Forbes is dead wrong. Sacramento is not the fifth most miserable city to live in the United States.
Yes, we lost 18,000 jobs last year, the greatest number of them in government and real estate. Yes, we’ve been cited as the nation’s third weakest job market, worse even than Detroit.
But with respect to Detroit, the town I was born in, these surveys fail to capture numerous other factors that define the quality of life of a region. While cities like Detroit have been depressed for decades, and have lost population at an alarming rate, Sacramento continues to grow.
Probably not because it’s so miserable.
Sacramento is growing because of its quality of life, its outstanding climate, its diverse neighborhoods, its excellent universities, its great recreational opportunities centered on two major rivers, and its evolving central city that has become the dynamic core of the region.
While Detroit and other cities deserve praise for their efforts to revitalize, they simply can’t offer what Sacramento does.
Getting to where we are now and progressing from it required establishing a vision, developing plans to get there and then taking the bold steps needed to make the plans reality. The American River Parkway is the most stunning and tangible example. Enjoyed annually by some eight million visitors, it wouldn’t have been possible without the foresight and hard work of the county, beginning in 1959, to plan and secure the funding to set aside 23 miles of parkland from Folsom Dam to where the American River joins the Sacramento River.
More recently, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments Blueprint, approved in 2005, maps the type and location of growth in this region for years to come. While the Blueprint is a remarkable achievement which received national acclaim, perhaps its most fundamental legacy is educational. The general public – and area decision-makers at all levels – now understand there is a different way to evolve, based on responsible growth principles that emphasize building diverse communities that are walkable and close to transit, jobs, and recreational space.
These principles have been advanced even further through recent legislation such as AB 32, California’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction law, which requires us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and SB 375, which links land use and transportation improvements in a region to strategies that reduce auto use and minimize climate change effects.
Preparing good plans that achieve consensus among diverse competing interests is tough. After four years of work, the City of Sacramento adopted a new general plan that incorporates many of the Blueprint principles and will set the stage for compact future growth consistent with SB 375. The County of Sacramento General Plan , also based on Blueprint principles, has been underway for a longer period but now appears to be nearing the finish line. Other efforts in the region have been going on for 15 years or more. While progress has been made, the finish line is still off. If and when habitat conservation plans are finished in Yolo County and South Sacramento, they will set aside valuable habitats and create more certainty for developers about “the rules of the game” governing their obligations for attaining state and federal permits.
Perhaps the most challenging and important effort underway is the plan currently being prepared by the Delta Stewardship Council on the future of the Delta, one of California’s most unique ecosystems and the wheelhouse through which water moves from the north to the south. Mandated by legislation in 2009, the plan, which must be adopted by the end of this year, attempts to harmonize dual goals of restoring the Delta while ensuring the delivery of a secure supply of water to millions of Californians.
A first draft was issued on Valentine’s Day.
What’s important now is to complete these planning efforts to lay a strong foundation for a future that – sooner than we think – will double the region’s population. We need to protect and enhance the quality of life now, just like the American River Parkway effort did years ago and the Blueprint did more recently.
Ed’s Note: Bill Ziebron is Vice President of Northern California for Dudek.