This past Sunday, my dad and I made the long trek out to Los Angeles County Raceway in Palmdale to watch the diesel pickup drag races. Along the way, I couldn’t help but notice just how little the landscape along the 14 Freeway resembled the landscape of the rest of Los Angeles County and the surrounding areas.
If you ever get a chance to look at aerial photographs of Southern California from the 1960s or earlier, do not pass it up. You’ll be amazed at just how rural many corners of the region were and the more familiar you are with the area today, the more awestruck you’re likely to be.
Yes, I know, it’s hard to imagine that, for the first half of the 20th Century, citrus groves, crop fields and open meadows dominated the landscape. But as your grandparents and, in some instances, your parents will tell you, that was most certainly a widespread phenomenon. Of course, in 1955 one of those groves down in Anaheim was razed to make room for a shrine to a visionary artist and the talking rodent he created. It wasn’t the first large plot of land to be swallowed up, and it certainly wasn’t the last.
Today it seems like ground is broken on a new housing development every hour, spreading onto any available plot of land. Even terrain is no longer much of a concern, as mountains are flattened and creeks are diverted at an ever increasing rate as vacant dry, level areas become scarcer and scarcer.
All this begs the question: Will the idyllic Santa Clarita and Antelope Valley suffer the same fate as their southerly neighbors, becoming additional patches in the tirelessly expanding quilt of civilization? Well, if current events are any indication, it’s not really a question of if the north county countryside will be urbanized, but when it will be urbanized.
On our drive, Dad commented that there were a lot more houses and businesses along the 14 than there were the last time he was up there and there were a number of billboards sprinkled along the roadside to try and draw attention to the latest planned and pre-fabricated “communities” to rise out of the once tranquil pastures and canyons.
Granted, the various greenie militias and citizens groups have, on many occasions, successfully battled against new developments, including ones in the hills above my home town, but developers can and do pay-off the local decision makers or, if that fails, build elsewhere. Either way, someone always manages to find a way to satisfy the voracious housing appetite of a land that was once considered the last western frontier. And even with real estate prices and property taxes that are among the highest in the nation, more and more open spaces are falling victim to the bulldozer blade.
Does every last acre of the Southland really need its own mini mall and townhouses? Is there nothing wrong with having to drive for hours on end just to get away from it all and be able to see this place as our ancestors saw it? Is it possible that the Golden State is already on course to lose its luster as urban sprawl continuously wraps its tentacles around new geographic conquests?
Who knows? If this trend keeps up, I just might leave the land where I’ve spent practically all of my life in and put down new roots in the Midwest or some other locale. Not only does the march of progress seem to be moving more slowly back there, but I might actually be able to afford to live there to boot. Besides, aren’t earthquakes, brushfires, mudslides, crooked politics and smog a little overrated?
Tom Anderson, a sophomore journalism major, is arts editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.