But look at it this way as well. We might not have known it at the time, but when we passed Measure V we actually did a very patriotic thing. While we were busily slapping down the Downtown Specific Plan and the atrocious redevelopment designs large moneyed interests were attempting to force us to accept, most other cities were rushing to accommodate just that very thing. Mixed use condominiums with little boutique shops and other nonsense was the planning model du jour, and the very thing that we refused to accept here can now be found littering the state. And when financial writers talk about the next wave of foreclosures and bank failures, it is a result of this era of excess that they're talking about. Because that style of development, backed by banking and development concerns who'd obviously lost their minds, has been a stunning financial failure. And it is going to take a lot of taxpayer dollars to repair all the damage.
The point here being that if more cities had done like we did instead of caving in to the blandishments of the BIA and CAR, there might not be the high level of financial exposure that so much of that building boom has caused. And let's face it, if the get rich quick schemes of the DIC had been allowed to happen here, downtown Sierra Madre would now be a barren half rented wasteland, one that would have sent the banks holding the paper scurrying to Uncle Sam for relief by now.
So what is the epicenter of the next wave of the great American housing bust? According to an article printed in the New York Times recently, that city could very well be Merced, California.
Here are some telling vignettes from this article about Merced, the City that did everything they were told to do by the SCAG/COG-style regional planning organizations of this world, and ended up becoming a celebrated economic basket case because of it.
--> ... hardly anyone in Merced planned very far ahead. Not the city, which enthusiastically approved the creation of dozens of new neighborhoods without pausing to wonder if it could absorb the growth. Certainly not the developers. They built 4,397 new homes in those neighborhoods, some costing half a million dollars, without asking who in a city of only 80,000 could afford to buy them all.
--> ... obviously not the speculators turned landlords, who thought they could get San Francisco rents in a working-class agricultural city ranked by the American Lung Association as having some of the worst air in the nation. And, sadly, not the local folks who moved up and took on more debt than they could afford. They believed - because who was telling them differently? - that the good times would be endless.
--> In the three years since housing peaked (in Merced), the median sales price has fallen by 50 percent. There are thousands of foreclosures on the market. The asking prices on those properties are so low that competitive bidding, a hallmark of the boom, is back.
--> But almost no homeowner can afford to sell. If you cannot go as low as "the foreclosure price" - the cost of a comparable bank-owned house - real estate agents here say, are the elderly entering assisted-living facilities, who often have decades of appreciation built into their home's value.
--> As Merced goes, so might go much of the nation. With as many as 2.5 million homes in the United States entering foreclosure this year and, at best, sales of only five million existing homes, the foreclosure price is becoming the rule in many areas. In Los Angeles County, whose 10 million people make it the most populous county in the United States, a third of the sales are foreclosures.
--> Merced County had a record 523 foreclosures in July, quadruple the rate of a year earlier, according to DataQuick. The repossessions are accelerating as overleveraged owners see the value of their properties sink and can find no way out.
We knew the people that wanted to redevelop downtown Sierra Madre were wrong, but did we know that they were THIS wrong? The great tragedy of this country now is that these kinds of development advocates convinced so many cities that their plans were the right ones. And many were built. Hopefully it won't take too many more trillions of dollars to repair the terrible damage they have done to this country.