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Balancing Housing and Conservation

January 13, 2002

Re "Report Deals a Blow to Suburbs," Jan. 7:

As I read about urban sprawl and its effects on public health issues, I felt I must respond to both the Centers for Disease Control report and the counterpoint offered up by Laer Pearce, spokesman for the Southern California Building Industry Assn. I confess, as a certifiable tree hugger, I found both sides a bit too strident to be fully credible.

Orange County has been my home since 1978 (with a six-year break when I lived in Westport, Conn., during the 1990s). With most of my friendship base and family still living in Los Angeles where I was born and raised, I have considered moving back to the home sod. However, I find it extremely difficult giving up the network of bikeways that have allowed me to stay active.

While I am very concerned about urban sprawl, I will have to give some credit to the occasionally embattled Irvine Co. and the developers associated with it for including public parks and bikeways among the perks for living in Orange County.

Riding a bike in Los Angeles is akin to taking a death wish to new heights. Public parks are few and far between. On a clear day, you can see your thumbs.

Orange County's air is getting pretty rank as well, which brings up the issue of just how much sprawl we can take. But I believe I have far more opportunities in Orange County for exercise and other healthy pursuits, including hiking in the parks and hillsides, than I had in Los Angeles.

Enmity solves nothing. To harmoniously clear these philosophical hurdles, builders would do well to seek out and work with environmental planning specialists. These two groups should create a healthy relationship that spawns open and honest communication. Only then will we find the balance between conserving natural resources while providing housing for an expanding population.

David Ohman



Orange County has a form of eating disorder. Liken this increasingly dense suburbanized region to a person caught up in the endless cycle of binge eating, weight gain, then devouring yet more to support the overexpanding body.

No one disputes that infrastructure and neighborhoods are antiquated and overwhelmed. The Building Industry Assn. has the solution: Build more. When a human does this, the syndrome (cycle) is obvious, resulting in obesity and ill health. The entire body (county) suffers.

The association spokesmen refuse to look into the "environmental mirror," pitching their usual rhetoric of libertarian rights, in the name of "more money, more money."

Calling the study done by the Centers for Disease Control "junk," the correct metaphor was inadvertently reached: Orange County is hooked on "junk food," that is to say, out of control, unbridled development that will result in a lessened quality of life, and the premature death of what made it attractive to residents in the first place. No one wants to face facts: We need a zero-growth amendment, a delay in all new large developments like Rancho Mission Viejo, until we catch up to our imminent environmental entropy.

Roger von Butow


Clean Water Now Coalition

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