Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Walk #321: Redneck unDevelopment...

My walking stick (still with turkey feather attached), crew cut, dog and stiff neck headed out for a walk on this warmish November day. Glorious!

I let Angel run for a good part of the walk. She seems to mind better the first day or two that I am home. The novelty of having me around trumps the delicacies of a Redneck's garbage pile.

Lately I've been thinking about the uproar over the zoning changes for the Foothills. The zoning changes are of a "no growth" variety--that takes into account such unheard of things as "winter deer migration critical habitat".

At odds with the large landholders are the size of lots that can be sub-divided. The new proposal puts it at 20 to 120 acres (Foothills conservation zoning). What the large Landholders want is a "Foothills Recreation" zoning--which allows parcels to be divided up in 2 to 10 acre lots.

Our Ridge was divided up twenty years ago into the 2 to 20 acre allotments. Twenty years later there are exactly ten households that live here full time. Off the grid. The majority of the lot developments sit empty (good!). Or with absentee landowners. They are mostly in states of disrepair and follow the progression I have set up below.

I picked just two properties to highlight--but there are many more.

I accidentally loaded them backwards, but in the photo below you see first the small trailer that a Redneck moves into. Followed by the mobile home.

Large mobile home on this property (trailer two)

Trailer one on this property.

And now a different property with the large mobile home.

And the smaller trailer to match. The starter trailer.

By my best guess, 75% of the lots that were divided up are abandoned. Most have trailers (like these) in various forms of disrepair. A few were burned up in the fire two summers ago.

This is what I call "Tin Can" development of our beautiful foothills. This is what happens when an isolated rural area (25 miles to the nearest grocery store) is opened up to 2 to 10 acre parcels.

So what happens? A Redneck buys a property and immediately moves a small trailer on to it. They don't have the money to dig a well. But dreams are big. "We will get to it" is commonly said (I know this from experience).

Later, a bigger cheap mobile home is hauled in. Electricity is provided by an older, run down, loud, polluting, held together by duct tape and chewing gum generator. No septic system. Human waste is (in some cases) flushed off the side of the canyon.

After a few years of living this way, the Redneck abandons the property. Usually they abandon the property because they are sick of driving thirty miles to a job site. Or they enter into a relationship with a woman who they can't talk into living "off the grid" with no water or a sewer system (women are kind of funny that way). The other thing that happens in this kind of development is that the Redneck ends up in prison as their pot growing operations get busted, have too many DUI's or they get into one too many bar fights (this happened last year on our Ridge--we shall see him back in a few years).

Butte County is wise to end this sort of parcel breakups in the Foothills area. This sort of development most certainly has not worked out for our Ridge. It would be better to have these "tin can" eye sores separated by 20 to 40 acres, rather than the current arrangement.

Leave the majority of the land to the deer, mountain lion, skunks, possums, bear, rattlesnakes, tidy tips and the mariposa lillies. We don't need any more ugly trailers!


Ian Woofenden said...

Hi Allan,

When we moved onto our property, I was determined NOT to have a trailer, though I could see the appeal of having something ready quickly. Instead, I built a "temporary house", a 16 X 20 affair made of used lumber and covered with tarpaper. We lived in it for a couple of years while getting the real house closed in, and ran a plank from one to the other to move in, using a wheelbarrow. Then much to someone's dismay, I tore down the temporary house -- I really was serious about not having a trailer... ;-0

That said, I have issues with your zoning plan, since higher density is easier on the environment overall. Or do you just want that trailer trash spread out into more wilderness? ;-)

Blew off biking yesterday, but did do the block (7 miles) today in the failing light. Invigorating. My human mind is a weird thing, avoiding something that is so obviously good for me...

Allan Stellar said...


Sometimes I think athletes (such as yourself) need a little break from their chosen aeorobic endeavors. I've been impressed with your bike jaunts.

As for the zoning thing? Some areas are best left undeveloped. The Napa Valley chose in 1968 to retain their farming character by imposing an "agricultural preserve" limiting growth. They thus avoided becoming a valley of tract houses and (eight years in advance) were able to capitalize on the wine boom which occured after the 1976 Paris Tasting (the movie "Bottleshock" documents this event).

Higher density zoning doesn't make sense for this Foothills area. We are much too far from any urban area. It didn't really work out to have our Ridge zoned that way (as all the abandoned trailers testify). So yes, my answer is to spread out the trailers.

If you Zone it, the people will come. Best not to zone it as higher density...and let the zoning reflect a place where flora, fauna and homo sapiens can co-exist to everyone's benefit.

I'd argue that all zoning should reflect a concern for the flora and fauna that live there. Wildlife corridors in urban areas. Speed limits that don't maul wildlife in migratory corridors. Access to water sources for wildlife in urban areas. Things like that. In short, plan to share the Earth with our fellow creatures.

Ian Woofenden said...

Hey Allan,

Yeah, my laziness is probably good for me (but not for you!)... ;-)

I'm against zoning, as I am against almost all involuntary stuff. I think the most ethical, practical, and kind way to preserve land/nature as we want it is to buy it. Then it is safe regardless of the next administration. Compare Nature Conservancy to Forest Service -- which would you rather control more land?

I'm also against zoning because it's people acting like gods instead of neighbors. I think we spend a lot of time trying to be gods, and we end up being tyrants and a few other things.

Bumper sticker seen today: "Be better to your neighbors and then you'll have better neighbors."


Allan Stellar said...


Love the bumpersticker--saw it on your blog!

As always, it is good to hear your opinion. I find myself in the rather novel situation (for me) of actually supporting a government sponsored land use plan. :)

As for the Nature Conservancy versus the Forest Service? Of course I love the Nature Conservancy. Yet, our National Parks have preserved way more land than the Conservancy. And one of the great fictions in the US of near mythic proportions is that Government doesn't do a good job. I quibble with that: Frankly, I have way more input as to what the Forest Service does as opposed to what Georgia Pacific does. Or the private landowner at the top of the hill who just clear cut his property. Good bye to the trout in Feather River...

Compare the job Medicare does with private health insurances--both cost wise and services provided: I'd take Medicare anyday. And at a fraction of the cost.



Ian Woofenden said...

Hi Allan,

Note that I did not say "Park Service", but "Forest Service", which has been said to be the largest road builder in the world -- don't know if that's true.

I would argue that you have 100% control over your private forest lands, and very little control over government lands. The Conservancy is much closer to 100%, and if we didn't have government in the way, they would own a much larger portion of the landscape.

And as to the cost of health care, I think if you look at the real cost, private health care will always be less costly. Don't fall into the trap of only looking at the cost at the pump or on your utility bill. $/gallon and $/kWh are subsidized heavily and costs are socialized. No different with health care.



Allan Stellar said...

This is fun! Thanks!

Working on siding the house with recycled tin and a woodstove today. Unfortunately, I need some more piping for the stove. We are painfully close to having a heat source!