Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Smart growth would be boon to Vallejo, group says

By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

It may be wishful thinking, but the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) announced Tuesday how the Bay Area will look in 25 years if smart growth principles are adopted.

In Vallejo, that could mean nearly 50,000 more people, each earning almost $19,000 more yearly than today's residents, said ABAG senior regional planner Brian Kirking.

As a region's population multiplies, "smart growth" preserves open space and provides adequate local jobs and housing. It also plans development around existing infrastructure.

Under those conditions, by 2030 the number of jobs in Vallejo would increase by half, Kirking said.

"Vallejo would have more growth under this model than under the current trend, probably at the expense of Vacaville and Dixon," Kirking said. That's because Vallejo doesn't have many undeveloped areas and is more amenable to redevelopment as opposed to sprawl. It's also closer to transportation than cities like Rio Vista, he said.

ABAG also forecast that the Bay Area will add 2 million more people and 1.4 million jobs by 2030, if it adopts smart growth attitudes.

By then, Solano County's population will swell to well over a half -million, ABAG spokeswoman Kathleen Cha said.

In Vallejo, the population would grow from an estimated 125,000 next year to nearly 172,000 a quarter-century from now. In fact, Vallejo is on track to be the fifth fastest-growing Bay Area city, following San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Fremont, ABAG analyst Hing Wong said.

Locally, the number of households and the median income are expected to rise.

Solano County's median household income next year will be $73,400, ABAG predicts. By 2030, it should be $97,100.

Vallejo's would rise from $68,000 to $86,400 during the same period, Cha said.

"Growth is expected to be slower in the first 10 years," and much faster in the following 15 years, Cha said.

Solano County is expected to lose agriculture and national resources jobs, Wong said. The majority of them - 27,620 - will be in Fairfield.

Vallejo should get 21,020 new jobs, mostly in health, education and recreation services industries, he said.

Solano County will significantly increase its available housing, adding more than 63,000 units by 2030, nearly a quarter of those in Vallejo, Wong said.

ABAG economist Paul Fassinger said half the Bay Area's population growth will result from births exceeding deaths and half from migration from outside the area.

Despite a job and income loss in recent years, the Bay Area remains attractive to newcomers, Fassinger said. He predicted most Bay Area job growth will be in the information technology, travel and tourism, finance, education, health and research fields.

ABAG's forecasts, produced every two years, are based on input from cities, communities, planners, business experts and activists, Wong said. They are used by other regional agencies, like the Metropolitan Transportation Agency and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, to make regulatory and funding decisions. They also are used by local jurisdictions for land use planning and by individuals and organizations examining their long-term Bay Area objectives.

That's why ABAG intentionally tried to make predictions to "push" a smart growth agenda, Kirking said.

"It relies on the philosophy that smart growth is better," Kirking said. "Smart growth requires less new infrastructure and preserves open space. We hope to cause people to think differently. We don't expect changes overnight. In fact, we don't expect any change for the first several years."

If the projections prove off base, Kirking said, they will be revised.

While ABAG's predictions have proven "fairly accurate," in the past, "you must take them with a grain of salt because many things can change," Wong said.

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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