Molested Development

suburbs_aerialI remain convinced that selling something is an inherently dishonest act…

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?

Bringeth forth thy pith and vinegar

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: