"Great place to raise your children."
"Balance of urban and farmland."
These and dozens of similar comments about Lodi were sketched onto large sheets of paper last night and taped to the walls inside Hutchins Street Square.
They're the qualities Lodi residents like about their city, and want to maintain.
And while they're just words on paper, the 60 or so residents who attended last night's San Joaquin Valley Blueprint meeting hope they're a step toward preserving quality of life for future generations.
The blueprint is intended to be a guide to growth, transportation and environmental challenges through 2050.
Eight Valley counties are participating in the project. Each plans to complete its own blueprint through community input and an eventual vote by city and county leaders.
Quotes from attendees at the blueprint meeting• "You sort of see so much ag land slipping away. I see it as a problem."
- Sarah Rose Wentling, a freshman at the University of the Pacific, enrolled in a seminar on city planning
• "I think our biggest issue is maintaining a small community, and not overcrowding. … Everyone should care (about planning for Lodi's future). Everyone should be a part of this."
- Steve Barrington, another UOP freshman enrolled in the seminar
• "The need is for people to offer houses for the low-income. There's a big need."
- Paula Soto, a Lodi resident and community social services assistant for San Joaquin County
• "We know there needs to be change. We don't want to see urban growth taking place on ag land."
- Lodi Planning Commissioner Doug Kuehne
• "If you don't (begin planning) now, it's likely going to be too late down the road."
- Mike Swearingen, senior regional planner for the San Joaquin Council of Governments
- News-Sentinel Staff.
Controlling regional sprawl and its symptoms - air pollution, congested roadways and a loss of open space - are keys to keeping Lodi, and the Valley, livable, several residents said.
San Joaquin County's population alone is expected to double by 2030 and grow by more than a million people by 2050, according to regional planners.
"The bottom line is the status quo is not acceptable, especially when we look at protecting the Valley for future generations," said Lorinda Jonard, a nurse who lives in Lodi, speaking during the meeting.
Maintaining Lodi's agriculture industry was among the top priorities for nearly all attendees, from farmers to politicians to business leaders to several college students at the meeting.
"To lose that (industry), we lose what our economy is built on and what our society is built on," said Vanessa McDonald, a freshman at the University of the Pacific, who attended the meeting with several classmates.
They each are enrolled in a city planning seminar.
While ag was cited throughout the meeting, deciding how to preserve it wasn't clear.
"The people who are in ag and who are in urban areas see this totally differently," noted Lodi Chamber of Commerce President Pat Patrick.
Some residents and city leaders see imposing a barrier or greenbelt between growth and ag as the answer. Yet many farmers want city leaders to take a "hands-off" approach to the issue, Patrick said.
The blueprints won't be legally binding documents. But they will represent the numerous residents throughout the Valley counties, said Mike Swearingen, senior regional planner for the San Joaquin Council of Governments, which is coordinating the blueprint project.
Ann Cerney, a longtime Lodi resident and activist, said she was encouraged so many people showed up last night.
A second blueprint meeting will be held in Lodi this fall.
"It's very seldom that you would do something like this and see this kind of participation," Cerney said.