Sacramento Suburb Tops Fast-Growth List

Times Staff Writer

A California community heads the list of America’s fastest-growing big cities for the first time in recent memory, according to statistics released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

And, surprise -- it’s not in the Inland Empire.

The Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove was named the nation’s fastest-growing city of 100,000 or more between July 1, 2004, and July 1, 2005, which comes as no shock to anyone who lives in this burgeoning enclave, where many of the streets are so newly paved that they have yet to make it into the map books.

So many new families have moved here in recent years that the Elk Grove Unified School District says it could fill a new classroom every three to five days. It’s built 16 new schools and hired 1,928 new teachers in the last six school years. Classes are held year round on many campuses to accommodate the crush of new students and a recent effort to lower the class size in certain grades.


While the torrid growth rate has cooled some in recent months, Elk Grove Supt. Steven M. Ladd figures it could be just a breather.

“We have several large residential developments that are coming on line in the city,” Ladd said. “The infrastructure is being put in right now....We’re going to take a big deep breath, and then we’ll see the growth continue. Will it be as fast-paced? I don’t know.”

California hasn’t had a No. 1 city on the list for at least10 years because the cities with the highest percentage growth are largely less than 100,000 in population, said Mary Heim, chief demographer for the state Department of Finance. The larger cities are so big already that it takes huge numerical increases to boost the percentage.

And some large cities, like San Diego and San Francisco, actually shrank between July 2004 and July 2005, according to the census report. Los Angeles gained just 7,430 residents during that time period.

Incorporated in 2000, Elk Grove is as newly minted as many of its subdivisions. In fact, the only reason it became a city at all was to better manage the rapid growth rate -- 38.5% since the millennium -- and to make sure that there were streets, schools and parks to go with all those new earth-tone single-family homes.

“One of the driving reasons the Elk Grove community voted to incorporate was because they saw residential development occurring without the accompanying investment in infrastructure,” said Cody Tubbs, city spokesman. “Our residents said, ‘No, we want local control.’ We had growing pains.”


Today, Tubbs said, no development is permitted unless the streets, parks, schools and sewer facilities are in place to support it. That’s a change, he said, from when Elk Grove was just another part of Sacramento County.

The year for which Elk Grove won the crown for fastest-growing city coincided with “12 peak months for residential construction,” Tubbs said, and the completion of a big housing development approved by the county Board of Supervisors.

Tubbs emphasized that these aren’t the honors Elk Grove really craves.

“The crown our city wants to wear is to have a superior quality of life and to facilitate a community where our residents can live, work and play,” he said. “We want every resident who lives in Elk Grove and wants to work in Elk Grove to have a job in Elk Grove.”

The city added 11,652 residents between July 2004 and July 2005, growing by nearly 12% and bringing the population to 112,338. Three other California cities also made the top 10 list: Moreno Valley (6), Rancho Cucamonga (7) and Irvine (10).

California had more cities in the top 10 during that period than any other state; Florida came in second with three of the fastest-growing municipalities.

Census spokesman Robert Bernstein noted that such lists have been put out regularly for the past four years and sporadically over the last 10.


Demographer Hans Johnson of the Public Policy Institute of California said he was a bit surprised that the fast-growth honors didn’t go to a city in the Inland Empire, the traditional capital of the overnight subdivision.

But Johnson said that Elk Grove “is at the confluence of several different trends that are occurring in California...the suburbanization of growth and the movement from coastal to inland areas” as home-buyers seek affordability.



Leaps and bounds


For the first time since the Census Bureau began ranking America’s cities by growth rate, a California community has been named the fastest growing in the country.


Fastest-growing U.S. cities of 100,000 or more population:

(July 2004-July 2005)

*--* Rank City Percent increase 1 Elk Grove, Calif. 11.6%

2 North Las Vegas, Nev. 11.4

3 Port St. Lucie, Fla. 11.0

4 Gilbert, Ariz. 11.0

5 Cape Coral, Fla. 9.2

6 Moreno Valley, Calif. 7.3

7 Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. 6.4

8 Miramar, Fla. 5.2

9 Chandler, Ariz. 4.9

10 Irvine, Calif. 4.9


Other California cities on the list:

*--* Rank City Percent increase 11 Bakersfield 4.4%

14 Lancaster 4.2

16 Visalia 4.0

23 Fontana 3.3

28 Chula Vista 2.9

31 Palmdale 2.8

32 Roseville 2.8

36 Stockton 2.5

37 Santa Clarita 2.3

51 Ontario 1.7


Source: U.S. Census Bureau