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ELF Claims Responsibility for Torching of San Diego Condo Project

A radical environmental group that has torched ski resorts in Colorado and luxury homes in New York is suspected of setting one of the costliest fires in San Diego history.
A 206-unit condominium project under construction in University City was destroyed yesterday in a 3 a.m. blaze that caused damage estimated in excess of $20 million.

"If you build it, we will burn it," read the 12-foot banner left behind. It was signed: "The E.L.F.s are mad."

The banner "is a legitimate claim of responsibility by the Earth Liberation Front," according to an e-mail sent to The San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday.

The cause of the blaze at the La Jolla Crossroads development near University Towne Centre has not been determined.

The probe has been put on hold for the weekend to give a response team from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms time to arrive from several Western states, said Fred Herrera, an investigator with the local Metro Arson Strike Team.

The investigation will be massive. Twenty investigators, photographers, evidence technicians and engineers are being flown in to assist 10 San Diego-based ATF investigators, FBI agents and the local arson team.
While no one was injured in yesterday's three-alarm fire, the impact was dramatic.

More than 100 firefighters worked through the early morning to protect nearby structures.

Hundreds of residents were evacuated from adjacent apartment buildings in the densely populated area. Windows cracked and blinds melted. Roads were closed and freeway exits blocked.

Dozens of people gathered at the site off Interstate 805 before dawn to watch the five-story building burn.

"It looked like a big fireworks show," said Mike Holleran, a student at the University of California San Diego.

Flames leapt 200 feet into the air and could be seen for miles. Grapefruit-sized fireballs landed in courtyards and patios of adjacent buildings, and burning embers swirled in the night.

"An enormous orange glow covered the entire sky," said San Diego fire Chief Jeff Bowman, describing the scene as he drove northward toward it. "It looked like sunrise."

A 100-foot, $7 million construction crane toppled and was destroyed during the fire. A 500-gallon fuel tank exploded.

Hours later, cars parked more than a mile away were covered in a layer of soot.

The Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for four fires this year, according to its Web site. The group, dedicated to fighting urban sprawl, claims to have set dozens of fires in North America since 1997 that have resulted in nearly $50 million in damage.

A statement from the Earth Liberation Front read: "The ELF Press Office has received no communique for the UTC San Diego fire that took place August 1, 2003 and thus can not answer any questions as to why this location and city was chosen for the latest ELF action."

Sometimes it takes a few days, or even weeks, for members of the organization to let the larger organization know about the fires they set. ELF describes itself as "an international underground movement consisting of autonomous groups of people who carry out direct action according to the ELF guidelines."

The FBI labels the group a terrorist organization.

The condominium building destroyed yesterday was the first of five planned phases for a 1,500-home project called La Jolla Crossroads. Framing was nearly complete on the condos, and workers said they were preparing to install the roof, plumbing and electrical wiring.

"You put your heart and soul into this, and look," said one worker, Rod Fink, staring blankly at his destroyed work.

Other workers gathered in small groups, angrily venting about the hardship that had been inflicted on them. "I'm out of work now," one said. "Thank you, arsonist."

Workers said there had been no picketing or demonstrations at the site.

Environmentalists said the devastation was pointless.

"You can go and burn something down, but it's just going to get built again," said Debby Knight, president of Friends of Rose Canyon, a local preservation group.

The City Council approved the La Jolla Crossroads project in November 2000 despite opposition from nearby residents. The project is being built south of La Jolla Village Drive and west of Interstate 805.

Some members of the University City Planning Group said the project would add more traffic to what is already one of the most congested neighborhoods in the city.

Environmentalists complained that building homes and a research center on the vacant property would destroy some of the last remaining wetlands in San Diego.

But there has been little opposition since the project was approved.

"I haven't really heard much about it at all," said City Councilman Scott Peters, who represents University City.

The project was approved during the tenure of his predecessor, Harry Mathis.

Peters said he has received letters from people concerned about development in the area, "but those are people involved in the democratic process."

