Construction crews building tract homes in Yuba, Yolo and Sutter counties are an indicator of the central valley’s predicted population growth from 5.5 million to 12 million or more by the year 2040.
Incorporated in the Sacramento Valley are 10 counties, all linked by several routes of travel, mainly Highway 99 and Interstates 80 and 5. These three main corridors connect Yuba, Yolo and Sutter counties.
Interstate 80, which is known for its heavy commuter traffic, connects Sacramento and the Bay Area. In Yolo County, the areas around I-80 are being pressured to start building businesses and larger cities to accommodate the expected growth.
While the University of California and Cache Creek Casino are busy constructing new facilities to attract more students and visitors, the surrounding area must also accommodate the projected traffic.
Similarly, Highway 99 stretches along eight counties that are also being encouraged to start hammering nails and pouring concrete for the new population boom. Interstate 5, which is the main route through Sacramento Valley, is experiencing the push toward expanding housing developments as well.
Plans in Yolo, Yuba and Sutter Counties are not solely to prepare for a growing population, but also to accommodate tourists and visitors.
During the Consolidated General Elections in November 2004, Measure M was approved in Sutter County with a 59 percent “yes” vote. The ballot listed the conditions of planning for the development of the South Sutter Industrial/Commercial Reserve. One such condition was that “no more than 2,900 acres would be available for residential construction on land protected at a minimum, from a 100-year flood event, resulting in an estimated population of 39,000.”
Whether the projects are privately funded, as suggested by Sutter County’s Measure M, or government funded, these projects are necessary if California is to continue expanding.
Yolo County has already experienced the construction of 227 homes thus far with Mercy Housing’s Country West II development and Castle Homes’ Esperanza Estates and Parker Place. The 72-unit Lopez Subdivision proposed by Emerald Homes has also been approved for construction.
While approval is still pending for the 180-unit Castle Home’s Orcilloli Subdivision in Yolo County, it will most likely be added to the growing list of housing developments branching out in the area.
However, some ask where the room for all of this development is coming from. Where will the agriculture go?
As the County of Yolo’s General Plan Update states, “The vision of Yolo County is to provide an active and productive buffer of farmland and open space separating the Bay Area from Sacramento.” The plan continues, clarifying that the communities would be separate from one another by using green spaces and bike paths. These green spaces will also be home to traditional and new innovative methods of agriculture.
In a speech delivered during the American Planners Association Conference on November 1, 2005, Carol Whiteside, President of the Great Valley Center, noted that although many cities and towns have approved housing developments, it is entirely possible for these plans to stop blossoming once the time begins to take its toll.
These projects take extraordinary amounts of time. Many projects and proposals are eventually dismantled because people grow tired of waiting. “Few citizens,” Whiteside stated, “have the commitment to stay with a project for ten years or more, to attend hearings, meetings and argue against what the property owners and investors want in favor of the community’s vision.”
While Yolo is growing and developing, the people of Yuba County have been somewhat opposed to the population growth. Aside from having to wait years after approving projects, the people are wary of charging confidently ahead because population growth does not necessarily amount to a larger business industry, or huge economic booms.
Many believe that instead of building over current agricultural areas and open space, that the empty or run-down area of towns could be revitalized. This includes filling in alleyways with small apartments.
Infill development brings downtowns and old run down neighborhoods a new zest, which is ripe for attracting the new population. According to the Great Valley Center’s project, revitalization can also help “reduce automobile dependency, provide families and individuals with a wider range of housing options, and save taxpayers money by using existing roads, water, and sewer lines and other public facilities.”
Marysville, within Yuba County, is planning to revamp the Marysville Tower Cinema and Entertainment Complex’s historic exterior and tower and the Marysville Hotel to help attract more citizens and outside visitors.
A KB Homes sign has been posted near Woodland’s high school marking the future development site of an estimated 400-unit housing development behind Woodland Community College’s Campus. With ideas of accommodating future population growth, construction has already begun on a two-story building to build a larger capacity campus at Woodland Community College to help attract prospective students and grow with city.
During her speech about California’s Great Central Valley, Whiteside stated, “While major investments in land are taking place in the region, …the projections for growth, as well as the challenges of the region have focused a big spotlight on the Valley. There is a sense that the time is right to do something.”
Whiteside continued, “My personal view is that the time is right now, and if we fail, we won’t get another chance.”