Losing the dream to live by the beach

Losing the dream to live by the beach

by Janice Nigro

I woke up a few months ago to the smell of exhaust and the sound of a large truck outside my window, the type of truck that drops off heavy duty construction equipment. Soon after I could hear the engine of the equipment start up, and the sound of tracks hitting the pavement.

The sound that followed was not digging or pounding–it was of a house being crushed. When I went out a little while later for my morning walk on the beach, I noticed that not only was one house being torn down, but two! Another gigantic house-an out of place Italian villa or mini-skyscraper-in place of an apartment building. They were old buildings for sure with no real striking architectural appeal except for the fact that it was a beach apartment complex for a group of renters, most of whom were probably younger people with a vision of living by the beach before they get serious about something. Or were they? Maybe someone who has cancer and has decided to live by the beach while receiving treatments at a university center in the LA area.

A few days later the entire house was hauled away in a truck.

I have only lived here for a short while, but I have been a regular visitor to this LA beach community for over 15 years because of family. I saw it initially as a moderately upscale beach community where many young professionals lived. It is Los Angeles, but on the beach by the Pacific Ocean in a not so touristy area, it is like a cocoon away from all the things that exemplify LA-especially the traffic. It is truly like a continuous staycation if you live here.

But are these communities giving up their relaxed the beach is for everyone image to become a suburb (the swanky kind) of LA? The modestly built apartment buildings and homes from the 60s and 70s are rapidly being converted into single family dwellings that often take up more outdoor space than the previous building. The building that I live in houses ten different people who would be displaced for one home. We even have a courtyard that I imagine can only be viewed as a waste of space in terms of design today-big block buildings of tremendous size, relegating a big block of beach air to the indoors. “Look at all of that air inside,” I think when I pass by the Harry Potter like Gothic building on the strand. It’s city-like living but not the city…

Some call it progress, I call it evolution.

It is LA air, not clean mountain Norwegian air, but I sometimes still have to wonder if we are killing the very thing that attracted us to be here in the first place.

It is a question I am obsessed with because I love to travel, and I have a number of even more nomadic people in my life. It is easy to be enchanted by the Balis or Firenzes of the world-I love it there, I love the lifestyle, I love the culture, but is the ease with which we travel today leading to the transformation of our favorite destinations into more of the same? And is it really for the better, even in more remote or rural areas where life is much less complex?

When I finally fulfilled a teenage dream to visit Madrid just a few years ago, I wondered how it had once been on a family trip that I  missed a long time ago while taking summer classes in college.

Who really needs Starbucks in Bali? Apparently we do because you can find franchised coffee houses about every two blocks in Kuta. Convenient I suppose, but Indonesians were making coffee before Starbucks and maybe more cheaply.

Cities like Firenze, where people once traveled because of the unique family owned businesses producing handcrafted items, have become another hub like any other for the big fashion houses from around the world. Local businesses that made the city famous now struggle without that globally known brand.

I have to admit that I am as guilty as the next non backpacking traveler: I like warm showers and flushing toilets. But I think constantly about my impact, especially while diving, and wonder whether my desire to travel is somehow destroying that very thing that I am there to experience.

It seems not so different at times at home in the beach community. In mine, they are holding onto local businesses possibly in part due to business owners owning their property, but the beach community up the street seems to be losing the battle…or rather selling out. I would be tempted myself (if I owned something), but it is as if our greed is killing our own dream to live by the beach.

Ironically although property is at a premium (despite the US economy), many beach community home owners do not even live here. The result is that the rent for private and commercial buildings is not necessarily based on the local economy, but rather on who will come from the outside including the rest of LA, which of course is huge. Fewer establishments where you can walk in off the beach, and more where main dishes are offered at exaggerated prices to compensate. Not so different from Bali or small beautiful towns in Chianti where there is a huge international draw and the local people can no longer afford property.

Evolution is not going to stop, but maybe we could be more conscious in the way we do it.

©2016 Janice Marie Nigro/janikiInk.com

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