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Census data highlights shifting demographics in Palo Alto neighborhoods

Early data shows strong growth in diversity, with Asian community leading the way

The Palo Verde neighborhood in south Palo Alto in many ways epitomizes the changes that the city at large has experienced over the past decade.

Located south of Loma Verde Avenue and east of Middlefield Road and identified as tract 5108.1 on the U.S. Census map, the largely residential neighborhood has seen relatively solid growth between 2010 and 2020, with its total population rising from 5,290 to 5,999 residents, a growth of about 13%.

Despite the influx to Palo Verde, the neighborhood has seen virtually no housing development over the 10 years — a statement that can apply to the vast majority of Palo Alto neighborhoods — though it has grown in both average age and racial diversity.

The number of Palo Verde residents who identify themselves as "white" has fallen from 2,927 to 2,524 over this period of time, a drop of about 13.8%. But like other tracts throughout the city, it has seen significant growth in its Asian population, which increased from 2,045 to 2,802 between the two censuses, a rise of 37.4% that roughly mirrors the citywide rate.

Data from the 2020 census, which the U.S. Census Bureau released last week for Palo Verde and every other tract, offers a snapshot of a city that continues to undergo steady — if uneven — change. In some areas, populations have remained remarkably flat between 2010 and 2020. Numerous neighborhoods, particularly in the northern half of the city, have seen their numbers stay stable or, in some cases, diminish. Virtually no new housing has been built there over the past decade.

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The new data shows that Palo Alto has become increasingly diverse between 2010 and 2020. Palo Alto's population grew from 64,403 to 68,572 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite this 6.5% increase in Palo Alto's citywide population, the number of census respondents who identified themselves as "white alone" dropped between 2010 and 2020, going from 41,359 to 34,191 — a decline of 17.3%.

For the first time, residents who identified themselves as "white only" made up less than half of the overall population: 49.9%, according to the census.

Meanwhile, the number of those who marked "Asian alone" on their forms went from 17,461 to 24,317 over the 10-year period, a jump of 6,856 people. Asian residents now make up 35% of the city's overall population, a rise from 27% in 2010.

The city's Hispanic population grew from 3,974 people in 2010 to 5,091 in 2020, a 28% increase. Meanwhile, the population of residents marking "Black alone" remained almost unchanged, going from 1,197 to 1,225 between 2010 and 2020. Black residents make up about 1.8% of the city's population, according to the census data.

A growing number of residents now identify as being of "two or more" races. That number more than doubled, from 2,631 in 2010 to 6,481 in 2020. Of those, 2,615 in 2020 identified as being white and Asian.

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When it comes to the age of residents, the census numbers also show that, compared with 10 years ago, the proportion of children in Palo Alto declined. Those who are 18 or older made up 78.25% of the overall population in the 2020 count, compared to 76.5% a decade prior.

These demographic trends are in evidence in Midtown, the large neighborhood just south of Oregon Expressway, which covers two census tracts, 5109 and 5110. The section of Midtown that is west of Middlefield Road (tract 5109) has seen the percentage of residents 18 or over go from 73.3% to 77.4% over the past decade as its overall population declined from 5,454 to 5,404. Of the respondents who identify with one race, those who marked "white, alone" dipped from 3,311 in 2010 to 2,479 in 2020. At the same time, this Midtown tract has seen a boom in its Asian population, with those who marked "Asian, alone" going from 1,540 to 2,102, an increase of 36%.

On the adjacent Midtown tract (5110), which stretches east from Middlefield toward Greer Park and the city's eastern limits, the growth in the Asian community has more than offset the falling number of white responders, whose population dropped from 3,391 in 2010 to 2,766 in 2020. The Asian population, meanwhile, went from 2,313 to 3,166, driving an overall population increase from 6,402 to 6,939 (8.4%). While the eastern Midtown tract had added 69 new residences over the 10-year period, raising its housing stock from 2,489 to 2,558, the western tract added zero and remained at 2,101.

