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City of Sandy sees surge in population

Town among state's top five in growth since 2000 census

There must be something about Sandy that causes people to like it here - like it so much they want to become residents.

Since the turn of the century, just 10 years ago, almost 4,200 more people have decided to settle here. What was then a town of just under 5,400, when everyone was predicting Armageddon, has blossomed into a city of nearly 9,600 today.

The city annexed a little bare land; some of it was developed; houses were built; people moved into vacant homes and apartments; college students graduated and returned home without a job; and families added babies to their number.

The result: Sandy's population exploded 78 percent, and is the fifth fastest-growing city among the 242 incorporated cities in Oregon.

Meanwhile, the U.S. population rose by only 12 percent in 10 years, and the state of Oregon also increased by 12 percent. Cities near Sandy weren't much better: Estacada, 14 percent; Troutdale, 16 percent; and Gresham, 17 percent.

Sandy's 78-percent growth was exceeded only by Happy Valley (207 percent), Sisters (112 percent), Millersburg, near Albany (104 percent) and Redmond (95 percent).

Averages and percentages often hide details, said Sandy Planning Director Tracy Brown. For example, Happy Valley's 10-year increase was equal to today's population of Sandy, and was partly achieved by annexing developable land. And Sisters' 112-percent increase represents only about 1,000 people (two people added per week during the decade).

Brown said city staff has to keep up with any increases in order to provide services for everyone who is in need.

'I think everyone (city staff) knew that we were growing rapidly,' Brown said. 'A lot of our planning is based on the number of households.'

No one has a concrete answer about why Sandy grew so much; even the experts can only speculate.

The Population Research Center (PRC) at Portland State University, which is the population authority for the state, showed a difference between the PRC estimate and the actual population - as counted by the 2010 census.

Instead of Sandy's census count of approximately 9,600, PRC officials estimated about 8,400.

The number is important, Brown says, because state revenue sharing is based on population: More people equals more state revenue.

But PRC estimators can only work with the numbers they have. Risa Proehl, PRC's population estimates program manager, said the discrepancy was likely because of a change in Sandy's average number of people per household (counted from the 2000 census) and in the housing occupancy rate.

'Because of the higher number of persons counted in the 2010 census than in our estimate for Sandy,' she said, 'it appears that there was an increase in the (persons per household) and/or in occupancy rates.'

There are, no doubt, other changes in the demographic picture of Sandy residents such as gender, age, race, status of housing (own or rent) and household relationships.

But that information won't be fully tabulated and released for public view until May or June, according to Jason Jurjevich, assistant director of the PRC, who said the 2010 census only asked 10 questions hoping to get more participation. But with fewer questions comes less information.

'When some people got those long forms (in previous years) with all those questions on it,' Jurjevich said, 'the response rate was lower. People were less likely to return those long forms.'

That theory, posed initially by the U.S. Census Bureau, might have been true over some states, but not in Oregon. In the 2000 census, 77 percent responded to the long form. In 2010, 76 percent responded to the shorter mail-in form.

Nationwide, the response rate was 74 percent - ranging from a high in Wisconsin of 85 percent to a low in Hawaii of 66 percent.

For more information, visit the PRC website at pdx.edu/prc/census-2010-data-oregon.