Saturday, May 23, 2015

SANDAG's population growth estimates are consistently, horribly wrong

One of the main political and legal tools used to force high-density development on Encinitas is SANDAG's Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) numbers.  SANDAG comes up with population growth estimates, then forces cities to build high-density development to accommodate that population growth.

But there's a problem.  SANDAG's growth numbers are always completely wrong.  And not just randomly wrong, but consistently biased for the past 25 years in favor of developers.

Voice of San Diego:
In 2000, for instance, SANDAG projected the region would add nearly 400,000 new people by 2010. Instead, the population grew by just 280,000 people. The agency overestimated actual growth by 43 percent.

In 1990, SANDAG told local governments the region would add 480,000 people by 2000. The region added 315,000. That’s a 52 percent error.

They’ve missed the other way too, though it’s been a while.

In 1980, SANDAG told local governments to prep for an increase of 460,000 new residents by 1990. The region actually added 630,000 people, 27 percent more than SANDAG said.

“One can be completely agnostic about whether the population going up or down is good, but to the extent that our infrastructure budgets are driven by this projected change, along with all the other development policies for cities and the county, that’s a pretty big forecasting error,” Carson said.

36 comments:

  1. For sure. SANDAG has always rounded-up. Even when people were LEAVING California in the mid 90's. One year only 4 homes were permitted to be built city-wide in Encinitas. Makes me wonder how close to "64,000" people we really are. A lot of variables to consider with time-shares, summer homes, etc. Shouldn't be as hard to count as the mobile homeless though, and those numbers always seem incredibly high when I read them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Teresa Barth stated that she wanted to do the General Plan Update "to keep planners busy." Really? She became the mother of the Ugly Baby and Patrick Murphy its father just because planners had nothing to do for a few years?

      Delete
    2. I did a census walk thru Leucadia door-to-door in 2009 and found dozens and dozens of single-family homes where 5 and 6 college age individuals were 'fratting' it. Certainly something like that phenomenon could move the numbers up? Also, how many guest workers are there hiding in the aqueduct next to El Camino Real as it runs adjacent to Target and Leo Mullen field?

      Delete
    3. The General Plan Update was originally planned for 2014; but when the City was informed it must create an adopted Housing-Element, Barth and Murphy/Langager/Strong couldn't resist using the H.E. as a ruse to 're-make' Encinitas, much like today's council. Without question Planning convinced Bond, Stocks and Dalager to fund busy-work for the Planning Staff in the form of the General Plan Update because suddenly there was only 25% of the amount of work coming in as in an average year prior to 2008.
      Advanced Engineering in Encinitas means planners advancing their own ideas and lording their ideas as the 'right' ones.

      Delete
    4. Using OUR money and paying themselves and consultants that they choose to advance their pension-friendly goals!

      Delete
    5. You guys just crack me up: "... but when the City was informed it must create an adopted Housing-Element ...". The knew all along that the city needed to get a certified housing element.

      I will say your insatiable need for villains does inspire some crazy scenarios.

      Delete
    6. 6:09 PM

      I meant to type: "The city knew all along that they ..."

      Delete
    7. All the city had to do was to READ it and make a couple of minor changes. Instead, they decided to play for keeps and change everything--something that they are still trying to do with the plan they sent up to HCD.

      Citizens, get ready to send up your comments to HCD in the next month.

      Delete
  2. I wonder if the state housing law corrects for this error from cycle to cycle? If the projected growth was 2x the actual during the last cycle, then it stand to reason that some or all of the RHNA allocation for the current cycle should be already met.

    Of course, that correction goes both ways. If they underestimate, you might get additional units tacked on to your allocation in the next cycle.

    --FP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonder not: it doesn't. SANDAG reps came before the Encinitas council a few years ago to talk about this recurring issue of over estimation. They did not mention under estimation.

      Spoken as a true FP (Fictitious Persona). Someone paying you overtime off the books to post?

      Delete
  3. All I know is that in 95 at 54,000 people, we were deficient 300 affordable homes. 20 years later at 64,000 they said we were deficient 2300 affordable homes. Kind of a pregnant ratio, wouldn't you think?

    ReplyDelete
  4. In LA County we have SCAG, and their population projections are completely laughable as well.
    http://sierramadretattler.blogspot.com/2013/12/an-la-county-superior-court-judge-calls.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. SANDAG is just a shill for the Chamber of Commerce. When I worked with an agency in the county, we dreaded dealing with these guys. Their work is shoddy, and they are lazy and arrogant. The best thing that could happen in San Diego would be to have SANDAG abolished.