Much like a decade ago, it is the neighborhoods south of Oregon Expressway that were at the forefront of change in the city over the past decade. To the north, the population of Old Palo Alto, a wealthy neighborhood between Embarcadero Road and Oregon, has remained nearly the same over the 10-year period, with tract 5114 (which includes Old Palo Alto) adding just 10 new residents between 2010 and 2020.

Similar to other neighborhoods, the number of white residents in Old Palo Alto shrank, dropping from 2,801 to 2,163, while the number of "Asian alone" responses rose from 629 to 1,037. The tract's proportion of children has dwindled somewhat: Old Palo Alto residents who are 18 or older made up 74.6% in 2010 and 78.7% in 2020.

Similar trends are evident in Crescent Park (tract 5112), which has seen its overall population drop from 4,849 to 4,706 between 2010 and 2020 and its proportion of residents 18 or older go from 72.1% to 76.5%. While the Asian population went up from 773 to 1,123, that was not enough to offset the decreasing number of white residents, which went from 3,718 to 2,949 over the 10-year period.

Census shows limited housing built

Although the city's population grew a modest 6.5% over the decade, its housing growth did not keep pace. Palo Alto added 688 units, or 2.4%, to bring its overall housing stock to 28,904, according to census data.

In some tracts, the quantity of housing actually decreased: Crescent Park lost 18 housing units between the two census counts, going from 1,866 in 2010 to 1,848 in 2020.

Crescent Park wasn't the only north Palo Alto neighborhood, however, that has failed to contribute to the city's much talked about housing shortage. Despite the City Council's efforts to encourage more residential construction in the transit-friendly, service-rich downtown area — a key goal of the city's Comprehensive Plan and numerous zoning reforms — even neighborhoods closest to downtown's commercial core have seen a dearth of new housing. The neighborhoods of Downtown North and University South (tracts 5113.02 and 5113.01, respectively) collectively saw a net total of 18 new residences between 2010 and 2020, according to census data.

Even in areas that have seen more housing growth, construction has been relatively modest when compared to the council's goals. Tract 5117.05, which includes portions of College Terrace, Stanford Research Park and Stanford University, shows 186 new residences between 2010 and 2020, an increase driven largely by Stanford's recent construction of faculty housing in the area.

Outside Stanford, the biggest contributor to the city's housing stock has been Ventura, which is in some ways the polar opposite of Crescent Park. The population of tract 5107, which includes Ventura and Charleston Meadows, increased by about 15% between 2010 and 2020 and the area added 222 housing units.

The census information released Thursday is the federal agency's first batch of data pertaining to the 2020 census. The data is used to, among other things, redraw congressional, legislative and local district boundaries and determine the amount of funding jurisdictions get for health care, infrastructure and other spending priorities. The agency plans to release more detailed data, including household statistics, in the coming months.

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Census data highlights shifting demographics in Palo Alto neighborhoods

Early data shows strong growth in diversity, with Asian community leading the way

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 20, 2021, 6:56 am

The Palo Verde neighborhood in south Palo Alto in many ways epitomizes the changes that the city at large has experienced over the past decade.

Located south of Loma Verde Avenue and east of Middlefield Road and identified as tract 5108.1 on the U.S. Census map, the largely residential neighborhood has seen relatively solid growth between 2010 and 2020, with its total population rising from 5,290 to 5,999 residents, a growth of about 13%.

Despite the influx to Palo Verde, the neighborhood has seen virtually no housing development over the 10 years — a statement that can apply to the vast majority of Palo Alto neighborhoods — though it has grown in both average age and racial diversity.

The number of Palo Verde residents who identify themselves as "white" has fallen from 2,927 to 2,524 over this period of time, a drop of about 13.8%. But like other tracts throughout the city, it has seen significant growth in its Asian population, which increased from 2,045 to 2,802 between the two censuses, a rise of 37.4% that roughly mirrors the citywide rate.

Data from the 2020 census, which the U.S. Census Bureau released last week for Palo Verde and every other tract, offers a snapshot of a city that continues to undergo steady — if uneven — change. In some areas, populations have remained remarkably flat between 2010 and 2020. Numerous neighborhoods, particularly in the northern half of the city, have seen their numbers stay stable or, in some cases, diminish. Virtually no new housing has been built there over the past decade.

