Poll: Californians consider moving due to rising housing costs

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A majority of voters in California have considered moving due to rising housing costs, according to new findings from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, with 1 in 4 saying that if they moved it would be out of the state for good.

It’s just the latest piece of evidence on the state’s housing crisis, as residents confront a shrinking supply of homes and rising costs, leading many to wonder if they’d be better off elsewhere.

“When you then ask them where they would relocate, they’re often throwing up their hands,” poll director Mark DiCamillo said, according to the LA Weekly. “Millennials seem to be the most likely to say they’d consider leaving.”

The uneasiness about the market appears most dramatically in the Bay Area, where 65 percent of those polled said they’re facing an “extremely serious” housing affordability problem.

But even in Los Angeles and San Diego, 59 percent and 51 percent, respectively, have considered re-locating over housing affordability issues.

The IGS poll sampled 1,200 registered California voters from late August through early September.

In Los Angeles specifically, a recent analysis found that a person needs to earn over $109,000 per year to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city, with the assumption that renters are spending 30 percent or less of their income on housing.

Across the entire state, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,750 and a two-bedroom averages $2,110.

“These are very dramatic findings,” DiCamillo added, according to the Mercury News. “In every region of California, the rising cost of housing has crept into the consciousness of voters.”

The median price of a single-family home rose around 7 percent year-over-year to $565,330 in California this past August – and in Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, the median price jumped a shocking 17.9 percent year-over-year to $1,150,000.

The state Legislature is taking notice, passing 15 bills this month relating to housing affordability, seeking to increase the pace at which housing construction takes place.

For example, Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3 provide new funding for low-income housing, while SB35 attempts to streamline the approval process for construction in municipalities that fall behind Sacramento’s housing goals.

While California boasts some of the highest earners, it also has the nation’s highest poverty rate when housing costs are factored in, resulting in a heightened sense of urgency in a state that has some of the biggest regulatory hurdles for new home building.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California Squashes Its Young

MillennialsIn this era of anti-Trump resistance, many progressives see California as a model of enlightenment. The Golden State’s post-2010 recovery has won plaudits in the progressive press from the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, among others. Yet if one looks at the effects of the state’s policies on key Democratic constituencies — millennials, minorities and the poor — the picture is dismal. A recent United Way study found that close to one-third of state residents can barely pay their bills, largely due to housing costs. When adjusted for these costs, California leads all states — even historically poor Mississippi — in the percentage of its people living in poverty.

California is home to 77 of the country’s 297 most “economically challenged” cities, based on poverty and unemployment levels. The population of these cities totals more than 12 million. In his new book on the nation’s urban crisis, author Richard Florida ranks three California metropolitan areas — Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego — among the five most unequal in the nation. California, with housing prices 230 percent above the national average, is home to many of the nation’s most unaffordable urban areas, including not only the predictably expensive large metros but also smaller cities such as Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. Unsurprisingly, the state’s middle class is disappearing the fastest of any state.

California’s young population is particularly challenged. As we spell out in our new report from Chapman University and the California Association of Realtors, California has the third-lowest percentage of people aged 25 to 34 who own their own homes—only New York and Hawaii’s are lower. In San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the 25-to-34 homeownership rates range from 19.6 percent to 22.6 percent—40 percent or more below the national average.

No big surprise, then, that California’s millennials are more likely to stay at home with Mom and Dad into their thirties. Approximately 47 percent of Americans aged 18 to 34 lived with parents or other relatives in 2015, according to the American Community Survey — but in California, the figure is 54 percent. California’s younger generation, particularly in the cities, seems increasingly destined to live as renters.

The biggest losers from California’s housing crisis are, ironically, the very people whom progressives claim to care about most: the poor and minorities, who also constitute most millennials. Hispanics, now approaching a majority of the state’s population, account for 43 percent of the 25-to-34 cohort. Rates of homeownership for African-American and Hispanic Californians have dropped at four times the rate of Asians and non-Hispanic whites in the last 10 years, while minority homeownership in the Golden State now lags most of the country, notably Texas and the southeast.

