Boom or Bust!

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Presentation of New Valley is made possible by Intel Cooperation -- 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 thinking about California, and thinking about the future of California…

Where do we get the water? Where do we get the power? How do we handle the traffic?

You know, things are difficult in agriculture…

How to take advantage of the land that's available for development, for new housing…

And it hasn't been good growth…

Most people say a community happens when you get more than one generation that stays there, and we don't have that right now…

You may be hard pressed these days to find a discussion that isn't centered on the issue of population growth in the Central Valley. Workshops, conferences, think tanks and alliances are taking on the issues of livable cities, the New Urbanism, sprawl, stagnation, smart growth...and no growth. In a flurry of planning over land use, everyone from the smallest farmer to state legislators are grappling with issues associated with growth.

In a region where a population of five million people will increase to 10 million in a generation, the issue of growth is understandably a hot topic. In this edition of New Valley we'll see how three centers of urban growth are doing in planning their futures. And how their pasts and the "here and now" have changed because of an expanding populace. This is our New Valley: Boom or Bust.

This is what comes to mind when you think "Redding": a beautiful backdrop surrounds the city's 59 square miles, a setting many families choose to call home.

Linda, Redding resident: "This kind of thing is important. It's nice to be able to take him to see about nature."

But city leaders believe natural beauty is not enough to guarantee prosperity in the decades to come.

Jim Hamilton, Development Services Director: "Redding in the past has been an economy driven primarily by natural resource industries, as well as tourism. While those are important, they're not as important today as they used to be, and we need to plan for the future about how we're going to provide jobs for the community, for the people that live here."

What's needed, leaders say is for the 80,865 people who this city call home is a plan. And Redding's lead city planner is proud of the city's 2020 general plan that's been adopted.

Jim Hamilton: "And some of the things, the visions, that are in our general plan have evolved over the last 4 or 5 years, are now coming to fruition. Major projects like the Turtle Bay project are coming forward. We have a downtown-specific plan that was recently adopted, so there's really some dynamic things happening."

Balancing the environment with growth and economic needs has been a work in progress. Hamilton says Community input is crucial. So is broadening the economic base. The city has come a long way since it was founded in 1872 by the Sutter Pacific Railroad, and has seen its share of money troubles.

Judge Richard B. Eaton, Redding Historian: "Then in the 1890's came our copper-mining boom. In 1906, Shasta had five big copper smelters, the last of which closed in 1919."

Redding's well-known judge, historian and longtime resident Richard B. Eaton has lived here since he was a boy, and is now part of the town's history himself.

Judge Richard B. Eaton: "Then all during the 1920's we had what amounted to a prolonged depression. That changed with the building of the Shasta Dam in 1938. After the dam came the lumber boom and after that, the building of I-5 and the coming of tourists by the dozens, and in recent years the coming of retired persons."

Today the city that once relied on Mother Nature now counts on tourism, the medical field, and hospital industry -- as well as retail -- to fuel economic engines. City leaders say continuing to diversify the economic base is crucial, so the balancing act of nature versus need continues.

Currently, Redding's population is growing at less than 2%, which does allow for thoughtful planning. The population is mostly white and middle-aged -- but not everyone is prospering. Income levels tend to be lower than the state average in some areas. Positives include affordable homes, perhaps driving retirees to take advantage of one of the best values in the state, and the available land to build.

But the city known for its beauty has also gained a more unwelcome reputation in recent years for crime and gang activity. Prevention efforts are underway. Finding something positive for kids has helped. Slowly problems are turning around.

Brian Wilkinson, resident: "You can walk the streets. Because where I came up, where I grew up you couldn't really walk the streets."

Middle-aged families make up a large part of the population. Hamilton says the city's plan tries to keep these community needs in mind.

Jim Hamilton: "They're the ones that are pushing for these things. They believe this is, one of the trail systems in Sacramento River, are the unique resources that make this a special place to live in. Their expectation is we will take care of those things."

Taking care of resources also extends to rehabbing old landmarks, like the Cascade Theater. Hamilton says steady city leadership and commitment to the general plan has made these changes possible. But as with any sweeping change there is criticism. Some longtime Redding residents say the plan's big picture leaves out the city's little guys.

Betty Doty, Redding resident: "I think they really resented all the focus of getting people off the freeway. What about doing something we really enjoy and seeing where that leads?"

While Doty compliments community projects like Kids Kingdom that offers family fun for all incomes, she's not pleased with plans for other future landmarks. Especially a project currently under construction that's not included in the general plan: the Rainbow Bridge. It's funded by a private foundation -- not tax dollars -- but Doty says her objection is lack of community input.

