More Smart Growth Backlash

If “smart growth” were a client, she’d need a new public relations strategy. A story from last Friday’s North County Times, a suburban San Diego paper:

The “smart growth” philosophy of planning is not exactly winning a popularity contest around the region, county planning leaders said Thursday.

“Smart growth has gotten a really bad rap,” observed Pia Harris-Ebert, San Marcos vice mayor, during a lengthy,
free-wheeling discussion of the topic at the San Diego Association of Governments annual retreat Thursday.

While it means different things to different people, the association generally defines smart growth as promoting a wide range of housing, not just single-family homes, and a competitive public transportation system. It also means directing most growth to within existing cities and towns, and discouraging new subdivisions in the backcountry.

Association board member and Oceanside Deputy Mayor Shari Mackin agreed with Harris-Ebert.

“Whenever you say smart growth, people say, ‘Ah, density. Forget it!’ ” Mackin said.


Some members felt it necessary to remind colleagues that San Diego County is still part of a free country.

“We’re not going to force people not to come here,” said Jerry Jones, a Lemon Grove councilman. “They’re going to come here whether we like it or not. They’re going to have an impact on our infrastructure whether we like it or not. We have no way of closing our borders.”

The retreat agenda states that the goal of the discussion was to generate ideas for bringing smart growth to the region. However, no specific suggestions were offered.

Ngh. There’s got to be a foundation somewhere that will underwrite a “smart growth” education campaign aimed at current residential property owners; the people who call the tune for local elected officials. If not, “smart growth” is going to die on the vine … and Southern California is going to start looking like a digital banana republic, with the propertied behind walls to keep the working class out after 5.


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