History & Need

How It All Began . . .

The San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process began in 2006. Merced CAG, in coordination with the Great Valley Center, led the Valleywide Blueprint effort on behalf of the San Joaquin Valley organizations. Seven Valley COGs and one RTPA participated in the Valley Blueprint: the Council of Fresno County Governments (Fresno COG), the Kern Council of Governments (Kern COG), the Kings County Association of Governments (KCAG), the Madera County Transportation Commission (MCTC), the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG), the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG), the Stanislaus Council of Governments (Stan COG), and the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG). Throughout this report these eight organizations are referred to collectively as the Valley COGs.

With funding from the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program, the eight Valley COGs prepared separate countywide blueprints, which were then consolidated into a single Valleywide Blueprint. The process included three major phases: 1) Values and Vision; 2) Goals, Objectives, and Performance Measures; and 3) Evaluation of Alternative Growth Scenarios.

On April 1, 2009, San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council, the decisionmaking body for the Valleywide process, approved Scenario B+ and 12 Smart Growth Principles, concluding the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint planning process. The Valley Blueprint is a vision for the future of the San Joaquin Valley, in which less land is consumed for development, more resources are preserved for future generations, distinctive communities are enhanced, and more travel choices are available.

Blueprint Origins

Regional planning in California has evolved over the last six decades through a variety of initiatives, planning efforts, and other broad-based movements. Major forces such as the emergence of single-function State infrastructure planning agencies and heightened awareness of environmental and growth impacts have raised serious questions about how communities should grow.

Following World War II the State began building large-scale infrastructure systems (e.g., highways, water supply systems) to support increased demand for residential development. In 1962 the United States Congress passed legislation requiring the formation of metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) in regions with populations greater than 50,000. MPOs were charged with ensuring that expenditures of governmental funds for transportation projects and programs were based on a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive planning process. During this time local governments also began to form councils of governments (COGs) that served as Federal MPOs and as the State regional transportation planning agencies (RTPAs). In the 1960s and 1970s many COGs were formed through joint powers agreements.

Despite improved institutional arrangements at the local, regional, and state level, funding and maintenance of public facilities (e.g., schools, highways, water delivery systems) did not keep pace with growth. During the 1980s and 1990s rapid growth throughout the state’s most populated areas alarmed citizens and lawmakers and raised concerns regarding growth related challenges such as air quality, regional economic health, overcrowded schools, affordable housing, urbanization of prime agricultural land, and water shortages. These issues prompted COGs and MPOs to consider how they could address growth and manage resources on a regional scale.

State and local governance reforms in the 1990s set the stage for COGs/MPOs to begin conducting focused regional planning. As a result, innovative regional environmental programs (e.g., habitat conservation plans) provided new planning tools for coordinating local land use policy. At the same time a growing national “smart growth” or “sustainable development” movement was gaining popularity and promoting integrated planning for land use, infrastructure, and the environment. Several states, including Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, and Florida, passed new or modified regional growth management legislation that included smart growth themes and a focus on regional coordination. California COGs/MPOs increasingly looked to these models to address their regional issues.

By the late 1990s California COGs/MPOs had taken on greater responsibilities and had expanded their traditional role as transportation planning agencies by addressing broader planning issues related to air quality, the environment, affordable housing, and land use. They began working with cities and counties to develop local land use strategies that would address regional issues. In the early 2000s, facing increasing growth pressures, four metropolitan regions (Bay Area, Sacramento, San Diego, and Los Angeles) launched visioning processes to develop regional land use growth scenarios and smart growth principles. These were the first efforts by California COGs/MPOs to engage in blueprint planning.

Prompted by the success of these regional efforts, in 2005 the State created the California Department of Transportation’s California Regional Blueprint Planning Program (Blueprint Program) to assist COGs/MPOs in conducting regional planning efforts that would result in consensus by regional leaders, local governments, and stakeholders on a “Blueprint” for a 20-year planning horizon (through 2025). The Blueprint Program emphasized collaboration with stakeholders at all levels to address issues such as housing needs, job creation, traffic congestion, and air quality. The Blueprint Program continues to provide resources and grant funding to COGs/MPOs to integrate local land use planning across broad, multi-jurisdictional regions, while recognizing the key land use authority of counties and cities.