Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

California Dreamin'

I'd be safe and warm if I was in L.A.

- The Mamas and the Papas
Note to all the Palouse neo-urbanist amateur social engineers: Nirvana is only 1,500 miles away. According to this Seattle Times article, Los Angeles is the most densely populated place in the continental U.S. Surprisingly, its population density is 25% higher than New York, twice as much as Washington D.C. and four times that of Atlanta.

Seems that back in the 80s, suburban sprawl in L.A. stopped because the only land left was way out in the desert or on the other side of the mountains, so everything started "densifying." Urban planners in L.A. are now developing trendy and aesthetic "pod" housing that still allows for views and privacy. High density "is a high-energy stimulant for suburban ennui, luring high-end stores, protecting open space and paying for toll roads that reduce traffic."

As always though, the law of unintended consequences has reared its ugly head. Orange County is one of the most expensive areas in the country for housing. Only 1 in 10 households make the $165,000 a year needed to buy a median-priced home. The working poor and immigrants in L.A., reliant on public transportation and thus unable to leave the city center, are forced to double up in old houses and apartments, often converting garages into bedrooms. This becomes a perfect breeding ground for crime and gang activity.

I'm sure that one of the Palouse's new California transplants, escaping the urban jungle of L.A. with its drive-by shootings, drugs, and skyrocketing real estate prices, would be happy to trade places with you.

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