|Hasan Ikhrata's sustainable plastic water bottle|
In an April 4, 2012 press release proudly titled "Nation's Largest Planning Agency Approves Plan in Preparation of 4 Million New Residents by 2035"(link), SCAG laid out the wonder of it all.
The Regional Council of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) convened the 47th Annual Regional Conference and General Assembly and, without objection, adopted the 2012-2035 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) and certified the Program Environmental Impact Report.
The 25 year plan is an investment plan for our region's economic viability that provides people with transportation and housing options that meet their professional and life style choices while supporting the business community's need to compete nationally and internationally. "Today's approval of the 2012-2035 RTP/SCS was a historic decision made by Southern California elected officials on SCAG's Regional Council. This action establishes a roadmap to welcome four million new residents and 1.7 million new jobs into our region by 2035," commented Paul O'Connor, SCAG President.
So how do you accommodate this supposed vast sea of projected new humanity yearning to experience their "professional and lifestyle choices" here in Southern California? In the de-evolutionary Golden State you have a government-run Regional Planning Organization such as SCAG cook up population and housing growth numbers and coerce each and every city within their jurisdictional borders into accommodating them in their General Plans. All backed up with the muscle of Washington and Sacramento, of course. Armed with draconian central planning mandates such as SB 375.
According to SCAG's "Final Regional Housing Need Allocation Plan" (link), that number of new wickiups comes to just under 700,000 "units" for the region. Which, at the time this little item was cobbled together, called for a whole lot of new housing here in little Sierra Madre. In a town that is virtually built out like ours, this would require that currently standing buildings be razed and replaced with high density condo complexes, thus radically changing the character of our community.
Oh, and just so you know. In SCAG-think, condos are more "sustainable" than single family homes. Especially when they are near a bus stop.
"This year's theme is 'Towards a Sustainable Future in Southern California.' Sustainable has many meanings; providing for a future where the population will grow but we can expect a reduction in per capita emissions, supporting the construction of new homes and businesses but with a plan to connect the dwellings with multiple transportation options, preserving the natural beauty of the California landscape for today's recreation and our future generations enjoyment, and ensuring that businesses remain in the Golden State and prosper," said Hasan Ikhrata, SCAG Executive Director.
I suppose this all sounds hunky dory if you are the guy who will get to build much of this largely unneeded nonsense. And I guess the news that "emissions" will become less of a factor when electric cars become more prevalent in a few years has yet to cross Mr. Ikhrata's mind. Perhaps he has fallen behind in his reading.
But what if SCAG's population increase estimates are all wrong? Predicting the future can be a dicey proposition, you know. And, to be quite honest, I am not sure that SCAG's Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, a man who first learned his central planning chops plying this trade in the now defunct Soviet Union (link), could win any soothsaying contests with, say, a street corner palm reader.
Apparently I am not alone in my skepticism, and the L.A. Superior Court agrees with me. This from the always estimable Joel Kotkin in the December 27, 2013 edition of the Orange County Register (link):
Joel Kotkin: Build it, even though they won't come - The recent decision by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Allan J. Goodman to reject as “fatally flawed” the densification plans for downtown Hollywood could shake the foundations of California's “smart growth” planning clerisy. By dismissing Los Angeles' Hollywood plan, the judge also assaulted the logic behind plans throughout the region to construct substantial high-rise development in “transit-oriented developments” adjacent to rail stations.
In particular, the judge excoriated the buoyant population-growth projections used to justify the plan, a rationalization for major densification elsewhere in the state. The mythology is that people are still flocking to Los Angeles, and particularly, to dense urban areas, creating a demand for high-end, high-rise housing.
The Hollywood plan rested on city estimates provided by the Southern California Association of Governments, which estimated that Hollywood's population was 200,000 in 2000 and 224,000 in 2005, and would thus rise to 250,000 by 2030. All this despite the fact that, according to the census, Hollywood's population over the past decade has actually declined, from 213,000 in 1990 to 198,000 today.
Not one to mince words, Judge Goodman described SCAG's estimates as “entirely discredited.” This discrepancy is not just a problem in the case of Hollywood; SCAG has been producing fanciful figures for years. In 1993, SCAG projected that the city of Los Angeles would reach a population of 4.3 million by 2010. SCAG's predicted increase of more than 800,000 residents materialized as a little more than 300,000. For the entire region, the 2008 estimates were off by an astounding 1.4 million people.
So just this last week the Los Angeles Times published an article about the sad fate of San Bernardino. Apparently the place is on its last legs, has been for a while, and now serves mostly as an example of what a modern failed city in California is all about. Here is what they had to say (link).
San Bernardino: Broken City - San Bernardino, once a sturdy, middle class "All-America City," is now bankrupt, the poorest city of its size in California, and a symbol of the nation's worst urban woes - With a rake and a mask, the motel manager steps carefully into Room 107. This afternoon, Sam Maharaj will evict a couple and their 4-month-old baby for not paying their bill. The mother sits on the side of the bed, still twitching from slamming methamphetamine the night before.
Maharaj sinks the rake’s tines into an ankle-deep thicket of dirty diapers, hypodermic needles, crusted food, hot sauce packets, broken Tupperware and cockroaches, living and dead. A South African immigrant of Indian descent, he never expected that his piece of America would look like this.
Four decades ago, this motel boasted a cheery coffee shop, a heated pool, valet parking and palm trees that swayed in the hard wind coming over the Cajon Pass. Now it’s a way station for broken people in a broken city.
As other California cities lift themselves out of the recession, San Bernardino, once a blue-collar town with a solid middle class, has become the poorest city of its size in the state and a distillation of America’s urban woes.
As his rake claws at the debris of crumbling lives, he keeps his expectations low. This is Berdoo, a city his friends at the Hindu temple in nearby Riverside mock as “the ghetto.”
Look at the news, he says: the county assessor arrested on charges of meth possession, the city attorney challenging the police chief to fight at City Hall, one City Council member arrested on charges of perjury, another on charges of stalking, and a federal indictment of the developer who was supposed to transform the airport into a source of civic pride.
Of the 100 biggest cities in the U.S., San Bernardino, 60 miles east of Los Angeles, was ranked the second-poorest in the nation in the 2010 census, behind Detroit. Two years later it filed for bankruptcy. Last month the City Council approved a 77-page plan that it hopes will move the city toward solvency, in part by making residents pay higher taxes and fees while further cutting their services.
Pretty grim, right? So let me ask you this. What city do you think SCAG selected for one of its highest awards for planning and prosperity a few years back (link)?
Just so you know, the Federal government recently announced that it is going whole hog into the local affordable housing planning business (link). Which will mean lots of mandated overdevelopment for cities all across the United States. Here is Southern California the regional planning organization that will be tasked with making this happen will be SCAG.