Not long ago, the city of Folsom was best known for its state prison and as a place to drive through to get to Folsom Lake.
Today, the community has other distinctions. It boasts shopping, high-tech jobs, nature trails, upscale homes, a city college, a cultural and arts presence and more.
Starting this month, the city is taking stock of these qualities as it asks residents: What do they most like about the community? What are the challenges? And what does the city need?
The occasion for this civic soul-searching is the general plan update, generally a two-year effort that occurs roughly once a generation. This one will establish a blueprint for city planning decisions through 2035.
Community Development Director David Miller calls it the city's "constitution for development."
Population projections for the new general plan update differ widely, with estimates of between 81,400 people and 97,500 by 2035, according to the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
The last general plan update, adopted in 1988, guided the city through a more than trebling of its population, from about 20,000 residents then to nearly 73,000 today, according to the state Department of Finance.
What else has changed in that time?
In 1988, the city covered 23.7 square miles. Today, thanks to several annexations including a 3,500-acre expansion south of Highway 50, the city's footprint is 29.7 square miles.
Another key difference for this general plan update will be the city's turn to social media to spread the word and elicit feedback from as many city residents as possible.
"In the past, we've relied on holding community workshops and getting people to come to meetings," said Chelsey Norton, project manager in Sacramento for Folsom's planning consultant, Mintier Harnish.
These days, more jurisdictions are turning to social networking platforms. Folsom's is run by the Omaha, Neb.-based www.mindmixer.com, capable of bringing residents to a virtual town hall, Norton said.
That has the potential to turn the problem of too little public participation on its head, city officials say. That social networking, in turn, will supplement planned focus groups on issues such as economic development.
The policy guidance the city seeks from residents boils down to this: "This is what my community stands for, and this is what I want," Miller said. And the website asks visitors to rank their priorities.
There is plenty to ponder. Residents will be asked to rank issues such as transportation, education, safety jobs and aesthetics and then share their perspective online.
As a practical matter, the update is required to address overall land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise and safety. But residents can also propose a city emphasis on culture and arts, for example, on education, the city's history or urban design.
For information, visit: http://townhall.folsom2035. com.