The Final Paving of Paradise

Accommodation is not the solution to California’s surging population.

By Mark Cromer, Los Angeles Times
August 2, 2007

A tsunami is approaching California, a rolling surge of people that will bring the Golden State's population to 60 million by mid-century — a net gain of 25 million people from the state's current census. The city of Irvine alone has been instructed by the Southern California Assn. of Governments to plan for more than 35,000 new homes in the next seven years. If that number seems startling, consider that, across the six counties that make up Southern California, a total of 700,000 new homes are planned — almost half of them for low-income or very low-income families.

Projections by the state's Department of Finance forecast a California that will be virtually unrecognizable from the fairly idyllic place that once captured the world's imagination. A state already struggling to maintain even its most basic obligations to its current population faces collapse under the weight of such an epic influx of people.

The good news is we're not there yet.

The bad news is that since the DOF's projections were released earlier this month, the reaction from civic leaders across the state has been to study how best California can accommodate this population surge, not even considering whether the state should try to prevent it from happening. Relentless population growth and the rampant development that it fuels have become such powerful dynamics in California that the state's leaders apparently can't envision any alternative other than to live with it.

Such was the case when Ventura City Manager Rick Cole recently