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Outlook2014 February 23, 2014

Special Section

MOV NG

FORWARD

downtown stockton revival? Yes, that subject has come up before. But with the recession and crime worries on the wane, ideas for Stockton’s core are percolating. One good sign: an abundance of schools. PAGE 3

those containers hold prosperity The Port of Stockton’s vaunted Marine Highway has set sail. Among other projects in the works, the port would like to boost river traffic to and from Oakland. PAGE 10

The Record

INNOVATE

in s.j., agriculture is king Some things never change. Ag is still San Joaquin County’s No. 1 industry and is likely to remain so. What’s changing is the way crops are raised and processed. PAGE 12


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Downtown Stockton as seen Jan. 31 from the Cort Tower, which stands at Main and Sutter streets. The Port of Stockton and Mount Diablo are in the distance.

Ideas abound for downtown As recession wanes, old questions about Stockton’s core resurface

By Roger Phillips Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — As the city prepares for its presumed exit from bankruptcy a few months from now, timeworn questions once again are being considered by those with an interest in Stockton’s future. Where does downtown go from here? Will it remain a place that draws government workers by day but empties at night? Is adding more residential space the first step in a revival? Or do the amenities that make an urban space attractive have to start to be in place before residents will consider moving downtown? There are no easy answers. “Whatever we do, we need to prioritize,” said Micah Runner, hired last year as Stockton’s economic development director. “We have to figure out if we’re going to put the effort in, where are we going to start?” In fact, one encouraging downtown trend already has begun. In recent years, downtown has become a magnet for charter schools. Stockton Collegiate International School opened in 2010, and children from the K-12 campus pack the streets

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Dan Cort in his namesake tower’s office. Cort says that in five years, there will be new housing downtown — he predicted somewhere between 400 and 1,000 new units. on weekdays. A bit farther east, TEAM Charter opened its doors as a K-5 school in 2012. Developer Dan Cort, an advocate for downtown revival, spoke recently to a group that included many retired businesspeople and brought up the success of the new schools in Stockton’s core. “If we can get your kids to go to school down there,” he asked, “why can’t we get your busi-

nesses down there?” It’s not like there hasn’t been an effort. Before the Great Recession, millions of dollars were spent in an attempt to spark a downtown rebirth. The Weber Point Events Center, the downtown movie theater complex, Stockton Arena and Stockton Ballpark were among the results. The construction projects used the city’s waterfront as the

focal point for a planned rebirth of downtown that was expected to spread outward. But that organic growth has yet to occur. Now, though, with the economy recovering and Stockton preparing to move past bankruptcy, there is new hope for business, housing and neighborhood growth downtown. The general idea is to find ways to market the area as a trendy place for those eager

to leave suburbia in favor of a walkable urban lifestyle. Those who think about such things approach the matter from a variety of angles. Late last year, Community Development Director Steve Chase alluded to discussions with officials at several universities about the possibility of opening a satellite campus downtown. Others speak of finding ways to give young entrepreneurs a vastly more affordable opportunity to establish new, innovative businesses than they would find in San Francisco or elsewhere in the Bay Area. “The idea is to introduce a culture and work force of technology in downtown Stockton that we don’t have right now,” said Leandro Vicuña, head of the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Ultimately, though, the rebirth of downtown is likely to hinge on attracting people to live there. “If people are living downtown, we don’t have to convince them to come downtown,” Runner said. Cort predicted that within five years there will be anywhere from 400 to 1,000 new housing units in the downtown core. John Beckman, who heads

the Building Industry Association of the Delta, was slightly more conservative in his projections, but he said he could envision as many as 200 new housing units downtown within three years. If people start moving to the city’s core, it is likely they will do so because they see glimmers of hope that downtown is progressing in its effort to achieve some measure of urban cachet. Some observers, such as Runner, believe the growth of small “activity nodes” — blocks here and there with restaurants and trendy shops — will be the springboard to a livelier downtown. Others pin their hopes on long-discussed redevelopment of a 10-block stretch of Miner Avenue from the waterfront east to the Robert J. Cabral train station. Regardless, Cort says the time for action is now. “If we don’t do what we’re supposed to do now, it’s at our own peril,” he said. “Let’s finish the infill of our city. People will come down here.” Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or rphillips@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/ phillipsblog or on Twitter @ rphillipsblog.

Fear fades as police force grows, crime drops By Jason Anderson Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — Stockton’s police force is growing, violent crime is on the decline, and the sense of fear that gripped large swaths of San Joaquin County in recent years has begun to subside, community leaders affirm. Homicides were down 54.9 percent and violent crimes decreased by 21.9 percent in Stockton in 2013, according to statistics released by the Stockton Police Department. Law enforcement officials, civic leaders, business leaders and community members agree there is more work to do, but they said the perception of public safety is improving in Stockton and surrounding communities throughout the county. “The perception has changed,” Downtown Stockton Alliance Chief Executive Officer Leandro Vicuña said. “There’s a bigger sense of security in light of the changes that have happened over the past year. We’re trending in the right direction, and that’s exactly what Stockton needs.” Vicuña and other community members credited local, state and federal law enforcement agencies for their efforts to fight an epidemic of violence after Stockton set city records with 58 homicides in 2011 and 71 in 2012. Some cite the implementation of Operation Ceasefire,

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Stockton police Officer Jeremy Estarziau patrols Janet Leigh Plaza in downtown Stockton. The Downtown Stockton Alliance is paying for two bicycle-patrol officers. the creation of the Community Response Team and other multiagency law enforcement missions. Others point to smaller initiatives such as the return of officers who patrol downtown Stockton streets on bicycles.

