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Behind the Scenes


Produced by Melissa Crowley

When many people think "Redding" they think of the beautiful backdrop that surrounds the city's 59 square miles, a setting many families choose to call home. But city leaders believe natural beauty is not enough to guarantee prosperity in the decades to come; what the 80,865 people who call Redding home need most is a plan. And Jim Hamilton, Redding's lead city planner, is proud of the city's 2020 general plan that's been adopted.

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.

But 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.

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.

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, a Redding resident, compliments community projects like Kids Kingdom that offer family fun for all incomes, but 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.

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.

People here believe growth does not have to end with sprawl. 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.

But Hamilton is working hard to make sure the gains outweigh the losses. He believes the general plan -- a work in progress -- will keep Redding's growth gradual. The future history looks promising for this former railroad stop.


Jim Hamilton
Development Services Director

Judge Richard B. Eaton
Redding Historian


The complete text of New Valley Episode 103 -- Boom or Bust...

Presentation also made possible by a grant from
the Great Valley Center


New Valley Official Site