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Dick Turpin

Area's Optimism Matched by Growth

April 14, 1985

Our high costs for housing, our smog, earthquakes, floods, fires and traffic gridlock notwithstanding, Southern California's perennial optimism seems enough to offset, if not solve, its natural and historical problems.

Despite those traditional concerns and the attempts to improve or remove some of those conditions, the Southland continues to attract growth to match its optimism.

Perhaps the most significant factor has been the impact of trade upon our two major ports at Long Beach and San Pedro that now handle 60% of our international sea traffic across the Pacific Ocean. (See related story above.)

Two years ago, for the first time ever, there was more foreign trade over the Pacific Ocean than over the Atantic Ocean. In 1984, again trade with the Pacific Rim nations culminating on the West Coast was larger than that with European nations and East Coast seaports.

On land, Los Angeles and San Diego ranked first and fifth, respectively, among the nation's 200 largest cities in the value of all building permits for new construction during the third quarter of 1984, according to the latest available data. Los Angeles had building permits totaling $760 million, an increase of 49.2% from a year earlier.

New York City, with $727 million in new permit valuation, was second, up by 135% from a year earlier. Dallas, with $438.1 million, was down 7.7%, Houston, with $429 million, was up 32.9% and San Diego, with $361.9 million, was up 4.2%.

Looking ahead, the National Assn. of Home Builders metropolitan housing-starts forecast for the second quarter shows the Los Angeles area at the top. It predicts that the Los Angeles-Anaheim-Riverside housing market will have 90,600 units built in 1985, topping the nation. If that guess hits the mark, it would result in a modest 2.4% increase in housing starts over 1984.

San Diego, ranked fifth on this chart also, would enjoy a 7.7% increase over 1984 if its predicted 35,500 new housing starts materialize. Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta and Phoenix markets fill the second, third and fourth spots in the NAHB's second-quarter guess list. Ranking sixth is the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose housing market, giving California three out of the nation's top 10 "hot spots," even though it is expected to experience a 1.4% drop in housing units compared with 1984.

Another plus in the state's economic status is that it led the nation in 1984, for the second consecutive year, in industrial growth. It attracted 72 new firms and recorded expansion among 343 existing companies, all of which is expected to add an estimated $2.8 billion in expenditures and generate more than 108,000 jobs, according to the California Department of Commerce.

Looking to future growth and needs, the housing division of the Southern California Assn. of Governments estimates that by the year 2000, the Los Angeles area will need 1 million more housing units to accommodate an expected population increase of 3 million.

In addition to the tremendous overseas trade relations with the Pacific Rim world, this area has become the entry point for freedom and promise to millions of troubled people leaving, fleeing or moving from the Orient, the Pacific nations and Latin America.

Just as millions fled their homelands in Europe and Asia at the turn of the century to make New York City the first "melting pot," we can say Los Angeles has become the first "Third World City" and a new melting pot 80 years later.

Without much argument, this area contains the largest concentration of ethnic groups outside their native lands. In addition to our longstanding Mexican population, we can claim to have the largest population of Filipinos--(the state's largest Asian group), Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Samoans, Armenians, Lebanese, Iranians, Nicaraguans and Salvadorans, at last count. Also, counting our northern neighbors, there are an estimated 1 million Canadians in our midst.

And where else can such concentrations of nationalities have such a diverse selection of downtowns ?

We can offer downtown Los Angeles itself, along with its Chinatown and Little Tokyo; Koreatown, Hollywood, Westwood, Century City, the Los Angeles International Airport area, Ventura Boulevard, Warner Center, Wilshire Boulevard and Beverly Hills.

Thank goodness they are not all in one place.

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