“The Downtown Stockton Alliance was the agency that paid for two fulltime bike patrol officers to canvas all of downtown, and they were doing an excellent job,” Vicuña said. “With the addition of two additional

bike patrol officers, funded by the City of Stockton, we put together an excellent and comprehensive canvassing of the entire downtown area. “Downtown business owners have been very pleased with

the additional coverage and the reduction of loitering, panhandling and assaults. The fact that those have been reduced has led to a heightened sense of public safety. Obviously, when those things occur, it disrupts business, and when you see less of that, business begins to thrive more,” he said. Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones agreed that crime can be bad for businesses. “We as a police department know that two things really play into how safe people feel within their community: No. 1, the actual crime that occurs; and No. 2, but probably an even bigger factor, is their perceptions of safety and security. Regardless, actual and perceived fear is very important, and we recognize that public safety has a big role in that. We also recognize that a safe community brings more business to an area and helps with economic development.” Jones noted that he and his staff attend many community meetings, including meetings held by Neighborhood Watch groups, the Downtown Stockton Alliance, the Stockton Business Council and the South Stockton Merchants Association, among others. Jones said many business leaders have expressed concerns about quality-of-life issues such as blight, drug sales and prostitution. Jones plans to hire 120 new officers over the next three years, following

the recent passage of Measures A and B, which will allow the Police Department to address those issues as part of its threeyear strategic plan, Jones said. “I hear more often than not that people feel safer, but I also hear from the business community about frustrations with property crime and quality-oflife issues,” Jones said. “That is a primary reason why we’re really looking forward to rolling out our three-year strategic plan and, in particular, our Neighborhood Blitz teams, which are really going to go into neighborhoods and address those quality-of-life issues.” South Stockton Merchants Association President Mark Stebbins isn’t convinced that more officers will result in less crime, but he believes qualityof-life improvements will help. “I’m more interested in the economic conditions of people in Stockton and literacy and things like that, and also programs which are positive in terms of putting people in better life situations,” Stebbins said. “Those are things that will lead to less crime and a better business environment, and a better business environment is oftentimes part and parcel to less crime.” Contact reporter Jason Anderson at (209) 546-8279 or janderson@recordnet.com. Follow him at www.recordnet. com/crimeblog or on Twitter @Stockton911.


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Web moves education into fast lane Common Core looks to make students more well-rounded By Keith Reid Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Mick Founts thought back to his days as a high school English teacher in the 1990s and fondly recalled an annual assignment he gave his students called an I-Search paper. No, the I-Search was not any sort of official precursor to iPods or any of the genius marketing terms that Apple Computer executives have used to put the Internet into your pocket. However, in many ways, it is the precursor to something else, Founts said. The idea behind the I-Search assignments that prompted students of the past to make a hypothesis about a subject, then dig deep and research that subject to the point where they became experts and could write papers and give speeches about those topics, is the basic philosophy of the new Common Core standards to which public schools are now moving. “Only now we can do it so much faster,” Founts said. “I remember vividly one kid that did his I-Search on the Holocaust and how he had to go find textbooks and printed materials and how much he had to go through.” Take an I-Search and add an Internet-equipped iMac, and students can learn more, faster. The philosophy of Common Core has been around for decades, Founts said, but technology is the linchpin to making it teachable on a large scale. Common Core standards are being implemented in all of the state’s public school districts, replacing the No Child Left Behind act, which many educators felt promoted short-term memorization of many lessons over students being able to go in-depth to learn and master fewer topics. What that means in general terms is that schoolchildren will be tested based on their ability to read, write and explain their answers — some of it computerbased — instead of filling out multiple-choice bubbles with a No. 2 pencil. School campuses are equipped with Wi-Fi, and new computers are on order. Some schools already are piloting the programs, and others are readying for the full transition. Educators are excited. “The new expectations have a foundation in higher-level thinking skills and demand relevance and the application of knowledge. Knowledge is seen as a means to an end, not an end in and of itself,” said Randy Malandro, who was principal at McAuliffe Middle School during

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Michael Jones, 14, left, works with Ivan Tunnell during a counseling session Jan. 29 to assist in class options at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in Stockton. McAuliffe, in the Lodi Unified School District, was host recently to a Common Core pilot program. The new standards are now being implemented. and more ready for the work force, teachers and administrators say. “We keep hearing from colleges that kids aren’t coming in with the requisite knowledge. They know a slim piece of info, but not the whole concept,” Manteca Unified Director of Secondary Education Clara Schmiedt said. “We’re going to spend a lot of time and energy to produce a student that is much

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Kobe McGinley, 13, left, talks with Ren Pham-Peck about class options Jan. 29 at Christa McAuliffe Middle School in north Stockton.

Mick Founts As an English teacher, he would ask his students to research subjects in depth. a Common Core pilot program before recently being promoted to an administrative position in the Lodi Unified School District. “The Common Core includes greater collaboration and student problem-solving in an engaging atmosphere, where we honor and support the struggle rather than providing answers with the requisite student memorization,” Malandro said.

During a recent parent introduction to Common Core at McAuliffe, Malandro and his staff showed how the new curriculum will work and how many online resources are being made available to parents and their children. Quotes from McAuliffe students were shown a screen in the form of complaints, such as, “It’s more complex and harder. I do not like this because it makes me think.” Teachers see that and smile. Yet they have challenges ahead, too, in the way of being retrained to teach the standards. Ten years from now, those who went through Common Core will be more well-rounded

more well-rounded, can think critically, can face issues from everyday life and can be more career-ready than they have been.” In San Joaquin County, there’s a new push for career readiness over college readiness. College readiness is shifting more toward simply being part of a longer path to the work force, Founts said. “This Common Core is a

bridge to the future and a foreshadowing of the flexibility we are going to need to have to respond to ever-changing world — one that changes so quickly that kids need to be nimble, and educators need to be nimble,” Founts said. Contact reporter Keith Reid at (209) 546-8257 or kreid@ recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/edublog and on Twitter @kreidme.


