For my first post, I think it is very appropriate to start at the core of Stockton’s main problem: excessive growth. Everyone in the city knows that in the 90s and 00s, the booming housing industry pushed the boundaries of the city’s limits. What most people did not see was the effect this growth had on the rest of the city. By expanding outwards, affluent residents abandoned Stockton’s older neighborhoods. The New York Times has a great tool (which can be found here) which shows population changes between 2000 and 2010. Here is what has happened to Stockton during that time (Note: click on the image to zoom in and read).
As you can see, Stockton’s older, more central neighborhoods have suffered population loss over the last ten years, while growth on the outskirts of the city has boomed. This type of population fluctuation is typical of most major cities in the country: In a nutshell, as “nicer” homes become available away from the city’s core, the population leaves the city, leaving behind those who cannot afford to move, bringing down older neighborhoods. This phenomenon was known as “flight” in the 70s and 80s, as affluent residents would leave the city for the suburbs, spurring massive population loss in some of the country’s greatest cities: Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington. The list could go on. What is unique about Stockton, however, is that it appears that Stocktonians have not left the city itself, as residents in old Rust and Frost Belt cities did. Stockton generally does not face competition from suburban communities drawing residents and tax dollars away. If this were the case, the overall population of Stockton would decline, but actually rose sharply over the last 20 years. Instead, Stockton in effect has created its own suburbs. By sprawling further and further away from the center, Stockton still creates a corrosive atmosphere for the city’s older neighborhoods and residents who cannot afford to leave those areas, however, unlike the great Rust Belt cities, Stockton can still dictate where growth can take place, giving hope that policies can be enacted to help shift development back into the city’s boundaries, and not out on to farmland.