Through the Roof

This program is brought to you through the generous support of viewers like you.

Presentation of New Valley is made possible by Intel Corporation -- taking a leadership role in bringing citizens, business and government together, to examine the impact of growth in the Central Valley.

And by U.S. Home, committed to developing a positive future where we live and work by promoting responsible growth, and preservation of our quality of life.

And by the air districts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.


In 1849, the Gold Rush sent thousands of opportunity-seeking gold miners into San Francisco. Housing went ballistic. Eight hundred dollars to rent a one-room shack. A property that went for $25,000 in 1848, brought $300,000 in 1849. In 2001 the rush is on again -- not in San Francisco, but the Central Valley. Not for gold, but for the California dream.

Kevin Starr, State Librarian-Historian: "If you look at the DNA code of Native American California, more than a third of the million Americans who lived in the present day United States at the point of Columbus' arrival -- more than a third lived in California, the present day boundaries of California. I wouldn't be surprised if 100, 150 years out, one third of the total population of the United States could be living in California."

With a possibility that we may face a future that would be the most crowded in our history, we're coming up with more questions than answers. Where will we put all those people?

It's the California dream: that desire for a home with space enough for young families to expand and escape the frustrations and over-crowding of the cities.

Traffic reporter: "We're still stymied on 50 coming in…"

In our first installment of this series, we met families who are willing to pay the price of long commutes, gridlock congestion, and increasingly less time with the family just to realize that home-owner's dream. Many urban centers in the valley are deteriorating, while suburbs spread to accommodate the dream.

Bill Pauli, President, California Farm Bureau: "The problem is, how do we penetrate county government? How do we deal with the real financial issues? How do we deal with the developers? And by the same token, how do we deal with the fact that so many of our younger people and middle-aged people can't find a home? One, they're priced out of the market in many cases, but two, the competition for homes. I mean, basically they're sold as they get built."

Is anyone at the helm in planning the growth of the communities in the Central Valley? Are developers having a field day at the expense of the economy and the environment?

Carol Whiteside, President, Great Valley Center: "Cities and counties are ultimately the ones who are in charge, and I keep suggesting to the planning commissions in the cities and the counties that if they're clear about what they want, a developer will respond. If they're not, a developer comes in and builds to his or her own convenience and we live with the result."

According to the California Building Industry Association, the state is providing about half the houses we need for the growth we're experiencing.

Tim Coyle, Senior V.P., California Building Industry Association: "In California, unfortunately, we've cornered the market on excessive regulatory and permitting costs, and that's an issue; a big issue -- a huge issue."

Coyle says the "not in my backyard syndrome," restrictive permitting costs, and litigation issues inhibit urban development. Senate bill 910 -- one of many housing bills under debate in the legislature -- would strengthen penalties to local governments who muddy the development waters by over-regulating. Not every dream can accommodate a single family; the call is also out for more apartments and condo construction.

Jean Ross, Executive Director, California Budget Project: "We need to build more multi-family housing. One of the clearest findings in our report was that the multi-family housing - apartments -- haven't kept pace with demand for those units, and that's really crunching particularly young families, lower income families."

So what kind of picture is the Central Valley scenario painting for those thousands of young families hunting that California dream?

It was love at first sight.

Melissa Crowley, KVIE Producer: "The first one we saw and the one that we loved."

KVIE anchor and producer Melissa Crowley and her husband Brian May found their dream home. At just under $200,000 the price was right. But they soon learned first-hand that finding a home was easy. Despite being able to actually purchase, buying one was the challenge.

Melissa Crowley: "Are there any available today?"

Jan Wilson, Kimball Hill Homes: "Not today."

The couple found there was a lot of homework to do.

Realtor: "What we have is a sales policy. It's an 800 number, set up for release hotline."

Crowley struck out. Nine calls too late to get one of six homes released that night. So it's back in the car; another day, more driving.

Realtor: "We have two available and these have not been released yet."

Jan Wilson, Kimball Hill Homes: "I have a waiting list of 150 to 200, and we have about 120 more home sites."