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Nonprofits look to better days Donations down during recession By Scott Linesburgh Record Staff Writer

After coming through one of the toughest years for fundraising in recent memory, nonprofit organizations in San Joaquin County are hopeful the situation may be finally turning around. Since the economic downturn began in 2008, charitable groups have struggled to find ways to make up for lost donations. Andy Prokop, president and CEO of the United Way of San Joaquin County, said that last year, many of the area’s charity groups “hit bottom,” but already he sees signs of improvement. “In 2013, discretionary dollars became the least available since 2008,” Prokop said. “But at the start of the next (fiscal) year, we started to immediately recover. Based on the numbers, I think we hit bottom and immediately bounced back up. We think the economy has improved, and it’s helping us.��� Rich Good of the YMCA of San Joaquin County said he’s also seen some improvement overall but is cautious in his assessment. He noted he has seen a change in the type of donations his organization receives. “We have had more larger gifts, and some of our traditional guests have been opting out,” Good said. “In the last year we’re getting smaller gifts (from individuals), but some of our larger donors have been kind enough to loosen up their checkbooks.” The local nonprofit groups have had to climb out of a deep hole economically. The United Way disburses funds to many nonprofit groups throughout San Joaquin County, and Prokop said the budget for donations was $5 million in 2008. The number was down to 2.9 million last year. “When the economy got hit, each year we began free falling

Andy Prokop, president and CEO of the United Way of San Joaquin County: “It wasn’t that people didn’t want to help; it’s that I think many didn’t have anything to give.” in revenues, and you can see that there’s been quite a drop,” Prokop said. “The numbers dropped dramatically in 2010 to a budget of $3 million, and 2012-13 was the single toughest fundraising year. “People share with us the dollar that they feel is discretionary, and when they don’t think they have it, we feel it. That’s what we think happened 2008 to last year. It wasn’t that people didn’t want to help; it’s that I think many didn’t have anything to give.” Groups have tried to keep up their services the best they can, said Jeanie Miller, executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Manteca and Lathrop, which provides programs for approximately 1,500 youngsters in its area. She said about 75 percent of the children who use the programs come from low- to verylow-income families. “We’re serving more kids than we have in the past, and as a nonprofit, you are always looking for more revenue to serve even more,” Miller said. “We’re hoping to increase what we’ve been doing, and we’re definitely seeing some improvement.” Miller said the basics of nonprofit group fundraising hasn’t changed much over the years, except that there is more time spent researching potential donors than in the past. And nothing beats a good social event when it comes to raising money. “It seems people are always more willing to spend $45 on a crab feed than write a $45 check,” Good said. “People like to gather

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Liam Day, right, of the Raptors jumps for the block on the Nuggets’ Elijah Holmes during a YMCA basketball game Feb. 8 at Brookside Christian High School in Stockton. Rich Good of the YMCA of San Joaquin County has seen a rise in donations. and help others.” No matter what the method, nonprofit groups will always be dealing with finding ways to deal with the financial realities. “I think things are improving overall for nonprofits in general,” Miller said. “But the fact is that there’s more nonprofits out there than ever before. All of us provide these great services, but we’re always in need of additional funds to serve the population. That never changes.” Contact reporter Scott Linesburgh at (209) 546-8281 or slinesburgh@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/ sportsblog and on Twitter @scottlinesburgh.

Andy Prokop, who runs United Way of San Joaquin County, sees a recovery in progress. “People share with us the dollar that they feel is discretionary, and when they don’t think they have it, we feel it,” he said. Record File 2013


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Small business atwitter over social media Local shops use sites to connect with customers By Jennie Rodriguez-Moore Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — When Melissa Flores posts a photo on Facebook of a mannequin dressed in the latest trends, it doesn’t take long before someone responds. “They’ll comment, ‘Save that top for me,’ ” Flores said. And so she does, ready for that customer to stop by after work. Flores, owner of Remedy, a clothing store in Lincoln Center, has found that using social media to notify her customers of new merchandise has proved an effective marketing tool. Local shops have discovered that, in 2014, they face the challenge of competing with corporate retailers, as well as the growth in online shopping. But the solution to thriving has not been to imitate or match prices, some local retailers reported. They have found that by getting creative and emphasizing what sets them apart, they attract faithful customers. “I’m really big on using Facebook and Instagram,” said 32-year-old Flores, whose passion for style led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in apparel marketing and design and eventually open her own boutique. Flores said social media has allowed her to maintain a steady connection to her customers. She styles her mannequins, publishes the photos, and her online followers — they can be at work, at church or at home — get that alert on their phone. “People don’t go anywhere without their phone,” she said. And before she knows it, she is holding that outfit for someone. “People really love it,” she said. Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center

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Melissa Flores, owner of Remedy clothing store in Lincoln Center, uses Facebook and Instagram to promote new merchandise. Flores said she’ll get comments such as “Save that top for me,” and she’ll set it aside. “The world is changing,” Flores said. “You have to embrace it.” at the University of the Pacific, said the retail industry historically has seen only little growth and decline fluctuations. Recent local employment numbers coincide with that flat line he describes. The number of jobs in retail has remained around 25,000 for San Joaquin County for the past 10 to 15 years. “When you look at commercial space, there is definitely stronger growth in hospitality and restaurants than there is in retail,” Michael said. “People

just haven’t figured out how to get a hamburger online yet.” Where Michael does see change is in the structure of the industry — how merchandise is supplied. Traditional retailers, large and small, are continuing to face intense competition from online retailers, he said. Consumers find convenience and access to more selection online. Local mom and pop retailers additionally have to contend with larger retailers that often have a leg up on lower prices and

mass merchandise. Supply store owner Moji Mohammadkhan focuses on his ability to offer more personalized customer service. “For us small people it’s competing with the big guys,” said Mohammadkhan, owner of Stockton Supplies, which sells food service, janitorial and party supplies and party rentals. “What we do is we offer customer service that the big box stores can’t give.” While the larger chain stores out-price him at times, Mo-

hammadkhan said, he carries a wider variety of products, styles and colors. And he goes out of his way to make customers happy. “We cater to people who want what they want. They need it today, they grab it here today,” he said. “We also deliver. (Large stores) don’t deliver supplies.” So, while it’s clear statistically that growth remains stagnant in the retail arena, merchants also are aware it is an evolving industry.

The question for them has been how to respond proactively and be unique in order to stay profitable. “The world is changing,” said Flores, who found that using social media is to her advantage. “You have to embrace it.” Contact reporter Jennie Rodriguez-Moore at (209) 9438564 or jrodriguez@recordnet. com. Follow her at recordnet. com/courtsblog and on Twitter @therecordcourts.


