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Study Shows Latino Increase in W. Hollywood : Demographics: City officials have cast doubt on the validity of the survey by USC researchers.


Two large minority groups have for some time made their voices heard in the city of West Hollywood: gays and Russian-Jewish immigrants. Both make up a substantial portion of the city's population, and the city has responded to their presence, setting up services for their special needs.

But, according to a recent study commissioned by the city, there is another group that has not been recognized: a hidden but growing population of Spanish-speaking immigrants.

A social service survey done in April indicated that the number of city residents whose first language is Spanish has more than doubled in the past 10 years, from 2,000 to more than 5,000.

According to the survey, Latinos make up 11.8% of West Hollywood's population, estimated at 44,390, and they are projected to reach 15.5% by 1994.

If the numbers are correct, the city will have to take another look at planning for social services, said Social Services Administrator Jodi Curlee.

But city officials expressed skepticism at the large numbers of Latinos cited in the survey, which was done by two researchers from the USC School of Social Work. "The city is, frankly, finding it hard to believe," Curlee said. "This information is so different from any of the other projections made in the past few years."

Curlee said city statistics showed Latinos make up a much smaller percentage of the city's population--about half of the 5,000 estimated in the report.

According to the survey, the majority of Latinos--including Mexican-Americans, Central Americans, and South Americans--live in the east end of West Hollywood, such as the area around Plummer Park. It showed a very high number of children under 13 years old living in that area, compared to the rest of the city.

The survey also found that, despite the apparently large number of Latinos who live in the city, few use the social services provided by the city--only 10% compared to more than 50% of Russian-speaking immigrants. Some of the services include English as a Second Language classes, transportation, and senior citizen services.

Every two years, the city's social services are submitted to a competitive bidding process. Preliminary proposals will be released to bidders in May, and final proposals will be submitted to the City Council for approval at the end of July, Curlee said.

She refused to speculate on how the survey's findings may affect planned budgets for city services, such as the ESL classes or child care.

"This particular information is a surprise to the city, and we want to do some more work on it before we make decisions based on it. We need to verify this kind of information before making the final proposals," Curlee said.

However, those statistics are nearly impossible to verify, said Evan Cole, a demographic information specialist with Urban Decision Systems, which provided the demographic statistics used in the city survey.

Cole said his company used data from the 1980 census, and made population growth projections based on the rate of growth a group experienced in the years between 1970 and 1980.

More current data on households was obtained from the Postal Service and from other mail services, he said.

"There isn't any way to verify this, short of going door-to-door," he said.

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