Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Unknown by Most, Plans Made by our City Planners…Next Meeting 8/19/13 at 6 PM

By Karla von Hungen

Have we got a plan for you.  It is going to solve our air pollution problems, improve our economy,
English: Author: Carl Skaggs This image was ta...transportation and provide housing for just about everybody.  We will have more biking trails and more places to walk.  Doesn’t this sound like a city you want to live in?   Welcome to Smart Growth or Sustainable Cities brought to you by StanCOG called Valley Vision Stanislaus.

The more I looked into the Sustainable City idea, the more I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she lifted the curtain.  Here is the truth.
Cities will be required to follow the sustainable city formula made up of the three “E’s”, economy, environment and equity (social justice). These mandates, emanating from SB 375, will kill many city budgets and change forever so many unique and safe neighborhoods.  This plan is hardly smart and it is far from sustainable.
Have you seen what our City planners have in store for us?  Did you attend the latest Planning Commission Workshop on July 15, 2013?  Check out the 56-page set of documents attached to their agenda.  Nestled in these pages are maps where the City intends to build high density housing and two to three-story apartment units which will be for low-income individuals, euphemistically called “fair share housing.”
Read their definition of complete neighborhoods.  Among the characteristics of a complete neighborhood is a mix of housing types affordable to all income levels.  This housing must be placed along transportation corridors to allow convenient access to public transportation.
Where are these transportation corridors in Modesto?  According to this draft plan, they are McHenry Ave, Yosemite Blvd., Crows Landing Rd, Paradise Road, Maze Blvd, North 9th Street and others as needed.
Reviewing the  four maps illustrating where high density housing is being planned, I found two on McHenry Ave, one on Yosemite Blvd and one on Crows Landing Road.  The housing on North 9th is already being built.
For the sake of the length of this article, I will only discuss the two developments proposed by our City Planners on McHenry Ave at this time. The first is to build  20 two and three-story “multi-family units” on a .8 acre plot of land on McHenry Ave. between Elmwood Ct and Stoddard Avenue.  That particular neighborhood is a historical rare gem containing some of the most unique and interesting homes in Modesto.  It does not take much thought to realize the negative impact this high density housing would have on the immediate neighborhood.
The second proposal is a 5.5 acre site on McHenry Ave bordered by West Granger Ave, Timothy Ave and Judith Lane where they plan to build 76 townhome units and 90 two and three story multi family units. I walked the property and could not help but notice that there were businesses sitting within these borders.  I decided to visit one of them and spoke with a manager and showed her the plans.  She was speechless.  She had no idea all of this was in the works.  She told me she would contact the owner to let him know. No one I spoke to – business owners or home owners – had any knowledge of the Plan.  Most people’s initial reactions were something like, “Oh they would not do that” or “This will never happen” to “Why would the City think this is a good idea?”
The point that really drove home for me was the fact that no one seems to know about this, especially those most directly affected.  According to the Valley Vision Stanislaus website” This is a collaborative, open, transparent and inclusive process engaging businesses, community organizations and elected officials throughout Stanislaus County.” I have complained before the Modesto City Council, the StanCOG Policy Board and the Valley Vision committee meetings about the fact that the citizens of Modesto have no idea what is coming their way.  However, I am met with pat answers that since there were public workshops conducted, proper notification was done.  I ask you, the reader, do you know about any of this?
How can anyone think building more high density housing is good for Modesto?  The city receives no property taxes for this housing.  Who can say how much revenue is lost from the businesses in the bull’s eye of these plans?  It makes no sense.  As it is, cities in the Valley are struggling to support what they already have. We don’t have enough water, our fire and police departments are stretched thin, and schools will be overwhelmed.  Services have been trimmed and likewise the quality of life has spiraled downward.
Amazingly, the Plan touts local control, yet in reality, our tax dollars are hijacked to fund subsidized housing, forcing the cities to plan for falsely inflated population targets, and cities’ transit budgets are held hostage until they comply.  That is outrageous.  If the plan is so great, why use such deceptive data and strong arm tactics?
If we, the citizens, don’t stop this, it will happen.  Attend the next Planning Commission meeting on August 19th at 6:00 PM at the Modesto City Council Chambers. Watch for upcoming workshops put on by Valley Vision Stanislaus which can be found at valleyvisionstanislaus.com. Let your voice be heard. Fight for your city.  If this plan goes through, we might find ourselves one day looking around and saying to ourselves, like Dorothy, “I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.”
Karla von Hungen
Modesto Resident
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