South County has long had cities where Hispanics make up the largest part of the population. Now for the first time, the trend has extended into North County—and demographers expect more of that growth in years to come, perhaps changing the makeup of city councils, boosting the ethnic mix of schools and increasing tensions over illegal immigration and public services.
Hispanics account for 46 percent of Escondido’s population, according to the latest estimates from the San Diego Association of Governments. The second-largest group, non-Hispanic whites, comes in at 44 percent.
Another North County municipality, Vista, shows a tie—at 44 percent—for Hispanic and non-Hispanic white residents.
Escondido and Vista join three South Bay cities that have significant Hispanic populations: National City (63 percent), Chula Vista (51 percent) and Imperial Beach (48 percent).
The statistics do not differentiate between legal and illegal residents.
Patrick Osio of Chula Vista, who edits a newsletter on Hispanic affairs, said the dynamics are ripe for a political transformation once more Hispanics—such as the young and recent immigrants—join the voting ranks.
Sam Abed, a councilman from the same city, said the problem isn’t having many Hispanics, just that they don’t try to assimilate into the community.
In National City, where Hispanics have been in the majority during the past decade, Mayor Ron Morrison said ethnic diversity has translated into different priorities for the city, including greater demand for everything from soccer facilities to affordable housing.
“We are also a low-income community. That’s going to happen when there are a lot of people where English isn’t their first language,” he said. “We’re having to work on housing and everything else for people with low incomes.”
In Imperial Beach, within view of the U.S.-Mexico border, the Hispanic population inched ahead of the non-Hispanic white population in 2002 and now accounts for nearly half of the residents there.
On the other side of the spectrum, non-Hispanic whites are still by far the majority population in large portions of the North Coast and East County. Examples are Del Mar (85 percent white), Santee (77 percent), Carlsbad (76 percent), Encinitas and Coronado (74 percent), Solana Beach (73 percent), Poway (71 percent) and La Mesa (67 percent).
The largest ethnic and racial groups in the city of San Diego are non-Hispanic whites (44 percent), Hispanics (28 percent), Asians (16 percent) and blacks (7 percent).
Hispanics now largest group in Escondido - SignOnSanDiego.com