Much of this can be traced to California’s long-standing bias against suburban development. Reducing greenhouse-gas emissions remains an obsession. But unless the rest of the country (or the world) adopts California’s strict emissions rules, the state’s regulations are likely to have little or no impact on climate change. Recently passed legislation will make things worse by imposing even more stringent regulations on greenhouse gases, mandating a 40 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2030. This represents the ratcheting up of a regulatory regime that will slow California’s already-torpid rate of issuing building permits, which is well below the national average.

California’s housing policies pose a profound long-term threat to the state’s social stability and economic viability. The state has seen a net loss of about 1.7 million domestic migrants since 2000. After slowing during the Great Recession and its aftermath, out-migration is again growing, even in the booming Bay Area. Some 29,000 more people left the Bay Area than arrived in 2016. The San Francisco metropolitan area saw net migration plunge from plus-15,000 in 2013 to minus-12,000 three years later.

Contrary to some reports, the people leaving California are not predominantly poor and uneducated. IRS data show that California’s outmigration between 2013 and 2014 was concentrated among middle-aged people with higher average incomes than households that stayed in California or moved there. This trend contrasts dramatically with Texas, arguably the state’s strongest economic competitor.

Here again, new policies will only make things worse. The Bay Area’s 2040 regional plan calls for concentrating 75 percent of new housing development on barely 5 percent of the region’s developed land mass. One alternative plan assumes that 78 percent of new housing in the Bay Area would be multi-family and 22 percent single-family (detached and attached). The regional Air Quality Agency has drawn up intrusive plans, seeking to levy tolls on all freeways, ban gas stoves, and urge less meat consumption.

Young people overwhelmingly prefer single-family houses, which represent 80 percent of home purchases nationwide for people under 35. If millennials continue their current rate of savings, notes one study, they would need 28 years to qualify for a median-priced house in San Francisco—but only five years in Charlotte and just three in Atlanta. This may be one reason, notes a recent ULI report, why 74 percent of Bay Area millennials are considering moving out in the next five years.

Regional planners and commercial chambers should indeed look to California as a model—of exactly what not to do. The state’s large metro areas are no longer hot growth spots for millennials, who are flocking to suburbs and exurbs elsewhere. Since 2010, the biggest gains in millennial residents have been in low-density, comparatively affordable cities such as Orlando, Austin, and Nashville. Ultimately, the battle for California’s future — and much of Blue America’s — will turn on how these regions meet the challenge of providing housing and opportunities to a new generation of workers and young families. A California that works only for the wealthy and well-established is not sustainable.

America’s “youth culture” was invented, more or less, in California in the 1960s, from the surfing spots of L.A. and Orange County to the countercultural hotbeds of the Bay Area. But today, California is turning on its young, with policies that ensure that most millennials will never fully “launch,” leaving many destined either to move elsewhere or become wards of an ever-expanding welfare state. The Golden State can still create an environment for growth and family formation — but only if it reclaims its historical role as the nation’s beacon of opportunity and youthful enthusiasm.

Political Battle of the Ages: Boomers vs. Millennials

Photo courtesy of www.ondeck.com

Photo courtesy of www.ondeck.com

NEW GEOGRAPHY–The old issues of class, race and geography may still dominate coverage of our changing political landscape, but perhaps a more compelling divide relates to generations. American politics are being shaped by two gigantic generations – the baby boomers and their offspring, the millennials – as well as smaller cohorts of Generation X, who preceded the millennials, and what has been known as the Silent Generation, who preceded the boomers.

Both the boomers and the Silents gradually have moved to the right as they have aged. Other factors underpin this trend, such as the fact that boomers are overwhelmingly white – well over 70 percent compared with roughly 58 percent for millennials. People in their 50s and 60s have seen their incomes and net worth rise while millennials have done far worse, at this stage of their lives, than previous generations.

Although millennials are more numerous than boomers, the elderly are a growing portion of the population, and they tend to vote in bigger numbers. Voters over age 65 turn out at a rate above 70 percent, while barely 40 percent of those under 25 cast ballots. That may be one factor in why this presidential campaign is dominated not by youth, but by aging figures like Donald Trump (69), Hillary Clinton (67) and Bernie Sanders (74).

