STANISLAUS COUNTY — Planners throughout Stanislaus County would lower long-term growth expectations under a proposal going before regional leaders Wednesday.
At the same meeting, leaders could debate whether to ask voters again for a road tax, possibly in November 2014.
Forecasts for population growth by 2035 would be dialed down 6 percent compared with numbers from a previous study two years ago, reflecting pessimism among experts as the economy refuses to rebound.
Some indicators, such as unemployment and homeownership rates, could change permanently to reflect "a new normal," according to the latest study, commissioned by transportation agencies throughout the eight-county San Joaquin Valley.
"The deep recession, the slow pace of recovery, and the lingering effects of the collapse of the housing and financial markets have caused many demographic measures to deviate from long-term trends," the report reads.
Despite downsizing expectations, the "San Joaquin Valley Demographic Forecasts" still predicts that the eight counties will balloon from 3.97 million people in 2010 to 6.74 million in 2050, a nearly 70 percent increase. That would require an average of 1.33 percent growth each year.
Stanislaus County can expect yearly growth of about 1.3 percent, compared with 1.4 percent in San Joaquin County and 1.5 percent in Merced County, the study says.
Stanislaus Council of Governments staff members used the valleywide predictions to formulate some of their own, including numbers specific to the county's nine cities. Modesto's 201,165 people in 2010 could jump to 279,331 by 2040 but that 39 percent rate would keep it the slowest-growing city in the county, while Patterson could more than double, from 20,413 to 46,124.
StanCOG leaders are scheduled to consider the forecasts Wednesday. If adopted, they would be used in documents throughout the county and its cities to help plan for housing, roads and economic development.
The update is coming sooner than expected. Transportation agencies must redo numbers every four years, and StanCOG isn't due for a couple of years but is benefiting from the valleywide report, done by a University of Utah professor and The Planning Center/DC&E.
The valley could add 3.2 million Latinos by 2050, while losing 892,000 non-Latino whites. Annually, that's 2.6 percent more Latinos and 2.4 percent fewer whites.
Depletion of whites could occur faster in San Joaquin County 3.4 percent each year, compared with 2.2 percent in Stanislaus and 1.7 percent in Merced.
Older Bay Area people seem to like Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties if they retire and relocate.
The number of homes without children is expected to grow by 2050.
Homeownership in the United States peaked at 69 percent in 2004, but has declined and is expected to keep going down.
As far as a road tax, Stanislaus last asked voters for approval in 2008 and barely fell short, capturing 66.42 percent approval but needing 66.67 percent.
Roads, pollution and "overall quality of life" will deteriorate in coming decades as more people inhabit the valley while money for road projects declines, a report says.
StanCOG staff isn't taking sides in the debate between those hoping to boost the economy and those unwilling to put further strain on struggling residents.
Leaders are eying two bills in Sacramento that could lower the threshold for voters approving taxes from two-thirds to 55 percent. If approved by legislators, California voters are not likely to confront the idea before November 2014 and it isn't clear whether a local road tax could appear on the same ballot, a report says.
The Stanislaus Council of Governments is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the agency's third-floor boardroom, 1111 I St., Modesto.
On the Net: www.stancog.org/policy-board.shtm.
Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2390.
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