Controlling Chaos

Eric Santana Controlling Chaos There is a common understanding that growth in any aspect of the economy is a grand concept. However, when growth begins to start spreading out in such a manner that it becomes uncontrollable, there is an inherent issue. Such is the case in David Carle’s essay “Sprawling Gridlock”. Carle mentions several pervading issues and problems with the rapid growth and spread of Southern California, and outlines measures taken against the expansion.

Carle’s resolve and purpose of this essay is to describe and illustrate the issue of the uncontrolled spread of urbanization, and the relation of this rapid growth to the quality of life of its inhabitants. Carle outlines rapid, spread out growth for problems such as traffic congestion, land developers putting pressure on land owners, and the accountability of citizens, businesses, and developers in financing the repairs to this damaged infrastructure.

According to Carle, the traffic congestion that was consuming Southern California through the 1990’s was becoming a nightmare that threatened the livelihood of all of its participants. “Road Rage” was born and was the result of creeping, gridlocked freeways that frustrated commuters spent hours in getting from point A to point B. The spread, development, construction, and growth of urbanized communities along these freeways compounded and multiplied the severity of these congested motorways. This was costing two billion dollars in wasted time and petrol.

The correlation between these motorways and the urbanized spread began in the early 1900’s. Back then, the Pacific Electric trolley cars carried more than one hundred million passengers over around one thousand miles of track. The independence an automobile represented appealed to citizens and soon changed the way they commute from “mass-transit” to “rapid-transit”. This change begun with the construction of the Arroyo Seco Parkway in 1940 (the first motorway opened in California and connected Downtown Los Angeles with Pasadena).

Through 1996, California became paved with over one hundred seventy thousand miles worth of roads. However, the rapid growth and urbanized spread of Southern California did not construct fast enough to keep up with the growing mass of commuters. Solutions such as freeway widening created construction that worsened gridlock initially, created improved congestion once completed, and created a new gridlock after a couple years of growth catching up to transit. This inefficiency and spread gridlock of the Southern California motorways had an unprecedented effect on the quality of life of its citizens.

Not only were the half-million hours they spent every day in their commutes having a fiscal effect, but a psychological effect as well. Not only was this evident in the increased number (and methods) of road rage incidents, but also in the manner that the time spent in traffic denied them their personal independence. The countless hours citizens spent sitting or crawling in traffic made them feel trapped as though they were entirely limited of all ability to control their journey; the very concept that attracted Southern Californians away from timetabled mass-transit, to the complete freedom of the automobile.

This growth and spread of urbanized Southern California did not only effect the commutes of their citizens, but it also effected the development pressures of their land. One of the largest population growths of Los Angeles occurred between 1970 to 1990. The forty-five percent increase in population correlated into a three hundred percent increase in developed land area. This increase of population, innovations of the motor ways, the State Water Project, and air conditioning gave birth to fastest growing cities in California (the cities on the outskirts of the Greater Los Angeles area).

The spike in the population of these cities created increased pressures on land owners by land developers. The uncontrolled growth and spread of urbanization lead to estates and lands being bought out and developed. The psychological pressures and aesthetic discrepancies these land developers were created had a profound effect on the quality of life of citizens. The example Carle uses to describe the detriment on the quality of life of citizens by developers is the Warne family. The Warne family had owned orange groves on their (undeveloped) land since the 1960’s.

After the passing of Henry and Ellen Warne, land developers began placing severe pressures on the descendants of the family. Land developers were already constructing “planned residential communities” outside their ranch, and were doing everything they could to purchase the last bit of land from the Warne descendants. To compound the pressures they were already facing, estate taxes were to be due that would require the descendants to pay fifty-five percent of the estates total value. These state taxes and land development pressures led to several farmers and land-owners having to sell their land (that soon became more developed urbanized “sprawl”). Although the Warne’s eventually were not forced to have their precious orange groves destroyed and developed, nine acres of land they owned and designated as strawberry fields were completely eradicated by developers. The method in which this land was zoned by the city created a value surpassing millions of dollars, and allowed their estate tax debts to be paid.

