While the cities become blighted, developers move to pave paradise and put up a parking lot…

July 30, 2011

They’re at it again, trying to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. In the county where I live there is a nice, mostly green stretch between the city where I live and the one to the south.

It’s not all beautiful and it is not all in a natural state. There are some junkie places. There is the remnants of an old dairy farm, which was not all that pretty when it was functioning, especially in its final years, but which is a downright eyesore now.

But there is a lot of open land, called bottom land — a creek (not a river) runs through it — well actually a river, the Sacramento River, does form a boundary of the area I am talking about, so I guess a river does run through (or by) it after all.

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ADD 1: The specific area I am referring to is called the Churn Creek Bottom, between Redding and Anderson, Ca.

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But the point here is not this particular area, necessarily; it’s the idea that so-called undeveloped land has to be turned into shopping centers and what they call auto malls. And this even when there are acres of abandoned or nearly abandoned shopping centers right within the cities, especially in the one where I live.

It is a terrible waste of natural resources and destruction of the environment and contributes to blight and contributes to overall ugliness and has a deleterious effect on the quality of life. It makes the cities uglier, with all the abandoned buildings, and it makes the countryside uglier with all the asphalt and concrete — I mean we need both in our modern society, but not on every inch of God’s earth (I did not say green earth, because even in its natural state, not all of earth is green).

Over the years there has been development in this green zone, as it were. There is a truck stop, and there have been many proposals to build commercial projects around it, including the current one to build a shopping center, a shopping center that in no way is needed. We have plenty in the area, and as I have said, we also have a lot of abandoned buildings in shopping centers in the area, and these buildings are not all that old.

And that is how development spreads in heretofore green zones. Once any commercial project goes in, developers use that as a toe hold and say: one more development right next to it won’t change things, and then another and another and so on.

It’s really crazy. A lot of that abandonment of relatively new shopping centers came around 2008 with the great economic upheaval of the time. And now, even though that upheaval is in no way over, especially where I live, some of the  powers that be — especially professional developers and land speculators — want to leap frog out into the hinterlands and cover it all with concrete and asphalt.

Oh they say it creates jobs. Well those jobs would still be there if the businesses were located in the already-existing shopping centers. And those jobs are usually, make that always, relatively low paid. And I never have understood an economy, whether it be local or national, based on support services. You have to have something to support.

(In my area the reason the service economy works at all is because we have a lot of government workers due to the fact there are a lot of public lands in the surrounding mountains, and we have a lot of “equity” people who cashed in years ago by selling their houses in the LA and Bay areas.)

I believe in preserving farmland, and much of the area I am talking about is prime farmland. But the argument that prohibiting development there would be just to preserve farmland is not convincing to even me. For much of the area has been subdivided into small parcels, some of them called “ranchettes”, which for the most part do not produce food or fiber, with the exception that a lot of people raise vegetable gardens and I think some sell their stuff at local farmers’ markets, and that is worthwhile, I think. But at least the area is still relatively green and open, even with that subdivision of properties. It would be a waste of land just as bad as shopping centers, though, if it all were just little horse farms — and nothing against little horse farms per se — but that is not the case.

There is a lot of opposition from the local homeowners there, I understand. And of course there is a little hypocrisy there in a way. I mean I got my little green space, made possible by breaking up economically productive farms, now no one else can come in.

But the bottom line is the area overall is still beautiful and much of it in at least a semi-natural state, so it helps preserve the ecosystem, which is vital to the preservation of mankind, as well as quality of life, and there still is food-producing agriculture going on (not too much fiber, maybe, save for a few sheep; we don‘t grow cotton here).

I’m a long-haul truck driver and I see the difference between areas that preserve green belts and the ones that don’t. I prefer the green belts.

The oft-cited example of man ruining paradise is San Jose. The Santa Clara Valley used to be filled with farmlands and orchards. The vast majority of people lived and did their shopping in towns, such as San Jose. Today from San Francisco down the peninsula to San Jose it is one concrete and asphalt jungle (with some hidden islands of beauty), and overall not at all pretty.

And let’s don’t even talk about the LA basin.

Okay, when I was a mere child in 1956 my family went to Disneyland, not long after it had opened. It was in the country, surrounded by citrus groves. We also went to Knotts Berry Farm and it was really a kind of farm at the time, in the middle of the countryside.

Today you descend the Tehachapi Mountains into a basin with hundreds of miles of virtually nothing but concrete and asphalt, with only a little green space here and there. And it is not pretty for the most part. And with all the traffic, and pollution, to include smog, it is not all that healthy either.

Why people would be so eager to pave paradise in my neck of the woods is curious, except that often it is developers who have no local interest and just want to make money and landowners who see it as their retirement money — and they can move elsewhere if they don’t like what it becomes.

Now it is not always fair to put burdensome restrictions on private land and limit the right of landowners to make money on their investments. Sometimes tax incentives (and in other blogs I have called those tax shifts) are used to promote the conservation of farmland or green space.

Also it is important to have long-range land use planning. That way people know from the get-go what they can do with their land (of course unless the zoning is changed while they already own it). Also you get a more efficient and compatible use of land. Not good to locate houses next to a cement plant, or in my area, rock quarries are often controversial (but of course needed). And airports are often threatened by safety concerns once houses surround them.

But we do have planning where I live. But the way that works is that people who want to get around zoning hire developers and lawyers who specialize in getting around restrictions. I saw this when I worked as a newspaper reporter. When you see the suits and those folks with rolled up plans, watch out.

Where I live there is plenty of room for both commercial development, primarily within the existing cities, and farmland, as well as other forms of open space, and living room too. We have an empty, but ready-to-go industrial park on the edge of town.

But the leap-frog development, which leaves past developed areas blighted and gobbles up prime open space, is bad all the way around.

P.s.

The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has a re-zone of the Churn Creek Bottom property from agriculture to commercial on their agenda Monday evening in a meeting beginning at 5 p.m. at the courthouse in Redding, Ca. For more information: http://www.co.shasta.ca.us/BOS_Agenda/publishedmeetings.htm

P.s. P.s.

And thanks to Redding.com (the Record-Searchlight newspaper’s website) for keeping the public informed — that’s how I knew about this. But all opinions and descriptions and all content in this blog post are mine, except for the meeting date and the fact that there will be a meeting, which of course is just public record.

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