A recent UCLA report has raised some eyebrows: Residents of the San Fernando Valley are more dissatisfied with their lives than they’ve been in nearly a decade. Spearheaded by UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs through their Los Angeles Initiative, the survey has tracked residents’ life satisfaction annually since 2016. This year’s results have exposed deepening concerns, particularly around the steep costs of living and housing prices.

Held in February and March, the survey gathered opinions from 1,686 people on 40 different life aspects, including everything from the cost of living to public safety. The findings reveal a countywide slump in satisfaction, plummeting from a score of 59 in 2016 to just 53 this year. The situation looks even bleaker in the San Fernando Valley, where satisfaction dipped to a record low of 51, the worst since the survey started.

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the study and a noted figure at UCLA, emphasized the stark inequalities plaguing the area. “We have two societies here in L.A.,” Yaroslavsky remarked, pointing out the significant income and wealth gaps that contribute to the inequities observed from A to Z across the county. The sharp decline in satisfaction levels over the years is largely attributed to economic pressures, notably the cost of housing, which remains the top concern among residents.

Jeff Bornstein, president of the nonprofit West Valley Alliance for Optimal Living, echoed this sentiment, lamenting the transformation of the Valley from a once tranquil community to one overwhelmed by development and congestion. “The price of housing is insane,” Bornstein noted, highlighting the financial strain on residents, particularly younger consumers struggling to afford their own homes.

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Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, also expressed frustration over the increasing unaffordability of the Valley, a sentiment shared by Sonya Blake, president and CEO of the Valley Economic Alliance, who described the survey as “an indicator of dissatisfaction with the cost of living in the region.”

The survey also dived into public safety, with satisfaction ratings in the Valley at 52, slightly below the countywide score of 56. Other areas such as education, environment, transportation, and healthcare also saw lower levels of satisfaction compared to broader county figures.

For the first time, the survey included questions about air conditioning in homes, revealing a significant disparity based on income, race, and geography. While 75% of homeowners countywide have air conditioning, this figure rises to over 90% in the hotter San Fernando Valley, yet drops to 48% near the cooler ocean areas and about 60% in the economically disadvantaged South Los Angeles.

Yaroslavsky highlighted the critical issue of housing affordability, noting that even necessities like groceries and utilities have become increasingly expensive. “About a year ago, we had a monstrous increase in gas bills,” he added, underscoring the compounded economic challenges facing residents.

The survey also touched on perceptions of homelessness, with 60% of respondents stating that the situation had worsened in their neighborhoods over the last year. Despite a general lack of optimism toward government initiatives to address homelessness, Yaroslavsky stressed the need for patience and sustained efforts to tackle these systemic issues.

The UCLA survey serves as a crucial barometer of resident sentiment, highlighting the urgent need for effective policies and interventions to enhance the quality of life in one of America’s most populated regions.