The Silent Generation

Leading generational analysts – Neil Howe, Morley Winograd, Mike Hais – have suggested that the experiences people have growing up shape political beliefs throughout their lives. This does not mean that people do not change as they age, but where they started remains a key factor in determining how far these changes spread within a generation.

The now-passing Greatest Generation – the group that survived the Depression and the Second World War – were largely shaped by the experiences of the New Deal and the boom of the postwar era. This has made them consistently less conservative than successor generations, and they have retained their Democratic affiliations.

In contrast, the Silents – many of whom grew up under President Dwight Eisenhower and during the Cold War – have gradually moved toward the Republican column. After generally supporting the Democrats in 2006, they have backed GOP candidates but remain surprisingly balanced in their affiliations; Pew estimates Silents who at least lean Republican constitute 47 percent, versus 44 percent Democratic.

Surprisingly, Silent Generation Democrats are not much more socially conservative on issues – such as gay marriage, abortion and climate change – than the younger generation. But Silent Generation Republicans are far more socially conservative than their younger counterparts, particularly on immigration. This may be one factor that keeps the Donald Trump energizer bunny animated.

Boomers Move Right

Although now outnumbered by millennials, 83 million to 75 million, boomers, those born from 1946-64, remain the largest voting bloc, accounting for some 35 percent of the electorate. Despite being closely identified with the 1960s hippie movement and the counterculture, this group has been heading right for at least 30 years. This may be traced to their experience with the inept and depressing Jimmy Carter presidency and their support for the more self-assured optimism of Ronald Reagan.

Since the second term of the first boomer president, Bill Clinton, that generation has favored the GOP in virtually every election. And they are getting more conservative over time. Since the 1970s, the percentage identifying themselves as liberal has dropped consistently while those holding conservative views have steadily climbed. In 2011, 42 percent of boomers identified as conservative, more the twice the number who considered themselves liberal.

Focus on Generation X

Generation X, smaller than the boomer and millennial demographic behemoths, with roughly 65 million, occupies a particularly critical, if unappreciated, niche in our evolving political structure. Born from the mid-1960s to early ’80s, this generation will produce our next generation of leaders.

The politics of the X’ers are complex. On social issues, they are notably more liberal than boomers but considerably more conservative than millennials. Younger X’ers, many of whom grew up under the generally successful era of Bill Clinton, are notably more liberal than their older counterparts, but a strong majority do not approve of President Obama.

Overall, the X’ers represent something of a swing vote and could be a source of some moderation on social and environmental issues. As a group, they are widely seen as more pragmatic than boomers, who tend to embrace ideological politics. Although likely to support the GOP nominee in 2016, the margin may not be great and, if the Republicans remain committed to embracing clownish candidates, the X’ers could even end up in the Democratic column.

Millennials: Game changers?

With the exception of the Greatest Generation, the millennials are the only age cohort that can be said to be solidly Democratic. Given their huge numbers and relative youth, they will ultimately dominate our political system. By 2030, there will be 78 million millennials and 56 million boomers. But, as in other generations, their political affiliations could shift, at least somewhat, depending on how the parties shape their message over the next decade or two.

Millennials’ social views strongly benefit Democrats. The Republicans have turned off a large portion of a generation that embraces gay marriage by a huge margin and is heavily pro-immigration. The shift to the Democrats could be supercharged if Trump, disliked by four-fifths of Latinos in some surveys, gets the GOP nomination.

Millennials also could push the Democrats even further to the left. They have become a major base of support for socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. The Vermont septuagenarian has played well to this generation’s latent anti-capitalism (about as many of them favor socialism as the free market system; his call for free college no doubt appeals to those worried about college debts). More than three times as many millennials like Sanders’ Facebook page as Hillary Clinton’s, and he is polling about even among them with the former secretary of state, well ahead of his national rankings.

Although smaller in numbers, Republican millennials have gained some ground in recent elections, with most white millennials now in favor of a GOP takeover of the White House in 2016. Their expanding presence could have a potentially moderating impact on a party that appears committed to engaging in ideological and demographic suicide. Young Republicans tend to be more socially liberal – 64 percent, for example, embrace broad acceptance for homosexuality, compared with 45 percent of GOP boomers – and more often define their conservatism in economic terms, a potentially strong issue after seven years of generally anemic, and highly concentrated, income and job growth.

