Thursday, July 12, 2007
Sometimes, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. A couple of days ago, I opened up OC Metro to discover a feature article about all the major coastal resorts banding together to "brand the waterfront" as the ultimate luxury destination. And of course while looking for the article, I had to see a full-page ad urging me to "wake up to the waves" and "rest to the setting of the sun" at "Brightwater in Huntington Beach", the new luxury housing development that sits just west of the other luxury housing development that sits atop what's supposed to be protected wetlands. But of course, all this OC coastal luxuriousness mustn't end there. I soon find a big ad telling me of all the decadently luxurious scenery awaiting me at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach. No matter where I turn the page in OC Metro, I find all this fabulous luxury. Who would have known that I was living in the lap of luxury here in oh-so-fabulous Orange County?
But wait, does everyone really enjoy the "luxurious lifestyle" in The Land of the OC? Can we afford those new houses sitting dangerously close to protected wetlands? Can we even reach the beach amidst all this development? Can we afford to continue ignoring the dire need for affordable housing in the region? Oh yes, and what about the poor kids who want to go to the beach, but can't thanks to OCTA's refusal to meet the demands of bus drivers who themselves can hardly afford the high cost of living in Orange County?
Follow me down below to explore just how luxurious (or not) life really is...
(Cross-posted at Calitics)
So how good do we have it here? Well, it depends how much of this "good life" one can afford.
Yesterday, the Coastal Commission decided to not decide yet on the proposed Parkside development. Now Shea Homes has been illegally filling in wetlands in order to plop a bunch of multimillion dollar McMansions there. They claim that they need to build these McMansions in order to alleviate the dire need for housing in Orange County. But is this the type of housing that we really need?
Why must all the new housing be these super expensive developments that encroach upon our open space? Why not work on housing near the areas where we all work? Oh yes, and why not work on housing that most of us can actually afford? People aren't really clamoring any more for McMansions that they can't afford. They need something that they CAN afford. Even the Orange County Business Council realizes that if they want to attract new skilled workers to OC, they'll need to show these workers where they can find a house within their budget. We may very well risk a terrible "brain drain" if we don't do something to ensure that our workforce can actually afford to live here.
Disney doesn't want any affordable housing encroaching upon its resort district in Anaheim. They'll do anything, even throw an initiative to "save the resort district" on the ballot, in order to save their plans for some lovely new luxurious timeshare units. But wait, aren't there already plans for future hotels in the area? And don't all these people who work so hard to keep the magic going at Disneyland deserve a decent place to live that isn't so far away from where they work? Must a place for these workers to call home be an unattainable luxury that's always out of reach?
Oh yes, and speaking of out of reach... Why is it allowable that in addition to affordable housing must always be out of reach to us working people, we must also be unable to reach what's supposed to be our open spaces? Just think about all the recent developments that have eaten up our beaches, our hills, and our wetlands. Much of the Dana Point Headlands will soon be filled with overpriced McMansions. Just across the street from Crystal Cove, the old backcountry is now filled with overpriced McMansions. And of course, the Bolsa Chica Wetlands may have some unwanted new neighbors getting a little too close to the wildlife.
But really, why must we be robbed of our housing and our open space? Why must all the housing be built on our open space, and why can't we be able to live within our means? While there will always be mid-level managers who may have received enough of a salary increase to buy one of these McMansions along the coast, nothing's being done to ensure that all the folks who will be policing the new McMansion neighborhoods and providing fire protection for these McMansions and educating the children residing in the McMansions and caring for the seniors residing in the McMansions will have a place to live. Oh yes, and have we even talked about the poor folks who will have to clean the McMansions and the people cooking for the people living in the McMansions? Where the heck do they go?
And what incentive do all these regular folks serving the needs of the people living in the big McMansions to live in such expensive places like Orange County? Why can't we get to the beach? Oh yes, all the McMansions are getting in the way. Oh, and the people living in the McMansions would rather not see bus service in the area.
So is this all just a luxury that we really can't afford? And is the luxurious lifestyle of a few shutting out the desires and necessities of the many residing here? I wonder sometimes.