More new residents flocked to Alameda and Santa Clara than any other two counties in the state last year, lured in part by a plethora of middle-class housing units that are scarce elsewhere in the region, according to a state population report.
Alameda County saw 15,367 more people moving into the county than leaving between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013, the highest gain of migrants in the state, according to the California Department of Finance. Along with births outpacing deaths, the change represents a 1.68 percent increase in the county’s population, which now tops 1,565,000.
Santa Clara County was not far behind, posting an 11,537 net gain in migrants, the second-largest surge in the state. Contra Costa ranked sixth, with 7,768 new migrants, and San Francisco placed eighth, with 5,423 newcomers.
San Bernardino County, by contrast, saw the state’s largest net drop in residents (not counting births and deaths) with a decline of 6,268. Los Angeles, the state’s most populous county, was relatively flat last year, with a gain of only 401 people who moved into the area from somewhere else.
Close to tech jobs
Alameda County officials credited the area’s proximity to jobs in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, coupled with its affordable housing, for the population boom. Oakland, Fremont, Dublin and Hayward led the surge.
“San Francisco has become out of reach for most people. Alameda County has always been a little more affordable – now people have discovered that,” said Darien Louie, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance. “It’s not just affordability; it’s parks, open space, family amenities. People are finding it has a lot to offer.”
In particular, the county is seeing big jumps in older people selling their homes in San Francisco and downsizing to the East Bay, and young professionals seeking cheaper rents, Louie said. Immigrant families, especially from Asia and Latin America, also comprise a significant portion of the newcomers.
The result has been scores of revitalized neighborhoods, a boon for small businesses and a rise in property tax revenue, which translates to improved services for residents, she said.
Patricia Bennett, a Pacific Union real estate agent in Oakland, said she’s seen a steady stream of San Francisco residents move across the bay.
“The word is affordability,” she said. “People in tech, finance, insurance – they’re finding San Francisco … just not affordable. … I think it’s been really good for the East Bay. A lot of areas are really rejuvenated.”
New apartments and condominiums have proliferated in Jack London Square, West Oakland and Uptown, while home prices throughout the rest of the city have increased as well, she said.
The population jump in Hayward is especially notable because the city suffered dramatically in the 2008 recession, with plummeting housing prices and the collapse of businesses along Foothill and Mission boulevards. But new multiunit housing around the BART station, a new movie theater downtown and several senior housing complexes have revitalized the city, said City Councilman Mark Salinas.
“Hayward has a history of providing housing for people just starting off their careers – teachers, nurses, police officers,” said Salinas. “We’ve also always had strong immigrant communities. We’re a good town for young families and working people.”
At the other end of California’s spectrum, rural Alpine County in the Sierra Nevada remains the least populated. In 2012 it had 1,106 people, and in 2013 it still had a population of 1,106. Eight people were born and eight people died in Alpine County. No one moved in, and no one moved out.
Thirteen other rural counties saw drops in population: Nevada, Shasta, Inyo, Kings, Siskiyou, Calaveras, Amador, Mono, Plumas, Modoc, Del Norte, Lassen and Sierra.
Statewide, the population grew by 332,166, according to the report, the highest jump since 2003-04. About 66,000 of those were people who moved to the state from other countries or other parts of the U.S. The rest came in the form of newborn babies.
Carolyn Jones is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org