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The Planet

The Planet
October 1998 Volume 5, Number 8


But He's a Hero to Cyclists

Dear Editor: I disagree with the Sierra Club's proposal to reduce urban sprawl in the Washington D.C. suburbs by increasing residential development in the District of Columbia (June Planet). This proposal would restrict the ability of the new District of Columbia residents to lobby Congress in favor of protecting the environment . . . or on any topic or viewpoint they deem important.

Residents of the District of Columbia cannot vote for senators or for members of the House. (They do have a non-voting delegate to the House.) The Club should not encourage anyone to forfeit their political rights by moving into the district.

Urban sprawl in the Washington area is not just caused by greedy special interests; it is partly caused by the fact that the federal government has grown in size to assume many new responsibilities of a progressive nature. Don't the new federal employees who staff the Environmental Protection Agency, protect consumers' rights; protect the civil rights of women and minorities; fight cancer, AIDS and poverty; serve in our military or pursue dangerous criminals deserve to have enough new housing constructed in Maryland and Virginia to accommodate them?

- Dominick Falzone
Los Angeles, Calif.

Danilo Pelletiere, chair of the Club's Restore the Core Campaign for the New Columbia Chapter, Washington, D.C., replies:

The Restore the Core Campaign's first order of business is not to ask people to move back into the District; it is to demand that the federal and local governments stop subsidizing and spurring the abandonment of existing communities inside and outside the District.

Residents of the District of Columbia must have full representation. It is unconscionable that by crossing the District line I must give up my voting rights. Mr. Falzone is right, this inequity will continue to drive poor land-use decisions and injustice in the nation's capital.

Sprawl Not Just an Urban Problem


People are so focused on urban sprawl they forget about another kind of sprawl that is even more insidious: rural sprawl. Zoning laws in our county (Mendocino, Calif.) encourage rural sprawl by restricting construction of homes to 40- or 160-acre parcels. This guarantees that each house will have a large sphere of influence where wildlife is adversely impacted - by pet dogs and cats, grazing animals, agricultural practices, access roads and traffic.

We should be looking at cluster housing, the old-fashioned village concept, with human activities largely confined to a small area surrounded by wildlands. Unless you're a farmer, you don't really need all that space.

- Phyllis Mervine
Ukiah, Calif.

Larry Bohlen, co-chair of the Club's Challenge to Sprawl Campaign, replies:

Ms. Mervine is right: We should focus on all types of sprawl. The June issue of The Planet looked at some of our urban efforts. Cluster housing is one of the approaches to rural and suburban sprawl that the Challenge to Sprawl Campaign supports.
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