Saturday, October 01, 2005 | I remember driving on a beltway in Houston many years ago. The wind and rain were so bad that all the cars stopped, turning off their wipers so that they could sit in silence, marveling at Mother’s ill-Nature. I thought of that memory as I looked at pictures of Houston’s evacuation. If you’ve lived in Los Angeles or San Diego, you’ve gone through that process many times, rain or shine; it’s called the “daily commute.”

The primary difference between what the Houstonians had to go through is we don’t take our pets with us in our daily exercise and we don’t worry whether our homes will be there when we return – unless we live in a fire-zone.

In my studies, Houston was always a young Los Angeles, stretched out for light-years’ worth of miles, with no zoning and little thought to public transportation. Texans frown on planning, believing that it gives free enterprise a heart burn. As their suburbs expanded towards Gulf and golf, their commutes dictated that their many new master-planned communities would include job centers and shopping extravaganza, so that commute would become superfluous. The only things permanent in Houston are humidity and super-sized bugs, at least as large as small birds. You could go to the cleanest, most expensive homes for dinner and be shocked by the number and freedom of the bugs trawling for leftovers.

I also began to plan out how my family would evacuate San Diego, if we had to. I had a formula: just multiply the traffic on my daily commute, from Carmel Valley or Del Mar, by five and I would get the idea of the answer and route: number one, there is no route and number two, stay home and hope that your dog is large enough to be noticed by helicopters.

Imagine heading out Route 56 – either direction – or I-5, I-15 or you name it, to say nothing of the impossibility known as Route 78, which obviously was designed by sadistically intoxicated engineers. The only hope is that if you can reach north of Oceanside, there are a lot of empty spaces, on which you could park and hope that a tsunami wouldn’t ambush your innocence.

Or head toward Mexico, kind of a reverse tide of humanity. Can you imagine the police holding up that line with their palms held out for your tithing (always bring cash with you in any direction). You could head for a marina to highjack or catch some boat that would head out towards one of the islands off our coast. I personally would head towards Catalina – longer ride – but most boats that head for it get lost, or fall off the end of the planet (yes, it is flat after all).

My late, great Dad-in-law would just grab a book and start reading, forgetting noise and rain and threat, my magnificent Mom would have started baking and tasting what she had baked, sharing the calories with any starving neighbor or evacuating traffic. Frances, my love, would grab shopping bags (we always have a hundred of these waiting for their next assignment) and start packing every memory we had and any thing she knew I would hate to lose. So, what would you do?

Sanford “Sandy” Goodkin is acting chairman of Civic Solutions, a group of leaders who analyze San Diego’s problems, prioritize them and search for solutions, representing diverse points of view. He is a trustee of the Urban Land Institute and is a pioneer of residential market and marketing analysis. Read his real estate columns at

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