To help celebrate the Palisadian-Post’s 2017 move online, which is free with your subscription to the print edition, we have asked a range of futurists experts to tell us what Pacific Palisades could look like in 20 years’ time. The consensus? Very different, but still very Palisadian.
By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief
According to the 1982 film “Blade Runner,” Los Angeles in 2019 will be rainy. In next month’s sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” LA is sandy—apparently Barstow has blown onto our doorstep.
But the sweet spot for professional futurists is 20 years out—half way between these dystopian visions and, apparently, a happier place to be.
There are things people can predict. In 2037, the inflation index calculated by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) suggests that a $22 ticket at the Cinépolis theater in Rick Caruso’s Palisades Village will cost $36. If we are still going to movies, that is.
At Ralphs, a $3.49 gallon of milk will cost $5.20, if we are still drinking cow’s milk (sales trends suggest otherwise), and a 99-cent bunch of organic kale will cost $1.90. If we must.
And Lord knows how much marijuana will cost at our organic pot shop.
There are the Rumsfeldian “known unknowns,” such as a quake or a bluff slide, or the Palisades merging with Brentwood as an independent city,, and genuine shockers dubbed “black swans.” But, if those don’t happen, and we survive, what next?
The Palisadian-Post spoke to a range of Palisadian professional prognosticators, including Eric Marshall, who is invested in emerging technologies, and Pacific Palisades Community Council Representative At-Large Lou Kamer, who is also a technology and transportation consultant.
We approached big brains at the University of Southern California, including (Palisadian) Adlai Wertman, professor of social entrepreneurship at the Marshall School, Travis Longcore, urban environmentalist at the School of Architecture, and Petros A. Iannou of the Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies.
There were a few whose opinions were either so pessimistic or optimistic that they did not want to speak on the record because, as one said, “anyone predicting anything is nuts. Make vague pronouncements and claim them as yours if, by luck, you turn out to be nearly right.”
Firstly, the big picture. On the surface, the Palisades will probably look very much like it does today—the same neighborhoods, the same road grid, some of the same eucalypti.
The inhabitants? The town is currently home to 36,300 people, according to property analysts Onboard Informatics. But there are only 1,600 white-collar jobs around town: Everyone else, from the downtown lawyer to Stephen Spielberg, has to commute to work.
This number will only gradually increase, experts say, as will the number of blue-collar jobs (currently 850), but the “middle skill” jobs, such as in geriatric healthcare, will boom.
In 2015, the LA Business Journal calculated that the Palisades was the fourth richest zip code in Los Angeles, behind Bel Air, Palos Verdes and San Marino. And the good news, according to Forbes, is that we will be “comfortably stable” into the near future.
LA County predicts the town’s population will grow by around 6,000. That is about the same as the 4.2 percent population growth since 2000, which has been largely incorporated.
LA County Health Services also predicts that the average age of a Palisadian could rise from 46 to mid-50s, a graying of the population with vast cultural and financial consequences.
In addition, the racial balance, currently 88-percent white, could shift with wealthy Asian arrivals.
The town could even become Republican again, as older folk adopt the Highlands and Marquez Knolls state of mind rather than that liberal Rustic Canyon outlook.
Infrastructure? If the community can not decide where to build a new electricity distribution station, whether it be by school or park, we will get used to a lot more LADWP pole-top distribution drums, aka “devil poles.”
At the current rate, with three in current projection, maybe a dozen more will spring up around the town.
Solar powered batteries will only evolve incrementally: California has been paying Arizona to take our surplus solar power output, because our antique grid cannot deal with it.
The Village business zone could face a dramatic makeover.
Kamer is not alone in predicting that, as LA reshapes the city’s 35 community plans by 2024, height restrictions could buckle under pressure for more business space.
“The Village could become our downtown,” he warned. “High-rise.”
Realtors say we are coming toward the end of a redevelopment cycle that has radically changed some areas, such as the Alphabet Streets, while leaving others virtually untouched.
