Bear Creek East development proposed in north Stockton

Yesterday The Record’s Scott Smith reported on a proposed new development dubbed Bear Creek East on the northern edge of the city that will include around 1,500 to 2,000 new homes. The project is being put forward by a group known as MCD North Stockton—a joint venture between the investment group HG Capital and developer Mill Creek Development. Tonight, the Stockton Planning Commission will consider the project’s environmental reports, with city council consideration to follow in the future. Even though construction would not start until 2015 at the earliest, a handful of groups have already come out in opposition, asking the city to consider all of the costs associated with developing over farmland. While the plans include language about open space, live-work units and bike paths, the overall project is not much different from the other types of green-field development in Stockton over the years. Coupled with the backlog of already approved and pending units and the strain that new city land would have on Stockton’s already paper-thin resources, Bear Creek East is wrong for Stockton. Here’s why.

First and foremost, there are already tens of thousands of “paper lots”—housing that has already been approved—planned for the northwest corner of the city. Grupe and Spanos each have plans for more housing once the market heats up. As far as I know, these projects are still approved. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to approve even more housing when there are still so many units on the drawing board.

The current site of the proposed Bear Creek East development

The current site of the proposed Bear Creek East development

This project would also require the annexation of farmland which is not presently a part of Stockton. While revenue from construction fees and new property taxes may seem like a good reason to move ahead, there are several hidden costs with this type of growth that will cost the city money in the long run. With 160 acres of new city land, more fire and police coverage would be required. Further, because Bear Creek East will be built on farmland, infrastructure must be built and maintained, which is also not cheap. As a result, these added costs (not to mention added pollution from increased driving and storm water runoff) will not be covered by additional revenues generated from this project.

Laughably, Bear Creek East’s developers are touting their project as “smart growth” when there is absolutely nothing about it that qualifies as smart. This project appears to be the same variety of bland, soulless suburban housing that drove Stockton into a foreclosure crisis just five years ago. Some bike paths and townhomes don’t make a development smart; it’s just a guise to build more homes as cheaply as possible, reducing neighborhoods to commodities.

Moreover, Bear Creek East is a classic example of something called “leap frog development.” The 160 acres is completely outside of the city limits, and currently touches no parts of Stockton, “leap frogging” over empty land, creating the need for extended city services. While the surrounding area has also been identified for future development, it would make no sense to begin building a project that is not directly city-adjacent

It may be justifiable in the future to build on this land, but as it stands, there are already enough existing or planned single family homes in Stockton to accommodate demand for the foreseeable future. Unless the forces behind MCD North Stockton want to offset their development with a substantial contribution to infill and existing neighborhood revitalization efforts, the costs of this type of development far outweigh the benefits to the city of Stockton.

I am hopeful that new city leadership understands the implications of reverting back to senseless sprawl. If you think this kind of development should be reconsidered, bring your comments to the Stockton Planning Commission tonight (Thursday) at City Hall.

****UPDATE: The Stockton Planning Commission voted against Bear Creek East in a 4 to 3 vote. While the vote is only advisory and is not binding, it sends the right message that Stockton will no longer blindly accept mediocre sprawl. The City Council will also consider the proposal next year. The Record’s Scott Smith has the story here

Bear Creek East land use plan (available on the

Bear Creek East land use plan (available on the

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Categories: Community Commentary, 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 “Bear Creek East development proposed in north Stockton”

  1. Jeri Garibaldi
    December 12, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Thank you for this perspective. Hope the powers that be pull out the developments already out there with Grupe and Spanos . If these guys are not ready to move ahead. I fear there will be nothing “smart” about this new development group. Who are they anyway and do they have ties to Stockton or Lodi?

  2. Debbie J.
    December 12, 2013 at 10:42 am #

    The sad thing is that citizens haven’t really heard about this (and other) projects and likely won’t show up to share their thoughts. It will move forward, just like others have, with no opposition, because that’s how our city gauges project worthiness – not by merit, but by how many people show up to support or oppose it.

    • David Garcia
      December 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

      I am curious to see how the city would try and reconcile this and other sprawling developments with the Climate Action Plan. If the city is annexing more land and allowing more development, it is in essence negating the environmental benefits from implementing the CAP. I don’t believe you can expect to sufficiently address emissions issues if the city’s footprint continues to expand.

      • Debbie J.
        December 12, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

        We can only hope that Steve Chase, the Planning Commission, and City Council have the political will to ask and answer the tough questions. Historically, any project like this was rubber stamped by our city – the “we’re getting taxes/fees, and that’s what matters” mentality. While I’d like to believe that the CAP will be effective, money is a great motivator, especially in desperate “please bring your development here” Stockton. Sometimes the decisions our leaders make do not make sense for our city other than to line the pockets of the developers building out the project.

  3. Jon Seisa
    December 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    I totally agree, David, particularly as you cited, there is already a huge glut of approved developments on the board with this type of antiquated and archaic development design strategy.

    The layout design is suburban-sprawl business as usual having the typical fragmented and isolated ‘districts’ and no sweeping neighborhood critical and seamless integration with a strategically located central and major community focal point that everything should radiate from. The commercial, business, office park and light industrial should all be integrated in the design with residential towers and high-density residential. There should also be community access and penetration throughout the entire plan with pedestrian corridors, parkways, plazas and pathways, not a segregated “Us vs. Them” mentality between segregated residential districts.

