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Torn . . . Confused . . .
By George Schmok

I recently received a letter from a guy in Minnesota who disagreed with my comments . . . Okay, I admit it wasn't the only time someone didn't quite agree with me, but for this one, I wasn't sure why he disagreed. At least to begin with . . .

Now first of all, I read virtually every comment, and can't tell you how much we appreciate the effort it takes to express your concerns. We truly like to hear from all camps. It sounds like a clich?, but it's how we learn. Many times you who write will cite several items that you are either for or against, and it's easy to follow the drift of the letter. This letter, however, caught me off guard.

At first it appeared the writer was against centralization and didn't like "my" idea of federally plumbing the nation. What? My idea of using the federal government to centralize? Huh?

So naturally I went to to check out exactly what I'd said, and low and behold, there in the July commentary I was talking about moving around resources to accommodate growth, not modifying growth to accommodate resources. Form before function?!? Or function before form?

I was born and raised in Southern California and have seen my backyard turn from open fields to the 405 Freeway, and what was an easy bike ride to what is now the 405/55 Freeway interchange at South Coast Plaza and John Wayne Airport. When I was 16, the Colorado River dumped into the Gulf of Cortez . . . It doesn't anymore, but we've always had everything we needed. It must come from somewhere . . .

The thing is, because there are so many earthquakes in Southern California, and there was so much land, while I did see the city grow around me, we still had plenty of room. With millions of people in the county, there's barely a 30-story building in the area; most tall ones are only 15-16 floors up. This is "Orange" County. There was corn, fruit, livestock and there still is some. But water is definitely an issue and everything is now imported. So the question is . . . Because we have outpaced our resources, how much now do we take and from where do we get it?

If you build in places where the resources are not regenerative, you will have to import those resources. The more you centralize building, the more you require the import of more types of resources. If you encourage suburbanization, that need is dispersed as the geographic region expands and allows the gathering of greater local resources. If you don't care where the resources are coming from, then you build anywhere you want and as densely as possible.

And here's the catch-22 . . . If you don't want to use the resources, then you must forego growth. So either we stop building in Southern California (which could be the 52nd state after Northern Colorado) or we start moving to Minnesota or Oregon or Massachusetts.

Is it better to build in nonregenerative places and import resources, or do we cluster around the resources? Is it better to build densely or to spread out the population? It's a good thing we don't have to solve these things today, but every day they become more of an issue. I think we need to lean toward using local resources, without overwhelming them. At the same time I think we need to plumb the nation . . . That doesn't really mean that I like the idea, and it certainly doesn't mean there isn't any room for discussion.

I know many of you are working custom residential, strip malls, city parks and campuses, so you don't really have a choice where development occurs. But many of you out there do, not just the landscape architects, but the city and land planners, developers and people with government agencies who also get LASN. From you, and anyone who has an opinion, we would certainly love to hear your comments and keep this debate going . . .

God bless . . .

George Schmok, Publisher

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August 25, 2019, 5:36 am PDT

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