After surveying the damage yesterday morning, Peters spoke with Stuart Posnack, the representative of the developer, Garden Communities.

"He looked pretty low," Peters said. "I just told him I was sorry it happened."

Officials at Garden Communities did not return messages requesting interviews.

Developers across the region said they were astonished the fire was set. Some worried the arson attack might mean that activists are raising the ante when protesting projects.

Donna Morafcik of the Building Industry Association of San Diego, which represents about 1,400 companies, said demonstrations at construction sites are relatively uncommon.

"It's rare that we hear of this," she said. "Some folks over the years may have protested, but it's not a routine occurrence."
Get DOWN. 04.Aug.2003 20:47


I don't know. I don't like the idea of putting people in danger or anything, but somehow, hearing about yet another fucking condo project leaping into flames just puts some joy into my heart. Enough fucking condos, enough fucking mini malls, enough fucking golf courses, fast food restaurants, banana republics, office buildings, trendy resorts. Fucking enough.

SOME space needs to be left to the commons. Some forest, some wetlands, some places to get away for a walk. It doesn't all have to be privatized, sanitized, corporatized and sold to the highest bidder. Good that no fire fighters were hurt, and thanks ELF for the dramatic and economically grand gesture.

Grand? 04.Aug.2003 22:37


Grand? Really, so does this mean if I don't like where you live and think it should be a park, I can burn your house or apartment building down? Or because you agree with these dangerous criminals your abode becomes hallowed ground?

Odds are ELF had nothing to do with this and take a page from every terrorist organization and jump on the chance to claim this event as their handywork. Either way, damn lucky noone was hurt.

not exactly, Oz 04.Aug.2003 22:56


In the court of public opinion, certain projects are condemned. Personally, I'm not too worried about my house being burned by anyone except maybe some right wing militia. In which case, I'll have some pretty good target practice.

Don't get on people's bad side, and you have nothing to worry about. That's the way the world works whether you like to hear it or not.

If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from the ELF.

Earth to Oz 04.Aug.2003 23:04


Hey dumbass, "A 206-unit condominium project under construction in University City was destroyed yesterday in a 3 a.m. blaze," ie, no one living there, no one on sight. Get it?

Homeless? 04.Aug.2003 23:16

Homeless advocate

Why is everyone forgetting about the homeless? They often are forced to inhabit places such as these and it would be horrible if they got caught up in this. Please keep this in mind.

More info for you geniuses 04.Aug.2003 23:19

Stuck your foot in your mouth

From MSNBC report:

Capt. Jeff Carle of the San Diego Fire Department said three construction workers who were sleeping on the site managed to escape unharmed.

Several hundred residents of a building next to the construction site were evacuated as heat from the blaze broke windows and melted plastic blinds in their homes.

Sounds like a threat... 04.Aug.2003 23:30


Thought folks were "peaceful" round these parts...sounds like a threat to me. How do you balance the hipocracy there...if you don't agree with me you are fair game, if you do then you are "safe". And by the way, if the sum total of your command of the English language and intelligence revolves around "hey dumbass" and if it's empty "let's burn it down"...then you have managed to affirm every stereotype every leveled against the self-labeled "progressives".

How many people did this little exercise in terrorism put out of work?
How many people will not be able to live closer to their work (and drive less) because these units won't be available?
How many "small" people were hurt? i.e. construction subcontractors, maintenance and building contractors, real estate agents, brick layers, steel workers, mortgage brokers, etc) - or are they evil too and deserved it?
How many people will be laid off to pay the insurance claim on the building?
How many, less than well paid, firemen put their lives on the line to fight the fire?
How many children could have lost their parents if this had gone horribly wrong?
How much toxic smoke was put into the air?
How many toxins leaked into the ground?
How much water was wasted?
How long until ELF's luck runs out and someone gets killed?

Just a few questions for the jury in your "court of public opinion" to ponder...

Cute 04.Aug.2003 23:44


If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear from the ELF.

