Sympathy for the Devil

The Register's upside-down campaign for sprawl

Comments of concern like that must delight Greenhut, who ended his column this way: "It's Orange County. And I can't help but love it."

There will soon be more to love. In addition to Merrill Lynch's Treasure Island project, there are plans for 1,750 new homes in Newport Beach near the Huntington Beach border; 8,000 homes in Lower Peters Canyon in Irvine; 2,600 homes in gated communities and a mammoth resort at Newport Coast; 8,100 homes at Ladera in South County; 4,400 homes and a 267-acre office park near San Clemente; 1,235 homes near the Bolsa Chica wetlands; and perhaps at least 261 homes, commercial offices, retail outlets and a hotel crammed on the historic Dana Point Headlands. In the next few years, developers plan to build 60,000 new homes in the county.

In every one of these cases and in countless more, groups of citizens have organized opposition groups. They have almost invariably been smashed by sly, well-connected and wealthy developers. And the Register has always been there with words of consolation and support . . . for the developer.

Not that the other daily is better. Earlier this year, the Times OC lectured residents to be "pragmatic" and concede development near the Bolsa Chica. The paper also has an active business partnership with the toll road agency, the entity created at the demand of the county's developers. In a May 9 editorial, the Times blasted those few elected officials who don't always kowtow to the Irvine Co. and shamelessly touted the company's supposed overriding concern for "quality of life in the county."

Small World

When it comes to reporting on land development, perhaps no slope is more slippery than the one beneath the feet of Don Dennis, editor of the Irvine World News. The twice-weekly Irvine World News was founded and is still owned by the Irvine Co.; once a week, on Saturdays, it is wrapped up with the Los Angeles Times and delivered to every Timessubscriber in the city. Until recently, when the Register launched its Irvine Citizen, the Irvine World News was also Irvine's only local newspaper. Irvine Co. officials used that exclusivity to guide tenants in its many shopping centers to advertise in the paper; defended the company and attacked its critics in letters to the editor written under assumed names; and deftly directed the paper's story selection. Intervention appears to continue. On May 2, 300 residents of Irvine's exclusive Turtle Rock neighborhood turned out to demonstrate against the Irvine Co.'s plans for a huge residential project in the foothills south of the city. Though the Times ran the story on the front page of its May 3 Metro section, the Irvine World News did not report the event in either of its next two issues. Dennis says it wasn't an oversight but rather a matter of "news judgment" that led him to ignore the demonstration-that and resources. "We have no staffing on Sundays," he said. Does the Irvine World News always ignore the world on Sundays? No, Dennis said; if there's an "important breaking" story, the Irvine World Newswill cover it. Call it the Irvine Small World News, then.

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