Opinion: Musings on the Coast


The ‘If They Build It’ Logic Trap

Ever since the Kevin Costner baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,” there has been one sentence that continues to reverberate: “If you build it, ‘they’ will come.”

The sentiment may be true sometimes, certainly in that movie, and certainly when it comes to amusement parks like Disneyland. Corporations build them for the express purpose of enticing “them” to come, and they do.

Often this is confused with an isolationist type of community planning: if you do not build it, they will not come. This was the thinking of Irvine’s City Hall when the Barranca and Alton traffic corridors were first planned within Irvine’s Village of Woodbridge (and near areas). The corridors were limited to two lanes each way, whereas outside Woodbridge (and near areas), three lanes each way were planned and built.

The assumption behind limiting the number of traffic lanes within Woodbridge was by limiting the number of lanes, “they” will that not come.   

There was one large logic error behind this, but it was a huge one. It was demographics. “They” came anyway. The population grew like crazy, and now during rush hours, the Barranca and Alton corridors are jammed. 

This is the same logic error made by Village Laguna in its opposition to changing anything in Laguna: if you build it (just about anything), “they” will come. It is like “D” following “C.” It seems logical. 

But the logic falls down. “They” are coming anyway, some 6.5 million visitors last year and rising. “They” are coming because Laguna is home to the best damn amusement park in the world, our beaches. “They” not only are coming, “they” are coming in ever increasing numbers.

There is a reason for this.  Population growth in Irvine and surrounding communities has exploded. In 1971, Irvine’s population was about 10,000.  In 2000, it was 141,000. Now, it is 282,000. At full build-out (sooner than you think), it will be over 400,000. This does not include new population growth (now exploding) in areas like the John Wayne Airport complex, Rancho Santa Margarita, Anaheim, inland Newport, and other new population centers close to freeways.

Almost every one of those new residents see the websites, YouTube videos, and social media sites extolling Laguna’s beauty. “They” see them and “they” come.

So “they” are coming whether we like it or not. There is only one option for dealing with this: do we plan for and mitigate it? Or not?

The “no plan” alternative has been Village Laguna’s allure from Day One.  Instead, Village Laguna always has planned against it. Do not widen Laguna Canyon Road.  Do not build a downtown Promenade. Do not build new parking structures. Do not allow new accessory dwelling units to be built. Do not allow more apartments.

Plan against it. Maybe “they” won’t come. How’s it working, folks? 

The answer is horribly. Ever drive Laguna Canyon Road during rush hours?  It is a horror show. Cannot find a parking place because no new city parking has been created? No problem.  Find a parking space in some quiet neighborhood and jam it up. Do not allow the new Promenade to be built?  Fine, “they” will come anyway but just not patronize Laguna’s much abused businesses.

The “Don’t Build It” Logic is a canard. Demographics always win. Until now, we’ve followed the “Don’t Build It” logic. It is a failure, utterly and completely.

Time to switch gears, gang, or it will get worse.  And Village Laguna, wake up; your failure to deal with reality is harming all of us.

Michael is co-founder of Orange County School of the Arts and The Discovery Cube.

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