Skip to Content

Age Matters Across the Issues

From the Research Unit: What are the core issues across age demographics in the Capital Region?

Age matters when it comes to our day-to-day experiences and the perspectives that we hold. Valley Vision’s Research Unit is developing a series of research briefs profiling the unique views of different age demographics by drawing from our public opinion polling series.  We have been conducting public opinion polls, in partnership with Sacramento State, Institute for Social Research (ISR) since 2017 – looking at Capital Region residents’ priorities, values, experiences, and preferences on Civic Amenities, Transportation, Quality of Life, and the Environment. For our upcoming research profiles, we’ve pulled out data points from each age demographic to dive deeper and look at how our polling data relates to other research for each generation. We will be exploring the generations, defined as: Gen Z and Millennials (aged 18-38); Gen X (aged 39-54); and Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation (aged 55+). Here are some samplings of age-related issues that we will analyze with our upcoming research profiles.

According to our Livability Poll, Gen Z and Millennials are oriented towards housing affordability and access to opportunity when determining where they want to live. When asked their top considerations in their choice of residence, Gen Z and Millennials cited “it is an affordable place to live” (54%), “access to high quality jobs” (50%) as the most important factors. Additionally, Gen Z and Millennials are the most mobile, saying that they are most likely to have moved within the last three years and are most likely to move within the next three years when compared with other generations. A recent study by The National Association of Realtors looked at where Millennials want to live across the nation. They found that the most popular city for Millennials in California is not Sacramento, not San Francisco, not LA, but… (wait for it)….Bakersfield. Why? Because Bakersfield is the most affordable metro in the state. What can Sacramento learn? We will have to earn Millennial and Gen Z’s residency (and prevent their flight to Bakersfield) by providing affordable neighborhoods and employment opportunities. 

Photo credit: The Katchet Life. Mural by Tysan Throbe

Our polls show that Gen X, now in their late 30s to early 50s, are oriented towards family amenities – like high quality and nearby public schools, parks, and youth programs. Gen Xers in the Capital Region prefers suburban communities more strongly than other age demographics and are more likely to participate in local community activities like art shows and youth sports. In our expert roundtables about housing and livability, participants agreed that meeting the needs of families downtown is key to keeping our downtowns vibrant. This is consistent with other research findings. Designing for children translates to designing people-friendly spaces that are walkable, safe, and attractive, according to CityLab. With the City of Sacramento Unified School District in financial crisis, can we ensure that downtown remains a viable location for families now and in the future?

Those 55 and over are also a significant portion of the population with their own unique perspectives and needs. As featured in a recent Sacramento Bee article, by 2030, the 60-and-over population will be 40 percent larger in California than it is now, according to the California Department of Aging. Seniors will be a larger share of the population than kids under the age of 18 by 2036, the state projects. Additionally, a recent homeless count found that one in five homeless individuals in Sacramento county are 55 or over. This is highly concerning and heartbreaking, especially with the unique health care and other needs of the elderly. Our polls show that those 55+ are more likely than other generations to move because they are looking for cheaper rent (15% vs. less than 10% for other generations), and are looking for a variety of housing choices (41% want a greater variety compared to 27% or less of other generations). How do we ensure that our communities are properly caring for the unique needs of our growing senior population?

In order to build equitable, prosperous, and sustainable communities now and in the future, we must take into account the unique needs across generations. These issues and more will be further explored in the coming months as we dive deeper into the age demographics of our four public opinion polls to date. Stay tuned!

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is Valley Vision’s Senior Director working on the Public Opinion Surveying initiative and projects in the Healthy Communities and 21st Century Workforce strategy areas.


Fighting Fire with Innovative Partnerships

In 2019, wildfires continue to threaten our quality of life here in California. Annual wildfire-related deaths grew tenfold between 2016 and 2018. Toxic smoke from these fires threatens public health and economic activity. Fire suppression, past logging practices, and climate change have turned forests into vast thickets of tinder, ripe for the next devastating mega-fire. And the fires are getting worse.

It’s critical that decision-makers see and understand this problem – and potential solutions – firsthand. On June 28th, The Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), our region’s transportation and land use planning agency, hosted an excursion for regional elected officials and partner agencies to learn about wildfire and forest management projects across El Dorado County. The day-long tour was organized by David Shabazian, project lead for the Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (RUCS), and an important accompaniment to SACOG’s toolset for boosting rural economies and preserving natural lands.

El Dorado County Supervisor Brian Veerkamp, a fifth generation county resident and former fire chief, guided our tour bus past expansive thickets of brush on our way north from our launch point at Apple Hill past Coloma and Georgetown. Supervisor Veerkamp acknowledged that many residents use these small trees and underbrush to maintain privacy, but affirmed that the biomass “needs to be removed in order to protect us all.”

Our first stop was at the UC Berkeley-run Blodgett Forest Research Station, where Station Manager Dr. Robert York steered us through several sections of forest where researchers test controlled burning, vegetation management, and approaches to regrowth across nearly 4,400 acres. For over 50 years, research at Blodgett has been largely funded through the annual sale of timber harvested sustainably on its grounds. It is the only research site of its kind in California, and has produced over 400 publications on fire ecology, atmospheric chemistry, hydrology, and more.

