Mega Cities Require Mega Suburbs

Housing is unaffordable in California, and, increasingly, housing is becoming unaffordable in every other part of the United States where Democrats control state legislatures and city councils. And in the spirit of nonpartisanship, it is fair to say that when it comes to housing, far too many Republicans share the same agenda and goals as their supposed Democrat opponents.

The shame of these policies is not only the misery they impose on growing proportions of Americans, but the pessimism they represent. Read beyond the initial recitation of mundane obstacles to share a positive vision of the future. The economics of affordable housing do not have to be complicated. Awesome housing for everyone can be realized merely by changing the conventional wisdom.

Here are four policy choices that have turned millions of Americans into slaves to their home mortgages, and pushed additional millions into cheap rentals that cost them most of their paycheck.

1 – Punitively high fees for building permits. These exorbitant sums are necessary to pay for infrastructure such as connector roads and utility conduits that cities used to pay for out of their operating budgets. But out-of-control expansion of government combined with overmarket pay negotiated by government unions has changed all that. Now local governments have to charge developer fees that can easily exceed $100,000 per home.

2 – Laws that require “inclusive zoning,” whereby low income people are given subsidized homes and apartments in high-income neighborhoods. This pushes up the costs for housing that people have […] Read More

No, Antarctica is NOT “Rapidly Melting”

The BBC, which in September 2018 announced its decision to censor any reports by climate skeptics, continues to propagandize for climate alarmists. On March 12, BBC “Science Correspondent” Jonathan Amos published an alarming article entitled “Greenland and Antarctica ice loss accelerating.” According to Amos, “Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, are now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s thanks to warming conditions.”

The BBC was not alone, of course. Generic journalist NPCs around the world ran with the story. The Guardian’s version came with a predictably terrifying subhead “Losses of ice from Greenland and Antarctica are tracking the worst-case climate scenario, scientists warn.” USA Today offered its version on March 16, with a story entitled “Greenland and Antarctica are now melting six times faster than in the 1990s, accelerating sea-level rise.”

The source of these dire statistics was a report in the journal Nature, published in late 2019 and released online on March 12. The key findings were summarized by NASA/JPL, and come down to certain quantitative assertions that invite skeptical analysis.

Perhaps the most alarming sounding statistic was the following, quoting from NASA/JPL:

“The two regions [Greenland and Antarctica] have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three decades; unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100.”

This sounds like a lot of ice. “6.4 trillion tons.” But it’s not. This equates to 6,400 billion […] Read More

Venice Beach Locked Down Except for Homeless Encampments

Apart from excursions to perform essential work or engage in essential activities, California’s 40 million residents have now been under house arrest for over a week. But in the homeless haven known as Venice Beach, the party hasn’t skipped a beat.

Law abiding residents have deserted the Los Angeles coast after a crackdown following a weekend of what mayor Eric Garcetti called people getting “too close together, too often,” Parking lots along the Los Angeles beaches are roped off. Along the boardwalk in Venice Beach, all the businesses are closed.

None of these new rules seem to apply to the homeless. Whatever minimal law enforcement still existed in Venice Beach prior to the COVID-19 outbreak has diminished further, and more tents than ever have appeared on the boardwalk and along the streets.

It’s important to recognize that some of California’s homeless are victims of circumstances beyond their control, who want to work, who have to care for young children, who stay sober, who obey the laws. But not sufficiently acknowledged by agenda driven politicians and compassionate care bureaucrats is the fact that most of these homeless find shelter.

The vast majority of homeless that remain unsheltered, especially in places like Venice Beach, are either drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill, or criminals. None of these people belong on the streets, not now, and not ever. There is not a homeless crisis or housing crisis in Venice Beach so much as a drug crisis, an alcoholism crisis, a mental health crisis, […] Read More

How Much Water Went Into Growing the Food We Eat?

The rains bypassed sunny California in January and February 2020, encouraging talk of another drought. California’s last drought was only declared over a year ago, after two wet winters in a row filled the states reservoirs. To cope with the last drought, instead of building more reservoirs and taking other measures to increase the supply of water, California’s policymakers imposed permanent rationing.

