Years ago Kevin Starr, in the first of his great California history chronicles, wrote of an early 20th-century tendency to view Los Angeles as a modern Rome. "Dependent, like Rome, upon aqueducts," wrote Starr, mimicking this opinion, "Los Angeles should glory in water as an essential symbol of the city, of what man had wrought."
According to a disturbing article in today's L.A. Times, Yorba Linda has learned the hard way about what happens when water is not accepted as an essentially resource of a city -- it can burn as surely as Rome did. The community of Hidden Hills Estates did not have sufficient water at its disposal to fight November's Freeway Complex Fire, which destroyed 19 homes there. Instead, firefighters repeatedly uncapped hydrants only to be met with gusts of stale air. What made the experience especially bitter for Yorba Lindans is that the city had long ago planned -- and paid -- for a reservoir to be constructed to handle such emergencies of nature. It just never got built -- for three decades the local water bureaucracy fiddled, Nero-like, even while homeowners recently grappled with ominously fluctuating water pressure in their houses.
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The water district's top priority before November's inferno? The completion of its new administration building.