San Joaquin Valley


The eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley adopted Sustainable Communities Strategies in June 2014. Since then, ClimatePlan has monitored their implementation.

ClimatePlan is also working with community-based organizations in the San Joaquin Valley to help shape the Sustainable Communities Strategies that will be adopted in 2018.

Quick Fact

More centrally located homes can dramatically reduce household driving and utility costs. By building new homes in areas that are already close to jobs, services, and amenities, Valley households could spend $3,600 less per year on auto-related costs and utility bills by 2035.

— Vision California Rapid Fire Model, San Joaquin Valley Regional Results, Calthorpe Associates

Regional Overview

The San Joaquin Valley, sometimes called California’s heartland, is also the fastest-growing region in the state and was the hardest hit by the economic downturn. Communities in the Valley struggle with poor air quality and rising levels of childhood asthma, obesity, and diabetes. Improving air quality in the Valley will be one of the most significant benefits of successfully implementing SB 375.

The eight counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley include a population of just over 4 million people. The population is expected to grow to more than 7.5 million residents by 2050.

The Valley has eight county Councils of Government (COGs), listed below, responsible for regional planning; they work together, but each develops its own Sustainable Communities Strategy.

Fresno Council of Governments,
Kern Council of Governments,
Kings County Association of Governments,
Madera County Transportation Commission,
Merced County Association of Governments,
San Joaquin Council of Governments,
Stanislaus Council of Governments,
Tulare County Association of Governments,

SB375 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Targets:
– 2020: 5% per-capita reduction from 2005 level
– 2035: 10% per-capita reduction from 2005 level

Leading Practices

For a full review of "leading practices," or best practices so far in Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCSs) from regions around the state, download our Leading The Way report. Here are a few from the San Joaquin Valley:

  1. To give the entire community a voice in creating the SCS, the Fresno COG used Federal Highway Administration metropolitan planning funds for mini-grants for schools and community groups. With these funds, local groups organized workshops, edited presentations for different audiences, and did additional outreach. They also offered food, day care, travel assistance, and translation services, and provided written materials, PowerPoint presentations and simultaneous translation in English, Spanish, Hmong, Punjabi, and Laotian.

  2. To invest to meet the needs of under-served communities and vulnerable populations:

    • The Fresno COG created a Circuit Rider program to provide funding for smart growth planning by local jurisdictions, and assistance with grant applications. The funds come from a Proposition 84 grant from the Strategic Growth Council and support small cities. The program could do even more to address the needs of under-served communities if extended to unincorporated rural areas and “legacy communities” near cities.

    • The Fresno COG also carried out a Transportation Needs Assessment after adopting the SCS, in response to concerns that under-served communities were not allocated a proportionate share of transportation funding. The assessment focused in part on walkability, bikeability, and transit access in disadvantaged communities. Fresno COG has also committed to create a Sustainable Planning and Infrastructure Grant Program, which is still under development, but could help address these needs.

  3. To help rural communities improve mobility, health, and quality of life while reducing dependence on driving, Kern COG’s 2014 RTP/SCS incorporates an advanced set of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) programs. These go further to integrate urban and rural systems than any others in the state. They include the Smart Transit Program, which coordinates the schedules of transit systems serving Bakersfield and Kern County, and the Kern 511 Traveler Information Service.

  4. To support sustainable water management with land use forecasts and transportation investments, the San Joaquin COG’s 2014 RTP/SCS is designed in part to be consistent with the Delta Plan. The SCS aligns with the Delta Plan's goals of “providing reliable water supply for California and protecting, restoring, and enhancing the [San Joaquin] Delta ecosystems."

    This is a step in the right direction on an emerging issue. Throughout California, regions must do more to address water as part of land use and transportation planning.


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