California Über Alles? Only in Counterproductive, Outdated Housing Policy

Over the next 30 years, Texas may overtake the Golden State because it is more welcoming to newcomers.


Tim Holtz, Inspiration for the Journey

Over at Bloomberg View, former Reason editor Virginia Postrel cops to (indirectly) causing the current housing crisis in California.

Turns out that when she and her husband—along with millions of others—moved to Los Angeles back in the go-go 1980s, native Golden Staters responded by making it increasingly difficult for developers to build housing easily, especially in established cities. A number of state-level downturns and national recessions later, California is starved for housing stock, making it increasingly difficult for younger people to live there.

Los Angeles County grew by 1 million people in the 1960s, 445,000 in the '70s, 1.4 million in the 1980s, 656,000 in the 1990s, and just 299,000 in the 2000s. Most of the growth in the 1980s, Postrel notes, came from childless migrants, not births. Anti-growth policies in big cities had the effect of pushing people further out of established metropolitan zones, creating longer commutes. She quotes a demographer who says, "In the longer view of things, the 1980s boom was quite the exception." But restrictive housing policies cast a long shadow:

Outsiders are no longer flocking to California. For the first time in its history, a majority of the state's residents are natives. But native-born Californians tend to want to stick around—preferably not in their old bedrooms. To form their own households, millennials need places to live. The growth restrictions put in place by residents upset by newcomers like me are putting houses and apartments out of reach for all but the richest of the younger generation. If California doesn't want to turn into an expensive retirement village, it needs to make room for its children.

More here.

The smart money is on California becoming the New York of the 21st century. Once the Empire State was the center of the United States in economic and cultural terms. California overtook it in 1962 to become the most populous state in the country. But by 2050, Texas may well be bigger, with a projected population of 54.4 million to California's 50 million. Whether that happens, there's little question that California is sucking wind in all sorts of ways and the political emphysema is only going to get worse once Jerry Brown leaves Sacramento. Yes, the same Jerry Brown who the Dead Kennedys mocked in "Californa Über Alles" for ushering in a era of "Zen fascism." As Steve Greenhut writes,

For all of Gov. Moonbeam's flaws, those of us with conservative, libertarian or moderate leanings know that the state government is losing the last adult in charge. The next governor will be less willing to serve as a backstop against a Legislature that's gone far to the left.

The two leading candidates for governor are Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, each of whom seems committed to spending lots more money that the state doesn't have.

In her next column at Bloomberg View, Postrel will explore politically viable ways to add to the housing stock, which is always tricky due to the relative power held by the haves over the have-nots. California's future may depend on it.

Related: In 2017, Erica Grieder argued that California should be more like Texas.

Also Related: In 2016, Reason TV's Alexis Garcia looked at young proponents of "YIMBYism" (Yes In My Back Yard) in San Francisco, one of the planet's most expensive cities.

NEXT: Criminal Justice Reform Bills in Congress Draw Trump's Support, Jeff Sessions' Ire, and Infighting Among Prominent Democrats: Reason Roundup

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  1. Over the next 30 years, Texas may overtake the Golden State because it is more welcoming to newcomers.

    But I thought California was the go-to destination for immigrants thanks to their policies. Color me confused.

    1. 🙂

    2. I get paid over $87 per hour working from home with 2 kids at home. I never thought I’d be able to do it but my best friend earns over 10k a month doing this and she convinced me to try. The potential with this is endless.
      Heres what I’ve been doing, ————->>>

    3. Quick, Texas better close its borders to immigrants from other states, before they turn Texas blue! Texas has the right to do this because borders are the property of the state, and the state is really owned by the taxpayers. Since Texas is red, that means the majority of the taxpayers are Republicans and don’t want Texas to turn blue. So it is perfectly libertarian for Texas to close its borders to immigrants from other states.

      1. No need for that, Texas can just charge all those immigrants with trespassing. Then they can either be deported back to California, thrown in prison, or shot depending on the libertarianness of the person catching them.

      2. Yeah, it’s pretty amusing listening to “libertarians” and “conservatives” talk about intra-state immigration.

        On one hand, y’all like to brag that folks are leaving “blue” cities/states and moving to “red” cities/states as if that validates your ideology.
        On the other, y’all like to complain about all the folks moving in and worry that they’re going to corrupt your beautiful paradise or some shit.

