View From Lodi, CA: Golden State Farmland Disappearing Under Immigration-Driven Construction

On
February 14th, the Associated Press reported
that during the last two years developers gobbled up
irreplaceable California agricultural land for the
purposes of new home and strip mall construction. [
San
Joaquin Farmland Disappearing At A Record Rate
,
Associated Press, February 14, 2007]

Specifically, according to Molly Penbreth, manager of
the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program of the
California Department of Conservation:

“In just two years, more than 18,800 acres of farmland
in several San Joaquin Valley counties became
subdivisions, shopping malls or other developments,
setting a new state record for loss of farmland,
according to newly released state data. A healthy real
estate and construction market spurred farmers in
Fresno, Kings, Madera, Tulare and Merced counties to
sell 18,801 acres between June 2002 and June 2004.”

Penbreth added that
Fresno County, the nation`s No.1 agriculture county in
production value, lost the

most farmland.
 Sadly, parking lots at California
State University, Fresno, new schools and 100 acres of
new homes in Selma replaced crops

Bridgett Luther, the
Conservation Department`s Director, reminded
Californians that: "A couple of generations ago,
Los Angeles County was the leading agriculture county in
the nation. Not anymore. One generation ago,

Silicon Valley
was known as,

`The Valley of Heart`s Delight
` because of all the
agriculture production."

Preliminary data from the program that tracks land
development found roughly 26 acres of farmland
were removed from production each day in the two-year
period.

Given
this grim background, it is not surprising that the

Lodi City Council
approved by a 3-1 vote the

Stockton-based FBC Homes
Westside development
project. [Westside
Project OK`d
,"
Lodi News-Sentinel, Matt
Brown, March 22, 2007]

According to the News-Sentinel, the 151-acre
development will include 745 homes and a new school.
Despite mounting foreclosures, plunging prices and an
increase in unsold homes inventory in the

San Joaquin Valley,
these projects are never voted
down.

Sprawl
is an

insidious problem
that slowly but inevitably takes
over communities like Lodi most often without the
support of the general population.

Developers like FBC—whose 250-acre Southwest Gateway
project in Lodi was approved in November—stress
perceived benefits. In the case of the Westside
development those include 24 acres of parks, the
renovation of 25 Eastside homes and donations to public
art and the Hutchins Street Square. [
Lodi`s
Southwest Gateway Project Clears A Hurdle
, Chris
Nichols, Lodi News-Sentinel, March 17, 2007]

But
rarely taken into account are issues that create a
lasting impact on society: traffic, water shortages,

overpopulation
, noise and air pollution and more
cement everywhere.

These
don`t go away—no matter how many donations are given.

Among
the many problems for people like myself who prefer less
to more are that real estate development is the economic
engine that drives California.

Look at

who contributes
—and how much they give— to Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger`s war chest. Through January 4,
2007,

real estate development companies
donated a total of
nearly $16 million, nearly $4 million more than banking
and finance and five times as much as farming and
agriculture.

As long
as growth is California`s mantra,

sprawl will grind on
…no matter what you or I may
want.

With no
end in sight to urban sprawl, here`s a reminder to those
who support more development and to those who sit
passively by and

let it change our lifestyles.

Whether
it`s soil, sunshine or water, the

earth provides only so much.
We need to protect what
we have while we can.

When
natural resources are gone, they`re gone for good.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.