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Clean Air Plan and the AQMD

December 27, 1988

While I agree with the underlying theme of your editorial--that something must be done to clean up our region's air--I disagree that the South Coast Air Quality Management District must simply adopt its own plan immediately.

I disagree because I find fault with the idea of placing a single-purpose agency such as the SCAQMD in charge of regional planning decisions that affect factors outside of the agency's direct purview. The SCAQMD is solely concerned with air quality, and can therefore be counted on to make decisions that positively effect their goal of eliminating the region's smog, even if those decisions have other, indirect negative effects. The SCAQMD's plan is constructed on a grand scale, but it is a plan that seeks to achieve one goal at the potential cost of making the achievement of others impossible.

Your statement, for instance, that giving the SCAQMD control over the regional allotment of new housing units may "persuade people to arrange their lives so that they live closer to where they work" is typical of the SCAQMD's attitude. If housing production could be concentrated in job-rich areas, such as Los Angeles and Orange counties, their thinking seems to run, then air quality would improve, because people wouldn't drive so far. But the unintended consequence of this type of policy is that many persons who are now able to afford housing in outlying areas would be priced out of the housing market. People don't buy houses in Moreno Valley and commute upwards of an hour because they like to drive. They do so because housing in the job-rich counties is too expensive.

But the SCAQMD plan ignores this--or seems to. It seeks only to force people to conform to patterns of living that will achieve the goal of clean air. And so long as a single-purpose agency, rather than a multi-jurisdictional planning authority (such as the Southern California Association of Governments) is in charge of planning decisions, "side issues" such as the ability to achieve home ownership or have the freedom of mobility we now take for granted, will be given short shrift.

ERIC NORRIS

Highland

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