As 2014 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at the most important stories in Stockton over the past year with regards to growth, development and urbanism. In all, the city took some big steps forward, winning money to enhance pedestrian and cycling projects, approving downtown housing, and adopting a couple of important documents that could have a big impact on land use. Here are our picks for the top urbanism stories of 2014 for Stockton.
Bear Creek East sprawl voted down by Planning Commission- Our first story technically happened in December 2013, but we’re including it anyways since it spilled over into the early part of this year. After decades of green-lighting every greenfield development to come across their desk, the Stockton Planning Commission finally took a stand against harmful sprawl. Despite being pitched as “smart growth” by the project’s developers, the commission decided the city wasn’t ready for the 317 acre, 2,000 unit development on what is currently unincorporated, county land. While the 4 to 3 vote was close, it was a watershed moment for the city that hasn’t said no to a greenfield developer for decades. While the developers initially planned to appeal the commission’s decision to the City Council In February, public sentiment had clearly turned against their project, and the vote was canceled.
“There’s no sense in us slogging through right now when the city’s not ready,” said an attorney for the project. Hopefully, the city will never be ready and we won’t see more sprawl for years to come. Which brings us to the next story…..
Planning Commission shows preference for more sprawl in draft General Plan update maps – Within a year of the Planning Commission rejecting Bear Creek East, the commission also showed a bias towards more growth outside of Stockton’s existing city limits and on to farmland. While the General Plan update has just begun, it already appears as if more sprawl is on the menu based on maps released in recent months. In fact, the formerly rejected Bear Creek East is shown as part of an existing neighborhood, and hundreds of acres north of Eight Mile appear to be up for grabs as well, even though the city has around 25,000 units already entitled in stalled subdivisions.
In 2015, Stocktonians need to show up in force to turn back the status quo of sprawling subdivisions on farm land.
Housing developments approved for Downtown- Back in the core of the city, two affordable housing projects—Cal Webber 40 and Grand View Village, were unanimously approved for Downtown Stockton. While not the market-rate dwellings many would prefer to see downtown, the significance of these projects should not be downplayed. These well-designed and professionally managed developments will bring working families and individuals into the heart of our city, creating more street life for all hours of the day. This will help attract that “first wave” of pioneering downtown residents that we’ve all clamored for. On top of that, both projects promise to boost street level activity with prime retail opportunities and possibly even a grocery store, something many feel is a necessity for downtown’s full revival. Many urban neighborhoods begin their path to revitalization with projects such as these, including Downtown Sacramento and Uptown Oakland.
Smart Growth plans passed without opposition- 2014 saw the passage of two important planning documents: the SJCOG Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) and Stockton’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The SCS will help shape land use patterns through a reprioritization of transportation funding, shifting away from highway expansion to more active transportation projects. In addition, Stockton also adopted a CAP that was eight years in the making with goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 10% below 2005 levels by 2020. The CAP contains action items such as a city tree planting initiative and green building ordinance for new buildings. Both the SCS and CAP were passed with overwhelming support from community stakeholders and public officials.
Biking, pedestrian projects get a boost- Thanks to state and county Active Transportation Programs, several biking and pedestrian enhancements are on the way. Most notably, the city finally now has funding to update the woefully inadequate 2007 Bike Master Plan as well as to refurbish the heavily used Calaveras River Trail. Downtown’s fledgling Miner Avenue Streetscape plan got a bit of funding as well, bringing this much-needed thoroughfare upgrade a small step closer to reality. Hopefully, 2015 will bring even more momentum to creating a more pedestrian and cyclist friendly environment to a city that has historically been dominated by the automobile.
What do you think is the most important urbanism story of the year for Stockton? Take our poll below, or let us know what should have been on the list in the comments section. Happy New Year!