This predictable response ignores obvious solutions. Millions of acre feet of storm runoff can not only be stored in new reservoirs, but in underground aquifers with massive unused capacity. Additional millions of acre feet can be recovered by treating and reusing wastewater, and by joining the rest of the developed nations living in arid climates who have turned to large scale desalination.

All of this, however, would require a change in philosophy from one of micromanagement of demand to one that emphasizes increasing supply. To understand why a focus on increasing supply is vastly preferable to reducing demand, it helps to know just how much water California’s urban residents consume compared to other users.

As a matter of fact, the average California household purchases a relatively trivial amount of water from their utility, when compared to how much water they purchase in the form of the food they eat. For this reason, reducing residential water consumption will not make much of a difference when it comes to mitigating the effects of a prolonged drought.

To illustrate this point, it is necessary to determine just how much water […] Read More

Sustainable Megacities

Modern urban centers around the world now have neighborhoods that house well over 100,000 people per square mile. The Choa Chu Kang district in Singapore, defined by boulevards lined with 10 to 12 story mid-rise residential buildings, has a population density of more than 125,000 people per square mile. The entire borough of Manhattan has an average population density of more than 70,000 people per square mile, with far higher densities in areas of midtown and lower Manhattan.

According to a 2018 report released by the United Nations, today 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is estimated to increase to 68 percent by 2050. At the same time, the United Nations projects the global population to increase from 7.8 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050. These projections lead to a surprising calculation: the absolute number of people living in rural areas is expected to decline, from 3.5 billion today to only 3.1 billion in 2050.

What should not be surprising by now is that people around the world, voluntarily and inexorably, are migrating from rural areas to cities. But the corollary effect is relatively unheralded; that around the world, open land is slowly depopulating. For the most part, this is happening absent government coercion. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom—heard endlessly in the United States—that we are running out of open space. We aren’t.

If we have a sustainability challenge, it is not […] Read More

California’s Progressive War on Suburbia

For three years in a row, California’s progressive lawmakers have attempted to legislate higher density housing by taking away the ability of cities and counties to enforce local zoning laws. And for the third year in a row, the proposed law, Senate Bill 50, was narrowly defeated. But eventually, inevitably, something like SB 50 is going to passed into law.

In opposition were homeowners who understandably don’t want their single family home neighborhoods subjected to random demolitions in order to replace single family homes with construction subsidized fourplexes to be filled with rent subsidized tenants. These homeowners, and the local elected officials who represent them, were joined by “housing justice advocates” who claimed the law didn’t adequately address the gentrification effect, whereby higher density developments often displace existing residents to construct luxury condominiums that only the wealthy can afford.

There’s a lot going on here, and it seems that very little in the way of analysis can support a dogmatic ideological perspective. For example, from a property rights perspective, you can argue that people who purchase homes have a right to expect the zoning density of the neighborhood to be respected, since that’s what they relied on when they invested their life savings and lifetime earnings. But a property rights perspective might also have one argue that each individual home owner has the right to do whatever they wish with their property, even if that means demolishing the home to construct a multi-story apartment building. These unresolved and conflicting […] Read More

Environmentalists Caused Australia’s Fires, Not “Climate Change”

“These greenies and the government don’t want to burn s— off. We’re going to lose all our houses and properties because of you useless pieces of garbage will not burn off when its supposed to, through the winter time like we used to do years ago out in the farms up in the mountains; burn all the undergrowth off so everything was safe. But you p—–, you want to have a really good look at this, look at the state you’ve caused here. You are the biggest bunch of useless loser pieces of garbage God ever had the misfortune to blow life into.” – Australian resident of New South Wales, January 7, 2020

This is the reason for this year’s devastating wildfires in Australia. Environmentalist regulations prevented landowners from burning off dry brush. For decades, every year during the Australian winter, across the continent, brushfires were deliberately set to safely burn the undergrowth. Even in pre-colonial times, the aborigines set brushfires to prevent tinder from accumulating.