The new data shows that Palo Alto has become increasingly diverse between 2010 and 2020. Palo Alto's population grew from 64,403 to 68,572 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite this 6.5% increase in Palo Alto's citywide population, the number of census respondents who identified themselves as "white alone" dropped between 2010 and 2020, going from 41,359 to 34,191 — a decline of 17.3%.

For the first time, residents who identified themselves as "white only" made up less than half of the overall population: 49.9%, according to the census.

Meanwhile, the number of those who marked "Asian alone" on their forms went from 17,461 to 24,317 over the 10-year period, a jump of 6,856 people. Asian residents now make up 35% of the city's overall population, a rise from 27% in 2010.

The city's Hispanic population grew from 3,974 people in 2010 to 5,091 in 2020, a 28% increase. Meanwhile, the population of residents marking "Black alone" remained almost unchanged, going from 1,197 to 1,225 between 2010 and 2020. Black residents make up about 1.8% of the city's population, according to the census data.

A growing number of residents now identify as being of "two or more" races. That number more than doubled, from 2,631 in 2010 to 6,481 in 2020. Of those, 2,615 in 2020 identified as being white and Asian.

When it comes to the age of residents, the census numbers also show that, compared with 10 years ago, the proportion of children in Palo Alto declined. Those who are 18 or older made up 78.25% of the overall population in the 2020 count, compared to 76.5% a decade prior.

These demographic trends are in evidence in Midtown, the large neighborhood just south of Oregon Expressway, which covers two census tracts, 5109 and 5110. The section of Midtown that is west of Middlefield Road (tract 5109) has seen the percentage of residents 18 or over go from 73.3% to 77.4% over the past decade as its overall population declined from 5,454 to 5,404. Of the respondents who identify with one race, those who marked "white, alone" dipped from 3,311 in 2010 to 2,479 in 2020. At the same time, this Midtown tract has seen a boom in its Asian population, with those who marked "Asian, alone" going from 1,540 to 2,102, an increase of 36%.

On the adjacent Midtown tract (5110), which stretches east from Middlefield toward Greer Park and the city's eastern limits, the growth in the Asian community has more than offset the falling number of white responders, whose population dropped from 3,391 in 2010 to 2,766 in 2020. The Asian population, meanwhile, went from 2,313 to 3,166, driving an overall population increase from 6,402 to 6,939 (8.4%). While the eastern Midtown tract had added 69 new residences over the 10-year period, raising its housing stock from 2,489 to 2,558, the western tract added zero and remained at 2,101.

Much like a decade ago, it is the neighborhoods south of Oregon Expressway that were at the forefront of change in the city over the past decade. To the north, the population of Old Palo Alto, a wealthy neighborhood between Embarcadero Road and Oregon, has remained nearly the same over the 10-year period, with tract 5114 (which includes Old Palo Alto) adding just 10 new residents between 2010 and 2020.

Similar to other neighborhoods, the number of white residents in Old Palo Alto shrank, dropping from 2,801 to 2,163, while the number of "Asian alone" responses rose from 629 to 1,037. The tract's proportion of children has dwindled somewhat: Old Palo Alto residents who are 18 or older made up 74.6% in 2010 and 78.7% in 2020.

Similar trends are evident in Crescent Park (tract 5112), which has seen its overall population drop from 4,849 to 4,706 between 2010 and 2020 and its proportion of residents 18 or older go from 72.1% to 76.5%. While the Asian population went up from 773 to 1,123, that was not enough to offset the decreasing number of white residents, which went from 3,718 to 2,949 over the 10-year period.

Although the city's population grew a modest 6.5% over the decade, its housing growth did not keep pace. Palo Alto added 688 units, or 2.4%, to bring its overall housing stock to 28,904, according to census data.

In some tracts, the quantity of housing actually decreased: Crescent Park lost 18 housing units between the two census counts, going from 1,866 in 2010 to 1,848 in 2020.