Who wins?

Generational politics pose both risks and rewards for each party. A Trump candidacy may excite older voters and many younger white voters, but the cost among a pro-immigrant, heavily minority millennial voting bloc could prove damaging over the longer run.

Democrats, too, face risks, particularly if they continue on the path of radical wealth redistribution and draconian climate change regulation. Although still strong, support for Obama has been steadily weakening since 2008. Millennials are the only age group to still approve of President Obama’s record, but by only 49 percent, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The future may be determined by the extent that millennials feel that Democratic policies inhibit their ability to move up economically. Younger millennials, having grown up during a weak economy under a progressive president, are notably more conservative than older ones, notes a recent Harvard study.

They increasingly share some attitudes with conservatives, having become notably more deeply distrustful of many of the nation’s political institutions. Nearly half describe themselves as independents, far more than any other age group.

To be sure, mllennials will likely stay more liberal than boomers (about as many are conservative as liberal), but they could shift further to the right once they enter their 30s and start earning a living. Once they are accumulating such things as a house and starting families, they may not easily embrace policies that would see much of their income taken away – radical redistribution is more appealing when you have little and know even less.

To take advantage of these trends, Republicans first need to adjust their views on social issues, notably on immigration and gay rights, and come up with policies to address rampant income inequality. If they fail to do so, generation dynamics will likely allow the Democrats to dominate electorally for the next decade or more.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com, the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. His most recent book is “The New Class Conflict” –Telos Publishing: 2014. Joel Kotkin lives in Orange County. This piece first appeared at The Daily Beast.) 

Millennials and Pensions – Do They Know Public Pension Systems Need Reform?

After the midterm election results there has been a lot of talk about the young people who didn’t turn out to vote. There are around 8 million millennials, people ages 18-to-35, in California. And the conventional wisdom has been that since they helped elect President Obama twice, they’ll continue to help elect Democrats. But what about all that debt piling up on their backs?

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office predicts $340 billion in debt, deferred payments, pension costs and other liabilities will be on California’s balance sheets for years to come. Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget dedicates just over $10 billion to pay down this debt, barely making a dent in the problem.

The largest pension system in the state, the California Public Employee Retirement System has not reported their actuarial values of assets and liabilities for 2013 yet, but out of its four defined benefit plans, it has an unfunded liability of about $60.6 billion. In 2013, CalPERS only contributed 87.7 percent of their annual required contributions, not even making a full payment.

The states teachers’ retirement system, CalSTRS, had an unfunded liability of $70.5 billion in 2012 and $73.7 billion in 2013. In 2013, CalSTRS paid only 44.12 percent of their annual required contributions. Governor Brown worked with the Legislature to increase contributions — since they are controlled by statute — but his plan is to increase payments over the next five years and spread the costs to school districts and teachers. This will likely increase burdens on local public school budgets and impact their general fund spending priorities.

The University of California retirement system had an unfunded liability of $11.6 billion in 2012 and $13.8 billion in 2013. In 2013, they paid only 35.7 percent of their annual required contributions. This recently prompted the university regents to increase tuition on students to pay for a bloated bureaucracy and massive pension liabilities.

In total, taking the public statements of all the state systems at face value, the California defined benefit pension system had $142.7 billion in unfunded liabilities in 2012 (the figure for 2013 is not available as CalPERS has not provided the data). The aggregate funded ratio for the whole system in 2012 was 77 percent, compared to 90 percent in 2003. In 2013, the state only paid 65.6 percent of their aggregate annual required contributions.

It should be noted that if the state systems had simply paid their full contribution every year during 2003-2013, the cumulative missed contribution plus the associated returns is more than $41 billion. Instead, these missed payments have become compounding debt for which future generations will be responsible.

