During my recent trip home to Stockton, I noticed that crime was the topic of conversation with nearly everyone I talked with. Cousins, aunts and uncles, friends all at some point discussed how crime was getting out of control. And it’s true; Stockton is facing a huge problem with spiraling crime rates. As dismaying as these conversations were, it gave me reason to think about the ways in which smart growth policies could affect public safety in Stockton and how good planning could potentially stem crime. Instinctively, this notion may not make sense: How can the way you plan a neighborhood be good or bad for crime? Well, there are a lot of factors that go into public safety and municipal resources that have a lot to do with urban planning. While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how growth and development can manipulate these issues, there is a fairly large body of evidence that does suggest planning that incorporates tenets of good urban design can have a positive effect on public safety. Today I would like to discuss the implications of such strategies on crime rates and public safety. When considering the city’s growth in the future, Stockton leaders would be smart to consider how their decisions may affect public safety for all Stocktonians. Continue reading
In recent weeks I have addressed how Stockton is depicted in national “rankings.” I looked at Gallup’s obesity index as well as a study ranking Stockton at the bottom of the “Most Literate Cities” list. In both cases, I argue that the results are misleading: Gallup’s rating seems to vary widely year to year and the margin of error is pretty significant when you look at how closely packed the cities are, meaning Stockton probably was not the fattest city in America back in 2009. Similarly, I called into question the “literacy” findings of the Central Connecticut State University study, explaining that their rankings are not comprehensive and don’t actually measure literacy. For both of these studies, I conclude that their data and methodology is not necessarily wrong, but that there is an argument to be made that their conclusions are somewhat misleading in how they depict our city. Gallup and CCSU are respected institutions who do good research.
The same could not be said of Forbes and its “Most Miserable Cities” rankings.
I came across a story today in the Record that caught my attention. A Sacramento architect, David Mogavero, gave a talk to members of the city’s Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee in which he pretty much said everything I have ever said in this blog, reaffirming the smart-growth sentiments I continue to espouse. You can read the story here to see what he had to say. Mogavero’s words to city leaders come at a unique time for both Stockton and the country as a whole: for the first time nationally, people are moving back into cities faster than suburbs are gaining residents. Developers are starting to realize this and are shifting their plans accordingly. In Stockton, development is still stagnant, but while we wait for the economy to recover, are area developers taking notice of national trends? Continue reading
In a post last week, I discussed how switching to energy-efficient bulbs in street lighting could net the city big savings. Yesterday, the city announced a program to do just that. I am going to go ahead and take all of the credit for this move (not really). Continue reading
Back in 2006 when the housing industry was humming, there was a proposal in place to finally develop real housing downtown. Grupe Co., long known for building communities on the northern boundaries of Stockton, had plans to construct condos on the southwest shore of the waterfront. When these plans first came to fruition, I, like many others, was excited at the prospect of new residences springing up along the water. Looking back, that enthusiasm I believe is still warranted: The city needs to work with developers to bring residents downtown. However, when I consider the concept Grupe had for the nearly eight acre plot of waterfront property, I am actually glad these homes were never built. I have no idea if these condos are still in the works, waiting for the market to recover, but I do believe Grupe should revisit this concept because the current design is an inefficient use of what should be a premier development opportunity. Stockton needs housing downtown, but the city should require a smarter design than what Grupe has presented.
It’s no secret that the city of Stockton is facing some tough choices in terms of finances. In the weeks and months to come, city leaders and stakeholders are going to have to make some very difficult decisions on how to reign in the city’s budget. Luckily, there are some policies that are no-brainers in terms of saving the city money in the long run. One of these ideas: change the light bulbs in street lamps.
As most people who grew up in Stockton in the last 30 years know, you have to drive to get anywhere. Haircut. Dentist appointment. Ice cream. Bank deposit. You name it, you are driving there. As it turns out, this car-first attitude could have a detrimental effect on how children growing up in Stockton feel about their communities.
New research indicates that kids who grow up being driven everywhere show a greater dissatisfaction with their surroundings than children in areas with infrastructure and neighborhood patterns that allow for more walking/biking. Even more alarming, kids in car-dependent areas exhibited weaker ties to their communities. In Stockton, these findings imply that our pattern of growth over the last three decades has inadvertently fostered a disconnect between the city and its residents.
As the only four-year college in the city, the University of the Pacific has made a concerted effort to reach out to the Stockton community. UOP has made it clear that this private university with an ivy-league campus feel wants to forge a stronger bond with the city and its residents. By all accounts, the university has become a strong community player through initiatives such as its Beyond Our Gates programs, encouraging student volunteerism and even having the basketball team wear pregame warmups reading “I heart Stockton.”
There is still, however, great opportunity for UOP to do even more for the city. While all of these initiatives show a commitment to the community, other universities have gone a step further. In many cities, private institutions are partnering with their respective cities to help bring faculty members back closer to campus. The Johns Hopkins University, for example, has been a strong leader in community development by financially incentivizing faculty to become homeowners in adjacent neighborhoods. If Pacific and the city of Stockton followed the example set in Baltimore, the impact could be significant for Stockton’s midtown neighborhoods that have been largely neglected.
As noted in a previous article, Stockton seems to have a penchant for having dubious titles bestowed upon it. However, as someone who does research for a living, I have noticed that these rankings and titles are usually not methodologically sound, which leads to misleading characterizations of cities. Today, I would like to tackle the “most illiterate city” title awarded to Stockton in 2005 and 2006.