Over the past six months, the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) has been assessing various growth scenarios and collaborating with community stakeholders to develop a transportation plan that will greatly affect Stockton-area development patterns for years to come. As a result of this extensive information gathering process, SJCOG has determined that the community prefers less sprawl and more transportation alternatives, and are tailoring their plans to reflect this demand.
As SCL readers will recall, the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) will be a very influential part of Stockton’s growth for the next 25 years. In order to be eligible for public transportation funding as part of the state’s smart growth law SB 375, regional transportation-related projects must now align with their corresponding SCS. In theory this will encourage smarter growth and curtail emissions in that transportation decisions reliant on public money will be guided by the boundaries set by regional agencies such as SJCOG. That means no more publically funded road widening or other “capacity increasing” projects that beget sprawling subdivisions, unless they are included in the SCS.
SJCOG has been soliciting feedback on four different growth scenarios (referred to as Scenarios A, B, C and D) ranging from traditional, sprawling development, where 91% of new housing would be single-family homes, to more sustainable infill development, where roughly half of new homes would be of the attached variety (apartments, townhomes, etc) in existing urban areas. After compiling and analyzing feedback from workshops, online surveys and meetings with community stakeholders, SJCOG determined that Scenario C—the second-most infill focused alternative—best met the region’s needs and desires for growth. SJCOG presented their recommendations to the board of directors during a public meeting in November, where the majority of groups present voiced their support for Scenario D, with only one group—The Building and Industry Association—lobbying for Scenario B. There was no support voiced for Scenario A. As a result, the board agreed with the recommendation to move ahead with Scenario C, with an important caveat—Because there was so much support for Scenario D, the board instructed SJCOG to reconnect with cities to see where more aspects of Scenario D could be incorporated.
This has led to a hybrid-approach, particularly in Stockton where more opportunities for infill exist given the city’s high-quality transit corridors. Revisions to the SCS increased Stockton’s inward growth and enhanced bus and rail elements. SJCOG has also tried to track as closely as possible to other pertinent planning documents. For example, the latest version of the SCS aligns with Stockton’s Climate Action Plan by including 4,400 units downtown and 14,000 overall within existing city limits. The SCS also accounts for some growth included in the city’s general plan, including homes already approved in Stockton’s northwest quadrant. However, SJCOG notes that the employment and population forecast used to develop Stockton’s general plan is now outdated, and that current market conditions will delay the full build out of many suburban projects past the life of the SCS.
From here, the revised plan will be presented and potentially approved during a board meeting on February 27th. Once approved, there will be a 55 day public comment period. Because SJCOG has done so much ground work and outreach, one would expect few public comments. However, SJCOG believes this will not be the case. With a concrete plan finally in place, SJCOG hopes to receive more feedback from the community. After receiving and incorporating feedback, the plan should be approved by this summer.