In a year that saw California’s population stagnate, the city of Sacramento proved to be a relative boomtown.
The capital city was, by the far, the fastest growing major city in the state in 2018, gaining more than 7,000 residents and adding more than 2,350 new housing units, much of it in midtown, downtown and North Natomas.
The numbers, released Wednesday by the state Department of Finance, show population growth was nil in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where housing prices hit all-time highs last spring but have since cooled.
Sacramento was one of two of the state’s top 10 most populous cities to see more than a modest 1 percent growth. Sacramento’s population increased 1.5 percent, hitting 508,172, according to preliminary January 2019 numbers.
In terms of pure population growth, the city of Sacramento added more new residents than San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles or San Jose.
The only other major city in the state to see more than one percent growth was Bakersfield, at 1.1 percent. Fresno hit one percent exactly.
State officials said wildfires impacted state population totals, destroying some 17,000 housing units. The state also experienced a decline in its birth rate, and deaths were on the rise, part of a trend that started in 2010 as the baby boomer generation ages.
Overall, the biggest growth spurts last year were seen in median and small-sized cities, influenced in part by migration from coastal cities to lower-priced areas.
That includes the Sacramento four-county region: Placer County’s growth of 1.9 percent was among the highest rates in the state. Rocklin grew by nearly 4 percent. Roseville added 3,383 residents. Rancho Cordova grew by nearly 2 percent.
In the Central Valley, Manteca saw a 3.4 percent population increase.
The largest population in any city in the state, though, came as a result of the massive wildfire scourge. Chico, in Butte County, saw its population surge at least temporarily by 19,000 people in the weeks after the Camp Fire laid waste to Paradise and other nearby hill towns.
Chico City Manager Mark Orme said this week that the number of hillside refugees living in Chico likely has dropped below 15,000 since the beginning of the year, but the population increase has put pressure on city services and infrastructure, he said.