Kirk Effinger: The politics of change

What is it about change that so threatens people? The almost knee-jerk response that certain groups have whenever a new development proposal is made in their community? 

Several new developments of varying nature have been or will soon be proposed in our region and, without exception, vocal opponents have leapt to the fore.

I am not against open debate over the merits of a particular proposal. In fact, I believe compromise and negotiation nearly always leads to better projects. The problem lies with militant groups that oppose given projects with no intention of compromise, only an unyielding commitment to status quo. Developers who foolishly choose this “no compromise” path do so at their peril and, in the end, often cease to be developers.

If it weren’t so maddening, I would laugh at the arguments of those who argue to defeat proposals to add housing to the region — disregarding the woeful lack of same to accommodate the growth that will continue for the foreseeable future.

The smug and condescending attitude of some who were lucky enough to benefit from growth policies allowing the development of the homes and neighborhoods in which they live is that those who would follow — even our children and grandchildren — are just out of luck or need to “work harder” — as if they are possessed of singular qualities that entitles their presence to the exclusion of others.

Development opponents have willing allies in an environmental movement that essentially never met a proposed development it liked.

A case in point is the vocal opponents of San Marcos Highlands who cite their concerns over the “semi-rural” nature of the project area not being “appropriate,” while ignoring a housing development of distinctly higher density immediately adjacent — in which many of them happen to reside.

Appropriateness, or the perceived lack thereof, is also the argument of a certain group of folks opposed to the placement of a BMX facility in Escondido’s Kit Carson Park.

Information that has been made available — with no help from city staffers, sad to say —indicates the planned facility would be placed in an area of the park currently sitting unused, sandwiched between softball fields and an indoor soccer facility. Given that much of Kit Carson Park is in use as a sports park and this site is located where it is, I have to ask — what could be more appropriate?

Another part of the discussion centers on the idea that a private developer would be operating the facility for “profit” — as if the word were an epithet. Opponents argue city property should not be dedicated to for-profit uses, ignoring the fact that possibly the biggest example of just such use is next door to the park — on land that was once a part of the park, in fact — Westfield’s North County Fair shopping mall.

Polls show increasingly people’s frustration with the political climate and opposing side’s failure to compromise.

I submit that the example should be set at our local level.

Kirk W. Effinger was born in San Diego and raised in Southern California. He and his family have been residents of San Marcos for the past 30 years. His opinion columns have appeared regularly in the North County Times and, later, the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1995. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter at @kirkeffinger


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