Stockton metro to reach 1 million people by 2042, but where will they live?

Recently, the US Conference of Mayors commissioned a study which included the projected growth of nearly all US metro areas by 2042, including Stockton. The report predicted that our area will surpass one million residents– 1,077,200 to be exact– in thirty years, which puts the region’s growth rate at a whopping 52.5%. Going through the data, two thoughts came to mind.
First, no place that is “miserable” would actually grow by 50% in thirty years. But more importantly, where will all these people live?

The first thought is somewhat uplifting: Stockton is projected to grow faster than most other similar sized Central Valley counterparts such as Modesto (46.1%), Fresno (37.3%), and Bakersfield (50.1%), though just behind Sacramento’s rate (55.4%). Clearly, Stockton is not a city in decline, as population would be trending in the other direction, or at least would be significantly lower than other similar cities. There are several metro areas around the country that will actually see a population decline, such as Detroit, Cleveland, Rochester and Buffalo.

However, while a growing population signals a healthy city, it also begs the question: How will Stockton accommodate these new residents?

To be sure, Stockton itself will not reach over one million residents as the metro area– essentially, San Joaquin County– as a whole will absorb this population influx. However, the growth rate of 52% is probably about accurate for the city as well, meaning Stockton will add about 153,146 people, which is nothing to sneeze at.

If our current average per household numbers (3.11 according to the 2010 census) stay true, then we will need over 49,000 new units to hold all of our new Stocktonians.

Is the city ready for this? If we take just what has been approved for building, it appears we will fall short of the necessary units needed. There are numerous planned developments that have either already been approved or have submitted applications (Sanctuary, Bear Creek East/South, Mariposa Lakes, Crystal Cove, Tidewater Crossing, Delta Cove), according to project proposals available on the city’s website. Combined, these projects– all on what is now greenfield space– will bring around 30,000 new housing units, the vast majority of which will be single family. As you can see, these new, massive projects, totaling a breathtaking 8,039 acres, will only get us part of the way to housing the city’s population in 2042. Even if you include yet to be approved projects, such as the massive Spanos Presevere, Stockton still falls short.

What can be done?

Two thoughts come to mind: the first, these planned communities need to make better use of space by incorporating greater mixes of housing densities than what we have see in the past. If Stockton is to accommodate nearly 155,000 new residents, the massive, single family housing unit subdivisions we have been so accustomed to in the past are not going to cut it. Instead, a greater focus should be placed on incorporating housing types of all kinds. This includes more space for medium and high density building in order to use space more efficiently, because we can only stretch our boundaries so much before we run into Lodi or Lathrop. To be fair, some of the proposals for the six developments discussed above do seem to incorporate varied housing densities, though not all. Also, the overwhelming majority of units are still slated for low density single family units.

The second lesson is, there needs to be a greater emphasis on infill development and neighborhood revitalization. Sprawl alone will not be able to fill demand in the next 30 years. Luckily, there is plenty of space that already exists within the city that can help absorb population growth. Census data shows that neighborhoods within the city have seen steady declines in population even just over the last 10 years (see my earlier post with a graphic detailing Stockton’s population loss). Even areas north of downtown have suffered population losses as neighborhoods such as Quail Lakes (-4.6% since 2000) and Lincoln Village West (-5.7% since 2000) have seen their populations slowly dwindle. This exodus from the central city to the fringes means that there is opportunity to use housing and infrastructure that already exists to help house Stockton’s growing population. As noted before on the site, the San Joaquin Council of Governments has identified 141 areas in Stockton with the potential for infill development.

With the population of Stockton set to grow to around 450,000 in the next thirty years, we need to rethink the way we build our communities. Luckily, big projects by Spanos and Grupe are starting to incorporate more sustainable practices into their developments, but that won’t be enough. Unfortunately, Stockton can’t sprawl its way to 450,000. A comprehensive approach balancing new development on the periphery with infill development and revitalization must be taken in order to ensure that Stockton, and the Central Valley for that matter, does not become another Phoenix or Houston in terms of unmitigated growth.

