19 OCTOBER 2002: THE
FIRST WORLD HORROR THAT IS WHERE I COME FROM! AND THEY DON’T EVEN MENTION
THE OZONE POLLUTION!
Swallowed by Urban Sprawl
Relocating to Inland Empire
puts people in the midst of what they fled,
By Scott Gold and Massie
Ritsch, Times Staff Writers
RIVERSIDE — The Inland Empire,
overwhelmed by unchecked growth and plagued by
is by far the nation’s worst example of urban
sprawl, a team of researchers
years, the price of homes closer to the coast has skyrocketed, forcing
hundreds of thousands of
families to search inland for affordable housing. Many
landed in Riverside or
San Bernardino, Corona or Ontario with the hope that
they had left behind the
ills of urban life.
Instead, the study says, they have found themselves in a far-flung dystopia,
region whose schools
and roads cannot keep up with the number of new residents,
a sea of strip malls
and chain restaurants, all surrounded by just as much
traffic, pollution and
congestion as they confronted in the city.
study was conducted by researchers from Rutgers and Cornell
universities and released
by a Washington coalition of organizations interested
in growth, known as Smart
faulted the Inland Empire for everything from its lack of economic
and social cores two-thirds
of the massive region lives at least 10 miles from
a central business district
to a haphazard, poorly connected road system that
makes walking and bicycling
the region’s high number of traffic fatalities 49 of every 100,000 people
die each year in car crashes
is due to endless hours spent negotiating
highways and packed, high-speed
arterials, the study concluded.
McCann, a spokeswoman for Smart Growth America, said the Inland Empire
fits the dreaded metropolitan
tag: “There is no ‘there’ there.”
building and economic development organizations, which have defeated
several recent attempts
to limit growth in the Inland Empire, disputed the
call it a blatant joke,” said Borre Winckel, executive director of the
Building Industry Assn.’s
Riverside County chapter. “I am not impressed by it.”
afternoon in Chino Hills, on the western rim of San Bernardino
County, scores of people
were having lunch at tables assembled in front of what
passes for a central gathering
place a giant strip mall called Crossroads
Marketplace. It features
a Costco, a Sport Chalet, a mattress store and an
enormous Lowe’s Home Improvement
Warehouse emblazoned with a slogan: “More of
of the tables, Clysta Keller, 57, sat reading a book. Keller said she and
her family moved from Orange
County to nearby Mira Loma 20 years ago after her
husband retired from the
military, largely because they could afford a nice home
there on a third of an acre.
Back then, it was a quaint country home. Now it is
in the midst of perpetual
construction and giant warehouse operations.
Empire, weary of being a dormitory for the rest of Southern
California, has tried to
create more local jobs, and Keller has one of them, in
Lowe’s administration office.
It still takes her at least 35 minutes to drive 17
miles to work.
many others, she said she found it difficult to reconcile how there can
so much stuff in the Inland
Empire, yet so little to do. Even a highly
anticipated soccer academy
that was built near her home failed because of a lack
of attendance, she said.
feel most sorry for the children growing up here,” she said, recalling
difficulty she had finding
things for her children to do when they were younger.
politicians like the idea of more people moving here. But they aren’t
taking care of the schools,
or the traffic or even thinking of things for the
children to do.”
Using a ‘Sprawlometer’
The Oxnard-Ventura region
ranks ninth in urban sprawl, according to the study.
Angeles-Long Beach, San Diego and Sacramento metropolitan regions all
registered slightly better
than 100, or average, on the “sprawlometer.”
growth is difficult to measure, the researchers pointed out. It is akin,
they said, to former U.S.
Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous view on
pornography it’s hard
to define, but we know it when we see it. Previous
studies have typically used
limited and subjective data to analyze it, often
relying almost entirely
on density as their primary yardstick.
new study, researchers spent three years developing a four-category
measure of sprawl.
metropolitan regions representing half of the nation’s population, the
researchers used 22 demographic
databases to calibrate density of development;
the blend of homes, jobs
and services; the accessibility of streets; and the
strength of downtown areas
and other “activity centers.”
cynic, it might seem that each category was devised atop a bluff in
Temecula, where the population
doubled between 1990 and 2000, or along
California 71, home to rows
and rows of Spanish-tile-roofed homes built with
Bernardino region scored poorly in every category except
density of development,
in which the region was below average a vestige of
older developments that
featured larger lots.
result: Riverside-San Bernardino scored 14.2 on the sprawlometer. A score
100 is average, researchers
said, and the lower the score, the worse the
attendant problems are.
Inland Empire was the only metropolitan area that scored lower than 45.
far outpaced the second-
and third-place finishers, both in North Carolina.
a pretty bad commentary,” said Philip Lohman, executive director of the
Los Angeles-based Endangered
Habitats League, an environmental organization that
helped with the study. Lohman
spent his teenage years in Redlands, in San
Bernardino County, then
earned three degrees at UC Riverside before moving to
Lakewood. “We can’t undo
the damage that’s been done. All we can do is protect
what remains,” he said.
Looking for Solutions
Riverside County Supervisor
Tom Mullen said such an effort is well underway. For
three years, Mullen and
other Inland Empire leaders have pieced together what
they say is the nation’s
most ambitious metropolitan development plan. It
includes, Mullen said, a
$13-billion plan for four new highways, including a new
connector to Orange County,
and a proposal to set aside 550,000 acres of open
space and animal habitat
in western Riverside County.
important thing is that we recognized that there was a serious problem
that we needed to find an
innovative way to deal with it,” Mullen said. “We know
it is out there. And we
are trying to fix it.”
Smethers, a retired nurse practitioner in Mira Loma, doesn’t buy it. She
said the Inland Empire is
being built backward houses first, then stores, then
infrastructure such as roads
call it the blueprint for the future,” Smethers said. “They think we
so stupid that we believe
it. That’s the part that’s so hard to swallow. We live
here in this little country
place, supposedly out of the city. And we have big
rig traffic on my street….
We are choking out here.”
a primary section of the metropolitan area that ranked ninth in the
study, several residents
defended their lifestyle Thursday and the “small
town” atmosphere they say
exists in their community.
in front of the home that he and his wife bought last year in Oxnard’s
Aldea del Mar tract, Jeff
Starr, a critical-care nurse, cited the positive side
of growth: People have some
elbow room, some distance between themselves and
other people, droning freeways
and belching buses.
work in a high-stress job and you come home and you don’t want to be
bothered by noise and commotion
outside,” Starr said.
mother lives in Riverside County, and “every time we drive somewhere, we
see stuff that wasn’t there
the time before,” he said.
he asked, “What are you going to do? People gotta live somewhere.”