City’s population nudges upward

July 20, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The number of people who moved to Issaquah last year could fit inside Pickering Barn and still have plenty of room to spare.

The annual tally from the state Office of Financial Management shows the city’s population nudged upward by 270 people last year, bringing the population to 27,160 residents. (The historic Pickering Barn holds 400 people.)

The latest population figures indicate a slowdown after a decade marked by large annexations and a housing construction boom in the Issaquah Highlands and Talus. The city ballooned by 139 percent between April 2000 and April 2009.

Issaquah ranked as the fifth fastest-growing city in the state during the previous decade. In early 2000, about 11,000 people called Issaquah home. The population had swelled to 26,890 by April 2009.

“It’s slowed down quite a bit, of course, over the last year, due to the recession,” city Planning Director Mark Hinthorne said.

Issaquah remains the 38th largest city in the state — a spot the city has held since 2008. The city ranked 61st in April 2000.

State demographers rely on changes in school enrollment, housing, voter registration, driver licensing and other indicators to determine population growth.

State officials use the population data to determine how dollars should be allotted to municipalities.

Despite the recession-related slowdown, Issaquah stands to grow in the years ahead. Earlier this year, planners proposed adding 5,750 housing units and 20,000 jobs to Issaquah by 2035.

Mayor Ava Frisinger appointed a task force last year to envision redevelopment in Central Issaquah — 915 acres along Interstate 90 — in the decades ahead.

Though the task force continues to work, the plan aims to increase density and add more residences to the commercial core. The task force should deliver a report by September.

The city and Rowley Properties embarked on a concurrent effort to redevelop about 90 acres near the interstate and state Route 900.

“How can the city and the private sector work to make the streetscapes and other things to encourage that type of development?” Hinthorne asked.

Statewide, population inched upward by 65,050 people to about 6.7 million residents — a 0.98 percent increase from 2009.

Seattle, the largest city in the Evergreen State, grew by 10,000 people to 612,000 residents. Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver and neighboring Bellevue rank as the next-largest cities in the state.

The state released the population data June 30.

State Chief Demographer Yi Zhao attributed the slowed growth to the ongoing recession and the accompanying slowdown in housing construction.

State demographers rely on data from the 2000 Census as a baseline, and then examine data related to school enrollment, housing, driver licensing and other indicators.

Zhao said the state estimates should not vary much from the 2010 Census data due to be released in December. Statewide population counts should be released first, followed by data for counties and smaller geographic areas in April 2011.

Zhao said the state estimates should be accurate to within about 3 percent of census data.

The methods for each tally vary. The census includes a count — in some cases conducted by census workers heading door to door — but the state estimates rely on data-driven projections.

“We try to keep as close to the growth as we can in the cities and counties,” Zhao said.

Census takers will conduct follow-up visits

Expect to see census workers throughout the Issaquah area again, as the U.S. Census Bureau conducts follow-up operations at a handful of houses.

Workers will knock on doors at some houses in Issaquah to collect information in order to confirm the accuracy of the data collected by the original census taker.

The process also helps census workers identify vacant homes, a special concern given the number of residences in foreclosure due to the economic downturn. Workers will visit households listed as vacant on April 1 to double check for occupants.

The operation verifies the location of addresses provided on forms or through telephone interviews to ensure the decennial census counts everyone in the correct location.

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