Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Boca Chica vs. SpaceX. (Good luck, Boca Chicans.)

Boca Chica Village is about as far south as you can get in South Texas. It’s a tiny gulf town, poor and sparsely populated: 26 folks – “mainly seasonal blue-collar workers and retirees” – who like the beach, and don’t care if there’s not much doing in town. To get in on any action, you have to trek on over to Brownsville, the area’s “big city, 22 miles away. Folks in Boca Chica Village pretty much like it that way.

But Elon Musk’s SpaceX needed a site for his commercial rocket-launch business. They’d been using government facilities – Vandenberg AFB and Cape Canaveral – for their early work, but needed a place to call home. And, let’s face it, they weren’t going to find it in Central Park.

Certainly not after the state of Texas wooed them with $15M worth of incentives, and a local economic-development group anted up another $5M.

Then the Musk-ovites started blowing into town.

The company began snapping up more land in the area, renaming roads, such as Rocket Road and Mars Crossing. Then last spring, it bought a house on Weems Street, the heart of the village with two lanes and crumbling asphalt.

Residents grew suspicious -- why would a billionaire want to own a $37,000 home with no running water, bars on the windows and a rusty horseshoe hanging over the front door? Although SpaceX has used the house, now equipped with security cameras, for public meetings, neighbors remain on edge. (Source: Bloomberg)

Shouldn’t that be why would anyone “want to own a $37,000 home with no running water, bars on the windows and a rusty horseshoe hanging over the front door?”

But, hey, I haven’t been to Boca Chica Village, and it may be worth the no running water, etc. etc.

Space junkies are also looking to buy in so that they can get a bird’s eye view of the Mars launch and whatever else is going to get shot into space.

And now the locals are going NIMBY on the deal.

The residents say SpaceX representatives told them recently they would be required to register with the county, wear badges and pass through checkpoints on launch days, which will occur about once a month beginning as soon as next year. During a 15-hour launch time frame, their movement around the village could be restricted. If they happen to be picking up groceries past a designated "point of no return," forget about going home.

Even worse that those stinkin’ badges, SpaceX is considering using video surveillance and drones to keep an eye on the beach. 

"I’m like, ‘Are you out of your mind?’" said Cheryl Stevens, 55, who settled in Boca Chica Village a decade ago in search of quiet, rustic beauty. "It’s like Nazi Germany."

Well, not exactly like Nazi Germany, but I can understand the annoyance factor, the worrying about having your peace disturbed, your quiet pounded down, drones spying on you when you head in for a quick dip.

After all, Boston just dodged a bullet when the city backed out of the bid for the 2024 Olympics. One proposal was for beach volleyball on Boston Common, another was to turn the Boston Public Garden into some sort of velodrome for bike racing. Forget NIMBY. On this one I was going all NIMFY: Not In MY Front Yard!

So I get the concerns. You want one thing, and life sometimes hands you another.

But while I could see absolutely no benefit to having a mini-Tour de France spinning out of control across the street from my house, I can see that there might be some upside for Boca Chica Villagers.

The first and most obvious is that property values will go up.

Admittedly, it won’t do you much good if you manage to sell a house you paid $50K for $100K and can’t find any other waterfront property to buy for even that higher amount. But I suspect there are other poor South Texas beach towns that haven’t yet been turned into resorts or spring break destinations where you might be able to find a place.

That said, if you don’t want to move from your community, you don’t want to moved from your community.

But there are other upsides. The crumbling asphalt gets repaired. Maybe more places get running water. Maybe a shop or two opens.

This is, of course, imposing my own desire to live in a place where the asphalt doesn’t crumble, there’s running water, and places you can walk to where you can buy stuff. And yet I do feel that these are pretty general human desires.

Personally, I won’t be opening up any bidding war for property in Boca Chica Village. My one and only space shot was last October, when I sent a bit of my husband’s ashes on a return trip to infinity and beyond. Jim’s star trek took off in New Mexico, in some desert patch where no one lived.

But Boca Chica has people, And they’re not too happy that SpaceX is coming to town.

Maybe Elon Musk should give them all a Tesla. Maybe that would help.

In the meantime, good luck, Boca Chicans. For better or worse, “progress” usually wins out.


valerie said...

I believe you have conflated two Larsen cartoons: 1.) the one you posted, "COW" and 2.) one in which a bunch of cows are standing around as if they were humans at a cocktail party when a lookout spots humans in a car readying to round the bend and calls "CAR" -- at which point they all assume the all 4s grass grazing posture we recognize as cowish. As always, I love to start my day with a bit of Maureen.

v said...

I don't know how this comment posted on this blog. grrrr. Please delete -- I reposted to the Larsen piece.