Over the past few months, Rise Stockton – a recently formed coalition of community-based organizations in Stockton – has been working tirelessly to produce the Sustainable Neighborhood Plan (SNP). The Plan is a framework for building long-term environmental, economic, and social progress through a series of development recommendations in Central and South Stockton neighborhoods.
On Tuesday, October 8, Stockton's City Council will vote on whether to adopt the SNP and to pursue further funding to implement infrastructure projects and programs prioritized by residents. All who care for the future of Stockton's community health are invited to attend. Come urge your local leaders to kickstart this crucial work at 5:30 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 425 N. El Dorado Street, 2nd Floor.
Beyond encouraging city planners to develop equitable policies and programs for development, this document is meant to inspire and encourage community members to get involved in local land-use planning. It's for parents whose children and grandchildren will grow up in Stockton's most historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
A $170,000 Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) Planning Grant awarded to the City of Stockton by the Strategic Growth Council in November 2017 launched this work. Now, it's up to community members to continue it.
Funded by California Climate Investments (Cap-and-Trade), TCC provides community members a voice in planning strategies to reduce pollution, cut carbon emissions, and improve their quality of life.
Rise Stockton's collaborative structure centers residents and community- and faith-based organizations working within the planning area. Also at the table are governmental agencies and current TCC planning grant partners: Catholic Charities Diocese of Stockton, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, Public Health Advocates, PUENTES, Rising Sun, STAND, and Third City Coalition.
To understand the environmental challenges facing area residents, we held large public workshops; spoke directly with residents, businesses, landowners, and other stakeholders; sent out online surveys and canvassed neighborhoods in the South Stockton region. The Planning Area within the SNP spans everything within city limits from Harding Way down to Arch Airport.
Residents living in the Planning Area are primarily of Latinx, African American, and Asian descent. They live in census tracts that fall within the top 5% to 25% of the most environmentally burdened communities, and they experience high rates of unemployment, based on the most recent state data.
Alvaro Sanchez is the environmental equity director of the Oakland-based Greenlining Institute, an environmental group that helped legislators create the TCC program. Greenlining Institute has been a vital partner in Stockton's efforts, providing technical support and training along the way.
As Sanchez pointed out in an April 10 piece in The Progressive, the program can fund a variety of projects under one umbrella. He paints a vivid picture of potential outcomes, such as "replacing old, smoky diesel buses with clean electric buses or light rail, building affordable housing near those transit stops, and connecting it all with improved pedestrian and bicycle pathways. It might mean planting trees that shade those new bikeways and sidewalks even as they take climate-damaging carbon out of the air. It could mean outfitting those new, affordable homes with solar power and designing them to be energy efficient."
What will it take to bring this wave of climate-sensitive planning to Stockton? A significant change in land-use practices that puts the needs of impoverished communities first.
The major themes that arose from outreach were related to energy, health, parks, safety, transportation, waste, and water.
We're looking to city leaders to support these efforts on Tuesday night. Together, we can help residents find ways to reduce utility bills, establish farmer's markets, and implement neighborhood clean-up programs. As we work collectively, we can improve park equipment, build safer routes to school, and make improvements to water treatment facilities. And all of this meant to meet the ultimate goal residents identified throughout the process: increase neighborhood safety.
Some project ideas in the SNP include:
Identifying partnerships with area residents to redevelop abandoned or vacant parcels to grow fresh fruits and vegetables
Implementing neighborhood programs that allow residents to participate in park improvements and address safety issues
Developing an electric car-sharing service and extending bus hours and locations to South Stockton.
Let's fill the City Council chambers on October 8, and start a dialogue about what we'd like our neighborhoods to look and feel like in the next decade.