View From Lodi, CA: Will California`s Population Reach Sixty Million?
July 15, 2005, 05:00 AM
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Growth is good. And more is better.

Keep repeating those two sentences—the mantra of California living—until you forget about the traffic jam you're stuck in and the overcrowded school your kid attends.

A recently released Census Bureau report charting growth among large cities (as defined by a population of 100,000 residents or more) showed four California cities in the top ten.

Elk Grove, Lodi's neighbor to the immediate north, ranked second with a 10.6 percentage population increase from July 1, 2003 to July 1, 2004, Moreno Valley; sixth with a 5.7 percent increase; Rancho Cucamonga; ninth with 5.0 percent increase and Roseville, tenth with 4.7 percent increase.

Don't be deceived; those are huge, unsustainable increases.

Expanding the census review to include the top twenty-five largest cities, California adds six more: Fontana, Bakersfield, Irvine, Visalia, Chula Vista and Stockton.

The growth in California is so explosive that even though I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I had never heard of Moreno Valley until I read the census data.

Moreno Valley, I learned, is in the Riverside County, one of five counties that surround Los Angeles County. In those five counties—Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Imperial—the population now stands at more than 17 million, nearly 6% of the U.S. population or one in every 17 Americans.

Sacramento Bee reporters Loretta Kalb and Jennifer K. Morita in their June 30th story titled "Maps Can't Keep Pace with Elk Grove's Growth" provide an excellent example of how impossible it is to keep pace with California's development.

Kalb and Morita wrote that in the nine months that it takes MapQuest to put a region on its computerized database, another subdivision has popped up in Elk Grove.

As someone who has tried to sound the warning siren about population issues for nearly twenty years, I never imaged the extent of the urban nightmare I see around me.

The definitive and brutal analysis of California growth appeared in 2004 in the Los Angeles Times Magazine. Titled "Infinite Ingress" and written by Lee Green, the article is available online at the Californians for Population Stabilization website.

Green reiterates information too familiar to those who would like to protect something of what is left of California.

Since 1950, defined as the baby boom era and the baby boom echo, the state's population grew by more than 24 million. The next 24 million—more than the population of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska combined—will arrive more quickly.

According to Green's calculations, the 1990s began a pattern in which California receives more new residents each decade than it did the previous one. The 2020s will witness the greatest 10-year increase in state history, and the numbers in the 2030s will be greater still.

By 2040, California—without a shadow of a doubt—will have 60 million residents. Today's population is 36 million.

Politicians are aware, concerned…and impotent.

In reference to California's staggering growth numbers, California Senator Dianne Feinstein told Green,

"I find them very distressing and I'll tell you why. If the growth comes before the ability to handle that growth, what you inevitably have is a backlash. I think growth is California's No. 1 problem, and how that growth happens is critical to the future of the state."

(JOENOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: By "backlash" Feinstein is referring to Proposition 187 which, had it been enacted a decade ago, would have saved California taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. And since it would have made California less attractive to migrants because fewer free services would have been offered them, population pressures would have been reduced.)

Feeble attempts to control growth have been offered up. So called smart growth whereby cities increase density by building apartments or town houses was touted as a possible antidote to sprawl. Realistically, the idea never left the ground. 

Other piecemeal measures to alleviate sprawl's side effects like the Altamont Commuter Express train don't begin to make a dent in reducing the traffic created by the vast numbers of people who, by birth or migration, make California their home.

As Feinstein acknowledges, the only true answer to slowing California's growth is to curb population.

But, Feinstein asks, "How do you do it? Are you going to tell people not to have children? I don't think so. I have never had a single county official say, 'We have decided we want to slow growth in our county, and here's how we want to do it, and we need the federal government's help.' "

Of course, there are steps that could be taken toward population stability. Among them are developing sensible policies that limit legal immigration and end illegal immigration. Another would be to remove tax credits that provide incentives to have children. A third would impose a tax on families who have more than two children.

(JOENOTE #2: As Peter Brimelow asks, "Must we finance our own dispossession?")

Even though those three ideas should be under discussion at all levels of municipal, state and federal government, no politician would sacrifice himself to promote that platform.

Former California governor and current Oakland mayor Jerry Brown knows the real reason that growth grinds relentlessly on.

Brown, who has tried to promote "elegant density", said: "All I can tell you is that when you try to retard growth, you have an immediate negative economic impact, and the forces of the economy will resist those efforts. In the capitalist system there is no alternative to unceasing growth."

To paraphrase Brown, here is California's end game: where growth is concerned, it will end when every blade of grass has been paved over.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.