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A slow-growth California? It means less crowded beaches for the rest of us

April 24, 2012
  • Aerial view of downtown Los Angeles.
Aerial view of downtown Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times )

Is it something we said?

It seems that California’s population growth has slowed dramatically and will continue that trend through 2050.

Not only that, but immigration from Mexico to the United States (and let’s face it, many of those folks end up in the Golden State) has come to a statistical standstill.

No wonder my drive to work today was so easy!

Now, the USC researchers who studied the state’s population growth made clear that the state will continue to add people.  (We’re at about 37 million happy, healthy, sun-blessed, laid-back souls today.)

But here’s the bottom line:

The report expects the California population to grow at less than 10% for each of the next several decades. By comparison, the population surged 26% -- more than 6 million people -- in the 1980s, a decade the researchers now say was an anomaly. The growth rate was 14% in the 1990s and 10% in the decade just ended.

Taking nothing away from the USC researchers, but, well, I could’ve told them that.

You see, I have a more intuitive method: license plates.

Take the glorious 1980s. (Full disclosure: That’s when I arrived in Los Angeles.) One of the things that struck me then was how many out-of-state license plates you saw. 

And honestly, I haven’t noticed as many in the last 10 to 20 years.  In fact, when I saw a rusted-out Chevy on the back of a U-Haul the other day with South Dakota plates, it made me stop and stare.

Of course, people have their own views on why people aren’t moving to California. High taxes, poor conditions for business, bad schools, crumbling infrastructure, too liberal, too nonwhite, too smoggy, too much traffic -- we’ve heard 'em all.

(OK, sometimes it’s hard to hear the out-of-state critics spouting off because they’re having to talk through mufflers to keep their lips from freezing, but you know what I mean.)

I say to heck with the naysayers. California will be better off with slower growth.

It just means more tasty waves for the surfers. Better views of the sunsets from less crowded beaches.  More runs on a more open Mammoth Mountain. More trout for the anglers at Hot Creek. Fewer folks in Yosemite Valley. Better seats at Dodgers and Angels games (The Lakers too? Naw.)

Heck, maybe this beautiful, wondrous state will become a well-kept secret.

That is, until the next big snowstorm hits the East.

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