Letter to the Editor: Paradise lost? Unchecked growth is making St. George feel more like Los Angeles

A mural in Venice Beach is defaced with graffiti, Los Angeles, Calif., July 16, 2008 | Stock photo, St. George News

OPINION  In his 1949 novel “The Little Sister,” Raymond Chandler said about Los Angeles: “I used to like this town. A long time ago. It was just a big, dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but good hearted and peaceful. Now we’ve got a big hardboiled city with no more personality than a paper cup.”

Today, some 70 years later, Chandler might well add that Los Angeles has lost much more than just her personality. She’s lost her heart and soul.

The city’s unique history and heritage have been plowed under, paved over or left to decay beneath decades of social ignorance and cultural chaos. The modest but safe and decent, well-groomed family neighborhoods where I lived as a lad have turned into dark and bloody battlefields full of cruelty and hate.

Fueled by greed, complacency and unchecked growth, the Los Angeles I knew and loved has traveled the path to self-destruction for a half-century and can never turn back.

Now, our once “good hearted and peaceful” little Southern Utah town travels the same path. We claim to have come here for the clean and tranquil lifestyle, yet we seem hell-bent on making it something else. And we’re succeeding. St. George little resembles what it was a mere 20 years ago.

Ignoring the long-term effects, we can’t write approvals for new development fast enough, whether the citizens like it or not. Lured by short-term financial gain, more and bigger “mega-events” are piled one atop another to attract hordes of visitors and promote yet more and faster growth. It’s become an all-out race for the dollar with little thought for the inevitable social consequences.

And what are those consequences?

Look around you. Twenty years ago, front page news was a fence down and a cow loose on state Route 18. Today? A meth raid and multiple theft and burglary busts; a fatal car crash involving a drunk driver; three arrested for assault in a domestic violence case; and another trio booked for trying to start a prostitution operation. And the unthinkable: A 20-year-old with known gang connections is arrested for raping an 86-year-old woman in her own home.

These are just one day’s headlines!

It’s my Los Angeles all over again. Iron bars are beginning to appear on store windows. There are traffic snarls where none existed 10 years ago. Reckless drivers rule our crumbling streets unchecked, and a half dozen crashes a day is no longer a big deal. How long will it be before our city parks are ruled by drug peddlers and there are random killings in the streets? How long before our nights are shattered by the roar of police helicopters overhead with blinding searchlights and blaring bullhorns?

Growth is a fact of life here, and no one is suggesting otherwise. But healthy growth means facing facts and maintaining control. It means preserving balance between benefit and risk, and unless the risk is skillfully and intelligently managed, that which attracted growth in the first place is lost forever!

There’s too much at stake here, and time is running out. We managed the last 20 years badly, and it shows. What will we do with the next 20?

Maybe nobody cares.

Submitted by BOB SEARS, St. George, Utah. Sears is a 25-year St. George resident, business owner, author and freelance writer. He may be contacted at [email protected].

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.

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  • hb bev January 20, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    If the writer moved to St George 25 years ago, he is part of the problem. Time to be part of the solution, not just complain..

  • St George January 20, 2019 at 2:45 pm

    Bob Sears, I’ve only lived here for 15 years and the way I see it is that not much has changed, and the changes that have happened have been for the better. i.e. widening and dividing St Geo. Blvd. and the new freeway underpass at the Mall. So St George must have started going to hell right about the time that you moved here. I’ve been hearing people complaining that they moved here because it was a retirement community, and complaining because of all the families with children who are moving here. Those retired people fail to realize that they are the cause of their complaints in that with the ‘Gray Migration’ there becomes a need for better roads, more shopping, larger hospitals, more doctors and dentists, more pest control companies, more carpet cleaners, etc etc etc. In order for those things to happen it takes people to construct and fill those required jobs. Those people aren’t retired, nor should they be. They are also younger people who are raising their families. Along with that comes their children. Those children create a need for newer and larger schools, and along with that comes bigger and better recreational and entertainment resources etc. etc. etc.
    So what’s your part in the solution? Because you either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.’

