Los Angeles Times:
Despite the region’s low
marks in mobility, air quality, education, income, employment, housing
and safety, people keep coming.
By Kurt Streeter and Sharon
Bernstein, Times Staff Writers
Why on earth would anyone
want to live here?
the six-county region surrounding Los Angeles, traffic is the worst in
the nation, jobs are tough to come by, a home costs a fortune, the public
schools are largely a shambles and the air, after a short spell of getting
cleaner, is smogging up again.
“We’re in a crisis situation,” said Grand Terrace Mayor Lee Ann Garcia,
one of a handful of local politicians who unveiled a study Thursday on
the quality of life in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside
and Imperial counties. “We’ve got to wake up and realize the mess we are
For proof, Garcia pointed to a report card accompanying the annual assessment
by the Southern California Assn. of Governments, or SCAG, which has judged
the region since 1998 in seven categories: employment, income, housing,
mobility, air quality, education and safety.
Drawn mostly from data SCAG compiled in 2002, the report card describes
an L.A. area that is rapidly adding poorly schooled residents and providing
them with jobs that pay badly, a region of ever-increasing rents, perpetually
clogged freeways and little elbow room. Roughly one of every 17 people
in the United States lives here.
In short, the region is a mess.
Just getting around is a huge hurdle, a factor that led SCAG to give its
lowest grade, a D-minus, in mobility.
in the six-county region remained the nation’s worst,
with people spending an average of 50 hours a year stuck in traffic. What’s
more, the use of mass transit stayed low, carpooling declined and highway
fatalities were higher than the national urban average.
Transportation wasn’t the only category near complete failure. The report
card gave education a D, noting that eighth-graders in every county but
Orange and Ventura scored below the national median in standardized math
and reading tests.
In all counties, fewer than 40% of high school graduates finished courses
required for admission to the state’s university system, and the region
ranked last among the nation’s largest urban regions for the percentage
of adults with at least high school diplomas.
received a D-plus, largely because the costs of buying and renting continue
to rise, the report said. The number of building permits soared to the
highest level since 1990, but housing affordability fell compared with
levels in the rest of the nation, a trend that began in 1997. Only a third
of the region’s residents could afford median-priced houses in 2002. Elsewhere,
half the residents could afford them.
Rating only slightly better were air quality and personal income, which
received grades of C and C-minus, respectively. Typifying the pollution
problem was an area including Orange County and southern Los Angeles County,
where the ozone measurement in the air failed to meet federal standards
on 49 days in 2002, up from 36 days the previous year.
fell along with employment in a region that lost 22,000 jobs in 2002, according
to the report. One sliver of good news: With the influx of people, the
number working in retail has increased. But that was said to underscore
more trouble: Retail jobs tend to pay less than work in manufacturing and
The struggling state of the region has economists and government planners
struggling to offer solutions.
Kyser, senior economist for the L.A. Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit
business group, said top officials must think more creatively and not reach
for simple “sound-bite solutions.”
Mayor Ron Loveridge, who oversaw the SCAG study, echoed those sentiments,
stating that the region needs to embrace “big concepts,” like the construction
of a high-speed train system that could push the economy by creating jobs,
and improve traffic and air quality.
downcast as he studied the report, noting that it was full of “terrible
news.” But he saw a silver lining. The region continues to grow, adding
about 330,000 people, to push the population to 17.4 million in 2002. [WHY
IS THIS CONSIDERED GOOD NEWS???? -- JAY]]