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If you have been to Mission Beach lately, you know what a lot of us who live here and love it know – many parts of the neighborhood are a dump. For such a unique and beautiful piece of oceanfront land, it is astonishing how much blight exists. Hiding behind the veneer of oceanfront mansions and quaint cottages are Third World-quality roads, alleys and empty lots strewn with trash, desiccated homes and apartments that wouldn’t pass code in other Southern California beach cities and a crumbling water, sewage, drainage and power infrastructure that sees inordinate failure and requires constant attention. There’s also the ubiquitous and widening homeless population and the youth who exploit below-market rentals, reveling to all hours.
A couple blocks north of the Belmont Park rollercoaster lies the definition of blight – a long shuttered and dilapidated elementary school. A few years ago, a developer purchased the property and plans to build 63 luxury condos. A group of concerned citizens is trying to prevent him from doing so, and now that the City Council has approved the project, plans to sue.
I am no expert on zoning and master plans, but it seems to me that, seminally, their arguments transcend ridiculous; they belie the notion they have everyone’s best interest and speak to a conceit that flies in the face of what’s best for the community.
Look, I love the Dionysian nature of Mission Beach. It’s why I live here. I even miss the days when one could drink alcohol on the beach. And I am no fan of developers whose intent is often parasitic and contrary to the health of communities. And I know this is an argument that is out of fashion. But it is transparently selfish and hypocritical of those who oppose the redevelopment project, and they should stop.
The Mission Beach Citizens for Responsible Development, the group that lobbied the cash-strapped city to turn the $18.5 million property into a park, argues the condo project will create too much traffic, the design is “out of step with the community” and it will knock down a tree that “could be historical,” according to the Union-Tribune.
What am I missing? The city was supposed to give the property away? Turn it into a park, when Mission Bay is 50 yards away? The design is out of step with the community? Mission Beach looks like it was poured out of a bucket; there is no art council here. Its freeform is its charm. And as it sits, perpendicular to the west of the property is a decrepit youth hostel that’s located above a nearly impassable service alley clogged with overflowing restaurant dumpsters and an inescapable stench. New, property tax-earning condos will wreck that?
And too much congestion? Summer in Mission Beach is just that – if you live here, you accept the traffic (ask the business owners in Belmont Park and along Mission Boulevard how they feel about that).
Also, a tree that is 50 years old and “could be historical”? Says whom and why? It’s all sophistry.
I have lived here for over 10 years, and the divide between growth and the intractably opposed is phenotypic. Those who oppose it have been here many, many years longer than those of us who wish to see capital improvement and increased property values.
And that’s the problem. That means many who oppose growth purchased their land for the price of a used Chevy, and now the value of their property is in the millions. And because of Prop. 13, their property taxes are based on what they bought it for, which means it’s in the hundreds of dollars a year. That means their actual contribution to the community is disproportionate to their patrician assumption that what they want is what’s best.
The community needs improvement. Nobody likes change. Nobody likes to see what they have known and cherished for decades be taken away by seemingly outside forces. I sympathize, and in a perfect world, I would agree.
But growth and change is inevitable. At the beach, gentrification is also needed. Who are those to deny much-needed improvement and revenue because it doesn’t fit their parochial municipal view? Nostalgia is a mostly benign sentiment. Hypocritically fueled selfishness is not.
Mike Downs is a writer and resident of Mission Beach. Downs’ commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.