Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor: Let’s explore historical analogues between our city and Los Angeles

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Editor’s note: Letters to the Editor have not been edited nor fact-checked.

In seeing the endorsement by the Gazette today of the Norwood endorsed slate of candidates for the city-wide election, I offer the following as food for thought. There are rather uncanny similarities between the nexus of developers, dominant media outlets, water authorities, and establishment politicians in the growth of Colorado Springs in the early 21st Century, and the same actors present in the growth of Los Angeles in the early 20th Century. Considering how much the Gazette delights in lampooning California on a daily basis, it seems fitting that we explore some of these historical analogues to our present situation:
(1) By 1880, it was clear to LA’s city fathers, to LA Times, and to developers that the number one barrier to their continued explosive growth was their lack of water. Just getting exclusive rights to the surface water and the groundwater feeding the Los Angles River was not enough. By 1899, courts awarded the City of LA all of the water. This meant disaster for all of the little folks trying to make a go of farming in the San Fernando Valley, who for 20+ years were growing fruits and nuts but needed that water. But most of the land belonged to the interconnected Van Nuys and Lankershim families, who had already built the world’s most profitable dry wheat empire. After the City blocked the water, they bought out all the little farmers and created a massive land trust.
(2) Agents of LA-based developers legally acquire all the land needed to build the Los Angeles Aqueduct and drain the Owens Lake valley. The San Fernando Syndicate including rail mogul Henry Huntington, LA Times publisher Harrison Otis, railroad tycoon E.H. Harriman, approved the acquisition of the northern half of the SF Valley the day after the City water commission, upon which developer Moses Sherman sat, approved the aqueduct proposal.
(3) By 1910, the Chandler/Otis LA Times interests along with the Lankershim/Van Nuys and other developer holdings combine into massive sales of land for the entire San Fernando Valley to be developed as suburbs rather than citrus/fruit groves. Huntington provides the streetcar network. The road towards Los Angeles as the western megalopolis is guaranteed.
(4) In this context, consider that the Jenkins family of Norwood continues to secure the largest parcels of land to be annexed into our city, such as Banning Lewis, much like the Van Nuys/Lankershims acquired the former Ranchos of the SF Valley. Such land wouldn’t be very good for development until water is guaranteed. Enter Mr. Williams, city council, head of Colorado Springs Utilities, who authors policy restricting access to new water inflows to only the largest developers. And the most prominent local media, the Gazette, gush on Williams and the three City Council at large candidates ( all of whom are known to be in the pocket of Norwood) sure seem to be the Otis/Chandlers of today.

Considering that given a highly desirable area of Western settlement such as El Paso County, the perfect storm of the transfer of massive ranch landholdings, the collusion of water lords, deep-pocketed developers, and a local media bully pulpit, should we not ask if it is now Chinatown in Colorado?

Dan Miller
Colorado Springs

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