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Nothing to do? Look around By Tony Sauro Record Staff Writer

It’s definitely better than a flop, though it still can be disconcerting. “We’ve done an absolute flip,” said Jane Kenworthy, executive director and CEO of the Stockton Symphony. “I wish somebody up there would let us know.” In arts and entertainment, though, hardly anyone — if anyone — ever knows for sure. There is, however, a general sense of fiscal recovery and cautious optimism in the area’s entertainment community. Options for younger audiences — which symphony officials are wisely trying to cultivate — suffered a severe flop, though, when the downtown Plea for Peace Center closed in 2013. For the nonprofit, no-alcohol venue, financial reality finally set in after five years. A void remains. In Kenworthy’s case — as the orchestra approaches its 86th

birthday on April 1 — the economic situation has calmed down and perked up for the short-term future. That’s a common theme in Stockton — in theater and live music, mostly: There are lots of things to do here. “We had a much better experience with fundraising, and the sponsorships are back,” said Kenworthy, who’s worked with the symphony since 2008. “Which is great. Yet we’ve done less in ticket sales. So we’re having some serious discussions about that. Even the pops concerts are not doing as well as our expectations.” When ticket sales for a Feb. 1 “discovery” concert were negligible, it was staged at no cost. Except to the symphony, which lost $17,000. There are no current plans for a return to two nights of classical performances. The one-concert approach began in 2013 because of financial reality. Kenworthy said she and con-

ductor Peter Jaffe’s contracts end in 2014. They’re also facing negotiations with the musician’s union after a one-year contract expires. “I still have people tell me they didn’t even know Stockton has a symphony,” said Kenworthy, noting that 200 new customers showed up at the Atherton Auditorium freebie at San Joaquin Delta College. “Is it that we’re not communicating? Is it the market? We don’t get that impression. Lots of people (a full house of 1,200) show up when it’s free. Is it the price? We’ve got a lot of things to think about in terms of earning money.” So does Mike Whirlow. Just like all other entrepreneurs, organizers, promoters and groups. His Whirlow’s Tossed and Grilled restaurant on Pacific Avenue hosts a range of live music CALIXTRO ROMIAS/Record File 2012 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — part of a Miracle Mile Stockton Symphony conductor Peter Jaffe leads the orchestra in “Usa Muzu” during a conrenaissance that includes The cert held in the historic Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in Tracy in 2012. The symphony, Continued on Page 9 which has been around since the 1920s, is working on ways to boost ticket sales.

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Ave, Mile Wine Company, the Centrale, Empire Theatre/Empresso Cafe and the year-old That’s Showbiz theater troupe. They provide viable options for local musicians, comedians and actors, from neophytes to sixtysomethings. The Valley Brewing Company — and its re-styled Take 5 Jazz at the Brew — leads in longevity for ticketed events, from jazz, blues and comedy to monthly Sunday appearances by Jeremy “Elvis” Pearce. While expressing continuing optimism, Whirlow — who’s been operating restaurants in Stockton for 30 years — is cautious about adding ticket prices, which requires booking acts that cost up to $1,000. In such an eventuality, “We don’t want the tightwads just to go to the freeband shows with name recognition,” said Whirlow, 60, who has revived his youthful keyboard-playing by sitting in with bands and has 100 local musicians on a list of potential performers. “We’re toying with how to implement a cover charge. Maybe we’ll just have to roll with it and suck eggs for three or four months until it catches on. After Valley Brew, somebody’s gotta be the first act out of the gate.” He’s also contemplated doing early (6:30 p.m.) and late (9 p.m.) shows to accommodate younger audiences There also are less-consistent live-

CALIXTRO ROMIAS/Record File 2013

Carol Rowan (singing) and Mike Whirlow (on keyboard) entertain the crowd during open mike night at Whirlow’s in Stockton in November. music options at Garlic Brothers, Chitiva’s, the Bus Stop and Fat’s Bar & Grill as well as mariachi tunes at Arroyo’s and Casa Flores. “Now, pretty much Lodi has had an outburst,” Whirlow said. “With music at downtown wineries. A whole bunch of them. It’s really quite extensive.” Elizabeth and Kevin Costello’s That’s Showbiz — a 70-seat theater space and school — has added another act to the Miracle Mile. “I honestly feel, right now, things are stronger than ever and getting stronger,”

said Kevin Costello, 51, who’s also Stockton Civic Theatre’s new artistic director. “There’s just a lot of theater. I don’t see any signs of it slowing down. Things are very exciting. I feel a lot of energy personally.” He and his Civic Theatre colleagues are in the process of raising $32,000 to include a live orchestra — missing in recent seasons — during musical productions. Theater groups in Linden, Tracy and Lodi have added to Costello’s optimism along with the range of productions

staged at San Joaquin Delta College and University of the Pacific, both of which also stage a variety of student musical performances and shows by touring musicians — from jazz to chamber music. The Friends of Chamber Music series, in its 58th year, continues bringing interesting touring ensembles to town. This year’s (Dave) Brubeck (Institute) Festival includes improvisational gigs at Take 5 as well as headliners Al Jarreau (March 28), Eddie Palmieri (March 27), and 2014 Grammy Award winner Terri Lyne Carrington (March 29). The Haggin Museum’s monthly music events, emphasizing local roots on Thursday nights, have been increasingly successful. Lodi’s Hutchins Street Square and Tracy’s Grand Theatre maintain schedules of local and touring talent — music, theater, comedy and instructional. Like Kenworthy, Stockton Chorale artistic director Magen Solomon is committed to broadening her audience and continuing to provide opportunities for anyone who wants to sing. There now are five chorale ensembles catering to — and sharpening the skills of — children and adults. “The impact and growth have been wonderful,” said Solomon, 57, in her fourth season with the 62-year-old Chorale, which stages its “Around the World in 80 Minutes” concert Friday and Sunday. “I won’t say we aren’t always looking

for new singers and new audience members, donors and advertisers — to get further out there in the community.” That’s always the aim of promoters booking shows at Stockton Arena — which twice ranked in the top 100 worldwide in entertainment-ticket sales by Pollstar magazine in 2013 — and the Bob Hope Theatre. While the arena’s schedule recently has centered mostly on Disney and Sesame Street productions, truck shows and mixed martial arts fighting, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus did return in 2013. Steve Martin mixes his banjo-playing with the bluegrass music of North Carolina’s Steep Canyon Rangers at the Hope on March 14, extending a list of prominent headliners that included Bill Cosby, Tony Bennett, George Lopez and the Tedeschi Trucks Band (a second straight year) in 2013. As is common among promoters and managers, the only “predictions” indicate that improving economic conditions could add to more medium- to big-name shows in 2014. When it comes to the “nothing-to-dohere” cliche, Whirlow laughed: “Anyone saying that still is just a couch potato who hasn’t gotten out to check.” Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 5468267 or tsauro@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.


