What I have written here refers to specific geography, but it could apply to anywhere.
Once there was a beautiful valley with a city and towns surrounded by beautiful countryside with farm fields and orchards — a Garden of Eden of sorts. Today it is a mass of concrete, urban sprawl, and much urban decay. Do you know the way to San Jose?
Once there was a bustling farm town in the center of California’s Central Valley, surrounded by rich farm lands. It had (and still does) an arch with the slogan on it that read or reads: “Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health”. That was penned by a great-uncle of mine. He won $5 in a city slogan contest back in the early 20th Century. I can’t say whether Modesto was ever a pretty town — it hasn’t been in my time, but overall, it is one ugly place today — there are good parts too, but overshadowed by the ugly. Another victim of urban sprawl and then decay. At least the farm lands around it survive. Zoning regulations have protected much of the farm land from being concreted over.
Much the same story exists in Fresno, another major city in the Central Valley.
I spent many of my early formative years in Tulare, another Central Valley town. Back then (1950s) it had an overall clean look to it. It was a mixture of humanity, with its poor sections, and with its racially-divided sections, such as Colored Town and Mexican Town, its middle-of-the-road sections, and ritzier sections. And then as you drove out of town, there were farms fields, much of them planted to alfalfa and feed corn (dairying being a major agricultural pursuit there) and cotton, and they were just beginning to make plantings of walnut orchards. Toward the foothills, citrus groves had long been a major crop. I’ve driven through there is recent years, and it seems the town is still in pretty good shape, but growth and urban sprawl has also injured its aesthetics to some extent. And the urban sprawl has even reached into the farm fields.
Agriculture in the Central Valley, in fact, has largely turned from an endeavor with bucolic atmosphere to just another major industrial effort, complete with the smog and ugliness one might expect in a factory town shortly after the industrial revolution. And that is why it is good to preserve much natural, wild habitat from even agriculture. It not only is aesthetically pleasing, but supports all the bugs and creatures that make up our ecosystem upon which we all depend for life itself, whether all of us realize it or not.
And now the people who always want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot have their eyes on the beautiful area where I now reside, Redding, Ca., at the very north end of the Central Valley, which is actually the Sacramento Valley. (Oh, yeah, Sacramento, our state capital, is a beautiful city in its central core, surrounded by a mixture of palatable urban sprawl, and some awful, decayed urban sprawl.)
I wrote about this once or twice before. But developers (read, take the money and run) want to turn an area south of here, known as the Churn Creek Bottom, into one big shopping center/auto mall/ strip mall/convenience store/big box store/urban jungle. And this while a fairly new shopping section in the city, adjacent to where I live, has many empty buildings (as is the case in other areas of the city). It’s called leap frog development. You make a shopping center and then it gets blighted and you move to another one out in the country and so on, leaving behind urban decay and tearing up farmlands in the process.
Now I mentioned where I live. Sure it was once in a natural state and was torn up to build houses and apartments and shopping areas. But it was not prime agricultural land and it was contiguous to the existing city. And yes, people have to live and work and shop somewhere. And that is why we have towns and towns do grow.
Fortunately, so far, it seems that the powers that be have done a pretty good job of allowing growth but preserving the natural aesthetics of the city of Redding, which is nearly surrounded by mountains and has a river that runs through it — the Sacramento.
But times are tough economically and there is the appeal of commercial development that promises to bring in tax revenue.
The Churn Creek Bottom is outside the city limits for the most part, but the county government has its eyes on that revenue.
To be fair here, the Bottom has already seen development. It is no longer a simple rural agricultural area. In fact, I don’t think there is any longer much (some, though) serious agricultural efforts there (although to the extent some people have their own vegetable gardes, I consider that serious). It has been subdivided into sort of ranchettes as it were, for the most part. But it is still a nice green buffer zone between towns.
There have been multiple efforts in recent years to install shopping centers in the Bottom area (and actually there already is some scale of commercial development there). But as the situation stands now, a prime spot on the Interstate has been approved for development, but due to some opposition, is the subject of a local ballot measure.
Property owners are often pitted against each other in these kinds of cases. Some want to preserve the aesthetics they have and others want a right to cash in a sell to developers.
And that begs the question: are property rights, that is the right of one to do anything he or she wishes with his property, absolute?
The answer of course is “no”.
For one, the concept of land use planning and zoning, to accomplish that, has long been around. People don’t want to live in a nice quiet neighborhood and then have a cement plant put in next door. Airports have been pushed out when housing tracts surround them, due to safety concerns — a result of poor planning.
It seems to me a compromise is always in order. There must be some way to compensate landowners for the loss in potential value and preserve quality of life at the same time. Maybe a tax break for preserving land?
And as to the argument over whether someone bought land as an investment, with the idea that some day he or she would cash in, that is why long-range land use plans are needed and should be adhered to.
Also, if you are religious, I ask this question: who really owns that property, you or God?
You are but God’s caretaker.
And I hope the powers that be (to include the majority of the electorate) do God’s work in the Churn Creek Bottom issue.
Even though I do not belong to a church and even though I am not a religious person in the strict sense, my God being somewhere between the biblical version and some mystical, amorphous being or entity we can call “Mother Nature”, I often invoke the name of God almighty.
You know, there just is a force out there bigger and more important than we as individuals.
And must we destroy our environment and our humanity in the name of progress and then have to depend upon some computer-generated virtual reality?