In 2005, this writer ran for a seat on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors. I lost the race to the incumbent, Jeff Grover. During the race, I talked to voters living in Salida, an area I would have represented had I been elected.
Many Salida voters did not want to be annexed into the City of Modesto. They thought that if they were annexed, their taxes and fees for service would go up. When the opportunity to incorporate into a City of Salida was suggested, the same voters opposed that idea, too. The reasoning was the same: no one wants to pay more taxes or fees.
Stanislaus County presently provides adequate services and heavily subsidizes the cost of the services. That is, the cost to the County to provide services to Salida is greater than the taxes collected from Salida. Therefore, why would Salidans want to give up such a good deal?
The Jeff Grover Legacy
In 2005, Jeff Grover was reelected County Supervisor. While in office, Supervisor Grover expanded the Salida General Plan area to include nearly all of the farm land between Freeway 99 on the west, Riverbank on the east, the Stanislaus River on the north and the City of Modesto on the south. The plan is to replace prime quality farm land with industrial development. If the plan fails, houses may be substituted, following typical past patterns of development throughout the county.
While Supervisor, Jeff Grover convinced Cal Trans to build an expressway along the Kiernan Road corridor and to plan a freeway beginning at the Hammett Road/Freeway 99 interchange, proceeding east all the way to Oakdale. By building the two major arterials, the urban area within the Salida Plan would have the transportation infrastructure to urbanize without the developers having to pay for it.
Urban Sprawl Appears Inevitable
During the next economic boom, the Salida area is now primed for urban sprawl, regardless of whether the residents of Salida want it. Stanislaus County controls development in Salida, not the citizens of Salida. Depending upon who holds seats on the County Board of Supervisors, anything can happen with the future development.
Salida is currently represented by Supervisor Terry Withrow. He has stated that the present Salida General Plan is not satisfactory and that he highly values policies that preserve farm land. Therefore, he might not approve much urban growth around Salida while he holds office. However, when he leaves office, urban developers may create a large campaign slush fund to elect someone who will do their bidding. This has been a frequent practice in recent Stanislaus County political history. It is only a matter of time before the farm land is lost to urban sprawl.
To keep the sprawl from happening, Mayor Garrad Marsh proposes to annex Salida into the City of Modesto. Doing so would negate the present Salida plan by melding Salida’s growth into the Modesto general plan.
The Annexation Process
The flies in the ointment of annexation are the citizens of Salida. Under California law, an area cannot be annexed unless a majority of those living within the proposed area vote in favor of annexation. Unless their sentiment has changed recently, Salidans will vote against annexation. The economic recovery will take hold, the world’s most productive farm land will be converted to urban development, and developers will once again impose their will over the citizenry. Unless they incorporate or join Modesto, Salidans will have little say over the development of their community. The five County Supervisors will control all growth.
The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) oversees the annexation process. Historically, a majority of the commission has been comprised of pro-urban development appointees. Such is presently the case and may continue into the foreseeable future.
The Game Is Rigged
Because urban developers can spend as much money as they want to get their political shills elected, the game is rigged in favor of urban sprawl. Stanislaus County has little hope of ever changing the rules. Development within the County is following the same sprawl patterns that paved over the entire San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego Counties.
Douglas Smith says
Thanks for the sobering look into the future that our communities face, Bruce. I think you have written a very accurate forecast and account of the development of our region.