The pre-dawn rush is on for worker Kathy Reed the UPS Customer Center in Rocklin. UPS is one of the largest employers in Rocklin and serves much of the northeastern state.
The pre-dawn rush is on for worker Kathy Reed the UPS Customer Center in Rocklin. UPS is one of the largest employers in Rocklin and serves much of the northeastern state. Dave Henry

When Rocklin city staff and members of the Rocklin Chamber of Commerce canvassed residents during a city walk last year, they learned that people rated parks high on their list of likes about their community.

Rocklin has 30 community and neighborhood parks, a high number for a city its size — about 20 square miles — and population — slightly more than 56,000.

“We have more parks per capita than anywhere in the region,” Mayor Brett Storey said.

“The goal is to have a park within two miles of every home,” said Leslie Woodman, superintendent of the Rocklin Parks and Recreation Department. “There are also acres of open space.”

Rocklin has two golf courses — Sunset Whitney Golf and Country Club and Whitney Oaks Golf Club — miles of hiking and bicycling trails and 30,000 acres of open space.

“Everywhere you stand in Rocklin you see open space and gently rolling hills,” said Robyn Buzdon, a senior executive with Lyon Real Estate.

In addition to parks for people, Rocklin has a new dog park that opened in December at Johnson-Springfield Park and is maintained by Rocklin Residents Unite for Fido, or RRUFF.

The group sponsors special events for the canine population, such as Woofstock, with a Grateful Dog Walk and wiener dog races, in August and Barktoberfest in October.

Other Rocklin events include an Evening in the Park Concert Series on four Friday nights during the summer; Run Rocklin on April 15, with 5K and 12K runs to benefit the Matt Redding Memorial Scholarship Foundation, named for a Rocklin police officer who died in 2005; Hot Chili and Cool Cars in September; and a farmers market in the RC Willey parking lot on Saturday mornings.

Rocklin is one of the fastest-growing cities in California, growing faster than Placer County and the Sacramento region, according to the city’s website. From 2000 to 2010, the population grew 54 percent. A 13 percent growth rate is projected for the next five years.

“The maximum that we can grow to is 70,000 to 75,000 residents,” Storey said.

The main area remaining for development is Whitney Ranch and some infill projects.

“Even with over 50,000 people, it’s a small town,” Woodman said. “It’s one of the safest cities around — clean and well-maintained — and it has one of the best school districts in the area. That’s why families move here.”

Rocklin Unified School District is one of the reasons Storey brought his young family to Rocklin in 1992.

Storey grew up in El Dorado Hills and moved away, but when he wanted to return to the area, his parents, who were in real estate, advised, “Go to Rocklin.”

“It’s an all-around nice place to live and work,” he said. “It has a low crime rate, a good fire district, small businesses and restaurants and good school system.”

The district has 11 elementary, two middle and two high schools, as well as a charter school.

Buzdon chose to settle in Rocklin while in college.

“I moved here at age 18 to attend Sierra College and decided that I wanted to live here,” she said. “It was obvious to us college kids that senior adults and children took priority in the community.”

Rocklin is considered a college town. Two-year Sierra College, which opened in 1962, ranks No. 1 in Northern California for transfers to four-year universities. William Jessup University is a private accredited four-year Christian college that relocated from San Jose to Rocklin in 2004.

“There are only three communities in the area where kids can go to school from kindergarten through college — Davis, Sacramento and Rocklin,” Storey said.

Rocklin has a wide range of housing options, including apartments, condominiums, homes for first-time buyers, master-planned communities, large luxury custom homes and retirement homes.

Standard Pacific Homes and Meritage Homes both have new-home projects in Rocklin.

Standard Pacific has two communities at Whitney Ranch. Lariat Ridge II has homes ranging from 1,776 square feet to 3,678 square feet, with three to six bedrooms and priced from the $280,000s. Saratoga homes range from 2,852 square feet to 3,619 square feet, have three to five bedrooms and are priced from $410,000.

Also at Whitney Ranch is Meritage Homes’ Quail Crossings neighborhood, with homes ranging from 2,055 square feet to 3,080 square feet. The homes have three to five bedrooms and are priced from $309,950.

