It’s not often that John Beckman and I kind of agree on something, but it turns out we both have some issues (albeit from different perspectives) with Stockton’s proposed green renovation ordinance.
On Sunday, The Record reported that, as required by Stockton’s 2008 lawsuit settlement with the Sierra Club, the city will soon consider an ordinance requiring residential renovation projects over $20,000 to also pay for an energy audit which could lead to an extra $2,000 to $5,000 in costs or more. The goal of the ordinance is to help Stockton reduce total emissions by making sure large renovation projects make homes more energy efficient.
While noble in purpose, this ordinance is very shortsighted and may have unintended consequences that actually increase Stockton’s emissions. Addressing single home renovations overlooks the actual cause of most emissions and energy use while also discouraging people from investing in Stockton’s older, more walkable neighborhoods. Continue reading
Walkscore—the popular website that calculates the walkability of an area based on access to amenities—recently released its 2014 data on walkable cities, and Stockton came out with mixed results. The bad news? Stockton is not very walkable overall, and according to the site has actually become less walkable since last year. But on the bright side, Stockton’s core neighborhoods score well despite their underutilization, revealing their potential for revitalization into complete walkable neighborhoods. Continue reading
Several times a year, thousands of Stocktonians flock to the north side of the downtown waterfront to take in baseball games, hockey matches, concerts, graduations and other events. And while the ballpark, arena and hotel are generally lively, about a fifth of the original Stockton Event Center project remains empty and undeveloped. Just south of the arena and east of the ballpark sits nearly 10 acres that were supposed to be turned into retail sites. Obviously, retail development has yet to materialize, leaving event center patrons with few pre and post event entertainment options. For the most part, these visitors show up for the event at the scheduled time and leave upon that event’s conclusion. What if we could keep people around longer?
The fact that this retail space was never built may actually be a blessing in disguise. I’ve already pointed out the center’s poorly situated parking garage, but there is still time to improve upon the retail space design. It’s important that this parcel be developed in a thoughtful and original manner as there is a great opportunity to create a public space buzzing before and after events. Right now, other than the bar and restaurant at the University Plaza (both are awesome, by the way), there are no pre or post game options for fans directly adjacent to the ball/park arena. But that could change with a unique development serving as a functional public space even when there are not events. To achieve this, let’s examine what needs to be done and explore some ideas for what this could look like. Continue reading
Today, Stockton voters head to the polls to vote on a sales tax increase to fund more police officers and pay creditors. Certainly, a city struggling through bankruptcy needs to think creatively about increasing revenue. So, as Stocktonians decide the fate of Measures A and B, here is another idea to boost sales tax revenue: Annex Lincoln Center.
If you didn’t already know, Lincoln Center is not a part of Stockton, despite being right in the middle of the city. The shopping center technically doesn’t belong to any city, but exists only as an area of San Joaquin County. And as an unincorporated area, all revenue generated at Lincoln Center flows to the county, not the city, even though shoppers drive on Stockton roads to get there. There are actually areas like Lincoln Center throughout Stockton. Could annexing these areas help solve Stockton’s money woes? Continue reading
When you ask Leandro Vicuña about his vision for downtown, be prepared to stay a while, because the new CEO of the Downtown Stockton Alliance (DSA) has no shortage of ideas, big and small. From cultivating tech start up space to waterfront taxis to painting utility boxes, no idea is too small or too ambitious.
“I am looking for anyone we can partner with, anything we can do to make people and businesses feel safe and welcome downtown,” says Vicuña. “I have been introducing myself to every single business owner and stakeholder here, trying to keep a pulse on what we can do.”
In an article last summer, I identified Stockton’s five-ugliest buildings. Among those buildings was the San Joaquin County Courthouse, which has been much maligned both for its lack of functionality as well as its uninspiring aesthetics. Next year, the county will begin construction of a new, 12-story courthouse located on the current site of Hunter Square, directly west of the current courthouse. The completion date is slated for 2016, at which point we will have to ask ourselves: What will become of the old courthouse next door?