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Nothing to do? Look around By Tony Sauro Record Staff Writer

It’s definitely better than a flop, though it still can be disconcerting. “We’ve done an absolute flip,” said Jane Kenworthy, executive director and CEO of the Stockton Symphony. “I wish somebody up there would let us know.” In arts and entertainment, though, hardly anyone — if anyone — ever knows for sure. There is, however, a general sense of fiscal recovery and cautious optimism in the area’s entertainment community. Options for younger audiences — which symphony officials are wisely trying to cultivate — suffered a severe flop, though, when the downtown Plea for Peace Center closed in 2013. For the nonprofit, no-alcohol venue, financial reality finally set in after five years. A void remains. In Kenworthy’s case — as the orchestra approaches its 86th

birthday on April 1 — the economic situation has calmed down and perked up for the short-term future. That’s a common theme in Stockton — in theater and live music, mostly: There are lots of things to do here. “We had a much better experience with fundraising, and the sponsorships are back,” said Kenworthy, who’s worked with the symphony since 2008. “Which is great. Yet we’ve done less in ticket sales. So we’re having some serious discussions about that. Even the pops concerts are not doing as well as our expectations.” When ticket sales for a Feb. 1 “discovery” concert were negligible, it was staged at no cost. Except to the symphony, which lost $17,000. There are no current plans for a return to two nights of classical performances. The one-concert approach began in 2013 because of financial reality. Kenworthy said she and con-

ductor Peter Jaffe’s contracts end in 2014. They’re also facing negotiations with the musician’s union after a one-year contract expires. “I still have people tell me they didn’t even know Stockton has a symphony,” said Kenworthy, noting that 200 new customers showed up at the Atherton Auditorium freebie at San Joaquin Delta College. “Is it that we’re not communicating? Is it the market? We don’t get that impression. Lots of people (a full house of 1,200) show up when it’s free. Is it the price? We’ve got a lot of things to think about in terms of earning money.” So does Mike Whirlow. Just like all other entrepreneurs, organizers, promoters and groups. His Whirlow’s Tossed and Grilled restaurant on Pacific Avenue hosts a range of live music CALIXTRO ROMIAS/Record File 2012 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays — part of a Miracle Mile Stockton Symphony conductor Peter Jaffe leads the orchestra in “Usa Muzu” during a conrenaissance that includes The cert held in the historic Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in Tracy in 2012. The symphony, Continued on Page 9 which has been around since the 1920s, is working on ways to boost ticket sales.

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Ave, Mile Wine Company, the Centrale, Empire Theatre/Empresso Cafe and the year-old That’s Showbiz theater troupe. They provide viable options for local musicians, comedians and actors, from neophytes to sixtysomethings. The Valley Brewing Company — and its re-styled Take 5 Jazz at the Brew — leads in longevity for ticketed events, from jazz, blues and comedy to monthly Sunday appearances by Jeremy “Elvis” Pearce. While expressing continuing optimism, Whirlow — who’s been operating restaurants in Stockton for 30 years — is cautious about adding ticket prices, which requires booking acts that cost up to $1,000. In such an eventuality, “We don’t want the tightwads just to go to the freeband shows with name recognition,” said Whirlow, 60, who has revived his youthful keyboard-playing by sitting in with bands and has 100 local musicians on a list of potential performers. “We’re toying with how to implement a cover charge. Maybe we’ll just have to roll with it and suck eggs for three or four months until it catches on. After Valley Brew, somebody’s gotta be the first act out of the gate.” He’s also contemplated doing early (6:30 p.m.) and late (9 p.m.) shows to accommodate younger audiences There also are less-consistent live-

CALIXTRO ROMIAS/Record File 2013

Carol Rowan (singing) and Mike Whirlow (on keyboard) entertain the crowd during open mike night at Whirlow’s in Stockton in November. music options at Garlic Brothers, Chitiva’s, the Bus Stop and Fat’s Bar & Grill as well as mariachi tunes at Arroyo’s and Casa Flores. “Now, pretty much Lodi has had an outburst,” Whirlow said. “With music at downtown wineries. A whole bunch of them. It’s really quite extensive.” Elizabeth and Kevin Costello’s That’s Showbiz — a 70-seat theater space and school — has added another act to the Miracle Mile. “I honestly feel, right now, things are stronger than ever and getting stronger,”

said Kevin Costello, 51, who’s also Stockton Civic Theatre’s new artistic director. “There’s just a lot of theater. I don’t see any signs of it slowing down. Things are very exciting. I feel a lot of energy personally.” He and his Civic Theatre colleagues are in the process of raising $32,000 to include a live orchestra — missing in recent seasons — during musical productions. Theater groups in Linden, Tracy and Lodi have added to Costello’s optimism along with the range of productions

