Southland Scenario

Guest article by that superb prose stylist and truth speaker, Hakim of the Westside, who offers a more complete version of a recent subdivision deal in the region.Southland scenarioAnaheim Bob, as he is affectionately know to the southland’s developer community, was nearly in tears as he made his report about his visit with the Merced County planning department to the board of directors of the I-5 City project.“I’m tellin’ you they didn’t want to hear about this project. They didn’t even look at our popsicle-stick model of I-5 City with the battery-powered fiberoptic street lights and the little cars parked along the streets. And they made me turn off the ‘It’s a Small World’ music that was suppose to go along with the Powerpoint presentation. All they wanted to know was where we’re gonna get water for 1,500 homes. They kept askin’ that over and over again, ‘Where is your water source? Where is your water source?’ I felt like pissin’ in one of their in-baskets and sayin’ there’s your damned water source.”“Now Bob, don’t take it so hard,” said Project Manager Doug ‘The Bulldozer’ Mulholland. “You’ve got to understand the mindset of those yokels up north. They haven’t come to believe in the intrinsic value of asphalt and concrete yet but they’re trying real hard to do that. Maybe you should have complemented them about they way they planned Delhi and on the boon to the local economy their approval of the Fox Hills development will bring. You know, massage ’em like we did the guys in Riverside County years ago. But John, Bob brings up a good question, where are we going to get water?”John Potable’s part of the project was to worm the plans through a heap of enviromental issues, not the least of which involved mitigation for destroying 900 acres of endangered kit fox habitat. He was also the point man when it came to planning utilities for project, including water.“Bob, the plans were still sketchy on the water question when you left for Merced, however my team has come up with an answer for your planners up north that would make Walt Disney proud. But it doesn’t involve soiling their correspondence.”“I swear, if I had had to go at the time, I would have peed on a desk,” Bob countered.“We all know that the property we bought is dry as the moon and an island in the middle of a federal water district,” John continued. “We could punch holes in it until it looks like cribbage board and not find any subsurface water, and trying to get the parcel annexed to the federal district and get an entitlement would literally take an act of congress. So the answer is to import the water.”“John, how much bud had your team smoked before they came up with that idea?” the Bulldozer asked. “I know something about the area you’re speaking of. There is a shitload of farmers around there, everyone of them and each of their cotton-eyed offspring owns a gun, and you go dropping a pipe in some guy’s irrigation canal and start pumping you’re going to need Kevlar Fruit-of-the-Looms.”Anaheim Bob blanched and reached for his crotch.“You’re right, Doug, we can’t just take the water we’re going to need; they don’t have a Colorado river up there. But we don’t have to actually buy it either.”“So illuminate us. No, wait. Janet!” Doug yelled to his buxom secretary from Orange County. “Get Michael Eisner on the speaker phone. Tell him we’ve got a new idea for Fantasyland.“OK, go ahead, John.”Potable hung a map of the San Luis Water District on a whiteboard the staff had been using before the meeting to draw pictures of Mickey and Minnie Mouse posed in Kama Sutra positions one through 12. Activating his laser pointer he began, “I was eating lunch at Wool Growers in Los Banos.”“What’s a wool grower?” Anaheim whispered in the Bulldozer’s ear.“A Basque shepherd, you idiot! Or maybe the restaurant that John Madden eats in when he travels through the Central Valley - which do you think, Bob? Sorry, John. Proceed”“I met a farmer there - an ex-farmer - who owns 500 acres that are inside the federal water district and just 20 miles from the I-5 City site,” a red dot appeared on the map and flitted about inside the boundaries of the property. “He lost his ass trying to grow tomatoes on the ground, mainly because the property is damned near vertical. I mean the guy could have made a fortune selling white-water raft trips down the furrows when he irrigated. Anyway, the property has a federal water entitlement and he wants to sell out, cheap.”“How cheap?” asked Doug.“Ag land price - $1,000 and acre, maybe cheaper depending on how desperate he is.”Barry “The Barrister” Levi, who’d been playing Super Mario Bros. on his Palm Pilot during the meeting chimed in, “How does buying the land get us water, John? You can’t transfer rights from within the district to land outside the district, not without the consent of the feds and the water district. So it looks to me like we’re back to square one.”