Editorial: Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tip of the sprawl
Lack of a growth plan leads to worsening quality of life for everyone

City officials in Santa Clarita and Los Angeles last week got together and quietly killed a troublesome, 5,800-home development plan called Las Lomas, which would have straddled the two cities in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. They did so because both cities had concerns that the development would have put too much strain on the region's traffic and resources.

There's no question that the big projects such as Las Lomas in the Newhall Pass and the late Ahmanson Ranch project adjacent to the West Valley deserve extra scrutiny and sanctions for their impact on the surrounding communities. But while they may be big and get all the attention, the combined impact of smaller developments and redevelopments are doing just as much harm to everyone's quality of life.

Almost daily a new project is approved in the Greater Los Angeles area for infill building, or for adaptive reuse that turns abandoned commercial buildings into houses or for the expansion of a business or mall. While these projects are tiny compared with the megacities like Las Lomas, they have a larger cumulative impact than a big housing complex because they are only regulated on a piecemeal basis.

These small developments have a ripple effect. Their impact starts small and radiates out to destabilize the region at large. Imagine hundreds of these small waves overlapping to get an idea of how uncontrolled growth plans affect everyone from one end of the region to the other.

It affects Angelenos in their cars when they're fighting ever-worsening gridlock to get home. It affects the pocketbook by increases in fees of all sorts to pay for new infrastructure. It affects our health by adding to the air pollution, and so on.

There's no reasonable way to stop growth. Nor should it be stopped. The alternative to growth is decay. The only sensible step would be to impose a moratorium on approval of new projects for a limited time while officials get to work and decide on the ground rules for sensible future growth.

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