A few days ago, David Brooks wrote about the good old days in mid-20th Century California when Statal Greatness governors did Big Things.
Yet, the actual politicians are of minor importance. Of course it was easier to be a leader of California in 1950 when the population of California was under 11 million than in 2010 when it's around 37 million.
As the state gets more crowded, the cost and slowness of infrastructure projects goes through the roof. For example, the only new University of California campus to open in a generation and a half, UC Merced, took from 1985 to 2002 to construct. The whole campus had to be moved when an endangered minnow was discovered on its site. And that’s way out in godforsaken Merced. If they’d tried to build the new UC campus where students would actually want to go, such as in the wine country, they’d still be in the permitting stage.
This kind of thing is inevitable as population density goes up.
It was totally obvious to everybody in 1950 that California was the best deal in the whole world, so people flooded in. That kind of deal can't go on forever, however, and now California isn't such a good deal.
The big problem with California today is that an awful lot of the population of California can't afford to live in California.
The one big change that could have been made would have been to cut way down on immigration after 1965 so that American citizens, rather than random foreigners, got most of the subsequent benefit of populating California, as they had gotten most of the huge benefits from moving to California in 1848-1965, That would have slowed down overpopulation and fulfilled the Preamble to the Constitution that explains that the purpose of the federal government is to promote the general welfare of “ourselves and our posterity.”