There has been controversy concerning the veracity of figures used in this column. The assertion is that the numbers are made up and have no relation to reality. That’s a fine notion, except for one problem. This column does not have the creative bandwidth to make things up. Instead, it is reduced to using mundane sources, like the actual budgets of the government agencies being discussed, or websites like censusviewer.gov.
In the 2000 census, the population of Laguna Beach was 23,727, and by the 2010 census, that population had shrunk too 22,723. That’s a thousand fewer residents or more than a 4 percent decline. Next year’s census is likely to reveal this trend accelerating.
Twenty percent of Laguna’s houses are vacant—that’s over 2,600 empty homes. No wonder we do so well on water conservation. There’s nobody here to use it. The main problem is declining diversity. Prices are getting so high, the millionaires are being priced out by the billionaires.
Municipal government is forced to subsidize management’s housing costs so they can live within a reasonable distance for emergency response. The mere minions are left to their own devices.
That’s also true for all the folks who make their living providing retail service in our stores, tending to our beauty needs, serving our food and drinks, maintaining our homes and yards, doing our construction and repair work, teaching our children, and just generally filling all the essential tasks that don’t pay much. Those folks are being relentlessly flushed out of town by a rising tide of high home prices.
The majority of residents who can still afford to live here are over the age of 50. Seven out of 10 local residents moved here in the last 20 years. They’re mostly the cream of the wage-earning crop. It takes a lot of income to buy into a town where the median price of a home is well over $1.5 million and the average earnings exceed $80,000. There are few jobs that pay that much in town.
We now have a situation where most folks who work here can’t afford to live here on the wages they earn, and most folks who live here have to go out of town in order to earn the money needed to pay the cost of residency. Until we fix this, there is no hope for fixing our traffic problems, our paltry retail sales numbers, or engaging our residents in civic affairs. We’re changing from a village into a rich suburban census tract.
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.
Clearly the solution to this dilemma is for Laguna Beach to get annexed. Trying to stay a rural village surrounded by urban growth is futile? Despite a rich property tax base this “village” is just not rich enough to resist assimilation. With a few exceptions we have to leave town to buy the things we need.