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Yes on A: The conservative choice

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
February 12, 2004

 

"A true conservative must necessarily be a conservationist." — Edward Abbey

One of the advantages of possessing an open-mined, rational intellect is the ability to hold conflicting positions without undermining one's core belief system. Call it what you will, ethical relativism, pragmatism, or situational triage, whatever your languaging the truth remains. There are no easy answers, and the challenges we face in 21st century California require a citizenry capable of adapting to the reality of over-population.

For the past hundred years San Diego County has been on a growth trajectory that has been all boom and no bust. In the past twenty years we have evolved from a moderately populated agricultural/rural region to a crowded suburban metropolis with very little agriculture and enough traffic to rival Los Angeles. It should be pointed out that the L.A. basin, the San Fernando Valley, were once agricultural regions as well. Residents of San Diego County need only to look north to see our future.

A future avoided if we take the necessary actions to avoid the ecological fate of our northern neighbors. Proposition A, also known as The Rural Lands Initiative, is such an action.

The purpose of the Rural Lands Initiative (Prop A) is to provide San Diego County citizens a voice in protecting some of San Diego County's most sensitive wilderness and open space lands from being prematurely or unnecessarily developed, and to limit the traffic, water pollution, and air pollution that results from intensive development in rural areas. Prop A does so by amending the San Diego County General Plan to require voter approval before specified rural lands in the Northern and Eastern portions of the county be developed for urban uses.

Personally I don't see a problem with this. Having read the Rural Lands Initiative in its entirety, I view Prop A as sensible policy, and an infinitesimal step in the direction of sound ecological planning. Coupled with conservation easements and density transfers, rural open space can be preserved, while increased density in existing urbanized areas would promote redevelopment and meet housing needs, all of which is in keeping with the General Plan 2020 currently crafted by County government.

To be honest, which few are, Prop A and the County's 2020 Plan will do nothing to protect ecological sustainability without limits on regional population. Anyone can promise better air and water quality, but it is only achieved by reducing human impact. And the only way to reduce human impact is to reduce human population. The goal of the Rural Lands Initiative is to reduce human impact on San Diego County's most sensitive wilderness and open space lands.

Prop A merely asks for a vote of the people in regards to regional urbanization. Last time I checked "America" is all about the will of the people. And if history teaches us anything, people usually vote in keeping with the status quo. So even with the Rural Lands Initiative in place, a vote of the people of San Diego County could allow for complete urbanization through the electoral process.

And yes, property owners will be affected. Property owners along the coast could actually benefit from a systematic shift away from sprawl, and the adoption of distinct urban boundaries. To make such a shift possible, density transfers and conservation easements would allow rural landowners to offer their development rights for density mitigation in return for the market value of those development rights. Government could facilitate such a change, but that would require a great deal of courage, honesty and environmental understanding, all of which are in short supply.

Conserving and preserving what is left of the natural heritage and habitat is of the utmost importance. Unfortunately, conservation is now only possible in the far-flung edge of the county as all else has been lost to development. It is time urban growth boundaries to be created and enforced through aggressive zoning. And if fairness dictates the purchasing of property at its pre-Prop A value, then so be it, as nothing could be a wiser investment in the future.

Prop A is a step in the right direction if the people of San Diego County expect to prevent the further Los Angelesation of San Diego County.

 
 
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