Census population figures show slow, steady growth in Sonoma County cities

Petaluma's population grew by slightly more than 1 percent from 2011 to 2012, a larger growth rate than both the state and national averages and a clip that is outpacing other Sonoma County cities.

During that period, Petaluma's population went from 58,296 to 58,921 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau's annual population estimates released last week.

Santa Rosa saw almost 0.8 percent growth, from 169,360 residents in 2011 to 170,685 in 2012. And the county's overall growth rate went from 488,082 residents two years ago to 491,829 last year, also a 0.8 percent growth rate.

The new data falls in line with what local economists have come to expect in Sonoma County, steady and moderate growth in the last two to three years.

That growth is owed to a number of factors, including steady job growth, a lower cost of doing business, lower housing prices and an unbeatable quality of life, said Ben Stone, executive director of the Sonoma County Economic Development Board.

"We're about the best value in the Bay Area in terms of housing availability and quality of life," said Stone, adding that Marin, San Francisco and San Jose did not see the same dramatic drop in housing prices that Sonoma County experienced.

Stone said the cost of doing business in Sonoma County is about 7 percent below the national average.

Marin County's population grew 0.2 percent between 2011 and 2012, from 255,493 to 256,069 residents. Though Napa County's total population grew almost 0.8 percent to 139,045 residents, the numerical increase was only 1,048 people.

Sonoma County's population grew by 3,764 people during that period and Santa Rosa's population grew by 2,607 people. The city of Sonoma's population grew by 1.2 percent to 10,849 residents, though that's only an increase of 128 people.

These population estimates comprise the nation's official population count between decennial censuses. They are based on administrative records such as county birth and death records. City populations are then derived by analyzing local population markers such as building permits.

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