Friday, January 9, 2009

Where will the planes land? …

   What’s the biggest and most potentially controversial public land use in metro areas?  Airports, of course.  They are essential to a city, need to be fairly close to downtowns, but use enormous tracts of land and are not welcome neighbors.  As a result, in our contentious age few big airports are built (consider, for example, Denver’s newish airport, which is almost half way to Nebraska –- well, it just seems that way –- or the controversy over plans to expand at London’s Heathrow). 
Sandiefoairport    In San Diego, the venerable Lindbergh Airport is directly adjacent to downtown at the top of the arched San Diego Bay.  Because of its location, airliners come screaming in over the bills of the city –- seemingly close enough to touch.  Combine this with a contrast rush of naval aircraft over the area, and we have a situation for potential disasters.  But because the city is hemmed in by mountains and development and Mexico, there appears to be no good location for a new commercial airport.  A potential solution?  Build a large airport in the middle of the San Diego Bay, as reported today in the Union-Tribune.  The benefits?  It would allow planes to approach mostly over water, and would be conveniently located near the poor areas of town, on the south bay.  Indeed, similarly hemmed-in cities such as Hong Kong have built airports by filling in water.  The drawbacks?  Such built land-moving projects are almost impossible to do in the United States anymore, considering the environmental considerations (even though the bay has been in effect a naval and pollution dump for decades) and other land use roadblocks.  It seems impossibly difficult politically, but there may be no other choice, other than continue to put up with planes scrapping the trees of Balboa Park …

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January 9, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Senses, surf, and seals in San Diego …

Sandiego     In San Diego for the first time in more than a decade this week, I find that the city’s once-proud main street, Broadway, still holds more homeless people pr block than almost any place in the nation, that the downtown revival shopping mall, Horton Plaza, still holds up as perhaps the best example of its type (admittedly not a difficult competition), and that the downtown waterfront has sprouted so many new sleek condo and apartment high-rises (most of which actually appear to be occupied) that from some angles it almost looks like Vancouver.  Always in the shadow of its not-to-spoken-of colossus to the north, San Diego remains an extraordinarily pleasant city.
    One of the benefits of travel is learning about fascinating controversies of local land use law.  I was told today about the long-simmering debate over a specially isolated Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla, which in the 1990s was colonized by ocean seals.  Because humans on the beach harass the seals (arguably contrary to the Marine Mammal Protection Act) and because seals posed a threat to children, the planned human use did not mesh with the seals’ presence (with an interesting but not unexpected dash of classism in assertions that wealthy La Jollans preferred seals to human visitors from poor neighborhoods).  After some years of debate and legal wrangling, the seals appear to have won their right to the beach.  This sounds like the right choice to me; special beaches can be created many places, whereas homes for embattled marine mammals are far and few between.

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January 7, 2009 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)