the visible hand

it is the theory which decides what can be observed – einstein

we could have it all: development, sustainability and profitability

Posted by ecoshift on November 8, 2007

i gather yesterday’s hearing on the TPZ building moratorium at the board of supes chambers was a zoo.

in some ways it seems like a no brainer. beautiful county. lots of land. few people. absolutely incredible coastline. the most productive forestland in the world. the beating heart of the redwood biome.

people want to live, visit, vacation here. people want to buy our wood. everybody likes our remote wildernessy quality of life.

so it’s simple.

  • we green build homes and venues for wildernessy experiences.
  • we restore, protect and manage productive forestland in a certified wildernessy way.

we allow clustered development in appropriate areas. we distribute the benefits of focused developments: we buy existing subdivision entitlements. we set aside core areas to protect the resiliency of the ecosystem. we allow residential use on existing TPZ parcels. we recover development value and we retain our most productive timber and ag land for timber and ag.

go team. everybody profits. even the big money. even the small TPZ landowners. even the environment. what’s the problem?

we are politically insignificant on a statewide scale. even more insignificant on a national scale. tossed about by national political and economic trends and veritably bitch slapped by global economic forces that are unaware that we even exist. the dollar is falling through the floor. home prices falling. credit tight. losses from the first round of subprime shakeout now a trillion dollars if not more: failed mortgage lenders, bank write-downs, lost home equity. global warming heating up. national home builders ready to go belly up. oil ready to break 100 a barrel. no bottom in sight. this hits us hard in both lumber and real estate markets.

do we pull together to protect and maximize our competitive economic advantages?
no. we piss and moan. blame each other. nurse decades old grudges. attack imaginary weaknesses in our enemies. overlook deceptive behaviour among allies — until they diverge from our narrow agenda du jour. we buy into bubble peaks and sell our future into crashing markets.

developers, landowners, ranchers and timberland owners, with few development alternatives, fixate on protecting their rights to profit from peak bubble real estate prices through underlying patent parcel entitlements. patent parcels drawn up 100 years ago with little to no concern for water courses, water sources, appropriate road access, fire safety, habitat or even access for timber management. an out of control real estate market puts dollar signs in the most committed rancher and timber managers eyes — and in the eyes their heirs.
we call this protecting private property rights.

meanwhile suburban environmentalists fixate on protecting conservation values and beating back the development bogyman using a state law designed and written at a time when timber values dominated remote real estate values and a community backlash against the egregious liquidation practices of a vulture capitalist to change 30 years of residential use patterns on timberland parcels zoned for TPZ and prevent residential development or TPZ rural residential subdivisions outside of high density sub-urban development zones. these moves take little to no account of baked in equity values for existing land owners, small and large, who’ve been buying, selling and building on these parcels for the past three decades.
we call this protecting public trust values.

and, of course, everyone mistrusts and blames the county thereby gutting our ability to act in our collective long-term self-interest while big money focuses on short term profit.

we could have it all. profitable green development and restoration. sustainably profitable productive forests and high conservation values.

what we have, is a failure, to cooperate.


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