My hometown of Los Angeles has been a tourist destination ever since it first became reachable by railroad. Consequently, I grew up around tourists. In fact, their behavior spurred me to swear I'd behave better than they did whenever I traveled.
I'd also lived in other parts of Southern California that were, in a word, livable. Pleasant. Not clogged with self-entitled strangers who litter, steal assigned parking spaces, and rudely ignore posted nonsmoking areas.
At the age of 29, I finally broke. Even though doing so forced me to take a severe pay cut, I packed up and moved.
Now I live in a different part of Southern California. I can drive to L.A. if I want to, and I don't have to deal with the noise, the pollution, and the constant crush of way too many people.
The problem? Tourists have discovered the "quiet, untouched little beach town" where I live and now overrun it on a regular basis.
Years ago, it was idyllic. It was quiet. Parking was ample. There was never any traffic. Disorderly conduct was rare.
I now find myself interacting with people from out of state/out of the country/possibly out of their minds on a near-daily basis. The vast majority of them aren't bad people per se, but they seem completely oblivious to the fact that their behavior can drive locals crazy.
And it's not just me. People from other parts of SoCal are finally getting fed up enough to say, "Knock it off already!"
Voters in the city of Carlsbad voted against Measure A, which would have put a large, upscale retail center in what is now a strawberry field. The anti-A slogan was "Save Carlsbad." Talk to Carlsbad locals (I have) — they resent the hordes of tourists who descend upon the local outlet mall and don't want it to get worse.
The city of Huntington Beach passed a plan to punish non-residents for causing incidents requiring an emergency response. The city council did reverse the decision soon after (because the media viciously attacked the city over it), but the neighboring cities of Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Fullerton, and Costa Mesa have implemented similar programs. Why?
You might think residents of tony Malibu wouldn't have a care in the world, but you'd be mistaken. They are so fed up with tourists stomping through their side yards and taking their parking that some of them have done very unethical/illegal things to keep them out.
In the Hollywood Hills, residents are sick and tired of tourists driving around in their neighborhood trying to get a better look at the Hollywood sign. It's true that a lot of these people are spoiled, but would YOU want strangers parked on your street all day long? (Let me just state that, as a local, I have only ever seen the sign from public places like the Griffith Park observatory.)
And in my family's old neighborhood of Santa Monica, the recent subway expansion has made the city so clogged with visitors that Santa Monica locals are actively avoiding large parts of their own city. (I had a three-mile commute to downtown Santa Monica, and on summer weekends, it could take me 45 minutes to get home. I'm glad I left when I did; it would be out of the question now.)
Let's just say I understand why the Peruvian government restricts the number of daily visitors to Macchu Picchu.
Look, I appreciate the fact that tourists infuse money into California's economy. But in the interest of a happy (or at least less angry and less resentful) medium between tourists and locals, I'd like to lay some ground rules. (Note: Most of these can be applied worldwide.)
Do not EVER, under ANY circumstances, take someone's parking space or block their driveway. If you can afford to travel, you can afford to pay for parking in the public lots. Stealing someone's space can make them late for work or force them to lug their groceries home from several blocks away. Stealing a disabled person's dedicated space will earn you a permanent spot in hell.
Do not EVER, under ANY circumstances, smoke unless you are DEFINITELY in a smoking area. Californians joke about city smog left and right, but WE HATE SMOKE. We don't want to smell it, we don't want your cigarette butts polluting our beaches, and a lot of us already have lung problems due to air pollution. Some tourist attractions (hello, San Diego Zoo!) and even municipalities have severe restrictions on smoking. Plan ahead, and bring nicotine patches.
Please stop wasting water. We're in extreme drought conditions, plus a lot of the country's food is grown here, so our farmers desperately need that water. Turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, and try not to take long showers.
Speaking of water: Drains are not for dumping. Guess where it's going? The same ocean your kids want to swim in.
Speaking of the ocean: If you aren't a good swimmer, STAY OUT OF THE OCEAN. The Pacific Ocean is powerful and potentially deadly. Even experienced swimmers can drown.
NEVER, EVER IGNORE A LIFEGUARD. Keeping you alive is their job. Don't make it any harder.
