CA anti-sprawl laws fail, TX low-zoning works

by CalWatchdog Staff | May 28, 2013 2:12 pm

Welcome to Texax, Dept. of Transport[1]May 28, 2013 

By Wayne Lusvardi

Californians are fleeing the center of their big cities while suburbs are suffering from slow growth. If it were not for international in-migration, California’s older big cities would be suffering from population decline the same as Detroit. Texas has become the “New California” by figuring out the formula to sustain the population of its older city centers while its suburbs are booming at the same time.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its Census of California metropolitan areas from 2010 to 2012[2]. Every older large city in California is experiencing flight of its long-time residents, who are being replaced by international migrants. If it were not for international migration, the older core of California’s big cities would be in a sudden, massive population decline.  Property values and the property tax base would likely also fall.

Sources of Los Angeles Metropolitan Area In-Migration 2010 to 2012

Type Metropolitan Area Domestic In-Migration International In-Migration
City core (-122,534) +118,961
Suburbs +62,221 +69,744

The older core of Los Angeles lost 122,534 of its older residents from 2010 to 2012. In their place a wave of 118,961 net international migrants moved in.  In San Jose, 7,029 older residents moved out but were replaced by 30,315 international migrants. In Sacramento’s old city core, 2,086 residents moved out and 11,150 international migrants moved in. In Riverside-San Bernardino, 4,421 residents moved out, but 6,649 international migrants took their place.

California suburbs have experienced roughly balanced migration. But unlike Texas suburbs, Golden State suburbs are suffering from slow population growth.

The new Metropolitan Area Census shows 135,545 new migrants to California suburbs, reflecting only a 0.3 percent increase per year from 2010 to 2012.  Of this, 69,744, or 51 percent, were international migrants. California is not experiencing a “return to the city” or a “suburban growth boom.”[3]

This is the opposite of what is happening in the metropolitan areas of Texas, where older cities are experiencing more balanced in-migration and its suburbs are booming from high levels of domestic in-migration.

Texas has more balanced migration in older cities

California needs a large influx of international migration to sustain population levels in its older cities, especially the older core of the City of Los Angeles and in the suburbs of San Jose.  Conversely, older cities in Texas reflect more balanced sources of in-migration.

Sources of Texas Metropolitan Area In-Migration 2010-2012

Type Metro Area Domestic In-migration International In-migration
City core +96,021 +75,701
Suburb +185,689 +37,213

Unlike California, Texas metropolitan areas had greater domestic in-migration than international migration. 

Texas suburbs booming from domestic in-migration

From 2010 to 2012, Texas suburbs experienced a boom mostly from much higher levels of domestic in-migration than international migration. Eight of the 15 fastest-growing cities[4] in the U.S. are located in Texas.

One exception to the Texas trend of domestic in-migration in its suburbs were the suburbs of San Antonio. They are attracting wealthy “business-savvy” Mexicans[5], comparable to Cubans who after Castro seized power in 1959 sought refuge in Miami. Conversely, California is attracting more Asian international migrants[6], especially to high-tech areas in San Francisco and San Jose.

Markets, not anti-sprawl laws, work best

California’s political economy is based on high tax rates; rent control[7] and growth controls[8]; inflated housing values, but relatively low property tax rates because of Proposition 13; mandatory inclusionary housing and more jobs for teachers, tax assessors, subsidized solar power technicians, urban planners and environmentalists.  Its immigration policies are mostly the symbolic “Dream Act,” anti-deportation laws and “sanctuary cities.”[9]

Texas’ economy is based on low or no business and income taxes, no rent control[10], few growth controls, higher property tax rates based on lower housing values, inclusionary old inner cities by markets, and tax incentives[11] for private sector jobs. Only El Paso and Houston have sanctuary city policies[12].  An anti-sanctuary city bill[13] died in the Texas legislature in 2011.

