The Riehl World: Envision An Aging City

by The Editors on June 15, 2012

When they rolled out their 2012-13 preliminary operating budget two weeks ago Carlsbad city officials were singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.” But not everyone joined in the chorus. A parade of disgruntled residents reprimanded the city council at its June 5 meeting for the city’s failure to invest in more open space. And now members of the planning commission join hotel industry experts in suggesting the city might soon be overbuilt with hotel rooms.

One land use issue that didn’t make the headlines can be found in a report on the city’s changing demographics by Community and Economic Development Director Gary Barberio.

Barberio pointed to forecasts showing the addition of 20,000 Carlsbadians by 2040, a 20 percent increase. But the number of 35 to 64 year-olds, who now make up nearly half of city residents, is expected to shrink to little more than a third of the population.

While the share of Carlsbad’s Generation X gets smaller, the number of Millennials between the ages of 20 and 34, is expected to grow by 20 percent. Baby Boomers from 65 to 80 will rise by a whopping 124 percent.

Follow the jump for the rest of the story.Barberio left out the fastest growing group of all, which I’ll dub the Older and Wiser, those in their 80’s and older. That group will grow by 157 percent. The bottom line? If the forecast proves accurate, one in four Carlsbadians will be 65 and older by 2040.

If SANDAG planners are right, there’s little doubt the city’s population will be substantially older than today’s. The number of residents 19 years old and younger will grow by a measly 4 percent over the next 30 years.

The city’s Envision Carlsbad project is currently reviewing land use options that take into account the city’s changing demographics. Barberio says Generation X typically buy detached homes. But Millennials and Baby Boomers, on the other hand, are more likely to buy multi-family units, condos and townhouses.

Boomers look to downsize by moving to more centrally located living units in walkable locations closer to services. Millennials marry later in life, if at all, and have fewer children.

Barberio points out these changes will substantially affect the housing, commercial and industrial sectors of the city. He says it will create the need for “greater land use flexibility in the future.” That raises more questions than answers, but it shows the importance of addressing these issues in the Envision Carlsbad project.

The city has done a great job of citizen involvement in the planning. But the question remains: will today’s residents, composed predominantly of Generation X, have the foresight to create a plan for what they’ll want their city to look like when they become members of the Older and Wiser generation?

Contact Richard Riehl at

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