This example illustrates an extraordinary effect on the quality of life that uncontrolled spread of urbanization manifested. The pressures by land developers and estate taxes not only lowered the quality of life for the land owner, but also for the citizens stuck in gridlock and all urbanized Southern California. The urbanized sprawl and planned residential communities replaced the open space and farmland. In the extreme developed spread and gridlock, those large open spaces were like sanctuaries to the urbanized mind.

The effect this had on the quality of life was that uncontrolled urbanization was everywhere, and was inescapable. Aesthetically pleasing views of natural land became no longer present in the communities of Southern California, and created a psychological void of “nature” in the urbanized mind of its citizens. Beyond the physical appeal and traffic congestion, the sprawl was having a negative effect upon air pollution and endangered species as well. Finally, coalitions began deciding that developers, businesses, and citizens must start being accountable in financing repairs to this damaged infrastructure.

After California was declared the most urbanized state in the nation, the publication of Beyond Sprawl: New Patterns of Growth to Fit the New California was released in 1995. In this publication, there was a call to arms for “smarter growth” in developing areas and communities. It also called for the redevelopment of some already developed business and residential districts as well as encourages high-density inhabitance. Beyond Sprawl illustrated that the expenses of public services and infrastructure are hardly ever paid by development profits or taxes incurred to new businesses and residents.

This meant that all development that spread out around Southern California had to start financing the marginal costs imposed in the area. The publication figured schools, sewage systems, transportation facilities, water systems and other municipal systems into the equation of calculating infrastructure costs. The total cost of infrastructure repair according to Beyond Sprawl was $24,500 for each new single-family residence; an unrealistic solution to solving the urbanized problems.

Accordingly, accumulating additional tax payers to pay into the subsidy pool was the only logistic method of sustaining the subsidization of infrastructure repair and growth. The effect this would have on the quality of life of individuals in a community would mean less encouragement to engage in government planning and decision making processes due to the distribution of costs. This publication eventually led up to the 1987 growth control initiative on the Orange County ballot.

This initiative was forged by citizens to put limits and control on urbanized growth, but was defeated when special interests opposition spent 2. 5 million dollars to defeat the campaign. The effect this had on the quality of life was quite negative because no growth controls were able to get implemented, and nobody could be accountable for financing infrastructure repairs and growth. The effects of the uncontrolled growth and urbanized spread of Southern California are greatly impacted upon its inhabitants.

They range from unbearable traffic congestion (wasted time, money, and freedom), to total loss of any natural scenery (open space and farmland destroyed for development). From the species of animals that have become endangered do to these developments, to the pressures of special interest developers upon honest, hard-working land owners. All of these effects have greatly deteriorated and relinquished the quality of life that the citizens of Southern California once moved here to attain. A literal sprawling gridlock has a substantial effect on all aspects of urbanized life.

From birth to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood, and adulthood to an elderly age, the urbanized spread influences all aspects of life. During adolescence, an individual growing up in a sprawling gridlock is influenced by the distance and time they must travel to do necessary activities (such as education, recreation, medical attention etc. ). The individual is influenced by the travel they must complete to achieve their tasks. When in route, they do not see open spaced, natural land. They see miles upon miles of pavement and urbanization. This may have a detrimental ffect upon their psyche as their minds process the artificial scenery of sprawled gridlock. This urbanized spread influences raising a family by limiting the number of activities a family may do. Due to the incredible gridlock that congested freeways create, families have less opportunity to go new places and do new things. This creates a barrier between families and the outside world. Without the ability to have leisurely outings as a family, the quality of life for that family is dramatically less than that of a family living outside of the urbanized sprawl.

Likewise in building a community, the sprawled gridlock limits the possibilities in having a thriving, happy community. Without the ability or land to build and maintain parks, a community is nothing more than a large spread of houses. There is no way for a community to assemble or have recreational activities in the wake of these negative effects. Land developers and sprawling gridlock completely consumed everything, and left nothing more for communities to share. This extremely hinders the building of a happy community.

Overall the sprawling gridlock is a complete determent and contradiction to a high quality life of its inhabitants. One may not be able to engage in complete personal freedom and independence if one is caught living in “the sprawl”. From the congested freeways to the concrete jungle, one cannot escape from the effects of rapid urbanization. The relationship between unregulated urbanized growth and the quality of the life for its inhabitants is a sprawled gridlock indeed.

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