LA in a Rearview Mirror—Why So Many People are on a Road Out of Town

CORRUPTION WATCH-The City of Los Angeles is losing population, but no one wants to admit it. When the City bases planning for the future on the falsehood of a rapidly increasing population, the observation that it is really losing population is unwelcome at City Hall.


The adage, “Garbage in, Garbage Out” describes planning in LA, a city that habitually misrepresents its population. Propaganda serves its masters by disseminating a false narrative designed to mislead the masses into going along with whatever the rulers desire. If everyone were to recognize that the stagnation of Los Angeles’s population has turned the corner into decline, then some opposition might arise. 

Corruptionism Fuels the Decline 

The City’s decline is caused by the bribery-extortion modus operandi that allows developers to construct anything they want. The motive of this scheme is to aggrandize the value of a few parcels of land resulting in extreme density in areas such as Bunker Hill, DTLA, Century City, Hollywood, etc. This starves the rest of the City of its share of office space. For over 100 years, we have known that de-centralization is the key to LA’s long-term success. 

City civil engineers warned us in 1915 that a few landowners would try to concentrate development. For decades, greed and corruption have skewed the City’s land use priorities in favor of densification. The creation of the Community Redevelopment Agency in 1948 and its subsequent Bunker Hill Project was the first great victory for corruptionism. People living in the Valley would have preferred to drive to a smaller office center within 10 to15 minutes of their homes in Sherman Oaks.  

If all the office space on Bunker Hill had been distributed throughout the rest of the City, there would have been no traffic congestion; no one location would have attracted enough people to create rush hours. But then, the vast profits of the Bunker Hill developers would have melted away. Each Bunker Hill high rise represents a diversion of profits away from parts of the City where they might have flowed. Bunker Hill, Century City and similar high-density projects could not exist without corruption at City Hall. 

In return for bribes, the mayor and city council have made the densification in areas called Transit Oriented Districts [TOds] official policy. It does not take a math genius to figure out that the developer of the huge Millennium Earthquake Towers in Hollywood will spread around a lot more loot than someone who wants to construct a modest office building in Granada Hills. See, for example,

“L.A. Mayor Garcetti—Governs “The Chicago Way”,  by Stephen Frank in the California Political Review. 

Why the City’s Population is Declining 

To assess whether a falling population is good or bad, one needs to understand the reasons for decline. If people leave due to a deteriorating quality of life, the population decrease is bad. And that is the problem which currently faces Los Angeles. 

As Wendell Cox recently pointed out in Elusive Population Growth in the City of Los Angeles,”  the City has declared three times that it has broken through the 4 million population mark, only to have the proclamations to be found untrue. 

While there is some indication that the number of babies born here each year is still greater than the number of people who leave LA and the number who die, the birth rate alone should not deceive us into believing that our population is increasing. Before going berserk at that statement, take some time to think about the situation. If you slam on your car’s brakes, it would be misleading to say that you are accelerating even though your car has not come to a complete halt. 

The Complexities of a Population Decrease 

Populations are composed of myriad subgroups. To know if the City’s population is increasing requires understanding what is occurring within those subgroups. A lower than customary death rate among seniors can mislead society into thinking that its size is increasing, but that is a temporary, self-correcting fluke. The Boomers will die, but the Millennials will not be returning to the City.  

Births do not increase demand for housing since babies do not rent or buy homes. To the contrary, babies influence Family Millennials to move away so that they can purchase homes with yards. More births to Family Millennials today mean more families will be leaving LA within a couple years. Therefore, it is foolish to think that the birth rate foretells an increase in future population. 

When one looks at the dynamics behind the low senior death rate and the higher birth rate to Millennials, one foresees that both will result in the City’s having few people within a few years. 

A Population Increase Is Not Causing Increased Traffic Congestion 

Neither newborns nor elderly Baby Boomers are increasing the number of drivers and thus are not the cause of worse traffic congestion. Increased congestion comes 100% from construction densification. If there were no Bunker Hill high rises, many of those cars would not be headed towards DTLA each morning. Thus, the idea that we need more mass transit because of an illusory population increase sets terrible planning priorities. The real purpose behind subways and fixed-rail transit is the delusion that they will reduce traffic congestion caused by a larger population. But the main thing spending billions of dollars on subways will do is create vastly more wealth for international construction contractors. 

Hollywood Reveals the Dynamics of Our Population Loss 

Hollywood provides the best example how Angelenos react to excess densification and more mass transit, i.e. the subway: they move away. Here’s Hollywood’s population since 1970 (source U.S. Census) 

Year            Population         Increase        Decrease

1970           156,000                4,000             N/A

1980           181,000               25,000            N/A

1990           214,000               33,000            N/A

2000           211,000               N/A                  3,000

2010           198,000               N/A                13,000 

As Judge Goodman found in 2014, the City generates false data. Thus, we must rely on federal statistics to comprehend what is happening. Garcetti claimed that in the year 2005, Hollywood had 224,000 people, a population figure he said was based on SCAG’s determination, but it turns out that SCAG’s number for Hollywood’s population in 2005 was only 200,000 -- 24,000 less than the City’s false representation. Furthermore, Hollywood’s population dropped between 2000 and 2005. But admitting this would have made it impossible for Garcetti to justify the Manhattanization of Hollywood; hence, we had the false propaganda that Hollywood’s population was rapidly increasing. 

To this date, the City continues to rely on falsehoods. Its 2016 Draft Update to the new Hollywood Community Plan asserts that its population is increasing, and Garcetti cites the SCAG RPT 2016. But that report has no population data for Hollywood. The City’s data comes out of thin air to support its conclusions that Hollywood is being swamped with newcomers. 

The demographic data from reliable sources show that LA has been stagnating and its population has started to decrease. Los Angeles, for example, is the least desirable urban area for the middle class and very few Family Millennials now move here. We know, however, that there is an exodus of those who came here as Young Millennials.  

Corruption Inflates Housing Costs 

Contrary to the propaganda, demand for housing is not the cause of escalating housing costs. Rather, corruption ensures that all residential property is priced at its development potential and not at its lower living space value. For those who do not know, here’s how corruption inflates housing costs. Since a developer can bribe his way to build whatever he wants, he will pay more for residential property than a family who wants to live in the house. Thus, a Family Millennial must pay the Development Value to stay in the City. The development value can be two to three times more than the living space value. 

More than any other factor, the exorbitant cost of buying a home causes Family Millennials to leave the City and that induces employers to follow them and move as well. The crucial tipping point hit in 2016, the 25th anniversary of the Millennials’ peak birth year. This meant that each year there would be fewer Young Millennials and more Family Millennials. Such a demographic change reverses the population flow and as Millennials transition from a dorm room life style to building equity and stable families, the City becomes an anathema. People always move from high cost, low opportunity areas to places where costs are lower and opportunities are greater.   

The stagnation in the population of LA, documented by Wendell Cox, is turning into an irreversible population loss.


(Richard Lee Abrams is a Los Angeles attorney and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: Abrams views are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CityWatch.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.