Crowley's experience is not unusual.

Melissa Crowley: "Did you guys get one?"

Male House Hunter: "No."

Crystal Elmendorf, House Hunter: "It is a 24-hour job, and to afford California is just unbelievable."

Realtors say timing is everything.

Susie Kuwabara, Central Valley Realtor: "Be available. When we call you up at 10:00 in the morning and say, 'There's a house out there you really need to look at. Try and get there by, you know, 2…" -- when we say that, we mean it because you'll lose it otherwise.

And be prepared for fierce competition.

Jan Wilson: "I would say probably about 90% of my buyers are now from the Bay Area."

Susie Kuwabara: "It's frantic, it's frustrating. If you're representing a buyer, you're afraid to take even a day off because you'll miss that one house that they want."

According to the Gregory Group, the capitol region's median home sales price is a record $279,990 - up more than 20% from last year.

Gregory Paquin, The Gregory Group: "Unfortunately, it's the lower end. What used to be $150,000 to $200,000 to $225 has kind of gone away. The thing to keep in mind though is when you take that in perspective of all of California, it's still really affordable."

To meet needs, there are more planned communities and more development further outside the larger Valley cities.

Gregory Paquin: "For instance, there's new activity planned in areas like Woodland, in Winters, in West Sacramento; sales are very strong right now."

The current demand and building boom has fueled concern about loss of open space. According to a state-wide survey, 76% of the Valley residents polled believe there should be boundaries to restrict development. And new building styles where homes are built on less land are sometimes criticized. Melissa learned that a 17-foot yard may be the trade off to get the size and price home she wanted. Realtors like Kuwabara say better prices can be found with older homes. But competition is no less intense.

Melissa Crowley: "That's the house we put a bid on originally, that the Bay Area couple said they could bid $10,000 cash more than we could."

It wasn't meant to be. But market experts say, "Don't give up. Keep looking. Don't look for listings in the paper; by then, they may be sold." To stay ahead, realtors say to get pre-qualified, know what you can spend, and carry a letter to prove it. Melissa and her husband did. They also left a deposit at the first choice.

Realtor: "Go ahead and sit down."

Melissa Crowley: "Thank you, we're very excited."

Months later it paid off. When a Bay Area couple cancelled, Brian and Melissa were told to be there by 5 -- and the lot was theirs. But many others still face frustration.

David Elmendorf, House Hunter: "We looked at models everywhere from Napa to Elk Grove. We looked in Folsom, Rocklin…everywhere."

Some are lucky and persistant enough to see the search pay off. Like Melissa and Brian, they learn that in a day, things can change.

Melissa Crowley: "Any luck?"

Female House Hunter: "Yeah, we got it!"

Some analysts see opportunity, not disapointment, in today's market.

Don Harris, Nehemiah Corporation: "Adaptive reuse of entire portions of land in our urban areas is going to be critical."

In addition to development, Nehemiah assists with down payments. With Valley homes in demand, sellers often pick buyers with the least low requirements and the highest offer.

Susie Kuwabara: "When you write an offer, you know you might be one of three."

Don Harris: "My advice to people who feel they're being priced out of the market and that they'll never be able to buy a house is that it's probably time to just chill out a little bit. Real estate is cyclical."

Some realtors believe compromises may be needed to get when you want at the right price. Melissa is glad her new community has plans for a park and greenbelt.

Melissa Crowley: "I'm actually sitting on what will someday be the walls of our new house."

For she and her husband, long months of hoping and driving have finally paid off. In 90 days, this will be home.

Melissa Crowley: "This is the lot for our new house, so sometimes we'll come to the end of the street and just sit and have a pizza. It's probably only exciting to us to watch the house go up, and it definitely makes the whole frustrating search worthwhile."

The Valley's housing crunch is forcing middle-class families out of the cities and into the surrounding suburbs. But many on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder cannot afford to leave the city any more than they can afford to live in it.

Jean Ross, Executive Director, California Budget Project: "Fewer families are able to afford the median priced home that's available on the market."

