The visual cost of development

Visual Impact of Development
I never really noticed this until the other day, but in the Evergreen foothills, there’s a clear visual distinction between an area that has some level of development (in Evergreen, it’s usually a large home nestled in the hills) and an undeveloped area. In this photo, follow the middle lane into the hills. You’ll soon see a property line that’s been fenced off.

On the left side of the fence you’ll see a number of homes along the middle of the photo. On the right hand side, you’ll see property that hasn’t been developed. Other than parklands, this is about as pristine natural land as you can get in San Jose (Vice Mayor Dave Cortese’s family ranch is close to this area).

I’ve driven this hundreds, maybe thousands of times, but this time I felt a little sad. A few weeks ago, my son and I took a trip that took us through Yosemite, down Highway 395 along the Eastern Sierra, through the Mojave to an area just north of the Salton Sea. That experience had me thinking about open space and how important it is in naturally beautifying an area without the need to build man-made parks. The natural state of these lands require no maintenance (other than what’s required by law, rain and the occasional wildfire). These natural areas are also one of the few ways that we Californians can visually identify summer from winter. While areas of the US experience fall by the falling leaves, we experience the approach of winter as the slow greening of the east foothills.

This had me thinking about the stark contrasts between development and open space, and how important open space is to maintaining the natural character of an area.

The way the right side of this photo looks reminds me of what these hills looked like when I was younger. To me, the left hand side had me thinking about the widening of the sprawl that has San Jose has been criticized for. While the view from those homes most be fantastic, the view from down here is starting to not look so great.

3 Comments so far

  1. Dred242 (unregistered) on September 16th, 2007 @ 10:10 pm

    I remember when I came to the Bay Area back in 1988 and made my first trip south down Hwy-880 from the East Bay. Connection to Hwy-101 and continuing South I saw very few homes on the lower foothills just to the east of Hwy-101. Today almost the entire hillside is speckled with homes all the way to Morgan Hill and beyond…..wow! How quickly times change. As long as there is money to be made. Big developers will lobby to get zoning laws changed, buy up the open space land, and build, build, build.


  2. joann Landers (unregistered) on September 24th, 2007 @ 8:29 pm

    This is why we don’t need construction in the Coyote Valley!


  3. Victor Solanoy (unregistered) on September 24th, 2007 @ 9:40 pm

    My thoughts exactly. We’re so close to being LA… and that’s not a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I really like LA, but it’s one big urban/suburban sprawl.



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