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South Bay Posts Modest Growth in Population : Census: Preliminary figures show a 7.45% increase. Some cities on the peninsula show a decrease.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The South Bay posted a 7.45% population increase during the last decade, well below the 17% growth recorded by Los Angeles County as a whole, preliminary U.S. Census figures show.

Hawthorne, where a flurry of apartment construction in recent years prompted city officials to impose a moratorium on new building, recorded the biggest population increase at 24%. Lawndale and Inglewood experienced the next largest gains, with increases of 14% and 13% respectively.

On the affluent Palos Verdes Peninsula, the census figures portray an entirely different story--a decrease in population in two of the four cities and negligible increase in a third. Palos Verdes Estates, for example, experienced a 7% drop in population.

Although some peninsula officials said the population declines were foreseeable, UCLA associate professor of urban planning Leo Estrada questioned whether the census figures are accurate. Competing demographic trends, such as an increase in the Asian population, should have canceled each other out and showed the cities slightly gaining in population, he said.

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“We see no signs to indicate there should have been a decline at all,” Estrada said.

The 7.5% increase in the South Bay’s population includes 15 cities. Excluded from the figures released this week are the unincorporated county area of Lennox, and the San Pedro, Wilmington, Harbor City and Harbor Gateway communities, which are part of the city of Los Angeles. Those numbers have yet to be broken out of the larger census figure, which showed that the city of Los Angeles recorded a 15% increase in population during the past decade.

Tiny Avalon on Santa Catalina Island is not included, either. Census officials are still tabulating figures for that city.

Of the county’s 86 cities, Palmdale and Lancaster topped the list in growth. In Palmdale, the population exploded from 12,297 to 65,357, a 432% increase. In Lancaster, the population grew from 48,027 to 95,101, a 98% increase.

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The preliminary figures can be challenged by cities, and may be adjusted by census officials in coming weeks.

David Heer, a professor of sociology at USC and an authority on demographics, said he believes the preliminary census figures are basically “on target.” He said he has been examining the difference in population counts taken by census officials and the state’s Finance Department. Based on his analysis of demographic trends, he believes the state generally underestimated the population in cities that are mostly Latino or becoming more Latino and overestimated the population in cities that are mostly Anglo.

Heer said that when an area experiences an increase in its Latino population, the typical household size increases. Although 1990 Census data on household ethnicity and size is not yet available, the 1980 Census showed that the average Latino household had 3.7 members, while Anglo families had 2.5 members, he said.

In Inglewood, associate planner Bill Barnett said the city’s increasing Latino population is an important factor in the community’s population growth. Although new housing has been built during the past decade, redevelopment projects in areas affected by jet noise from Los Angeles International Airport have actually demolished some housing, he said.

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“Our net change in units has not been that appreciable,” Barnett said, adding that “it’s the population within the units that is changing.”

Hawthorne officials said they were uncertain if ethnic changes were responsible for their city’s population growth. They added that the city’s population surge during the past decade coincided with a large number of new apartments being built.

In 1980, the census estimated that there were 23,907 dwelling units in the city, and Hawthorne officials now estimate the number to be just over 29,000. In January, Hawthorne officials, worried that police, paramedic and other city services were being severely strained because of the growth, imposed a moratorium on apartment construction.

“We have had tremendous growth and we were aware of that,” Mayor Betty Ainsworth said. “The growth has been so rapid, and we could not keep up the services.”

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The census figures show little growth in several South Bay cities--Torrance experienced a 2% increase, Manhattan Beach a 1% increase and Hermosa Beach no increase. And on the peninsula, Rolling Hills, like Palos Verdes Estates, experienced a declining population, the census figures showed. Population in the private, gated community declined by 6%, according to the census figures. In neighboring Rolling Hills Estates, the population increased by a scant 2%.

The census figures show a 13% increase for Rancho Palos Verdes, but the figure may be skewed because the city annexed the Eastview area from Los Angeles County in 1983.

An estimated 8,000 people reside in the annexed area, so the city’s population should have jumped from its 1980 Census count of 36,577 to 44,577 when the land was acquired. The census data released this week show the city’s 1990 population to be 41,486, suggesting a decline has occurred.

Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Mel Hughes said he believes the actual population of the city may have been underestimated by census takers. “It’s not clear to me they really know where the (city) boundaries are,” he said.

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But Hughes and others living on the peninsula said a decline in the area’s population from 1980 figures would not surprise them because the population is aging and high real estate prices prohibit most young people from moving there.

“In an affluent area like the peninsula is, there aren’t too many people with families who can afford to live here,” Palos Verdes Estates City Clerk Barbara Culver said. “The school district has been declining in the last 10 years to about half of what it once was, as far as numbers of children.

“Since Proposition 13 (the 1978 initiative that cut property taxes), we have an increasing number of elderly. They’ve been able to stay in their homes rather than be forced to sell because of rising taxes.”

UCLA’s Estrada, however, said he believes the census figures that indicate population declines in the peninsula cities are wrong. He said the “suburbanization” of Asians and Latinos into the South Bay should have compensated for such factors as an increase in single parents, widows and widowers and baby boomers reaching adulthood and moving from their parents’ homes.

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“We thought these (would) play off each other,” Estrada said.

Staff writer Jill Stewart contributed to this story.

CENSUS TOTALS FOR SOUTH BAY CITIES Following are preliminary 1990 U.S. Census totals as compared with final figures from the 1980 Census.

City 1990 1980 % change pop. change Los Angeles County 8,719,699 7,477,503 +17 1,242,196 City of Los Angeles 3,420,235 2,966,850 +15 453,385

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SOUTH BAY CITIES

City 1990 1980 % change pop. change Avalon NA 2,022 NA NA Carson 83,269 81,221 +3 2,048 El Segundo 15,149 13,752 +10 1,397 Gardena 49,229 45,165 +9 4,064 Hawthorne 69,986 56,447 +24 13,539 Hermosa Beach 18,020 18,070 -- -50 Inglewood 106,673 94,245 +13 12,428 Lawndale 26,831 23,460 +14 3,371 Lomita 19,336 18,807 +3 529 Manhattan Beach 32,003 31,542 +1 461 Palos Verdes Estates 13,349 14,376 -7 -1,027 Rancho Palos Verdes 41,486 36,577 +13 4,909 Redondo Beach 59,860 57,102 +5 2,758 Rolling Hills 1,928 2,049 -6 -121 Rolling Hills Estates 7,859 7,701 +2 158 Torrance 132,382 129,881 +2 2,501


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