The current plans call for the building to be demolished and replaced by a public plaza a long with an underground parking structure. I am the usually the first person to advocate for public spaces, and I think that if the current courthouse is demolished, a new plaza would be a very nice addition to downtown. However, I am also aware that county jail space has been a hot topic as of late. With that in mind, it seems like a perfectly reasonable question to ask: could the current county courthouse be converted into jail space? Continue reading
A common retort you will hear from sprawl defenders is that our built environment is shaped by the free market. They believe that the single-family tract home developments we are accustomed to today are the result of consumer preference, and if people wanted more apartments or townhomes, they would already exist. Therefore, smart growth must be propped up by Uncle Sam to be successful. On its face, this makes sense; why would we have sprawling subdivisions if there was not incredible demand for these communities? To be sure, the demand is quite real, but what most people don’t realize is that this demand is artificially created by the government through tax breaks, subsidies and federal real estate programs. That doesn’t sound like a “free market” to me. While sprawl defenders are quick to trumpet free-market principles when justifying sprawl and damning smart growth, it turns out that the suburbs owe their entire existence to the generosity of the federal government. Continue reading
Today, the Obama administration triumphantly announced $320 million dollars in federal and private funds to support the newly-bankrupt city of Detroit. The administration felt compelled to intervene in Detroit, fast tracking federal grant money to Mo Town, proclaiming that “We’re going to continue to support the efforts under way in Detroit and ensure the federal government is an active partner in supporting the revitalization of the city.”
What about Stockton?
Even though Stockton has been bankrupt for about a year and faces similar if not worse circumstances than Detroit, the Obama Administration apparently doesn’t think we are worth saving. Continue reading
I don’t usually discuss the goings on in other cities, but a recent story from Tracy caught my eye. Last week, city officials triumphantly announced the approval of a project on the city’s western edge. This 1,796 acre project, situated off of a highly visible stretch of I-205, could bring “tens of thousands of jobs” to Tracy and the greater metro area. Mayor Brent Ives referred to the project as a “game changer,” with the hopes of wooing tech companies away from Silicon Valley. This all sounds like fantastic news, so what kind of intrepid, forward thinking kind of development is Tracy banking on?
An office park.
I hate to be a buzzkill, but the excitement of this announcement is overblown for a number of reasons. Fancy new office parks in the region have not done very well in recent memory, and high-quality tech jobs do not want to be in office parks. To be fair, I don’t know very much about the specifics of this project—dubbed Cordes Ranch– or Tracy in general. What I do know is that these types of single-zoned suburban office parks are typically not the economic game-changers that Tracy officials are hoping for. Here’s why: Continue reading
Contrary to popular belief, the Stockton economy is growing, albeit at a slower pace than the national average. On Tuesday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis—a subset of the US Department of Commerce—released GDP information for all of the nation’s 381 metropolitan areas. Despite high crime rates and bankruptcy looming over the city, Stockton’s 2012 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a modest 1.7% over the past year. While this is below the national average of 2.5%, Stockton’s growth is welcome news as the previous two years saw contractions in the region’s economic output. Continue reading
Steve Chase likes to emphasize that he did not come to Stockton to push papers. As Stockton’s latest Community Development Director, Chase plays an integral role in shaping the city’s growth as it emerges from economic tribulation. According to Chase, who’s been on the job for just over one year, Stockton has all of the pieces to come back much stronger than it was before.
“I am amazed at Stockton’s economic drivers,” says Chase, who has over 30 years’ experience in community building. “The port, trade, universities, a diverse workforce of white and blue collar workers. We got it all. It’s why I was attracted to Stockton.” Continue reading
Over the past year, I have written at length about how Stockton should grow in the future and how smart growth policies can bring stability and vitality to our region. All the while, there has been a plan in the works that will greatly affect what our cities will look like for decades to come. Since last November, the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) has been working diligently on a plan that will direct Stockton’s transportation growth until 2040, which in turn will shape the city’s growth and development patterns.