In 2012, Governor Brown signed a set of nominal pension reforms that capped some pension costs, though most of the changes only impacted new employees. However, CalPERS recently contravened both the spirit and the letter of the law and allowed 99 specialty pays to be counted as base pay for purposes of calculating pensions. This not only boosted the costs of the state pension fund, it also put many localities who contract with CalPERS in the unenviable position of accommodating higher costs on their employees and pensioners as these calculations put pressure on their bottom lines.

While state government retirees collect handsome guaranteed pensions, young taxpayers will foot the bill. This has particularly serious ramifications for the millennial generation, who are sinking under the weight of public debts and obligations made by people years before they were even born. Paying those debts leaves far less money to fund government services and amenities they’d like to focus on, like education, public safety, roads, water systems, parks, beaches and libraries.

More fundamental reform is needed to depoliticize pension benefits and policies, make pensions fair to government workers and accountable to taxpayers in a simple and transparent manner. Further, government employees deserve retirement accounts that they own, are portable and transferable, without the penalties associated with the current politician-controlled system. Reform also needs to eliminate unfunded liabilities on future generations.

Millennials won’t be the only losers if our elected officials do not have the courage to reform the state’s broken pension systems. The status quo may endanger our public institutions for generations to come. But reform won’t happen unless millennials get informed and engaged.

Lance Christensen directs the Pension Reform Project at Reason Foundation.

Are Millennials Being Priced Out of California?

Are millennials being priced out of California?california empty pockets

recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau analyzing statistics from the latest American Community Survey showed the Millennial Generation is struggling to find full-time employment, obtain affordable housing and reach financial independence. The problems are particularly bad here in California.

Young Californians are not only worse off than their parents’ generation, but they’re doing worse than their counterparts in the rest of the country.

“Many of the differences between generations examined within these latest data reflect long-term demographic and societal changes,” said Jonathan Vespa, a Census Bureau demographer. “Three decades of decennial census statistics combined with the latest American Community Survey statistics give us a unique view of how — and where — our nation is changing.”

Better educated but worse job climate for young Californians

Among the five years of data, the most striking statistics are in the area of employment. Despite being better educated, young Californians are earning less money than their parents and are less likely to have full-time employment.

In 1980, 71.1 percent of Californians aged 18 to 34 were employed — better than the national average of 69.3 percent. Today, California’s employment rate of young adults is lower than the national average at 62.1 percent.

Tom Allison and Konrad Mugglestone of Young Invincibles write, “The great recession hit young workers hard, leaving roughly 5 million young adults unemployed five years after the downturn officially ended.

Young Californians earning less today

Of those young people working full-time, wages are down in 2013 inflation-adjusted dollars. Thirty-four years ago, the average Californian earned $36,961 dollars per year. That median wage has dropped to $35,734 per year for the average Californians aged 18 to 34.

As Slate recently wrote of U.S. Census data analyzed by the Young Invincibles, “For Americans between the ages of 25 and 34, annual income earned from wages has fallen in four of the top five biggest employment sectors — retail (down 9.9 percent), the leisure and hospitality business (down 14.65 percent), manufacturing (down 2.87 percent), and professional and business services (down 4.28 percent).” According to the study, the one exception is health care, which has remained nearly unchanged.

While Californians earn more than the national average, much of the wealth has been concentrated in the Bay Area, which skews California’s statewide figures.

In San Francisco County, the average full-time worker, between the ages of 18 and 34, earned a median annual salary of $59,580 — more than double the average wages in rural Madera and Modoc counties. The average young worker in the tech-dominant San Jose metro region earns $51,149 per year — 52 percent more than their counterparts in the Los Angeles metro area.

Millennials can expect lower wages  throughout  their working lives. Lisa Kahn, a labor economist at Yale University, found that college graduates that enter a weak economy suffer lower wages throughout their entire careers.

“I find large, negative wage effects of graduating in a worse economy which persist for the entire period studied. I also find that cohorts who graduate in worse national economies are in lower-level occupations, have slightly higher tenure and higher educational attainment, while labor supply is unaffected. Taken as a whole, the results suggest that the labor market consequences of graduating from college in a bad economy are large, negative and persistent.”

Price of housing top in nation

While wages have declined for millennials, the cost of housing has continued to increase.

