"Superheated construction activity helped drive cities in San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties to expand their boundaries 45 percent in the past 18 years, according to a Bee review of annexation data. The 22 cities' populations grew 53 percent, on average, in the same time frame."
"But demand for housing dollars, not effective planning, drove the valley's rapid growth over the past couple of decades, several experts say. Now we have acres of single-family homes replacing farmland on cities' fringes -- many neighborhoods pocked by bank-owned homes with ill-kept yards."
"'It's hard to separate out how much of that is due to poor planning or to the general economic decline,' Neiman said. 'Those places that have the most dramatic impact were probably overbuilt. That's the bad planning part. But a number of things were converging. The cliche is 'the perfect storm.' '"