For the 42% of Californians who rent, the numbers are even more grim. Nearly half spend more than the recommended 30% of their income on housing. For those in the lowest income brackets, that figure jumps to a shocking 91%. Urban renewal has been both a blessing and a curse. As downtown blocks are cleaned up and gentrified, low-income families may find themselves priced out of neighborhoods that they've lived in for generations.

"Cheetah," Seeking Section 8 Housing: "I have been looking for Section 8 housing for approximately about 3 years."

Under Section 8, qualified renters pay a fixed amount of their wages -- between 30 and 40% -- on rent; the government fulfills the balance.

"Cheetah": "They ask you if you're in school or if you're working. If you're homeless, like homeless on the street or in a shelter, or if you're living with someone. If you're able to pay a maximum of at least $1000 or under, or if you can pay $300."

The program was once a boon to both renters and landlords, providing the latter with tenants and guaranteed payment. But with housing shortages throughout the state…

Jean Ross: "We hear reports of people who have public housing assistance who get a Section 8 certificate -- for example, in the Bay Area; they can't find a place to use it. They'll move to Sacramento."

The hi-tech boom of the 1990s drew thousands of new workers to California; at the same time, requests for new building permits fell drastically. The result, according to the California budget project, is a shortfall of more than 500,000 affordable housing units. Organizations like the Nehemiah Corporation are working hard to counter this trend.

Don Harris, Nehemiah Corporation: "Some folks had bought some real estate that they were trying to sell as homeownership housing, but the people that they were trying to assist couldn't come up with the money for the down payment. And we began to work with them to try to figure out a way of -- how do you help people that can qualify for a mortgage to come up with a down payment?"

Founded in 1994, Nehemiah now has a nationwide reach, providing assistance for first-time homeowners, and revitalizing distressed urban environments.

Don Harris: "You've got to find the brownfields, those areas that might have some of those environmental issues that can be cleaned up and restored to where they can be used for residential uses."

Architect David Mogavero agrees that there is ample urban space just waiting to be revitalized…

David Mogavero; Mogavero, Notestine, and Associates: "What we're missing in the real estate development community right now is the inclination to take advantage of all of the inexpensive infill land opportunities that are out there."

Mogavero, Notestine, and Associates won awards for its infill development at Sacramento's Metro Square -- a former brownfield that now supports 45 single-family homes. They'll soon begin renovating this withered lot at the corner of T and 10th Streets. Five blocks away, the 25 families of Southside Park Co-housing have brought new life -- and a new way of life -- to this downtown neighborhood.

John Kloss, Southside Park Resident: "Twenty-five families, ten years ago, got together and said, How do we actually build something that meets our needs?"

Not just a need for affordable housing, but for a close community. Belying the notion that strong fences make good neighbors, the residents of Southside Park share everything from bikes and lawnmowers, to assistance and advice. In the center of their development, a common house provides a place for neighborhood meetings, childcare, and communal meals. It's hard to believe that two abandoned factories once occupied the site; Southside Park's houses are eco-friendly -- and affordable.

John Kloss: "And it's not only multicultural, but it's multi-social class. We have low income, medium income, and some higher income owners here."

The success of South Side Park's is an inspiration -- not only to those struggling to make a home in the inner city…

John Kloss: "I was opening up a farmer publication….and here I saw our co-housing featured in here, and it said, 'Gee, here is a smart use of city land. I hope those city folk do more of this sort of thing.' So you have people in rural farm areas thinking that this is the way to go."

They labor in the fields to bring us the food that we eat, harvesting everything from tomatoes in Bakersfield to cherries in San Joaquin County. At the end of their very long day, many farmworkers come home to this -- or worse.

Rob Weiner, Executive Director, CA Coalition for Rural Housing: "We've known for a long time now that farm workers live in fields, they live in caves. They live out in the open, under trees. They live in canyons, they live in spider holes."

California's farm workers are the backbone of the state's agricultural industry. A recent survey by the Public Policy Institute of California -- an independent research organization -- found that the Central Valley is the fastest growing region in the state thanks to the surge in the Latino population, many of whom are farm-workers. But housing has declined for migrant workers by as much as a third in 20 years.

