City poised to make sure this year’s census counts 

San Francisco residents are lagging behind the state and nation in completing 2010 census forms.

About 46 percent of San Francisco residents have completed and filed their 2010 census forms compared to 48 percent statewide. The nation is averaging a return rate of 50 percent, said Sonny Le, spokesman for the Census Bureau.

This isn’t surprising, considering San Francisco has been marked as one of the “hard-to-count” cities because of its diverse and dense population of immigrants and non-English speakers, Le said.

That’s one reason Mayor Gavin Newsom will be traversing Chinatown today to remind residents to participate in the census, said Adrienne Pon, executive director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs.

In 2000, San Francisco’s population was severely undercounted by as much as 100,000, city officials said. That translated into a loss of $3 million in federal funding during the past decade, Pon said.

This time, San Francisco is dropping more than $870,000 in general fund money on outreach campaigns to boost participation and make sure it doesn’t get shortchanged again. The City has identified eight areas where participation rates are the lowest, including Western Addition, the Mission district, Visitacion Valley, Chinatown and the Bayview district.

“There are a lot in The City that feel that any invasion of privacy, even a question of how many live in your household, is not acceptable,” Pon said. “But a lot of city services we depend on hinge on federal funding, which relies on the census.”

The City stands to garner $4,000 in federal funding for every person who’s counted in the 2010 census, Pon said. That money will help with transportation, education and housing services. The census also dictates redistricting data.

Residents have until April 15 to return their forms via mail.

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Erin Sherbert

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