This is a very important process, and I haven’t had a chance to write about it indepth until now. So here is all you need to know about SJCOG’s Sustainable Communities Strategy, how it will affect growth in the Stockton region, and how you can participate in the discussion Continue reading
Today’s installment of News and Notes discusses the San Joaquin Council of Government’s (SJCOG) Sustainable Communities Strategy, the Hyperloop, and SCL’s appearance on Podcast Stockton!
Help decide how the Central Valley should grow Continue reading
Last week, The Record reported that the city has secured funds to complete a streetscape project along Downtown’s Weber Avenue. As you’ve probably noticed, East Weber Avenue is currently only enhanced up to Stanislaus street. After this block, the pedestrian experience becomes rather uninviting. However, newly procured Transportation Enhancement grant money will allow the city to complete Weber Avenue’s transformation all the way to Cabral Station, improving a blighted string of blocks without tapping into the general fund. Continue reading
Over the past two months, John Beckman of the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley and I have engaged in a debate via Mike Fitzgerald’s blog on the merits of varying growth patterns as they pertain to the Central Valley. It’s been a spirited discussion, to say the least. Today I present to you the latest installment of our ongoing banter Continue reading
Last week, The Record’s Alex Breitler brought up a very important question on his blog. While participating in an SJCOG survey on the future of growth in the region (which you can access here), Breitler noticed that while a strong majority of participants felt that new development should be built “within existing cities,” an equally strong majority preferred to live in either a “rural ranchette” or a “conventional family home.” Naturally, this begs the question: If a majority of people prefer suburban style housing, should we bother with infill, such as apartments, condos or townhomes?
Most people prefer single family houses, and that’s to be expected. But this is not an either/or argument; while not a majority, there is a significant section of the population that does want townhomes, apartments and condos, especially in walkable areas. Unfortunately, the preferences of these consumers have been woefully ignored in Stockton and the Central Valley, while we have already built enough suburban-style single family houses to last us until 2050. Moreover, not all infill need be attached housing. Single-family homes can be built (or rehabbed) within existing cities, too. So to answer the question: Yes, if we build apartments, lofts, and townhomes in walkable areas, people will live in them. Let me explain why we should be encouraging and supporting infill and walkable neighborhoods, and explain why this is not a zero-sum decision.
Earlier this month, Detroit filed for bankruptcy, knocking Stockton from its perch as the most populous city to have ever gone broke. Suffering from $18 billion in debt, bankruptcy was pretty much inevitable. Since the news broke, the media has been unable to resist the comparisons between Mo Town and Stock Town. However, while the two cities share a common bond in bankruptcy, they face two very different paths forward. No, Detroit is not like Stockton, for better or worse. Here are the big differences a lot of people are overlooking, and why they are important. Continue reading
I hadn’t planned on posting anything today, but there was a flurry of news reported today in The Record regarding Downtown Stockton that warranted discussion. Also, data organized by Forbes shows that people are moving into the Stockton region at a higher pace than are leaving. Take a look!
Community Development Department considers boosting development prospects
Today in The Record, Community Development Director Steve Chase said that he is pursuing an update the city’s outdated zoning ordinances to encourage residential development downtown. As demand for housing downtown gains steam, it’s great to see that Chase understands the dynamics of zoning and how traditional codes strongly discourage (and sometimes outlaw) mixed-use development with residential space. As noted by any number of publications, downtowns across the nation have seen tremendous population growth and have already updated their zoning codes to reflect increasing demand for mixed-use projects. As I have noted before, millennials and baby boomers will drive the real estate market for the foreseeable future and these demographics are increasingly in favor of walkable communities in close proximity to goods and services. Downtown Stockton is ideally situated to provide these types of housing opportunities that will help draw and retain talent to the Central Valley. Continue reading
Earlier this year, the city of Stockton was embroiled in a battle between two competing crime initiatives: Mayor Silva’s Stockton Safe Streets plan and the long-awaited city Marshall Plan. Eventually, the Mayor’s plan was withdrawn and support was thrown behind the Marshall Plan to be placed on the ballot in November, where Stocktonians will decide its fate. While Stockton Safe Streets is no longer on the table, the plan did introduce some concepts that warrant further consideration. Specifically, getting more Stockton Police officers to live in the City of Stockton.