staged at San Joaquin Delta College and University of the Pacific, both of which also stage a variety of student musical performances and shows by touring musicians — from jazz to chamber music. The Friends of Chamber Music series, in its 58th year, continues bringing interesting touring ensembles to town. This year’s (Dave) Brubeck (Institute) Festival includes improvisational gigs at Take 5 as well as headliners Al Jarreau (March 28), Eddie Palmieri (March 27), and 2014 Grammy Award winner Terri Lyne Carrington (March 29). The Haggin Museum’s monthly music events, emphasizing local roots on Thursday nights, have been increasingly successful. Lodi’s Hutchins Street Square and Tracy’s Grand Theatre maintain schedules of local and touring talent — music, theater, comedy and instructional. Like Kenworthy, Stockton Chorale artistic director Magen Solomon is committed to broadening her audience and continuing to provide opportunities for anyone who wants to sing. There now are five chorale ensembles catering to — and sharpening the skills of — children and adults. “The impact and growth have been wonderful,” said Solomon, 57, in her fourth season with the 62-year-old Chorale, which stages its “Around the World in 80 Minutes” concert Friday and Sunday. “I won’t say we aren’t always looking

for new singers and new audience members, donors and advertisers — to get further out there in the community.” That’s always the aim of promoters booking shows at Stockton Arena — which twice ranked in the top 100 worldwide in entertainment-ticket sales by Pollstar magazine in 2013 — and the Bob Hope Theatre. While the arena’s schedule recently has centered mostly on Disney and Sesame Street productions, truck shows and mixed martial arts fighting, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus did return in 2013. Steve Martin mixes his banjo-playing with the bluegrass music of North Carolina’s Steep Canyon Rangers at the Hope on March 14, extending a list of prominent headliners that included Bill Cosby, Tony Bennett, George Lopez and the Tedeschi Trucks Band (a second straight year) in 2013. As is common among promoters and managers, the only “predictions” indicate that improving economic conditions could add to more medium- to big-name shows in 2014. When it comes to the “nothing-to-dohere” cliche, Whirlow laughed: “Anyone saying that still is just a couch potato who hasn’t gotten out to check.” Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 5468267 or tsauro@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsaurorecord.


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Port’s future rides on barges

Marine Highway’s opening one of many happenings at Stockton terminal By Zachary K. Johnson Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — The Port of Stockton has been growing and changing in recent years, beefing up its infrastructure with improvements to its rail connections, bridges and, last year, the launching of a new Marine Highway connecting Stockton to Oakland. But investment in the port, both public and private, is expected to continue in 2014 and beyond. “This is not a sleepy little port,” port Director Richard Aschieris said. “We have lots of room to grow,” he said. “We are very optimistic about the future. In the past five years, the private sector has invested about $2 billion at the port, Aschieris said, and the next five years could be even more. At the moment, the port is negotiating deals that could bring in an additional $1.8 billion. The impact of the port on the local economy goes beyond businesses located in the port, itself, said Thomas Pogue, associate director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific. It’s a significant and unique piece of the goods movement system in the county. “It adds an important dimension that most places don’t have.” That provides unique opportunities that can draw companies to invest in doing business elsewhere in Stockton or San Joaquin County, too, he said. Pogue said he also sees a lot of potential and activity toward growth at the port, itself. Moving goods is a priority for government agencies in the county, too. “Since the Gold Rush days, this area has been a distribution and logistics cen-

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Visit this story on our website to see a video featuring container loading and an interview with Richard Aschieris.

recordnet.com Andrew Chesley, executive director of the San Joaquin Council of Governments: “Since the Gold Rush days, this area has been a distribution and logistics center for California.” highway opened last year, there was a barge every couple of weeks, he said. Now there is one a week. “When you start from zero, it’s challenging,” he said. To meet that goal, the port will need more customers like Kloeckner Metals Corp. A tenant at the port for more than 20 years, it uses the Marine Highway to ship steel pipe. It fits perfectly with the changing business, allowing the company to ship smaller quantities, but do it more frequently, CLIFFORD OTO/The Record said Bob Bagan, vice president A barge is loaded with containers Jan. 29 at the Port of Stockton. Marine Highway barges sail between Stockton and Oakland for pipe products in the comonce per week. Port of Stockton Director Richard Aschieris would like to have two barges per week making the trip. pany’s western region. It allows both better service for customter for California,” said Andrew that will allow trucks a direct a new way to ship goods at the ... They’re doing it right.” ers and tighter inventory conChesley, executive director of route to the port without going port, the project is also meant to One of the port’s challenges trol, he said. “It allows us to get the San Joaquin Council of Gov- through the Boggs Tract resi- reduce traffic through Altamont in 2014 is to increase volume product to market faster and ernments. And the port is part dential community. Pass and improve air quality by on the Marine Highway, to ship more efficiently.” of that, he said. A $13 million federal trans- taking trucks off the road. enough containers to cover the Contact reporter Zachary K. That importance has helped portation grant helped creRep. Jerry McNerney, D- fixed costs as quickly as pos- Johnson at (209) 546-8258 draw public investment to the ate the Marine Highway that Stockton, helped bring in the sible, Aschieris said. “It’s what I or zjohnson@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/ port, something that is expected opened for business in 2013. The federal grant money and is a vo- call a great race.” to continue. project includes taking barges cal supporter of the value of the The goal is to have two full johnsonblog and on Twitter This year, construction is stacked with shipping contain- port. “The port is an economic barges make the round trip be- @zacharykjohnson. scheduled to begin on an exten- ers between Stockton and the engine and job creator,” he said. tween Stockton and Oakland sion of the Crosstown Freeway Port of Oakland. Besides adding “They make smart investments every week, he said. When the


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Medical pros gird for influx of patients By Joe Goldeen Record Staff Writer

STOCKTON — Cautious optimism. That’s how one of the larger independent family practice medical offices views what lies ahead for health care in San Joaquin County. HT Family Practice of Stockton is much like the rest of its peers not just locally but also around the nation that have been preparing to work at the front lines of health reform. As 2014 dawns and tens of thousands of formerly uninsured residents of San Joaquin County gain health insurance — whether through the private sector, the state exchange or expanded Medi-Cal — it’s the medical providers who will be expected to meet the growing demand for services. HT Family Practice administrator Erik Hill said he is “cautiously optimistic those people

Erik Hill Administrator of HT Family Practice is “cautiously optimistic” patients will “show up.” will show up.” His caution comes from the “ugly” lack of understanding, the battles when trying to deal with insurance companies (“just getting through on the phone can be impossible”) and changing rules, and the frustrations of patients and consumers. The optimism, Hill says, is “because we want this to work. It’s not our role to get in the middle.” In anticipation of increased patient volumes, HT Family Practice led by Hill’s wife, Dr. Raissa Hill, took the major step of adding two more physicians to its staff for a total of five.

