2020 Vision Part 1: Growth, Economy, Transportation

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(In 1994, a team of Redding journalists produced a series of stories that attempted to predict life in Redding in the year 2020. Greg Clark, who was part of that team, takes a look at just how accurate that crystal ball was.)

It’s been sitting there all along, smack in front of us, for 25 years and counting — the biggest, most visible time capsule this side of Betty White. Eight days long and wearing a catchy title, it was a bold exercise, even for newspaper folks, who tend to do crazy things for low pay and don’t have much humility in the first place.

It was “North State: A 2020 Vision,” a project first suggested by then-Record Searchlight business reporter George Winship as a way to examine Redding’s future “through the eyes and in the words of area leaders and activists.” What started out as a muffin soon turned into a full-blown eight-tier wedding cake constructed by a baker’s dozen of reporters, photographers and editors. The series of articles started on Sunday, July 31, 1994, and ran for eight days straight. Some days saw multiple stories. It was followed by a two-hour gathering of community members — a panel convened by the newspaper to further discuss the future. Last came an epilogue of sorts by then-Editor Robert Edkin who put it all in perspective — quite well in fact.

Full disclosure here: I was part of that team cajoling some of Redding’s citizens to squint at that crystal ball and talk about what they saw 25 years in the future. As graphics director, my job was to figure out how to illustrate things that might never happen and, if they did, wouldn’t show up for a couple of decades. Good luck with that.

But it all came together, and some time not long after, I scribbled a note in my mental datebook to check back in 25 years to see how prophetic — or pathetic — our efforts to envision the future really were. How cool would it be to see if a handful of engineers and teachers and cops and others really nailed our future life in 2020? And, if so, who do they pick to win the next Super Bowl?

The stories have been out there and fairly accessible. Thank God and Al Gore for digital archiving and that thing they simply called “the Net” back in 1994. They are creative and lively. The civic sources took reporters’ requests for their best prognostications seriously and the picture they painted of today — 2020 — is tack sharp in many cases. Smudgy in others. But it turned out more Mona Lisa painted with a blindfold than a paint-by-number of dogs playing poker.

Before we jump into the DeLorean and zip back to the future, remember this: The year 2020 seemed like Space Mountain on steroids back in 1994. After all, the internet was just growing legs and you’d be hard-pressed to find a cell phone that didn’t fold in the middle or look like a walkie talkie. In 1994, a quarter-century before today’s presidential impeachment soap opera, President Clinton was still five years away from his own, which took place in 1999. Monica Lewinsky was still a kid in college.

The economy was on a tear and the Dow had just topped 3,600 when this series was published. (It’s over 29,000 these days.) A 30-year fixed mortgage cost you nearly 7 percent annually and a 7-month certificate of deposit at Tri-Counties Bank paid more than 4 percent. A gallon of gas in Redding went for a buck and change.

Redding was just a few families shy of 77,000, but folks here weren’t overpaid. A Shasta County officer supervisor job advertised for $7.75 per hour and contractors looking for laborers were willing to cough up $5 an hour in pay. Oh, and you could read the 2020 Vision series, and the rest of the Record Searchlight, for $9.75 per month (it’s $62 now.)

Back then, 2020 was years, and lifetimes, away. How did the predictions hold up? Pretty darn well in a lot of cases. Smart people made smart predictions, eerily accurate in some cases. In others, not so much. Take a look:


Growth in Redding by 2020 was a theme that colored many of the predictions, by various “experts.” While the prediction that Redding’s population would grow to 171,000 by now was a clunker (the city has about 90,000), other forecasts were on the mark.

John Dunlap, then a principal in the engineering firm Sharrah Dunlap Sawyer, spoke of a need for more housing downtown, limiting long commutes and squeezing the benefits out of the city’s core. Dunlap’s a smart guy and he nailed that prediction like a two-dollar exacta. Dunlap said our downtown of 2020 would — or should — have affordable starter homes, taller buildings with shops on the ground floor, and bike and walking trails from there to the river.

