- Minority Growth In North Bay Cities, 2000-2010 (PDF - 196kb)
Sebastopol now least diverse city in Sonoma County
Published: Monday, March 14, 2011 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 14, 2011 at 7:37 a.m.
Sebastopol, a city that celebrates cultural diversity, has become the least ethnically diverse city in Sonoma County, a distinction held 10 years ago by Sonoma.
Sebastopol's non-white population is now 18.1 percent of its 7,379 residents, up from 14.7 percent 10 years ago, according to 2010 Census data.
With a population of 10,648 residents, Sonoma is now 20.8 percent minority, up from 10.8 percent in 2000. Sonoma added 1,231 minorities during the past decade, including 1,009 Latinos, 143 Asians, 17 Native Americans and 17 African Americans.
Sebastopol added 199 minorities during the previous decade.
“Sebastopol is open-minded, but it's not very diverse,” said Ian McCullough, a local acupuncturist who grew up in San Francisco and first moved to Sebastopol in 1996. From 2000 to 2005, McCullough lived in Occidental, then returned to Sebastopol.
On a sunny afternoon last week, McCullough was eating frozen yogurt at a downtown Sebastopol shop with his 4-year-old daughter Jade, who is a one-fourth Chinese.
“One of the reasons we moved back here is because it's a great family town and a great place to raise kids,” he said. “But the one thing that's missing in this town is diversity, and that's a bummer.”
Higher home prices, elevated apartment rents and fewer housing and job opportunities are reasons cited by locals. The city's population declined 5.1 percent during the 2000s, primarily because of a decrease in the white population, from 6,635 in the 2000 Census to 6,041 last April, when the 2010 Census was taken.
“We have an aging population with very little turnover in housing,” said Michael Kyes, Sebastopol's vice mayor.
All across the North Coast, the number of minorities is growing rapidly, particularly Latinos, in some cases making up for dramatic declines in the region's white population.
The growth in the local minority population is mirrored across the state and the country. Minorities are expected to become a majority of the nation's population by 2042.
In California, the biggest percent changes occurred among Asians and Latinos, with the Asian population growing at a faster rate, 31.5 percent, compared to 27.8 percent for Latinos.
Three quarters of the countywide growth in the Asian population took place in Santa Rosa, which became home for 2,979 additional Asians. There are 17,777 Asian residents in Sonoma County, up 13,786 from 10 years ago. During the 1990s, the Asian population grew by 45.4 percent. In the past decade, the population grew by 53.8 percent.
The recent census data does not break down the Asian category, which includes Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese and others. But the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey suggests significant growth in both the local Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese populations.
Nancy Wang, president of the Redwood Empire Chinese Association, said many Asians came from the Bay Area in the beginning of the decade, drawn by high-tech jobs and a better quality of life. They stayed even after the housing bust, she said.
Rohnert Park, which had a 3 percent decline in overall population, lost 241 Asian residents, which now number 2,079 there. “A lot of people were living in Rohnert Park and a lot of people left” after Agilent left the city, she said.
Sonoma County's minority population, which grew during the 2000s by about 40 percent, is now 34 percent of the county's total population of 483,878 residents.
Lake County's minority population, which grew by 47 percent to 16,727, is 25.9 percent of the county's population of 64,665.
And Mendocino County, whose minority population grew by 27.2 percent to 27,592, now has a minority population of 31.4 percent. There are 87,841 residents in Mendocino County.
In 2000, Sonoma County's minority population was centered near urbanized areas along Highway 101 in Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley, just north of the Sonoma city limits. Ten years later the trend along Highway 101 has continued, with Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Cloverdale and Sonoma becoming increasingly minority.
Santa Rosa's minority population is now 40 percent.
The Oakmont neighborhood falls within the boundaries of two census tracts that both have minority populations of less than 10 percent.
Sonoma City Councilman Ken Brown said he was happy to see that his city was no longer at the bottom of the diversity list. He said the recent population figures are a good sign for the city, and he believes the growth in that city's minority population is due to a growing Latino middle class.
“I can assure you that if you live inside the city limits, you're working and you can afford it,” he said.
News Researchers Teresa Meikle and Janet Balicki contributed to this report.
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