November 3, 2007

Strollers In The News: Rancho Bernardo Edition


From Dan's thoughtful City of Sound post about the implications of suburban planning on the California fires, there's this wire service photo of a young couple and their BOB Ironman.

The city as destructive system: wildfires, Dresden and the case against urban sprawl []


Just thought I'd write in to say that this is a picture of some of my parents' neighbors in front of one of the houses down the street from them (their own place is smoky but otherwise OK). I spent most of my childhood in this very conservative little planned community and work there still today when in SD. I consider it to be one of the most boring places on Earth where absolutely nothing of interest has ever happened - until now. It's strange to see the name of this little suburb that nobody had ever heard of (including many San Diegans!) now discussed in the national and international press. Having you mention it in Daddytypes is is the crowning moment.

[how odd/depressing that I've known about RB for years, just never been. too bad something exciting happened, though. -ed.]

Now that I've had time to get over my initial shock and actually read the article, I have to say that it the author makes some good points, but that few of them actually apply to the situation in San Diego. What made the fires here (both now and in 2003) so destructive and shocking to us was that they destroyed not new developments on the edge of suburban sprawl, but long-established neighborhoods well within the city that had long been considered out of danger from wildfires. Those newer homes in the sprawling suburbs on the edge of the city are extemely fire resistant and have generally survived without much damage - even when the fire was in their backyards. The homes that are burning are frequently the older homes closer to the city center, which used construction techniques (post and beam, wood siding and shingles, deep, exposed eaves / overhangs) that make them particularly vulnerable to catching the burning embers that are carried up to a mile away by the strong winds. Of course, recent years of intermittent heavy rains and drought have created a lot of fuel to burn out there, so climate change is a big part of it, too. I'm definitely not a fan of the sprawl (I live in one of those tinderbox mid-century modern houses close to the city center), but don't think that has much to do with it here (except that all those sprawling mcmansions are contributing to the energy crunch. )

[Good point about the era of the houses. I remember when most CA fire stories involved cedar shingles blowing around, spreading the fire. I think Dan's argument may be better supported in Australia, or by the forest fires in once-rural spots where the forest has been populated with homes. -ed.]

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