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Sonoma Loses More Residents Than Any California County

Megan Goldsby
January 15, 2019 - 10:42 am


Sonoma County lost more residents than any county in California, according to a new analysis by the state's Department of Finance. 

In all, Sonoma lost 2,207 resident for the year-long period that ended in July, the finance department's figures said. 

It may seem like a drop in the bucket for a county whose population numbers over 500,000. But it's the state's biggest population drop during that time period, and after the Wine Country fires of October 2017, many people who lost their homes simply can't afford to live there anymore. 

"You can't look at that number without recognizing the fact that we had a devastating fire storm that burned about 5,400 homes and scattered people, not only in the North Bay, but out of Sonoma County in some cases," said David Rabbitt, the chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

But Rabbitt doesn't wholly blame the fires for the exodus, and points out that a lack of affordable housing was a problem even before the disaster.

"Even though we had a state of emergency, and rents could not go up over a certain amount, rents were rising at that time," he said. "It was more difficult for people to find places that were affordable.

"I don't think our population decrease would be as much if people were paid more money and could afford to stay and pay the higher price of rent. We're struggling with that, but we're not alone," Rabbitt said. 

There is rebuilding going on in Sonoma County. But that doesn't mean people can just move back to where they were.

A former Coffey Park resident whose rented home burned down in the fire told KCBS Radio that he now lives in his brother's home elsewhere in Sonoma County. 

"My landlord had offered to move me back in to the place, but at an increased rent rate," the man said. "It had been over a year since the fires had happened, but I was struggling to afford it then, I can't afford to pay more now."

Written by Diana Shook