If you want to watch an authentic, eyewitness account of what really happened – quoted above – you’ll find it 2:56 minutes into “The Truth About the Australian Bushfires,” a video posted on January 7th by the inimitable Paul Joseph Watson. But watch out. Most of the profanity is edited out of the above transcription.

Profanity is appropriate, however, given the frustration that level headed people have to feel when they confront the fanatics who want to micromanage every aspect of our lives […] Read More

Fossil Fuel Reality

Over the weekend, the traditional Harvard versus Yale football game was interrupted during halftime by about 150 student activists, spontaneously joined by hundreds of fans, to protest climate change. Occupying the area around the 500-yard line, the protesters chanted “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Fossil fuel has got to go!” The game resumed after about 30 students were arrested and the rest left.

It would be reasonable to suppose that people who manage to gain admission to Harvard and Yale are among the most gifted students in America. But when it comes to swiftly eliminating the usage of fossil fuel, have they done their homework?

Around the world, billions of people are now convinced that catastrophic climate change is inevitable if humanity continues to rely on fossil fuel. Most developed Western nations, along with the United Nations and other supranational organizations, are promoting aggressive policies to replace fossil fuel with renewable energy. While a scientific debate remains, especially with respect to the severity of the predicted climate change, it is the economic challenges relating to rapid elimination of fossil fuel that require urgent examination.

The reason for this is simple: At this time, there is no feasible economic scenario whereby worldwide fossil fuel use does not increase steadily for the next several decades. To dispute this assertion, several indisputable facts would have to be ignored. For starters, shown below is a chart illustrating just how large a percentage of global energy remained dependent on fossil fuel over the past […] Read More

Saving California From Wildfires Requires Cooperation With Trump

President Trump recently tweeted “The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management,” Newsom tweeted back, “You don’t believe in climate change. You are excused from this conversation.”

October 29th, former Governor Jerry Brown addressed the U.S. Congress, saying “California’s burning while the deniers make a joke out of the standards that protect us all. The blood is on your soul here and I hope you wake up, because this is not politics, this is life, this is morality. You’ve got to get with it – or get out of the way.”

Despite that California’s current and former governors are both ardent members of the catastrophe chorus, climate change has almost nothing to do with California’s recent wildfires. These fires are the result of a century of successful fire suppression, combined with a failure to remove all the undergrowth that results when natural fires aren’t allowed to burn. Not only does excessive undergrowth create fuel for catastrophic super fires, but these excessive trees and shrubs compete with mature trees. This is the real reason why our forests are not only tinderboxes, but also filled with dying trees.

Forest professionals who were consulted for this article were in agreement that despite the antagonistic rhetoric, and notwithstanding the misplaced “climate crisis” scapegoating and fearmongering, state officials are working with federal agencies on practical solutions. But it isn’t easy to reverse a century of forest mismanagement overnight.

While a consensus […] Read More

California’s Density Delusion

The ability for American workers to enjoy middle class lifestyles has been eroding for decades. Conventional explanations abound. American industry in the immediate aftermath of World War II was uniquely unscathed, and with a near monopoly on global manufacturing, was able to pass much of their ample profits on to workers. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that American manufacturers confronted serious foreign competition, and ever since, the competition has just gotten more intense.

By the 1990’s the electronic movement of capital along with trade agreements such as NAFTA turned national labor forces into commodities. And at the same time as American industry was going international, America’s laws were changed to favor mass immigration of unskilled workers who competed for jobs with native workers, driving down wages. These immigrants were also far more dependent on government services compared to previous generations of immigrants, putting stress on government budgets.

Export jobs. Import welfare recipients. No wonder America’s middle class is withering away. But this conventional explanation, however accurate, is only half the story. Yes, for whatever reason, average Americans work harder and earn less today than their predecessors. And the process has been relentless. Every decade since the 1950’s has seen an American workforce making less than they made during the preceding decade. But they are not just making less – things are costing more.

At first glance, this seems counterintuitive. Not everything costs more. Using the consumer price index (CPI) as a yardstick, and adjusting for performance – a modern flat […] Read More