  • iceplant January 20, 2019 at 4:36 pm

    “It’s my Los Angeles all over again. Iron bars are beginning to appear on store windows. There are traffic snarls where none existed 10 years ago. Reckless drivers rule our crumbling streets unchecked, and a half dozen crashes a day is no longer a big deal. How long will it be before our city parks are ruled by drug peddlers and there are random killings in the streets? How long before our nights are shattered by the roar of police helicopters overhead with blinding searchlights and blaring bullhorns?”

    1. Much of the crappy driving around here is solely the responsibility of locals. So Utah has a serious problem with the most basic traffic law. And that’s stopping for red lights and stop signs. I personally feel safer driving the streets of So. California than I do anywhere in the whole of Utah. Period.
    2. Drug peddlers and random killings in the streets? You’re being overly dramatic here. Just because this is small town Utah doesn’t mean there aren’t drug dealers. This area has a serious meth problem in case you haven’t noticed. It reminds me of San Bernardino Co. during the late 80s and early 90s. As well, opiates are rampant too. Much of them legally prescribed.
    3. Police helicopters and searchlights? Come on now. That’s just nonsense. You’re comparing a city of millions with high crime rates to a small city in the middle of the desert with a few bad apples here and there. As well, a city full of (mostly) law-abiding church-going religious folk. Hardly the same as Los Angeles and SoCal at large.

    Things changing around here is not solely based on people moving in from Cali. That’s a myth. The truth is, people are moving here from everywhere in the country. That’s what happens when cities grow. Life starts to move a little faster. This area will adapt. Put on your big boy pants, Bob. Everything will be fine.

    • KR567 January 21, 2019 at 9:15 pm

      By all means feel free to leave ….bye !

  • Gerri January 20, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Our family has been here since Brigham young and do I hate the growth, in some things yes. Do I miss how it was when I was growing up and even when my kids were young, in some things yes. On the other hand there are things I like about the growth. When we grew up you worked in a hotel, a gas station or a restaurant. If you needed school clothes you went to Vegas. Do I wish we could slow down the growth? Yes, but do I want my kids , nieces, nephews and grandchildren to be able to build a home? Yes ! For the people who move here to get away from their last city, do we make them sign a contract to not bring their negative aspects like crime with them? I wish! Don’t think it would do any good. Or maybe we could say anyone who doesn’t have at least 3 generations here has to leave? Lol, don’t think that would be a good idea either. It just is what it is. We have to make the best of it. Those of us with generations here love this place, even with the growing pains. Those of you who moved here must too. Big or small this town has heart and no one can take that away if we as individuals treat everyone with love and respect.

  • Red2Blue310 January 20, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Can we call this rural spraul?

  • utahdiablo January 20, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    I’m with you Bob, this place is going to Hell fast….we need to build the infrastructure along with all the damn houses, that means adding on at least twice as many Police & Sheriff officers as we have now along with Firemen, then add more roads, and stoplights, and water and power….are you all ready to pay twice as much Property Taxes?….yeah, didn’t think so, but the Utah greed machine is going at full steam ahead, with as mentioned, ENDLESS WEEKLY ACTIVITIES geared to bring in the flood of tourists to crowd our towns and roadways with even more traffic, to over burden our National Parks ( Mighty 5 campaign ) and to build as much as possible before the next great slowdown and recession….just wait until your property value drops in half, yet you still have a giant mortgage…and all the housing and commercial employment dries up

  • stevenxfiles January 20, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    100% agree with Bob. Only those who have lived in LA could relate to what he’s dreading. I have a few suggestions.

    1.) Let’s get all the city councils together and unify on one thing. NO rezoning of single family home residences into huge condos or multi-plex townhomes that attract transients. We want to attract stable families who want to put their roots down. Greedy developers looking to turn a quick buck and maximize short term profits at all cost can go elsewhere (Salt Lake city seems to be quite welcoming).

