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Property Rights Extremists Equate McMansions to 9/11 Victims
[Yahoo! News - opinion]
NEW YORK--The United States should not build housing. Whole neighborhoods in places like Chicago and Dayton and Oakland and Newark and Memphis are dominated by abandoned houses and apartment buildings.
Ten percent of our national housing stock--more than 13 million homes, enough to put roofs over the homeless three times over--are vacant year-round. So why do we let developers bulldoze fields and forests to put up soulless monstrosities?
Several "model houses" at a development bearing the typically atrocious name of "Quinn's Crossing at Yarrowbay Communities" at the edge of Seattle's creeping suburban sprawl went up in flames, apparently torched by radical environmentalists. I had two reactions.
First, I was reminded of my wonder that such things happen so infrequently.
Then I laughed. I wasn't alone. Time magazine bemoaned "a notable lack of sympathy for the fate of the homes" among residents of Washington state.
Quinn's Crossing, says its website, was "dedicated to the ethos of putting the earth first." In this case, putting Mother Earth "first" led the developers in "energy efficient" 4,500-square-feet McMansions.
"The houses are out in the middle of nowhere, on land that used to be occupied by beaver dams and environmentally sensitive wetlands; the site sits at the headwaters of Bear Creek, where endangered chinook salmon spawn," reported Erica C. Barnett for the Seattle weekly newspaper The Stranger. "The houses, and their polluting septic systems, also sit atop an aquifer, which provides drinking water for the area's Cross Valley Water District."
4,500 square feet? My last Manhattan apartment had 725. Visitors (New Yorkers, most of whom live in even tighter quarters) cooed over how big it was. The house in which I grew up had 1,000; it was designed for a nuclear family of four.
What galled ELF was the developers' attempt to pass off self-indulgent, gargantuan McMansions as ecologically friendly. "The builders heavily promoted the 'built green' concept and pointed out that the homes were smaller than the 10,000-square-foot houses on previous Street of Dreams tours," reported The Los Angeles Times.
Property rights extremists raised the same point after ELF set fire to 20 Hummer H2s at a California car dealership in 2004. "There's a lot more pollutants from the fire than the vehicles would pollute during their lifetime," said the West Covina fire marshal. Even if that were true, he forgot where those gas guzzlers would have eventually ended up: in landfills, their nasty chemicals seeping into the ground.
"Think of all the resources those fires wasted," moaned Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large. He explained that lawful means--petitions, politely worded letters to the editor, speaking at public hearings--are the proper way to take a stand against the destruction of the environment. "The development where this latest arson took place, situated atop the area's water supply, has been challenged by other groups, using negotiation and the law," he says approvingly.
That's true. The local zoning board heard from hundreds of opponents of Quinn's Crossing before voting, 4 to 1, in favor.
Challenged, yes. But not successfully.
(Ted Rall is the author of the book "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," an in-depth prose and graphic novel analysis of America's next big foreign policy challenge.)