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30 Bay Area cities shrank last year as California population growth slowed

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Thirty Bay Area cities — from Concord to San Leandro to Los Altos — all shrank just a little bit last year, which delivered the region’s slowest population growth since 2006.

California’s population grew just 0.2 percent in 2019, continuing a trend of slowing growth that started after the Great Recession, according to estimates released by the state’s Department of Finance this month. The state is still just shy of 40 million residents. The five-county Bay Area grew by 0.3 percent, adding 21,925 new residents for a total population of 6.5 million.

Within the state, growth has been slowest in expensive coastal areas and fastest in the Central Valley and other more affordable inland parts of the state, said Doug Kuczynski, a demographer at the Department of Finance.

“It’s mostly due to migration,” Kuczynski said. “People are moving out of state and not as many people are moving to California into those high-cost areas.”

Silicon Valley — defined as Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — had the largest out-migration of residents last year since 2008, according to an analysis from Joint Venture Silicon Valley. Seattle, Phoenix and Dallas were the top out-of-state destinations for Silicon Valley ex-pats. Residents say they’re fed up with the region’s high cost of living, gridlocked traffic and growing homelessness crisis — nearly three in four residents say the quality of life in the region has worsened in the past five years, according to a poll of registered voters conducted for this news organization and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The exodus hit San Mateo County particularly hard, making it one of 26 California counties that shrunk slightly last year, losing 0.1 percent of its population. With 987 fewer residents, the county’s population is now 773,000. Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and Marin counties also lost residents last year. In the rest of the Bay Area, Alameda, Santa Clara, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties all grew slightly, with San Francisco’s 0.8 percent increase leading the pack.

Fifteen of San Mateo County’s 20 cities lost population last year, including San Mateo and Burlingame.

Among midsized Bay Area cities, Martinez shrunk the most, losing 0.9 percent of its population. With 318 fewer residents, it now has about 37,100 residents. Among cities with at least 30,000 residents, Burlingame, Pacifica and East Palo Alto had the region’s biggest population decreases, each losing more than 0.6 percent.

“The Bay Area is slowing in growth. We don’t see a point in time in the future where that’s going to increase dramatically,” said Kuczynski. “It’s kind of the new norm for California.”

Still, most cities continued to grow — just more slowly than in the past. In San Mateo County, one bright spot was Colma, which grew by 14 percent making the city of 1,729 residents the fastest-growing in the state. Among the region’s other large cities, San Jose grew by just 0.1 percent, to 1 million residents, and Oakland ticked up 0.7 percent to 434,000.

For the second year in a row, Dublin was one of the state’s five fastest-growing cities with at least 30,000 residents. Other top-growing Bay Area cities of that size included Los Gatos, Milpitas and Newark.

The data doesn’t include any impact of COVID-19, although it’s not clear how significantly that will affect population growth. So far, 2,448 Californians have died from the virus, including 308 in the five-county Bay Area.

As population growth continues to slow, housing construction has stabilized statewide, said Kuczynski.

For the third year in a row, California and the Bay Area added more housing than people, in part thanks to an increase in the number of accessory dwelling units, Kuczynski said. Still, don’t expect that to ease the region’s housing woes. The Bay Area’s 0.8 percent growth in housing isn’t going to make a significant dent in what’s needed for a long time.

“We want a whole lot more than that,” he said.

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