Public-private partnerships key to Stockton’s Climate Action Plan

The recent release of Stockton’s draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) has garnered much discussion over the past few weeks. In February, the plan was introduced for the first time at a city council meeting. And while reaction from council members was tempered, speakers at the podium weren’t hesitant to convey their own emotions regarding the plan which ranged from earnest support to vehement disapproval.

Regardless of whether the city council officially adopts the document or not, there are some portions of the plan that must come to fruition as part of the city’s 2008 settlement agreement between the Sierra Club and the State Attorney General’s office to substantially reduce greenhouse gases by the year 2020.

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

To realize infill projects, such as development along Stockton’s waterfront, the Climate Action Plan suggests using public-private partnerships (Source: 2008-2009 Waterfront and Fremont Park Neighborhood Master Plan)

Of the measures outlined – increasing efficiency of water usage, revising parking policies and urban tree planting, among others – one directive includes a strong focus on promoting the use of public-private partnerships to encourage core infill development which would hopefully stimulate the broader Stockton economy.

The plan distinguishes these measures as part of an entirely new economy, one that incorporates transit-oriented-development and adaptive reuse of both vacant land and existing structures and one that also engages the private sector to a much greater degree, particularly in downtown development.

Embedded within the plan are portions of a 2012 report completed by the Urban Land Institute discussing Stockton’s characteristics, both good and bad. The CAP states that due to reduced state and federal funding for local governments as a result of the recession, “cities must seek out new solutions and methods for addressing these needs and the future.”

Public-private-partnerships – or, as they’re sometimes referred to, P-3’s – aren’t exactly groundbreaking. Many municipalities have successfully leveraged such partnerships to create economic activity. A very basic example is a city providing land and buildings to a business so that both parties share a risk in the success of the venture. More common instances involve cities waiving fees or taxes to encourage businesses to locate within a certain area.

The essential essence of these partnerships is the intensive collaboration between different entities. Good examples include some of the new mixed-use developments popping up around the Bay Area near BART stations like Fruitvale Village. The development, featuring a mix of affordable housing, social services and commercial venues, required coordination among developers, the city of Oakland, BART and business entities looking to lease up space. The result was a successful community that addresses the varied needs of the development’s residents – health clinics and a daycare can be found on the ground level – and also acts as a local shopping destination.

Even in Stockton, examples of these kinds of partnerships are cropping up. The recent flurry surrounding downtown’s Fremont Square and its potential uses is one example. This process alone illuminates the complicated steps involved in coordinating partnership stakeholders which can often be numerous. The CAP suggests potential partners for Stockton could include property owners and developers, San Joaquin County, the Regional Rail Commission, the Regional Transit District, the University of the Pacific and the Downtown Stockton Alliance.

Benches were removed from Fremont Square earlier this year to dissuade drug dealers. Now school kids use the park for activities.

Examples of public-private partnerships already exist in Stockton, including on going efforts to revitalize Fremont Square

Recent examples like Fremont Square show that partnerships are already taking hold in Stockton. Recommendations in the CAP and ongoing initiatives in the city reveal a strong interest among the Stockton community – both public and private – to engage in collaborative projects, a necessary characteristic for any successful partnership.

Revitalizing downtowns through innovative partnerships that work to increase vibrancy by enhancing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure exemplifies the growing awareness of the role land use plays in the health of the overall environment.  Moreover, the intersection of these two disciplines can result in a more intimate connection to a neighborhood for visitors and residents alike through a diversification of current uses – such as mixing housing stock with commercial and other business venues.

To discuss partnerships and other directives laid out in Stockton’s Climate Action Plan, all residents are welcome to a public comment period offered by the city from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 10, at Stockton’s Civic Auditorium, 525 N. Center Street.



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Categories: Community Commentary, Smart Growth

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