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Jack Walsh, only liberal on San Diego County's board of supervisors

The Lone Ranger rides off into the high-rise horizon

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has a lot of power here. It holds the purse strings on a budget of $300 million dollars. And it controls the zoning of 90 percent of the land area of San Diego County. As the battle between developers and environmentalists intensifies, the present supervisors may well decide what San Diego County will look like 20 years from now.

In the recent past, Supervisor Jack Walsh has been the most consistently liberal member of the board. In 1969 he urged the University of California regents to support UCSD Chancellor McGill's decision to retain Marxist professor of philosophy Herbert Marcuse. In 1970 Walsh was the only supervisor to vote against a county ordinance regulating rock concerts. (After this vote was taken, Walsh infuriated a fellow board member by sending around an "announcement" of a coming rock festival at the board member's "ranch" in Fallbrook). Walsh has also maintained a hard line on protecting the environment. In last week's vote on the Solana Beach Town Council's case, he found himself alone voting to stop the developers. Along, again.

"You might say I've been the Lone Ranger these past two years — the San Elijo Lagoon vote, the Cuyamaca thing, the vote requiring developers to include schools in their developments," Walsh philosophized as he sorted a stack of manila envelopes. The envelopes were to contain a "Blueprint for Action" Walsh was sending to friends and supporters. Walsh's office and had the appearance of natural California. The walls paneled with old planks made it look like a room in an atmospheric seafood restaurant. All kinds of antiques, an old plow hanging on the wall, an antique clock. (The receptionist had said the office used to have an old four-legged bathtub in it.)

"Last election, in November, all these front organizations for business interests contributed to my opponent's campaign. The Lomas Santa Fe trial proved that developer's meetings took place in North County specifically with the purpose of defeating me." But the builders weren't alone; the local AFL-CIO also feared Walsh's strong environmentalism and opposed him in the November election. Supposedly, having labor against him would have hurt more, since he had gerrymandered out of a coastal supervisorial district form Del Mar to Point Loma to a blue-collar district, including National City and Chula Vista. Yet Walsh, who lives in the POint Loma area, defeated the mayor of National City with 56 percent of the total vote.

Walsh talked as if developers were not a big threat anymore. "As an industry they're assuming more responsibility." But then he agreed that they were getting the smarter politically too. The weight of his optimism was put on a more concerned public. "We've seen a lot more citizens groups get involved in the fight to preserve the environment. Like the Solana Beach Town Council. Also, environmental groups are resorting more to the courts. The public defenders are helping."

If that wasn't clear, at least his eyes were clear, clear blue. They matched his dark blue long-sleeved shirt and his blue flared pants, tight around his slightly bulging middle. His bushy sideburns didn't help him look that much younger than 39. Apparently, from posters hung around the office, it was Walsh's birthday. "39 is Divine" read one banner behind his desk. A picture-poster of Raquel Welch had "I hope you're not opposed to all development" in red magic marker printed neatly on the famous Welch breasts. (Who had sent this to Walsh — a fellow supervisor? Mayor Wilson? Irving Kahn? the Rancho California Corporation?)

Walsh did not seem concerned about the rapid rate of construction along the ocean in San Diego. He has been one of the Proposition 20 citizens committee. And he said something about our having "pissed away our coastline." But he didn't see a ban on high-rises as a good solution. "The solution in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach is redevelopment, maybe a rewriting of the zoning laws. High rises are okay, as long as there is enough open space allotted to go along with them. That's why I opposed the 30-foot height limitation, Proposition D." Pushed to give an opinion on the Coronado Shores high rises, Walsh seemed to favor them, comparing them favorably to a "high-rise that might have gone up in the middle of Coronado — that's when you really would have had congestion." Walsh even seemed to see high-rises as the solution to San Diego avoiding the Los Angeles sprawl. "To avoid another L.A. here, we're going to have to shift to condominiums and high-rise. We'll have to have truly regional planning. We'll have to have countywide transportation."

Even more than the oceanfront, the coastal plain," according to Walsh, was threatened by overdevelopment. "There are 1,200,000 acres of vacant land in San Diego County, 1,100,000 of them in unincorporated areas. There, there's where the big companies, Boise Cascade, Dillingham, Rancho California, are buying acreage for towns of a hundred thousand!" But Walsh's solution wasn't extreme. "I'm not opposed to developers. I'm not opposed to development. I just want to see them pay for what they get, provide schools and adquate sewer facilities in their developments."

Walsh was also optimistic about the future politics of the Board of Supervisors. "I've gone from 4-to-1 to 3-to-2." Walsh apparently meant that the election of former El Cajon councilman Dick Brown gave him a fellow liberal, on the board, at least on the environment. He also seemed to think that former Wallace supporter Lou Conde would join him at least some of the time. "Conde bounces back and forth." And that one of the two anti-environmentalists would be leaving. "Craven will probably get the assembly seat." So maybe Walsh won't be much of a Lone Ranger anymore.

But maybe by then Walsh will be gone. He was all ready to answer questions about his future. "I'm tired of people asking me what level I'm aiming for next, whether it's a state or national office. I'm really satisfied with San Diego. The local level is high enough." As he walked over to the other side of the room, next to the window that looked out over Harbor Drive to San Diego Bay and the sailboats and North Island, he said something about Mayor Wilson doing "an excellent job" and a few sentences later something about Walsh's taking "another crack at the mayor's job."

