The community plan and county supervisor recognize the need for low-income housing, which this trailer park would be. Unfortunately, across the street sits a chicken ranch, a small herd of cattle, and a herd of goats. I suspect that the residents of this new neighborhood would soon encourage the demise of these ranches, just as the residents of Valley Parkway Mobile Homes made life difficult for the owners of the Songer Ranch in Escondido. The Songer Ranch has been a working stockyard for at least 30 years, run by the same family. In the late 1960s a trailer park was built next door. The new folks in town became annoyed by the scent of the country air and they complained. Being protected by a grandfather clause in the zoning laws, the Songers have been able to stay on, but their tenure has not been without troubles. The city’s health and safety department has inspected compost piles, gas tanks, and animals to the point that some of the inspectors themselves admit to being tired of the senseless frequency. Police officers have given Songer instructions to hose down his driveway and generally made requests of him that are not made of other citizens.
The grove at Mac Tan and Valley Center roads will probably be replaced with housing of greater density than Valley Center is accustomed to having. There are, no doubt, other landowners who haven’t yet publicly expressed their desire to make their land pay off. Should these land developments transpire, the words of the community plan will be prophetic, though certainly not surprising: “The agricultural base of the community has shifted over the years as urban sprawl pushed out agriculture in other nearby areas.”
Until now, growth in Valley Center has been slowed by a septic tank moratorium initiated in October of 1980. A high water table combined with heavy rains caused the failure of several septic systems, and the San Diego County Department of Public Health responded by imposing the moratorium and closing several businesses in the latter part of 1980. Four years later the moratorium is still in effect, while the Valley Center Municipal District struggles to plan a sewer; state funding is expected to arrive by this summer, and federal assistance by October. With outside funding likely, the plans are nearly completed. The sewer system has the support of most of the citizens, whose choices placed them in a tough position regardless of which way they went. To oppose the sewer could only put the community in stasis at best; some buildings under the septic moratorium would be condemned without long-term solutions to their problems. To support a sewer would open up the valley to an explosion in construction and population. Aloha Valley Center.
When I was young, I often became carsick as the family station wagon swerved back and forth on the grade that climbed into Valley Center. A small child, I couldn’t always see which direction the road would turn next. My ungrounded, unprepared equilibrium would be taken advantage of as the road unexpectedly twisted, tossing peanut butter and bile up the back of my throat. I must have thought that the difficult access would keep my home secluded; Valley Center, a lousy place to get to, but a nice place to be. In the mid-’70s this began to change with the construction of an improved three-lane grade. The county is now making further plans to improve access and circulation to the town of about 9000, a town with no traffic lights in sight. Among the plans are the widening of the Valley Center grade and a bridge, which should help circulation, and an improved intersection at Lilac and Old Castle roads, which should make for safer access to I-15.
As the county goes into action to improve circulation, I have doubts that all the new residents will drive out of the valley to work. Once the agricultural industry is moved out, some new industries will need to be introduced. What will all these people do for a living? If farming is no longer able to coexist with suburbia, the new industries will probably not maintain the rural/agricultural atmosphere the present community plan desires. Nor will they need to.
I used to ride my horse at night to the top of one of the hills above Valley Center. When the weather was clear I could see the lights randomly scattered on the valley floor. Tonight from the same view I see my house as a light in the twinkling grid taking shape along the roads of the valley. As the drive to Escondido grows shorter and shorter each year, I’m shopping at the new stores by Lyle Songer’s ranch out on East Valley Parkway. My family moved here, and I stayed for many of the same reasons hundreds are moving here today. The only difference is that I lived here while it was still country and not a rurally landscaped housing development of two-acre plots. Looking at myself, I’m part criminal, part victim, and a not-so-innocent bystander whose testimony can only incriminate himself.