The King Fire in 2014 scorched over 97,000 acres of El Dorado County forestland.

In 2014, the King Fire burned nearly 9% of the total area of El Dorado County. Our second stop on the tour was to a sobering viewpoint of the King Fire “burn scar” further along Wentworth Springs Road, where the soil is gray and blackened trees dot the landscape as far as the eye can see. Soil scientist Marie Davis explained the devastating after-effects that fires have on watersheds, like nutrient-rich topsoil getting washed into rivers, which slows recovery and clogs up dam infrastructure.

Our final stop was at Big Hill Lookout northwest of Kyburz, where we were treated to a view of SMUD’s Upper American River Project, which generates hydropower via an extensive series of lakes, dams, and powerhouses. The project generates 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year – 15% of Sacramento County’s total power demand.

There are other innovative forest management efforts right here in our region that serve as important models for replication or expansion. The French Meadows Project brings together the Placer County Water Agency, The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, County of Placer, American River Conservancy, and UC Merced’s Sierra Nevada Research Institute to restore forests and protect water supply on 27,000 acres of mainly U.S. Forest Service-owned land in Placer County. The project, nested within the Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative, is funded by a shared investment from the federal government through the Forest Service, state government through the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, and local sources like PCWA, the County of Placer, and private donors. French Meadows’ unique partnership and governance model is allowing the restoration project to advance rapidly to an implementation stage and serve as a model for accelerating ecologically-based forest management across the Sierra Nevada.

Big Hill Lookout near Kyburz was a great viewing place to see the network of lakes and dams that make up SMUD’s Upper American River Project.

Oregon-based Blue Forest Conservation has also introduced a unique partnership and financing model to fund a forest restoration pilot project in 15,000 acres across the North Yuba River watershed. Blue Forest and the World Resources Institute developed a Forest Resilience Bond powered by private capital, which funds the upfront costs of restoration while the Yuba Water Agency and others reimburse investors over time. The result of this financing model is a $4.6 Million project that can begin implementation rapidly with in-kind permitting and planning support from Tahoe National Forest personnel. Both the French Meadows and North Yuba River projects benefit from new collaborations between partners that haven’t historically worked together, unique and flexible financing models that allow for earlier implementation, and the latest scientific findings about treating forests in an ecological manner.

Thanks to David Shabazian for organizing the tour, as well as his team at SACOG who helped put the excursion together – Lynnea Ormiston, Christina Lokke, Rosie Ramos, Renée DeVere-Oki, Kacey Lizon, and CEO James Corless. Thanks also to the tour sponsors – Sierra Nevada Conservancy, SMUD, El Dorado Irrigation District, and Sierra Pacific Industries. To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Manager overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership and Valley Vision’s online communications.

Coast to Coast: Chloe Heads to Graduate School

It’s a stale joke now, but I’ll be honest – the first time I heard Bill mention Valley Vision when I was in high school, I thought he provided eye care services. When I was corrected and told it was a nonprofit, I still thought it was a nonprofit eye care organization. Who knew that I’d later be inducted into the Valley Vision family and actually become proficient at explaining what Valley Vision is about (to the various people who call the office asking to speak to an optometrist, no less).  

But alas, all good things must come to an end. I’ll be leaving Sacramento soon to receive my Masters in Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University’s Fletcher School to continue my education in International Relations for Humanitarian Aid and Human Security. As excited as I am to be starting this new chapter of my life in Boston, it’s a bittersweet goodbye. Every experience I’ve had at Valley Vision has reinforced the fact that there are so many people around us not only to help, but also who are dedicated to helping others.

I got to sit down with dedicated Old Sacramento Waterfront stakeholders who spent hours around a table brainstorming how to improve the district and support local businesses. I helped organize a conference for 200 people who were passionate about leveraging funds for Opportunity Zones. I attended a national summit, representing the Sacramento region and the EPIC Trail to learn about equitable development practices to improve residents’ quality of life across the country. I engaged with statewide economic development leaders to create a regions-up inclusive economic strategy with Lenny Mendonca, Director of GO-Biz. Just recently, I even got to contribute to the early stages of a new California For All campaign to improve disaster preparedness across the state with the Governor’s Office and California Volunteers. 

But how is a tiny team from Sacramento trying to enact systemic change and make a dent in these big problems? 

Well, some days it can feel like it’s a lot of talk. You go from meeting to meeting and wonder if you’ve actually helped anyone. On top of that, you might not have the perfect solution, you definitely can’t do it alone, and big ideas just take a lot of time and money that you don’t always have. Even in the best case scenario, you may not see change come about until decades later and people will have long forgotten about your contributions. But it doesn’t matter. We aren’t motivated by shiny awards and we aren’t easily discouraged. Our mission is to improve people’s quality of life and I can guarantee that we all have this dogged determination to make it happen. That’s what Valley Vision is about.

This vibrant region is filled with people who are devoted to growing the food we eat, improving the quality of air we breathe, insuring the success of local businesses, and providing care and services to those in need. There are so many compassionate individuals here that made me realize that this is truly work worth doing and I will forever be grateful to them for instilling in me this community-based mindset that I will take abroad. No matter where I go, the love I have for this region and this city will come with me.

Chloe Pan was Executive Assistant to Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller and Project Lead for the EPIC Trail.