Land-use planners often ask people to imagine themselves in hot-air balloons floating over their towns in the far-off future.
When you look down, what do you see? What do you want to see?
By 2050, Stanislaus County could have 685,000 more people than it has now, and the San Joaquin Valley could double or triple in population.
Where will double or triple the people live? Where will they work? How will they get from place to place? Will all the farmland be covered with houses? Will we become Los Angeles? Is that what we want?
Planners with the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint planning process, paid for by a two-year state grant, are drawing up a “blueprint” for the entire region. So far, they have developed half a dozen principles for sustainable communities and four scenarios to show impacts from future growth.
Under the status-quo growth, we would have mostly single-family development and sprawl. Housing choices would be limited, air quality would be poor, traffic congestion would be great, public transit use would be low, residential water and energy use would be high, and acres left for agriculture use would be few.
At the other end of the spectrum, we could have high housing densities and reinvestment, with more multifamily residences, a higher percentage of future growth in urban areas and more acres available for agriculture and open space.
So, where should we fall in the growth spectrum? That’s exactly what the blueprint planners, working with Stanislaus Council of Governments, will ask at a workshop — in English on Monday and Spanish on Wednesday — along with others throughout the county.
Armed with answers, they hope to have a county draft by the end of the summer that will be incorporated with those from seven other counties to form a master plan to guide growth and transportation planning for the next 40 years in the San Joaquin Valley.
This is a historic time in the region for us to build political clout, grab the state’s attention and embrace efforts that tackle broad issues such as transportation, air quality and global warming. Cities can’t do this on their own.
This is our opportunity to step back to redirect the course of sprawling growth and make sure we preserve farmland and open space, improve air quality and draft a transportation plan that unravels gridlock.
The blueprint process is a chance for regular people — and those who represent us — to speak out about the direction of our city and county and the future of the valley.
Local residents should show up in droves for next week’s meetings to try to make our community the best it can possibly be.