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Prop A: The cornerstone of conservation

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
February 26, 2004


"Being ecologically conscious means taking a judicious stock of the existing resources and advocating stringent measures so that they last longer." — Henryk Skolimowski

I've been thinking about Proposition A a great deal lately. No on A signs are everywhere, polluting street corners and other public space, leading me to reflect on the need for regionally based ecologically planning. I also can't help but reflect on why we need Prop. A, and how the County Board of Supervisors is failing to provide environmentally progressive leadership by opposing the Rural Lands Initiative.

Having read the Prop A several times I can see why county officials have a problem with the grassroots initiative. Reason #1 is that it steps on their turf by requiring a public vote for zoning changes and further urbanization in unincorporated rural areas in northern and eastern portions of the county. As of now this is the fiefdom of the five county supervisors who sees this a threat to their influence and fund raising potential.

Arguments against Prop A. are weak at best, as they are clearly designed to undermine sound environmental policy in favor of development interests seeking to continue building sprawling single-family homes to the detriment of existing and future residents. The supervisors base their opposition of Prop A on their support of the nonbonding, short-sighted, and inadequate testament to foot dragging known to policy wonks as GP 2020.

If given a chance the Clean Water and Forest Initiative would compliment policies set forth by GP 2020, providing another conservation tool for those working to balance economic progress with ecological preservation.

The cornerstone goal of Prop A is to prevent inappropriate urban land use development in rural San Diego County, unless such development is approved by voters, in order to accommodate population growth and influence population distribution in the region as to protect and utilize scarce resources wisely.

Those opposed to Prop A are those individuals seeking to profit from inappropriate urban land use development in the rural back country. The fact that Supervisor Bill Horn is vehemently fighting Prop A is reason enough to vote for it, as Bill Horn has made it quite clear he has no room for environmental stewardship in his political manipulations.

Some people want to make this a "property rights" thing. It is. It is also about restraint, democracy, biology, and sustainability. Property rights are not threatened by Prop A. The Clean Water and Forest Initiative modifies zoning to meet future needs by recognizing Environmentally Constrained Areas (ECA) as important planning elements. Preserving lagoons (estuaries) flood plains, agricultural preserves, and areas containing rare and endangered plant and animal species is a good thing. GP 2020 and the Clean Water and Forest Initiative both recognize this.

Currently this is little protection for environmentally constrained areas. Ongoing suburban encroachment into rural and undeveloped areas is proof that something must be done. Here on the coast the battle has been lost. Commuter gridlock on Interstate 5 is proof, that unless officially protected, open space and agriculture will be lost to subdivisions and strip malls. Proposition A is a way of drawing a rural line in the backcountry as a way of trying to prevent the complete suburbanization of San Diego County.

Up to this point those elected to represent the people have done little but talk about applying environmental restraint to regional planning an carrying capacity is never discussed. Instead all we residents get is a repackaged status quo that allows the continued urbanization and unchecked development of biological sensitive areas.

It's a shame we, as a culture, have progressed to a point where conservation must be forced on regional governance. It's a shame the economy of man has no place for the ecology of biological systems. Yes, some people will be adversely affected in the short term. But conservation is really a conversation about the future and short-term economic considerations, although important, should be weighed in context with the long-term needs of future generations. To ignore this is at our own peril.

Conservation is about doing the right thing for the reasons. Sometimes economic potential must be sacrificed for the greater good. Limiting populations in the unincorporated areas in order to protect and maintain vital watersheds in the backcountry constitutes the greater good, as does reducing environmental impacts resulting from the continued over-development of San Diego County. It is time for definitive urban growth boundaries to be recognized. Prop A is a good start.

Saving what's left is right.

On March 2nd, vote yes for environmental stewardship. Vote yes on Prop. A.

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