View From Lodi, CA: Immigration-Driven Sprawl Continues To Appall

I`m surrounded by earthmovers,
swirling dust and development. And with

Lowe`s and the Wal-Mart Super Store
a certainty, I
wonder when the last square mile of open space in Lodi
will be paved over.

Less than a half-mile north of my
home, the

“Tienda Place”
housing development nears completion.
That will add 150 new houses to what our town fathers
like to call

“Loveable, Livable Lodi.”
That label may have been
appropriate at one time but no longer.

Driving south, three more
developments—Main Street and Century Meadows One and Two
have started construction.

“Tienda Place” is right on Lodi`s
already overcrowded main thoroughfare Highway 12; the
other homes are on Harney Lane, another well traveled

Heading further south toward
Stockton, it is readily apparent that any talk of
preserving the “Greenbelt” that separates Lodi and
Stockton is whistling past the graveyard. Driving west
on Eight Mile Road toward Interstate 5, the vista is
houses, houses and more houses.

Officially confirming what anyone
with eyes in his head already knows, the U.S. Census
Bureau recently issued a bleak compilation of population
data titled “City Population Estimates.”

The statistics– which rank the
fastest-growing cities in the country from the period
between April 1st 2000 and July 1st
2002—laid out the obvious: California`s population is
up, up and away.

Among California cities with 10,000
or more residents, Lodi ranked 75th in terms
of population growth according to percentage increase.

Unless you view growth the same way
a baseball fan views the pennant race, 75th
place is pretty good. Most of Lodi`s neighbors like
Tracy (6th), Galt (16th). Turlock,
(33rd), Antioch, (34th), Stockton,
(48th) and Sacramento (68th)
finished higher.

The bad news, however, is that
Lodi`s net population increase of 3,648 represents 6.4%

While it is true that Lodi`s
percentage of population growth is less than Tracy
(26.8%) or Galt (15.6%), it is an alarming rate
nevertheless. Lodi and other once quaint San Joaquin
Valley agricultural towns are changing right before our

But Lodi, Galt and Tracy play just
a small role in the national trend of population shifts
to the southwestern United States.

Of the top 100 fastest growing
cities in the U.S., California has 39. The Los Angeles
suburbs of Irvine (+13.3%), Rancho Cucamonga (+12.5%),
Chula Vista (+11.7%) and Fontana (11.4%) rank sixth
through ninth.

The federal census figures define
more sharply an earlier 2003 report by the California
Department of Finance that found that California`s
population, now nearly 36 million, increased by 591,000
since last year.

The DOF report stated that
Los Angeles County
posted the highest annual numerical population gain in
the state, adding 162,200 people in 2002 to bring its
total to 9,979,600. Next was Riverside County, which
added 60,200 (total: 1.7 million) and San Diego County
ranked third in population gain, posted an increase of
53,100 (total 3.0 million).

According to Hans Johnson, a
demographer at the Public Policy Institute of
California, the combination of more affordable homes and
a cheaper cost of living were the major factors in the
huge growth rates in these towns.

: A more significant factor is
immigration`s impact. A recent Californians for
Population Stabilization

demographic report
showed that virtually 100% of California`s population
growth is

driven by immigration.

And at the CAPS 2000 conference
held at the University of Southern California, another
report titled “Sprawl in California: A Report on
Quantifying the Role of the State`s Population Boom.”
emphasized that California sprawl comes from population
growth and not per capita land use.

If you are thinking of escaping to
Arizona or Nevada, think again. The Arizona cities of
Gilbert (+22.8%), Chandler (+14.4%) and Peoria (+13.4%)
were the fastest growing in that state. Gilbert is the
number one growth city in the nation. And in an
interesting footnote, Peoria, AZ. with 123,339 residents
is now larger than Peoria, Ill. with 112,670.

One Gilbert resident, Rachelle
Iadicicco, who recently moved from St. Louis (-1.3%) two
years ago said, “There are two kinds of roads in
Gilbert: under construction and not enough lanes."

(Read a report on sprawl in
Arizona, also being revised and updated,


In Nevada, for years the destination of choice for
disgruntled Californians, the news is no better. North
Las Vegas, Nev. (+17.7%) and Henderson, Nev. were tops
among the states fastest growing cities.

At one time, demographers predicted that California`s
population would reach 50 million by 2050. Based on
current estimates, we might get there by 2030. And when
California reaches that inevitable population milestone,
there will be many more questions—all of which we should
be asking now– than there will be answers. Where will
the money to build schools and provide social services
come from? Will there be water and electricity. How will
we cope with the congestion? Does quality of life mean

What the future holds for the southwest is unclear.
But the picture doesn`t look pretty.

Two things are certain, however. One is that the
current rate of population growth is not sustainable.

And second,

“smart growth”
—a term land developers invented and
love—is dead in the water.

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