A Plan for the Nineties: Break It Up


Welcome to the ‘90s. If you have been reading the predictions for California over the next decade, perhaps you share my fear that we are fast approaching the end of civilization as we know it. Vicious water wars are scheduled to break out between the north and south, the last redwoods will be chopped down, and 19,000 more people will be arriving each week to enjoy it all. Very gloomy.

So I have a modest proposal. Let’s face the fact that California has grown far too big, that it makes about as much sense for California to be a single state as it does for the Soviet Union to be a single country. Let’s deal with the reality that the cotton farmers of Visalia don’t give a fig for the TV execs in Burbank, and vice versa. Let’s break up California.

I’m not just talking about the old strategy of drawing a line between the north and the south. Things have gotten much trickier than that. We need a Plan for the Nineties, and here it is.


As you can see from the accompanying map, the Plan provides for three separate states in the new Californias, plus “Oregon.” We will get to “Oregon” later. Right now let’s take the states one at a time:

In the south, we must recognize that Los Angeles has become a separate world in California, a city-state only dimly aware of the nether regions to the north. A recent survey showed that Los Angeles makes approximately 500 times more telephone calls to New York than it does to Fresno. The fact that this survey surprised no one is evidence of L.A.’s estrangement from its geographic neighbors.

Creating a state of Los Angeles would liberate the region from the nattering influence of the environmentalists in Northern California. We in the south could get on with making Los Angeles the richest and ugliest city on Earth. We will require lots of desert to convert into subdivisions, and that has been provided. Ditto with coastline. We get the unspoiled stretch from Santa Barbara to San Simeon so we can make it look like Redondo Beach.

If anyone gets nostalgic about open space, the Plan offers a rental program from the state of Lettuce. (See “user fees” below.)

Since Los Angeles itself would be too crowded to accommodate the state capitol, we might want to declare San Bernardino a tear-down site and build a new one from scratch, Brasilia-style. As for the name, we should probably recognize the new realities of our time and call it “Sony.” They might even chip in on construction costs.

In the Central Valley of California, the state of Lettuce would provide a sense of place to our heartland. The valley has always shared more with Nebraska than coastal California. This way the farmers could listen to Tammy Wynette and eat chicken-fried steak in peace. Lettuce would be all theirs.


To provide some needed revenge for all the cultural slights suffered over the years, Lettuce would also get the Sierra Nevada. When the coastal folks got sick of their cities, the people of Lettuce could rent them chunks of the Sierra for breath-taking user fees.

Around the Bay Area we would create what you might call a boutique state. Ecofornia would be small because not much would happen there. San Francisco could convert entirely to tourism and stop worrying about its declining position in California. Within this tiny empire, San Francisco would be forever the center of things.

For territory, Ecofornia would acquire Big Sur to the south and Napa/Sonoma to the north. This would provide some degree of employment diversity. Anyone who got tired of mixing Irish coffees for Pennsylvania optometrists in San Francisco could go to the country and mix Irish coffees at a bed-and-breakfast.

As for the far north, the harsh truth is this region does not belong to California and never has. Does anyone know what goes on in Alturas? That’s what I thought, so let’s give the far north to Oregon. In return all we ask is that they leave a few redwoods standing, just for old time’s sake.

A brilliant plan, I hear you saying, just brilliant, but reality-wise a little unlikely. I understand these doubts. Just keep in mind that they were saying the same thing six months ago in Prague.