Despite recent signs of economic recovery, Ventura County's population grew at its slowest rate in decades in 1993 and was particularly stagnant in Simi Valley, Ojai and Santa Paula, according to new state figures.
The county's population grew to 708,168 by Jan. 1, up just 1.3% over the previous 12 months, a rate of increase half that of the 1980s' boom years.
Much of the growth was in just two cities--Oxnard and Port Hueneme, which accounted for nearly 44% of all new residents, the state Department of Finance has informed local officials.
The state's full 1993 report, including new population estimates for California and all of its cities, will not be officially released until next week.
Ventura County figures show the lowest overall growth rate since annual record-keeping began in 1960. In previous years, county growth has come because foreign immigration has outpaced residents moving away and because of thousands of more births than deaths.
The new figures, county Senior Planner Steve Wood said, reflect "a combination of lack of jobs and fewer people moving into the county. And there is the increased possibility that some of the people are moving out (for jobs)."
The figures also show huge differences in growth from city to city.
Tiny Ojai gained just 72 new residents last year, while the population of Oxnard, the county's largest city, surged by 2,432 new residents.
Santa Paula had the lowest growth rate, just 0.6%, adding only 150 residents to a population of 26,706. Port Hueneme grew fastest, its population jumping 6.9% to 21,868 after years of stability.
City Manager Richard Velthoen said he suspects that Port Hueneme grew because of a large housing project at the Naval Construction Battalion Center.
"The Seabee base added 200 to 300 family units," he said. "That accounts for most of it."
The state report, in fact, shows an increase of 250 housing units in Port Hueneme. Nearby Oxnard had the most new dwellings, 587, and the sharpest increase in household size--an indicator of crowding.
The affluent eastern county, with its pricey houses, had fewer new dwellings--just 115 in Moorpark, 177 in Simi Valley and 303 in Thousand Oaks, the state reported.
"Basically, the economy has stopped the development of new homes," Simi Valley Mayor Greg Stratton said. "It's just a reflection of the general downturn in the economy."
Even as local planners ponder a rare period of slow growth, however, indications are that growth in 1994 will increase.
The state reported 12,500 more jobs countywide in March than in same month in 1993. New housing permits were also up 85%, to 411 for the first quarter of this year.
A separate Department of Finance report released in February also suggests that Ventura County's slow-growth trend has bottomed out.
The county grew only 1.1%--about 7,700 residents--for the fiscal year that ended June 30. But the new figures for calendar year 1993 show a slight uptick for the last six months of 1993 and an annual growth of 1.3%.
The county's growth was so small for fiscal 1993, state analysts said, because, for the first time, more residents moved out of Ventura County than moved in from other states and foreign countries.
For several years, more residents have moved away than have moved here from the other 49 states. But until last year, enough foreign immigrants had settled in the county to more than offset the loss to other states.
The overall population increase occurred only because the county had 8,347 more births than deaths in 1992-93, analysts reported.
The Department of Finance bases its twice-a-year population estimates on changes in such data as births, deaths, school enrollment, registered voters, driver's licenses, address changes, registered autos, housing units and income tax returns.
1994 Population Estimates
Jan. 1 '93 Jan. 1 '94 % change Camarillo 56,085 56,497 0.7% Fillmore 12,785 12,922 1.1% Moorpark 26,687 27,170 1.8% Ojai 7,846 7,918 0.9% Oxnard 149,424 151,856 1.6% Port Hueneme 20,451 21,868 6.9% Santa Paula 26,706 26,856 0.6% Simi Valley 102,880 103,722 0.8% Thousand Oaks 109,107 110,263 1.1% Ventura 96,019 96,969 1.0% Unincorporated 91,416 92,127 0.8% VENTURA COUNTY 699,406 708,168 1.3%
Source: California Department of Finance