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Categories: Smart Growth

Author:David A. Garcia

David A. Garcia created SCL in March of 2012. Garcia is a Stockton native with a background in urban policy and planning, holding a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA as well as a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies. He currently serves as the Policy Director at the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation. David was also COO at Ten Space, a real estate development firm focused exclusively on Downtown Stockton, and continues to advise on their projects. Prior to that, he worked three years as a researcher/analyst for a Congressional research agency in Washington, DC. The views expressed on this site are entirely of the author's

11 Comments on “Stockton metro to reach 1 million people by 2042, but where will they live?”

  1. August 1, 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Such projections such as the ones you are referencing are flawed and completely subjective.

    They are basically the product of a base population number growing at a certain imputed and compounding rate. A small change in the rate of growth and the final projected number turns out completely different.

    The reality here in Stockton is dictated by a set of clearly delineated obligations embedded into the settlement with the Attorney General’ s office.

    It’s like saying that you could wave off the legality of the settlement, and instead adopt the Mark Lewis General Plan again because these new projections seem to support it better than the AG settlement agreement.

    Obviously you can’t do that and therefore the whole argument of scrambling to satisfy some imaginary future demand does not even exist.

    Based on the inventory of projects approved(which you already mentioned) it will take more than 25-30 years for Stockton to work through it. Assuming an average 1000 new unit annual absorption (in arriving at such number you need to throw out both the excessive numbers of the 2002-2006 period and the 2008-2012 bust period as unrepresentative, and rather adopt a historical average) it will probably take 30 years to exhaust the current paper lot inventory. And then you have additional in-fill land south of 8 Mile Rd. between Davis Rd. and Hwy99.

    In fact, approving projects so much in advance of their actual manifestation makes no sense at all. All you end up doing is having a series of outmoded projects built with parameters prevalent 20 some years before they become reality. Why would you ever want to do this? Why would you ever want to have community design and land planning features which scream decades old fashion? or a bunch of projects which by the time the hit the market are of old design and outmoded planning principles?

    I would say that this whole issue of imaginary future demand, as framed, is false and misleading. Revisit the issue of future demand in 10 years or so because this period of stagflation (combination of stagnate growth and inflation) we find ourselves in right now is something quite new for the US economy and with very little connection to either prior experience or precedence.

    This US mayor conference stuff is like some retro movie from the 40s and 50s trying to make waves in the 21st Century. It’s a whole brave new world out there and believe me the mayors of US cities are the caboose and not the locomotive driving this new reality.

  2. August 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm #


    Why don’t you look at this and let me know how do you interpret it?

  3. August 2, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

    And here is another demographic statistic.

    Tell me, what is the first thing that jumps out at you?

    • Stockton City Limits
      August 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm #


      Thanks for the links, I am a big data junkie. I notice that the last link you sent must be using different numbers than the census as it is about 11,000 less population wise than the 2010 census (this might have something to do with unincorporated areas). More importantly, the growth forecast for 2014 is 3%. I see your point about this growth rate being slower than the one released by the US conference of mayors (also it should be noted, the US conference of mayors did not do the study themselves, they commissioned IHS Global Insight). However, this is a short term perspective and, yes, over the short term, population growth won’t be as dramatic as the IHS report would have you believe. Over the long term, once growth resumes at a normal pace, I still think it is reasonable to expect strong population growth as families priced out of the bay area market resume their migration to the Central Valley. Will it be 50%? I don’t know, and I am not convinced that we should be welcoming such rapid growth.

      • August 6, 2012 at 4:46 am #

        Two issues here.

        The first you touched on. Stockton is projecting a slower population growth than the state (almost at half the rate).

        The second is that Hispanic is Stockton’s dominant population profile. And where is the representation of such in the city council or mayor’s office? Why is not our mayor a Mr. Sanchez for example? There is a major disconnect here in that the Hispanic community needs to take the lead and articulate the kind of city it wants to see. Otherwise we are projecting preference in a vacuum.

  4. August 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm #


    Since you like stats, here is the latest.

    It would appear that the 12-month figure of new units sold is 640. Therefore the figure of 1,000 units per year absorption seems reasonable as an average.