    And at this point in Stockton’s development the passe low density single-unit residential should be minimized completely in the development landscape, particularly since the atrocious trend is to compact them like sardines in a can of limited land space and devour up land area that could otherwise be used for landscaped greenbelts; and there should only be medium to high density residential, as well as residential towers, where more land area is made available for greenbelts and their public access and use. It’s great they have parks in their design, but why not integrate the park feature around and throughout the housing? Why does it always have to be a singular and isolated block with a park on it that is separate from where people live? These should be mandatory features of all future new developments in Stockton; unless the developers and their peripheral developments opt out of the City of Stockton and incorporate as their own autonomous municipalities with their own funded and provided city services and infrastructure.

    I would demand a complete redesign overhaul to reflect more critical seamless integration and more pragmatic design options that promote shared community attributes.

    The City Council should also push for more stringent and innovative requirements imposed on peripheral developers if they expect to build in and around Stockton, like mandating that for every 80 acres of new development granted to them, then the developer is required to redevelop an area equal to two city blocks of infill and greening in Downtown Stockton within 3 years of their primary peripheral development. This must be an initiative with builders to breath new life in the city core, since their peripheral developments will exclusively help to further erode city core life, activity and redevelopment. If they cannot agree to do this, then they cannot build in Stockton. Plain and simple. The City Council needs to get more savvy and innovative, and not rely on an outdated modus operandi from bygone ages.

  4. Kari
    December 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    Watching the video of the Planning Commission meeting now… At about 2:42:00 Steve Chase speaks and it’s great. He’s being very consistent with his message about being dedicated to the city’s core. Brings up neighborhood character, upcoming planning efforts like SB 375, our outdated general plan, overstock of housing supply, and the need for a general “calming down”. The conversation that follows between the commissioners is interesting as well. Worth listening to.

  5. Anthony
    December 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

    So strange why any city would allow this type of development to move forward and of all places in sprawling North Stockton. I simply don’t understand the logic of approving housing projects that will essentially create one continuous anti-pedestrian barrier-wall from the I-5 to 99 highways. At least, that what it seems like is/will happen in the coming years. This area along the 8-Mile corridor and Armstrong Road has so much potential to be a catalyst for some superior sustainable and “green oriented” growth. Idea’s that come to mind are: sustainable-business parks, agri-science education center, a local-growers wine center, plant/landscape nurseries (think Carlsbad flower fields), and a superior bike-pedestrian path that connects Stockton and Lodi with points of interest in between.

    • Jon Seisa
      December 13, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      It is rather dreary and mundane, isn’t it?—– tract homes/apartments, a school, mini-mall, office/industrial park and neighborhood parks. No Nobel Prize here——OBVIOUSLY.

      And you are right, Anthony, about this critical Eight Mile Road Corridor as being a potential significant north gate to Stockton and a convenient east-west access connection between I-5 and 99 Frwy, as well as being strategically located to access Lodi and South Sacramento consumers. So why in the world line it with ordinary and everyday housing, of all things????????

      Why hasn’t this corridor been designated a major corridor with a STRATEGIC VISION MISSION STATEMENT having specific purpose and focus, i.e. “The Miracle Eight Mile Blvd” a high intensity regional mixed-use shopping/business/entertainment/hostelry/high density residential core, simultaneously doubling as a high-tech biomedical corridor with a new state-of-the-art Regional Hospital Campus Park sitting on the corner of West Lane and Eight Mile Road and an adjacent biomedical or cancer institute, as well as all cross-supportive revenue/income/job generating businesses, medical office complexes and peripheral services in the high-tech medical field. These types of things bring MEGABUCKS to a city that completely dwarfs mere annual property tax revenue from a locked-in set of a few ordinary and mundane tract homes.

      I mean, if one is going to give up VALUABLE FARM LAND for development, then for heaven sake’s THINK BIGGER, not SMALLER. Put something there that will generate a huge return for the city and the local economy, something more cutting edge and visionary.

  6. Jon Seisa
    December 13, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

    Here are some image samples of what the Eight Mile Road Corridor really should look like if it were strategized into something more viable, high intensity and significant, like a visionary planned “The Miracle Eight Mile Blvd” mixed-use biomedical corridor with major Regional Biomedical Hospital Campus Park, research institutes, cross-support amenities, retail commercial, business, medium to high density residential, convention capabilities and hostelry accommodations. These images include some structural elements and “villages”… being also a major transit corridor from east to west…

  7. Jon Seisa
    December 15, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    David thanks for the positive update…. good for the 4 commissioners, Eric Parfrey’s aggressive stand, and Steve Chase’s astute words. Hopefully this common sense will root and flourish.

    Now, the Planning Commission and SJ County should develop a comprehensive master plan for this critical Eight Mile Road Corridor that will be a blueprint for developers to meet Stockton’s specific prerequisites and demands (instead of the other way around) for its pragmatic best land use and development towards a more innovative strategy for economic growth and excellent all-encompassing design. Stockton should establish and dictate the overall strategic vision, not opportunistic outside developers.


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