Young, old tell Stockton planners needs of city

Record (Stockton, CA), 2014-07-25

July 25 -- STOCKTON -- When Garrett Daniells learned city officials were eager for young adults to participate in a new effort to chart Stockton's future, he decided he wanted to become involved.

Daniells, 22, was among the youngest members of a standing-room-only turnout Thursday night at City Hall that arrived not for a City Council meeting but for the first in a series of Planning Commission workshops focused on addressing the needs of Stockton's neighborhoods and communities.

"Being active, putting in my 2 cents , is going to bring a lot more change than sitting at my computer complaining about what is and is not being done," said Daniells, a neon sign technician and artist. "People my age and in their early 30s are going to be the people starting businesses and doing things here to either make or break the city."

Additional workshops are slated for the fourth Thursday each month through 2014 as the city works to update a 6-year-old General Plan officials say is outdated and lacking in innovative approaches for upgrading Stockton's neighborhoods, particularly downtown and on the south side.

Community Development Director Steve Chase has asked specifically for younger residents to participate in the ongoing workshop process. Daniells and his girlfriend, 25-year-old Jackie Embry , said they were drawn by Chase's call-out to millennials.

"We don't have the youth power," said Embry, an interior designer. "All our young people move to the Bay Area or somewhere else. ... I don't see all of the bad in Stockton . You make your experience here what it is."

Daniells and Embry were among the youngest attendees at the workshop. Most who turned out were middle-age or elderly. Planning Commissioner Christina Fugazi said her one disappointment was that more south Stockton residents did not participate.

Yet age and geography did not produce a major split in opinion. Many speakers cited most urgently the needs of downtown and the south side, the lack of groceries in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, voids in public transportation and a dearth of walkable neighborhoods.

"Downtown belongs to all of Stockton ," said Trevor Atkinson of the smart-growth Campaign for Common Ground . "The city needs a downtown we can be proud of. Right now, we're a long way from that."

Rose Benitez , 81, said the neglect of south Stockton "blows my mind." She added, "These people need arts, transportation and education."

Motecuzoma Sanchez, who earlier this year ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the City Council , asked planners to recognize the "invisible barriers in Stockton ," referring to data that shows that life expectancy for residents of neighboring ZIP codes in the city can vary by two decades.

Kari McNickle , a 27-year-old planner with the San Joaquin Council of Governments and vice chairwoman of the San Joaquin Bike Coalition , asked the city to dedicate a future workshop to transportation.

"I think it's incredibly important," McNickle said of the workshops. "The decisions being made are going to affect my future. It's very important for my age group to be involved in this."

Forrest Ebbs , the city's deputy director of community development, said he was pleased with Thursday's gathering.

"This is important work we're doing," Ebbs said. "It has a very grass-roots feel to it."

Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or . Follow him at and on Twitter @rphillipsblog.


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