I have to ask. At what point do the people who complain about (and make every attempt to stop) growth, instead come up with a concrete solution that embraces all the complexities of housing people and the jobs they require?
It seems that on an almost daily basis, the “no-growth” NIMBY segment of our local population comes out with torrents of rhetoric about the evils of development. They do this without acknowledging that, regardless of what they want, and despite their often-successful campaigns to stop projects from going forward, our population continues to grow. Demographers have shown repeatedly that over 60% of the population growth we are experiencing comes from births, not people moving into the county and attracted by development. This will not stop.
More and more workers employed in our region are finding it necessary to commute great distances to their jobs in order to find relatively “affordable” housing, adding to traffic woes, greenhouse gas emissions, etc. Unless we find and embrace real solutions, this won’t stop, either.
There is organized opposition to “sprawl” in the loosely–defined “backcountry,” that somehow includes properties adjacent to interstate highways and incorporated cities. There is organized opposition to in-fill development within those cities. And there is a pervasive, general attitude among this contingent that they frankly don’t care about housing anyone else because, well, they have their homes.
It escapes the grasp of those who claim to want to preserve “quality of life”, that the people who fight the threat of fires, police their streets, nurse them to health—not to mention serve them in restaurants, clean their homes, cut their lawns, and so on—are finding it necessary to drive hundreds of miles each week to and from their jobs and have little of that same life quality. Or, maybe it’s just ignored.
I can give many examples of this, but I’ll share one for now: a pharmacy technician who works at the pharmacy in Escondido where I get my prescriptions filled, commutes from her home in Lake Elsinore—a one-hour (when there’s no traffic), 47-mile drive, one-way. This is by no means an isolated incidence. The thousands of cars on I-5 and I-15 on any given workday attest to that. Anyone who suggests that these commuters live where they do, do so by free choice, is in denial.
Neither urban infill, nor subdivision of heretofore open lands are the sole solution to the dilemma we face. Our need is too great, and suitable locations for any development too finite. If this state is to begin to address the growing inequities promulgated by barriers to providing sufficient supply to meet demand, employers will leave for more affordable environs, our already nation-leading poverty rate will only grow larger, and ultimately add many of the very people aiding in the stop growth effort to the ranks of the impoverished.
Change is tough, but change is inevitable. Better to embrace it with real, well-thought-out solutions, rather than half-baked notions borne of intellectual biases and a desire to cling to a past that is just that—past.
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Kirk Effinger is a Realtor and Escondido resident. He was an opinion columnist for the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune for several years. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org