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SOUNDING OFF: Aliso development must be seen in light of fire danger

The current drought has left our surrounding Laguna hillsides tinder dry. When the “devil winds" (Santa Anas) blow down our canyons and over our hilltops, we have all of the necessary ingredients for another terrible disaster to befall our city like the one in 1993 that brought so much pain to so many of our residents. We are so very fortunate to have escaped the terrible “perfect firestorm" of the past week.

The magnitude of this latest disaster is almost incomprehensible. Imagine more than 500,000 persons evacuated in San Diego County alone. That amounts to evacuating a city larger than Pittsburgh. The loss of property there is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion.

Weather experts tell us Southern California is becoming hotter and drier. With development encroaching more and more into former hillside and canyon wilderness areas, the stage is being set for even more disasters of the magnitude of those experienced this past week.

As long as local governments continue to permit zoning for development of these marginal areas they will be contributing to the loss of life and property caused by the high probability of more major fire catastrophes.

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Laguna Beach already has the ingredients for another fire catastrophe. Should we be adding to the risk of major conflagration by allowing any proposal to expand development in Aliso Canyon, the building of multi-million dollar villas abutting Aliso Creek Golf Course, and extensive hillside development proposed for area around the present Driftwood trailer park?

Shouldn’t we be more prudent and cautious and anticipate the very real potential consequences of any further development into our canyons and hillsides? Or does the desire to increase our city’s share of the tax revenues that will be generated by these grandiose projects override concern for public safety?


DON KNAPP lives in Laguna Beach.


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