That’s just what is sprouting along California Street and the now-opened-up Market Street. And with it, the theaters, bars and bistros.

Bingo. John Dunlap should be selling crystal balls on Ebay.

Others pointed to a fear of housing sprawl around Redding, but were cautiously optimistic it would be shunted by sound city growth policies. Jim King, a city planner at the time, warned of such sprawl and predicted growth would be driven by a large share of retirees. As the heart of health services for the region, Redding would be attractive to those retirees. Remember that the next time you’re stuck behind the gold Camry with the “World’s Best Nana” license brackets.

Mt. Shasta Mall photo source, mtshastamall.com


Predicting our 2020 economy in 1994 took imagination and skill. Amazon was just selling its first book and the internet was more of a luxury or hobby than everyday tool. One 2020 Vision installment described the latest tech marvel of 1994: a new service that allowed users to dial a local phone number and listen to 3,500 different songs, then buy the album on a CD shipped to them overnight.

The 2020 Vision stories predicted Redding shoppers would be able to buy “a dizzying away of goods and services” over the internet. It also envisioned future residents reading the “latest news-FAX” beamed into their “info-tainment console.” Remember, the first iPhone was still 13 years away.

However, the R-S sources predicted the Mt. Shasta Mall would be vacant and crumbling, sold to recyclers by 2020. Instead, they saw huge “mall marts” selling “everything from tweezers to tires, clothing to cars,” in huge multi-story buildings. Chamber of Commerce executives predicted mega-size supermarkets with footprints of 160,000 square feet or more. Guess what? Today’s proposed Costco on Bechelli Lane is to be 152,000 square feet.

River Crossing Marketplace conceptual rendering by ktgy architecture/planning, image source cityofredding.org

Jim Zauher, another smart fellow who has helped guide Redding’s economic development for decades, rightly predicted that Redding will be the center of a growing medical services and device industry as Baby Boomers reach retirement age by 2020. He was correct on that as the city has a number of senior-living facilities, with more on the way.

Tesla Cybertruck photo source Wikipedia.com


The cars of 1994 came with a couple of high-tech safety features. They were called bumpers. But the experts in the 2020 Vision series foresaw a lot more in 2020 — and they were right.

Electric vehicles would become common — even predominant — with ever-improving batteries and government tax credits to promote sales. Others saw “smart highway gizmos” such as collision avoidance radars to prevent crashes. However, predictions of bumper-to-bumper traffic snarls throughout the city haven’t come to pass. At least not yet.

Next: Predicting schools, homes and crime 25 years into the future.

Click here to see 2020 Vision Part 2: Education, Homes, Crime

Click here to see 2020 Vision Part 3: The Good News and Bad About the River; Now Back to the Future

Click here for a list of 2020 Vision Links.


What do you think? What does Redding 2045 look like, and how should we get there? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Greg Clark is a longtime Redding resident. He is a former journalist and the retired Redding deputy city manager.
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20 Responses

  1. R.V. Scheide R.V. Scheide says:

    Great idea to go back in time and check your own predictions, Greg. I worked on a similar project around the same time that was called “Death of Mainstream Newspapers 2010.” The author correctly predicted that internet advertising, especially the classifieds, would destroy mainstream newspapers by 2010. The author was right about that, predicting the advent of Craigslist before it came on the scene, but wrong that alternative newsweeklies would somehow escape the economic carnage.

    • Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

      When I pick up a copy of the Sactown or Chico News & Review, I get the strong impression that neither would still exist but for marijuana dispensary advertising.

      • Avatar Bruce Vojtecky says:

        That’s what a Phoenix newscaster said about Phoenix New Times only she said it in a way that got her suspended for a day.

