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Tale of Two Cities: Irvine, Anaheim See Big Population Gains

Download the 2010 OC CITIES List (pdf)

Anaheim and Irvine saw big jumps in population last year, despite a downturn that stalled housing development in the two cities and prevented many people from moving anywhere.

Irvine, a family friendly city that’s home to big corporations and the county’s top university, saw its 2009 population rise 2.4% from 2008 to 217,686 residents, according to this week’s Business Journal list of Orange County cities.

Irvine ranks No. 3 on the list and saw the biggest percentage change.

No. 2 Anaheim grew 1.6% to 353,643 people. While Anaheim trailed Irvine’s growth, the city actually added more people: 5,602, versus Irvine’s 5,145.

Irvine, which two years ago overtook Huntington Beach as the county’s third-largest city, has grown nearly 8% in the past three years with development of homes, condominiums and apartments.

Development also boosted Anaheim. In the past two years, nearly 2,000 apartments have opened in the Platinum Triangle area around Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

The population growth in both cities largely was a spillover from the development boom that peaked a few years ago. Whether both post significant gains this year remains to be seen after a stall in projects in 2009.

Irvine, about 100 years younger than Anaheim, still has room to grow and is seeing an initial rebound in homebuilding this year.

In the next two decades, redevelopment of the former El Toro Marine base and projects in the northern part of the city stand to more than double Irvine’s population.

Anaheim doesn’t have as much room for growth, but stalled condo towers and other housing projects still are on the books for the city.

No. 1 Santa Ana held on to the top spot with 357,754 residents, up 0.7% from 2008. The city saw its share of condos and other projects during the boom, but not to the same extent as neighboring Anaheim.

Santa Ana is California’s ninth largest city and has more than doubled its population during the past couple of decades.

Hispanic immigration—both legal and illegal—has fueled the city’s population growth. About 75% of Santa Ana’s residents are Hispanic, with most of them from Mexico or of Mexican descent.

The city’s growth rate has been the same for the past two years, putting it in jeopardy of losing the No. 1 spot to Anaheim if current trends hold.

Overall, the county’s 34 cities grew 1%, or by 30,509 people. The cities have a little more than 3 million residents, accounting for all but a fraction of the county’s residents who live in unincorporated areas.

The five largest cities—Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irvine, Huntington Beach and Garden Grove—held more than 40% of the total population at slightly more than 1.3 million.

The list ranks cities by population based on figures from the cities and California Department of Finance. It also includes yearly revenue and city workers.

Shrinking Revenue

State funding cuts and less sales tax sent revenue down 5% to less than $2 billion at the cities. Revenue figures are best estimates for the 12 months through June and are subject to change as cities close their books.

Many budgets are likely to come in lower than projected, with cuts from Sacramento.

On last year’s list, projected revenue was down by 0.1%, to a little more than $2 billion. The year before budgets grew 2.3%.

Stanton saw its budget shrink 31% to $13.9 million, the largest percentage decrease of any city on the list.

City Manager Carol Jacobs said a big sales tax drop, coupled with lower property tax collections hurt the city, which has a sizable portion of its businesses tied to homebuilders and the construction industry.

“We are heavily into construction materials, so when homebuilding stopped that had a huge impact on us,” Jacobs said. “We had a lot of businesses close.”

Similar woes were felt throughout the county as 23 other cities reported revenue declines.

Only 10 bucked the trend.

The biggest gainers were Seal Beach (26.6%), Tustin (26.4%), Placentia (26.4%) and Laguna Hills (5.7%). Buena Park, La Habra, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Beach, Laguna Woods and Los Alamitos had marginal gains.

Tustin saw the biggest revenue gain in dollars, jumping $13 million to $62 million.

Anaheim, home to two Walt Disney Co. theme parks, hotels and two professional sports teams, had the biggest revenue loss in dollars as it budget decreased by $35 million, or 13.4%, to $227 million.

Less consumer spending, fewer tourists, high unemployment and reduced sales tax hurt the city.

Anaheim employs 2,001 people, the most of any city in the county. Santa Ana is second with 1,828 employees.

Villa Park employs the least with 7.

The number of employees on city payrolls came in at 14,383, up 3% from a year earlier.

Government has lagged behind the private sector in laying off workers, with local, state and federal agencies just now cutting jobs as they deal with budget constraints and shortfalls.

Download the 2010 OC CITIES List (pdf)

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