What was once 20 acres of land containing beautiful, functional and open spaces and a single family home was turned into a housing development by a contractor and home builder. The residential neighborhood that resulted was more compacted than my tooth is impacted.
The land was developed. That almost makes it’s sound like a good thing. “Holy shit, Bob. Your land is completely undeveloped. You got yersef a situation there, padner. Better get on it.”
Development is the process of taking natural land and converting it to hardscape. How many units per acre is the name of the game. Three single family homes on one-third acre lots? Decadent.
Four residences on quarter-acre lots? Better.
How about 8 to 9 small houses with 5,000 square foot plots? No, 5,000 sq. ft. is not the heated living space of the home. That’s the size of the entire lot. And there’s not a lot of it.
You got a weird shaped lot that won’t divide up nicely? Cram a fucking flag lot in that hole and you’ve got yourself yet another unit.
I’ve heard grown men stand in city council meetings and whine like you wouldn’t believe. “If I have to put in city standard streets it’ll cost me some units. The streets in my project should be 12 feet wide. If I have to meet code it’ll mean less units. I need a variance.” They manage to conjure up actual tears. Hollywood has got nothing on a city council meeting. “Why does a fire truck need to turn around in a cul-de-sac, anyway? If the houses burn down I can always build more.”
“Why do I have to put in sidewalks? On both sides of the street? And a planter strip? With trees? Come on!!!”
I have to admit. Some of the houses looked pretty good, like they had been placed by the magical cookie cutter of life. The same floor plan repeated ad infinitum yet with different flourishes so the neighborhood didn’t look too monotonous. At least not at first blush.
The obscenities got built and the people lined up to overpay and have the walls of their home 15 feet from the walls of their neighbor’s home. Since they were just about the only units on the market, they moved pretty much like pancakes and the developers could claim, “We’re only giving the people what they want.” Why then did so many purchasers bitch about the facts of life in their new neighborhoods? I guess they weren’t in on it since they never really had actual choice. It wasn’t like they could buy the one-acre lots on the other side of the street.
If there was one thing a developer knows, it’s curb appeal. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to look good. At least until the deal clears escrow. Stick in some plants, any old plants, and call it “landscaping.” Most of them would be dead in less than a year. Absolutely no care or thought was put into what types of plants would be viable based on climate, sunlight, etc. But they sure looked good when it was time to sell the home. The same with the fence. The same with the kitchen cabinets. There will always be some settling, they say. You didn’t expect your doors to open and close, did you?
In those planter strips they shoved in some trees. Within two years a lot of those trees would be stone cold dead.
What else can you say about an industry where every corner cut increases your profit and superficial adornments make the money move faster?
At the end of the block was “Phase 3.” It was a big vacant lot. You figured they’d build there some day. Then the bubble popped and that lot just sat. Phase 3 got put on hold. And that lot sat, was forgotten, and became completely overgrown. Was the developer around to make it look nice? Take a little care in his neighborhood? Look out for his customers? Maybe take a brush hog to it once a bloody year? No. Not unless the City finally ordered him to do so.
Where was the developer, anyway? I sure saw him a lot in city council meetings. After building hundreds of homes down a busy street, the city was forced to pay to put in a traffic signal because the intersection had become dangerous and neighbors were dying in traffic accidents. The developer was there to complain about the charges, a mere drop in the bucket he’d been asked to pay, monies that would be set aside to pay some of the costs incurred by the city (aka the neighboring residents) by his development. These fees are known as SDCs (System Development Charges). He was complaining that the fees were too high for him to bear, and the city council, loaded up with bankers, realtors and businessmen, listened hard. You could say they were a very receptive audience.
SDC fees (also known as impact fees) may help to assist in the development of needed parks, schools, roads, sewer, water treatment, utilities, libraries, and public safety buildings to the newly developed area. Without these fees, developers pocket more profits and the city and residents are forced pick up the tab long after the developer is gone.
It sure was rough for Mr. Developer. Even with those damned development fees he owned the most expensive
house mansion in town. I guess that’s why he was groveling to the city council like Oliver asking for more gruel. We saw the pictures of his $15 million home on the internet (complete with private underground cave pool) when he was getting divorced and had to list it on the market. Yes, this was truly a man deserving of government subsidies. Maybe he needed another house just like it?
If I was successful enough to own a $15 million mansion I sure as shit wouldn’t spend my free time in city council meetings asking for even more at the cost of my fellow citizenry. I’d be out enjoying the good life.
The landscaping has since died out. The dead trees still line the streets too narrow for the homebuyers to drive on. And that giant empty Phase 3 lot sure is an eyesore. I think it may be where the next season of Survivor is going to be played.
Why didn’t I ever see any of this shit on the board game of Life when I was growing up?
Greetings and solicitations!
It used to be that the school year was a happy time. A time when the junior-sized asshole humans were (mostly) out from underfoot. Ahhhh. Those were the days.
You can blame it all on politics and unions and Tea Parties and partisanship and vouchers and hog wallerin’ and mud slingin’ and clean campaigns and dirty campaigns and COLA and inflation and school boards and lots, lots more.
Is an army of darkness one of the seven seals of Armageddon? Or maybe it was a vial? I can never keep those things straight.
Make no mistake. Let me be clear. War has been declared. And war is Hell. Tranquility has been attacked and tranquility will be defended. Even if I have to asplode.
If you want to enlist, make the jump.
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Jamie Oliver is cute. He has charisma. Apparently he knows something about food and cooking. I mean, he’s on the Food Network, right? Of course, that doesn’t always mean that much. For example, Rachael Ray is not a chef. Oliver, who started as a pastry chef, at least has earned the title.
Oliver also has some good intentions mixed, no doubt, with a fair amount of desire for a hit TV show and the scrilla that would result.
Reading his Wikipedia page this morning I also see that he’s been on about a zillion TV shows. Wow.
His latest project is called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” and premiers on ABC on March 26th. The premise of the show is essentially improving the eating habits of Americans.
The premier episode features Oliver visiting the city of Huntington, W. Va., which a CDC report called the unhealthiest city in America. (Report: 2008 Centers of Disease Control and Prevention report.) Apparently over 50 percent of the population is reported as “obese.”
In a television commercial, an outraged Oliver toys with a plate of fried potatoes while he indignantly exclaims, “French fries are not a vegetable!”
Why The Show Will Fail
My prediction is that the show won’t play well here in the U.S. First, Oliver is a Brit. Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But Americans don’t take kindly to being told what to do, and certainly not by someone with an accent. Secondly, Americans don’t like being told what to do. By anyone. And lastly, Americans are doubly hooked and are not about to change. They are hooked on their eating habits and they are hooked on their sedentary lifestyle.
By the way, some are saying Oliver’s “revolution” may not be so revolutionary. According to NBCPhiladelphia.com, “there are already hints behind the scenes that Oliver’s efforts may not have been as well-received as you may be led to believe.”
In my experience, real, genuine life-alerting change is a very, very, very, very, very, very, very rare thing.
I seriously doubt that a TV show, even one with a cute and lively limey at the helm, will accomplish serious change, and, I think it’s likely it won’t even bring in the ratings to be considered a “hit.” (You heard it here first.)
In the off chance that I’m wrong, I’ll add this: If the show does do some good, I’d attribute that to the growing awareness about food and health in our country that was already well underway long before Oliver arrived to save the day. But that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t come loping in like Rambo without a jock strap, take credit for it and cash in all at the same time. 🙂