Grappling with Growth

By Lawrence Hardy

There are no antelope in Antelope Valley, Calif. -- haven't been for years. But the number of people in this high-desert community is growing by the thousands. Just gaze on state Route 14 any morning as it winds southward toward Los Angeles.

Even before the sun is up, you'll see something swifter than the quick-moving antelope and decidedly less timid: a glistening stream of cars and SUVs racing toward the L.A. basin like a moving mirage.

"It's a parking lot of cars moving at 70 miles per hour," says Larry Freise, attendance coordinator for the 21,500-student Antelope Valley Union High School District. "There's more and more cars that zip down and zip back."

Some of the Antelope Valley transplants are finding work in the once-quiet desert towns of Lancaster and Palmdale. Others are enduring the 40-mile commute over the mountains for jobs in L.A. They say it's worth it to escape the city's crowding and smog and to take advantage of affordable housing that the high desert offers.

And, yes, they're bringing their kids.

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