The Real O.C. by Jesse Bluma

Laguna Altura

"Secluded within its own gated hideaway, the Irvine Village of Laguna Altura presents a collection of four luxurious neighborhoods, located in a rare Laguna Canyon environment, minutes from Irvine Spectrum Center® and Laguna Beach."


The photos above commodify the dream of suburban living, safety, and beauty.  While this example comes from Orange County, California it is the Ghost of Christmas Past for counties that came before and the Ghost of Christmas Future for others.  Orange County's history includes a bounty of dinosaurs, the Tongva, Juaneño, and Luiseño American Indians, Spanish expedition of Gaspar de Portolà, land baron James Irvine, Walter Knott, Walt Disney, John Wayne, and Real Housewives.  The mediterranean climate, oceans views, and large open spaces was its asset from the beginning of time to the 1980s.  City councils and home builders worked together to commodify these assets.  The lure of a family friendly environment, safety, and no traffic congestion was a big pull for many Los Angelenos.  Aerospace jobs added to the enticement for many to move from L.A. to O.C.  As of 2011 O.C. is the sixth most populous county, at the same time being the smallest county in Southern California.

Music and California is synonymous, synergistic, and self-feeding.  California is home to Capitol Records and various other recording companies.  In addition to providing a home base and fans, California has been and continues to be the topic of songs, “California Girls” The Beach Boys, “California Dreamin'” The Mamas and the Papas, “Hotel California” The Eagles, “Californication” Red Hot Chili Peppers, and “California Callin" Enrique Iglesias.  Greece had its mythological sirens, so too California has its musical sirens.

Massive in size, tremendous in population, chained to the easy life, bursting with issues, and with the ticking of “the big one” in the background, how can anyone buy “Orange County”? The commodification of Orange County may include some false advertising; however, its existence and use may not be for what some believe.  Californians do not share a single language, religion, or homeland, they lack social capital.  Trains, roads, television, amusement parks, beaches, mountains, and deserts fail to truly connect the people.  The commodification of the county is not for mere monetary capital, it is an attempt by its people to forge social capital, a common bond between them.

A county will often mess up "when it builds exclusively in its own image or at variance with the rest of society" (Rowe, p. 34), especially when it comes to housing.  It is not only local governments that do poorly, "unsatisfactory results also often occur when city building process is turned over to the market forces" (Rowe, p. 34).  Sienna and Barcelona from the 1200s-1300s are both examples of bungling a good thing.  The citizens and government officials in Sienna and Barcelona overbuilt, turned away from their original civic values, thus went from great republics to declining cities.  

The beautiful home photos above of one of Orange County's newest neighborhoods don't show you that drivers in the county spend 63 hours a year in traffic congestion.  Funny enough, Irvine city council members told me their studies showed no negative impact for building more houses, more condos, and more apartments.  Maybe they meant no negative impact on their campaign contributions from builders.  

We don't have to be militant environmentalists and we don't have to feel we have to allow overbuilding as to not betray our pro-business platforms.  We do have to think that what we allow to be built reflects our values and does impact our lives and the lives of future generations.  Dead is the suburban Orange County and alive is the megalopolis.  Is there a theme for future counties to learn from the real O.C.?

It is too late for Orange County, you may though wish to monitor future developments and let your 
city council members hear from you.

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