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Some Solace in Growth Statistics

February 23, 1986

If you're not distraught over the fact that San Diego overtook and replaced Orange last year as California's second-most-populated county (both trail Los Angeles), the latest state population figures have something for everyone.

Growth advocates can continue to rejoice. The county, although it slipped to third with 2,127,900 residents (3,700 behind San Diego), still managed to gain 36,700 new residents in 1985. That was more than 1984's population growth, and, as one population analyst noted, the addition of one medium-sized city each year.

Those not so thrilled with a constantly expanding population can find comfort in the statistics that show growth in Orange County has definitely leveled off. Fewer people are coming here, about half of what the total used to be each year. The natural increase of births over deaths accounted for most of the county's population increase.

In fact, although more people are moving in than out, with most coming from Los Angeles and out of state, Orange County is continually losing people to the neighboring counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego. That can best be explained by the paucity of lower-priced housing in Orange County, which not only forces people to live elsewhere but also accounts for the growing traffic congestion on freeways such as Routes 55 and 91. Orange County, in the 1980s, has become a place people go to work, not live.

The statistics also portend, in addition to continuing traffic problems, a growing crisis in some Orange County school districts that are faced with shrinking enrollments, while school districts in newer growth areas skimp to find the funds for classroom space, teachers and supplies.

San Diego and Los Angeles counties, to no one's real surprise, are growing much faster than Orange County.

The rate of growth in Orange County may have slowed, but officials anticipate continued growth and a population of 2.6 million residents by the year 2000. What can also be anticipated is the continued growth of the county's housing, freeway and school problems--unless they receive more action in the remaining years of this decade than they have until now.

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