    ReplyDelete
  6. These comments are definitely from people who have never done forecasting, especially population forecasting. They act like it's an exact science. Besides, it's not just SANDAG doing the forecasting it's the Department of Finance (DoF) who are actually the official numbers for all California cities and counties. SANDAG's estimates can vary a little from the DoF numbers but not by much. Since SANDAG's estimates were within three percent of DoF, they were used for RHNA.

    Population and economic projections are based on trends, both positive and negative, in the past. For example the last forecast series was before the Navy announced the Pacific emphasis which will have an effect on the San Diego economy. Until these things happen, there is no way to anticipate them in a forecast unlike say, ship building, where you could average out the up and down nature of contract awards.

    Also, forecasts project out many years with intermediate numbers every five or ten years. While the timing of each increase is important the ultimate goal is to estimate what infrastructure will be required to handle all the new people. Will the drought and the rising cost of housing have a permanent dampening of population increases? Quite possibly. Many employees in San Diego chose to buy in Riverside county and endure a long commute so they don't add to San Diego's population but are included in the employment.

    The population forecast used for RHNA was completed just before the start of the Great Recession which had a big impact on the economy and the 2010 Census found a higher vacancy rate as people left San Diego. If the SANDAG forecasters were able to predict it, they'd now be working on Wall Street earning millions.

    Even if you used the revised 2010 population estimates it wouldn't have that big an impact on Encinitas's RHNA numbers. But that won't happen so get over it. Yes, the revised numbers will have an impact going forward as the Bay Area revised their RHNA numbers downward for a lot of cities in this latest cycle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not so. There were abundant newstories about residents leaving CA in at the same time that SANDAG was releasing ridicuous figures about the amped up growth of population.

      We expect more than "build it and they wil come."

      Delete
    2. It needs to be an exact science when certain interested parties are using that data to uproot whole neighborhoods and pack in a bunch of cheese box SANDAG housing. If an office full of clueless government nitwits can't make accurate population estimates, then their data should be ignored.

      Delete
    3. 1:15 PM

      "It needs to be an exact science" Well it isn't and unless you're willing to allow the government to track your every move, it never will be. I'm afraid you are the one who is demonstrating being a "clueless ... nitwit".

      Most of the work for SANDAG's last forecast series was done by early 2009 when it wasn't clear yet whether the recession was going to be deep and long lasting. Besides the 2010 Census was only a few years out and that would provide a clear benchmark for revision. The timelines for the forecasts are driven by the regional transportation plan which has to be revised every four or five years.

      Delete
    4. Not to mention, when errors are pointed out, why does SANDAG just say "we'll fix it in X years," rather than course-correcting immediately and issuing a corrective forecast? They could have a threshold, say off by 3% or more, or somesuch.

      This wink and nod business was old the first time. Does SANDAG ever err on the side of underestimating?

      Delete
  7. 12:50, Right you are. SANDAG's population for Encintas increased 2000 people in 1995 during the CA exodus when no one could find a U-Haul because everyone took them elsewhere. U-Haul would PAY people to take them back to CA. Also, the enrollment at San Diego decreased 75 students that year. The first year a decrease had happened in 20 years according to a long time secretary there named "Pat". I don't know if Pat was a man or a woman. When I left there one time, I asked Pat if I should leave the keys to the ladies room. Pat said: "Why would I need keys to the ladies room? I'm not a janitor!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A sense of humor, have we? This sounds like an old SNL gag.

      Delete
    2. No, not much of a sense of humor here. Thats why I had to rob an old SNL skit. Sorry, Pat.

      Delete
  8. I'm glad to see so many here suddenly interested in economic and demographic forecasting. I didn't realize the expertise of many of the commenters. I'm sure it has nothing to do with how many potential affordable housing units Encinitas has to accommodate. Besides, why do we care. We don't follow state mandates anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not suddenly interested, just happened to be discussing here, now. No one is offering any "expertise" except observation of perpetual and significant over-estimation of population increases that work to the developers' benefit. These same developers cry a river about making projects pencil out while admitting to helping write the "state mandates."

      You have a problem with healthy skepticism based on years of evidence? You must work for the city or work to make things pencil out. If not, what do you have to add to the conversation other than criticizing those who dare to question?