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has a lot of power here. It holds the purse strings on a budget of $300 million dollars. And it controls the zoning of 90 percent of the land area of San Diego County. As the battle between developers and environmentalists intensifies, the present supervisors may well decide what San Diego County will look like 20 years from now.

In the recent past, Supervisor Jack Walsh has been the most consistently liberal member of the board. In 1969 he urged the University of California regents to support UCSD Chancellor McGill's decision to retain Marxist professor of philosophy Herbert Marcuse. In 1970 Walsh was the only supervisor to vote against a county ordinance regulating rock concerts. (After this vote was taken, Walsh infuriated a fellow board member by sending around an "announcement" of a coming rock festival at the board member's "ranch" in Fallbrook). Walsh has also maintained a hard line on protecting the environment. In last week's vote on the Solana Beach Town Council's case, he found himself alone voting to stop the developers. Along, again.

"You might say I've been the Lone Ranger these past two years — the San Elijo Lagoon vote, the Cuyamaca thing, the vote requiring developers to include schools in their developments," Walsh philosophized as he sorted a stack of manila envelopes. The envelopes were to contain a "Blueprint for Action" Walsh was sending to friends and supporters. Walsh's office and had the appearance of natural California. The walls paneled with old planks made it look like a room in an atmospheric seafood restaurant. All kinds of antiques, an old plow hanging on the wall, an antique clock. (The receptionist had said the office used to have an old four-legged bathtub in it.)

"Last election, in November, all these front organizations for business interests contributed to my opponent's campaign. The Lomas Santa Fe trial proved that developer's meetings took place in North County specifically with the purpose of defeating me." But the builders weren't alone; the local AFL-CIO also feared Walsh's strong environmentalism and opposed him in the November election. Supposedly, having labor against him would have hurt more, since he had gerrymandered out of a coastal supervisorial district form Del Mar to Point Loma to a blue-collar district, including National City and Chula Vista. Yet Walsh, who lives in the POint Loma area, defeated the mayor of National City with 56 percent of the total vote.

Walsh talked as if developers were not a big threat anymore. "As an industry they're assuming more responsibility." But then he agreed that they were getting the smarter politically too. The weight of his optimism was put on a more concerned public. "We've seen a lot more citizens groups get involved in the fight to preserve the environment. Like the Solana Beach Town Council. Also, environmental groups are resorting more to the courts. The public defenders are helping."

If that wasn't clear, at least his eyes were clear, clear blue. They matched his dark blue long-sleeved shirt and his blue flared pants, tight around his slightly bulging middle. His bushy sideburns didn't help him look that much younger than 39. Apparently, from posters hung around the office, it was Walsh's birthday. "39 is Divine" read one banner behind his desk. A picture-poster of Raquel Welch had "I hope you're not opposed to all development" in red magic marker printed neatly on the famous Welch breasts. (Who had sent this to Walsh — a fellow supervisor? Mayor Wilson? Irving Kahn? the Rancho California Corporation?)

Walsh did not seem concerned about the rapid rate of construction along the ocean in San Diego. He has been one of the Proposition 20 citizens committee. And he said something about our having "pissed away our coastline." But he didn't see a ban on high-rises as a good solution. "The solution in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and Ocean Beach is redevelopment, maybe a rewriting of the zoning laws. High rises are okay, as long as there is enough open space allotted to go along with them. That's why I opposed the 30-foot height limitation, Proposition D." Pushed to give an opinion on the Coronado Shores high rises, Walsh seemed to favor them, comparing them favorably to a "high-rise that might have gone up in the middle of Coronado — that's when you really would have had congestion." Walsh even seemed to see high-rises as the solution to San Diego avoiding the Los Angeles sprawl. "To avoid another L.A. here, we're going to have to shift to condominiums and high-rise. We'll have to have truly regional planning. We'll have to have countywide transportation."

Even more than the oceanfront, the coastal plain," according to Walsh, was threatened by overdevelopment. "There are 1,200,000 acres of vacant land in San Diego County, 1,100,000 of them in unincorporated areas. There, there's where the big companies, Boise Cascade, Dillingham, Rancho California, are buying acreage for towns of a hundred thousand!" But Walsh's solution wasn't extreme. "I'm not opposed to developers. I'm not opposed to development. I just want to see them pay for what they get, provide schools and adquate sewer facilities in their developments."

Walsh was also optimistic about the future politics of the Board of Supervisors. "I've gone from 4-to-1 to 3-to-2." Walsh apparently meant that the election of former El Cajon councilman Dick Brown gave him a fellow liberal, on the board, at least on the environment. He also seemed to think that former Wallace supporter Lou Conde would join him at least some of the time. "Conde bounces back and forth." And that one of the two anti-environmentalists would be leaving. "Craven will probably get the assembly seat." So maybe Walsh won't be much of a Lone Ranger anymore.

But maybe by then Walsh will be gone. He was all ready to answer questions about his future. "I'm tired of people asking me what level I'm aiming for next, whether it's a state or national office. I'm really satisfied with San Diego. The local level is high enough." As he walked over to the other side of the room, next to the window that looked out over Harbor Drive to San Diego Bay and the sailboats and North Island, he said something about Mayor Wilson doing "an excellent job" and a few sentences later something about Walsh's taking "another crack at the mayor's job."

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