Rob Weiner: "One thing that's occurring in the valley today is that housing is being built. But it's being built largely for middle-income residents. And most Latinos in the valley do not have the income."

At $6.26 an hour, combined with the seasonal nature of the work, farm workers have the lowest income surveyed by the U.S. Census. Another major reason for the housing shortage is that more farmers have stopped providing licensed labor camps where, historically, many workers lived. A survey by a coalition of California agricultural associations and farm worker advocates found only a third of the farmers who responded provide housing.

Rob Weiner: "The main reason why growers don't provide housing is because of the cost. The second reason that was cited by about than half of workers was government regulation."

One of the difficulties in developing housing is the variety of migrant workers. Some are families who follow the work and need temporary shelter. Other families need permanent housing. The largest need is for single men living away from their families. It's also the hardest to provide because some fear an increase in crime in those types of housing developments.

Joe Rios, President, J.J. Rios Farm Services: "Twenty-one years I've been in business; I've never had a law enforcement officer come on-site of any of my job sites."

Joe Rios runs a firm that hires workers for growers. He wants to turn this parcel of land into an affordable housing complex for 400 workers, complete with recreational facilities. Despite public opposition he still expects this land will one day become a housing reality for his employees.

Antonio Pizano: "Buenos tardes."

Delia Cortez's family is one of 300 in San Joaquin Valley lucky enough to be able to live in this clean, affordable migrant labor center. More than 100 families are waiting for one of the small apartments that rent for up to $238 a month.

Antonio Pizano, Executive Director, San Joaquin County Housing Authority: "It's important to note that the families who have been coming to this center, have been doing so for the last 20 years…24 years."

The 300-unit Harney Lane complex is one of three state-owned, county labor centers. It even offers a day care program. Originally opened for a 6-month season. Increased funding now allows families to stay for 9 months, enabling their children to stay in school. And this sub-standard, privately owned camp is located in the poorest community in Tulare County, the tiny town of Cutler. Many farm workers have been forced to live here for years. Mercedes Antunez, her husband Antonio, and four children once called this shack home.

Mercedes Antunez, Farmworker: "It was something very sad. It was terrible. There was not even a bathroom."

Today, Mercedes can't believe her family saved enough money to live in this neat, three-bedroom apartment.

Translator: "It's like a dream for her. She keeps telling her kids that she thinks she's only visiting. She just can't realize herself that it's true."

The Via De Guadalupe is a 60-unit apartment complex, offering farmworker families who qualify a place they can rent permanently. It was created with the help of the Catholic Charities of Fresno and the California Endowment. Self-Help Enterprises, a non-profit organization that builds low-income housing, constructed the complex that provides far more than shelter. There's also an innovative afterschool educational program and soon there will be a health care facility.

Jimena Ruiz Castilla, Self-Help Enterprises: "This component, as you see, of having the housing and having the educational part and the clinic next door, is just really a model for any other rural community in the Central Valley."

Many more of these privately developed complexes, as well as government-subsidized housing, are needed to meet future demands.

Antonio Pizaro: "Families that we house are here to help us with our economy and help us stay healthy with with the food that we eat, and the least we can do is provide them with some decent housing."

For more than 30 years, farming has been the livelihood for Greg Hardesty and his family. From dairy to hay, he's proud of working this land.

Greg Hardesty, Elk Grove Hay Farmer: "My brother and myself, the best month we had was 31,000 bails. That's a thousand bails a day, every day of that month. That's in between milking cows morning and night."

It hasn't been an easy journey. Greg lost his arm and half of his leg in a farm accident 9 years ago. Even with injury, and the long hours, and the ups and downs of farming the land, Greg says nothing will stop him from doing what he loves.

Greg Hardesty: "You couldn't pay me enough to move into town and live next door, and have next-door neighbors."

But issues out of this farmer's grasp could alter his future here in his hometown of Elk Grove -- changes due in part to the rapid transformation from a predominantly rural area, to an urban community.