      Delete
    2. 2:57 PM

      Yes it's always the developers

      The Voice of San Diego article only talks about the last few series forecasts being high not the earlier ones. The trouble is the forecasts are for thirty some years and the ultimate test is whether they get it right in the end but they know things change so they revise the forecasts every few years. They've modified the last series forecast based on the 2010 Census results but the RHNA numbers were prior to the Census.

      I'm not a developer but I have done modeling. As far as "healthy skepticism", please. If calling people "clueless government nitwits" is your idea of healthy skepticism then we don't agree.

      Delete
    3. The clueless government nitwits are on the City of Encinitas payroll!

      Delete
    4. I engaged in no name calling, but you can try diverting the conversation by making that claim, if you think it helps make some kind of argument.

      I've done modeling, many of us have done modeling, and there is a +/- factor that is typically (hopefully) applied, with a fast course correction. In the real world - private business - you don't just cruise along, saying "whoops, oh well" every so often.

      When the U.S. Census says flat to 2.7% increase as SANDAG claimed when they presented to the Encinitas Council three or so years ago and SANDAG is claiming 7%, we have a problem. When SANDAG's solution to this significant discrepancy is "we'll try to catch it up at the next round, which is eight years away," we have a problem. At the same time, the developers have a field day with their "mandates" and SANDAG's erroneous forecast to back them up.

      SANDAG did not say that they modified anything based on the US Census; rather, they said "it is the gold standard and we have a gap." End of story.

      Delete
    5. Should say "end of their story." I have a problem with that. Why don't you?

      Delete
    6. 4:22 PM

      I'm sorry you thought I was referring to you personally. I was referring to whoever made the quote which represented an extreme version of a number of the comments. I'm hardly trying to divert anyone.

      SANDAG forecasts are used in a number of ways, are time consuming, expensive and require buy-off from a number of agencies who use them. Any forecast over a long-range period is going to experience fluctuations so an intermediate year's numbers may be off because of recent events both plus and minus. SANDAG did adjust their numbers given the 2010 Census results but it was too late for the current RHNA and they are already far into the next series forecast.

      Not only does SANDAG forecast regional numbers but they disaggregate them to cities and other areas. I don't have the time or space to go into the nuances of population forecasting and I don't want to infer that SANDAG forecasting can't be criticized. But because these number get officially adopted by many agencies for many purposes, they can't make changes on a whim.

      Delete
    7. SANDAG doesn't seem to have come to grips with a number of long-term trends.

      1) the birth rate is low and barely above replacement rate
      2) California has persistent net out-migration to other states (largely due to cost of living and poor middle-class job creation)

      So the primary sources of population growth for San Diego County are foreign immigration (largely illegal) and wealthy people from LA and OC.

      Delete
    8. It's this "too late to adjust" attitude that I find unacceptable. SANDAG's position of "we know we're wrong, but this is what you're stuck with" screws with our cities and quality of life, although it does line a fair number of developer pockets.

      Delete
    9. I was at the council meeting the night that the SANDAG demographer said that the census was "the gold standard." The question I had when I heard him say it was why we needed him or his job to manufacture numbers that were off the mark. His is not even a duplicated position since his figures are wrong!

      Delete
    10. Housing is always affordable in the planning stage. But when these wickiups go on sale it is whatever the developer can get for them. Even clueless government nitwits know that. It's just not part of the process to talk about it.

      Delete
    11. 3:16 PM

      If you're referring to market rate units, yes it's what ever the market will bear. Designated affordable units must remain affordable no matter what's happening in the market

      Delete
    12. That's if they ever get built...lots of shell gaming here in Encinitas, in case you're new to our town, 6:02.

      Delete
  9. This "although it does line a fair number of developer pockets" meme is just bullshit. Why is the Census the gold standard? Because they do their best to count everyone every ten years and that includes homeless and illegals. That is the only time there is a full count and any forecast whose base year is other than a census year starts off with an estimate.

    Lets compare SANDAG's current RHNA numbers to the 2010 Census for Encinitas:

    RHNA January 1, 2010 Estimate - Pop: 65,171 - Housing: 24,877
    Census April 1, 2010 - Pop: 59,518 - Housing: 25,740

    So at a time when the Great Recession was in full swing, SANDAG over estimated population (+ 5,653) but under estimated the housing count (- 863). The Census also had a higher vacancy rate then SANDAG which is part of the reason for the difference in population.

    ReplyDelete
  10. i'm not following. so in 2010 SANDAG overestimated population by around 5K and underestimated available housing by around 1K. wouldn't that lead to an additional housing requirement that was unnecessarily high?

    ReplyDelete