California is home to three of the most expensive major cities for housing in the country: Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco. The most expensive city in the country, San Francisco, has an average median home price of $744,400 and requires an annual salary of $145,500 to pay the nearly $3,400 mortgage, according to Business Insider. That’s double Seattle and Chicago and more than three times the cost of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio.

The city of San Jose estimates the average apartment in San Jose rents for $2,230 — up by 49 percent in the past four years.

“Housing costs in the peninsula, from San Francisco to San Jose, have doubled in the last five years,” writes Kerry Cavanaugh of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s even worse in San Francisco, which recently surpassed New York City as the most expensive rental market in the nation.”

More Californians live with Mom and Dad

Unsurprisingly, due to these increased housing costs, millennials in California are more likely to live with their parents than those in the rest of the country or previous generations.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau report, 34.5 percent of Californians aged 18 to 34 are living with a parent who is the householder. That represents a dramatic shift from 1980, when just 1 in 5 young Californians lived with their parents. Then, fewer Californians lived with their parents in comparison to the rest of the country. Now, more Californians live at home than the national average.

“Housing is typically the largest share of household expenditures and raising its price reduces discretionary incomes, while increasing poverty,” writes Wendell Cox, principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm.

Poverty, too, has increased among young Californians. Nearly one in five Californians aged 18 to 35 lives below the poverty line, an increase from 1980.

“Let’s say you’re a kid out of college and your first job, you’re getting paid $40,000 a year,” Richard Green, director of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, told the Los Angeles Times. “You want to live in a safe neighborhood in Los Angeles, with decent access to jobs, transit, et cetera. You’re looking at $1,400 to $1,500 a month in rent. So that means you’re paying $18,000 a year out of your $40,000 just in rent.”

The U.S. Census Bureau analyzed five years of demographic, economic and housing data collected between 2009 and 2013.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Millennials & Privacy – An Opportunity for Conservatives

It is well documented that the Republican brand has had a difficult time connecting with millennial voters.  In part, the sophistication of the Obama campaign in both 2008 and 2012 enabled the Left’s message to resonate within the ether of social media, a medium dominated by America’s youth ever since its inception.  Seen as aging and uncool, the Republican image can trace some of its ineffectiveness in the last few elections to their inability to connect with younger voters, particularly in urban and campus environments.  Pew Research polls indicate that millennials (roughly defined as those aged 18-34) are the most liberal of any voting block, and approximately half of those in the category identify with the Democratic Party, while only a third label themselves Republicans.

This could soon change, however.

Not because the Republicans have ascertained the best method for connecting with millennials, but rather because there is an issue upon which conservatives and millennials are increasingly in sync: privacy.  The voting block is increasingly becoming more concerned about the government’s intrusion into their daily lives, both with respect to increased drone surveillance and cyber-spying.  This is especially true when millennials become parents themselves, something occurring with greater frequency over the next several years as millennials age into parenthood.  Research by FutureCast, an organization with expertise in marketing to millennials, notes that, once they have children, the group is three times more likely to have significant concerns over internet privacy when compared to millennials without children.  And as their privacy concerns increase, so does their likelihood to identify with conservatives.

Democrats have long been seen as continuing to increase the government’s reach in the average American’s daily life, and this is equally true over basic privacy matters.  California, historically a good barometer of national trends in politics, recently saw its governor veto legislation that would have curtailed the use of unmanned drones by law enforcement personnel for aerial surveillance.   The bill, sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorrell, would have required agencies to obtain warrants prior to utilizing the technology.  The thought of unmanned drones spying upon Americans going about their daily activities is something that troubles privacy advocates and millennials alike.  Combined with the permanence of digital footprints allowing the government to track an individual’s daily habits, the increasingly advanced “Big Brother” nature of government is starting to become a reality.  As such, millennials tend to look more favorably on the conservative message of caution with respect to big government.

Republicans, inherently skeptical of the effectiveness of expanded government, have an opportunity to connect with millennials over the issue.  As the government’s power to police the skies expands, freedom and liberty for average Americans is infringed.  The issue matters to the next generation of America’s leaders, and conservatives and millennials can increasingly find common ground upon it.

Ben Everard is an attorney and producer based in Los Angeles.