California will become more crowded and more racially diverse in the next two decades if current trends in immigration, transportation and land costs continue.
By the time today's kindergartners are completing college in the spring of 2001, today's racial minorities will nearly equal the non-Latino whites who have dominated California since the 1849 Gold Rush.
By 2005, California's Latino, Asian and black population will outnumber non-Latino whites statewide, and some of the state's major urban centers will be dominated politically, economically and culturally by today's minorities.
Increased traffic and high land costs along the California coast are encouraging housing and manufacturing booms inland that will bring increased urbanization and added economic and political clout to inland cities from Sacramento to Riverside.
Crowded on the Coast
And those who remain in the San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Diego urban areas will be living closer together in higher density housing, and they will face ever-increasing traffic congestion and longer commutes to work.
The average freeway speed during the morning peak period in Los Angeles will decline from about 37 m.p.h. today to about 17 m.p.h. by the turn of the century, and the amount of time freeways are clogged with stop-and-go traffic will nearly quadruple.
The state's population is growing nearly 10 times faster than the rate of expansion of the highway and other transportation systems, so most of the expansion of the highway system will be aimed at serving car pools and mass transit users.
Despite the increased urban densities, the vast majority of California's land will continue to be devoted to farm, timber and recreational uses, and California will remain the nation's leading agricultural state.
Asian, Latino Influence
In a series of interviews, economists, planners and demographers from business, government and the academic community agreed that Asian and Latino immigration will be one of the most important forces changing California in the next two decades.
They also agreed that the state's inland communities, where land and housing are still relatively inexpensive, will grow at a much faster rate than the current urban centers on the coast. But there was a sharp division of opinion over the importance and impact of the expected inland building boom.
The most dramatic physical change in California is expected in the suburbs surrounding the Los Angeles and San Francisco urban centers, where new manufacturing and office centers are following home builders in search of cheaper land and less traffic congestion.
There will be fewer major changes in the physical layout of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and other urban centers. But the culture and flavor of those urban centers will continue to change as their Latino and Asian populations grow at much faster rates than either the black or white populations.
Emphasis on High Technology
High technology--including the current computer and electronics industries but expanding into genetics and medicine--will be an increasing factor in the state's economy.
But there will be marginal shifts, with the San Francisco-San Jose areas becoming more specialized in their economy, while Los Angeles will continue to have a more diversified economy with a broader base in entertainment and its apparel, chemical, plastics and other non-high-tech manufacturing.
There also will be a trend to develop more blue-collar jobs inland, where land and housing costs are lower. And industries of every description will move, as home builders have, to less congested, less costly suburban hubs.
"Highway construction won't keep pace with population, and this should lead to more clustering. But clustering doesn't have to occur around the current major urban cores. San Luis Obispo, Visalia, Porterville, other areas we don't think of as that large, may emerge as urban centers," said Frank Mittelbach, a professor of urban land economics at UCLA.
"The outlying areas--Ventura County, places such as San Bernardino, Riverside, Santa Cruz and Napa--are obvious targets for development. And industry will be moving there, as well as residential and service developments," Mittelbach said.
Foothill Building Boom
The residential building boom in the Sierra foothills and similar remote regions of the state will continue, especially because of the increasing numbers of financially independent retired people. But compared to the expected population growth of the inner cities and suburbs, the change and growth in rural California will be minor.
Schools that have been underutilized or empty since the post-World War II "baby boom" generation grew to adulthood will be filling up again. At the same time, a growing senior citizen population caused by longer life spans will boost the average age of Californians from about 31 today to 36.
Economists expect California in 2001 to have about the same mix of high technology, research and development, agricultural and service jobs as today, with manufacturing playing a limited role in the economy. But that does not necessarily mean a smooth continuation of today's economic growth and today's jobs.
Cheaper Labor Elsewhere
Instead, economists predict that as California's existing high-technology businesses continue to grow, they will also continue to export their manufacturing jobs to other states and nations with lower labor costs.
Those manufacturing and other entry-level jobs will be replaced by another generation of small businesses.
Of all the many factors that will be changing the face of California at the turn of the century, the most important may be immigration--both legal and undocumented--from foreign nations.
The state Department of Finance predicts that the state's population will increase from nearly 26 million today to about 32 million by 2001, with about half the growth coming from immigration and half from "natural" growth, which is the rate that births exceed deaths within the state.
Economist Stephen Levy at the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto, predicts a slightly higher growth rate, to at least 32.7 million people.
Dramatically Faster Growth
But Levy and others see a dramatically faster growth rate among Latinos and Asians, principally because of migration from Mexico, the Philippines and Southeast Asian countries.
"Well over half our net migration to the state is foreign-born. Areas that were net losers of population in the 1970s have turned around and are gaining population again. But this is primarily from abroad, and this is for the most part a relatively unskilled population," said UCLA's Mittelbach.
Levy expects California's Latino population to increase by 72% over the next 15 years, from 5.5 million to 9.5 million; and the Asian population to increase 50%, from 2 million to 3 million.
By contrast, the state's black population will increase about 20%, to about 2.5 million, and the non-Latino white population will increase less than 8%, from 16.5 million to 17.8 million, Levy said.
