Look­ing back to pre­dict the fu­ture

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Rosanna Xia rosanna.xia@latimes.com

What will South­ern Cal­i­for­nia look like in the fu­ture?

The Times asked this ques­tion back in 1988, when 60% of the pop­u­la­tion was white and it took only 15 min­utes to zip down the free­way from the Val­ley to down­town L.A.

Plan­ning ex­perts crunched some num­bers and gave their best guess for 2010. Some of their pro­jec­tions came pretty close. Other changes since the 1980s took ev­ery­one by sur­prise. Study­ing these num­bers helped of­fi­cials re­think what it might be like by 2040.

“These pro­jec­tions are the ba­sis for ev­ery­thing that we plan,” said Hasan Ikhrata, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Assn. of Gov­ern­ments, which has been mak­ing these fore­casts since 1972. Wa­ter dis­tricts can cal­cu­late for ex­pand­ing wa­ter needs and hous­ing of­fi­cials can plan for de­vel­op­ment based on age and house­hold es­ti­mates.

POP­U­LA­TION: Ex­perts pro­jected that the re­gion’s pop­u­la­tion would grow from 12.8 mil­lion in the 1980s to 18.3 mil­lion by 2010. The ac­tual 2010 pop­u­la­tion turned out pretty close: 18.1 mil­lion. De­mo­graphic re­searchers were also on the right track when they pro­jected a more di­verse fu­ture, but they un­der­es­ti­mated the growth of the Asian and Latino com­mu­ni­ties. By 2040, the pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to be more than 50% Latino and less than one-quar­ter white.

GEN­ER­A­TION GAP: One big sur­prise was how the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion would re­shape tra­di­tional ways of life in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Who in the 1980s could’ve pre­dicted that Uber and Lyft — two ride-hail­ing ser­vices pop­u­lar with young peo­ple and in­creas­ingly oth­ers as well — would make not hav­ing a car in L.A. pos­si­ble?

“No­body, not in academia or any public agency, got this right. The mil­len­nial be­hav­ior is shock­ing to many,” Ikhrata said. “They’re not in a hurry to get their li­censes. They don’t like to drive as much as we do. They like to car­pool, bike and walk if they can. We missed that be­cause none of us ex­pected the tech­nol­ogy to move so fast.”

HOUS­ING: Mil­len­nial be­hav­iors have, and will con­tinue to, af­fect the way of­fi­cials think about hous­ing, Ikhrata said. Most de­vel­op­ments are now mul­ti­fam­ily homes and mixe­duse projects that form walk­a­ble mini-com­mu­ni­ties.

AG­ING: Look­ing ahead from 2015, the re­gion will get older, with the me­dian age pro­jected to be four years older than the me­dian in 2010. The 65+ pop­u­la­tion is ex­pected to in­crease from 1.97 mil­lion in 2010 to 4 mil­lion by 2040.

“The baby boomers are go­ing to be afraid to sell their houses be­cause they’re afraid they won’t be able to find another af­ford­able place,” Ikhrata said. “We are ex­pect­ing them to re­tire in place.”

LIV­ING CLOSER: As for traf­fic, com­par­ing com­mute times, then and now, is tricky. Some peo­ple are liv­ing closer to work, and more mil­len­ni­als are hit­ting the streets by bike or on foot. And the re­gion’s driv­ing habits have changed since the 1980s: In­stead of mak­ing sep­a­rate trips to the dry cleaner, the gro­cery store and day care, we now mul­ti­task and do ev­ery­thing in one drive, Ikhrata said.

COM­MUT­ING: But there’s no de­bat­ing rush hour. Ex­perts pro­jected in 1988 that there would be so many cars by 2010 that a com­mute from Granada Hills to down­town would take three times as long. Although the of­fi­cial av­er­age free­way speed now rounds out to 41 mph, Ikhrata cau­tioned that that was just the av­er­age. Dur­ing peak travel times — 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. — free­way speeds slow down to about 20 mph.

Inch­ing along the free­way at less than 20 mph — our 1988 pre­de­ces­sors got that right.

Syd Mead

FU­TUR­IST Syd Mead’s conception of down­town L.A. circa 2013, pub­lished in 1988.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

STA­PLES CEN­TER has been ac­com­pa­nied by sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in the area.

Ge­orge Rose Los An­ge­les Times

AN AERIAL VIEW of the 10 and 110 free­ways near down­town L.A., taken in 1980.

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