If the East Bay economy could be judged by Pleasanton's median household income of $113,345, or its poverty rate of 2.1 percent, the region would seem to be doing fine.
The U.S. Census Bureau released statistics Tuesday that show the Tri-Valley city of about 68,000 people has regained its place as the most affluent midsize city in America.
"We're certainly in an enviable position and I'm not complaining," said Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman. "We're better poised than most to ride out these rough economic waves."
In general, East Bay incomes remain higher than most and continue growing. Most Bay Area communities surpassed the statewide median household income level, $59,948. It hit $68,740 in Alameda County and $76,436 in Contra Costa County.
But the slight growth from 2006 to 2007 has not translated into poverty numbers decreasing, and in some cities it remained particularly high — 21 percent of Berkeley residents were living below the poverty line, and 17.6 percent were in Oakland and Richmond.
The number of people living in poverty in Contra Costa County grew to 8.9 percent in 2007 from 7.9 percent in 2006, and children were hit the hardest. An estimated 12.1 percent of Contra Costa residents younger than 18 were poor in 2007, compared with 9.8 percent the previous year, though the region remained below the statewide childhood poverty rate, 17. 3 percent.
In Alameda County, the overall poverty rate remained relatively steady at 11 percent, but the number of poor older residents had grown: 8.4 percent of Alameda County residents older than 65 were living in poverty last year, slightly higher than the statewide average and much higher than the 5.4 percent level in Contra Costa.
Across the country, the nation's poverty rate was statistically unchanged at 12.5 percent, but those 2007 numbers do not account for the worsening of the nation's economy.
Nick Peraino, a policy analyst for the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, said the higher cost of living in the Bay Area is an important factor, too, because residents could be at or above the federal poverty line, but actually living in poverty.
The new data also showed racial disparities in incomes. The East Bay median household income was far less for African-American families, at $39,732, and Hispanics, at $54,066, than for Asian-Americans and non-Hispanic whites, which had median incomes of $86,825 and $84,846, respectively.
Peraino said the East Bay, and specifically Oakland, is feeling the effects of an anemic economy exacerbated by growth in low-wage jobs.
During a news conference Tuesday, Peraino and his group, an advocate for union jobs, called upon Oakland city officials to press forward with the redevelopment of the former Oakland Army Base, which they say could improve the region's economic health, creating thousands of family-sustaining jobs.
The Oakland City Council is currently seeking a developer for the project.
"It's a rare gem," said Kate O'Hara, EBASE community benefits program director. "This presents the city a once in a lifetime chance."
Shirley Burnell, a member of the ACORN community organizing group, said the city needs to encourage development that would bring higher-paying jobs to the area. "Everybody thinks retail," Burnell said. "But retail does not offer enough money to take care of a family of two, let alone a family of four. We don't just need to make sure there are jobs there. We need to make sure there are good jobs there."
Staff writers Chris Metinko and Mike Swift contributed to this report. Reach Matt O'Brien at 925-977-8463 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Census Bureau released nationwide and local poverty estimates Tuesday. The income threshold used to determine if someone is living below the poverty line varies by family size.
Berkeley -- 21 percent
Oakland -- 17.6
Richmond -- 17.6
Antioch -- 12.4
San Leandro -- 11.7
Hayward -- 10.8
Alameda -- 10.6
Concord -- 10.5
Livermore -- 8.4
Union City -- 7.9
Fremont -- 4.5
Pleasanton -- 2.1
Note: Only cities with more than
65,000 people are included
Source: U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey