II. Identifying Our Communities of Interest
The San Joaquin Valley is the primary region for understanding the issues and challenges facing small unincorporated communities in California. It contains the largest relative concentration of number of small unincorporated communities of any region in the state.2 The fourth largest region in the state, the Valley is anchored by a string of urban areas that runs along California State Highway 99 from Stockton to Bakersfield and includes the cities of Modesto, Merced, Tulare and Fresno, in eight counties (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare). Of the 3.9 million residents, more than one in four live in unincorporated areas; more than 400,000 of those residents live in unincorporated settlements with multiple indicators of concentrated poverty.
The universe of unincorporated communities is much larger than that of the colonias which we are interested in for this project. The San Joaquin Valley has 122 unincorporated areas (Census Designated Places) with an average population size of 3,101. Only four of these areas (Oildale, Rosamond, Lamont and Salida) have populations greater than 10,000 people. Most of the Valley’s unincorporated communities are smaller and more isolated, with much smaller tax bases and more challenges in securing the resources needed for infrastructure and public services.
The eight counties in the Valley share a number of similarities that bind them together as a coherent region. Importantly, however, their unincorporated communities evince a number of differences in their size, type, and geographic distribution, as well as the governance structure in place to respond to their service and infrastructure needs.
a. The Types of Communities that Comprise Our Communities of Interest (COIs) There are three distinct types of unincorporated communities in the San Joaquin Valley that present distinct issues and circumstances and require investigation in their own right:
Islands are unincorporated county areas that are fully or partially enclosed within the
boundaries of a city. For the purposes of this report, an island is defined as an unincorporated geographic area that is surrounded by a city’s geographical boundaries on at least seventy-five percent of its sides. 3 Since islands are not Census Designated Places, we do not have the same
demographic and housing data on islands that we do for most other unincorporated communities that