San Joaquin Communities: the next 20 years

The Healthy Neighborhoods Collaborative, a coalition of regional advocates chaired by Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton, and ClimatePlan weighed in on the SJCOG draft Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS)–a 20 year road map for transportation and land use in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

This road map will shape growth and transportation investments in the region for years to come. Will Stockton have a robust transit system in 20 years? One of the best indicators is this road map, and it's critically important that residents and community-based organizations weigh in now.

What will San Joaquin County look like in 20 years?

The San Joaquin Council of Governments 2018-2040 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) was released in early March is available for review.  The public comment period ran from the release in early March until April 30th. This provided a window of opportunity for local residents and advocates to speak up and ensure that staff and Board members know what the communities’ priorities are in the years to come: how will residents and visitors get around? Where will they work, live, and play? Will residents have choices in the kinds of neighborhoods and homes that are available to them? Will the farmlands and wildlands of the San Joaquin valley be protected or give way to expensive, low-density sprawl? Will local kids and seniors breathe cleaner air than they do today? The 2018 RTP/SCS update will shape the answers to those questions and others. For more information on the RTP, as well as SB 375, check out our Resources section.

2014 to now

In 2014, a collaborative led by local advocacy groups fought hard for a better plan that reflected community values. Due to the diligence of the advocacy groups and involved residents, the hard work of staff, and the vision of the Board, the final adopted plan was a tremendous improvement over the 2011 plan, shifting tens of millions of dollars away from highway spending to transit and bicycle/pedestrian facilities. Also, the plan made strides in protecting the farmlands and wildlands of the county by focusing more growth into existing cities rather than expensive sprawl that requires taxpayers to fund the construction of utilities infrastructure and new services, like schools and firehouses, that serve relatively few residents due to lower densities. In March 2018, the Air Resources Board increased the target for San Joaquin by 6 percent. However, since the RTP/SCS update was already under way, the current target of 10% (rather than the new 16% target) was used as the RTP/SCS goal. Local residents from underserved communities, as well as local advocates, urged the Board to adopt a more ambitious plan and preserve the momentum generated by the 2014 plan. Unfortunately, some of that 2014 momentum was lost – the scenario adopted is very similar to the 2014 RTP/SCS plan, rather than trending towards more ambitious but achievable goals.

The road ahead

Now that the draft plan is out, advocates have been engaged in analyzing the plan, meeting with staff to express concerns and answer questions, and delivering a detailed comment letter to SJCOG staff and the Board of Directors. We’ve identified a number of areas of concern where the plan deviates from or reduces goals set forth in the 2014 plan: these include minimal increases to transit and bike/ped funding, and a reduction in the amount of protected acres of farmland. However, there are also some opportunities for cautious optimism, such as increased reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT, a proxy measurement of emissions),  a 3000 acre reduction in urban footprint, introduction of new public health metrics and monitoring, and improved public outreach. Along with regional advocates, we’ll continue to elevate the priorities identified by local residents and advocates:

  • Secure ambitious and achievable VMT and emissions reductions above and beyond those in the 2014 plan
  • Elevate the important co-benefits to public health associated with emission reduction strategies, and
  • Prioritize affordable infill development over low-density sprawl development that consumes prime farmland and wildlands

 

What comes next?

In the coming weeks, regional partners and ClimatePlan will amplify communities’ priorities and will be following up with both SJCOG staff and board to advocate for an adopted RTP/SCS that promotes transportation and housing choices, accessibility to work and services, clean air, increased public health, and the protection of San Joaquin’s working and wild lands, from the delta to the foothills.


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