02/25/2006: "Friends Don't Let Friends become "Friends""
This article uses a fictitious parable to make a point. Any parallel to real persons or places is strictly coincidental.
What's not to like about the Don Juans? Beautiful, gorgeous, charming, are not adequate words. An archipelago, the Dons are like an emerald necklace. Many people are attracted to them. So it was not unusual for a fan club to develop. They call themselves "The Friends of the Don Juans" Their goal is to protect and preserve everything about the Don Juans. They have become possessive and obsessive about this especially since the "Friends" received some very generous gifts and grants from wealthy and powerful people and groups.
The money comes from folks who just visit the Don Juans a couple weeks each year and in many cases do not live here at all. The generosity of the software giant, the broadcaster queens, the Tribes, investment firms, other non-profit environmental groups, and even insurance companies have allowed the group to flourish. These big philanthropists along with many small but important contributors have created quite an impressive club (it reads like a "Who's Who" list of islanders).
But it is not all about the Don Juans anymore. Don Juan was fine before the group started but now he's in trouble. The "Friends of the Don Juans" fan club has become more concerned about political power, control of all residential development, slick brochures, and fund raising and less about being a friend of Don Juan's. Sure, they have a big staff of caring beautiful intelligent women who came here to save Don Juan. There is even a full time attorney as well as the usual firm that sues the neighbors relentlessly for the crime of building. They even control many of the leaders in the community.
The goal of the group was noble: To save and preserve the environment that we all love. But the policies and legislation they have lobbied for has eroded the social fabric of the Islands, eliminated much of the middle class, and created an "enclave of the elite" right here in the Don Juans. In fact, not even Don can afford to live here anymore. Many of his real friends feel like whores in church. They are different because they are not part of the wealthy elite class. How did this happen?
The "enclave of the elite" happened as a direct result of the "Friends" lobbing efforts. Under the guise of protecting the environment they have attempted to restrict residential development by downzoning and have supported increased regulation on all building.
Three simple principles are at work here. (1) Supply and demand; If you choke off the supply of buildable parcels (by downzoning), the price of the remaining parcels and buildings will increase exponentially. This drives up the assessed valuation. Then when someone sells one of these few rare properties it creates inflated (2) property taxes that long time residents cannot afford to pay. So because he couldn't make enough money in this limited economy to pay the thousands of dollars required in taxes, Don had to sell out for the highest price he could get which forces the market up and exacerbates the problem for others. Then (3) burdensome regulation and fees on all "evil" development (in this case residential) drives up the cost of housing so that it is so expensive to build anything that only the very wealthy can afford it. And that in a nutshell is how the social fabric of this once economically diverse place has been destroyed.
This problem does not seem to bother the "Friends". The general attitude of the "Friends" can best be described as "I've got mine, the hell with yours". Many are part of the elite. Some have big houses with docks on the waterfront. Many have guesthouses on their private estates. Some live in what can best be described as "starter castles". They just don't want new people to move here and do the same thing. The hypocrisy is amazing!
Now the groups' power and influence may have peaked. Here's a couple of reasons why. The reasons for the "affordable housing crisis" are becoming obvious to many people. It is easy to see how the no-growth agenda of the "Friends" caused this "crisis".
Secondly, they have underhandedly (and I do not say this glibly) worked to take housing opportunities away from the most vulnerable people in the Don Juans by forcing litigation on the guesthouse issue and then offering to settle a dispute they started with a false compromise that undermines the will of 75% of the people in the Islands. This is why their credibility as "Friends" is in question. So don't let your friends become "friends".