Quality-of-life forces push for restraints in S. California. BRAKING GROWTH
Newport Beach, Calif.
After years of putting up with ossified freeways and dirty air, Russ Burkett says, his family couldn't take it anymore. They had to move. So they sold their stucco house in Los Angeles, packed up a consulting business, and headed for a coastal community in south Orange County. Only that didn't turn out to be a white-picket-fence existence, either.Skip to next paragraph
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``As soon as we stepped into the county, it was like it exploded,'' he says over a pancake breakfast here. ``We had moved into a county under siege with development.''
Today Russ Burkett is in the forefront of a controversial drive to slow growth in Orange County. He is part of a rebellion emerging throughout much of southern California which is increasingly affecting the political and economic structure of the entire region.
Ever since World War II, southern California has been one of the fastest growing areas in the country. Now it is seeing some of the nation's most stringent controls on development being pushed at the ballot box and in city council meetings.
In a collective cry of ``enough is enough,'' citizens' groups and others are trying to slow the developer's spade in ways that are stirring intense debate:
Activists in San Diego are working to get an initiative on the ballot next spring that would tie housing construction to standards of air quality, traffic flow, and other ``quality of life'' measures. The drive was launched in mid-October after slow-growth advocates became concerned that a housing cap adopted by the city was being riddled with loopholes. The cap itself, enacted last summer, established San Diego as the largest city in the country to set statutory limits on growth.
Orange County, bastion of Ronald Reagan Republicanism and can-do capitalism, is several months into an initiative drive that proposes even more far-reaching controls. It would link major development countywide to improvements in traffic flow, police, fire, and services.
Los Angeles, the enfant terrible of urban growth, continues to see development emerge as a dominant political issue. A steady stream of growth-control measures has come before the City Council since voters approved a major limit on high-rise construction in residential neighborhoods last year.
Grass-roots groups are active throughout much of the city on quality-of-life issues. Last fall Proposition U, a referendum measure limiting the size of new commercial buildings in the city, was approved overwhelmingly. In June, growth-control candidate Ruth Galanter unseated veteran City Council president Pat Russell. Now grass-roots forces are girding for the 1988 mayoral race, when Zev Yaroslavsky, a slow-growth leader on the City Council, is expected to challenge Mayor Tom Bradley, a moderate on development issues.
``I think there is prospectively a major shift under way here,'' says Lowdon Wingo, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Southern California (USC). And Derek Shearer, a professor of public policy at Occidental College, notes: ``For the first time in L.A.'s postwar history, there is a kind of neighborhood revolt and questioning of growth for growth's sake.''
Referring to the movement regionwide, Richard Peiser, a professor of urban and regional planning at USC, says: ``It is very deep-seated and very widespread.''