A Newsletter about California Water, Land, and People

California Land

Competition for Land

The use of California land - for living, farming, working, extracting natural resources, and money-making, as well as for simply playing and appreciating - is subject to competition as never before.

Competition manifests itself in many ways: high housing costs and shortages of affordable housing; high-rise office buildings; gentrification of urban neighborhoods; displacement of low-income tenants, especially seniors and poor families; residential subdivisions along many state freeways butting up against farms; computerized reservation systems for camping at state and national parks; fallow farm lands with "For Sale" signs on them; persistent urban and rural homelessness.

Flooding on San Lorenzo River, 1955.
Photo Courtesy of Water Resources Center Archives,
University of California at Berkeley.

Industrial production in modern society also creates "sacrifice areas" such as landfills, toxic waste sites, oil and chemical refineries and production fields. These are lands which people with sufficient wealth and means prefer to live away from. Those who cannot avoide these "locally unwanted land uses" may be forced to accept housing in communities adjacent to these areas. In this way, competition for land in California helps to allocate the health and pollution risks of living near to sacrifice areas.

But the competiton for land in California extends as well to competition between human settlements and the natural habitats of wildlife: the forests and wildlands of California's rural and suburban edge communities. This competition manifests as:


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