Flight of the South Shore | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Flight of the South Shore

Adam Jensen
Dylan Silver/Tahoe Daily TribuneSkiers cross the street near a city limits sign that shows the 2000 population. New census data indicates the population has dropped nearly 10 percent.

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – California census statistics released this week confirmed what some South Shore residents have long suspected – South Lake Tahoe is shrinking.

The number of people living in the city dropped by more than 10 percent, from 23,609 to 21,403, between 2000 and 2010, according to statistics released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

During the same time frame, the city’s total housing units rose from 14,005 to 15,087, while occupied housing units dropped from 9,410 to 8,918, according to the statistics. Timeshares and hotel rooms are not typically counted as housing units. A hotel room may be counted if it is a person’s “usual place of residence,” according to the Census Bureau.

Given the state of the local economy, the drop in residents isn’t surprising, said City Manager Tony O’Rourke during a Tuesday phone interview. He said he expected South Lake Tahoe’s population to fall below 20,000 upon release of the latest census figures.

Although the population drop could have a slight negative effect on federal and state grant funding, the city manager said he didn’t expect the news to dramatically effect a five year financial planning process being undertaken by the City Council.

There have been some “glimmers of hope” in the economic outlook, but any recovery in South Lake Tahoe will lag behind a national one, O’Rourke said.

The city manager added there have been recent, small increases in hotel and sales tax revenues, but the city’s 17 percent unemployment rate is still troublesome.

“Clearly we have a ways to go as far as unemployment,” O’Rourke said.

The city can help reverse the trend of losing residents by encouraging a more business friendly environment and cutting through the red tape associated with the South Shore economy, O’Rourke said.

While the number of people living at the South Shore has fallen during the past decade, the rest of El Dorado County has continued to grow.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of people living in El Dorado County increased by almost 16 percent, from 156,299 to 181,058, outpacing California as a whole.

The state’s population grew 10 percent to 37.3 million during the past decade, but growth lagged behind other western states. California failed to pick up additional congressional seats for the first time after a census ever.

Latinos and Asians accounted for virtually all of the growth. The data released Tuesday shows Latino population grew by 28 percent and the Asian population grew by 31 percent.

Non-Hispanic whites saw their numbers decrease between 2000 and 2010 by 5 percent, and the state’s African-American population dipped by 1 percent.

South Lake Tahoe’s ethnic makeup changed little between 2000 and 2010.

The number of non-Hispanic whites dropped 2.2 percent, while the city’s Latino population increased 4.4 percent. The city’s Asian and African American populations changed by less than one percent.

Demographers say Latinos are growing faster than other groups because most Latinos are of child-bearing age while the rest of the population tends to be older.

– The Associated Press contributed to this story

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