Translation: "Do as we say or we'll make you suffer the consequences." Well, THAT's sure a nice anti-authoritarian sentiment.

Not to mention that destroying the condos after the wetland had been drained and filled is sort of like closing the barn door after the cows have run away. A poor substitute for interfering with the project before the first 'dozer crossed the lot line. A little corn syrup in the tank of an earth mover a year or two ago would have done more than that fire... and a human blockade getting in the way of those earth movers even more.

The one bright side is that nobody seems to have been killed or injured; I will give the ELF credit for successfully adhering to their "harm no animals, including human animals" precept. Hopefully AssCruft and the rest of the Bush junta won't successfully use the whole thing as an excuse to sell more paranoia about "terrorism".

Thanks, now my family will be hungry... 05.Aug.2003 00:17

Rod Fink

"You put your heart and soul into this, and look," said one worker, Rod Fink, staring blankly at his destroyed work.

Other workers gathered in small groups, angrily venting about the hardship that had been inflicted on them. "I'm out of work now," one said. "Thank you, arsonist."

oz go back to wonderland 05.Aug.2003 00:22


Hm. What makes me suspect that Oz doesn't cry nearly as many crocodile tears for the odd cluster bomb victim of his favorite international terrorist government? Like the kids in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam who are still getting their limbs blown off by unexploded US ordnance thirty years after that war, or the kids in Iraq who will do so thirty years from now.

Sorry a wrong address, Alice lives there 05.Aug.2003 00:36


So committing arson and endangering the lives of innocent American citizens is hunky dory with you? ...just as long as you "felt" you had a good reason I suppose.

Moral relativism is a dangerous thing...be careful with that one, it could blow up in your face.

how very odd.. 05.Aug.2003 00:48


Here I was baiting oz with a totally off-topic jibe, just to get his reaction, but instead of insisting it was off topic, as would have been undeniably true, or denying that he's a rightwing zealot out to disrupt with flamebaiting trolls, he takes the bait. So, Mr. Oz, you say "moral relativism is bad." Well then, you're on the hook. So which is it then, cluster bombs bad, or cluster bombs ok when lobbed by your own government?

Oz and others just want their master's approval 05.Aug.2003 06:59


There is little chance that Oz and the other reactionaries will ever see the amusing nature of ELF's brand of retribution. Maybe they feel personally threatened, who knows? There is nothing sadder than a confused little worker (I'm assuming Oz is not independently wealthy) losing so much self respect that he/she starts to identify with the boss class despite a very different set of needs. So have pity on Oz and the rest, they are the ones who will put their own bodies on the line to protect their masters from revolution. Their masters don't care to lose them, and the whitetrash cannon-fodder is only too pleased to offer themselves up as martyrs for capitalism, but I still think it's pretty pathetic and don't feel good about it.

Interesting 05.Aug.2003 08:00


The interesting psychological aspect of this is that contractors and developers won't ever know when they can expect their project to be burned to the ground, except that if its a condo it's more likely. If people had put up a big stink trying to stop it ahead of time - in San Diego? - I'm guessing they'd get nowhere. Here in the Bay Area the big developers have the Oakland City Council in their pockets and even when you have people out on every street corner collecting thousands and thousands of signatures to just get a new EIR done, the city will try to override them.

Also in the news today, a civilian contractor for a Haliburton subsidary (KB&R) in Iraq got blown up by a remote control bomb, and a Marriot in Jakarta got blown away also (2 Amuricans among the 13).

More and more bizarre 05.Aug.2003 08:07


"There is little chance that Oz and the other reactionaries will ever see the amusing nature of ELF's brand of retribution."

So it's "retribution," now, is it? This is getting more and more bizarre: it doesn't mater that the condos already destroyed the wetland, 'cause someone "got even" with the developers. Sounds suspiciously like establishment types who refuse to look into how society keeps producing crime and instead cheer efforts to build more jails so we can just "get even" with the criminals.

