To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, December 30, 2013

An L.A. County Superior Court Judge Calls SCAG's Population Increase Estimates “Entirely Discredited”


December 30, 2013


A Superior Court judge thinks this man is a fool

 One of the big challenges cities in the so-called "SCAG Region" face is the demand being made by this Regional Planning Organization that each and every one of them make plans to introduce a lot of new housing within their borders. And what this onerous demand is predominantly based upon are SCAG's projections that claim we are on the verge of being inundated with massive new population growth. And after all, or so the story goes, if we do not build all of this new housing, where are all these new people going to live?

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 139 new housing units 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 collapsed Soviet Union (link) could necessarily win any soothsaying contests with, say, a street corner palm reader.

And it seems that I am not alone in my skepticism. Apparently the L.A. Superior Court agrees with me. This from the always estimable Joel Kotkin in the December 27 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.

Here in timorous Sierra Madre we would never even think of daring to question SCAG's population increase projections, and year after year we have meekly accepted this now discredited regional planning organization's demands that we accommodate ever higher amounts of high density stack and pack development through their so-called "RHNA Process." Sort of like the "bungalows" that currently sit unsold at the corner of Sierra Place and Sierra Madre Boulevard
Fortunately the good citizens of Hollywood did have what it takes to dare call out SCAG on their voodoo population increase projections, and there is now a legal decision that for all intents and purposes laughed the ridiculous Hasan Ikhrata and his gang of SCAG bunco artists straight out of court.
Hopefully once the voters of Sierra Madre laugh Nancy Walsh and Josh Moran out of office next April we will finally get a City Council that has the guts to tell SCAG to get lost as well. 
After all, there is now a legal precedent for it.