Sustainability and Public Policy: It’s Personal

mcmansion-350Please explain why so many people with money make ostentatious demonstrations of decadence and don’t give a rat’s ass what is sustainable for the rest of us.

In part, it’s a tale of unintended consequences of Proposition 13, to be sure.

The surrounding area here in my part of Southern California is unusual because it has many very large properties. It was all completely developed with mid-century ranch houses of average size (2 to 3 bedrooms) with very big yards. Until nouveau rich tech millionaires from China discovered it.

Now, everything they buy is a tear-down, so they can build gaudy mega McMansions of 25-30,000+ sq. ft. (not exaggerating) for their 3-person family (China’s one-child policy).

And each time that happens, one of Edison’s pole transformers explodes from the sudden overload, and the entire area is left with no electricity. Like today.

Each of these new edifices is architectural Disneyland: An Egyptian papyrus-stalk-style column from the Temple at Karnak on one side of the porch; a Greek Hellenistic-style column on the other side, to hold-up the 30-foot-high portico so there is someplace to hang the 20-foot cast iron, bronze, and crystal chandelier; a half-octagonal copper-roofed bump-out with 10-foot-tall English country cottage lattice windows; an entire exterior wall section of travertine marble, juxtaposed with the sections of red brick and brown fieldstone, all interposed with Tudor-style diagonal beams set-in; enough exterior lights for a major-league sports venue, so no one can miss it.

Of course, all that is only on the front and the confused profusion of rooflines for all the faux gables and dormers. The sides are always just plain stucco with lots of plain aluminum-framed sliding windows, looming down on their mid-century ranch-style neighbors from right-up against the property lines.

Oh, and the prolonged overlong books of genesis, wherein for weeks and weeks, everyone endures heavy trucks carrying stone and brick and concrete and entire outputs of lumber yards that erased forests, as the syncopated convoys tear up the streets so now everyone must dodge axle-snapping potholes. It’s the added bonus of a free obstacle course!

Did I mention the underground parking garages for up to eight cars, and the awful clatter of chain-driven, 3,000-pound cast-iron gates every time something arrives or departs?

After all, they can’t bear to waste surface square-footage away from some of those 20+ rooms. These behemoths often go within six feet of the side and rear property lines. Thus, no vegetable gardens, and the old fruit trees were bulldozed down.

The city government is addicted to the property taxes from these monstrosities, so there is no end in sight.

larry-wines-formalAnd thus, the entire area suddenly finds itself sitting in the dark — like today — because the newest example of unsustainability went online. That is to say, IT went on, and took everyone else offline, electrically and otherwise.

According to Edison, the area’s power will be restored by 6:15 pm. After work hours. In a short work week.

Larry Wines

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