Betty Doty: "We'd rather have a big heavy wooden bridge that looks more like us."

But project leaders say the Rainbow Bridge is a key element of turning the city's image around, and they hope the award-winning designer's creation will draw visitors like the Golden Gate Bridge does in San Francisco. Hamilton says a balancing act is always in the works and not everyone will always be pleased, but community input will still always be valued. Community input, in fact, shaped the general plan policy to save open space.

Jim Hamilton: "As you drive around Redding you'll see large areas of open space -- hillsides that are undeveloped and that's a conscious choice that's been made by the community."

People here believe growth does not have end with sprawl.

Jim Hamilton: So we're adding on to that existing development as opposed to sprawling out into undeveloped areas, and intensifying that development, that location.

A new Macy's is open, and leaders hope new shops will boost retail activity in Shasta County. Boosting business is the goal behind improving Yuba Street and the old downtown mall. While new investments and big name stores draw customers, some local businesses say the so-called progress is a mixed blessing.

Ginny Jones, Hatchover Restaurant worker: "It's sad seeing some of the local ones that have been around a long time having to move on, because there's a lot of not -- you know, they can't compete with some of these larger businesses. And it's just seeing the growth and the change, there's a lot of good to that, and a lot of things that you lose."

Hamilton is working hard to make sure the gains outweigh the losses.

Jim Hamilton: "What we hope they picture, of course, is a natural setting -- the beautiful place that we have. We want them to feel like we have made the effort as a community to preserve those kinds of things, but not done it in such a fashion people can't pursue the normal course of business."

So far Kevin and Linda are pleased.

Kevin, Redding resident: I really like it. I'm from the Bay Area originally and I just love it up here and I think it's a great place to raise your family.

Kevin says if he wanted all the amenities of a big city, he'd move back to San Francisco. Judge Eaton agrees.

Judge Richard B. Eaton: "I would hope that the growth would be gradual."

Hamilton believes the general plan -- a work in progress -- will do just that. Eaton says future history looks promising for this former railroad stop. Perhaps no one in Redding appreciates changes and the growth pains more.

Judge Richard B. Eaton: "In the beginning, the city of Redding was entirely on the west bank of the river, centered around Market Street. When they first began to build across the river, my predecessor Judge Ross, was quoted as saying, 'They're spoiling an awful lot of good jack rabbit pasture.'"

Shirlyn Davenport, Bakersfield Historian: "By Christmas Eve of 1867, the Kern River just rushed down through the canyon and the entire settlement was destroyed.

July 7, 1889: there was a fire that within two hours destroyed the entire town.

…then in 1919, another disaster struck -- another fire…

August 22, 1952 -- an earthquake shook the area. And that earthquake, once again, destroyed a major part of our downtown.

Colonel Thomas Baker, our founding father, looking at this area, he claimed it and said, 'This is God's country.'"

Ken Carter, President, Watson Realty: "This is a pretty conservative area. You might even be able to call it the Bible Belt of California…"

Harvey Hall, Mayor: "Bakersfield is the 12th largest city in California now with a population of 247,000 people."

Ken Carter: "Like most of California, our demographics are changing. The face of our community is changing. The Latino population here is strong and it is growing."

Donna Kunz, Economic Development Director: "I believe it is up to 41% in certain census tracts of the neighborhoods."

Ken Carter: "African-American…"

Donna Kunz: "…between 12 and 15 %."

Ken Carter: "The minority community is… also the future of our economy as well."

Shirlyn Davenport: "Colonel Baker being a surveyor himself, when he envisioned this city, obviously it was well-planned and well laid out. Part of his planning were very wide streets. Today, streets in Bakersfield are still planned in the same manner."

Donna Kunz: "I'd like to see the downtown come to its full potential."

Jack Hardisty, City Planner: "The downtown began to be deserted by the retail component of our economy. It got so bad, that space became affordable to the small merchants and they began to bring back more retail activity downtown."

Donna Kunz: "What we want to do is get some vibrant businesses that stay open past seven o'clock at night. Some people go to work, go back to their old community, and never leave. They don't come downtown; you know, it's a shame."

Jack Hardisty: "We've not kept up with the growth of the city as we should have. The way we've grown is more to the South and Southwest. We build about 230 houses a month here."

Donna Kunz: "Bakersfield is building a lot of subdivisions on the west end -- and they're gated."

