Commercial development and the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge spurred much of the population growth in the Gig Harbor peninsula in the past decade, local leaders say.
The peninsula population, including the city of Gig Harbor, rose almost 14 percent to 48,599, according to new data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday. The city of Gig Harbor itself grew by more than 600 people, or about 10 percent, to 7,126.
Ten years ago, before , and the rest of Gig Harbor North, the area was just a forest. Gig Harbor's Planning Director Tom Dolan credits the commercial developments in the northern part of the city for the population growth.
Terry Lee, former District 7 Pierce County Councilman and the current Executive Director of , said the development of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 2007 also opened up doors for the residents in Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula.
"It improved the accessibility and removed the congestion for access to the Gig Harbor peninsula, Key Peninsula, Kitsap peninsula and Olympic peninsula," Lee said.
The city of Gig Harbor’s growth, though, was below what the state Office of Financial Management estimated based on the 2000 census. Its city population estimate was 7,521 in 2009 and 7,600 in 2010, said city administrator Rob Karlinsey.
That shortfall will have less than a $10,000 impact to the city budget, though, because the city has so much commercial development, he said.
"There are a lot of cities out there that really depend on population data, but we're not one of those because we're commercially dominated," Karlinsey said. "We have so much of our tax base coming from businesses and commercial areas that it drowns out the residential tax base."
Karlinsey said $5.05 million in sales tax went into the general fund last year, and that number is projected to be around $4.5 million in the 2011 budget.
The region didn’t see a significant increase in diversity. Both the peninsula county census division and the city itself are predominantly white.
The Hispanic and Latino community was the largest minority group, at 5.8 percent of the city’s population. It also saw the biggest increase, rising from 3 percent in 2000 (196) to 5.8 percent in 2010 (414). The white population declined from 94.2 percent in 2000 (6,088) to 90.2 percent in 2010 (6,431).
Karlinsey said lack of diversity in the city has been a concern and the city has been making a push for more affordable housing in the harbor.
The Washington House of Representatives recently passed the bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Larry Seaquist, to exempt low-income housing from impact fees.
In the Gig Harbor peninsula region, the Hispanic or Latino population saw the largest increase, rising from 2.6 percent in 2000 (1,114) to 4.3 percent in 2010 (2,111). The white population dropped from 92.7 percent in 2000 (39,654) to 90.5 percent (44,004) in 2010.
Lee said Gig Harbor in general has a perception of being an aging population, and the 2010 results reflect his statement. Both the city and the peninsula communities were made up of more than 70 percent of those who were 18 years and older.
The 2010 data also include housing occupancy statistics. According to the census, the 3,560 Gig Harbor housing units are currently 92.4 percent occupied. For the rest of the peninsula, of the 20,238 housing units, 92.8 percent, or 18,790 units, are occupied.
Meanwhile, Pierce County continues to trail King County for the second most populous county in the state, with 795,225 people. The number grew from 700,819 in 2000, which is about a 13.5 percent increase.
Washington state’s population rose about 14 percent in the past decade, reaching 6,724,540 in 2010. The state is slightly more diverse, with 77 percent of the population identifying themselves as white, vs. 82 percent in 2000.
The Hispanic and Latino population grew the fastest, rising 71 percent to about three-quarters of a million people. That group makes up about 11 percent of the state’s population, up from 7.5 percent in 2000.
Among people who identified themselves as one race, the population of native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders grew the fastest, up 69 percent. Asians grew 49 percent; blacks grew 26 percent; American Indian and Alaska natives grew 11 percent; and the white population rose just under 8 percent. People who identified themselves as “Some Other Race” rose 53 percent."
People who identified themselves as two or more races rose 47 percent. They’re still just a small portion of the population, at about 313,000, or just under 5 percent.
The top six most populous Washington cities remained unchanged. They are, respectively: Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue and Everett.
Here’s the breakdown for the population in Gig Harbor and Gig Harbor peninsula, according to race. Note that Hispanic or Latino isn't included in the chart below because it is not considered a race. Hispanic or Latino is used to identify someone from or whose ancestors were from a Spanish-speaking country or culture.
City of Gig Harbor:Race Total Percentage in 2000 Total Percentage in 2010 White 94.2 90.2 Black of African American 1.1 1.2 American Indian and Alaska Native 0.6 0.6 Asian 1.5 2.4 Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander 0.2 0.5 Some other race 0.5 1.4 Two or more races 1.8 3.6
Gig Harbor Peninsula (CCD):Race Total Percentage in 2000 Total Percentage in 2010
White92.7 90.5 Black of African American 1.2 1.1
American Indian and Alaska Native0.8 0.8 Asian 1.8 2.6 Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander 0.2 0.3 Some other races 0.7 1.0 Two or more races 2.6 3.7