Drilling down into Stockton’s growth

Well, wonks, here’s more to chew on after reading today’s column about the mayor’s proposal to chop developer fees.

First — which I should have got in there — the city of Lodi cut fees. Lodi slashed fees from $14,590 per house to $5,940, but expected to break even through efficiencies.

Pending a reply from John Beckman of the Building Industry of the Delta, who provided the report, it is unclear to me whether the city of Stockton could scale up such a reduction and recover a much larger revenue loss through efficiencies even in the best of times. Let alone when the city is already running lean.

Here’s the Lodi report: Fee Reduction Staff Report Lodi

Second is the report written by Jeff Michael of UOP’s Business Forecasting Center at the behest of Beckman after Mayor Silva floated his proposal (and this is typical of Stockton’s lightweight mayor. Analysis of impacts the mayor probably never even considered had to be outsurced). Michael analyzes the economic impact of building, not of fee reduction. His analysis looks at things countywide, not citywide, but says 80% of the benefits would go to Stockton.

UOP BIA Development Impact Analysis

Next up is a Canadian study on sprawl. Its conclusion: “The signs suggest we will need to be more aware of the hidden costs and consider innovative ways to create denser urban form.”

And therein lies the rub. When cities started sprawling after World War II, no one understood the true cost of sprawl or the problems it would bring in its train. Urbanists have a better handle on it now — better, but far from complete, and the costs remain much in dispute.

So were the city of Stockton to OK the mayor’s proposal it would be playing cards with a lot of jokers in the deck; the unknown long-term costs of sprawl to the city;  the unknown funds in the city bank of developer fees; the incomplete General Plan 2035 and whether this proposal would integrate into the plan or not.

My opinion is that the city needs to get its act together before it undertakes a financial commitment such as this. A bankrupt city on a tight budget needs to know exactly what it’s doing before it offers discounts. But the counter-argument, that this is an in-between measure to generate economic activity until the city planning catches up, is not without merit.

For another opinon, here’s Stockton City Limits.



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