Ken Carter: "We've always sold affordability, and we've sold the family lifestyle. It's interesting. The things that attracted me -- and I think many people -- to this area probably would not be the things that will continue to drive our future. "

Jack Hardisty: "Of course, the basic economic foundation of Bakersfield is oil."

Donna Kunz: "Oil!"

Ken Carter: "We have a lot of oil reserves."

Shirlyn Davenport: "Because of the economy due to oil and agriculture, the 1930s and the Depression here in Bakersfield was not felt with such a negative impact as it was throughout the rest of the country. In fact, we never had one bank that closed here in Bakersfield."

Donna Kunz: "Oil in the 80s went through a severe recession and there were a lot of cut backs in the fields and they shut down drilling operations etc, etc."

Ken Carter: "We've had some big oil concerns move out of Bakersfield, move their headquarters. And yet our economy is probably as strong as it's ever been. At least in the real estate market; this is the best year we've ever had."

Donna Kunz: "Agricultural…it is more valuable to sell the land off for housing subdivisions. Tech is very lucrative and interesting to bring to Bakersfield and we don't have the infrastructure in place yet, here."

Ken Carter: "We've already learned from economies from the Midwest to the Rust Belt, you know, if you really hang on to that one business of steel…hey, look out, because the economy is changing."

Harvey Hall: "Bakersfield's air quality has been judged to be among the worst in the United States."

Ken Carter: "We have a lot of agricultural activity, which generates some dust."

Harvey Hall: "A lot of it has to do, in my opinion, with agriculture and industrial pollution."

Jack Hardisty: "A lot of it is not under our control. We just to deal with the effects of it."

Ken Carter: "We have mobile sources through Highway 99, which runs directly through our community, and Interstate 5, which runs out to the West."

Jack Hardisty: "We're going down the same tract as the L.A. basin went down, Orange County went down and I think one of the things I hear most is, 'We don't want to be like Los Angeles.'"

Donna Kunz: "The young professionals, that is the missing link right now in Bakersfield. We don't have the things that they want. We don't have the upscale shopping we don't have the nice dining and entertainment -- things that they demand that they can get down in L.A."

Ken Carter: "Honestly, anymore, who wants to live in Los Angeles? So we are becoming a bit of an alternative. Some people would laugh at that but I think in the next five or ten years, you watch. That's going to change."

Harvey Hall: "We have a surprising amount of people that live in Bakersfield that commute to Los Angeles everyday for their places of employment. They can have three times the house in Bakersfield that they would have to pay for within the city of Los Angeles, or Los Angeles County."

Harvey Hall (conference speech): "Today you will have a program that will tell you how your city is at work for you. Bakersfield: California's 12th largest city: a community of promise, progress, and prosperity."

Harvey Hall: "The one thing that we're working on now is a process that was completed back in January, and it's called the 2020 Vision Plan."

Shirlyn Davenport: "The people of the community came together and talked about their visions of Bakersfield, and how it would look in 20 years."

Donna Kunz: "I'd like to see them really expand the water aspects because they have a natural river."

Ken Carter: "We're not the old Dust Bowl town of Bakersfield any longer. We're much more a cosmopolitan community."

Jeff Nickell, Curator, Kern County Museum: "We have over 60 historic buildings that are now on site -- everything from an 1868 log cabin up to a 1936 Union gas station. The clock tower met its demise in 1952 with the earthquake. In the 1960s, the Museum and others got together and decided that that should be reconstructed. And that's what we have in front of the Kern County Museum today, and it's really a symbol for Kern County. I think that communities are made stronger when they have to go through adverse situations."

Tod Ruhstaller, The Haggin Museum: "At one point Stockton was the fourth largest city in California, about the time of the Gold Rush. By the 1870s, 1880s it was second only to San Francisco in the amount of manufacturing taking place here."

In the middle of the great Central Valley lies the City of Stockton. Founded by German immigrant Charles Weber, this land was originally lush grasslands and dense oak groves. But with the discovery of gold in 1849, Weber's small settlement was transformed into a major city almost overnight.

Tod Ruhstaller: "It turned out that Stockton was at the head of the navigation of the San Joaquin River, meaning those people coming in from San Francisco could choose to either go to Stockton or to Sacramento, which were the two portals to the mining areas in the Sierra and Stockton became known as the supply center for the Southern lines -- those areas south basically of the Mokelumne River. And that was really the economic impetus for the development for Stockton."

Stockton grew rapidly. After the Gold Rush, many California towns were abandoned, but Stockton flourished.