    2.) Support local police and vote in judges and politicians who adhere to a conservative law and order sentencing. No more catch-and-release for criminals. Thugs need to know that if you do a crime here the police will step to you quick. And you won’t get out of jail for a long time!

    3.) Let’s be environmentally minded. Face facts, this is a desert. No water should = no (or very slow) growth. Sustainibility should be our mantra. Many regions in California like Napa Valley are still beautiful because they have very strict regulations on development. Let’s be like that, not endless urban sprawl. Open space and dark skies = good!

    It is possible, let’s work together. Thanks for the letter Bob!

  • NickDanger January 21, 2019 at 12:21 am

    I see it like this: I moved to St. George, a few years ago, because of what it is. I’m invested here, bought a house, I’ve bought vehicles here, donated to local charities, joined local gyms, gotten somewhat involved in local politics, dine at local restaurants (avoid the chains when possible) – heck, I even let my Amazon Prime membership expire just so I would be more inclined to get out and shop locally. That’s how I roll, I like to feel I am an asset to whatever community I call home.

    But my plans and intentions are being undercut by greedy developers who want to turn this town into a place I, and almost certainly many others, don’t want to live. For their own profit and no other reason.

    “You can’t stop progress” is the old saying. Well, define “progress.” To me, progress and GROWTH are two completely different things.

    I am now a one-issue voter in local elections. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a single candidate for any local office who wants to preserve the small-town atmosphere of St. George, so I’ve been forced to fall back on voting a straight Republican ticket every time. And I AM a staunch conservative. But show me a Democrat who feels like I do, and Bob Sears does, about St. George – and he has my vote. That’s how strongly I feel about it.

    I’ve seen this happen before, elsewhere. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. I am hoping that at some point, St. George residents will wake up to the fact that their heritage – a breezy, easy lifestyle in one of the world’s most beautiful places – is being stolen from them be a handful of money-hungry businessmen. Maybe this letter from Bob Sears is the beginning of that wake-up call.

    I care, and furthermore I believe that Bob Sears cares even more than me, since he is a local business owner who would undoubtedly profit monetarily from all this blind growth.

    Well said, Bob, and I am in FULL agreement with every word.

    • Borowiak Mark January 21, 2019 at 11:32 am

      Nick, you’re going to need to vote in the primaries. Once you get to the general election you’re only going to have the same incumbent Republicans supporting the same things(like all out growth).

  • jaltair January 21, 2019 at 2:44 am

    I agree with Bob as well, and truly understand the crime that follows big growth of cities. California has lots of problems, biggest is the 3rd world it’s become from welcoming such sprawl. I just worry the big pockets are spoiling our total “climate” here in St George. This growth isn’t supported by our water supply or our land. We are desert, but you’d think we lived on an oasis with plentiful water falls and lakes. Ahem ….

  • Adam January 21, 2019 at 8:45 am

    While I understand where the author is coming from, St. George has many different issues. Too small to attract big business; too big to be called small any longer. I am born and raised here in St. George. My father moved here in the 70’s when Bloomington had the golf course and only 6 houses. I am nearly 40 trying to raise a family and recognize that its not the “small” St. George when I grew up, but not yet the problems that LA or Vegas get to deal with either.

    To me, if there was more industry that could support livable wages for families, then the need to profit off the shear housing development would be lessened. But, without growth and the number of people to draw from to fill those positions, large corporations will never look at St. George. To me, its a chicken and the egg scenario.

    Its part affluent retirees, part fixed income retirees, part conservative young families with little expendable income, and part college students with limited wages, that causes the economy to be soft here in So. Utah.

    Change is exciting and scary. But as long as the weather is good, the air quality is good, recreation is good, and is centralized location to other major cities, St. George will continue to be a destination for weekenders, families, and retirees alike. Those people that are making that “quick buck” are the same people that go to the grocery store and buy gas and help pay the taxes for the improvements you desire. And the taxes from the newly opened businesses are what bring about new ideas and opportunities that enable people to contribute to the city you now seem to despise.