Unlike more scrutinized aspects of the Stockton Safe Streets plan, the “Live in Stockton Incentive Fund” is a less controversial, low-risk idea that could deter crime, improve community relations, stabilize neighborhoods and serve as a recruitment incentive without tapping into city finances. With Stockton planning on hiring over 100 officers in the next couple of years (pending the passage of the Marshall Plan tax increase), a well-thought out police housing fund could prove to be a boon to Stockton’s neighborhoods. Continue reading
Last week, on Mike Fitzgerald’s blog, John Beckman of the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley returned to respond to my latest article on transportation and housing costs. Regular readers of SCL will remember Mr. Beckman from my post in early June where I challenged his argument against smart growth. Mr. Beckman countered in a subsequent letter to Fitzgerald, which I decided not to respond to. Last week, Mr. Beckman resurfaced, claiming to have vanquished my earlier “approach to demonize sprawl” while taking issue with my latest article explaining how Stocktonians spend a much greater percentage of their income on transportation than Bay Area residents.
Here are my thoughts on Mr. Beckman’s latest letter on transportation costs as well as some thoughts on his previous arguments. Continue reading
One of the things Stockton has that other larger cities in the state do not is relatively affordable housing. You can buy a good sized three bedroom house for the amount it costs to pay rent in a studio basement apartment in San Francisco. Our lower cost of living is one of the big reasons why bay area commuters flocked to our sparkling new subdivisions; they got more bang for their buck. But just because housing is cheaper here than the Bay Area overall does not necessarily mean that living in Stockton is cheaper for its residents.
In fact, San Francisco turns out to be a more affordable place to live than Stockton. Continue reading
In my one year-plus of blogging about Stockton, I have been consistently and pleasantly surprised by the number of people I have met who have taken it upon themselves to stand up for the city, whether it’s creating a nonprofit, organizing a community event, or simply having a positive attitude in the face of overwhelmingly negative publicity. Such is the case with Dave Wardell and Brothers Eric and Will Martin, three Lincoln High School graduates who, despite all having lived fruitful lives away from Stockton, have refused to turn their backs on their hometown. Continue reading
Earlier this year, the city solicited bids for new city hall space. With the current building in dire need of upgrading, city leaders thought it necessary to relocate, at least temporarily. While the city has not officially settled on a location, SCL has learned that officials are strongly considering moving into 400 E. Main Street—formerly known as the Washington Mutual Building.
For those who have forgotten, Stockton city government has a complicated relationship with the WaMu building. In 2007, Stockton bought the building for $41 million with the intention of using the space as a new city hall. However, the city began missing payments last year and Wells Fargo repossessed the property. Even after this very public embarrassment, the city is now considering leasing space at this location. Continue reading
Today is National Dump the Pump Day, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The day calls for citizens to leave their cars at home and embrace public transportation. But based on the data, it looks like many people have already done that.
By almost every metric, car use is on the decline across the United States. We are driving less and guzzling fewer gallons of gas while ridership on buses, subways, light rails and other forms of public transportation continues to climb. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the numbers Continue reading
Fremont Square has undergone an incredible transformation in the span of just a few months. Today, the park just north of downtown Stockton functions like most other parks, playing host to school children on recess and downtown workers enjoying lunch. Nothing remarkable happens there, which is in itself remarkable considering the park’s condition just last year. Fremont Square had a reputation as a hot spot for gang activity, scaring off any would-be park patrons and sending the occasional stray bullet into the surrounding neighborhood.
“It got so bad, we had to put bullet proof glass in to protect our workers,” said Thomas Shaffer, Executive VP at Bank of Stockton, which borders the Fremont Square.
