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Knock Not Thy Neighbor : L.A. and Orange counties must be a team, not go separate ways on tourism

March 31, 1994

To Southern Californians schooled in the nuances of our region's varied landscapes and mind-sets, Orange County and Los Angeles may seem light-years apart at times. But to visitors from around the nation and abroad, this is not necessarily so. For them, all Southern California is likely to be one big "L.A. Story," and from afar it has a coherence, even today when sunny images of Hollywood and Disneyland seem all too frequently to give way to morbid projections of life on the brink of disaster.

Orange County leaders and tourism industry officials have been giving some thought lately to how they might position the county to lure visitors, even in the face of all the far-reaching depictions of the region's earthquakes, fires and other horrors. They are planning to hold a tourism summit, and understandably they are interested in featuring Orange County as a safe destination. Some also are tempted to go a step farther and say, as a few indeed have, that Orange County should separate itself completely from Los Angeles as a tourist destination. The latest from the realm of the unthinkable, the murder of two Japanese students during a carjacking in San Pedro, was especially compelling because the Japanese tourist is so vital to tourism here.

The truth is, we are one region for better or worse, in sickness and in health, in times of balmy sunshine and in times of rattled nerves. Orange County developed as an attractive suburb--in many ways a psychological alternative to Los Angeles, and a geographically handy one at that. Increasingly, however, the evidence has been of the two counties' interrelated destinies, not of their independence and isolation. Moreover, what happened outside a supermarket in a "safe" area of San Pedro no longer can be considered an impossibility in "safe" Orange County.

It's not hard to see how the idea of deliberately distancing Orange County from Los Angeles may tempt some tourism interests. But an Orange-County-versus-L.A.-County strategy is not a wise course when the fortunes of both areas in fact are linked.

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