DOWNEY - According to 2010 Census data released earlier this month, Downey experienced a slight increase in population since 2000 with more than 70 percent of residents now describing themselves as either Latino or Hispanic.In 1990, Latino residents made up just 32.3 percent of Downey's population. By 2000, the Latino population had increased well over 57 percent, becoming the city's fastest growing demographic. With a current population of 111,772, 2010 Census data reports that 78,996 (70.7 percent) of those residents are either Latino or Hispanic. In comparison, Downey's number of White residents continues to decline and now represents 17.7 percent of the overall population, a loss of nearly 11,000 residents since 2000. Despite the fluctuation in the city's White and Latino populations, the remaining ethnic groups saw little change over the last ten years. The Census data states that 6.7 percent of the city is Asian, 3.4 percent Black or African-American, 0.2 percent American Indian or Alaska Native, 0.2 percent Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 0.2 percent classified themselves as "Other," and 1 percent said they identified with two or more races. Although the Census depicted modest city growth since 2000, the figures did not match city estimates, which anticipated Downey's population to exceed 115,000 people by 2010. Mayor Luis Marquez believes several factors may have contributed to the lower Census numbers. "We may have been undercounted," Marquez said cautiously. "But we may have also reached our level of capacity...115,000 was based upon growth patterns of the past, but when you look at state growth, it's not where it was in the past. We grew, but we might be leveling off." Marquez acknowledged the shift in demographics, but maintains that the city will continue to move forward even though faces may have changed. "Our population has grown and the demographics have changed a little, but things will stay the same. We will continue to make this city a quality city ," he said. "Downey is a great city, a well-rounded community and the Census numbers are a reflection of the overall population in Southern California and Los Angeles County. "But regardless of the numbers, we will be a quality city ‚àí safe neighborhoods, good schools, public safety, quality of life ‚àí we'll continue to make it the best place to live." The 2010 Census, abbreviated and more user-friendly than in decades past, also recorded housing occupancy around the city. In Downey, the amount of housing units, nearly 34,700 in 2000, increased to 35,601 units. However, amid the growth, the vacancy rate is higher than in previous years. Today, more than 1,600 housing units remain empty across the city. The vacancy percentage is now 4.7 percent, the highest figure since 1990. Marquez ensures that Downey is not the only city with housing woes as the state continues to recover from a deep economic recession. "It's a pattern with a lot of cities and we're not immune to it," Marquez said. "We've lost families due to this mortgage crisis. This year, the city projects to lose $900,000 in property tax because of the housing bust." Nonetheless, Marquez said the Census data will help the city in many regards including matters of redistricting and the allocation of federal funds. "People need to understand that the Census information is very important," Marquez said. "The Census is a big thing for us and we'll be looking at the numbers closely." On Tuesday, the City Council voted to approve a small Census Data Technical Committee made up of staff members that will review the Census information and make recommendations based upon the data.
********** Published: March 24, 2011 - Volume 9 - Issue 49