Updated March 8, 2011 at 1:56 p.m.
New Census figures released Tuesday show dramatic changes in the Bay Area over the last decade, with rapid population growth in Contra Costa County, an African-American exodus from Oakland, and a surge in the number of Asians living in Silicon Valley.
The nine-county region reached a population of 7.15 million people, the Census showed.
Contra Costa County Grows the Fastest
Contra Costa County grew by more than 100,000 people over the past decade, making it the fastest-growing in the Bay Area on both an absolute and percentage basis.
Observers say most of that growth occurred in the eastern parts of the county, like Antioch and Brentwood, where acres of cherry orchards and corn fields were bulldozed to make room for new subdivisions.
Unlike most of the Bay Area, where the African-American population dropped, the black population in Contra Costa County grew.
"A lot of people moved out from Oakland, including members of my family," said Paul Cobb, publisher of the African-American weekly, the Oakland Post.
"Single mothers with latchkey kids moved out there because they didn't want to have to worry about drugs and crime," Cobb said.
Steve Spiker, research director for the Oakland-based Urban Strategies Council, said Contra Costa County's population growth would have appeared even greater if it was measured before the real estate bubble burst and the foreclosure crisis began.
"A lot of these folks were foreclosed on while the census was being conducted," Spiker said. "It's unclear how many of them were missed."
Among California's 20 largest cities, Oakland was one of only two to shrink between 2000 and 2010 (Santa Ana was the other). Census figures show the East Bay city lost 8,760 residents over the past decade.
During the course of the decade, nearly 33,000 African-Americans left Oakland, the data shows, while the numbers of white, Asian and Hispanic residents increased.
The population loss came despite the building of thousands of new condo units, part of former Mayor Jerry Brown's much-ballyhooed "10K Plan" to reinvigorate downtown Oakland.
"A lot of people came, but a lot of people also left," Cobb said.
San Francisco Becomes More Asian
Like Oakland, San Francisco also saw an exodus of African-Americans, but this was more than offset by growth in the city's the city's Asian population — which rose by more than 30,000 even as the numbers of blacks dropped.
Overall, the city's population grew by 3.7 percent to 805,235 residents between 2000 and 2010.
"The Asian community is growing everywhere [in San Francisco] — the Excelsior, Portola, Visitacion Valley," said Max Kirkeberg, a professor emeritus of geography at San Francisco State University.
Ling-chi Wang, a professor emeritus in the ethnic studies department at the University of California, Berkeley, predicted the numbers would continue to grow as the visibility of San Francisco's Asian community increased after the appointment of Edwin M. Lee as its first Chinese-American mayor.
Many Asian Americans are also moving into newly built condos in the South Beach and Mission Bay neighborhoods, he said, fueled by the biotech campus of the University of California, San Francisco, which is still under construction.
The number of whites in the city rose by a modest 5,000.
San Jose Nears 1 Million Residents
San Jose remained the Bay Area's largest city, growing to 945,942 residents in 2010. Unlike San Francisco and Oakland, where the white population grew, San Jose saw its number of Caucasian residents drop.
In the meantime, the number of Asian residents skyrocketed, buoyed, observers say, by new immigrants from China and India who are moving to Silicon Valley for jobs in the tech sector.
"The Silicon Valley industries have used the H-1B visa to create its new economy and so new bridges have been built between San Jose and Bangalore," said Raj Jayadev, director of Silicon Valley Debug.
According to the census, San Jose had 303,138 Asian residents in 2010 — approximately 35,000 more than San Francisco.
"These are folks in technology jobs, they're engineers, they're scientists, they're entrepreneurs" said Russell Hancock, the president and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network, a public-private collaborative that brings together government and business leaders in the South Bay.
"The census proves San Jose is among the most cosmopolitan cities in the country, more so than San Francisco," Hancock said.
With more than 1.7 million residents, Santa Clara County remained the region's most populous as it added 99,057 residents.
Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously reported 40,000 African Americans had left Oakland over the past decade. The correct number is approximately 33,000.