Older areas of Rocklin include the Whitney Oaks master-planned community, which has about 5,000 residents and 1,877 homes surrounding a golf course. Springfield, an active-adult community of 868 single-family homes, is within the Whitney Oaks area.

Stanford Ranch is a well-established, 3,500-acre master-planned community with homes, shopping centers, schools and recreational areas.

Average resale-home prices in January ranged from a low of $252,000 for a two-bedroom home to $308,397 for a home with four or more bedrooms, according to the Placer County Association of Realtors.

“People purchase homes in Rocklin, not investments,” Buzdon said. “There aren’t a lot of rental homes in Rocklin.”

“Our numbers (of new homes under construction) are way down from what they were at the height of the market,” said Sherri Abbas, director of community development for the city of Rocklin. “(But) there's a pretty steady stream of folks coming into the office that are doing remodels and adding solar. People are feeling more comfortable about spending money on their homes.”

The community development department’s summary of building permits issued indicates the changes.

“Activity peaked in 2005 and then just petered off,” Abbas said.

Building permits for single-family homes totaled 453 in 2005 and 77 in 2011.

“Slightly less than half of the residential area is built out at Whitney Ranch in the northern part of Rocklin,” Abbas said.

Two new retail shopping centers are going through the permit process, and grading should be finished by June, Abbas said. Rocklin Crossing, anchored by Walmart and Home Depot, and Rocklin Commons, anchored by a Target store, are at Interstate 80 and Sierra College Boulevard.

“That’s our biggest showplace right now,” she said. “People will be very excited to see equipment there and walls going up.”

“Now that the community is going forward with retail stores in the Sierra College area, there’s no need to grow in homes,” Storey said. “We will put rooftops first on businesses and will see some larger retailers come in.”

Storey wants to make it easy for high-quality businesses to locate in Rocklin.

“We’re updating all our business processes to make it more affordable to have and keep businesses here,” Storey said. “A lot of commercial and retail outlets are sitting empty, and we are in a good location at I-80 and Highway 65.”

Retail businesses in Rocklin incude an RC Willey furniture store, a Sportsman’s Warehouse and a Stein Mart clothing and home furnishings store in the Blue Oaks Town Center.

“The theaters (at the center) are now owned by Century Theatres,” Abbas said. “That’s a huge positive and an influence on what’s going on there.”

United Natural Foods Inc. is planning to construct a 55,000-square-foot expansion and add to its truck parking area, Abbas said. United Natural Foods and RC Willey are among the largest employers in Rocklin. Others are the city, the school district, Oracle, UPS and Sierra College.

Esurance, an auto insurer that is part of Allstate Corp., will open a larger center in the spring and add jobs, Storey said.

“We have transportation and package shipping companies (Fed Ex and UPS) and several home-based businesses,” Storey said. “Shari’s Berries started that way.”

Rocklin’s recorded history dates back to the mid-1800s when Joel Parker Whitney, who came to California during the Gold Rush, established 30,000-acre Spring Valley Ranch, which is thought to be the first developed property in Rocklin.

The ranch had 25 miles of crushed-stone roads, 12 granite bridges, stables, barns and housing for 200 ranch hands and their families.

Although they came for gold, miners in Rocklin discovered another valuable stone: granite. Several granite quarries were established in the area, and, by 1912, nearly 2,000 train carloads of granite were shipped out of town, according to the city’s website.

Rocklin supplied granite for the state Capitol and several buildings in San Francisco.

The master-planned communities of Stanford Ranch and Whitney Oaks occupy much of the former Spring Valley Ranch, and many of the original 12 bridges still stand in city parks.

“People move to Rocklin because they want a better life and a better place to raise a family,” Buzdon said. “In Rocklin, you’ll find three and four generations living here. It’s truly a community of family-oriented people.”

The small-town feeling is validated by neighbors with similar values who help each other, she said.

“I feel like I’m on vacation every day,” Buzdon said. “Every day is beautiful living and working in Rocklin.”