Tod Ruhstaller: "We were building the dredges that dredged out the channels to create the levies which in turn created these islands that were ideally suited for agriculture."

The transition from mining to farming, for Stockton's manufacturer's, wasn't a problem. It was during this time that the great grain era began. The city led the state in the processing of wheat and the manufacture of farm equipment.

Tod Ruhstaller: "So a Stockton man by the name of Benjamin Holt, developed the caterpillar tractor which provided the motive power necessary to be able to move around that soft spongy soil."

The town grew steadily through the late 1880's, but even bigger changes were just ahead. Not long into the 20th century, Stockton lost two of its leading industries: the Sperry Flour Company, and the Holt Manufacturing Company.

Tod Ruhstaller: "So in the mid 1920s, Stockton suffered a pretty serious economic downfall and by the same token, the mid-twenties saw the College of the Pacific relocate here and also the passage of a bond measure which would eventually lead to the construction of the Port of Stockton."

With the changing times, the need for workers increased. Although the city wasn't immune to the Great Depression, local developments and good weather for farmers eased the severity of those hard times.

Rosalind Rude, Stockton resident: "My father had his opportunities here for work, and my mother felt she had a good place to raise her children, which was of prime importance to her. She became totally involved in raising her kids and finding good schools."

Families continued to settle in Stockton. As World War Two approached, the city would once again roll with the times and chance its economic focus.

Tod Ruhstaller: "Before the war ended there were some ten thousand people employed in ship building operations here over fifty million dollars in ship building contracts."

With the good times came the bad. While many businesses were thriving, other areas suffered.

Tod Ruhstaller: "As the city grew, the population expanded; the need for more housing. They chose to build in a number of locations but principally out North and there was a tendency to kind of neglect, sometimes ignore, the downtown area."

Steve Pinkerton, Stockton Housing and Redevelopment: "For many years, Stockton was really known as the most notorious 'Skid Row' on the west coast. But that really worked to the advantage of the farming community because it provided a lot of low cost housing for the farm laborers, where you had influxes as many as 40,000 to 50,000 low cost workers in the summertime."

Gary Podesta, Mayor: "I think that the local Stocktonians are the ones that are our own worst enemies, and they're the ones that really feel that the city has had so much deferred maintenance. So I think it really started with Mayor Derra and beginning with the Weber point event center and now with the city council continuing the downtown revitalization to renovate downtown back to an entertainment and recreation area."

From the Mexican farm workers coming in during World War Two, to the influx of the South East Asians from the Vietnam War, the city's changing demographics pose many challenges for Stocktonians.

Tod Ruhstaller: "When it works well you have people of diverse backgrounds -- very diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds -- working together, but it also poses a host of different problems: infrastructure problems in government, in education because of the language differences. And if Stockton can work this out I think it bodes real well for the rest of the United States."

Steve Pinkerton: "You're probably going to still get a lot of ethnic diversity, but I think you're going to get more families; more adults with children, versus with smaller families, but a lot of those families -- so you're going to see a little different dynamic. And more folks that can spend money in a downtown and in your stores than you've had in the past."

As Stocktonians take on the 21st Century many have a positive outlook, learning from mistakes of the past, with high hopes for the future.

Steve Pinkerton: "A lot of that growth is going to come to San Joaquin County, because we're the first place over the hill and they're still not building near enough houses over in the bay area to accommodate all the growth that they're going to have. And, Stockton is probably the one city in San Joaquin County that has enough sewer capacity, enough water and enough buildable land that even if growth slows down, you're still going to see Stockton capturing a good chunk of the growth that's coming over."

Tod Ruhstaller: "I think my decision to come back to Stockton is: it was my investment in Stockton. I actually -- it sounds a little hoky -- but I think that the positives in Stockton made me think about what I could do for Stockton. And I think in a very small way the work that I've done here at the museum is my way of giving something back to the community. What we can do to preserve the heritage of Stockton...getting people to really think about what Stockton was like and what it could be."

Whether the paths these three urban centers have chosen will be the correct one, only time will tell. It's not likely that a 'one size fits all' formula can be applied the matter of growth planning, but as these profiles illustrate, never before has so much attention been paid to the issue. When we next meet, in about two months, our series will be "In the Fast Lane." State, county and city agencies have the pedal to the metal, looking for new and less damaging ways to move the growing population around the Valley. Where that new population lives and works will have a huge bearing on how they get from here to there. Join us for New Valley: In the Fast Lane.


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Presentation of New Valley is made possible by Intel Cooperation -- 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.