reached it. Finally, there are 66 rural settlements, labeled “hinterlands” to reinforce that they are far enough away from any cities to be viewed as independent small towns, at least for the foreseeable future. With the continued rapid sprawl of the cities in the Valley, today’s fringe can become tomorrow’s island, and today’s hinterland can become tomorrow’s fringe, so while the three types are distinct, the pattern is always evolving and even the most isolated communities are part of a larger regional system of land development and conversion. Overall, more than 400,000 people live in the lower income unincorporated settlements of the eight counties.
The term colonias literally means simply “settlement” but also carries a host of legal consequences and informal connotations, and its use in the context of the Central Valley is a subject of active discussion. Most, but not all, of the residents of most of the settlements are Latino, and the conditions embody the racialized nature of poverty and inequality in the country. There are unmistakable similarities to certain conditions in the border-region settlements in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California officially designated by the federal and state governments as colonias, and important lessons to learn from their experiences. One of the policy discussions will no doubt address whether there are advantages to seeking some kind of analogous government recognition for San Joaquin Valley settlements. However, there are also important differences with the border areas, as well as some reactions to negative images associated with the term.1 We will employ it on limited occasions in this report and continue to encourage the constituencies for this project to develop a consensus regarding the strategic use of the term.
2. Documenting conditions in the communities. The unincorporated settlements have a host of conditions that present threats to health and safety, maintain economic and educational inequity, and prevent the flourishing of more complete communities. There are deficiencies of physical infrastructure, such as water systems, storm drain and sewer lines, sidewalks, roads and streetlights, and of public buildings of all kinds. These are joined by substantial deficits in resources for decent affordable housing and for adequate public human services, health care, and education. Some of these issues have been relatively well-documented, while for others, information and data is either not available or uneven. Many of the strongest efforts to improve these conditions have taken up one issue at a time, such as the need for a new water system in a particular community or group of communities, and thus some of the best data have been generated as part of those efforts. For this project so far, we have collected and summarized many reports about the San Joaquin Valley community conditions done by research and planning bodies across the state and tracking recent developments as they are reported in the news media. While this information does not represent a major breakthrough with regard to new evidence, reorganizing this information can help to frame and sharpen the issues and tell us what new kinds of data would be needed to guide and inform