Report: S.J. to lead area growth

A new report that projects massive population and jobs growth for San Jose over the next 30 years is being seized by South Bay officials as a sign that the city may finally be stepping out of its more glamorous cousin’s shadow.

But try telling that to San Francisco.

Already larger than San Francisco by 147,000 residents, San Jose is expected to add two-and-a-half times the number of people as San Francisco by 2035, according to a report released by the Association of Bay Area Governments on Thursday.

San Francisco will add about 161,000 residents, reaching a population of 957,000, compared with San Jose’s growth of 430,000, to reach 1.4 million by 2035, projections show.

“Our future growth certainly means we will continue to be the anchor of the regional economic powerhouse,” said David Vossbrink, spokesman for San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales.

The projected growth in population and jobs for both cities signals a turning point for the region, which suffered under an economic downturn in recent years. “It was almost the perfect storm,” said Paul Fassinger, research director for ABAG. “There was the dot-com bust, stocks went down and 9/11 hurt tourism,” he said.

San Francisco’s population growth was sluggish at 2 percent, from 776,733 to 795,800, from 2000 to 2005, according to ABAG. Even more telling, The City actually lost jobs, from 642,500 to 553,900, during the same period, experts said.

As for San Jose, people are moving there because it is more affordable and because of its reputation for business innovation as the heart of Silicon Valley, Vossbrink said. The increasing population is expected to boost the South Bay’s economy by adding more jobs, Fassinger said.

While San Francisco is projected to add 280,000 jobs for a total of 833,000 by 2035, Santa Clara County, including San Jose, is expected to add 493,000 jobs for a total of 1.4 million during the same period.

While the lion’s share of the Bay Area’s jobs is likely to go where the population grows, that won’t do much to diminish San Francisco’s influence, according to Jim Lazarus, with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

“San Jose is a great city, but it will never be a world-class city like San Francisco,” Lazarus said. “It has nothing to do with population.”

In the battle for civic bragging rights, add the San Francisco 49ers to the list of political footballs. The recent announcement that the team is considering pulling up stakes for Santa Clara, and that the Oakland A’s, just across the Bay from The City, will move to Fremont, is more evidence of the South Bay’s growing pull, Vossbrink said.

Overall, however, he sees the Bay Area’s three major cities — San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland — operating together more than at odds, even in light of San Jose’s projected growth, Vossbrink said.

But, in a time-honored tradition, San Franciscans are reacting with bemusement to the idea of civic equality — or of challenges to its regional supremacy.

Dennis Conaghan, executive director for the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, shrugged off the news of San Jose’s latest growth spurt. “I’m not terribly worried about [San Francisco losing influence],” Conaghan said. “The cachet of The City is very special in terms of quality of life.”

Ranked as the best U.S. city to visit by Condé Nast Traveler magazine for 17 of the last 18 years, San Francisco has geography, the Financial District, renowned museums, restaurants, shopping and theater, Lazarus said. “I don’t think you’re going to see a shift [in influence] to San Jose.”

Region’s population is getting older

It won’t be long before most Bay Area residents are over the hill.

In fact, the average age will be 42.5 by 2035, compared with 36.5 currently, according to Regional Planner Hing Wong, of the Association of Bay Area Governments.

While that may not sound old to some, a look at the upper end of the spectrum reveals a more startling perspective.

In just 10, years the over-60 population, currently about 746,000, will have doubled, and by 2035 nearly tripled, according to a new ABAG report, “Projections 2007 — Becoming a Network of Neighborhoods.”

Such an increase means the time to think about the housing and transportation needs of seniors is now, according to Wong.

Adding to concerns that a housing crunch could bind the region, including economically, is the fact that 2 million more people are projected to relocate to the Bay Area during the next three decades, experts said.

The upshot is that after several years of stagnant economic growth in the Bay Area, development is on the rise again. The key is to guide that development to areas within one-half mile of transit, Wong said. Such multi-unit housing has sprung up on Church Street in San Francisco, Fruitvale Village in Oakland and at the Santa Clara Transit Area near the San Jose International Airport.

Creating housing near transit and in walkable neighborhoods could be key in maintaining the Bay Area’s high quality of living, namely affordable living, access to convenient shopping, parks and recreation activities, said Paul Fassinger, ABAG research director.

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