Some of the biggest laughs at Tuesday evening's City Council meeting were at the expense of SCAG and their ridiculous projections for Sierra Madre. The document our favorite regional planning authority prepared for us, known simply as the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan, was yet another of their patent attempts to tell us how to run our City. But with math as bad as theirs, who would be fool enough to take them seriously?
This line in particular raised a lot of eyebrows:
"According to the estimates provided by SCAG for baseline year 2020, the City's population is expected to increase by 32 residents for a total of 11,099, and the number of households is expected to increase by 140 for a total of 4,972 over the next 11 years."
As Kurt Zimmerman wryly pointed out, that would mean each one of those new residents would have to live in roughly 4 different households for SCAG's projections to be realized.
But concern over the accuracy of SCAG's projections is probably besides the point. SCAG doesn't exist to make sense, SCAG exists to help enable redevelopers to obtain land currently occupied by other people. To accomplish that they'll say or do anything. And since empty land is an almost nonexistent commodity in built-out areas such as ours, an entire industry had to be created to take it away. After all, how else will developers be able to make a living here? All the land is inconveniently in the possession of other people.
But as you can probably guess, SCAG's projections are a source of wonder wherever they are revealed. And in Santa Clarita environmental writer Lynne Plambeck had a field day with some of the numbers SCAG dropped on her town in its "One Valley One Vision" concoction. Originally appearing in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal, her article is a nifty piece of writing, and we're going to post it all here. Keep an eye out for the similarities between our plight and that of Santa Clarita.
Lynne Plambeck: One Valley, One Fantasy?
Many of the proposed General Plan updates for both the City of Santa Clarita and surrounding areas are based on a projected huge population increase - more than double our current population - in the next decade. Such a projection will require densification and subsequent zoning changes that will increase property values for developers, but could destroy the quality of life in many neighborhoods.
Such projections are nothing new. We thought it might be interesting to re-visit a portion of an editorial by Michael Kotch, a former SCOPE president, written in 1996.
"When the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the population planning section of the county's Regional Planning Department issue massive growth projections for our valley - and when county and city decision makers (or others such as school or water boards) accept these projections without scrutiny - the first question should be, 'What the heck are they smoking?'
"If SCAG or another agency or government states that there will be 500,000 people in this valley by 2010 (and not the previous 270,000 predicted in the last plan update), many land use decision makers and utility planners scurry to convert this tentative, speculative, unproven guesstimate into a goal. 'SCAG has spoken, we must follow blindly.'
"Suddenly we are considering increased urban land uses and increasing expensive infrastructure to support the goal. Even if the emperor is on parade without clothes.
"A rational and sober analysis on this new 'goal' for the Santa Clarita Valley follows:
* "We have today about 170,000 people living here in 56,700 dwellings.
* To have 270,000 of us in the next 15 years means we need to accept 100,000 more bodies, or 55,000 more dwellings. That's a little more than 2,200 new dwellings sold every year, or six new homes a day seven days a week.
* To achieve 500,000 people in this valley by 2010 requires that we, starting today, sell 20 new homes per day. A local real estate broker reported that 20 new units sold in a month is more typical. That's far short of the goal.
* Our growth rate in the booming '80s was 5 percent a year. To achieve 270,000 we have to grow about 4 percent per year. Growth in the Santa Clarita Valley was 2 percent per year over the past six years. Achieving 270,000 is plausible, but will not happen if our economy stays flat.
* Housing 500,000 requires a 13 percent growth rate - a rate nearly three times that experienced in the expansive '80s."
Now, almost 15 years after Kotch wrote that analysis, his words ring true. Even with the rapid growth that occurred before the housing downturn, we have not reached even the 270,000 predicted in the last general plan update of 1993, far less than the 500,000 SCAG began pushing in 1996.
Estimates for current population in the SCV are around 252,000. The city's web site states that the growth rate between 2000 and 2008 was just over 17 percent, or slightly over 2 percent per year. Again, not anywhere near the projected growth rate that would put us past the 500,000 people projected by our new "One Valley One Vision."
So whom does such a large projection benefit and who does it hurt?
It benefits developers, engineering firms, concrete contractors - anyone who would have to supply services to support such a large projection.
It hurts taxpayers who must pay for all that expansion even though the actual people most likely will not arrive. It will be reflected in tax increases, water and sewer charge increases and money spent to expand schools that may in fact be unnecessary.
It will hurt the environment by promoting and "visioning" expansion beyond our carrying capacity. Santa Clarita has some of the worst air pollution in the nation. More cars and more vehicle trips will add to that. Do we have enough water for all these people?
How will we manage the traffic when many roadways are already at level D and cannot be expanded?
So as we move forward in our discussion of One Valley One Vision with yet another huge population projection, the city and the county, out of common decency, must put those clothes back on the emperor and not parade such naked exaggerations. Don't make our plan "One Valley, One Fantasy."
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Great stuff. And it is nice to see that people in other places are also up on the bizarre farce that typifies so many of SCAG's efforts. As a matter of fact, I'd say there are probably quite a few cities out there that are fed up with SCAG and its nutty projections and assumptions. All we need to do now is get out there and find them.