By 2037, we may be due for another development tsunami: The Highlands, largely built in the 1970s, could be a little shopworn, overshadowed by all those new villas built alongside Palisades Drive with ground-stabilizing fixes permitted under the revised community plan.
And the Palisades Village project? Rick Caruso, by now a spritely 78-year-old ex-mayor of LA, will probably be thinking about tearing it down and starting again.
Here come the hover-trucks—pity no one found the money to repave Chautauqua.
“Maybe we will get Trader Joe’s next time,” sniped one expert, hopefully.
But with growing labor shortages across the state, the Palisades Village may be one of the few places in town where the next generation of teens can experience hands-on, non-coding jobs.
And what about Palisades Charter High School? Marshall believes it will be reshaped by technology.
“We shall see more immersive learning tools, such as augmented and virtual reality, to serve different learning styles that can’t be accommodated by a single text book or instructor,” he said.
He suspects that high school could become more like a college campus, an advisory and social meeting place.
Education levels are already high—currently 16,000 Palisadians have a bachelor or graduate degree—and will get substantially higher.
And getting around?
As Palisadians are early adapters, the standard vehicle will be a battery-operated, self-driving model, probably with virtual reality helmets for the kids and a bar in the back.
The Economist predicts it will mean the end of home and street parking spaces.
Why buy a Tesla, which will be stationary 95 percent of the time, when you can lease from the Uber-Hertz robo-driver, which picks up the kids safely and uses roads more efficiently than mere moms and dads? Then you can fill the garage with last year’s jetpacks, and celebrate the city’s Vision Zero “no traffic fatalities” drive.
Kamer predicts this shift could actually increase traffic as “short haul” journeys increase.
Today’s precious Village parking spaces could be tomorrow’s mass charging stations.
It could also change crime, said one USC expert: Fewer DUIs and engine inhibitors will make outliers such as the sons of the Ruthless Ryderz (or maybe even daughters, if they ever socially evolve) more visible to the massed eyes of ticket-issuing CCTV bots.
Fewer car thefts and thefts from self-locking cars.
There will be less street crime for profit, but, if the gloomiest predictions come true, more threat from mental illness.
“There are 200 people homeless in the Palisades: Band-Aid policies will not work, so, looking at Venice today, we will have 1,000 transients a day passing through the Palisades—they arrive by bus, cops take them back downtown, they come back by bus,” a weary voice said.
“Your homelessness taskforce will be more essential than ever, helping those who can be helped at record rates, but it will leave the truly deranged lost souls dug into the Bluffs. Without massive societal change, friction between townspeople and transients will grow.”
And the environment? Mansionization will continue to erode green spaces, including infilled back yards. Coyotes could become as rare as mountain lions, urban-sized lap dogs more common.
But there is hope, predicts Travis Longcore: Smarter cities are protecting key trees with legal orders—the giant dioon palm in Rustic Canyon Recreation Center has been registered with the city as a “heritage tree.”
He thinks Palisadians are savvy enough to demand that the city sets “canopy standards” where up to one-fifth of all sidewalks are shadowed by trees to cool and protect.
So, in 2037, what will be the same?
The prime housing stock, individualistic in Rustic Canyon, grand in The Huntington and Amalfi. Landmarks such as the Eames and Getty houses, the Villa Aurora and Will Rogers State Historic Park will remain sacrosanct.
On balance, conclude most of the experts, quakes notwithstanding, it will probably be a cleaner, brighter, safer, smarter place to live.
And the people: that heady brew of native-born Palisadians (about 20 percent now: fewer in the future as they sell up and move, like Stuart Miller, to cheaper locales) and Mid-Westerners seeking to recreate their own “Maybury.”
By 2037 today’s children will be busy at work and today’s frenetic worker bees will be stepping back to take a role in local governance, volunteerism and joyous community activities.
Let’s hope they remember what the old Pacific Palisades once looked like—handsome, family-orientated and yet, as always, restless, back in that golden year of 2017.