of living history was reduced to a pile of ruble without a look back. A victim of economic expectations, the unassuming adobe, could not dodge the redevelopment bullet.

In this column I often lament about my childhood being erased one bulldozer at a time. A hillside here, a wetland there, and soon nothing is familiar. The places where I played baseball are gone, as are the open fields where forts were built, and the native spaces ready to be explored. For the most part it is all gone, and residents are hardly the better for it.

Whether by development or redevelopment, the face of San Diego County is changing, and not for the better. The first thought that comes when driving through downtown Vista is Bosnia. Far from the small rural community of my youth, the politics of blight have allowed special interests free reign in their efforts to gentrify downtown Vista.

Destroying community character in favor of homogenization, is not unique to America's climatic wonderland. The chaos that is the Highway 76 corridor, as it runs through Oceanside, is an even better example of how uncontrolled growth can bring about a municipal tragedy. Once an expansive valley dominated by the San Luis Rey Mission and a scattering of ranchettes, within the past fifty years the historic Mission has been surrounded by a sea of commercial sprawl.

Last weekend, while en-route to an afternoon wedding, a friend and I were hard pressed to place the location of familiar landmarks. Boarding on dangerous, you would have thought us tourists by the way we were driving. Paying attention to what was, rather than current road conditions, we rubber necked our way along Hwy 76 trying to locate a remaining point of reference. Sadly only the skeletal remains of the Valley Drive-in, and the Mission survive, with the former being not long for the world.

Our macabre game of "remember when" came to a sobering halt when we reached the once beautiful Guajome lake. To accommodate the widening of Highway 76, a huge earthen berm was built up beside the lake completely blocking views into the regional park. And if this sight didn't shock my senses, the Home Depot under construction half a mile away certainly did. If there is one thing I know for certain, it's that San Diego's North County does not need another Home Depot. Talk about commercial overkill.

This new Big-Box monstrosity is being built on former agricultural land. Trying to prevent the redundant development agenda of multi-national corporations is hardly a NIMBY issue. Protecting residential neighborhoods from commercial encroachment should be the work of those elected to represent tax paying residents. Instead, city planners from Oceanside to Carmel Mountain have defined their job as that of official red carpet rollers.

Speaking of Carmel Mountain, last week my travels took me to the sprawl mall known as Carmel Mountain Ranch. Conveniently located next to Interstate 15, this shopping mecca, should be called "Mile of Stuff." Not only is there a Home Depot there is also a Costco, Barnes and Nobles, Borders, Mervyns, Starbucks, and Petco. And those are just the large ones.

This will be my last column for a while, as I have decided to seek a seat on the Encinitas City Council. I do this because it is time for the environmental community to step up to the plate, and rescue paradise from the pavement people.

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