“We’re not going to transfer the rights, we’re going to transfer the water. That’s the beauty of this plan - no legal loopholes to fall into.”“Janet! Is Eisner on the horn yet?” the Bulldozer shouted.“Doug, you know Westmark trailer company, right? Well the CEO there said he’ll make us a hell of a deal on a fleet of tankers. We park the tankers on the property, fill them up with water, truck them to I-5 City and then pump them out into the water tower we’re going to build there. So you see, we’re using the property’s water entitlement on the property, sort of. I mean the trailers are parked there while we’re pumping from the federal ditch,” John explained.“Janet!”“How big’s the water tower we’re going to build?” asked Sammy Smooze, head of marketing for the project.“Big,” John said. “We’re thinking it’s going to have to hold 100,000 gallons.”“That’s beautiful, Johnny. It’s going to make a great selling tool, you know, big letters across it ‘I-5 City;’ red, white and blue banners, maybe even flashing lights - definitely lights at Christmas time. I’m lovin’ this plan Doug, lovin’ it.”The Bulldozer didn’t seem as impressed with the idea as his sleazy salesman, but by that time had decided to keep the plan in-house rather than share it with Disney.“OK John. Let’s suppose we can buy the 500 acres cheap, make the deal with Westmark, truck the water to our giant water tank/billboard and convince Merced County that a mobile water source is still technically a water source, how are we going to pay for all this?”Tim Ticonderoga, the project’s accountant, peered over is glasses across the oak table in the board room at John in anticipation of his reply.“We don’t,” Potable offered. “The people who buy the homes are going to pay for it, and then some. We’ll buy the water from the feds by the acre foot, add in the transportation, storage, treatment and delivery costs and sell it to homeowners by the gallon, by the quart if we need to.”“Wait a minute, Johnny. How am I going to sell houses if I have to tell the buyer that he’s going to have a $1,000 a month water bill?” Smooze protested.“Relax, Sammy. It’s an easy sell because the buyer’s not going to have a monthly bill, at least not a water bill,” John said. “We’re going to push conservation and technology with these homes - you know, low-flow shower heads, low-flow toilets, low-flow dishwashers and no-flow landscaping - we’re going to plant big rocks on the lots.”“Great idea, Johnny. I tried out one of those low-flow shower heads at a convention in ’Frisco last year. You have to jump around in the shower for a while to get wet and even longer to rinse off, but the Yuppies really get off on doing their part to save water for the fish. That’ll really sell. I tell you, Doug, I’m lovin’ this.”“John, get to the money part, will you? - the ‘no monthly water bill’ part.” Ticonderoga grumbled.“That’s where the technology comes in Tim. We’re thinking way out of the box on this one,” Potable said. “We’re not going to have water meters in the classic sense. Instead, we’re going to sell the water at the source using mini-computers and credit card readers like the ones you see at gas stations and convenience stores. Let’s say a guy wants to take a shower. He swipes his Visa or MasterCard through the card reader installed in the bathroom next to the shower, punches in how many minutes he wants to the water to run, grabs his rubber ducky and jumps in. The machine keep track of the time, turns the water off when time’s up, calculates the price and prints the guy a receipt as he’s toweling off.“The kitchen faucet and dishwasher work the same way. So you see, a guy can control his water bill each month. If he’s a little cash-strapped one month, he cuts down on how many times he flushes the toilet. If he’s in the chips, he takes a bath.”“This is brilliant stuff, Doug,” said Ticonderoga. “We get our money from the credit card people before the homeowner’s dry, and if the guy turns out to be flake, Visa eats it.”“I’m lovin’ it, lovin’ it!” Smooze shouted. “Swipe, you’re clean. Swipe, you’re dishes sparkle. We need one of the machines on the outside of the refrigerators for the auomatic ice maker. Swipe, four ice cubes.”“Great job, John. Tell your team to keep smoking what ever it is it’s been smoking,“ the Bulldozer said. “Anaheim! Pack your bags for Merced. We’re going to run with this.”“I’ll be on my way, boss,” Bob replied, picking up his briefcase and designer sun glasses. “But what about the Kit Foxes? Those planners up there are surely going ask me how we’re going to mitigate the impact on the damned foxes.”“Janet!” Doug bellowed. “Get me Smith and Wesson on the speaker phone.”