(originally published May 2, 2020)
The California Department of Finance issues annual population estimates for the state and its counties and cities. The Department reports population figures for unincorporated areas within counties as a lump sum number of a county population minus the population within the cities in a county. The latest numbers from the Department show that Sacramento County’s urbanized unincorporated area - the UnCity - is the largest political subdivision in the County, with 593,801 people. That’s a population larger than the number of residents of the City of Sacramento PLUS the City of Folsom. And with that many people, our UnCity would be the 5th largest city in California if it was a city. Of the 482 cities in California, the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco - in that order - are the only ones that rank higher than the UnCity would if it was a municipality. Think about that for a moment. Consider the clout that those four cities have within California: when they speak, the Legislature listens, they get significant money apportioned from state and federal budgets for various programs and grants, they are centers of commerce with TV stations, newspapers, pro sports teams, concert venues, and so on. They also have Mayors and City Councils that focus on local priorities.
Yes, our UnCity is huge. But it doesn’t count because it’s not a city. There are no Mayors or City Councils tending to the needs of the residents of the UnCity. The nearly 600,000 souls in the UnCity might as well be cows because that’s how the governance system sees us. The UnCity is governed by the illustrious Board of Supervisors of Sacramento County, each of whom represent 311,073 people according to the latest Department of Finance numbers. The Supervisors bless the UnCity with municipal services like keeping our neighborhoods safe, making land use decisions, guiding our local economy, watching over our roads and transportation system, and dealing with our stray cats and dogs, don’t they? Except, as you may have noticed during the Covid-19 pandemic, the County doesn’t really have time for municipal services now because it’s all hands on deck for its regional responsibilities. Understandable as that may be, places that happen to be cities are carrying out their municipal responsibilities during this time.
New numbers for communities within the UnCity, such as Arden Arcade, will not be available until the Census Bureau releases its estimates for 2020 next year. Until then, we must be content with the Census Bureau’s figures based on the 2010 census, when we were told Arden Arcade had 92,186 people. That’s a density of 5,171 people per square mile, a level well above that which the Census Bureau considers urbanized. Still, though the residents hereabouts are obviously not cows, Arden Arcade just sort of disappears into the UnCity, which also just sort of disappears, doesn’t it?