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Quality of Life

Wildfires Cause Dip In New California Housing Units

An air tanker drops water on a hot spot as firefighters continue to battle a wildfire near Azusa, California, Jan. 16, 2014.
Associated Press
An air tanker drops water on a hot spot as firefighters continue to battle a wildfire near Azusa, California, Jan. 16, 2014.

The number of new housing units in California declined last year for the first time since the start of the economic recovery, due mostly to wildfires that scorched more than 2,000 homes, state officials reported Monday.

California's housing supply rose by 67,110 units last year, compared with an increase of 69,435 units in 2014. Demographers at the California Department of Finance say the number of new units would have been about equal to the year before if the destructive wildfires in Lake and Calaveras counties had not hit.

Of the new units created, just over half were multi-family dwellings like apartments and condominiums. Los Angeles, California's largest city, saw the most growth in housing, with 12,224 new units. It was followed by San Francisco with nearly 2,900, San Jose with just over 2,000 and San Diego with about 1,750.


The housing hit came as California's population grew to 39.1 million last year, an increase of 348,000 people, just under 1 percent.

Most of the state's 482 cities saw population gains, but 44 cities shrank and one — tiny Tehama, population 431 — was unchanged.

Here are some other findings from the state's annual city-by-city population report:

Los Angeles hits 4 million

Los Angeles surpassed 4 million residents for the first time in the state's annual estimates— 4,030,904 to be exact.


More than 50,000 people moved to the nation's second-largest city last year, increasing its population by 1.3 percent.

San Diego is still California's second-largest city, adding 12,000 residents to reach just under 1.4 million. San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield and Anaheim round out the top 10.

Suburbs and exurbs grow fastest

Cities and counties on the outskirts of the red-hot Los Angeles and San Francisco areas are growing especially fast.

San Joaquin County, home to Stockton, grew faster than any other, up 1.3 percent to 733,000 people. The area has become increasingly popular for people fleeing astronomical San Francisco Bay Area housing prices while remaining within commuting distance.

San Joaquin was followed by Yolo, Riverside and Santa Clara counties.

The fastest-growing city was Vernon in Los Angeles County, which grew a whopping 72 percent thanks to a new housing development that brought its population to 210.

Among cities with at least 30,000 people, the fastest-growing were concentrated primarily in the Inland Empire and Orange County: Porterville, Eastvale, Lake Forest, Beaumont and Lake Elsinore.

Jails see drop

County jails saw a drop of 11.3 percent, likely due to Proposition 47 sentencing changes for drug and property crimes.

Declines in prison population caused some smaller cities to shrink, including Avenal in Kings County, Tehachapi in Kern County, Susanville in Lassen County, Crescent City in Del Norte County and California City in Kern County.

Elsewhere, correctional institutions caused unusually large population increases. They include Soledad in Monterey County, McFarland in Kern County and Blythe in Riverside County.

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