"You're looking at three-fourths of the growth in population to be Hispanic, Asian and black--another 6 million to 7 million," Levy said. "The Hispanic and Asian groups are growing dramatically faster than the white and black populations because of immigration. There's no comparable pool of black (or white) immigrants coming to California."
Most Arrive in L.A.
If current trends continue, most of the immigrant population will settle first in the Los Angeles area, with slightly fewer, but still very significant numbers, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A greater percentage of Latinos will continue to seek agricultural jobs and will therefore be more evenly distributed across the state. But a majority of Latinos also will live in the urban centers and seek entry-level jobs in service and manufacturing fields.
"The state, and particularly the Los Angeles economy, really should be addressing the questions of how the immigrant groups can be integrated into the economy," Levy said.
He said it is especially important for both social and economic reasons that California develop the broad job mix to assimilate its growing immigrant and refugee population into its economy, avoiding a two-track economy in which immigrants become a permanent lower class.
There was a consensus among experts that certain regions of the state would experience especially rapid growth for the rest of this century. Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego and Ventura were on every list, although opinions varied as to which would grow fastest.
Slowdown in Orange County
By contrast, the fastest growing regions of the last two decades, Orange and Santa Clara counties, have seen their growth slowed by high land and housing costs and congestion.
Orange County last year grew very slightly because of having more births than deaths, but for the first time in the county's history, nearly 2,000 more people moved out of Orange County than moved in, said Elizabeth Hoag, director of the state Department of Finance's population projection unit.
Some experts see such figures as landmark turning points for California, while others see only a slight shift in emphasis.
"Inland development is definitely a long-term trend," says Ben Bartolotto, research director for the California Construction Industry Research Board, which predicts not only a faster growth rate, but "a larger absolute number" of new jobs and homes inland than along the coast in the next two decades.
"It's congestion and cost" along the coast, Bartolotto said. "When you have high congestion, growth tends to move away from it. In Los Angeles County, they're trying to maintain congestion just at its current levels. It's a struggle just to prevent it from getting much worse.
"In 1984, for the first time, the Riverside-San Bernardino area led the state in housing starts, with 40,000, compared with 38,000 in Los Angeles and 37,000 in San Diego," Bartolotto added.
He said that so far most of the recent inland development is in blue-collar manufacturing jobs, driven by industry's need to locate where workers can afford homes. But Bartolotto said that does not point to an economic segregation, and that California industries are having trouble attracting management to high-priced coastal regions too.
Others Will Follow
"As blue-collar jobs move, sooner or later, administration and engineering and research must follow. It doesn't make sense to separate management and manufacturing for too long, and a service sector grows, so a balance is maintained," he said.
High living costs along the coast will "shift growth from the urban coastal areas inland. So we see the major growth centers of the state being Riverside, San Bernardino and the Central Valley," UCLA economist David Shulman said.
"Bringing the focus of growth inland is a fundamental shift. You have to go back to the Gold Rush days for a comparable shift," he said.
Levy agrees that there will be greater inland growth, particularly in manufacturing jobs, but he disagrees with the idea that that may be a turning point for the state.
"California is and will be a metropolitan, coastal economy. The numbers just aren't there to change that pattern," he said. "It is true that the inland areas in percentage terms are growing much more rapidly than coastal areas, but in absolute numbers most of the growth will continue along the coast.
"The rest of the state could grow twice as fast (as the San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego regions), and you're still going to get 70% of the growth along the coast."
Small Homes, Close Together
There are several ways California can continue to have its greatest growth in its most densely populated, most expensive regions. One is for people to live in smaller homes crowded closer together.
That trend is already obvious in the high-density condominiums that are taking a larger share of the new home market every year, not only in urban centers but inland as well.
There is also a trend, most apparent in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, to rehabilitate older housing and build new middle-class housing closer to jobs in the centers of the cities--particularly for the growing percentage of childless households.
The "revitalization of the inner cities" is a national trend, but it is stronger and more successful so far in California than in many other parts of the nation, Levy says, because California's cities are newer and have not deteriorated as badly as many East Coast cities.
"The miracle of revitalizing California's cities is we can get to them in time" he said. "There's private money ready to come in (for inner-city rehabilitation) because . . . you can take a depressed pocket of the city and change that pocket. You don't have to change the entire city."
California in 2001--Some Projections
Traffic congestion will increase in Los Angeles County to the point that the average freeway speed during the morning peak period will decline from about 37 miles per hour today to about 17 miles per hour.
High technology--including the current computer and electronics industries, but expanding into genetics and medicine--will be an increasing factor in the economy.
There will be a trend to develop proportionately more new blue-collar jobs inland, where land and housing costs are lower. And industries of every description will follow suit.
The vast majority of land will continue to be devoted to farm, timber and recreational uses, and California will remain the nation's leading agricultural state.
A growing elderly population caused by longer life expectancies will boost the average age of Californians from about 31 today to 36.
The state Department of Finance predicts the population will increase from nearly 26 million today to about 32 million, with about half of the growth coming from migration, mostly of foreign born.
The Latino population will increase by 72% over the next decade and a half, from 5.5 million to 9.5 million; and the Asian population will increase 50%, from 2 million to 3 million.
The black population will increase about 20%, to 2.5 million, and the non-Latino white population will increase less than 8%, from 16.5 million to 17.8 million.