    The existing inventory of paper lots would be able to satisfy the next 25-30 years.

    • Stockton City Limits
      August 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Do you think, once bay area prices once again become unreasonable, that demand here in the valley will pick up and, if unencumbered, building will resume at a fast pace? Obviously I don’t think we would ever reach the building frenzy of the mid 2000s, which is a good thing in my opinion. But once families start getting priced out of the bay once again, I think demand will increase substantially, and it will be hard for the city to not just let the floodgates open and approve any and all permits for houses on the edge of the city.

  5. Jon Seisa
    April 1, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

    Not only where is the housing for this statistically projected growth coming from, if it pans out in reality, but where is the employment and industry for jobs to afford the housing and exist on a daily basis?

    Unfortunately, the reality is California has the dubious honor of being the nation’s highest poverty rate state at a startling 23.5% (2009-2011, U.S. Census Supplementary Measure), while having the 3rd highest cost of living in the nation at 132% of the national average, behind Hawaii and New York. That’s a catastrophic mixture. Some two-thirds of California’s sky-high cost of living is due to the high cost for shelter, itself largely due to very restrictive land-use policies. Factoring in the cost of living, California’s $8 minimum wage can only buy a mere $6.06 of goods, a nearly 25% devaluation on the dollar.

    The other day on a stroll I ran across a realtor selling a house in the neighborhood. I asked what the price is, and he rolled his eyes and said the prices are going through the roof. It is $445,000.00. My chin dropped to the pavement (THUMP!). This house was modestly charming, but is a matchbox-sized 2 bedroom bungalow with a scant sliver of front yard and the porch virtually on the sidewalk. Nothing to write home about, believe me. The front door was open and there wasn’t even an entry hall, and the living room was the size of my master bedroom. Not my idea of nearly ½ million dollar home.

    But the squeeze is on. The tax increases from Proposition 30 resulted in California reporting the highest state income tax rate, which is 21% higher than the second highest. Overtaxing the upper income brackets was not very savvy; as it turns out that group are the innovators, entrepreneurs and business developers and business owners who create jobs and employ people who should be buying housing, and that is now being jeopardized. California is not very business or entrepreneurial friendly. If a startup is sold, half of the capital gains are no longer taxable. However, the franchise tax board eliminated that 50 percent exemption and passed it retroactively four years back; consequently, startup companies that were sold four years ago will owe that money plus interest for every additional years that passes. This has shaken confidence of young entrepreneurs and venture funds that provide the money. And as a result, there was a 1/1/13 rush to exodus California in which many business owners closed up shop and left the state.

    California ranks #1 in economic/tax slavery, calculated as lowest on the Mercatus Center – George Mason University overall un personal and economic freedom ranking:

    We can see why in the post-Proposition 30 false euphoria shadow and Governor Brown’s short lived cry, “We’re back!” as the California State Auditor Elaine Howle and the Bureau of State Audits dropped the other show… Californa has a net worth of a negative $127 Billion. If the state were a business, it would be insolvent and filing bankruptcy.

    California actually lost 1.5 million viable wage earners from 2000 – 2009. Net domestic migration slowed in 2008 since homeowners were unable to sell their homes in the downturn housing market. Yet, California lost 100,000 people in net domestic migration in 2011. It turns out the young and educated sector are in exodus, as well as retirees with their assets and relocating to other states. Most likely, when home sale market improves there will be a more aggressive second departing wave.

    It’s hard to imagine in this declining economic environment how California will ever recoup its losses, and have funds for constructing vast new dream projects. Those days appear unlikely.

    And here’s the California suicidal economic death-wish… the Sacramento-Bee stated in regards to the $127.2 Billion negative worth:

    “The list of long-term obligations did not include the much-disputed unfunded liabilities for state employees’ future pensions, nor the $60-plus billion in unfunded liabilities for retiree health care.”

    So it seems that total unfunded liability is considerably more gargantuan than the listed $127 billion publicly admitted shortfall. Hence, the emergent reality appears that California will have populated cities that will be more like depressed Detroits. Not good.

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