So how did this notorious drug park go from feuding gang turf war to school yard play area in a matter of months? While the solution turned out to be rather simple—tear out the benches and tables—the process required a careful collaboration between the city, the community, and the private sector. In a cash-strapped city like Stockton, this type of inclusive, cooperative approach serves as a model for getting things done. Continue reading
Housing prices continue to skyrocket in Stockton, posting huge year-over-year increases. Inventory is running low, pushing prices even higher. The quick pace of our sudden recovery has been a boon to underwater homeowners and even the city which is now projecting higher than expected revenues thanks to a surge in property values. It seems like we are finally out of the doldrums of the housing market crash that devastated countless families and brought Stockton into bankruptcy, but is our meteoric rise in housing prices too good to be true?
One prominent economist thinks the answer may be yes, especially in areas like Stockton where investors are fueling price increases. Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, believes that the recent surge is creating a brand-new housing bubble in already hard-hit cities. Continue reading
Last week, Mike Fitzgerald wrote a column extolling the virtues of smart growth, citing a new study by Smart Growth America (SGA) showing how compact development costs less and pays more than traditional sprawling development. Of course, smart growth is not without detractors. In the column, Fitzgerald quotes the head of the Building Industry Association of the Delta John Beckman who feels that Smart Growth America is wrong, at least in California. Mr. Beckman dismisses the work done by SGA, disputing the notion that smart growth is more fiscally prudent than typical suburban developments.
Mr. Beckman is wrong on every level. Let’s take a look at all of his points to see why. Continue reading
It’s no secret that Stockton is a regular on Forbes’ “Most Miserable City” list. While Stocktonians are a tough breed, putting up with the city’s issues and negative image can be draining. So what can the city do to give us some hope and lift our spirits as we continue to persevere? How about retaking our public parks?
Everyone loves a good park, and it turns out places with more parks have happier people. A recent study in the UK found that residents living in areas with parks, gardens and trees reported higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of mental distress. Researchers also noted that the level of happiness attributed to proximity to green space is roughly the same as the third of the happiness experienced by being married or a tenth of the happiness of being employed. In other words, being near a park won’t make you euphoric, but it can certainly brighten your day. These findings dovetail with other research showing how greenery benefits our mental health. Unfortunately, many of Stockton’s parks are underutilized, underfunded and frequented by vagrants. But just a small investment in these public spaces can be a cost effective way to make Stocktonians a little happier. Continue reading
With all of the turmoil in Stockton, many have predicted a mass exodus of residents. With uncertain finances and diminishing resources, who could blame them? Hometown hero Dallas Braden even threatened to move to Sacramento at one point.* However, recent reports show that our city is actually growing in population rather than declining, inching closer to the 300 thousand mark. California’s Department of Finance estimates that 296,344 people call Stockton home. The Census Bureau thinks that number is even higher, estimating that there were actually 297,984 Stocktonians in July of last summer, a 2.15% increase in population since 2010. Not bad for a bankrupt city, but is there a deeper story?
Stockton’s population is clearly rising by any measure, but as many readers have pointed out, that does not necessarily mean that people are not leaving the city. It may very well be the case that our population growth can be attributed to births, not people moving here. With this in mind, how can we tell if Stockton’s population growth is a sign of interest in the city, or just a mirage? Fortunately, there is data out there to answer this question, and the answer is generally positive for Stockton. Continue reading
Growing up off of Kelly Drive in North Stockton, I lived in a “somewhat walkable” neighborhood, according to Walkscore, the website that calculates the walkability of neighborhoods and cities. This rating makes sense on paper as I grew up fairly close to the Becks Colonial shopping centers—just .2 miles away, to be exact. A grocery store, gym, veterinarian, restaurants and various other shops and services all operated under a quarter mile from my house. I spent a lot of time there as a child, buying groceries, taking swim lessons, and playing basketball at the In Shape Health Club, but oddly enough, these trips were almost always made by car, not by foot. In an area designated by Walkscore as “somewhat walkable,” I almost never walked. Continue reading
Last week, I discussed why Stockton should become more-bike friendly; Biking promotes good health, provides an economic boost to merchants and offers alternative methods of transportation in an increasingly congested region. But transforming transportation options in Stockton goes beyond laying down more bike lanes: it requires a commitment to getting Stocktonians to think differently about getting from point A to point B. How can Stockton accomplish this goal? Two words: Bike Share.
