Local Stakeholders Debate Changes to San Francisco Neighborhood Demographics


Despite one of the highest population densities in California and a prohibitive cost of living, San Francisco keeps packing them in. Figures released by the U.S. Census last month show that "the City" added 28,502 people during the last ten years, a modest population bump of 3.7 percent from 2000.

The racial composition of the city changed significantly during the “naughts.” The 2010 Census numbers indicate that the city lost nearly a quarter of its black population with 14,000 fewer residents than in 2000. Although still the largest group as described by race, there were 48,000 fewer white residents than in 2000, a 14 percent decrease. Both the number of Asian and Hispanic residents increased by 11 percent, constituting 33 and 15 percent of the city’s population, respectively.

Additionally, San Francisco saw its already small percentage of children sink further: there were 5,000 fewer residents under the age of 18 residing in the city than in 2000. Although the former head of the city’s Department Children, Youth and Their Families believes that this number is low due to the number of undocumented children, the findings confirm the anecdote familiar to all San Francisco residents that there very well may be more dogs than children.

Although the Census has not yet released data more specific smaller geographic units to help decipher the precise demographic shifts, Castro neighborhood stakeholders believe the area has changed in the last ten years. Despite the findings of the Census, many neighborhood observers have seen an increase in the number of children in the area, anecdotally suggesting that the increase in youngsters was absorbed by decreases in other neighborhoods. Perhaps families who can afford to raise children in such an expensive city are choosing to do so among the plush hills and restored Victorians of the Castro and nearby areas - nearby Noe Valley has long derisively been called “Stroller Valley” by the city’s hipsters.

“The Castro has always been diverse in a number of ways,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said. “I think the biggest demographic changes over the past decade have been an increase in the number of parents, gay and straight, with children, and fewer young people because of the cost of housing in the neighborhood.”

The 2000 Census showed the 94114 zip code with markedly different demographics than the rest of the City. For instance, 83 percent of the population was white, compared to nearly 50 percent citywide in 2000, and nearly 60 percent of residents in the zip code were male.

“I do think that the area has become more diverse,” Mark Dicko, a realtor based at Herth Real Estate on Castro Street, said, agreeing with Wiener.

However, the realtor did not share the same opinion on the area becoming grayer. “I've seen quite a few younger people moving into the area, many of the Google, Facebook, Apple employees have been able to purchase homes and condos or just want to rent in the area to be in the city. I have seen all ethnicities and sexual orientations deciding that they want to live in this area which is just fantastic.”

“Certainly up in Buena Vista Park in the last 10-15 years, many families who had been there for a long time have moved out,” Richard Magary, chair of the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association, said. “Lots of upper-middle class houses changed hands to families with kids. It’s nice to see the fresher and younger families coming in.”

Overall, the state added almost 4.5 million new residents, an increase of 10 percent from 2000. Much of this growth occurred in the Inland Empire and other counties in the San Joaquin Valley.

Nationwide, the population grew by 9.7 percent to nearly 309 million.

A version of this article was originally published in the Castro Courier neighborhood newspaper in San Francisco. Andy Sywak is the former publisher of the Courier. He now lives in Sacramento.

Photo by stephanie vacher

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