And those workers who "want their master's approval" (a fair description) outnumber us. There's simply no alternative to engaging them and turning them to our side (however one does so, and it doesn't have to be within the confines of establishment politics). Dancing around and calling them stupid brings to mind Al Gore's campaign strategy for convincing those on his left to vote for him: "If you don't vote for me, you're stupid and it's your fault!". Not a winning strategy of persuasion no matter who's doing the persuading for what cause.

There's no alternative. Look at the Weather Underground: they got impatient with slow difficult work like outreach and instead opted to start blowing stuff up. When a small isolated group like that fights the law, the law wins.


... 05.Aug.2003 08:09

this thing here

until such time as the ELF press office gets the communique about this action, this entire discussion has been pretty pointless. maybe it was ELF? or maybe it was somebody who wanted frame ELF? i am not familiar with ELF actions, but i don't recall them hanging banners to draw attention to their actions. i thought the press office was the only place where confirmation of an action is given, rather than banners being hung and e-mails being sent to newspapers.

On Grand Adventures 05.Aug.2003 10:33


You know, the pathetic thing is, as skjdhfasd points out so eloquently, that people are so easily co-opted to accept the struggle of the capitalist classes as their own. Poor little Oz, no multi-million dollar condo project is ever going to be part of your little world. So no, your analogy is off by millions and by purpose. ELF doesn't go around burning peoples' houses down. The target was a development project, still in the greedy and self-interested hands of developers.

Surely you must see that the Earth, which belongs to all of us, is being parceled up to private interests. Our common ground and all of the world's resources are being stolen away by people who do not have our best interests at heart. Any time ELF or anyone else strikes out against that, I say good for them. Yes, the corporate press will sell this as a hardship for the little guy, but don't buy it. It was a hardship for developers and insurance companies, and a message to the capitalists that people will not take their abuses lying down.

Having said that, I also must say that Homeless advocate has a good point.

OR 05.Aug.2003 13:15


"Our common ground and all of the world's resources are being stolen away by people who do not have our best interests at heart."

Whoever is reponsible just doubled the amount of resources that were slated for this project. Those same resources they claim they are trying to protect.

Zeppy 05.Aug.2003 14:22

Carlos Zambrano

> Whoever is reponsible just doubled the amount of resources that were slated for this project. Those same resources they claim they are trying to protect.

Do you have a better idea? Please don't come with the 'city council' angle...I'm asking for an idea that'd have a chance in hell of working. Speak up!

...or are you just another boring naysayer?

uh 05.Aug.2003 15:00


so far the only thing that points the finger to the ELF is a stupid fucking banner with a tag on it.
*once, i organized a bunch of terrorists to fly planes into the world trade center and then i blamed it on Iraq*...get it?
try not to get your panties in a twist about somthing when you obviously dont have the whole story...try and have a little patience and see what happens before you all start fighting about the politics behind it...if any at all.

question for 'Oz', 'Zeppy' 05.Aug.2003 17:08


whose passport was miraculously discovered among the WTC ashes?

Whoa Nelly! 05.Aug.2003 20:32


Off topic!

* 06.Aug.2003 02:26


what was the 'topic', again?

This is Zeppy 06.Aug.2003 12:16


Uh, I have no idea what your asking me. I was pointing out that by burning down the condo's now all the resources would have to be obtained again. It's like if you spray paint a ladies fur in protest, shes goona go buy a new fur which means another batch of animals were killed to produce the replacement.

In other words, Im just another boring naysayer if you are an advocate of arson as a means of political statements.

I don't get it 06.Aug.2003 15:06

In The Know

So, just exactly what is the difference between burning a condo because, in someone's OPINION, it's contributing to urban sprawl, and burning a women's health clinic because, in someone's OPINION, it allows babies to be killed by providing abortion services to women?

The distinction... 07.Aug.2003 00:07


...Is that in the eyes of extremists, there are no opinions. Extremists of this sort have lost all touch with reality. They've been radicalized beyond any semblance of reason, and to them there is only fact and deception. Doublethink has invaded their minds, and all issues are seen in black and white.

