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Growth Initiatives

August 28, 1988

In November, the voters in the city of San Diego will be asked to approve an initiative designed to contain growth by limiting the construction of new housing. Every attempt will be made by the partisan supporters to persuade the voters that they are right, not necessarily what is right.

The position of the building industry is well-known: to make money, not to satisfy the social and health needs of the people.

The limited-growth advocates, playing upon the legitimate fears of the people, have undertaken a crusade to provide us with a "good life"; a "quality of life" free from the evils of urban living, traffic congestion, water pollution, etc.

However, their proposed cure is oversimplified, superficial and conceited. Under their manured rhetoric and slogans lurks a dangerous "survival of the fittest" mentality, a social Darwinist philosophy, in which the underprivileged are considered the "unfit." They have unreal dreams of San Diego as an uncorrupted, pastoral wonderland.

To achieve their selfish ends, they are willing to sacrifice the indigent, the working poor, the elderly and members of the ethnic communities who, they fear, will clutter their canyons and hilltops with what they hatefully ridicule as wall-to-wall tract housing projects with ticky-tacky homes.

They cry out against those they consider harmful to their conceptions of the "good life," so they seek to discourage "job growth in low-end occupations"--workers who are forced to work at low-paying and thankless jobs . . .

To further confuse and frighten people, they trot out the physician with appropriate credentials to expound on the negative effects of urban stress on good health. Unfortunately, the good doctor forgets to mention that it is the underprivileged who have the greatest stress and have the highest rates of morbidity and mortality.

Finally, we come to the elected officials who, with few exceptions, have the same mentality as the social Darwinists or the builders . . .

In the midst of the debate on growth, they continue to invite more industry, more commerce and more tourism, and in turn more residents, knowing all the while that thousands of people in the city will suffer as a result of a shortage of available housing. To atone for their guilt, they make a token commitment by asking for low-income housing, but only as a "third priority."

Limiting home construction will not solve the problem created by years of neglect, indifference and often sheer stupidity, but it will create new socioeconomic problems--not the least of which is the re-emergence of housing discrimination as blatant as restrictive covenants, zoning and red-lining.

The limited-growth advocates and the politicians have claimed they speak for the people, which is hardly the case, because for the present, the people are still spectators and have yet to respond.

SAM ALEWITZ

San Diego

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