Four of the 10 fastest-growing Los Angeles County cities during the 1980s were suburbs in the Antelope, Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys, providing local evidence of a national population shift from major cities toward outlying growth areas.
The Antelope Valley city of Palmdale, which increased in population by 460% to 68,842 during the decade, was the fastest-growing municipality in the state, while neighboring Lancaster doubled in size to 97,291 and ranked third, according to the 1990 population figures released Friday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The affluent enclave of Agoura Hills grew by nearly 80% to 20,390, making it the county’s fifth fastest-growing city, while the population of Santa Clarita went up 66% to 110,000, ranking it seventh.
The city of Los Angeles, meanwhile, grew by 17.5% to become the nation’s second largest. Nevertheless, that growth rate was only 40th among the county’s 85 cities.
Even in rapidly growing cities, however, officials expressed dissatisfaction with the census count, which they said should have been higher when preliminary estimates were released last September. Officials in several large cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, have complained that the census undercounted their residents and have filed lawsuits to seek upward revisions. Although the figures released Friday normally would be considered final, census officials have said they would be reviewed once again in response to challenges.
“We have been dissatisfied that the process is one that would give a good count,” said Santa Clarita Assistant City Manager Ken Pulskamp. “We have gone into areas and counted the actual houses, and the numbers we’ve seen from the Census Bureau are different from those and no one from the Census Bureau has gotten back to us.”
Mary Strenn, the city administrator of San Fernando, said a count of housing conducted after the preliminary results were released found 572 units that were not included in the Census Bureau survey. But census officials agreed to include only 37 of those units when the survey results were brought to their attention, Strenn said.
She said the additional units would have added 1,500 to 2,000 residents to the Census Bureau total of 22,580 for the city. “For every community, the biggest concern is to have to service people that you don’t get credit for,” she said.
The numbers affect the drawing of political districts and also form the basis for distributing a variety of state and federal funds, such as cigarette and gas taxes, motor vehicle license fees and community development grants.
The city of Palmdale, for example, expects to reap a $1-million annual windfall as a result of the census, while the city of Santa Clarita estimates that it will lose $600,000 out of $48 million in anticipated revenues.
The difference in growth’s effect on revenues results because Palmdale has been receiving money from the state based on a 1990 population estimate of about 56,000, meaning its receipts will jump as soon as next month, when state officials said the new, higher figure will be used. The new census figure for Santa Clarita, meanwhile, was nearly 40,000 less than had been calculated by the state.
Jo Anne Darcy, a member of the Santa Clarita City Council, said she expected the panel to challenge the survey results. “It just seems to me that it’s more than that,” she said. “Did they really do the east Newhall area and get the full number of day laborers and the Hispanic community?”
In addition to the fiscal impact of the census, the numbers are also likely to shape the outcome of a looming debate on growth in Santa Clarita. Because the city was incorporated in 1987, the number of people living inside its boundaries were not tallied separately during earlier census surveys and so population estimates have been imprecise.
The lower figure reported by the census could undermine slow-growth movements, including a citizens proposal that would allow only 400 new housing units to be built annually. The City Council is also working on a General Plan that will probably include some controls on growth, which already has led to crowded roads and streets and a shortage of libraries, schools and bridges.
Officials in Glendale, where the Census Bureau reported that the population grew during the decade by 29.5% to 180,038, were also skeptical of the numbers.
Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian estimated the population of the city at 190,000 and said officials would stick to slow-growth policies based on the higher population projection.
“My mind-set is that . . . I need to deal with the higher numbers than the ones that the census shows,” Zarian said. Glendale limits new housing construction to 1,400 units, of which 700 have to be for senior citizens and low- and moderate-income residents.
GROWTH RANKINGS A comparison of change in population from 1980 to 1990 among Los Angeles County’s 85 cities.
Ranking by growth City rate 1980 1990 % Change Palmdale 1 12,277 68,842 460.7 Lancaster 3 48,027 97,291 102.6 Agoura Hills 5 11,399 20,390 78.9 Santa Clarita 7 66,730 110,642 65.8 Glendale 19 139,060 180,038 29.5 San Fernando 25 17,731 22,580 27.3 Westlake Village 34 6,127 7,455 21.7 Los Angeles 40 2,966,850 3,485,398 17.5 Burbank 55 84,625 93,643 10.7 Hidden Hills 80 1,760 1,729 -1.8
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Suburb GROWTH: U.S. population is coming West. A1