Valley Must Grow Less

Jan 25, 2009

Visiting Editor: Dwain Zack, Modesto Bee

Editor's note: Each quarter, two or three community members serve as visiting editors, attending weekly editorial board meetings and learning about community issues and how the Opinions pages are assembled. We invite them to share their views. These opinions were written by our first-quarter visiting editors. They chose their topics.

While the debate within the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process centers on different visions of housing densities, squeezing the same number of people into a smaller space only forestalls the huge problems facing the valley. Instead of debating the form that future growth will take (18 people per acre vs. 31), we should ask ourselves what amount of growth is appropriate.

At the heart of the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint process are assumptions about future population growth. According to www. valleyblueprint.org, "Our Valley is predicted to almost triple by 2050 to more than 9 million people. This new
population is equivalent to adding 11 new cities the size of Fresno."

Today, we face major air quality issues and have a growing shortage of water. We are fooling ourselves if we think we can mitigate the problems caused by a tripling of our population with good urban planning.

The blueprint process is based on the idea that this massive influx of population is inevitable, that we can do nothing to slow or stop it, that our only option is to attempt to limit urban sprawl by agreeing to higher population densities.

Yes, higher density housing is needed. Yes, we need a smart regional plan for the future. But in order to secure a cleaner, brighter tomorrow for our region, we must also limit the growth of our cities. We must face the fact that there is a limit to the number of people this valley can house without ruining our quality of life.

Zack is a walnut farmer in the Escalon area.