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Inland Empire Makes It Big on U.S. Growth Chart

Of the 25 fastest-growing cities, five are in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Census estimates cover a three-year period.

June 24, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

Five of the nation's 25 fastest-growing cities are in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, according to a new census report.

Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana were in the top 10. Corona, Riverside and Moreno Valley are the other three in the top 25.

The Orange County city of Irvine also made the top 10.

The figures came as no surprise to city officials throughout the popular Inland communities, where thousands of new residents have moved after fleeing Los Angeles and Orange counties in search of cheaper housing.

"They don't laugh about the name Rancho Cucamonga anymore," said Mayor Bill Alexander, referring to Jack Benny's old radio skit when a train station announcer calls out stops in the hinterlands -- "Anaheim, Azusa and Kook-a-monga!"

Alexander said the city's growth is a result of several factors, including the recent extension of the Foothill Freeway, a popular Metrolink rail line through San Bernardino County, and new housing and commercial development.

From April 2000 to July 2003, the period covered by U.S. census estimates for all cities on the list, Rancho Cucamonga's population grew 18.7%, to 151,640 residents.

"There's high-end housing here now, and professionals are bringing their businesses," Alexander said. "It's being done with a lot of forethought and within the planning process."

In Fontana, population grew 17.8%, to 151,903.

About 1,000 to 1,500 homes have been built every year since 2000, said Mayor Mark Nuaimi. The hot real estate market has driven up home prices and attracted interest from commercial developers, he said.

"Our challenge is trying to get both residential and commercial development here at the same time, and I think we're doing a pretty good job of that," Nuaimi said.

Irvine was fifth on the list, with 19.2% growth, to 170,561.

"The city has been growing at a rapid rate for some time -- as planned," said Mayor Larry Agran. The city's population is expected to reach about 250,000 in the next 20 years, he said.

Agran attributed Irvine's rapid growth to several factors, including strong ethnic diversity, low crime, careful planning and a thriving local economy that's generating jobs.

Gilbert, Ariz., a southern suburb of Phoenix now with 145,250 people, topped the list, growing 32.1%.

Los Angeles, with 3.8 million residents the nation's second most populous city after New York, had the largest population increase: 125,209.

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Most prolific cities

Southland cities ranked among the fastest-growing in the U.S. from April 2000 to July 2003.

*--* Rank City Percent change 1. Gilbert, Ariz. 32.1% 2. North Las Vegas, Nev. 25.1% 3. Henderson, Nev. 22.5% 4. Chandler, Ariz. 19.6% 5. Irvine 19.2% 6. Port St. Lucie, Fla. 18.8% 7. Rancho Cucamonga 18.7% 8. Fontana 17.8% 9. Peoria, Ariz. 17.4% 10. Cape Coral, Fla. 16.1%

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Source: Census Bureau

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Times staff writer David Haldane contributed to this report.

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