Tuesday notes: Dameron, Dan Cort, and the waterfront

Happy Tuesday, everyone. No new content today, though some interesting news and notes caught my attention in the last week that I think deserve some attention:

Source: 2008-2009 Waterfront and Fremont Park Neighborhood Master Plan

What could a waterfront community look like?
Last week there was a lot of talk about the waterfront. Specifically, Mike Fitzgerald wondered why the waterfront still sits mostly idle, and his readers provided plenty of comment fodder. I responded with an idea to develop the waterfront into a mixed-use community. But what would this kind of development look like? While people like myself and Fitzgerald write about what could be built, someone has actually sketched out these ideas. A firm called Racestudio helped the city develop the Waterfront and Fremont Neighborhood Master Plan in 2008-2009 which features some renderings of how waterfront development could play out. The plan depicts the area as a vibrant, thriving neighborhood with a mixture of restaurants, offices, parks, apartments and

Source: 2008-2009 Waterfront and Fremont Park Neighborhood Master Plan

townhomes along or near the water. I mostly like what Racestudio came up with, and I think this higher density, mixed-use approach is the right attitude to have for the waterfront (although the Grupe Southpointe townhomes continue to be part of this plan, which I have previously criticised as being too exclusive). At the very least, this plan presents some images of what the waterfront could one day look like, which gives optimists such as myself some hope.

Dameron partners with UC Davis
Last week, Dameron Hospital agreed to join forces with the UC Davis Medical Center, which should be a boon to the hospital and the community. UC Davis is a big brand name in terms of medicine, and any resources they can provide Dameron can only bring better care and increased opportunities for the community hospital. Further, as the region struggles to meet the demand for healthcare professionals, this partnership may provide a pipeline into the community for current physicians and medical students in Sacramento to practice in other areas of the valley
Dan Cort: “No one is coming to Stockton to see the Wal-Mart”
I posted this on Facebook and Twitter, but I feel that it deserves a little more publicity. Developer Dan Cort, known for rehabilitating and reusing numerous historical downtown buildings, recently gave a short presentation at the TEDx San Joaquin event at the University of the Pacific. Cort’s message was simple: Stockton planned itself into bankruptcy with unsustainable sprawl, and the only path toward prosperity involves reinvesting in downtown and limiting outward growth. As readers know, this is pretty much the exact thing I advocate for here on SCL, and the fact the an established downtown developer is preaching to the same ideas is encouraging. Cort has done the work no one else was willing to do downtown, and he continues to lead the downtown redevelopment charge despite myriad obstacles.

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Categories: Community Commentary, Development News, 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

13 Comments on “Tuesday notes: Dameron, Dan Cort, and the waterfront”

  1. November 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    I agree with Dan Court. BTW, people are not coming to Stockton to see Weberstown Mall either nor any other access deprived mediocre retail.

    Regarding the downtown mixed use waterfront environment it takes talented and skillful developers to execute such master plans. These are not projects for the average Joe. Dan Court might have the talent for some of it, but the rest of the developer roster in Stockton is not for such endeavors. To put it simply, they simply can’t hack it.

    • Stockton City Limits
      November 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

      I agree. The expertise to carry out these plans is mostly lacking in town as most developers are used to low density, single use projects. Judging by your comment, Dean, it seems as if you like what’s in this masterplan. Am I correct in his assumption?

      • November 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

        Yes, I do like the master plan subject to certain improvements. But it’s a good start. And let me make the correction; I meant to say Dan Cort and not Court. I’d like to get the MIT’s Graduate School of Urban Planning involved and have some of their students do a thesis on improving this plan as part of their dissertation for a graduate degree.

        And I don’t think Stockton has any developers with such experience in their resume(meaning urban revitalization, restoration and the creation of new mixed use environments which could organically blend with the City’s central core). Dan Cort might know a few names in the Bay Area, or downtown LA who have successfully executed these types of projects he talked about in his TEDx presentation.

        So, the central issue is how to attract such outsiders/specialized developers in Stockton and what incentives need to be given in lieu of serious engagement. I think it all starts with meeting these people(invite them to Stockton), ask for their input, listen to their suggestions and then tour projects they wish to use as examples of what they might do/propose for our waterfront. Only then Stockton might acquire a taste whether the next step should be taken with these players and how to provision them for success.