Crescent Park wasn't the only north Palo Alto neighborhood, however, that has failed to contribute to the city's much talked about housing shortage. Despite the City Council's efforts to encourage more residential construction in the transit-friendly, service-rich downtown area — a key goal of the city's Comprehensive Plan and numerous zoning reforms — even neighborhoods closest to downtown's commercial core have seen a dearth of new housing. The neighborhoods of Downtown North and University South (tracts 5113.02 and 5113.01, respectively) collectively saw a net total of 18 new residences between 2010 and 2020, according to census data.

Even in areas that have seen more housing growth, construction has been relatively modest when compared to the council's goals. Tract 5117.05, which includes portions of College Terrace, Stanford Research Park and Stanford University, shows 186 new residences between 2010 and 2020, an increase driven largely by Stanford's recent construction of faculty housing in the area.

Outside Stanford, the biggest contributor to the city's housing stock has been Ventura, which is in some ways the polar opposite of Crescent Park. The population of tract 5107, which includes Ventura and Charleston Meadows, increased by about 15% between 2010 and 2020 and the area added 222 housing units.

The census information released Thursday is the federal agency's first batch of data pertaining to the 2020 census. The data is used to, among other things, redraw congressional, legislative and local district boundaries and determine the amount of funding jurisdictions get for health care, infrastructure and other spending priorities. The agency plans to release more detailed data, including household statistics, in the coming months.

Comments

TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:30 am
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:30 am

Aren't most Hispanics of "two or more races" (Native and European)? And why aren't white Hispanics counted as white?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:54 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:54 am

Anyone who lives in Palo Alto already knows this. The schools know this in particular.

We are an eclectic mix!


felix
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:57 am
felix, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 7:57 am

The biggest take-away from the census is that Palo Alto’s race diversity has significantly increased without a lot of new housing built, counter to the propaganda pushed by Palo Alto Forward and the Yimbys that the only way to diversity is to greatly increase housing. This data should shut down this argument.

As an aside, also not credible is their idea that if we get rid of RI single family zoning (which we don’t really have in town since on every lot, one can build 2 additional ADUs), it will add diversity. Even Richard Rothstein (Color of Law) has said that in our area young techies, not low-income people would be the ones moving in.

The second take-away is not surprising. North Palo Alto hasn’t changed. Not hearing much about new mandated housing going there. That’s what should change.


M. Lerner
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2021 at 9:53 am
M. Lerner, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 9:53 am

The influx of wealthy Mandarins now residing in Palo Alto has culturally diversified our community and kept our residential property values at a premium level.

Thank you!


PA Streets
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Aug 20, 2021 at 11:49 am
PA Streets, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 11:49 am

Ideally, we'd also like to have some socio-economic diversity too. That's the biggest challenge for our town right now. I've been around here since 1990 and seen the Asian and Asian-American population increase dramatically. Being Asian-American myself, that was nice. We do have a bit more diversity in our public schools because of the Tinsley students. That is good, because growing up here and going to public schools, you meet other students from different backgrounds. If only our neighborhoods could reflect a bit more of the same too. The new housing on El Camino Real near College Terrace has brought some socio-economic diversity here. I'm sure there are a few other examples of that around town. Overall, Palo Alto is a great town and we should continue to strive to be more and more diverse. We are all richer for those experiences.


Midtown resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 20, 2021 at 12:01 pm
Midtown resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 12:01 pm

I too welcome the reported gain in cultural diversity in Palo Alto. But I think the phrasing of this report only highlights the necessity to distinguish between cultural diversity (good thing, going up) and the sort of Diversity, capital D (good thing, no significant change) that social justice activists want to wrap housing, school and other policies around. Especially in Palo Alto, stats on ethnicity/skin color tells us next to nothing about where the needs for civic intervention (real or perceived) might lie: socioeconomics is where it's at, and even there, it's often family economic trajectory rather than current income that's indicative.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2021 at 12:39 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 12:39 pm

This census data article says nothing about income changes. Also does not include Mayfield 2017 low-income housing as part of Stanford “tract”. The information contained in article is repetitive and did talk about COVID challenges in gathering the data this Census cycle .


