Feeding Frenzies 101:Strip Malls and Sprawl
by Robert T. Nanninga
hile driving in East Oceanside the other day -- something I try to avoid -- I was amazed at what I saw: twin strip malls that were built in the early 80s sat half empty. From the intersection of El Camino Real and Mission to the Pioneers cemetery, a ghost town was taking shape. Yet new store fronts are being built all over town.
To make matters worse, the Highway 76 extension runs directly behind the Mission Plaza West and Mission Plaza Real centers, funneling traffic past these under-occupied commercial centers and cementing their fate in an all too familiar blight. This is the perfect example of why there needs to be a regional policy that prohibits any new retail development as long storefronts sit empty.
All across the county, you can see new retail center developments being built blocks away from vacant store fronts. Why do planning commissions allow out-of-town developers to descend on our cities, cover everything in asphalt and stucco, and then split? Now, instead of biodiversity and breathing room, we get gridlock and monoculture.
Corporations and individuals who foist all these temples of consumption on the residents of coastal North County are profiting at the community's expense. Supply is outpacing sustainability, and our quality of life is suffering. It is time we reign in the agents of sprawl and begin to rethink what quality of life will mean in the 21st century.
The right to own property, as set forth by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, in no way guarantees that property owners can develop as they see fit. Of overriding consideration should be the Constitution's Preamble, which states, "... promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." According to Webster's Dictionary, posterity is defined as "all succeeding generations; future mankind." Again I ask, how does yet another struggling strip mall promote the general welfare?
Speaking of unneeded storefronts, has anybody seen the monstrosity being built at the corner of College and Oceanside Boulevard? Shoved up next to the Loma Alta Creek, a linear shopping experience is being constructed while the two shopping centers that share the same intersection have for-lease signs in empty windows.
Before anyone accuses me of Oceanside bashing, it should be clear that this applies to Southern California in general. It just seems more acute to those of us crowded against the Pacific Ocean. One of the reasons the Rural Heritage and Watershed Initiative failed is because those in the East County still have enough room to take for granted.
When SANDAG says that population in going to increase, why do we immediately assume that those people have the right to single family homes in what little open space we have left? I have yet to see a high-rise apartment complex planned for land currently covered in failed retail centers. As it stands now, San Diego County is being spread too thin.
What I find rather disturbing is that mitigation for all this sprawl is not placed where it is needed most, within walking distance of the people who most need it. I live in Leucadia. As perfect as our funky little beach community is, those of us who live north of Leucadia Blvd. and west of I-5 have no parks. The other day, as I watched the neighborhood kids play football in the street, I realized that these young residents were being neglected by the individuals their parents elected to office.
Currently, a walled community is being planned for my neighborhood because the Community Development Department has issued a negative declaration for an invasive 12-acre project at Sanford and Vulcan. Greystone Homes will crowd 62 single family homes on land with a density of 6.6 units per acre. With the average home size being 6,660 sq. ft., the largest home will weigh in at 11,000 sq. ft.
The negative declaration states there is no need for an Environmental Impact Report and that "acquisition of the land [for recreation needs] is not being pursued because of neighborhood incompatibility issues." What this report does not address is the community's need for parkland, and that the incompatibility finding was in response to a proposed sports park and it's accompanying night lighting.
By developing this section of land, the doors are forever closed on the possibility of north Leucadia ever having a significant neighborhood park. It will also result in more traffic, more sewage and an increased drain of city funds. It will also bring more children to overcrowded schools.
The effects of sprawl are everywhere. For proof, all you have to do is look out the nearest window.
|Robert T. Nanninga is a Leucadia resident currently working on a degree in Environmental Communications at CSUSM. You can reach Robert by sending email to observationshome.com or by writing to the San Diego Earth Times.|