How shall we grow? These residents suggest compact development

Jan 26, 2009

Jenny Shearer, Bakersfield Californian

FRESNO — A cross-section of San Joaquin Valley voices on Monday suggested future development be compact: an average of 10 dwelling units per acre, with walkable communities and open space for agricultural and environmental uses.

The some 500 people who attended the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Summit included government officials, builders, environmentalists and others interested in how the region grows.

They were there to talk about the “blueprint,” an eight-county effort to identify a vision and create an action plan.

The compact scenario they picked will next go to the San Joaquin Valley Policy Council, possibly by late March.

Two elected officials from each governing board of the eight councils of governments comprise the policy council; Supervisor Michael Rubio and Wasco Councilwoman Cheryl Wegman represent Kern.

The policy council has four recommended scenarios to mull, and their input would next return to the local level for ratification. Although it’s a regional planning process, all land-use decisions are ultimately up to local officials.

Monday’s recommended approach differs from what the Kern Council of Governments adopted late last year. Based on public outreach, the transportation and planning agency opted for an average density of 5.9 dwelling units
per acre.

“Let’s set a reasonable goal as our first goal,” said Darrel Hildebrand, Kern COG’s assistant director.

Speaking with one voice is the best way to ensure the valley’s needs are met and not dwarfed by Los Angeles and the Bay Area, said Barry Hibbard, vice president of commercial and industrial development at Tejon Ranch, during a panel discussion.

The San Joaquin Valley is home to about 3 million people; by 2050, that number could reach 9.4 million people.