Greg Hardesty: "Everybody's American dream is different. I mean, if their American dream encroaches in on mine, it effects me."

The changing face of Elk Grove concerns Hardesty. It's growing at a rate he'd like to see slow down. Elk Grove was established in 1850 as a hotel and stage stop. Today its population has boomed to more than 72,000 residents. With growth comes the need for more housing and expansion -- but at what cost to farmland? With foreign competition beginning to take hold, a growing number of farmers are taking early retirement and selling their land to developers.

Rob Stutzman, Consultant, Lent Ranch Marketplace: "Developers become convenient bogeymen, I suppose. The fact of the matter is, what's happening in this instance, say, down there in Elk Grove is that you have an exploding community in terms of growth. Well, that growth is meeting a demand. This is an economically vibrant area."

Rob Stutzman is with the new Lent Ranch Market place project. He says this new fashion mall in Elk Grove will hopefully break ground in the next few years. Stutzman says cities like Elk Grove rely on new development to keep the town alive.

Rob Stutzman: "Sales tax dollars are now being exported out of that city, and they believe that they have a right to have retail in Elk Grove that keeps those tax dollars at home, so that they're improving their roads, paying for police for their communities, improving the quality of parks and open space in their community."

This mall will sit where the former Lent Farm used to be off Highway 99 and Grant line Road -- which is about a mile about a mile and a half from Greg Hardesty's property.

Greg Hardesty: "To me it's destroying something that can never be replaced. Look at South Key, when they built a mall there. Okay, they built a mall; they built all around it. What happens? They keep building out and building out. It gets old. People don't want to see old. They want to see new again. So they jump…jump to another area, build all over again, and what are you going to have in 20 years? You're going to have the same exact thing as what you've got there."

So how is it possible to strike a balance with the need for housing and development in the Valley -- but also save rich farmland? Greg Kirkpatrick from the non-profit group American Farmland Trust, says although they understand the need for housing, their mission is to stop the loss of productive farmland to urban sprawl.

Greg Kirkpatrick, Land Protection Representative, American Farmland Trust: "It's tough in the California farm economy right now. It's tough to make ends meet, and when it is tough, farmers are looking for other alternatives."

AFT is also working to insure farmland remains economically viable for future generations. Kirkpatrick says growth management laws and new programs such as PACE -- Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement -- are ways to preserve valuable farmland.

Greg Kirkpatrick: "There's money available to purchase those development rights from farmers and landowners, and permanently protect that farm. It will be agricultural land and used for agricultural land in perpetuity."

Rob Stutzman: "This state has now 34 million people in it. Sometimes change is difficult and hard to accept but it happens and people adapt and life goes on because ultimately it's a change for the greater good."

And as it happens, will the face of the valley change from open land to rooftops?

Greg Kirkpatrick: What Californian consumers need to recognize that, if they want to see these farmland and see this open space out here as they drive up and down Highway 99 and I-5, is that they ought to buy our products, and if you buy that product, and if you buy that product from a California farmer you're contributing to his economic well being and keeping this land in agricultural production.

Greg Hardesty says he's been contacted to sell his land for development on several occasions but that's an option this farm says he won't even consider.

Greg Hardesty: "I wouldn't like to see it sold for development. Once you're gone, it's in the next generation's hands."

The issue of "sprawl" has left its imprint on all social and economic levels in the Central Valley. Fueling the sprawl frenzy is the crunch of a population that has grown 18% since 1990, and is projected to balloon from 5 million to 12 million by 2040. Where and how to house that population is at the heart of the sprawl debate. Next time on the New Valley: growth in the urban sector -- "Boom or Bust." For more information on this series please log on to our website at

To order a copy of this program for $14.95 plus shipping and handling, call (888) 814-3923, or visit us online at

Presentation of New Valley is made possible by Intel Corporation -- taking a leadership role in bringing citizens, business and government together, to examine the impact of growth in the Central Valley.

And by U.S. Home -- committed to developing a positive future where we live and work by promoting responsible growth, and preservation of our quality of life.

And by the air districts of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys.