Orange County Commentary : Growth Pressures: How Orange County Is Responding

A Times editorial on Feb. 3 identified housing and transportation as the major problems in Orange County but failed to correctly recognize the relationship between the two.

The editorial proposes that county leaders get busy to provide "enough housing and transportation to keep a large and diversified pool of labor." Many residents would argue that the county's 2.1-million population constitutes an enormous work force in proportion to the county's physical dimensions, and that this is precisely the cause of the county's transportation woes--not to mention inadequate airport and jail facilities.

The Southern California coastline is a wonderful place to live, but there simply isn't enough of it to go around.

Orange County's growth interests would have us believe that if we could somehow build enough housing to catch up with demand, our children could afford homes. Unfortunately, the history of Orange County proves that it is an open system, with an effectively limitless number of potential buyers from other areas.

What determines home prices is not the competition between Orange County's children; it is the millions of potential buyers who weigh the value of a small home in Southern California against a larger home in the north. Affordable housing, like a low spot in the ocean, is temporary at best.

Each of Southern California's counties has chosen how it will respond to growth pressures. Santa Barbara, for example, is highly restrictive. In contrast, Orange County has grown rapidly, adding more people in the last decade than 39 of the 50 states.

Amazingly, the population density of Orange County surpassed even that of Los Angeles County in 1969 and now has nearly 40% more people per square mile. How is this possible? Orange County looks so much nicer.

There are several reasons. The key factor is that Orange County still possesses some splendid parcels of highly visible open space. One is the magnificent stretch of green hills along the Interstate 405 Freeway south of Jeffrey Road. Another is on the east side of Interstate 5 between Tustin and Sand Canyon Road. The vast plain of orange groves, avocados and row crops is a visual breath of fresh air for thousands of motorists daily. Both parcels are planned for development.

What we really need are members of the Board of Supervisors and city councils who are not afraid to say no to growth. The balance and diversity of Orange County should be preserved for future generations. When the last of the great vistas has been replaced by concrete sound walls and monotonous miles of Irvine condominiums, everything here will be diminished.

JAMES R. TALEVICH

Mission Viejo

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