EmmaP
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2021 at 2:31 pm
EmmaP, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 2:31 pm

The Hispanic/Non-Hispanic count is separate from 'race' counts and this probably should be but wasn't clearly distinguished in the charts. White Hispanics were included in the White count; Black/African-American Hispanics in the Black/African-American count; Asian Hispanics in the Asian count; and so on.


Jose Takamoto
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 20, 2021 at 4:59 pm
Jose Takamoto, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 4:59 pm
Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2021 at 9:01 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 9:01 am

One of the few benefits of the past year is that I have spoken with neighbors I had never seen before.

Time was when I first moved to Palo Alto I "knew" all the people down my street. I may not have known their names, but I had chatted with them as we passed while dog walking with people sitting on their porch or working in their yards. I recognized the children and knew which house they came from Then gradually over the years as the demographics changed, we didn't see so many dog walkers, people working in their own yards, sitting on their front porches, even the children were taken everywhere by car. I would not recognize anyone other than my immediate neighbors if I was asked. I might be able to tell from the cars but nothing else.

At first I thought this was just changing times. I see now that it is really changing demographics. I know from family living in other places that they see people in front of their homes regularly, are offered a beer or a soda and a chat on the front porch, see neighbors working on cars or mowing lawns themselves, see children gathering in front of houses together.

Neighborhood trends in Palo Alto has meant people hide in their homes more and do not appear to want to get to know neighbors. This in my opinion is not a change for the better.

At least since the pandemic people are more visible!


Nancy Peterson
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2021 at 11:19 am
Nancy Peterson, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 11:19 am

A concern I have in our neighborhood is no one living in newer homes. They are purchased but have no residents. A very troubling use of resources (water for irrigation) and absence of community.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Aug 21, 2021 at 5:59 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 5:59 pm

Palo Alto has had socioeconomic diversity for a long time. From the very wealthy to the very poor and everyone in between. Palo Alto is considered a "wealthy" suburb, but I've always considered PA a middle class suburb with pockets of wealth and poverty. Wealthy suburbs don't have 45-50% renters, nor do they have residency along ECR, mobile home parks, older, less than desirable small apartments and 1000-1100 sq ft. homes. Palo Alto is becoming more culturally diverse, but the socioeconomic diversity has been around a long time.


Kellie Johanson
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2021 at 9:32 am
Kellie Johanson, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2021 at 9:32 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Jose Takamoto
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2021 at 7:49 am
Jose Takamoto, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 7:49 am

Palo Alto is cursed. Only bad is in store for Palo Alto. God will destroy that evil city.


Lyle Eckhardt
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2021 at 8:29 am
Lyle Eckhardt, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 8:29 am

The last time I checked, Palo Alto was pretty much a middle class White + wealthy Asian demographic community.

The only way for PA to achieve a more balanced ethnic diversity would be if it were to annex EPA from San Mateo County.

Other than that farfetched prospect, Palo Alto will pretty much remain what it is today based on the cost of its housing.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 23, 2021 at 5:41 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 5:41 pm

The notion that each community should or can have an exact ratio of certain ethnic groups is childish .
Where I grew up I never laid eyes on a Mexican, and that’s bc it was thousands of miles from Mexico.
None of us in that northeast state were RACIST.
The numbers of Japanese in Silicon Valley in the 90’s were high, now I anecdotally see few (note: this does not refer to Palo Alto specifically).
How about personal choice, mobility, in some cases religious ties, changing employers and etc.
the fact is many factors enter into who lives where.
Politicians drumming up grievances at this date are ridiculous.
Promoting mobility in all respects for everyone is great.


EricFilseth
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 30, 2021 at 8:04 pm
EricFilseth, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 30, 2021 at 8:04 pm

Under-18 kids as a percentage of all Palo Altans has fallen, but - interestingly - the percentage of households with under-18 kids appears to have =increased=, gradually but steadily for decades; from 22% in 1980 to 32% in 2010 to 34% in 2018 (for 2020 I haven’t figured out how to get this out of census data). So something more complicated may be going on here.


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 31, 2021 at 9:36 am
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 31, 2021 at 9:36 am

@Eric Filseth - Simple explanation might be steady decline of nb of kids per household?


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