Friday, June 03, 2005

slip sliding away

every disaster needs a scapegoat, even ecological ones. this week's landslides in laguna beach, where 18 homes were destroyed, has found its scapegoat, the so-called "sinatra house" built by developers as a spec home, never sold, never inhabited, never livable. according to the latimes, the house probably wasn't responsible for the slide, but its scale and size led residents to wonder. its very existence, combined with the events of the slide, have acted as a lightning rod for residents of the community - concerns about development, serving real estate interests before community interests, and how laguna beach is changing as its affluence increases. (mtv reality show, anyone?). the house has become a symbol of the conflict between new money excess and a type of pastoralist nostalgia for the "storybook village" - which apparently is how many laguna beach residents still see their town.

its certainly not a new story. nor a unique one. and people seem to need a scapegoat for natural disasters in order to make sense of the unpredictable and the terrifying. there is something bibical in this reaction. doesn't this harken back to noah and the ark? our own greed and depravity, our excess - warrants destruction. in this case, its not our greed - its a real estate developer's (I think they rank sometimes rank up there in pop culture representations with lawyers and car salesmen, glengarry glen ross, anyone?). its unlikely the house actually caused the slide but that doesn't refute the very legitimate concerns of unbridled real estate development.


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