Preparing for the shift: Hispanic growth detailed for South Tahoe |

Preparing for the shift: Hispanic growth detailed for South Tahoe

One minority is expected to no longer be a minority in California by the time 2050 rolls around, and local communities may need to heed the changes to prepare for the cultural shift and population pressures.

The California Department of Finance’s latest projection of the Hispanic population representing 52 percent of the population by 2050 may spill over into those communities like South Lake Tahoe with current parallel statistics. The South Shore may see that same demographic shift, with a third of the area’s population now consisting of Hispanics – like California.

The state’s 37.5 million people is projected to mushroom to 59.5 million residents by mid century.

Jorge Orozco, an El Dorado County Social Services staffer and South Lake Tahoe Latino Affairs Commission member, said the South Shore is ill prepared to handle the influx of Hispanic residents.

Inroads have been in expanding programs to the Latino population such as English as a Second Language classes taught as young as elementary school. But there’s room for improvement to help a minority become a majority in the coming years, Orozco pointed out. He wants the classes to last longer to immerse predominantly Spanish-speaking citizens into the mainstream.

“A year is not enough to be up to speed — especially when you’re trying to understand American history and chemistry,” he said.

The 18-year resident added more bilingual programs for government departments and the private sector.

“Whether we like it or not, not all Hispanics are proficient in English,” he said. “We’ll get a benefit of better education to the Hispanic community.”

Overall, Orozco characterized the community as being in a “transition period,” but cautioned against focusing on fighting the inevitable of people moving into the state who will stop at nothing to migrate to the land of opportunity.

“If we don’t work now to end immigrant bashing and the politics of division, we will allow wedges to form that can pull apart a society whose sheer size alone will require enormous tolerance and cooperation to function,” California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, D-Los Angeles, said in a written statement.

More visitors than we can handle?

Although the fastest growing section of the state surrounds the Palm Springs area, El Dorado County’s population is projected to almost double in 50 years from the 2000 Census recorded at 158,621.

The explosive growth poses serious questions on the state of the basin’s transportation, housing, utility infrastructure, social services availability and emergency resources.

Max Neiman, associate director of research at the Public Policy Institute of California, labeled the state’s recent finding as “a wakeup call” for planning.

“You’ll need to discuss whether the roads need widening or new roads are put in,” he said. The issue may become more problematic if a major disaster occurs like the devastating Angora fire a few weeks ago. When evacuations were ordered in Tahoe Island and Tahoe Keys, the roads leading out of the areas looked like parking lots.

“What’s going to happen is the visitors are going to place more pressure on day-use in your area,” Neiman said. “I think you’re going to have traffic issues.”

The South Shore population remains at a steady 30,000, but that figure can more than triple on a busy holiday weekend.

Statewide, author Mark Reisner could have had it right with his warning of inadequate water in the bestseller “Cadillac Desert.” With the desert communities and the migration moving east, water will turn into a larger issue for a state wrestling with having enough for its agricultural and consumer demands.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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