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Smart growth, simple delusion

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
May 28, 2002


Ramona Finnila, Chairperson of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board of Directors has been all over the print media trying to convince residents that the overcrowding they are experiencing can be alleviated by making room for another million people. Chanting the mantra of economic development, she is trying her best to drown out those calling for environmentally sustainable planning.

SANDAG never the agency to care about anything other than the economic development of the region, has decided to paint itself green. With a call for smart growth, the developers at SANDAG have only repackaged their propaganda in such a way to make it seem as though they have seen the light, and after year of stupid growth policy, they will now be embracing a kindler, gentler, smart growth agenda.

San Diego County has reached it's carrying capacity, and everyone but the folks at SANDAG seem to understand this. For those readers unfamiliar with the term, carrying capacity refers to the number of individuals who can be supported without degrading the natural, cultural, or social environment i.e., within resource limits and without reducing the ability of the environment to sustain the desired quality of life over the long term.

Smart growth is only possible in a region not already built out to the point of gridlock. With more than 3 million people calling San Diego County home, any growth at this point is unwise due to the fact that we simply do not have the necessary infrastructures to maintain our ever growing communities. Defining the addition of lanes to area freeways with smart growth, is on par with an obese man loosening his built and calling it weight loss. Sooner or later someone with planning authority must begin to face the fact that our region is over populated.

Until Ramona Finnila and the other elected representatives that comprise the SANDAG Board of Directors admit that the growth machine is out of control, quality of life will continue to diminish in San Diego County until our neighborhoods resemble Tijuana, or worse yet, Mexico City. And that is the natural trajectory when one embraces the growth at all costs philosophy.

Smart growth is just another term for high density development, which does nothing to address fundamental carrying capacity factors such as potable water, human waste, topsoil loss, and energy generation. High density development merely shifts population into smaller areas, replacing sprawl with overcrowded urban "zones", without ever addressing the larger picture of how much is enough.

Smart growth ignores the main cause of sprawl which is population growth, which only complicates the issues facing the region, it also makes it impossible to work towards an effective solution . Even if our elected officials are unwilling or unable to face the truth , it is still out there. The earth's resources are finite and an increasing population will mean that all of us can expect less in the future. Less food, less water, and less room to breathe.

Personally I think it is time SANDAG was dismantled, and for municipalities to stop worrying about economic growth, and start focusing on environmental sustainability. Allowing SANDAG to further plan the demise of the San Diego region can only lead to more of what we have now. Which is hardly wise in anyone's book.

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