If you can get over the fact that the article appears on Socialist Worker OnLine an interview posted there today with local San Diego author Mike Davis is worth the read.
Davis’ central take on the fires: they are the product of rampant backcountry growth driven by developers looking for profits, governments looking for revenues and home buyers looking for the good life that is no longer affordable on the coast. But if you factored in the true cost of these houses — lay a fire surcharge on them equal to the cost of saving properties on land that otherwise would have been left to naturally burn every decade or ten–much of this development would not be cost-efficient. What we have here is the classic free-rider problem: those who want to build and live out in fire country want everyone else to pony up the true cost of protecting their homes.
Ultimately the only solution to San Diego’s sky-rocketing housing costs and unchecked rural expansion is to increase density in the city core. And that doesn’t mean building million dollar condos down town. It means building East Coast and Bay Area style highrises everywhere, from Clairemont to Normal Heights to Del Mar to University City and beyond. Such densities would also make expansion of mass transit for more efficacious, thereby killing two troublesome birds with one stone. Of course this is an utter heresy in San Diego, where everyman should be king of his 4.5b/3ba mini-estates replete with water wasting landscaping which extends right to the property’s edge. Where the wild brush begins.