Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Jamul Casino

News today the Jamul Indian tribe has revised its plans for the Jamul Casino: instead of building a 30+ story monster as a single project, now they’re planning to build in two phases. The first phase would occupy 4 of the reservations 6 acres, with 8 or 9 levels of parking, 2 levels of casino, and 1 level of offices — for 11 or 12 stories altogether (3 of which would be underground). After the casino was open, a second project would be built, covering the remaining two acres of the reservation. This would be a hotel. There are no firm plans for this hotel yet, but it could be 20 or more stories high, according to the Jamul tribal spokesperson.

This doesn’t sound like much of an improvement to me; really the only change is the nature of the skyline impact. While that’s obnoxious (under either the old plan or the new plan), the worst impacts are all still there, all caused by the huge numbers of people and cars added to the Jamul area: increased traffic, energy consumption, water consumption, and fire danger. Not to mention the rather complete destruction of the character of Jamul, which is rural (one of the major businesses in town is the feed store).

This news from the Jamul tribe seems to be prompted by the scheduled release of the long awaited Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which is due on July 26. I read this “news” as a sop to the locals, a hope — forlorn, I think — by the tribal supporters of the casino that they can get more local support, or at least less strident opposition.

I think they’re wrong,and San Diego County Supervisor Diane Jacobs expressed my feelings well in a statement she made yesterday (after being asked to comment on what the EIR should address):

“I don’t need an environmental study to tell me how flagrantly ridiculous this monster proposal is for a postage-stamp-sized village,” she said. “Residents, environmental groups, state and federal representatives and two California governors already know that the area is too rural and too biologically valuable for large-scale commercial development. The tribe and its out-of-state gaming financial backers are wasting their time and money, in addition to making enemies out of the community.”

Indeed. Though I don’t live in the town of Jamul (I live about 8 miles away from it, in rural Lawson Valley), and though the impact to me would indirect, I am one of those stridently opposed to the casino. My reasons: even the indirect impacts to me would be inconvenient and annoying (especially the traffic impacts to state highway 94), and the character of the town of Jamul is part of the overall rural atmosphere that attract my wife and I to this area in the first place. Our quality of life would be irreversibly diminished by the presence of a casino and all its associated hoopla, hustle, bustle, misdemeanors, and crime. It’s entirely possible that the impact would be so profound that we’d no longer want to live here, though I hope that’s not the case.

What I’d really like to see is this: the Jamul casino project dying such an unpleasant death, with such losses to its investors, that it is never resurrected again. Even better would be if its failure discouraged other such monstrous projects, in other areas.

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