View From Lodi, CA: Lodi, CA. Votes "No" On Growth (Development) Moratorium
August 18, 2006, 05:00 AM
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Lodi Mayor Susan Hitchcock is my personal friend. And through our professional association at the Lodi Unified School District, we are also colleagues.

My obligation to disclaim now satisfied, I can candidly say that I admire and applaud Hitchcock's willingness to go against the grain by calling for talks about how to manage Lodi growth over the next several years.

I am Hitchcock's ally in her quest for—gasp!—a growth moratorium in Lodi.

Sadly, by a 3-2 vote, the City Council defeated the enlightened cause of a growth pause with Hitchcock and Councilmember JoAnne Mounce voting in favor and John Beckman, Larry Hansen and Bob Johnson voting against.

Hitchcock argued her case well if not successfully. In her interview with the News-Sentinel published on August 3, she said: "We're looking at over 4,000 homes. I don't think we have the staff to handle it."

Moratorium skeptics abound. Among the two most prominent are Vice Mayor Johnson and Councilman Hansen who fear that Lodi could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in vital tax revenues if a moratorium were established.

Big projects like the Blue Shield office development could be shelved.

And judging from the posts to News-Sentinel reporter Jake Armstrong's story, " What If The Hammers Stopped," plenty of Lodi residents share Johnson and Hansen's views. Many readers indicated that growth (i.e., development) is not only key to Lodi's future but also inevitable.

Although the members of the development and business coalition, led by the Chamber of Commerce, doomed the moratorium, I salute Hitchcock for going head-to-head with them. The growth industry is nothing less than a well-oiled, well-financed alliance.

Challenging it, as Hitchcock did, is a brave undertaking.

Just look at the top of California's influence sphere to understand what the odds are of reining in growth.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has received more than $16 million dollars in political campaign donations from real estate and development companies; a sum larger than any other special interest group contributed to him.

Not far behind in their contributions to Schwarzenegger are other powerful donors—the finance, retail and food and grocery industries. Their bottom lines also grow proportionately with increased development.

As the hotly debated issue of Lodi's growth moves ahead, a few elements of the argument should be kept in the forefront of everyone's mind.

First, Hitchcock requested "a temporary growth moratorium" so that city management can study and adjust development fees to "to make sure that development pays for itself and the burden isn't transferred to current taxpayers."

I agree. And I thank Hitchcock for taking her mayoral responsibilities seriously by forcing a discussion about the future. A pause to thoughtfully create a balanced strategy for growth is called for.

From a quality of life viewpoint, Lodi needs to take a deep breath.

Look for example at Vintner's Square. The project is perfectly fine as far as shopping centers go. The drawback is that Vintner's Square creates no added value for Lodi. Whatever Vintner's Square offers is readily available elsewhere in town.

Second, a popular notion advanced by pro-growth advocates to defend their position is that Lodi has established a modest 2 percent growth rate.

But 2 percent growth is huge. Assuming a base population of 60,000 in 2006, 2 percent becomes 74,000 in 2016 and nearly 90,000 by 2026. Is that the Lodi that you want your children and grandchildren to live in?

If you answered, "Yes," then I ask you to mull over this. A recent San Gabriel Tribune editorial about our record breaking heat wave, made the following observation: "Experts say three weeks of relentless heat and smothering humidity that punished livestock, pushed power systems to the brink and killed more than 140 people statewide are a harbinger of hotter days ahead. They say nature, pollution and over-development joined to create a perfect storm of heat and humidity..." [Urban sprawl, pollution cited in temperature rise, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Jul 30, 2006]

Now project out twenty years to get some idea of what lies ahead for Lodi's children and grandchildren if growth continues unabated.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.