Valley leaders agree to compromise on density

Apr 3, 2009

Garth Stapley, Modesto Bee

FRESNO -- In a symbolic move that could evolve into a significant regional growth strategy, Valley leaders Wednesday approved a
compromise between status quo sprawl and a scenario that would double housing densities.

The 12-3 vote for a compromise valleywide Blueprint finishes three years of debate throughout the eight-county region from Lodi to Bakersfield. Wednesday's final decision won't produce immediate results, but eventually is expected to play a role in how state officials award housing and transportation funds.

Of seven Northern San Joaquin Valley representatives, five voted for the compromise: Merced County Supervisor Mike Nelson, Stanislaus County Supervisor Jeff Grover, Oakdale Mayor Farrell Jackson, Manteca Councilman Steve DeBrum and Ripon Mayor Chuck Winn. Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston and Merced Councilman Bill Spriggs favored the compact housing alternative.

"This is an incredible step forward," said Kern County Supervisor Michael Rubio, chairman of the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council. The panel is composed of representatives from each of the counties -- Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Madera, Fresno, Kings, Kern and Tulare.

Panel members acknowledged significant support for the most compact alternative from the Blueprint Regional Advisory Council and from a Blueprint summit in Fresno attended by nearly 600 people.

Status quo growth, which no one favored Wednesday, would consume 261,300 acres of prime farmland in the next four decades, said Nate Roth of the University of California at Davis.