If the three construction workers had been killed, would it have been worth it? If nearby structures had burned, would it have been worth it?

You'll never convince these types that their issues have received a fair hearing. Or that the majority of the population could have made an informed decision contrary to their beliefs. Despite any rhetorical musings on anti-authoritarianism, these jackboots have no interest in democracy in any sense of the word. Their interested only in getting their way, by whatever means necessary.

Here's to hoping they find the misguided souls and seperate them from the rest of us until they're able to come to their senses and defrag their minds.

not the right question 07.Aug.2003 08:03


Uhmmm... while the 'merits' and logic of burning these condos is something to be discussed, your implied analogy, In The Know, is pretty wacked. When comparing the similarities between torching the condos and torching an abortion clinic, you seem to be equating the merits of any similar action which people may do because of an opinion they hold. In the end, though, some opinions are more correct than others which makes their corresponding actions more correct. That doesn't say that any action someone carries out because of a factual opinion is neccessarily good and right, but you seem to be saying that since a person does an action because they happen to hold an opinion which you do not hold, then you should never do that action. That doesn't follow, does it?

To magicfrog 07.Aug.2003 21:19

In The Know

"some opinions are more correct than others"
"factual opinion"

I don't know, maybe some opinions are more correct than others in some abstract, absolute world--but who gets to decide? The opinion holder? You? Me? Opinions are just that: opinions. To argue that some opinions are "factual" is also to argue that some are not. Once again: who gets to decide?

The ELF, SHAC, the ALF, etc. have decided that their opinions are "more correct than others." The problem remains that a whole lot of folks have decided differently. So, yet again: who gets to decide?

I AM equating actions people take based on opinions because they are all taken on the same basis: an opinion, which is inherently subjective. Even if there is such a thing as an objective fact, it is still subject to subjective interpretation. Try it some time: ask five people who watched the exact same event to describe it and you will get five different versions.

The problem remains: if an anti-abortionist burns a clinic because God told him to and in his opinion, abortion is murder, how is that opinion different from an ELF member who burns a building because building it is murdering our planet?

To In The Know 08.Aug.2003 08:26


In The Know. . . Yes, the things people hold to be true are subjective, but almost everything can be clumped in that opinion pile. Take slavery, for example. In some people's opinions it was okay, and in fact, in many people's opinion it was justified for quite some time. People's opinion on slavery then changed through time, although slavery itself stayed the same. Opinions about the facts can change as we open ourselves up more to seeing a bigger picture. And yes, it can be messy. Most tend to want to dictate which opinions are 'true', and few tend to want to admit when their worldview is lacking - they will try to insulate themselves from such attacks to avoid the discomfort such growth brings.

Your question 'who gets to decide' which opinions are correct is a good one. Too often it is done via popularity contests and common knowledge, which doesn't do much but maintain the status-quo. Sometimes people diverge from that and form their own opinions, and sometimes they are right, and sometimes wrong, just like sometimes common-knowledge is right and sometimes wrong. But ultimately it should be up to YOU to decide what opinions are correct and which ones are not. I tend to believe that overall people have more good in them than bad, and that over time the 'good' ideas tend to take hold and the 'bad' ones tend to die out, as the collective worldview is expanded. Maybe this is naive, but that is where I am coming from. That is why I think you have to allow for the ability of one opinion to be 'more correct' than another one, and allow people to act based on that. It is the only thing which changes society (worldview), and ultimately society will be changed for the better. I am not saying that all actions are justified. Actions need to be judged seperately from the opinions. Just that some opinions are indeed 'better' than others.

As to your question "if an anti-abortionist burns a clinic because God told him to and in his opinion, abortion is murder, how is that opinion different from an ELF member who burns a building because building it is murdering our planet?", I think that they are similar actions motivated by similar psychological processes, but I don't think that this implies that the underlying motivations (opinions) themselves are equally correct, does it? I hope you do not think I am trying to brush off your question. . . perhaps I'm just trying to make sense of it within my worldview. Help me out.