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Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009 | If Barratt American‘s business was about erasing decades of land use mistakes with thoughtful redevelopment then it would have my support, but that is not what its proposed projects are about. We need redevelopment that creates walkable, environmentally sound villages while keeping our remaining landscapes intact for their resource benefits

We need development that creates a sense of place, draws people together to celebrate daily life; development that has parks and supporting infrastructure — with nearly everything families need or enjoy within walking distance. If Barratt and the building industry seek a government bailout/partnership, then it must be one that contracts for real benefits to our national security with energy-independent village-style redevelopment projects.

It is difficult to change, but global realities demand it. Many scientists believe that negative impacts of climate change are now irreversible. Immediate action is needed to limit severity of the damage and its potentially violent repercussions. As candidate Obama said quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, there is a “fierce urgency of now.”

We might begin with proposals of greatest consensus. I’ll provide two self-serving examples to stimulate other ideas.

In the moments of pause in our land use battle, Barratt American’s president Mick Pattinson and I discovered that we both love a good game of futbol/soccer. I even ran into then-City Councilman Scott Peters for amiable conversation shortly after he voted to shaft our community with approval of the largest landfill in the state. We were there to watch our sons play soccer. Remarkably, the region has failed to provide adequate facilities for soccer programs growing ever more popular with all ages. The natural grass fields are in short supply and are “over-grazed” into barren and bumpy sites in need of rest and restoration. In response, schools are slowly converting to hot artificial turf. Southern California soccer families regularly drive hundreds of miles to Temecula, Lancaster and Bakersfield. How about redeveloping some of those redundant failing strip malls and unwanted dwellings into localized sports facilities that eliminate most of those torturous drives? And why not require more recreational fields and parks within new development projects? If we are printing bailout money, how about providing some field restoration with it?

Second, Barratt wants to develop in Santee of course, but their chosen Fanita site is not suitable. However, the city has been doing commercial redevelopment and most residents are amenable to it. Why not expand redevelopment to into Barratt’s residential expertise? There are aging mobile home parks in the center of the city redevelopment area that have been the subject of ancient ongoing tenant/park owner disputes. The disputes have been extremely expensive for the city to mediate. Why not initiate a project that replaces a mobile home dispute with modern solar-fueled energy efficient senior/affordable housing that gives existing tenants priority placement. In return, why not abandon attempts to place fire-prone sprawl on Fanita Ranch?

As a taxpayer, if I’m going to be required to invest in the failed industries of the past, I want community return contracted in. A policy that would force banks to lend for failing enterprise without exacting real change would deepen our debt and compound our community problems.

Van K. Collinsworth is the director of Preserve Wild Santee.

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