  2. Jon Seisa
    November 20, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    The design mixed-use is an ideal direction, and is being applied to urban and waterfronts across many cities, from here to Australia, but there is a danger of creating redundant and indistinct formula cookie-cutter city cores, lacking distinct character, a designer-franchise mass-marketed style and look. So, novelty must be foremost. Also, as a professional designer, I caution against under-utilization of Stockton’s channel/waterfront corridor for mere medium-density retail-residential mixed-use sprinkled with local cultural offerings, because this is entirely insufficient for an urban core of such great potential in a city vying for enhanced cosmopolitan recognition and, instead, is best applied to surrounding districts.

    A more aggressive, bolder and more creatively dynamic approach is required and encouraged, because the channel/waterfront corridor is extremely prime real estate of promontory significance that is best served if developed with a combination of high-density mixed-use (residential towers and high rise hotels) with a good mixture of urban-oriented high-visibility public cultural arts venues having unique signature distinction that helps to define the city’s individual identity. The planners and designers need to think BIGGER, more visionary, dynamically, and above all more strategically. Considering the input of local residences’ desires in urban renewal development is fine to ascertain an overall criteria in the prelim-planning mode, but this should not discourage novelty, for the common citizen is not typically a visionary apt to envision the next Eiffel Tower, or have the creative instinct to know when there is a need for a breathtaking landmark, let alone its inception from out of thin air. A high-intensity design approach is more apt to generate the necessary novelty required for Stockton to enter the fold of noted emergent cosmopolitan cities and attract the influx of external interest, external revenue, external business and tourism, since an insulatory economy is not enough to expand a city’s revenue base.

    Consequently, what emerges on the waterfront must EXCEED locals’ expectations and go beyond what they desire and want, and instead, embody what Stockton as a community and city may offer up to the world. Whatever ultimately materializes must generate such great enthusiasm that even a San Franciscan would desire and want to visit Stockton.

    • November 20, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

      You have some good comments. I am in favor of much higher densities for downtown and maybe 2-3 high rises over time to get this visual identity which is currently lacking. The core needs a bold focal point, that’s for sure. And as you say, there are many ways to get there.

      And 100% agreement on the need to exceed expectations. Stockton has to accomplish 2 goals related to its core image at the same time:

      1. Don’t look like Modesto or any other Central Valley town mediocrity imitation a la Highway 99 and
      2. firmly establish itself as a Bay Area town or very close to it. (Tracy is already considered part of the Bay Area and so should Stockton at some point in the future).

      The point here is that some part of San Joaquin country is treated by real estate professionals as an extension of the Bay Area. o.k. so let’s get the rest of San Joaquin to roll into the same pattern.

      Therefore these are Stockton’s marching orders:

      A. shed your colloquial image and become Bay Area sophisticated (at least try) and
      B. Redefine-redefine-redefine your image in permanent organic mutations for the better (there is no “switch on” for the transformation; it will take time).

      But by all means start the journey and never look back.

  3. November 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    Here is an example of a developer group skilled in waterfront development. Follow their approach in the video which synthesizes core city elements. The proposed new development sort of resembles the patterns of the old Denver airport urban renewal project.

  4. November 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Also here is an example of waterfront redevelopment for Stockton. I kind of like the mass proportions of the buildings projecting on the waterfront. If Glen Cove can do it, so can Stockton.

  5. November 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    And here is another concept which incoprorates also medical on the waterfront in addition to typical mixed uses (notice the residential density of 50 units to the acre):

    Note: as you watch the YouTube clip, notice on the right hand side another video on New Urbanism as well as a lecture on “City building and economics”. Watch if you can. There are useful elements there that apply to all towns.

    • Stockton City Limits
      November 26, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      Dean and Jon,

      I generally agree that development on the water should be of higher densities. Townhomes are great, but should not be the predominate residential option for waterfront development as they are fairly low in density, and the surrounding neighborhood provides ample single family homes that stands to be revitalized as a the waterfront is developed. Dean is right: with this waterfront property, Stockton must create something that distinguishes itself from the other valley cities, drawing on proximity to the bay area.

