As usual, California's fastest growing counties were inland, far from coastal job centers. The big surprise was that the fastest growing city was an affluent Silicon Valley suburb that had been sued in 2012 by affordable housing advocates.
"California’s population grew by 0.85 percent in 2016, adding 335,000 residents to total 39,524,000 as of January 1, 2017, according to an annual population report released [May 1] by the Department of Finance," states their press release (pdf).
The largest numeric increases occurred in the state's largest cities. The City of Los Angeles, California's largest city, grew by more than 42,000 persons in 2016 to a population of over four million (4,042,000).
Among the 10 largest cities, Sacramento (#6), grew the fastest, a rate of 1.4 percent, to 493,025; Long Beach (#7), grew the slowest at 0.1 percent, to 480,173. Los Angeles, San Diego (#2), San Francisco (#4) and Bakersfield (#9) all grew at 1.1 percent
Three of the four fastest growing counties in household population were in the Central Valley: Placer (1.8 percent), Yolo (1.6 percent), and San Joaquin (1.5 percent). Riverside County, in the Inland Empire, increased 1.6 percent.
The fastest growing city in California
"With one notable exception — Menlo Park — the Bay Area cities that grew the most last year were suburbs where housing tends to be more plentiful and more affordable, a trend that helps to explain the perennially jammed roads and freeways," reports Katy Murphy for The Mercury News. See chart at showing the 25 fastest growing cities among the 101 cities in the nine-county Bay Area. Note that San Joaquin County is outside the region.
Economists and urban planners note that Menlo Park, population 35,670, is one of few cities at the center of the tech boom adding housing in earnest to meet the demand. Its new 1,900 residents marked a population increase of 5.5 percent for the small Silicon Valley city last year — the second-highest percentage increase in the state behind the Amador County town of Ione.
State demographers clarify that this city in southern San Mateo County, just north of Palo Alto, "had the largest percentage of household population growth," to distinguish it from the 10.6 percent population increase in Ione in Amador County resulting from prison growth. Amador was also the state's fastest growing county for the same reason.
The (Palo Alto) Daily Post reports (not online) that Menlo Park added "736 new homes over the past year," 80 percent in two apartment complexes in the transforming Belle Haven section of the city, not far from Facebook's headquarters. In the largest of the two complexes, Facebook subsidized 15 of the 37 affordable housing units of the 394-unit apartment complex.
Are affordable housing advocates partly responsible Menlo Park's growth spurt?
In 2012, Menlo Park settled a lawsuit with three nonprofit, affordable housing groups, resulting in rezoning and incentives to spark construction of "1,975 additional homes, more than half of them for people with very low to moderate incomes," reported Bonnie Eslinger for The Mercury News.
The plaintiffs sued to compel Menlo Park to complete a state-mandated planning document called a “Housing Element,” which ensures the city will make land-use and policy decisions that allow for more homes affordable to people of all income levels.
In a statement released [May 17, 2012] with the settlement agreement, Menlo Park officials acknowledged that the city’s last Housing Element was done in 1992 and seven-year updates for 1999-2007 and 2007-2014 were not completed.
What the report doesn't indicate
“California has seen negative outward migration to other states for 22 of the last 25 years," according to a Mercury News report last August. However, this population report has no such data, as the Department of Finance gathers population estimates and housing data only for funding purposes, adds Murphy. "[T]hey don’t show whether higher birthrates, immigration or domestic migration are driving the changes."
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