  2. Avatar Jeff Morrow says:

    Excellent, interesting and fun piece of work! 20 years ago wasn’t so long ago. 20 years from now doesn’t seem so far off. One of Redding’s goals is to have a government of the 21st century. How did we do, and how are we doing? Does Redding’s recent history suggest we have an entrepreneurial city? 20 years from now, will Redding be awash in electric cars and downtown full of market rate, market supplied affordable housing? What will the river corridor be like 20 years from now? What will the shade canopy be like 20 years from now, given our street tree planting initiatives? Is it even possible to be hotter in the summer?

    Hopefully, I’ll get to read the next piece on Redding, 20 years from now. John Dunlap, what do you see for Redding, 20 years from now?

  3. Avatar christian gardinier says:

    Greg, thanks for the flash-back! What can we do right now in into the future?

    With sun and wind in abundance, with an I-5 pipeline to the world, with Enterprise Zone support, lots of retail space – open land and plenty of folks looking for and needing retraining, how about a massive push into a Green Economy? With the right infrastructure could we become a “New Green Deal” hub for Northern California and provide energy, labor, recreation, tech development and auxiliary support to a new clean economy.

    Let’s be a leader in getting out of dirty energy. Heck, maybe we could get local farmers to grow hemp, as low input, carbon sequestration crop that can be used for thousands of things, from cloth to green plastic, building material and beyond. I know what people might be thinking, but no, industrial hemp, we already grow the cousin…

  4. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I predict that by 2045, Redding will have *finally* done something innovative and cool with the area that is one of the city’s most poorly planned and utilized, but also by far the most prime and ripe with possibilities: Park Marina Drive.

    But that’s what I would have predicted 20 years ago.

  5. Greg, I am honored and delighted by your time-capsule series. I’m glad you were part of the original team, and pleased you filed away the memory of this series so you could exhume it, examine it, and now share it with ANC and allow us the opportunity to weigh in on the north state’s past, present and future. Thank you! I look forward to rolling out the rest of this series this week.

  6. Steve Towers Steve Towers says:

    I’ve just re-read the Comment Policy, trying to ascertain how the deleted references to South Park parodies of metropolitan redevelopment and rebranding are violations of that policy. I guess because they didn’t meet the “constructive criticism” test? I could argue that warning about the potential for rebranding to get comically absurd is very much an exercise in constructive criticism.

    I’m glad someone other than me has to make these judgment calls.

    On the topic of cynicism, does anyone else remember back a decade or so when the local fish-wrap asked readers for ideas for a City of Redding motto? Whoo boy—the cynics (myself included) had a field day with that one.


  7. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    Robert Edkin was my stepfather. Attempt to out-disrupt that +!+

  8. Frank Treadway Frank Treadway says:

    And 20 yrs ago no one predicted the CA Supreme Court implementing AB109, reducing prison populations and returning the low-level criminals to the city where they did the crime, thus some 300-500 such in Shasta Co. As far as 20 yrs from now, 2040…I see a fast-rail from Rdg-SAC-SF, right down the middle of I-5. Redding a high-rise capitol of the North, district-wide voting and a return to it’s former political Blue-ness. And sorry folks, Bethel will have been exposed as the harmful cult that it is within our lifetime.

    • Avatar Doug Cook says:

      Frank, I agree with you about AB109, Except it wasn’t the Ca Supreme Court that implemented it. It was the state legislature that passed the bills, signed by then Gov Brown. As far as high speed rail…who will be riding this train? Amtrak leaves Redding mostly empty. Why would I ride a train to Sac when I can shoot down I-5 quite easily? And I hope in 20 years, we will have more tolerance for a variety of churches and religions. What California does NOT need, is more blueness. This state and many cities in it are a mess now thanks to the progressive policies of the state government and those cities. San Francisco being the most obvious example of a failed city.

  9. Avatar Jist Cuz says:

    Bethel gone? Let us pray +!+

  10. Avatar Chris Rodriguez says:

    Great series!

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