This kind of change is occurring as San Diego's population increases. The County is trying to accommodate the newcomers with what is called General Plan 2020, an outline of what growth and development in the unincorporated areas of the county will look like by the year 2020, complete with plans for each community. Still in the discussion phase, the state-mandated plan projects increased density in the backcountry even while it proposes zoning changes to discourage people from moving there. "People used to buy property, and if they had 60 acres, their long-term plan was eventually to leave it to their children," says Marshall Lozier of Summers Past. "They would divide it in half or three pieces or four pieces, and they'd leave it to their kids." In some places, General Plan 2020 will designate only one house per 4 or 8 or 20 acres, depending on the land's slope and other factors. Groundwater availability for wells and the soil's "perk rate," an important factor for septic tanks, are also limiting factors to density.
The biggest threat to Flinn Springs residents to date comes from contractors and trucking companies, which have popped up along Olde Highway 80. "There are a lot of contractors who were chased out of or sort of pushed out of developing areas in El Cajon and Lakeside," Marshall Lozier says. "All of a sudden, they're redeveloping those areas, and contractors are trying to find a place where they can park their trucks." Flinn Springs is a perfect target; some of the land is zoned for this usage, and other times the business moves in anyway. Zoning enforcement in the county is on a complaint-only basis. The Lakeside Design Review Board, which includes Flinn Springs in its jurisdiction, advises the County on building aesthetics--signage, driveways, and landscaping for new businesses going in. But although industrial users are required to screen their yards, some of the businesses along Olde Highway 80 seem to be ignoring the rule.
Even some retail businesses are not well tolerated in Flinn Springs. By gathering signatures on petitions and appearing before the Lakeside Community Planning Group, dedicated and passionate residents a few years ago successfully battled a Ralphs supermarket that was slated for construction across from the 7-Eleven at the Lake Jennings exit.
But as more and more businesses move into the area, and as the General Plan 2020 discussions go on, business owners are running for positions on the planning group and the design review board. "We worked so hard trying to have environmentally friendly candidates elected to our planning group and design review board," says Betty McMillen, one of the founders of Preserve Lakeside Area Neighborhoods (PLAN). The group was no match for those with more money. "There are people who live out here, they're horse people, they are people who own five acres, ten acres, and they want their life to be simple and quiet," says Marshall Lozier, explaining how many residents feel. McMillen remains optimistic. "We can rally again to help protect the community," she says, "but we really need a leader."
In more recent years, another problem has popped up in Flinn Springs: drug use. With a wide selection of RV parks with relatively cheap parking fees and numerous creature comforts at hand, Flinn Springs is a great place to stop and settle --and hide out. Barbara Auckland points to a convenience store adjacent to one of these RV parks that has been nicknamed "Tweaker Mart" for the drug users who frequent it. Not long after she moved onto her property, Auckland discovered a syringe and a bag of pills left on the grounds of the old graveyard and says she has found people sleeping in the bushes in the morning. One afternoon, she discovered a homeless man taking a bath in her laundry room. "I was very abrasive--survival instinct kicked in--and I was screaming at him to get out of my residence, and he went running off with his backpack," she says. "There are a lot of vagrants around. It's everywhere out here, lot of homeless. You see the regular drug users up and down this Olde Highway 80."
It's hard to imagine that the beauty of Flinn Springs can--or will--alter completely. The hangers-on, those who have beaten back the onslaught of development, and the stubborn families with roots in the community will keep fighting the good fight, refusing to sell their property or sacrifice their view of the mountain ranges that serve as their back yard. The farms will, hopefully, remain farms; the remote dirt roads, hopefully, will remain dirt. There will, though, most likely be a sizable amount of change, something Paul Kress doesn't doubt. "This area's growing in such a way that 15 years from today, if I ever come back out here, I probably wouldn't even know it," he says, pausing. "Of course, I'd be about 110."