Environment: Saving the Bright Land

California's freewheeling real estate developers, even more than their colleagues to the east, have long been accustomed to building just about anything that would turn a profit. When their plans are good—at the vacation community of Sea Ranch, for example, or the "new town" of Valencia—they set a standard of originality and excellence for the nation. When the plans are bad, which is all too often, they result in garish commercial strips, sleazy subdivisions and industrial parks that have already turned much of the once bright land into a gray blur.

Now the ground...

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