Stockton will always be a car-first city, but it shouldn’t have to be a car-only city. It’s time to start investing in alternative methods of transportation and a bike share program would be an excellent, cost-effective addition to the city’s transportation infrastructure. Here’s why: Continue reading
When Jerry Brown was elected governor—for the second time—I was optimistic. In addition to serving as governor once before, as well as state Attorney General, Brown was also mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007. My hope was that his experience as mayor of a major California city would make Brown a pro-city governor. Sadly, this has not been the case. From shuttering redevelopment agencies to wimping out on CEQA reform, several of the Governor’s decisions have frustrated municipalities across the state and have many wondering if Brown cares about California’s cities at all. Continue reading
Today’s news and notes includes new tenants for the historic B&M building, the Asparagus Festival’s attendance drop, and another big city that may be forced into the bankruptcy club with Stockton. Happy bike to work week!
Downtown block welcomes two new neighbors
The block between Dean DeCarli Square and the Ed Coy Garage is becoming quite the hub of activity. Already home to the City Centre Cineplex and various attached restaurants, the block welcomed a couple of new tenants over the past few weeks and will be welcoming more in the not-so-distant future. Continue reading
Someone once said that if you don’t have critics, you’re not doing something worthwhile. Lucky for me, there are plenty of skeptics who disagree with the new urbanist concepts I espouse here weekly at SCL. Enter Joel Kotkin, noted writer and city nay-sayer. Kotkin is one of the loudest critics of smart growth, believing that cities focusing growth inward do not perform as well as their sprawling counterparts. While I usually disagree with Kotkin, I appreciate that the Smart Growth movement has critics with reasonable arguments, forcing us to validate our views. There are certainly debates to be had about the best policies for growth and development and I am happy to be a part of that debate. That being said, Kotkin’s recent article in the Daily Beast, titled “The Triumph of Suburbia: Despite Downtown Hype, Americans Choose Sprawl,” is laughable. Continue reading
Last week, the Central Valley Business Journal wrote about the state of cycling in the region. The article noted that despite the valley’s favorable terrain and Mediterranean climate, less than one percent of commuting trips are made via bicycle. This is not surprising, as Central Valley cities have been planned around the car with little regard for walking or biking. In other cities, biking has become immensely popular, not just as a commuting choice, but as a better way to enjoy everyday activities. Sadly, Stockton continues to be dominated by the car. Most people who ride bikes in Stockton are those who do not have access to an automobile. This has to change, and not because it’s good for the environment (though it is), or because there are too many cars (also true), but because there are legitimate economic reasons for Stockton to embrace biking. Continue reading
During his State of the Union speech in February, President Obama announced plans to assist the country’s most economically depressed cities. This proclamation sparked pleas from people such as Mike Fitzgerald and Congressman Jerry McNerney for the President to consider Stockton’s troubles. Moored in bankruptcy, high crime rates and crushing unemployment, it would be difficult to justify Stockton’s exclusion from any city-based assistance initiative. Now, we finally know what type of aid could be coming our way as the administration unveiled the specifics of their plan last week. Continue reading
The good people over at the Central Valley Business Journal let me write another column for them in their May issue. This time, I discus how city and economic development officials can attract businesses by providing walkable communities for their young and educated workforces. More and more companies are abandoning suburban office parks in favor of urban areas, and Stockton should take advantage of this migration. Click on the link below to give it a read!