    Just remember, the same things that brought you here then, are more than likely, the same things that bring people here now. If its outgrown your liking, there are other places out there that haven’t. Until then, enjoy it for what it is, and live your life where and how you would like.

    • Borowiak Mark January 21, 2019 at 11:41 am

      Adam, I totally agree with your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. We have kids coming out of high schools here and Dixie U who will leave because we don’t have jobs that pay a living wage. Our leaders need to bring in more light industry .It can be done just like the parks are marketed. Then well have more organic growth which will preserve our values. Not violating our General Planning principles and altering our zoning at ever developers request will control(not stop) the growth. Elect such leaders.

  • asianspa January 21, 2019 at 11:43 am

    This community really needs wake up and take a hard look at itself as well as many of the idiotic cliché’s that the dumbed down has accepted as fact. We are facing a crisis of what we are and have become versus what we wish we were and what we were led to believe we were by the hypocritical and empty leaders we have naively accepted as representing our values.

    The problem isn’t growth, it is we have failed to manage it and grow in the right way. We have to have balance and the community and leaders has done 0 to balance it and they are ignorant by pure stupidity or by conscious choice due to their own self interests. We have failed to retain the quality and developing talent that passes through via our growing Universities and technical schools. We have to ask ourself as a community that if we aren’t working towards retaining talent in a community what are we retaining and what are we going to develop into? So , here we are with our recent Washington County School survey showing 41% of Washington County Students are deemed to be living in poverty and other studies show the Washington County Population currently at 45% to be living in poverty. These are disturbing statistics and also indicative of the future as studies show children raised in poverty are 7 times more likely to harm themselves and/or commit crime. To Mr. Sears… get used to seeing bars in business windows, more will be needed. To St. George News,… you will have plenty more stories to cover and many won’t be heart warming feel good stories either.

    Cronyism has prevented competitive business and industries from coming to Southern Utah. Case in point… why do I only have 1 choice in hospital to go to? Can I have another choice other than IHC? Oh wait who does your city leaders work for ?… hmmmm The leaders aren’t going to offer any incentive or do anything that will create a competitive environment for themselves or those special elite they seem to believe they represent more so than the population as a whole. We have enough of an educated population base to support more corporate and more diverse careers. Anybody that has been stuck working out of town in Las Vegas knows this as you will wind up surrounded by plenty of SUU , DSU, and UNLV Grads. You got three unversities within a 200 mile radius and the idiot cliché echo chambers are still telling you we don’t have the population demographics to support more diverse labor opportunities?? If we are dumb enough to believe the lie , why not take advantage….

    So with a 45% county population living in poverty is this great for taxes? I think this creates a very vicious cycle as you now have the demand and the need for infrastructure but you are losing a critical amount of tax base due to pure poverty. Those paying for food on SNAP don’t pay sales tax. Those with no discretionary money to spend don’t pay sales tax. It is very hard to squeeze blood from turnips although many here are doing their best to try. So we will just depend on tourists to boost up the sales tax and enjoy the property taxes being passed along to us via our landlords to squeeze the impoverished further. It is okay, I will get a 2nd, 3rd job, a 400% APR payday loan, and maybe I will take my neighbor up and sell juice, prepaid legal services, ion pens, and every other MLM opportunity he won’t shut up about evertime he sees me getting into my car.

    Greed and utter hypocrisy has destroyed this community.

