A Smart Growth Report Card: The methodology

October 26, 2008 

Growth patterns — good or bad — are products of city and county government policies and practices. To understand how the San Joaquin Valley is growing, it’s helpful to take a hard look at these policies.

The Modesto Bee, assisted by planning experts, drafted a survey to assess and rank those planning policies. Questions were tailored to reflect realities in the San Joaquin Valley. The survey incorporates widely accepted smart-growth principles and reflects specific goals pinpointed in the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley’s strategic action proposal.

The 55 multiple-choice questions for cities are grouped in nine sections: Public outreach (seven questions), development (five), fees (six), transportation & infrastructure (eight), design (eight), amenities (six), affordability (seven), agriculture & open space (four) and economic development (four.)

The 40 multiple choice questions for counties are grouped by public outreach (five questions), development (four), fees (seven), agriculture (11), wildlife & resources (four), transportation (five) and economic development (four.)

The questions evaluate planning policies, not on-the-ground realities. The exception is amenities, which gauges public leisure and educational spaces such as museums, libraries and plazas.

A public policy class at California State University, Stanislaus, staffed phone banks and polled 68 planning heads across the eight-county valley from October 2007 through January 2008. Planners were then given several opportunities to refine and reform their answers. Scores are presented as percentages.

-- Michael R. Shea

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