Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More heated debate over the Villages of Lakeview

Developers behind The Villages of Lakeview project have scaled down their proposal and turned to Riverside County officials for a second approval. The first proposal, which was found to be too environmentally prohibitive in court, proposed adding more than 11,000 homes in the rural and agricultural town of Lakeview, located between Hemet and Perris along the Ramona Expressway.

The scaled-down version proposes approximately 8,700 homes and a sprawling 1.3 million square feet of combined commercial and retail space. Talk about mixing undesired urban sprawl with a much desired and much need job market. According to the Press Enterprise, both the Sierra Club and the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society are seriously questioning the revision, and for good reason. The proposed development still covers sprawling acres of undeveloped or agricultural land. To be fair, the Inland Empire's economy could certainly use the added marketplace jobs, but as mentioned before, both the I-215 and SR-91 simply cannot handle the added commuter traffic. Therefore, this project should be debated, but public officials must remain firm on their commitments to counter worsened traffic congestion, potential disruption to natural ecosystems and car-centric development.

If demographics dictate that the majority of Lakeview's residents will end up commuting to jobs in Orange County or Downtown Riverside, getting developer funds to start up all-day Metrolink train service along the Perris Valley Line corridor, launching all-day hub-and-spoke RTA bus lines, and paying off some of RCTC's bond debt for the 91 Express Lanes extension will need to be part of negotiations; otherwise, the development will be just another car-oriented example of urban sprawl which deserves to be opposed. The Inland Empire cannot thrive if its streets and highways operate under forced traffic flow conditions. We simply cannot continue to have transit infrastructure with ongoing "F's" in level-of-service. If, however, both the ecosystem and Riverside County's regional transportation infrastructure can handle the economic boost of the Villages of Lakeview by maintaining a "C" or better in level-of-service (stable traffic flow), the Inland Empire as we know it should be okay.

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