  • Nobody January 21, 2019 at 1:07 pm

    My 2 cents on this…… It is a mix of southern Utah greed (the greed machine as some on here call it) and the influx of Californians jumping ship, bringing their equity money from selling their home. This in turn fuels the greed machine even more. Supply and demand. What people do not realize is, that doing things this way, will doom this place eventually, you can not build an infrastructure based on “lottery winnings” so to speak. The people here from California are old. They will pass on and their kids will blow the rest of the money. Then what? There will not be so many more super rich people coming in at some point.This is simply because the housing market is such a ripoff anymore in most places, those huge gains will not repeat themselves. Therefore, the money train will come to a halt eventually. So my question is: Then what? Huh, southern Utah??? There is no real industry here, no specialized tech jobs and across the board the wages are a joke. So couple high cost of living, with garbage wages and little jobs and you will kill off the blue collar man/woman eventually. It is these people who keep things going in the end. All the rich retired people will have another thing coming when all their “slaves” meaning the common worker skip town. Who will serve them food? Who will repair their car? Stock the shelves at the stores? Rid their house of pests and so on??? The problem is in full swing already, look at the homeless situation anymore and drug use (not talking about weed either) actual drug use. These are symptoms of a failing system. Look at San Francisco that is the extreme end of what is starting to develop. As for the gentleman that said, there is only a few bad apples and people are exaggerating…..HAHAHA, are you kidding me? Listen to a police scanner over the course of a few days. here is a great local live scanner radio feed you can listen to: http://www.scan-stg.wix.com/live
    Have a listen for a bit. I think you will change your mind. The problem is huge, considering the size of the St. George area. I have been here since the 90’s and this place is nothing like it used to be. I am so glad I live away from town, far enough to where the garbage down there does not affect me, apart from shopping and commuting to work. To me this is all logic and will be inevitable, some change is good and this place needs it, however the way its being done is all wrong. Good day to one and all…..

  • TinFoilHat January 21, 2019 at 7:05 pm

    I think we’re not able to see the forest for the trees. St. George does indeed have a growth problem. SO DOES THE WORLD. Are Las Vegas, Phoenix, California, Salt Lake City, are any of those places seeing population declines? Anywhere in the west? The answer is no. If you have had more than 2 or 3 children, you are part of the problem. Everyone is talking about growth where they live because it’s happening everywhere. We can talk about how best to manage growth in our town, but ignoring rampant population increase worldwide will only put off the inevitable. The world population has grown 150%, from 3 billion to 7.5 billion, in my lifetime alone, and I’m not that old. Land and resources will become more scarce, and thus more expensive, worldwide. That includes right here in STG, where land and real estate is the biggest industry alongside government and health care (it’s no accident that housing, healthcare and taxes tend to top my expense list), and we are building crappy future slums on overpriced parcels faster than a gasoline fire on a hot summer day. Our cherished natural resources are being squandered by unsustainable development, our local, state and national parks and other special outdoor treasures are overrun with people who don’t care about preservation. Hiking areas near town are crowded, trashed and tagged with graffiti. Traffic is dismal. Smog is everywhere now, not only due to growth here in STG but also from Vegas, Phoenix, California and SLC. There is so much air pollution regionally that it can’t go anywhere. And with all those four wheeler/OHV sales lots now, everyone will get one and tear up the land even more (it only takes a few bad apples to really cause some damage). There are simply too many humans on this planet, and billions more will be added soon enough. And speaking of that, you know what loves more people? Our consumerist society. We are essentially being farmed to create wealth for mega corporations. We are human livestock, and they are constantly trying to figure out what essentials we can do without to improve the bottom line. They need more people to buy more stuff and make those top 26 billionaires — that’s right, just 26 people that own half of everything in this world — even more wealthy. Problem is, wages will not grow at the same rate. They don’t need to, because people are expendable now. The homeless population will continue to grow. This is what an oligarchy looks like, people. We can’t just put a sign up outside town that says No Vacancy. We have some harder choices to make. This world is not an infinite place. People need to stop having so many babies, and we need to temper our consumerism.

  • KR567 January 21, 2019 at 9:29 pm

    Growth is good ..it creates jobs and boosts the local economy and creates a competitive environment for the businesses which helps keep prices lower. better medical care and more opportunities in work and recreational areas …Its all been a positive move for St George

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