Local News

East Bay cities embrace diversity as Asian populations soar

(Photo courtesy of city of San Ramon)

For anyone seeking proof that there has been a dramatic demographic shift in the Tri Valley, just look at the race for San Ramon City Council: Four of the six candidates are of South Asian descent.

The race offers a clear example of what residents here have been witnessing over the past decade: Asians — including Indians and Chinese — have been flocking to this Contra Costa County suburb for its well-regarded schools, abundance of housing and proximity to high-paying jobs.

The trend is backed by census numbers. San Ramon’s population was 53.6 percent white in 2010 and 47.6 percent in 2017. The number of Asians, on the other hand, grew from 36.6 percent of the city’s population in 2010 to 42.3 percent in 2017.

In Dublin, where the South Asian population is concentrated in the newly-developed eastern edge of the city, a visit to a local park tells the story: Brown kids outnumber white ones, teams of adult men play cricket and sandal-clad grandfathers take their evening strolls as they would in Delhi.

Census data also supports the shift here. White residents comprised 51.3 percent of the population in Dublin in 2010, but only 48 percent in 2017. In 2010, the population was 26.8 percent Asian, but jumped to 36.6 percent in 2017.

In both cities, longtime incumbent mayors are facing Indian challengers. In San Ramon, its political newcomer Sanat Sethy against Bill Clarkson, who is seeking his fourth term. In Dublin, Councilman Arun Goel is taking on David Haubert.

Clarkson said his city has embraced diversity with open arms.

“The cultural acceptance was led by residents,” Clarkson said. Witnessing the changing face of San Ramon, Clarkson said he approached some residents to develop a boarder base of cultural events that reflect the demographics.

Those conversations led to San Ramon launching a Culture in the Community event in 2017. It took place again in October with 26 nationalities reflected in art performance, activities and food booths.

“It isn’t just about St. Patrick’s Day and other historical stuff anymore,” Clarkson said. “We are now beginning to incorporate all the various ethnic cultural festivals.”

Clarkson said San Ramon’s high-ranking schools and housing stock are attracting professionals from the South Bay, where the cost of homes is much higher.

That’s exactly what drew Sethy to the Tri Valley 21 years ago, first to Dublin and then San Ramon.

“The people who are on the City Council are good people, but they are not representative of the community,” Sethy said. The five-member council is comprised of all white males.

Sethy said he entered politics not to push a race-based agenda, but because he loves his city and wants to ensure sustainable growth and quality of life.

The Tri Valley has proven to be an accepting place, Sethy said, pointing out that San Ramon helps promote Diwali with a festival at Dougherty Valley High School and by lighting up City Hall.

“It is beautiful,” he said.

This story was first published by India Currents.