If you're here to surf, take lessons, be careful, and NEVER drop in on another surfer's wave. You could seriously injure another surfer or yourself.
Localism still exists at certain surf spots. Guess what — tourists crowding the lineup just makes it worse. If you see more than one or two "Locals Only" or "No Kooks" bumper stickers in the parking lot, try another beach.
If you cannot drive safely, you should not drive at all. One-eighth of the U.S. population lives in California. One bad accident caused by a gawking, inattentive tourist can cause an all-day freeway snarl and bring the day to a grinding halt for thousands of people (also, you could kill someone). Pay attention, obey traffic laws, DO NOT DRIVE WHILE INTOXICATED (I can't believe I have to say that), pull over when the cops signal you, and don't pack your car with so much crap that you can't see out of the rear windscreen. (Arizona and Utah residents, I'm primarily talking to you here. Nine times out of 10, inattentive out-of-state drivers have Arizona plates. The 10th driver usually has Utah plates and a carload of shrieking kids.) Try the train instead; it's often cheaper than driving, your kids will love it, and you can relax and enjoy the scenery (especially on the coastal route).
If you are driving, buy a GPS and use it. I've seen fender-benders take place because a distracted tourist was looking for an address. Also: Locals might not know every single street in the area (we're people, not Google Maps).
Arizona residents: Please stop showing up at hotels/vacation rentals at 2 a.m. We get it. You don't want to drive during the hottest part of the day. Well, your neighbors at the hotel (or vacation house) don't like being woken up at 2 a.m. (Side note: When I was an RA in college, at least one kid from Arizona would rudely ignore the check-in hours, show up at 2 a.m., and wake half the dorm. This happened EVERY TERM, and the students responsible would always wonder why their roommates hated their guts.) You chose to live in Arizona; you can either deal with the heat like grownups or fly here (and the way you drive, we'd strongly prefer the latter).
If you have an irrational hatred of hybrids and electric cars, get over it. California is a big state. Our cities are spread out. Gas is expensive here. Hybrids, for a lot of people, are the sensible choice.
If you are sick, STAY IN YOUR HOTEL. Do not go out in public and spread your germs around! An acquaintance who works with tourists told me, "I used to get one cold a year. Now it's five or six because sick tourists won't stay in their hotel rooms, and I'm not used to the germs they carry. "
Stop bitching about California's sales tax. Stores do not "charge" sales tax. They COLLECT it for the State of California, as required by LAW. Unless you have a valid seller's permit or a personal tax exemption grated by the State Department, you're paying. And stop whining "It's not fair, I live in Oregon!" You are still using our roads, our precious water, our utilities, and our emergency services while you are here. It's perfectly fair. You get to live in Oregon (and, from what I've heard, can be downright nasty to Californians who move to your state). California has too many people and needs the money.
On a related note, stop harassing store clerks for plastic bags. If they don't have any, throwing a childish temper tantrum is not going to make them magically appear. The proposed statewide plastic bag ban has run into some delays, but it is going to happen eventually because those things KILL marine animals. Ever since San Francisco banned plastic bags in 2007, other cities have followed suit. Stop being selfish and take the paper bag or bring a reusable tote bag for your shopping.
If you are going to a tourist attraction, check schedules, attraction closures, etc. BEFORE you book your trip. Really, this is common sense. I'll never forget the day I saw a 50-something woman throw a screaming fit at Disneyland because the Country Bear Jamboree had closed — in 2003! — to make room for Winnie the Pooh.
For the love of God, STOP "discovering" off-the-beaten-path towns and turning them into an overcrowded nightmare. A few more visitors are manageable for a smaller town, but thousands each day? The town where I live wasn't built to handle so many extra people. Just last week, a woman who moved back here after several years out of state asked me, "Where did all these people come from?!"
We'd really prefer that you NOT sightsee in residential neighborhoods. See my previous point on the Hollywood Hills. Would YOU want hordes of strangers hanging out on your street and taking all the parking spaces every single day?
Please stop joking about moving here. Thirty-eight million people already live here. Housing is horrifyingly expensive as it is, and competition for good jobs can be tough. Please don't make it even worse than it already is. In some areas, even people with good jobs are being priced out of their homes.
You are vacationing in our home. Please treat it with the same respect you'd want us to give your hometown.