Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner

I am losing it

I think that, to be a planner, I have had to balance competing needs and desires and try to find a good fit within existing laws. Hundreds of projects have crossed my desk, from people with more money than I, and often with a great deal more need than I.

It becomes, at times, sad to see an environment modified, not for the better but for profit. There have been times when, on the other hand, I have felt pleasure at having a small part in the ultimate permanent protection of some small piece of the natural environment. "Permanent" meaning quite a long time, really, but of course nothing is truly permanent. At times the protection comes as a result of a development project, and therefore I do not eye all development with an equal jaundiced eye, as do some of my compatriots. Fellow planners.

It seems, though, that over the years I see more and more of the Raw Greed coming out. Today I sat in on a meeting with two people who want to develop a site with a small hotel. They discussed other options - including "rebuilding" the residences that are currently on the site - with the intent of deciding on "what's best".

"What's best" to a realtor or developer is an entirely different thing, in many cases, from what is best to me, for example. The site they want to develop has thirteen small beach shacks on it right now. Several people live in those shacks and pay a reasonable rent for them, an unbelievably reasonable rent. Yes, they are small and run-down, but they are right on the beach! And I could afford the rent. So could my daughters.

I recognize the inevitability of "progress" in cases like this. The bulldozing of the shacks, the construction of a "boutique hotel" or high-end condominiums or vacation rentals. I understand that those who own property in the vicinity will benefit because their property will increase in value. People who visit Pismo Beach will benefit, maybe, by staying in the hotel or maybe walking along the boardwalk that may be integrated into it. Businesses benefit because more people will be staying downtown and may visit them.

Yet the town will get farther and farther out of reach of the vast majority of us. What does this mean really? I am struggling with it.

I have seen hillsides get dotted with custom homes that I thought would never be anything but green. I have seen Wal-Mart move in and bump K-Mart to the floor, as well as force local businesses to close and wages to decrease. I have looked at the preserved portions of Highway 1, adjacent to the ocean, and realized that only Draconian measures saved them from development.

The planner in me sometimes differs from the citizen in me. The planner would not have joined the march for women's lives in April, because I realize the futility of such events. The citizen, though, needed to be there.

More and more the citizen arises and feels like growling. I was feeling, in the meeting today, the presence of greed rising and filling the room, and it was difficult to maintain. I will, of course, continue to be the consummate planner, the person who listens, who offers alternatives even to those I despise, and with a smile. I will present truly fair and balanced reports. But I feel more and more pressure from within. Like a dam about to burst. How long can I hold out? Long enough to retire?

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