-David Continue reading
This month, residents along Stockton’s Smith Canal face a tough choice: pay extra for a canal head gate to protect against rising water or continue purchasing costly flood insurance. According to FEMA, these residents live in a flood zone (despite the fact that Smith Canal has never flooded) and need to protect themselves. Because we are so flood prone in the Central Valley (though, thankfully, not recently), there is always a healthy debate on the best way to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, this debate is always centered on levees and insurance, ignoring that fact that the valley’s rapid urbanization contributes to increased water runoff. In short: Sprawl makes flooding worse, but is usually passed over when discussing flood preparedness. Continue reading
This weekend, over 100,000 people will fill Downtown Stockton to take part in the city’s most cherished tradition: The Asparagus Festival. Patrons will enjoy live bands, various activities, plenty of spirits, and, of course, copious amounts of asparagus prepared in an assortment of ways. Sadly, this may be the last time the festival will be held in downtown as officials are considering a move to the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds.
Three separate sources have confirmed with SCL that festival officials may move the event from Downtown Stockton to the fairgrounds starting in 2014. Moreover, Asparagus Festival officials acknowledged on their Facebook page that no decision had been made on whether or not the festival will remain at its current location. Continue reading
Last year, I wrote about the effect that planning can have on crime, noting that a well-planned city or community can have a direct affect on public safety. Even more recently, I have mused about how crime seems to revolve around Stockton’s big box retailers, namely Walmart. Probably not coincidentally, some new research has emerged shedding even more light on these topics explaining how strip-mall development may be unnecessarily taxing our already razor thin public safety system. Continue reading
In recent months, Central Valley housing prices have rapidly improved. In particular, Stockton has posted double-digit percentage increases in home prices over last year, better than the national average. However, new research I have done with SCL shows that Stockton’s housing market appears to be heavily driven by investors, the majority of which reside outside of the city.
Over the last six months, 46% of homes sold in Stockton were purchased by investors, while 54% were purchased by owner-occupants. Of investor purchases, 59% list tax addresses in a city other than Stockton. This analysis was conducted by assessing nearly 2,000 residential, one-house lot sales in Stockton between October 2012 and the first week of April, 2013 using data from Metrolist.
On Tuesday, Mayor Silva held a press conference promoting his crime-fighting initiative, Stockton Safe Streets. The plan includes an increase in the sales tax to fund 100 new police officers, among other things. Aside from the argument of whether or not this proposal would complicate Stockton’s bankruptcy proceedings, or if it aligns with the city’s Marshall Plan, I was struck by the Mayor’s choice to bring in William Bratton as a consultant.
In an interview with Mike Fitzgerald, the former police commissioner of New York and Los Angeles explains how local law enforcement should focus on misdemeanors. Instead of simply responding to calls, officers should be actively pursuing smaller crimes, which together eventually lead to more serious ones. This theory is known as the Broken Windows theory, which Bratton credits for his success. Bratton’s track record is impressive, and police department’s around the country routinely seek out his expertise on how to fight crime in their own cities. However, a close inspection of Bratton’s work suggests that some of his strategies are not as effective as he claims, and Stockton should examine all of the facts to determine whether or not a Broken Windows approach to crime could reduce overall violent crime in Stockton. Continue reading
This summer, work will begin on the country’s first true high-speed rail project— California High Speed Rail. The first line of tracks will be put down in the Central Valley, stretching roughly 114 miles from Fresno to Bakersfield. Eventually, the line will connect Los Angeles and San Diego with the Bay Area and Sacramento. While Stockton won’t be included in the rail’s network for sometime– extensions to Sacramento are not included in the project’s first phase– It’s not too early to discuss the benefits that the eventual high-speed line will bring to smaller cities in the Central Valley. Continue reading
Growing up, I was fortunate to live close enough to my elementary school in Stockton that I could walk or bike everyday. Once I was old enough, I made the daily half-mile trek from my home near Kelly Drive, over Mosher Slough to Wagner Holt. Today, a half mile is nothing, but back then, it seemed like the longest bike ride ever. But according to new research, this daily pilgrimage to and from elementary school not only spared my family the trouble of shuttling me to school everyday, it may have helped me become a better student. Continue reading
One year ago, on March 14, 2012, I posted my very first article on SCL: a story on Stockton’s population shift over the past ten years. I am pretty sure no one read it, but I appreciated having an outlet to write about issues facing Stockton that I felt were important. SCL was started with the modest hope that maybe a handful of people would be interested in what I had to say. One year later, I am happy to report that I have met this goal and then some as I have been fortunate enough to publish nearly 80 articles reaching thousands of people. Not only have I been able to share my ideas with everyday Stocktonians, SCL has afforded me the opportunity to speak with many community stakeholders– such as elected officials, non profits and developers– to discuss the future of Stockton. So on SCL’s first birthday, I would like to say thanks to the people of Stockton for considering my viewpoints and sharing my ideas.
