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Turlock looks to plan next 20 years of growth
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General Plan Alternatives
Alternative A: Southeast only. Would require a new Highway 99 / Golf Road interchange.
Alternative B: Northwest emphasis. May require new northern interchange; also includes development in southeast in regions nearest downtown.
Alternative C: Most compact. Would develop part of northwest area, much of southeast, using the least farmland. Could possibly require no new interchanges.
Alternative D: Moderate compact. Would develop all of northwest, most of southeast; would use the most land but comes closest to housing needs projections.

The Turlock of 2030, a town that 115,000 may call home, is being planned today. That future Turlock could feature compact residential neighborhoods sprouting up southeast and northwest of Turlock, based on growth alternatives presented by San Francisco-based consultants Dyett & Bhatia Urban and Regional Planners.
Dyett & Bhatia, with whom the City of Turlock has contracted to perform a required update of the Turlock General Plan, offered an early look into Turlock’s tomorrow on Thursday. The Turlock Planning Commission was given a “first blush look” into possible new neighborhoods and growth scenarios.
All future growth must be laid out in Turlock’s General Plan — a document vast in scope that lays out the type, amount, and location of growth in a city and acts as a guiding document for all development. The final document is due at the end of 2010.
While Leslie Gould, principal with Dyett & Bhatia Urban & Regional Planners, admitted that Turlock is unlikely to see much growth over the next few years, all projections see continued growth over the next 20 years. Even at the low end of projections, Turlock will play host to 36,000 new residents and 17,000 new jobs by 2030. At the high end Turlock could see 53,000 new residents and 35,000 new jobs.
“That’s what you’re planning for,” Gould said.
The growth assumptions were developed based upon a middle path that sees 45,000 new residents, 15,000 new housing units, and 23,000 new jobs. Turlock currently has just 70,000 residents and 29,000 jobs.
Accommodating the projected growth in jobs won’t be a problem, as Turlock currently has enough land zoned to accommodate all industrial and commercial growth, mainly in the Westside Industrial Specific Plan and the Northwest Triangle area. But Turlock only has room for about 11,000 housing units in the current General Plan, as adopted in 1993. That housing is also distributed in a manner that isn’t quite in keeping with modern consumer preferences and legal requirements.
Gould pointed to the changing demographics of Turlock — a city that is growing in older populations, young starter households, and young children, all of which desire smaller homes — state mandates for reducing greenhouse gases, and a local desire to conserve agricultural land. All of these factors led the planners to focus their research on a concept known as compact residential neighborhood development.
The theory calls for denser neighborhoods with a range of housing types, averaging between 7 and 12 units per acre compared to the current citywide average of 5.6 units per acre. These neighborhoods would have numerous pedestrian connections, bike trails, and parks, schools, and neighborhood shopping centers within close distances.
“What we’re talking about is a mix of housing types that includes the traditional single family home,” Gould said.
Planning commissioners were presented with examples of successful compact residential neighborhood developments in Davis, Mountain View and Hercules. The model neighborhoods featured small lot single-family homes, townhomes, apartments, and condos laid out around “greenbelt” linear parks.
While commissioners were universally in support of the design concept, some had concerns with the economics of the developments.
“Most all of these examples were built when the economy was rocking and rolling, and most of the examples we have are in areas that have land costs that are much higher than we have here so they’re forced to do some of that (compact development),” said Planning Commission Chair Mike Brem. However, noting the success of such developments and the legal requirements to move in this direction he noted, “I think we really need to prepare ourselves for these kinds of developments.”
In looking to the future, planners have opted to embrace Turlock’s successful master planning process to enact these new neighborhoods.
“If we’re talking about residential neighborhoods, all of them (in the future) are going to be master planned,” Gould said.
Rather than lay out zoning grids with individual parcels designated for specific uses, master planning calls for large, 200-300 acre regions with more generally specified usage requirements. In the General Plan update, planners have sought to identify such regions that could support a compact neighborhood before dividing the necessary ranges of uses through the available tracts by percentage.
Planners with Dyett & Bhatia drafted four growth alternatives prior to Thursday’s meeting, while still seeking input for additional growth scenarios to research.
The first alternative calls for new development only in the southeast region of Turlock, at a density of 8.0 units per acre, comprised of 35-40 percent single-family homes. However, the new growth could require a pricey Highway 99 / Golf Road interchange.
A northwestern alternative would feature more dense development at 9.1 units per acre, 30-35 percent of which would be single-family homes. However, not all growth could be accommodated in the northwest region, so the southeastern areas closest to downtown would be densely developed to hopefully increase downtown business.
“Downtown needs more people who live close to it, where there’s a short trip and they’ll go there,” Gould said.
A compact alternative would use the least farmland and produce the most condensed and walkable neighborhoods. It would average 9 units per acre, with 30-35 percent single-family homes, developing one large area in the northwest of Turlock and the portions of the southeast nearest downtown. This alternative may not require any major new interchanges.
Finally, a moderate compact alternative would average 7.4 units per acre, with 50-60 percent being single-family homes. This alternative is the closest to Dyett & Bhatia’s projected need of 50 percent single-family homes, and would develop all of the northwest and most of the southeast.
The exact infrastructure requirements of each alternative will be sussed out during a pending in depth traffic study, but the thought of building out the northwest – an area away from downtown which sits on prime farmland – worried many commissioners.
“I’m not comfortable with any of the alternatives that include the northwest area,” Brem said. “… We have a downtown and it has issues. This downtown is still something I think is worth pursuing and it gets harder and harder as time goes on.”
At the commissioners’ request, Dyett & Bhatia will also research a fifth alternative that would include growth to the northeast rather than the northwest, eliminating some of buffer between Turlock and Denair.
Any growth will require new parks, presenting what Gould termed “an incredible opportunity for biking and walking system” in Turlock. Through a system of linear parks and bike paths, all of the parks in Turlock might be connected.
That includes the projected 217 acres of new parks in the General Plan, including two large, 40-acre community parks. Those parks could include such amenities as a golf course, amphitheater, or even a petting zoo, Gould said.
The General Plan update will also likely call for 139 acres of neighborhood and school parks, including linear parks.
“You have the opportunity to create one of the great linear park systems in all of Central California,” Gould said.
The Turlock City Council will hear the same presentation on the General Plan update during a special meeting that will convene at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Information on the General Plan update is available online at
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.