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Bill Kennedy: Should water be outlawed?

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: March 25, 2010 10:50 p.m.
Updated: March 26, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 
Water is bad and should be outlawed!

Water is an accomplice of oxygen in the rusting of metals, causing the loss of countless dollars in replacement fees for tools, automobiles, bridges and other major items.

Water in excess is the cause of hyponatraemia (water intoxication), which can cause dizziness, respiratory problems and more serious complications in humans.

Water is responsible for 100 percent of floods around the world, causing billions of dollars in property damage annually and taking staggering numbers of human lives.

It is time we outlaw water to stop the untold suffering it causes.

"But wait," you say, "water has many beneficial aspects - it has a role in personal hygiene, promotes relaxation and recreation, nurtures our plants and food sources and is absolutely essential for support of human life."

Revealing the absurdity of my one-sided argument to ban water is relatively easy, because it is an issue on which we all have fuller knowledge that allows us to balance our judgments. We are more apt to succumb to the special pleading on issues where our knowledge is limited or where the incomplete arguments resonate with a strongly held emotional bias.

That brings us to the coming election for the City Council, rife with temptations for the candidates to sway our judgment with one-sided arguments. One that is commonly heard - and that gets my dander up - is that "high density is bad."

The density referred to is the concentration of buildings in a given area. Detractors attribute many problems to high density: overcrowding, increased crime rates, traffic congestion and other environmental stresses resulting from unmitigated urban sprawl.
Ascribing such adverse consequences to high density per se is wrong. The adversity is the result of poor application of high density. In other words, poor overall planning.

Properly applied, high-density development can yield many benefits. It provides the means to accommodate greater growth without overtaxing our resources. The One Valley, One Vision planning projections indicate our valley will grow from the current population of some 270,000 to more than 440,000 in the next 30 years.

We are mandated by the state to plan for that growth.

We can accommodate it either with urban sprawl and the continued reliance on the automobile, or through a blend of traditional spread with areas of denser development mixed with open space.

Higher density, properly applied in specific target zones, provides the clustering of services such as shopping, recreation, hospitals, schools, transportation and housing in a manner that decreases reliance on transportation and increases the opportunity for life-enriching activities. High density need not create a traffic quagmire as some zealots would have us believe - ironically, properly applied, high density helps solve our traffic gridlock by providing people the opportunity to live near their jobs, social services, entertainment and recreational needs. In short, it creates walkable, environmentally friendly communities.

High-density development also reduces the cost of housing for all, especially when applied as transit-oriented development, the concentration of development around public transportation nodes. Such a practice reduces residents' transportation costs while spreading basic infrastructure and land costs over a larger number of payers.

High density encourages the growth of cultural institutions, social services and desirable upscale commercial enterprises that can be supported only when profitable centers of mass in population are achieved. Think performing and other arts, full-service hospitals, Nordstrom stores and the like.

High density supports the preservation of open space. Consider a 50-acre parcel. Zoned for low-density, single-family homes, the land might support up to 165 units. Alternatively, a mixed-density project could provide a "lifestyle village" of 1,000 or more multifamily apartments and townhomes, convenient retail shopping and commercial space and acres of open space.

So, is high-density development really bad? That depends on the context. The next time someone makes the assertion that high density is bad without defending the circumstances, show them a picture of devastating floods in Bangladesh and suggest they might want to ban water as well.

The lesson in all this is quite simple. Cultivate two-sidedness in your thinking and demand it of others, especially elected officials and candidates for office. If we do that, we will all be better off - Right Here, Right Now!

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. He serves the community as a planning commissioner and chairman of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., and is a member of these boards: SCV Chamber of Commerce, Valley Industrial Association, College of the Canyons Foundation and Habitat for Humanity SF/SCV. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of these organizations or those of The Signal. Contact him at wkennedy@wingspanbusiness.com.

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