California has passed anti-sprawl legislation to try to halt the out-migration from its older big cities.  The results would have been miserable if international in-migration had not stemmed the outflow of population.

Texas has accomplished balanced in-migration into its older city centers where California has failed. The Texas incentive model is performing better than the California disincentive model as far as sustaining the center of its older big cities while Texas suburbs are booming at the same time.  Texas is accomplishing what 75 years of public housing and lending policies could not in California: an older city core that is attracting a “return to the city” by domestic and international migration and concurrent suburban growth.

Appendix 1:

MIGRATION: California vs. Texas Major Metropolitan Areas Migration

Net Domestic Migration Net International Migration Net Migration (Percent Per Year)
Metro Area Core County(s) Suburban Counties Core County(s) Suburban Counties Core County Suburban County


Los Angeles Co.  13,052,921 (-110,934) 8,439 88,868 23,635 -22,066 (-0.2%) 32,074 (+0.2%)
Sacramento Co. 2,196,482 (-2,086) 6,472 11,150 3,172 9,064 (+1%) 9,644 (+0.3%)
Riverside-San Bernardino Co(s) 4,350,096 (-4,221) 33,207 6,649 6,184 2,428 (+0.6%) 39,391 (+0.5%)
San Jose Co. 1,894,388 (-7,029) 476 30,315 104 23,286 (+1%) 580
San Francisco-Oakland Co(s) 4,455,560 1,736 17,103 12,294 36,753 14,030 (+6%) 53,856 (+1%)
Total California 21,949,447 (-122,534) 65,221 118,961 69,744 26,742 (+0.2%) 135,545 (+0.3%)


Austin TX1,834,303 36,045 30,339 9,536 2,161 45,581 (+2.5%) 32,500 (+1.5%)
Dallas Fort Worth 6,700,991 9,745 88,765 20,652 22,153 30,397 (+1%) 110,918 (+1%)
Houston TX 6,177,035 20,101 50,554 42,096 12,295 62,197 (N/A) 62,849 (N/A)
San Antonio TX 2,234,003 30,130 16,031 7,417 604 37,547 (+1.5%) 16,635 (+1%)
Total Texas 16,946,332 96,021 185,689 75,701 37,213 171,722 (+1.6%) 222,902 (+1.1%)


Total Major Metro Areas (-163,363) 285,728 798,480 588,593 635,117 874,321

Data extracted from Wendell Cox, “Texas Cities Lead Population Growth.”[14]

Appendix 2, Definitions:

Net Domestic Migration[15]: The difference between domestic in-migration to an area and domestic out-migration from the same area during a specified time period. Domestic in- and out-migration consist of moves where both the origin and the destination are within the United States (excluding Puerto Rico). The net domestic migration rate expresses net domestic migration during a specified time period as a proportion of an area’s population at the midpoint of the time period. Rates are expressed per 1,000 population.

Net International Migration[16]: Any change of residence across the borders of the United States (50 states and District of Columbia). The estimates of net international migration are made up of four sub-components:

  1. Net international migration of the international born;
  2. Net migration between the United States and Puerto Rico;
  3. Net migration of natives to and from the United States; and
  4. Net movement of the Armed Forces population between the United States and overseas. The international migration rate expresses net international migration during a specified time period as a proportion of an area’s population at the midpoint of the time period. Rates are expressed per 1,000 population.
  1. [Image]:
  2. Census of California metropolitan areas from 2010 to 2012:
  3. “return to the city” or a “suburban growth boom.”:
  4. Eight of the 15 fastest-growing cities:
  5. “business-savvy” Mexicans:
  6. Asian international migrants:
  7. rent control:
  8. growth controls:
  9. “sanctuary cities.”:
  10. no rent control:
  11. tax incentives:
  12. El Paso and Houston have sanctuary city policies:
  13. anti-sanctuary city bill:
  14. “Texas Cities Lead Population Growth.”:
  15. Net Domestic Migration:
  16. Net International Migration:

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