Saturday, December 9, 2006

More Cemetery Law: Colma, California

We really need a category here for "cemetery law."  The New York Times has a lovely story this morning on Colma, California, which is a town composed largely of cemeteries.  In a story of triumph in the face (or maybe because) of eminent domain, the Times reports that:

Colma was founded as a necropolis by cemetery operators in 1924, to protect graveyards from capricious acts of government. The businesses of many of those operators had been disrupted a decade earlier when the city of San Francisco, 10 miles to the north, evicted all but a couple of the 26 cemeteries there, along with the thousands of bodies they held. The city’s politicians had argued that cemeteries spread disease, but the true reason for the eviction was the rising value of real estate, said San Francisco’s archivist emeritus, Gladys Hansen.

For the first few decades, Colma’s residents were mainly gravediggers, flower growers and monument makers. But by the 1980s, other types of people and businesses were settling in next to the dead. Today the little city has many thriving businesses, including car dealerships, two Home Depots, shopping centers and a game room.

Still, 73 percent of Colma’s 2.2 square miles  is zoned for cemeteries — or “memorial parks,” as the operators call them. There are 17 such parks, including those that cater to Italians, Jews, Greek Orthodox, Japanese and Serbs.

The rest of the story's a great read.  My favorite line?  The last one,  “Cemeteries,” said Ken Varner, president of one of the cemeteries, “are really for the living.”  So true.

Alfred L. Brophy
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Great story! It follows a land use / local government tradition--
for decades residents on the fringes of
expanding metropolitan areas have formed
new, separate cities to preserve their lands
from changes they perceive as threats.
Their motivations are not always what we
might consider laudable.... Given how hard
it is today under state law to relocate
graves, in contrast to the 1920s when Colma
was created, is the city now obsolete?

Posted by: Jim Smith | Dec 10, 2006 11:17:54 AM

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