With the population of San Joaquin County expected to grow in coming years, county officials are hoping that a series of community workshops will help lay out a cohesive blueprint for future growth.

The San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Planning Process is an undertaking by the eight cities that make up the Valley to address growth issues in the central core of California for the next 40 years. The plan is funded by a $4million state grant over a two-year period.

At the county level, the San Joaquin Council of Governments is leading the charge — conducting community workshops throughout the month of March. The hope is to engage input and participation by county residents, said Anthony Zepeda, a regional planner with the Council of Governments.

A workshop will be held in Lathrop on Thursday, while other community meetings are planned for Tracy and Manteca later this month.

"We need the input from theresidents and for them to continually be involved. The whole Central Valley is where the state is going to see the most change over the next 30 years," said Kristy Sayles, mayor of Lathrop and the city's representative on the council of government.

San Joaquin County's population is 664,116, according to the 2005 U.S. Census. County officials hypothesize that number doubling by the year 2030, and will likely increase to over 1.7 million by 2050.

Some of the ripple effect of the increased population includes increased traffic, a balance between jobs and housing, concerns of air quality, and the need for more affordable housing, Zepeda said.


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The overall goal of the project is to generate a set of land use principles on how growth can be managed to the benefit of all involved as well as develop a set of tools to visually display short and long-term relationships of transportation and land use and how decisions will affect growth.

"It's going to be a completely different place and we have to plan for it now. We have one chance to get it right," Sayles said.

The intent is to give residents a chance to identify their problems and concerns while conveying their values and vision for the county's future. The program encourages local community leaders and elected officials to attend and participate in the dialogue as well, Zepeda said.

"We have to ask these questions like: How do we manage our massive growth? How do we want to grow?" he said. "These workshops help reveal the direction residents want to go."

The workshops are designed to allow residents to share their ideas and input through large and small group activities, primarily tackling the region's issues and the challenges associated with burgeoning growth.

Results from the series of March meetings will be presented to the local and regional committees. The second set of workshops will ask residents what sort of growth they want to see and different scenarios for the year 2050.

Organizers say the results from the workshops will be made public and distributed to local leaders as a guide for future decision-making as early as June 2008.

Staff writer Paul Burgarino can be reached at (209) 832-6143 or pburgarino@trivalleyherald.com.