The “Build More Market Housing” Quack Miracle Cure for Los Angeles (City Watch link): PLATKIN ON PLANNING Jan. 11, 2018 - Los Angeles is heading toward a perfect storm of gentrification, well-camouflaged behind spurious claims of boosting transit ridership and addressing LA’s housing crisis through zoning and environmental deregulation.
This perfect storm is propelled by huge tail winds from the State Legislature in Sacramento, with big city Democrats fronting for the real estate interests that fund and mentor them. San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti are their current favorites, but many more are lining up at the trough.
To begin, there is a treasure trove of successful programs that they could turn to if they really wanted to increase transit ridership and address the housing crisis, but they are totally mute on these options. As for their cheerleaders, their silence is also deafening since the following public programs are at odds with their “build more market housing” miracle mantra for LA’s urban ills.
According to Wiener and friends, the new market housing will boost transit ridership, reduce residential segregation, slow down gentrification, and meet the housing needs of the homeless, the overcrowded, and the rent-stressed. Since I debunked most of these claims in last week’s CityWatch column, this week I will zero in on the cheating.
City Hall’s first cheating tactic is to rely on inflated population forecasts from the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) for the plan horizon years of 2035 or 2040. With these inflated numbers in place, the media and the public are then told that Los Angeles will soon experience another population boom. It must, therefore, loosen up its planning, zoning, and environmental regulations to make sure there is enough housing for these newcomers.
One of the best-known cases of these inflated SCAG population numbers was the General Plan Framework Element, an otherwise exemplary planning document. Based on SCAG’s extrapolation of prior decennial census data, SCAG’s 2010 population forecast for Los Angeles was 4,300,000 people. But, when the Bureau of the Census released its 2010 data, Los Angeles, only had 3,790,000 people. Without any explanation, 500,000 people never materialized.
Despite SCAG’s subsequent silence, it is not hard to figure out why the 2010 numbers were so incorrect, and why SCAG’s 2040 forecasts will suffer the same fate. SCAG’s methodology relies on historical trend data. Since Los Angeles was once a boomtown, it is easy to extend long-term historical trends into the future and predict enormous population growth.
Then, when the inevitable mistakes become apparent, there is too much resistance from local municipalities, especially Los Angeles, to make mid-course corrections, explain why the forecast methodology was so flawed, and to detail how it will be corrected in the future. Given this uncertainty and the prominent role of the urban growth machine in local politics, the political winds invariably blow in the direction of inflated population numbers. Boosterism, not sound social science, prevails.
Inadvertently dubious headline
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