Dr. Raissa Hill of HT Family Practice in Stockton: “There are just a lot of patients out there that don’t have a doctor. We want to make sure we can see the patients we have and maintain quality of care. If it drops our level of service, that wouldn’t be good.” “There are just a lot of patients out there that don’t have a doctor. We want to make sure we can see the patients we have and maintain quality of care. If it drops our level of service, that wouldn’t be good,” Raissa Hill said. In another six months, Erik Hill anticipates, the practice will be recruiting even more providers as patient volumes increase. Community Medical Centers, a large network of nonprofit health clinics based in Stockton that treats patients who are mostly uninsured or receiving Medi-Cal, has been preparing for significant increases for some time.

It recently implemented an electronic medical records system that eliminates the old paper file and places a computer terminal in every exam room. “That is where the world is heading, and I think that’s a good thing,” interim Chief Executive Officer Sandy Haskins said. With many more people gaining insurance, “Community Medical Centers will start getting paid for those patients,” Haskins said, noting that as of last month, “we haven’t seen a big uptick in patient volume.” But that hasn’t stopped CMC from planning a new clinic in east Stockton — a drastically underserved area — and putting

a high priority on hiring new providers. “We have a need now for additional practitioners. Certainly the increases in volume will come from the new clinic” estimated to serve 7,000 patients, Haskins said. One major unknown: “We can’t tell how many people are out there who have not tried to get care because they don’t have coverage. That, in a way, will be a test of the whole notion. We will see,” Haskins said. A new initiative addressing one of the county’s most pervasive health problems, diabetes, is just taking root this year, sparked by the efforts of Dr. Kwabena Adubofour of the East Main Clinic & Stockton Diabetes Intervention Center. It’s the realization that the region’s dismal outcomes related to diabetes, consistently among the worst in California, won’t start improving without changing the approach hospitals take

to treatment. With the full backing of the San Joaquin Medical Society, Adubofour has created the San Joaquin County Hospitals Diabetes Special Interest Group, whose aim is to develop and share best practices in diabetes care now being practiced at some hospitals with all the hospitals in the county. The group is envisioned to include hospital management, physicians, nurses, diabetes educators, pharmacists and social workers from all seven acute hospitals. Adubofour said the group “aims to decrease the extent of variability in diabetes management that contributes to higher diabetes-related mortality in San Joaquin County hospitals.” Contact reporter Joe Goldeen at (209) 546-8278 or jgoldeen@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/ goldeenblog and on Twitter @joegoldeen.


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As manufacturing declines, ag grows Wineries lead upward trend in food-related employment By Reed Fujii Record Staff Writer

U.S. manufacturing is in a long decline, with industries such as steelmaking, textiles and electronics production shifting to foreign shores. San Joaquin County is not untouched by that trend. Area employment in durable goods manufacturing fell significantly, from about 11,000 jobs in 2006 to about 7,000 late last year, state records show. But the nondurable goods sector — mostly food processing and beverage production — has held its own over the same period, supported by the area’s highly productive agricultural industry. And the winery industry, in particular, has boomed. There were 46 wine production facilities in San Joaquin County in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than double the 21 that existed in six years earlier. And sector employment boomed, too, totaling 1,480 in 2012, up 60 percent in six years. That growth follows a boom in winegrape production in the region, said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific. “Several years ago, I estimated that (San Joaquin) County was producing nearly 25 percent of the winegrapes in the state, but only about 5 percent of the winery output,” he said. “That share has grown with recent expansions of large and small wineries in the Lodi region, but I believe there is still significant room for growth. Rodney Schatz, an area grape grower and owner of Peltier Station winery in Acampo, recalled seeing winegrape acreage rapidly

Camron King, executive director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission: “The distribution capacity that we have here and easy access to large portions of California make it a great place for the wine industry to look to the future.” expand around the turn of the millennium and seeing the need for facilities to process the fruit. “For us back in 2001, there was such a large amount of planting going on we decided, instead of planting more vineyards, we should build a custom-crush facility,” he said. His approach is to get more value from his grapes by turning them into wine and selling the wine in bulk to other wineries. “The returns are pretty good once they’re established,” Schatz said. “The bottom line, it’s been good and positive.” Grape production is just one factor in the region’s winery boom, said Camron King, executive director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. “There’s a convergence of factors that’s taking place that’s inspired this growth,” he said. Not only is there more fruit, but Lodi has built a reputation for high quality winegrapes at reasonable prices. In part, that came from commission efforts to improve grape growing practices and take the lead on sustainable farming systems. Also, King said, San Joaquin County has a key location and transportation links. “The distribution capacity that we have here and easy ac-

CLIFFORD OTO/The Record

Owner Rodney Schatz stands in the barrel room of Peltier Station, his winery in Acampo. More than a decade ago, he saw a need for ways to process winegrapes. “For us back in 2001, there was such a large amount of planting going on we decided, instead of planting more vineyards, we should build a custom-crush facility,” he said. cess to large portions of California make it a great place for the wine industry to look to the future,” he said. Location is important, Michael agreed. “For instance, there is more food manufacturing in the north San Joaquin Valley (Modesto and Stockton) than the south San Joaquin Valley, even though those regions surpass the north Valley in production,” he said. “That shows that proximity to markets and distribution systems play an important role as well.” And winery growth has come at all levels. The Lodi area has seen the number of winery and consoli-

dated tasting rooms grow to more than 60 from just a handful in the past 15 years. And winery giants have expanded their facilities in the area as well. One example: Trinchero Family Estate, producers of Sutter Home and other popular wine brands, is spending $120 million to expand its Westside winery in Lodi and an additional $180 million to build a new bottling and distribution center at the site off Interstate 5 north of Turner Road. Contact reporter Reed Fujii at (209) 546-8253 or rfujii@ recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @reedbiznews.

