California Growth Shows an Exurban Pattern

The "back to the city" narrative might make for good headlines, but an analysis of California's growth patterns tell a different story. Take San Diego County as an example.
May 15, 2017, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Ken Lund

Alon Levy digs into the latest data for population growth in California, finding a different reading about growth in San Diego County. The county grew faster than the rest of the state, but "there is a long-term threat facing the county within its population growth trends," writes Levy.

Rich suburbs have no more room and are experiencing low population growth. Meanwhile, the highest growth in San Diego County is in lower middle-income Vista. Viewed together, these two trends show how poor transportation and growth-restricting zoning limit the county’s access to good jobs.

According to Levy, it's a pattern repeated around the state, where "big cities have outgrown their counties." Meanwhile smaller cities and rich suburbs that could accommodate more growth aren't doing so.

The San Diego case study focuses on the city of Vista, which Levy describes as the frontier of growth in the county. There, the future of growth in California would be "exurban, lower middle-class but not impoverished, low-income but not desperate," and, Levy writes, not that exciting when compared to the "back to the city" narrative popular among many urbanists.

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Published on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in Voice of San Diego
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