By Kirk Effinger
When, exactly, did the word “developer” become a pejorative? Why do people attribute greed to a business that provides the places for people — all of us — to live, work, shop and play?
The kinds of ad hominem characterizations that are commonly employed by many in our region — indeed, practically everywhere nowadays — are clearly employed to enrage, rather than inform. I suppose this should come as no surprise, since virtually every aspect of our public lives has been hijacked by the idea that moving to opposite extremes, rather than reasoned compromise on an issue, is the default position.
As a young friend of mine said recently, “I refuse to listen to complaints about development from people who live in houses.”
That’s the crux of it. Unless you live in a mud hut, chances are a developer gave you the opportunity to have a roof over your head. If you are the rare individual who built your own home, you are a developer — or at least you are a builder who bought the land your home sits on from one.
I’m not defending the handful of bad apple developers who have occasionally been able to — through undue influence, obfuscation, or the tried and true “ask for forgiveness, rather than permission” attitude — manage to pull one over on the powers that be. They deserve to be identified and ostracized.
I am, however, acutely aware that the majority of developers in business today play by the rules while attempting to address the needs of the communities they serve. And I do mean “serve”.
I recently attended a fundraising event for a local Boys & Girls Club. Far and away, the builder/developer community was the biggest contributor to this event. While it’s obvious a major motivation for this is self-interest by currying favor with the community at large by their financial involvement, their contributions nonetheless serve to benefit the community.
Likewise, the combination of impact fees and infrastructure improvements that go along with any new development nowadays. It really should not be a surprise to anyone that, where new development is allowed to occur, the roads are better, the schools are better, the parks are better, and so on. One need only look at the state of things in vital, growing municipalities like San Marcos, and compare them with Escondido, which until recently had been decidedly moribund thanks in no small measure to the misguided passage of a no-growth initiative some twenty-years ago.
The “if you build it, they will come” fear-mongering that pervades the arguments by development opponents belies the fact that for the most part, “they” are already here. Not only that, if those who have jobs here cannot find housing here, they will seek housing elsewhere and commute, exacerbating the traffic woes opponents invariably cite as a chief reason to oppose new development.
If wholesale opposition to development succeeds, the eventual outcome will be businesses that cannot employ a labor pool increasingly weary of high living costs and the concomitant quality of life degradation will move elsewhere. You don’t need to be a Harvard economist to understand that this means lost jobs, not only those provided by these exiting businesses, but the downstream effects to the various services and suppliers who depend on the businesses and their employees.
Coincident with businesses and jobs leaving our region, tax revenues that we all depend on to provide myriad government services will be reduced.
Development isn’t a four-letter word, literally or figuratively. The people who toil in this industry are not the real estate equivalent of the “Wolf of Wall Street.” They are business people who play a vital role in ensuring a healthy, stable economic fabric for our ever-changing world.
Kirk Effinger is a Realtor and Escondido resident. He was an opinion columnist for the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune for several years.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: