Census shows Santa Clara’s Asian population has grown over the past decade
Santa Clara’s population has grown significantly over the past decade, and with these changes come new challenges.
The 2020 census results show that the number of people who identify as Asian in Santa Clara has increased by more than a third over the past decade. But even before this demographic shift in the city, there was pressure on Santa Clara to diversify the representation of elected officials. Today, the city has three Asian Americans on the city council.
One of those three council members is Raj Chahal, elected in 2018 as Santa Clara‘s first U.S. Indian Councilor. From his perspective, he told San Jose Spotlight, residents seemed happy to see an Asian American elected to the city council.
“Fortunately, in 2020 we were able to get more diverse representation on city council,” he told San José Spotlight. “It really makes the chemistry of the council like our community.”
Since 2010, the city’s population has increased by about 10%, reaching a total of 127,647, according to 2020 U.S. Census data.
About 60,000 residents of Santa Clara now identify as Asian or Asian American compared to the approximately 36,000 residents who make up white residents, the second largest racial group. The third largest group is Hispanic with 22,550 residents followed by 2,710 black residents.
The Asian population increased by 37%, multiracial by 28% and “other” by 148%. Those who identify as white have fallen 15%, blacks by 7%, Native Americans and Alaska Natives by 23%, and Hawaiian and Pacific Islander natives by 35%, based on 2020 US Census data still to be finalized.
While some of this change was related to demographic shifts, much of this finding was related to changes in census survey design in 2020, “which allowed for a more complete and accurate description of how people prefer to self-identify,” according to the US Census.
Increase in Asian identification
One of the biggest changes within the city over the past decade is the 37% increase in residents who identify as Asian. This is not surprising for Richard Konda, executive director of the Asian Law Alliance.
“The 2020 census confirmed what we thought was happening,” he told San José Spotlight. “There are a significant number of Asian Americans who have moved to this city over the past 20 years, even within the past five years.”
Santa Clara lacked Asian American representation for some time. In the 70 years before the city transitioned from a general system to a district system in 2018, residents had never elected an Asian American to the city council.
It was against this background that the Asian Law Alliance filed a lawsuit against the city in 2017, alleging that the general electoral system operated in a discriminatory manner and prevented racial minorities from electing their preferred candidates. In 2021, Santa Clara agreed to pay $712,000 to settle the lawsuit. During this time, the city adopted a new electoral system which divided the city into six districts, each represented by a resident of that district.
Then, in the 2018 and 2020 local elections, voters elected three Asian American residents to the Santa Clara City Council: American Indians Chahal and Suds Jain and Korean American Kevin Park.
“We are very pleased with the districts and hope that the city council in the future will reflect this demographic shift,” Konda said.
The metropolitan area, which includes San Jose, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale, has changed significantly since the 2020 census, losing nearly 43,000 people between April 2020 and July 2021, according to recent census data. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Santa Clara was one of the only cities in the county to see an increase in population. The city’s population increased by 3.5% while the majority of other cities in Santa Clara County remained stable or declined.
Councilman Park said he wants to see more diversity on the council, not just in terms of race, but also diversity of thought, gender identity and economic diversity.
He singled out council member Anthony Becker as someone whose identity as a working-class tenant adds a different perspective to the city council.
“It gives him a view of process and politics that many of us don’t think about as much,” he told San Jose Spotlight.
Chahal told San José Spotlight that he was pleased with the diversity of the city’s elected officials.
“The more diversity we have on our board, the more it helps to make better decisions,” he said.
Contact Kate Bradshaw at [email protected] or @bradshk14 on Twitter.