A Less Urban Character
The character of the North Bay is strikingly different from the Bay Areas other three subregions. Only 9% of its land base was classified as urbanized in 1995. This compares to 26% for the rest of the region. Additionally, almost 30% of the North Bay is devoted to agriculture, three times as much as the rest of the region.
Recent Activity in Sonoma and Napa Counties
In Sonoma and Napa Counties, housing and jobs are concentrated in and around Santa Rosa and the City of Napa. These two cities currently contain 40% of the households and over 50% of the jobs in the two counties.
As the major city in Sonoma County, Santa Rosa issued permits for 850 new housing units between January 1996 and June 1997one third of the countys total. Santa Rosa also accounted for one third of the countys new retail/service space. However, it saw little new office or industrial development. Recently, this development has been concentrated in Petaluma and Rohnert Park.
In Napa County, the cities of Napa and American Canyon have seen moderate retail/service activity. The most intense industrial development activity has occurred in the Airport Industrial Area, south of the City of Napa, in unincorporated Napa County. Here, permits were issued for nearly 400,000 square feet of industrial space in 1996. No city in the county has experienced substantial residential or office development.
Recent Activity in Solano County
Solano County contains three population and job centers: Vallejo, Vacaville, and Fairfield. Vallejo, disrupted by the recent closing of Mare Island Naval Shipyard, has seen little development activity. Vacaville has issued a moderate number of residential permits recently. It has also accounted for half of the retail/service development activity in the county. The 200,000 square feet of retail/service space permitted between January 1996 and June 1997 was the largest volume of any North Bay city. Fairfield has been active in all development categories except retail/service. Fairfields 1,200 recent housing unit permits the most of any city in the North Bay also constitute half of the county total. It has been the site of moderate industrial development and virtually all recent office development in the county.
The North Bay is second only to the East Bay among the four subregions in terms of the projected number of new households. Between 1995 and 2020, a total of 130,000 households are expected, primarily in Sonoma and Solano Counties. Santa Rosa, Vacaville, and Fairfield are each forecast to add more than 15,000 new households during the period.
Job growth in the North Bay, and the accompanying nonresidential development, are forecast to be every bit as intense as residential development. All of the existing job centers, including Vallejo, are expected to undergo at least 50% growth during the forecast period.
For growing companies in fields such as biotechnology, the North Bay can be an attractive site for expanding manufacturing operations. A plant in the North Bay remains reasonably close to corporate offices and research & development facilities in other parts of the Bay Area, while being cheaper to build and operate.
Changes in Dixon and Rio Vista
In addition to the larger cities already mentioned, two small cities in Solano County are beginning to experience growth that will dramatically change their character in coming years. Dixon lies along Interstate 80, not far from Davis and Sacramento. Rio Vista lies further south along the Sacramento River. New housing unit permits in these two communities between January 1996 and July 1997 equal 10% of the number of households present in 1995. Between 1995 and 2020, the number of households in Dixon is expected to more than double, ballooning from 4,200 to more than 9,000. The number of households in Rio Vista is expected to jump from 1,500 to more than 9,000.
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