News - March 16, 2011

Menlo Park grows while neighbors shrink

• Census data for 2010 tracks demographic shifts in local towns.

by Sandy Brundage

While Menlo Park's population grew by 4 percent during the past 10 years, neighboring towns Atherton, Portola Valley, and Woodside lost residents, according to data released March 8.

Saying he wasn't sure if 4 percent was a large increase, Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline suggested the population may be growing slower than expected.

"First, this is an infill community, so there's less physical room to expand. Second, the past decade has witnessed two different economic recessions, which slows growth," he told the Almanac. "Third, there has been little to no real new development in areas of obvious opportunity and that is a direct result of the city's political culture."

He pointed to the Derry project. "We have a project, near transit, that has been approved by the Planning Commission and the City Council, but it is 'referended' in an ugly confrontation between developer interests and community preservation concerns," Mayor Cline said. "Some of the reasons to challenge the project may have been valid. But the end result is nothing. I am sure there are a few folks who are pleased with nothing, but I think most see this as a major disappointment."

The racial makeup of all four cities shifted as well, and while the amount of housing available increased, so did vacancy rates across the board.

Overall, the state population increased by 10 percent from 2000 to an estimated 37,253,956 people; San Mateo County is home to about 2 percent of that population.


In Atherton, the white population decreased 9.4 percent to 5,565; the Asian population increased 29 percent to 911; and the Latino population increased 34 percent to 268.

The number of available housing units increased by only 25 to 2,530, with a vacancy rate of 7.9 percent, almost double the rate in 2000.

Menlo Park

Menlo Park's Latino population increased 23 percent to 5,902; the Asian population increased 43 percent to 3,157; and the African American or black population dropped 28 percent to 1,551. The white population saw a tiny rise of 1 percent to 22,494.

"You see the same thing in East Palo Alto," said Tomas Jimenez, associate professor of sociology at Stanford who studies immigration, assimilation, and ethnic and racial identity.

"One of the things that's happening is that we had a huge run-up in housing prices. Many of the longtime residents, many African Americans, cashed out," he said. The residents moved to areas like Stanislaus County, where they could buy bigger homes at better prices.

As local housing opened up, Latinos moved in, Professor Jimenez said.

As for the increase in the Asian population, he thought that might be described as an influx of employees in the science and high-tech industries.

"We see this all over Silicon Valley," he said. "They don't necessarily fit the stereotypical immigrant experience. They're highly skilled, they can afford to buy homes here."

Available housing in Menlo Park lagged behind the population growth, increasing by 3 percent. The vacancy rate doubled from 2000.

Portola Valley

The demographic shifts in Portola Valley reflected regional changes; its while population decreased 4 percent to 3,960; the Asian population increased 36 percent to 242; and the Latino population increased 17 percent to 175.

Housing units increased by 7 percent during the decade in Portola Valley, while vacancies nearly doubled to 8 percent.

Portola Valley Mayor Ted Driscoll said the change in the town's demographics is "simply reflective of the increasing diversity of the whole Bay Area, and that diversity is one of our area's greatest strengths.

"What I'm very proud of is that a resident from 25 years ago would recognize the place today, and someone from today would recognize the town 25 years from now," he added. "The people slowly change but the valley remains remarkably the same."


In Woodside, the white population decreased 2 percent to 4,717; the Asian population increased 24 percent to 332; and the Latino population increased 5 percent to 243.

"I would say personally I am extremely gratified to see an increase, albeit modest, of ethnic diversity in our community," Woodside Mayor Ron Romines said, adding that he was speaking for himself not the town. "I think everyone benefits when we can associate on a personal basis with neighbors of different ethnic, cultural or religious backgrounds."

The town added 127 housing units in 10 years, and saw its vacancy rate, like that of its neighbors, double to 8 percent.

David Reilly, principal of Woodside High School, had this comment on the census numbers: "Woodside High School has always embraced changes in demographics, as these changes add to the vibrantly diverse academic and social community. Our academic and extra-curricular activities tend to mirror these changes, as evidenced by the wide variety of clubs and elective offerings."

Renee Batti and Dave Boyce contributed to this story.


Visit to explore the 2010 census data.


There are no comments yet for this post

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields