Hat tip to Stormin for sending this along from the nytimes.com:
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — For decades, California has been seen nationally and by its own residents as a state divided into north and south, urbane tree-huggers versus car-obsessed beach hoppers. But the more meaningful division, it turns out, may be between east and west.
Communities all along the state’s coastline have largely bounced back from the recession, some even prospering with high-tech and export businesses growing and tourism coming back. At the same time, communities from just an hour’s drive inland and stretching all the way to the Nevada and Arizona borders struggle with stubbornly high unemployment and a persistent housing crisis. And the same pattern holds the length of the state, from Oregon to the Mexican frontier.
“This is really a tale of two economies,” said Stephen Levy, the director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy. “The coastal areas are either booming or at least doing well, and the areas that were devastated still have a long way to go. The places that existed just for housing are not going to come back anytime soon.”
The Valley Restart Shelter in Hemet, a small city in eastern Riverside County, used to draw the chronically homeless. Now, many residents are laid-off teachers, former loan officers and construction workers who have been jobless for two years or more.
“Because jobs are so scarce, it all just seems to snowball and people don’t feel like they can get their hands around a path to their own recovery,” said Linda Rogers, who has run the shelter for more than a decade. “The people we see now are people who went from having a house to having a smaller house to having an apartment to having cars to having a job to having just nothing. They are willing to take anything, but anything just doesn’t seem to be out there.”
By contrast, business owners in Orange County are more optimistic than they have been since 2004, according to a survey by the business school at California State University, Fullerton.
Joseph Cervantes, a senior executive vice president at R. D. Olson Construction, said that for the last several years it was focused on renovating hotels in Orange County, because building new ones seemed out of the question. But this year he completed a 130-room Residence Inn in San Juan Capistrano, a few miles from the shore. The hotel caters to upscale business travelers — one of its selling points is a putting green — and has been at 81 percent capacity since it opened in February. “That’s a crazy high demand we could only hope for a couple of years ago,” Mr. Cervantes said. “Clearly it hit the market at the right time.”
The differences between the west and east are not limited to the economy; several studies have shown that the coastal areas are more politically liberal than their inland counterparts. New environmental laws, for example, may be embraced in cities focused on preserving the beach, but viewed as anathema to some inland political leaders who see regulations as a path to driving businesses out of the state.
Perhaps no politician exemplifies the divide better than Jeff Stone, a conservative Riverside County supervisor who last summer proposed a bill to split off his county and 12 others to form a 51st state, South California.
Many leaders in the state ignore his area’s plight, he said. “I’m not optimistic to think that our beauty is enough to sell Southern California,” Mr. Stone said. “Here we see nothing but more chain restaurants because the mom-and-pop places can’t make it anymore. The folks in Sacramento just have their hands out and don’t realize how much we are struggling.”