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Today in The Record, Community Development Director Steve Chase said that he is pursuing an update the city’s outdated zoning ordinances to encourage residential development downtown.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.
Courthouse on track for 2016
Also reported in The Record today, the construction of the county’s new courthouse is slated to begin sometime next year on the current location of Hunter Square with an anticipated completion date of 2016. While certainly not on the same architectural level as the city’s history courthouse that was sadly destroyed, the new courthouse is definitely an upgrade over the current courthouse. In addition to being named one of SCL’s “Top Five Buildings That Deserve to be Demolished,” the current courthouse has endured a series of high-profile safety incidents belaboring the need for a new facility. Once the new courthouse is open, the current facility will be demolished and replaced with a plaza and an underground parking lot.
Forbes: More people moved into Stockton metro area than left since 2005
As I have written before, American Communities Survey (ACS) data shows that more people are actually moving into Stockton than are leaving, much to the contrary of what the city’s naysayers had predicted. Today I stumbled onto a handy interactive graphic from Forbes that supports my earlier analysis. Using IRS data, Forbes shows that 31 thousand people moved to Stockton metro from 2005 to 2010, while 15 thousand left for other areas. While more people did leave the city during the housing crisis, that trend turned around in 2010 as more people moved into Stockton metro than leaving. Just more proof that Stockton is not headed the way of rust-belt cities (Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, etc).
Flood rules may restrict infill development
The Record’s Alex Breitler’s story earlier this week highlighted how well-intentioned laws can have unintended consequences. Specifically, legislation passed after Hurricane Katrina stipulated that all new development must be built to withstand water levels in the event of a catastrophic, once in 200-year flood. Because Stockton sits in a flood-prone area, this law makes it infill development much more difficult. While the desire to safeguard against natural disasters is understandable, these restrictions appear to be overly burdensome on those who wish to invest in building within existing city limits. Large developers building on farmland can absorb these costs much easier, but smaller developers looking to build houses on empty lots in the city can’t spread these costs across hundreds of homes and instead end up building nothing at all. According to the article, there is hope that a common ground can be reached that appeases all parties and doesn’t stifle smart growth.
Asparagus Festival staying downtown
The Asparagus Festival and the city have agreed on a deal to keep Stockton’s premier event on the waterfront. As first reported by SCL, festival officials were considering a move to the SJ County Fairgrounds to save money and provide more parking. Once the story broke, officials were quick to say that they preferred to stay downtown, and it looks like they meant it. Based on SCL’s poll, 85% of readers wanted the festival to remain downtown. This is a good move for both parties involved: the city keeps its most high-profile festival in an area that showcases Stockton’s waterfront and downtown and the Asparagus Festival doesn’t move to a location where fewer people would be likely to attend.