STOCKTON — The public portion of Stockton’s newest effort to rewrite its long-range General Plan is finally underway, and about 75 people turned out Tuesday night for the opening kickoff.

The city’s choice of a location for the workshop — the Merlo Gym in south Stockton — was noteworthy. Officials have said they are seeking more participation by residents on the long-neglected south side, and they got plenty Tuesday.

Stockton last adopted a General Plan in 2007, a document that runs through 2035. Displaying all the clairvoyance of a two-dollar carnival fortuneteller, the 2007 General Plan predicted Stockton was on the cusp of decades of growth, sprawl and prosperity.

Nine years later, Stockton is recovering from the Great Recession, the foreclosure meltdown and bankruptcy.

Now, the city is beginning work on a new General Plan, through 2040, that is expected to shift the focus to downtown and Stockton’s older and most troubled neighborhoods.

Here are some notes, quotes and anecdotes about the General Plan in general and Tuesday’s workshop in particular:

• The city says it especially wants participation from south Stockton residents, so it brought the first workshop to a site off Airport Way and Sixth Street.

“We have turned a blind eye toward south Stockton for 40 years,” former City Councilman Mark Stebbins said, addressing City Planner Dave Stagnaro.

Stagnaro responded, “This is the first time we as a General Plan staff have come out to the community (for a workshop). We saw there was under-representation in the south area of Stockton. That’s why we’re here tonight.”

• Three things attendees said they like most about Stockton: “can hear birds chirping;” “access to water;” “diversity!”

• Three things people want changed: “Less food deserts;” “blight on vacant lots;” “hold landlords accountable.”

• Things people want to see: “Riverwalk with restaurants, retail and gardens;” “Grocery store in south Stockton other than dollar store/Dollar General;” “second university=CSU Stanislaus;” “health equity.”

• The Rev. Ernest Williams: “I like all the empty space on the south side. There’s room to grow.”

• Several young people interviewed last week said they want more and better sidewalks on the south and east sides. It’s worth noting that some sidewalk-deficient areas are in unincorporated county pockets and outside of the city’s purview.

Community Development Director David Kwong also has said that adding sidewalks where they do not already exist involves not simply pouring concrete but accounting for drainage, too. So adding sidewalks is a pretty big deal.

• Several groups of residents agreed that south Stockton should be the top priority for improvement and north Stockton should be the lowest priority.

“They’ve kind of been getting theirs for the last 30 years,” resident Sheila James said.

Resident Greg Bahr noted, however, that there are several parts of north Stockton in dire need of help.

• City Council members Christina Fugazi, Michael Tubbs and Michael Blower attended the workshop, as did Sam Fant and Jesus Andrade, who are running against each other for the council seat in south Stockton’s District 6. Fant and Andrade sat at the same table for part of the event.

• Resident Madeline Welters: “The transportation out here … it’s horrible. In the Bay Area there’s BART. Here, there’s really no alternative but to use your car.”

Mike McDowell, a Stockton planning manager, responded, “Keep voicing those same opinions. That’s something we want to change as well.”

• The General Plan process is lengthy and multifaceted. Kwong has not ruled out the possibility the effort could be completed by the end of 2017. A schedule for the General Plan update posted on the city’s website lists the end of the first quarter of 2018 as the targeted completion date.

• There’s no need for despondency if you missed Tuesday night’s workshop. More are scheduled, including one from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. today at the Seifert Community Center, 128 W. Benjamin Holt Drive. Additionally, a workshop specifically geared toward young people will be held from 6-8 p.m. next Wednesday at Danner Hall on the campus of San Joaquin Delta College.

— Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or Follow him at and on Twitter @rphillipsblog.