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We Had It Coming...?

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Devin's comments on our "Swag Season" entry provides us with an essential (but unspoken) observation regarding the mudslide tragedy in Ventura. He (we assume he as his email addy begins with "dudeinla") writes, "while i am sorry for the loss of any life, living in an area that has mud as its based and being shocked by mudslides is a bit like running out onto wilshire and being shocked at getting hit by a car."True. As the rain and mud abates, questions are quickly popping up like the dandelions in our front yard. Why do we settle in such treacherous areas, aware of the dangers?

In the La Conchita situation, the mudslide was not the first to terrorize that neighborhood. The Los Angeles Times reports that it was the second time in a decade hat "a major landslide had flattened portions of La Conchita, but Monday's slide was far worse than the last one, in 1995.

The 2005 landslide was so powerful that it shoved some houses onto others as if they were so many cardboard boxes. Authorities said 13 homes were destroyed and 19 red-tagged, meaning inspectors deemed them too dangerous to enter. Ten people were pulled alive from the rubble, two of them critically hurt."

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Yet surviving residents resolve to return, according to a new piece, "Why They Are Drawn to Danger," in the 1/14/2005 edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, this storm will trigger a flurry of insurance claims. The Los Angeles Times reports that while there's a millions of homeowners in the state, only about 260,000 had flood insurance. "The past has shown, however, that most claims for flood damage come not from high-risk areas but from places considered "low to medium" risk. She added that insurers would look closely at the origins of the damage. Damage from mudslides and landslides are not covered by most insurance companies."

And still we re-build next to geologically unstable hills and in canyons and hillsides vulnerable to fire, flood and earthquakes.

Los Angeles has always attracted dreamers and risk takers. Can you blame the real estate developers who push boundaries and building safety codes to service the needs of these suckers?

Danger has always been embedded in the landscape. No place is safe. Yet we think coastal California has grown too much and the lack of space has pushed folks into making irrational real estate decisions, thinking it worth the risk. Who are we to judge?

Yet we shake our head anyway. Sorry that state officials are always willing to look the other way when folks insist on their right to nest on the edge of a precipice and then expect city and state rescue teams, at the risk of their own lives, to bail them out.

Sorry that officials can't figure out how to fit affordable housing back into our residential mix so that people aren't forced to seek out dangerous areas so that they can afford to live here.

Sorry to see the local media crowd in to record the anguished cries of disaster victims each time, and yet contributes to our collective amnesia by glossing over or ignoring the danger when the sun shines.

Most of all we're sorry that while we have millions of rich and poor people here, our government coffers remain so low that our state government can't afford to maintain and protect our overburdened infrastructure.

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