  6. Jon Seisa
    November 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    SCL – To what Stockton agency, council, group or individual can one submit a strategic design proposal? What is the protocol?

    When time frees up for me, I would like to gel my more visionary and ambitious concepts on this matter into a prelim-design proposal format entitled, “STOCKTON WATERFRONT: 21st Century Revision”, because none of the proposed items I’ve seen thus far suggests the integral missing components of “Primary Flagship Elements” that are critical and that I can envision; I only see secondary and tertiary design and environmental elements being proposed.

    Though I reside in SoCal, I’m a native-born Stocktonian, born at Dameron Hospital in 1955, and North Stockton (Colonial Heights) was my childhood neighborhood.

    Professionally, I’m an award-winning creative visionary, Sr. Art Director/Designer/Illustrator Consultant with 35 years experience, having been a 2008 THEA (Themed Entertainment Association) Classic Award recipient for my work as a former Walt Disney Imagineer on Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center, Future World and the World Showcase; I also worked on Tokyo-Disneyland and was a design consultant on the Baltimore Inner Harbor project for Six Flag’s, called The Baltimore Power Plant. Additionally, I was a design consultant on Savannah-Georgia’s The Great Savannah Exposition Museum; and I also designed on Fushun Dream World – China. Here’s my LinkedIn site to substantiate my credentials: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/jon-seisa/1b/105/115

    Thank you in advance for any suggests you may recommend.

    • Stockton City Limits
      November 28, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Jon- I am happy to hear that despite your success away from Stockton, you will have a desire to help contribute to the community. That being said, I am not personally aware of any person, group or process used by the city to solicit proposals for the waterfront or any other area of the city for that matter. I would imagine that you would want to formally get in touch with the planning department since there is no more redevelopment agency. It also might be worth while getting in touch with other developers (such as Dan Cort) who have done business in Stockton and can provide insight into the process.

      I am curious to see what your vision for the waterfront entails. Judging by your portfolio, it appears that you have a great deal of experience designing entertainment projects and amusement park developments. What do you think is the best use of the waterfront? You mention a “lack of ‘primary flagship elements’ that are critical.'” Critical for what, exactly?

    • November 28, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      Post it here if you could.

      BTW, here is another relevant experience from another city:


  7. Jon Seisa
    March 4, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Apologies, I just saw all these comments… Nov to Feb is my busy time of year with clients to wrap up product designs for the NY international product fair in Feb.

    A “primary flagship element” would be something that gravitates external dollars for the community and its economy, as oppose to features that merely sustain a local economy in an insularly way, like supportive secondary elements of retail, entertainment, recreation, leisure pursuits, service businesses and eateries.

    A flagship element would be like a high-tech cluster that generates IPs and products that energizes the local economy with international exchange, investment and interest and attracts a higher caliber civic-minded pool of creative talent, mavericks, new citizens of higher education and innovators with higher disposable income and those with appreciation for cultural cultivation, philanthropy, whose higher disposable income then trickles down to other lower income arenas, services, restaurants, and all the supportive secondary elements and tertiary elements.

    Or a flagship may be an international convention center, a world trade center, or, say, a Pacific Rim cultural arts and museum center, something that involves “exchange” whether economic or cultural from beyond local parameters (global, national and state) and gravitates external dollars to the local community and expedites development of secondary elements like the hostelry industry, entertainment venues, commercial retail expansion and leisurely pursuits.

    Another flagship element of external attraction can be a tourism feature of great novelty and international stature, either manmade or natural, like a landmark, monument or other unique element that is not replicated elsewhere, say, an Eiffel Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Golden Gate Bridge, Statue of Liberty, The Louvre, or profound architecture of historical eminence.

    Sadly, one of Stockton’s greatest flagships was tragically demolished in 1960 (I still find this difficult to believe), the magnificent and impeccable Neoclassic courthouse, and replaced with a bland blocky box, that will also be torn down and replaced with yet another new and bigger bland blocky box. The visionless civic leaders should have preserved the original courthouse and constructed their new ‘vision’ on a new lot, elsewhere. The Neoclassic structure should have been converted into a magnificent world class city art museum, like the renowned Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY (“The Met”) that tourists, worldwide, flock to in droves every year.

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