        The two ideas aren’t really in conflict, but it is pretty funny to watch the same folks swap from bragging to complaining based on how it’s framed.

        1. Not sure it’s inconsistent. The thing they’re “bragging” about, whether it’s true or not, is that people are fleeing the economically authoritarian states and moving to supposedly economically freer states. The people fleeing will consist of those who didn’t want the authoritarianism and those who think they want it, but couldn’t handle it when it was imposed upon them. So some of the people moving will gladly fit in with the supposed lack of authoritarianism and others will vote for more of it despite the fact they ran away from it elsewhere.

          1. Because THIS TIME socialism will work!

            1. It’s always because the wrong socialists were in charge.

  2. It the same story in many cities: restrictive building codes to keep out newbies and pride that only weathy people live there.

  3. For comparison’s sake, check out the pic in this article about Syria bombing a Palestinian refuge camp in its fight against ISIS. The apartment buildings in the background are 4 or 5 stories tall. You know your building code is too restrictive when it prohibits the type of medium density development that gets built in a refuge camp for refugees that intend to leave their host countries as soon as the conflict is over.

    1. Er, no, Yarmouk was not built “for refugees that intend to leave their host countries as soon as the conflict is over.” It was built over fifty years ago for people who it was obvious weren’t ever leaving because it had already been eight years since the war that displaced them was over. By the time ISIS attacked it in 2012, only a tiny percentage of the inhabitants had ever lived anywhere except in Syria; the majority had parents who had never lived anywhere else.

  4. Was that poster made using electrical tape for the letters? How odd.

  5. I presume the Bay Area Renters’ Foundation is staffed overwhelmingly by Many Oppressed Groups.

  6. “For all of Gov. Moonbeam’s flaws, those of us with conservative, libertarian or moderate leanings know that the state government is losing the last adult in charge”

    In California the qualifications for “adult” is graded on a curve – a very steep curve.

  7. California is fuct. Some sides of my family go back to the 1800s there, we have a town named after us even! And yet almost everybody in my immediate family has left. Probably 75+% of my family has bolted. Some to Texas, my branch Washington (soon to be Idaho because Washington is now overran too), Utah, and other spots.

    The funny thing that people don’t know about California is that it isn’t the NATIVE CALIFORNIANS that were horrible people that ruined the state… It was the mass influx of progs from the Northeast that moved there, tilted the politics, and then started this crazy self selection migration pattern where more progs decided to move there, and more conservative/libertarians decided to leave. Then the Reagan amnesty kind of killed it off the rest of the way politically. Most native Californians back in the day very much had the free spirit/wild west/rugged individualist thing going on.

    Oh well. I keep hoping a plague may clean the place out so I can move back to the bay area someday, but I’m not holding my breath.

    I really wish I could move to Texas too, but the demographic trends show it’s basically done as a conservative state within a decade give or take. Idaho should be able to ride out being conservative leaning until the whole USA collapses (or fixes itself hopefully) so that’s where I’m going to bail to.

    1. sadly vek, Boise and the western part of Idaho is already populated by grungy Seattle invaders and are rapidly turning it into Puget east. just as Austin Texas is wholly liberal/socialists thanks to the oosing pustule covered asses from baghdad by the bay invading it. They’re the same disgusting immigrants from the philly, NY city, north NJ slime pit and destroyed the bay area and the westside of L.A.

      1. Yeah, that’s what I’ve been hearing… That said, it can’t be even a fraction as bad as being in Seattle! This place has gone full on insane. Also, Idaho as a state should stay right leaning for a lot of years to come, even if Boise is a bit progged out. I can deal with that… Just move a bit outside the city! Washington at the state level is going to go hard left in the coming years.

        That said I am going to scope out the Spokane/CDA area as well. I may end up that way instead of near Boise. We’ll see.

  8. Boy, are we all in a world of hurt if Jerry Brown qualifies in anybody’s eyes as “the last adult in charge”. Governor Moonbeam’s fingerprints are all over the current “state of the State”, he’s just cagey and experienced enough to make sure that someone else is always out in front to take the heat.

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