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When Miguel del Barco, a Jesuit priest sat down in the 1770s to write his brilliant Natural History of Baja California, he described a region that was both hot and cold, dry and inundated with floods that — in areas — was “not fit for cattle.”
Little could del Barco have realized that more than 200 years later, the peninsula of Baja California would be converted into a global hotspot for anything-goes development. As Elisabeth Malkin of The New York Times illustrated last week in her story on Los Cabos, “Bulldozers Hit the Beach,” Baja California is now a region in which the world’s most powerful corporations and shadiest developers are in a race to see who can build the most outlandish and inappropriate development with no planning, government oversight or public review.
Build High-Rises Everywhere
Once upon a time, the coastline from Tijuana to Ensenada, (like through the 80s) was stunningly beautiful and dotted by seaside villages, small fishing camps and the quaint hotels of La Fonda and Rosarito Beach. That golden past is no longer a reality. Now the coastline is a nightmare in which there is no attempt on the part of any local, state or federal agency to regulate development at all. High rises share space with slums.
Sewage pours into the ocean. Maquiladoras spew waste into the neighborhoods of the region’s poorest residents. The Sempra LNG plant abuts the high-end golf resort of Bajamar and destroyed the last and largest undeveloped coastal sage scrub area in the region.
Ironically, in the 1990s, the state of Baja California worked to establish one of Mexico’s most progressive and comprehensive coastal development zoning programs. That plan and effort has been ignored. The area now serves as a warning about what is on the horizon for the rest of the peninsula in Mexico’s budding narco-democracy.
Industrialize the Coastline
Historically, the peninsula has always been a region for global corporations to exploit and exhaust natural resources. Now of course, we have moved beyond the killing of gray whales and the mining of copper. Baja California is now the industrial parking lot for southern California. Now underway is a multi-billion dollar port and industrial complex at the sparsely inhabited Cabo Colonet, a couple hours drive south of Ensenada. The project would be a non-union port designed to compete with the unionized ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. A rail line and new highway will transport cargo north to the border near Yuma. A new LNG terminal could also be planned. More than 250,000 people could inhabit the area by 2025.
Build Marinas Where There are No Yachts
When former President Fox announced plans back in March 2001 to build a series of mega resorts and marinas throughout the Peninsula, most people thought he was joking. He was deadly serious. The Escalera Nautica (Nautical Ladder) has now been converted into the Calderon Administration’s Proyecto Mar de Cortes.
A disastrous marina in Santa Rosaliita, 400 miles south of the border, has already been built. Another is planned for Bahia de los Angeles. A cruise ship terminal is proposed for Punta Abreojos. The project merely serves to promote the worst kind of land speculation and will leave a legacy of white elephants that dot both the Sea of Cortez and Pacific coasts.
Turn Baja into Orange County
It used to be that surfers dreamed of finding an endless summer filled with pristine beaches, perfect waves and living in harmony with the locals. Now developers are implementing their utopia that involves purchasing surf spots on the cheap from impoverished locals, fencing them off illegally so there is no public access and building McMansion resorts that front their own private surf resorts. Surfer developers first hit the East Cape.
Now they are scheming to eliminate public access at famed Scorpion Bay, destroy world class Salsipuedes, and turn Baja into a more inebriated version of Orange County. Or as Luke told Ryan after knocking him down on the beach, “Welcome to the OC, Bitch.”