Mixed messages

Recently, a new pro-Delta website for a group called Delta Coalition has gone public.

For the most part the Coalition is comprised of just who you would think: local interests. Local political representatives and public agencies, the self-described “environmental groups” Restore the Delta and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, and local businesses.

Among this last category of coalition members are a few developers, including AG Spanos and River Islands.

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The links above take you to past commentary I’ve made about the gradual suburbanization of the Delta that these two local business groups are building or trying to build. Spanos is responsible for much of the extensive development of the Eight Mile Road area north of Stockton. To the south, Stewart Tract is where River Islands proposes to develop nearly 10,000 units of housing wrapped by a greenwashed super levee. There is also extensive development going on around the western edges of the Delta by Shea Homes and other developers.

In the interests of full disclosure, could the Delta Coalition’s splash page mix in a few images of market-driven designs of greenwashed subdivision houses, cul-de-sacs and rigorously irrigated lawns as well as the predictable tractors, sailboats and sloughs?

As should be clear to anyone who has dipped into the DNP agenda with any depth, I am not opposed to development in the Delta.

To the contrary, development could be the answer to the socio-economic bind California finds itself in when it comes to the question of How do we pay for the co-equal holy grail.

But how does one develop the Delta?

I am opposed to Delta development that treats this unique and fragile landscape as if it were on the outskirts of Omaha. And this is pretty much what the Spanos subdivisions off of Eight Mile Road treat the Delta like. Sorry, Delta folk - I know the Spanos family is a big contributor to the cause, but really? That development is okay with you?

More ardently, though, I am opposed to anti-social development in the Delta. Unlike Eight Mile Road, the Stewart Tract site of River Islands is a levee-protected polder more or less at sea level surrounded by water many feet higher than the land the levees protect. So the risk of flood is a fundamental part of the design equation. The solution the River Islands developer proposes is to build a fortress levee around Stewart Tract, ensuring that his neighbors take the threat of floods on, but not Stewart Tract’s investors and developers.

Unless River Islands is proposing to build super levees around all Delta islands, protecting Stewart Tract that way is the definition of anti-social behavior in a below sea level geography.

In so many ways the coalitions in the Delta are a microcosm of coalitions everywhere else in the state. And this one sends quite the mixed message if you ask me. I’m not sure that River Islands is espousing what I’d characterize as a “principled environmentalist” position. Perhaps Barbara Barrigan-Parilla and Bill Jennings would disagree, but you’d have to ask them.

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Posted by John Bass on 03 Apr 2012 | Comments (0)

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