S.J. County manufacturing employment Monthly job counts since late 2006 show that even as durable goods manufacturing has been in decline, employment in food processing — cannery, packaging and winery operstions — has been stable and recently on the rise.

Durable goods

Food manufacturing

12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000 4,000 2,000 0

’06

2007

2008

2009

Source: California Employment Development Department

2010

2011

2012

2013

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Real estate hoping for smoother ride By Kevin Parrish Record Staff Writer

The Stockton area has been to the housing-market mountain top, a giddy, inflated peak in 2005. The city has fallen into despair — the nation’s foreclosure posture child in the years that followed. San Joaquin County experts hope that 2014 will be the year real estate gets off the roller coaster and that property values start to rise in a steady, more predictable fashion. “Foreclosures are winding down,” said Jeffrey Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at University of the Pacific. “I think we are transitioning to a more stable and more normal real estate market.” Michael and others look for a 6 to 7 percent rise in property values during 2014. Last year, as the nation’s housing market rebounded, home prices in the Stockton metropolitan area increased 27 percent. It was an extreme upward swing and based in large part on how far values had fallen. “There was nothing normal about that,” Michael said. “I estimate that homes were 20 to 30 percent undervalued, so to a large extent it represented a normalization of market values.”

Sales on the rise

Prices are up, and so are purchases. Assisting in a surge of existing home sales are historically low interest rates, which continue to stay below 5 percent. Also dictating the marketplace is the ongoing arrival of commuters from the Bay Area, primarily from Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa counties. “Forty-two percent of our sales come from over the hill,” said Paul Johnson, president of the Central Valley Board of Realtors. “That is unchanged since before the crisis. Whether things are tremendous or in the tank, it is still 42 percent.” The question he and Michael

WHO ARE WE? San Joaquin County is projected to top 1 million residents in 2034. The population is expected to grow at an annual average of 1.5 percent, up slightly from a previous forecast. In-migration from the Bay Area continues to drive up the county’s growth rate. The Latino population will reach 50 percent of the total county population by 2040. • Population: 702,612 (San Joaquin County in 2012). • Population increase: 30.1 percent since 1990. SOURCE: U.S. Census.

• Population projections countywide: 744,459 in 2015, 809,685 in 2020 and 934,503 in 2030. • Stockton population projections: 319,827 in 2015, 348,977 in 2020 and 404,840 in 2030. SOURCES: San Joaquin County Council of Governments and University of the Pacific Business Forecasting Center.

— as well as others in real estate — are asking now is whether values will stabilize in the months ahead and at what level. “Things are a lot rosier going into 2014,” Johnson said from his Brookside office. “People are getting more equity out of their homes — about 21 percent are no longer under water on their mortgage — and all in all this year will be better for buyers and sellers.” Johnson, optimistic about pent-up demand, was pessimistic about two outside factors: Obamacare: “There is fear and uncertainty,” he said. “We’re hearing from clients that if their health insurance goes up, they won’t be able to afford the home they want to buy.” Obtaining a mortgage: “Getting individuals qualified ... that is a big bugaboo for us. But, like most things, the fear is worse than the reality. Maybe it’s just the Chicken Little attitude of Realtors.” Johnson and Michael agree that a significant surge in newhome construction is unlikely

in the year ahead. They look for that in 2015.

Studying impact

Dari E. Sylvester, an associate professor of political science at University of the Pacific, has launched an academic study into what happened. She wants to understand the impact housing market instability has had on the sense of community people experience. What did it mean on a personal level to have vacant signs dot the neighborhood? “I was expecting, in places hard hit, an overall depression,” said Sylvester, who has been at Pacific for nine years. “But our findings are more nuanced. For some, it was only their perception. “To the extent they had a personal experience, they did or didn’t view the foreclosure crisis as their most critical issue.” Sylvester, a Stockton homeowner, bought a “super-inflated” house in 2005, lost it and then tried to leverage her situation by investing in a home under foreclosure. “I am hoping things level out, and not as an artificial market,” she said. “I’ve seen the highs and lows. But even when prices dropped, the sales never slowed down.” Many Stockton-area residents in her study listed crime, drug use, home values and other issues as more important than foreclosures. Housing remains the largest single family expense. For many people, it is life’s defining purchase. “There are psychological things that people attach to their homes,” Michael said. “The expenditure is much larger than food or transportation. “And it is an important sector of the economy. Homes historically are the largest storehouse of wealth. That’s why this crisis has been so devastating to families that lost their nest egg.”

Sales in fast lane

The up-and-down housing values are nothing new, but Johnson says the inevitable swings, driven in part by an instant-information techno age, are no long stretched out over months and years. “In the 1970s, you could predict the market by the year, by the 1980s and ’90s, it was by the quarter,” he said. “Now it is weekly. Information is instantaneous. Buyers can go online and access homes just like Realtors. We are not the gatekeepers anymore.” The speed of sales can both hurt and help. Professionals are still needed to walk buyers and sellers through the maze of paperwork and, particularly in California, regulations. And information can quickly become misinformation.

Johnson said he doesn’t see things slowing down, and that includes his opinion of sales this year. “We do still have a great pentup demand,” he said. “The millenials will be the largest generation we’ve ever seen. They had checked out over the last few years. They will spur the market with more first-time homebuyers. That feeds the food chain with more buyers coming up. Prices aren’t going to go crazy. Homes will be more affordable so more people can afford to buy them.” Johnson said the latest research indicates that growing family sizes will impact housing market demand as will “boomerang” buyers, those who lost their homes and are now looking to get back into the market through ei-

ther a state or federal program. Projected population growth, some of it fueled by immigration, also will drive up demand. In the end, he believes buying a home — and thus the 2014 outlook for San Joaquin County — remains an intensely personal experience, one predicated on a lot of intangibles. Often, it is a sense of place and how a particular street or community feels. “I am still in town,” said Stockton’s Sylvester. “I love the neighborhood I live in. Good neighbors are priceless.” Contact reporter Kevin Parrish at (209) 546-8264 or kparrish@recordnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @klprecord.


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Outlook 2014