Why We Should be Worried about LA’s Flat-Lining Population
- 17 Jul 2012
- Written by Cary Brazeman
RECLAIMING LA’S MOJO - The 2010 US Census revealed a remarkable but not surprising truth: From the year 2000 to 2010, and for the first time in 100 years, California’s population grew no faster than the nation as a whole.
Also for the first time in a century, the population of Los Angeles actually shrank when you net out people born here in the past decade. A fresh Census update shows the same: Other US cities have more mojo than LA, baby!
Among the cities growing faster than Los Angeles are Austin, Texas and Atlanta. Of course they’re both considerably smaller, but they have advantages at the moment that are attracting new residents at a faster clip (more on the reasons why in a future CityWatch column).
I don’t want more people sitting on the 405, either, but here’s why we should still care about LA’s flat-lining population numbers: The tax base. Los Angeles needs a stable, if not growing, tax base to deliver core services, and to make investments and improvements … not to mention help fund massive liabilities confronting the city in the next few years, including labor and benefits costs and aging infrastructure.
Yes, there is additional fat to be trimmed from the city budget to fund core services, better collections to be undertaken, more efficiencies (including through technology) to be wrung out of the system, and all the ridiculous corporate welfare to be ended, but that doesn’t discount the larger point: A few more peeps around here could help pay the bills, and would certainly support residential and commercial property values.
We know people have been leaving Los Angeles for 20 years, but they’ve been replaced at a reasonable rate. Only more recently has inward migration really sputtered. Why? Top of the list are lack of investment in public infrastructure (though Measure R is making a dent), low-performing schools and high unemployment. Throw in the gross receipts tax on businesses and the general perception that LA is hostile to business, and it becomes clear why other cities are attracting more residents and private investment.
Sadly, a loss of mojo perpetuates itself.
But for all the evidence of decline (high unemployment and broken streets, sidewalks, trees), there are signs of hope all across Los Angeles: Good schools in the West Valley that attract families from Ventura … reduced crime, and more small parks, in Northeast LA neighborhoods where home prices are rising … a more livable downtown at the center of an expanding public transit network … repaired sidewalks in Sylmar … new corporate locations in Venice.
The challenge for LA is to multiply and accelerate the momentum — to make the good things happening writ small happen writ large, and to fix what remains seriously broken, including lagging Fire service that jeopardizes the health and safety of our people, and a corporate welfare system that’s so depleted the municipal treasury and spoiled some private investors that they won’t invest in the city without handouts that most of the time simply are not needed.
A relentless focus on reclaiming LA’s mojo can make it so … to the benefit of the residents and the businesses that call Los Angeles home.
(Cary Brazeman, a contributor to CityWatch, is a neighborhood council board member, founder of LA Neighbors United, and a candidate for City Controller of Los Angeles. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Tags: Cary Brazeman, population, Los Angeles, Los Angeles population, business
Vol 10 Issue 57
Pub: July 17, 2012