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San Joaquin Valley
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San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Council Votes to Grow (Somewhat) More Efficiently

Blooming Almonds in San Joaquin Valley
Blooming almonds in the San Joaquin Valley

A policy council comprised of 16 local elected officials from eight San Joaquin Valley counties has endorsed a “blueprint” for future development in California’s premier agricultural region that, if actually implemented, will save 118,000 acres of farmland by 2050, a 36 percent reduction compared with the way land is now being developed. While encouraging, the council’s decision rejected an even more ambitious growth scenario endorsed by AFT that would have cut farmland loss in half while also reducing both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.        

A Missed Opportunity?

The policy council, whose members were selected by their respective counties, was given a choice of three alternative growth scenarios. One was the status quo, i.e., continue to develop the same sprawling way we do today. Another scenario – the one for which 12 policy council members voted – was based on blueprints done by the individual counties. The third called for more efficient, smart growth and distributed it more evenly throughout the Valley. Click here for maps and details.

Comparison of the Three Future Growth Scenarios


Status Quo

County Preferences

Smart Growth

Average Residential Housing Density (Dwellings/Acre)




Low-Density Housing as Percent of All Residential Development in Medium-Size Cities




Total Land Developed (Acres)




Farmland Lost




Environmentally Sensitive Land Impacted




Energy Consumption
(Billion Residential KWH/Year)




Vehicle Miles Traveled (Million/Year)




Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Million Tons/Day




AFT estimates that the alternative chosen by the policy council would, by reducing farmland conversion, prevent the loss of about $325 million dollars in annual agricultural production and in excess of a billion dollars a year in total economic activity associated with agriculture. The smart growth alternative would save the agricultural economy an additional $400 million a year – more than the annual agricultural output of 35 of California’s 55 counties.

Some Localities Step Up More than Others

The growth scenario chosen by the policy council reflects vast disparities among counties in the San Joaquin Valley.  Under this scenario, the percentage of farmland that would be saved by the individual county blueprints ranges from 60 to almost zero.  Fresno, Merced and Kings Counties plan to save the highest percentage of their farmland, while Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Madera Counties intend to do the least to save the resource. Under all scenarios, the larger cities – Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Modesto and Stockton – will be called upon to increase residential densities more than smaller cities.

From Vision to Reality

The locally preferred growth scenario recommended by the policy council will now be considered by county boards of supervisors and city councils, who have final say over local development planning. Ultimately, the vision of future growth in the San Joaquin Valley embodied by the blueprint will become a reality only if city and county leaders incorporate the more compact growth scenarios into their own general plans – and then stick to those plans in approving, denying or modifying development proposals.

AFT urges concerned citizens, not only to voice their opinions on the adoption of the blueprint by local governments, but also to urge local officials to keep track of how the plans are then implemented. Specifically, officials should at all times be able to report on how well they are doing at meeting the density targets that ultimately will determine how much farmland is saved – or lost – in the San Joaquin Valley.

Edward Thompson, Jr.
California State Director
(p) 202-309-1162

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