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Predicting The Future Of Torrance

October 25, 1987|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

Jared Sidney Torrance could scarcely have predicted what would become of the city he founded in 1912. Today, as the city rings in its 75th year, a few forecasters have taken a look at what the next 75 years could bring.

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When Jared Sidney Torrance founded his model city of industry in 1912, he could hardly have imagined it would ever look like Torrance today.

The mammoth Del Amo mall, the neat residential neighborhoods, the maddening traffic, the high-tech industry, the Pacific Rim trade links--they all lay years in the future.

Now, as the largest city in the South Bay celebrates its 75th anniversary this weekend, only the hardiest prognosticators venture to guess what the Torrance of 2062 will be like.

"You're talking 75 years and you're talking science fiction," said Roger Selbert, editor of the FutureScan newsletter on social, economic and marketing trends.

"Anyone," declared Mayor Katy Geissert, "who seriously tries to predict what the city will be like 75 years from now is either a genius or insane."

Five-Year Plans

City officials plan only five years ahead. Regional planners make estimates only 25 years in the future.

During the next 75 years, plagues, earthquakes, nuclear war, climatological changes--even contact with extraterrestrial civilizations--could change life on Earth, not to mention Torrance, drastically and unpredictably.

Less dramatic possibilities--shifts in population, increased urbanization and rationing of fuel, water and other natural resources--could have profound effects on the city.

Will Torrance still be here in 2062?

"That's tough to say," said City Manager LeRoy Jackson, adding after a moment's reflection: "There is a strong probability that we will be here."

If the 150th anniversary of the city is clouded in the misty future, some can see at least partway along the path ahead.

Tentative Predictions

The tentative future, according to city officials, educators, business and labor representatives, regional planners, seismologists and professional futurists interviewed by The Times, is this:

As ethnic minorities, particularly Asians, move to Torrance, the city will lose its character as a largely white preserve. The city's population will become older as the high cost of homes continues to price out younger families. As a result, the school population will continue to shrink, but there will be a parallel boom in adult education.

Development will continue during the next 20 years because of the city's strategic position between Los Angeles International Airport and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. But too much growth could easily lead to a high-rise, high-density atmosphere that could threaten Torrance's image as a good place to raise a family.

A counter trend, stemming from the emergence of politically potent slow-growth neighborhood groups, could preserve most of Torrance as attractive residential areas but might paralyze development, leading to stagnation and decline.

By 2000, redevelopment of 285 acres on the eastern edge of the city will be completed, resulting in 12,000 new jobs. The next major area for redevelopment will be Hawthorne Boulevard north of Torrance Boulevard.

By the year 2000, the median price of a single-family home, now $229,000 in Torrance, will be more than $500,000. If homes continue to appreciate at an average 7% a year--the figure economists use for Los Angeles real estate projections until 2000--a home in 2062 will cost almost $37 million.

Water shortages, including the possibility of rationing, could occur in Torrance as early as the mid-1990s.

The price of trash collection, now $9.25 a month for residences, will soar by the mid-1990s to pay for longer hauls to more distant dumps.

Traffic on city streets and the freeways will get worse.

A major earthquake has a good chance of striking Torrance during the next 75 years.

Other problems include refurbishing residential neighborhoods, most of which were built in the 1950s when smaller houses were in style; assimilating large groups of minorities, and, according to the mayor, fending off other government agencies.

State Takeover

Potential power grabs, according to Geissert, involve a state takeover of local school districts, including the Torrance Unified School District, and distribution of sales tax revenues to cities by population instead of by sales, which would hurt cities like Torrance that are major retail centers.

In addition, residents have voiced fears that the Federal Aviation Administration might force commuter jets on the Torrance Municipal Airport, environmentalists worry that the federal government will insist on installing offshore oil rigs nearby with a potential for air and water pollution and council members have expressed concern that the Torrance Transit bus system might be forcibly merged with a countywide transportation network.

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