People are fleeing California cities, despite pol pushes for ‘urban planning’


Since the 1970s, Californian decision-makers have embarked on a land-use planning strategy aimed at promoting “town planning”– the idea that we should all live in dense housing estates, that suburban sprawl should be limited by government planning restrictions, and that rural land should be protected for agriculture and open space.

During his first term as Governor, Jerry Brown oversaw a report called, “An Urban Strategy for California.” In it, the state detailed a policy that we saw unfold over the following decades. The aim was to “create a more compact urban environment” and curb “unnecessary urban sprawl” by concentrating new construction in “existing towns and suburbs”.

Like all central plans, this one had unintended consequences. In the year of this report, the median home price in California was around $70,000 and is now $834,000. In contrast, the national median price rose from $56,000 to $350,000. recent status reports blame soaring costs on a simple supply and demand problem – the chronic underconstruction of new homes.

Official state planning strategy– blocking the construction of new suburban developments, tying up large tracts of undeveloped land as permanent open space, fitting most new construction into the existing urban footprint, and allowing environmental lawsuits against new projects – has made it too costly for builders to meet growing demand.

Despite all the state government’s attention to the importance of cities, policy makers have done a horrible job of managing these cities. Despite their huge budgetslarge and bureaucratic, union-controlled school systems — like Los Angeles Unified, which spends more than $24,000 a year per student — have poorly educated the children of their residents.

The same progressives who claim to care most about public education seem the least willing to acknowledge the failures of these urban school systems – or support the policies (e.g., charter schools) that can improve academic outcomes. More people would be willing to move into an urban environment if they could, you know, send their kids to decent schools.

They also seem indifferent to the growing crime problems in big cities. That’s right, like Jason McGahan wrote recently in Los Angeles Magazinethat the crime data doesn’t entirely match the conservative narrative blaming soft DAs for crime in liberal cities, but it’s a piece of cake for city dwellers feeling insecure as violent crime rates soar soaring and cheeky flash mobs looting stores in city centers.

And don’t get me started on the state’s failed urban transit philosophy, which seems more interested in changing the way we move than to design systems that allow us to move as we please. How about this new idea for planners: spend more time improving creaky, dirty urban transit systems and less time coercing commuters out of their cars?

Is it any wonder, then, that Californians vote with their feet and shun the state’s biggest cities? The latest census data Pin up that California cities have seen steep population declines during the COVID-19 pandemic. San Francisco lost 6.7% of its population, the second largest percentage drop after New York. Los Angeles County’s population only dropped by 1%, but given its size, that’s more than 184,000 people.

With soaring house prices, the new flexibility of working from home which allows people to live further away from their jobs, and the misery of draconian closures in cities, it’s easy to see why COVID has pushed people into the hinterland. San Francisco is a fun and beautiful place, but why put up with its indignities when you can’t even leave your tiny apartment? But there’s more at work here than the pandemic.

As a state, California’s population has fallen for the first time in memory, but the most fascinating numbers are for intrastate movement. “Despite suggestions of an exodus from California to other states in recent months, most of those leaving this region do not travel far, although many counties in the Sierra have seen a large influx of migrants from San Francisco vs. 2019,” said the Los Angeles Times reported.

I live in Sacramento County and see these trends all around me as neighbors increasingly come from urbanized areas of the Bay Area. In Southern California, people are leaving Los Angeles and heading east. For example, while LA County lost enough people to populate a mid-sized city, “the Inland Empire added 47,601 people in the year ending July 2021, the fifth-largest gain important among the 50 largest metropolitan areas”. according to news from mercury.

Despite a 50-year government campaign to urbanize our society, more Californians are choosing to live in smoggy, hot, unexciting, suburban inland areas away from the beach rather than endure the high prices, fraying of fabric social and congestion of our destination metropolises. few states fastest growing cities are urban in the traditional sense.

I love cities, but if state decision makers want to promote town planningthey need to look at their own failed policies and address the reasons why fewer people want to live there.

This column was first post in the Orange County Register.


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