Commentary: Joan Irvine Smith advocated for responsible development

joan irvine smith
“Joan Irvine Smith also comprehended the importance of our limited water resources and the responsible management of growth,” says commentary writer Peggy V. Palmer.
(Karen Tapia / Los Angeles Times)

Philanthropist, environmentalist, social and corporate activist were just a few of the adjectives to describe Joan Irvine Smith in her recent obituary.

“A witness to the development of Orange County from citrus groves and lima bean fields to its current population of over three million people, Mrs. Smith was an indomitable advocate for the judicious use of water resources and local government’s supervision of land development,” according to her obituary in the Orange County Register.

She championed the effort to locate the campus on the Irvine Ranch property and persuaded the Irvine Co. to part with 1,000 acres for that purpose for $1.

As the state of California continues to mandate excessive quantities of new housing (only as the state’s population stalls), people are being driven to more amicable and affordable states.


We should ask why our water resources are being hijacked to accommodate 4,800 proposed dwellings in Newport Beach alone?

This defies logic and the remnants of the populace are left to discover that California only added residents by a thin 0.35% annual rate over the past 12 months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Statistically, this is the lowest growth rate since the early 1900s.

Responsible development has to recognize the value of preservation of our harbor, protection of public views, conservation of our land and historical architecture. These priceless and unique components of our coastal towns should not be compromised at the whim of reckless government officials.


The “Plop-Drop and Destroy” development approach is extremely irresponsible and does not consider the unintended consequences or the perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended.

At the beginning of the 20th century, President Teddy Roosevelt ushered in a period of conservation as a major part of his administration.

As the new century began, the frontier was disappearing. Many Americans, including Roosevelt, saw a need to preserve the nation’s natural resources. He wanted to protect animals and land from businesses that he saw as a threat.

Smith also comprehended the importance of our limited water resources and the responsible management of growth. She and other activists sought that future developments would compliment existing neighborhoods and would do no harm.

Perhaps, protecting our natural elements and finding common ground for the good of California’s coastline, would be a better initiative in 2020.

Peggy V. Palmer lives in Newport Beach.

How to get published: Email us at All correspondence must include full name, hometown and phone number (for verification purposes). The Pilot reserves the right to edit all submissions for clarity and length.

Support our coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.