A few weeks ago, Christina Frankel– the local architect spearheading the effort to restore the Commercial Building in Downtown Stockton– wrote an article in the Tracy Press discussing the website Walkscore. She described how the site ranks the “walkability” of certain cities and neighborhoods based on proximity to various amenities such as parks, schools, and businesses. Frankel concludes that communities with high walk scores allow residents to rely less on automobiles, resulting in improved health and a cleaner environment.
While Frankel’s column was a simple call for the inclusion of more walkable growth patterns, the comments section of the article would imply that Frankel suggested that Tracy petition for the new capitol of communist Russia. Several commenters insinuated that Frankel was in cahoots with the United Nations, secretly planning to rob citizens of their private property, condemning all Tracy-ites to cramped Soviet-style housing with two million other people. One reader even went so far as to compare Frankel’s words to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. All of this admonishment for making the simple argument that walking makes the air a little cleaner and our waists a little smaller. This hardly seems the stuff of Marx or Stalin. Continue reading
Last September, SCL profiled architect Christina Frankel’s effort to spruce up the derelict Commercial Building downtown. When last visited, the building was in pretty bad shape: leaky roof, piles of debris, unsecure entryways, and graffiti. Today, the building looks a lot better as Frankel, the city and the Downtown Stockton Alliance worked together to patch up the historic hotel in hopes of eliminating blight and opening up the possibility of full rehabilitation down the road. Continue reading
Entering the University Plaza Waterfront Hotel on a Friday evening, it’s hard to imagine that this downtown project was once considered a flop. A steady stream of residents and hotel guests trickle in and out of the building while throngs of Thunder fans enjoy a pre-game meal in the hotel’s restaurant and bar. It is among this lively setting where Preet Kaur greets me, an hour and a half after our initial interview time.
“Thank you for being so patient, we had five leasing appointments today,” says Kaur, the hotel’s leasing agent. “It’s been a bit hectic.”
Kaur is very busy these days showing units and securing residents for Stockton’s only real downtown housing option, even though most people are unaware that any option exists at all. Continue reading
Traveling down Miner Avenue is not a particularly pleasant experience. Used car dealerships, vacant storefronts and auto repair shops dot the landscape amongst an expanse of empty lots. But despite its rough appearance, this once-thriving avenue is gearing up for a comeback; the city is pursuing a major overhaul of Miner Avenue that will facilitate development along the moribund corridor. With any luck, Miner Avenue could become Stockton’s most vibrant street.
Last December, the city put out a Request for Information (RFI) for new office space. With the current City Hall in serious need of repairs and the Washington Mutual building on Main Street lost to foreclosure, Stockton’s leaders are looking for a new place to call home.
Since the RFI application deadline last month, the city has received multiple responses and is slated to pick a winner in the Spring. Until then, the city is keeping the proposals under wraps and most of the applicants are also playing it close to the vest. However, one group, Cort Companies, did share some info on their proposal for the city. Continue reading
Judging by the obscene amount of money being spent widening Interstate 5 and Highway 99, it would be easy to conclude that Stockton is in the grips of unbearable gridlock. However, new data from the Texas A&M University Transportation Institute suggests that Stockton area commuters actually enjoy more favorable traffic conditions than most major metro regions across the country. Continue reading