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Retroactive No-growth

By J.J. Gasparotti

In the last century, a local realtor admitted she could support no-growth, so long as it was retroactive. The real question rests with who gets to pick when the cutoff date is. Native Americans surely would pick a date prior to the arrival of the Europeans.

The issues associated with population growth have been a problem since the dawn of time. But at long last, California has arrived at a condition to encourage retroactive no-growth. Make it impossibly expensive to live here. This seems to be starting to work. Last year the rate of population growth in South Orange County was 55 percent less than the average for the past five years. People are starting to leave.

It’s working even better in Laguna Beach, where our population has actually shrunk. It has gotten so expensive to live in Laguna, even the rich folk are feeling the pinch. One of the biggest factors is the California state income tax. Let’s say you’re earning $3 million a year in a no income tax state, like Nevada. If you moved to Laguna full time, your state income tax would become almost $400,000 a year. In 10 years, this adds up to the price of a nice little starter mansion.

As a result, lots of folks who buy in Laguna don’t move here. They just visit. In order not to qualify for taxation as a California resident, they can’t live in their Laguna house more than 182 days a year. It is very hard to cheat on this. The tax authorities have devised many ways to determine where folks really do live. Cell phone records, who is your doctor or hairdresser, and where your children go to school are some of the 85 questions used to determine this very expensive answer of where taxpayers reside. All the resulting empty half-the-year houses are retroactive no-growth.

We’ve seen lots of benefits from this. Our water saving efforts wouldn’t be quite so easy if all those “vacation” homes were occupied full time. Our school district would have spent its revenues on a much larger pool of students. Imagine parking and traffic if all our houses were occupied full time.

But wait, there’s more. Most of the homes in Laguna aren’t full up. How many multi-bedroom homes in your neighborhood only have one or two old people living in them? Sure, there’s the odd one-bedroom place with 16 undocumented kitchen workers living in it. They’re the exception.

She was right. Retroactive no-growth is a good thing and we would be more crowded without it.

J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.

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