Will Modesto Boundaries Protect Enough Farmland?

The New Horizon?
The New Horizon?

News item: 1.5 Million Square Feet Warehouse To Be Built Near Patterson

For over 10 years, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors has been trying to develop a business park at the former Crows Landing Naval Air Station. The location is only a few miles from Patterson. In 10 years, nothing has been accomplished at Crows Landing.

Instead of having a 1.5 million square feet warehouse located at Crows Landing, the City of Patterson approved a new “business park,” aka giant warehouse, in Patterson on a peach orchard. This was after the Local Agency Formation Committee (LAFCO) approved annexation of the land to the City. Once again, productive farm land is being taken as an expedient for urban growth.

In Stanislaus County, “land use planning” is an oxymoron. To plan, lines are drawn on a map. Then, whenever a developer wants to do a project different than what is shown on the map, the map is changed. Ergo, the original map was worthless.

The Modesto City Council wants to take Wood Colony for an industrial park? Change the lines on a map. While aggravating a lot of citizens, the change will enable elected leaders to alter land use on a whim more easily at a later date when a developer comes along.

Stamp Out Sprawl

The “Stamp Out Sprawl” Initiative is designed to control Modesto’s urban growth. While the initiative will prevent Modesto from growing on three sides, subject to change by Modesto voters, the line does not surround the community. Hence, Modesto will be able to grow east all the way to the County line if developers are so inclined.

Unfortunately, for those who really want to protect farm land, a plethora of loopholes will exist for urban developers after the initiative passes. The Salida plan allows thousands of acres of development around the Salida urban area. Stanislaus County government is free to develop the land as soon as a majority of developers take over the Board of Supervisors. Only three votes on the board are needed. Presently, at least two are a lock for developer interests.

In other cities of Stanislaus County, the expansion of urban development is relentless. The Patterson City Council has made it known that it is ready to adopt all of the Bay Area warehouses that want to move to the community. Oakdale wants to sprawl another fifty percent or more in land area. Riverbank wants to build west towards freeway 99 and meet Salida at the eastern edge of the Salida Plan. Turlock has been expanding east and has flirted with expanding northwest. Ceres has been growing west and wants to continue growing outward.

The False Promise of High Paying Jobs

Because warehouse jobs typically pay higher than minimum wage, the jobs are seen as high paying by the propagandists for urban sprawl. The fact is, such jobs do not pay enough to enable a wage earner to enter the middle class—unless the spouse also works full time.

Higher paid Bay Area warehouse workers will lose their jobs when their warehouse moves to Patterson. The workers will have the choice of either losing their jobs and going on unemployment or moving to Patterson for lower wages. Patterson’s new warehouse employer will choose to hire experienced warehouse workers over local inexperienced candidates. Years ago, this happened when Safeway moved its warehouse from Richmond to Tracy. When new workers come to town, they will need housing. The housing stock will be built on farm land. Most of Patterson’s unemployed will stay unemployed.

The process of urbanization is incessant. First the Livermore Valley was covered in big box buildings and now they are coming to Patterson. Modesto wants to get into the action with an industrial park in Wood Colony. Imagine replacing Wood Colony with warehouses, in the name of jobs.

More Sprawl—More Problems

The cloud within the silver jobs lining is the problems the new warehouses will create. The addition of truck traffic on the Interstate 5 and 580 corridors will increase the traffic jams through the Altamont Pass. Interstate 580 is presently being widened to five lanes in each direction. Within a few years, the road will be as clogged as it currently is. Fifteen years ago, a traffic study found that by year 2050, Interstate 580 will need 17 traffic lanes to accommodate the urban sprawl on both sides of the Altamont Pass. The wholesale moving of warehouses from the Bay Area to the Central Valley will validate the traffic study. Don’t forget the air pollution and added noise of the truck traffic.

The promise of more jobs has always come with another promise that the Central Valley’s unemployment rate would decline. No matter how big the population grows, no matter how much urban development, the unemployment rate does not shrink. Could this be because in order to create new jobs, our valley’s leaders allow old jobs in agriculture to be destroyed?

If comprehensive land use planning happened, urban limit lines were established countywide, and urban redevelopment became the focal points for future economic development, Stanislaus County would have a bright future. As matters presently stand, the County’s future moniker will be “Warehouse for the Bay Area.”

Bruce Frohman
Bruce Frohman
Bruce Frohman served on the Modesto City Council from 1999-2003. He believes the best way to build a better community is to have an informed citizenry.
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  1. Great article Bruce. When Keystone in Patterson was proposed, the developers and government leaders claimed the business park would lure Silicon Valley support companies to Patterson. They claimed they could get commuters out of their vehicles with good paying jobs in Patterson. Stanislaus Economic Development director at the time critisized Tracy’s business park along highway 580 as being too heavy into warehouses and that these warehouses created too few low paying jobs. Anyone could see a snow job coming. When the developers failed to bring these companies, they blamed the local population. Now Pattterson is being filled with these warehouses and the developer is gping around bragging of their successs. In fact, now they claim Patterson needs to build more houses for the warehouse workers as if any of them cpuld afford them based on their wages. The houses are driven by bay area wages. Now the new business park’s first yenant is going to be a huge warehouse. No doubt that is what is going to drive the park. It willl generate the quickest buck for the developers. They are going around claiming they acored a major coup.

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