Elk Grove wants to expand its size by 30 percent
What’s really scary? Elk Grove wants to expand its size by 30 percent, with concrete covering the farmland and wildlife habitat south of the City. That is the plan that Elk Grove has submitted to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo), a little known public agency responsible for ensuring orderly development and protection of open space and farmland. You can help defeat this proposal and help LAFCo make better choices for our region. Check the LAFCo website for updates and sign up at the ECOS website for action alerts.
We need your help NOW!
LAFCo begins hearings soon on Elk Grove’s request to include 8,000 acres south of its current city limits within its Sphere of Influence. Approval would give the city a green light to annex and develop the land. This request is the largest urban expansion ever to come before LAFCo.
LAFCo staff recommendation includes a “Regional Enhanced Alternative,” which is a reduced footprint scenario for the SOI of 4000+ acres. Since there has been no demonstration of any need for expansion beyond current Elk Grove’s city limits to accommodate growth, ECOS remains in full opposition to the alternative recommendation as well.
Please send a letter or email to the Commissioners at:
Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission.
1112 I Street, Suite 100 , Sacramento, CA 95814-2836
Fax: (916) 874.2939 Email: commissionclerk[at]saclafco[dot]org
Top Ten Reasons for Denying Elk Grove’s Overreach
By Rob Burness, ECOS Board member & Habitat 2020 Co-chair
Elk Grove’s leaders would have us believe they simply want to plan for their future and improve their job housing balance. Others have tried to characterize the issues as jobs vs. environment. But there is regional significance far beyond that simple calculus. Here are ten reasons why LAFCo should turn down Elk Grove’s overreaching request:
- The Sacramento Area Council of Government’s regional population projections and Elk Grove’s own 2010 market study reveal that the City, with over 3000 acres of vacant land within its limits, needs no additional land to meet residential and job growth projections until at least 2035. Elk Grove is currently planning its vacant 1200 acre Southeast Study Area and could easily designate much or all of it for employment centers.
- Elk Grove says it wants a better jobs housing balance yet the SOI request is not the answer to jobs. It is at the very southwest urban edge. A 1980’s tech center in Laguna never took off. A major regional mall site at Elk Grove’s edge lies weed-filled and vacant. Why would it be any different in the SOI area? It is not rational to expect major job growth. There is every expectation of more residential sprawl.
- Approximately 6000 acres of the 8000 acre expansion request is outside the Urban Service Boundary. The USB is not just a line on the County General Plan. It is also the basis for long term planning of urban services in the region, particularly sewer and water. It is the basis for the Water Forum agreement and the County Zone 40 Master Water Supply Plan. It is a major threshold decision for LAFCO to countenance urban expansion without certainty that those services can be provided within the context of available supply and capacity.
- There is inadequate surface water available to ensure that we can accommodate growth already planned inside the USB and develop 6000 more acres outside the USB, while still meeting the Water Forum Agreement to maintain safe yield of groundwater. The Elk Grove environmental review (RDEIR) uses supply and demand analysis from the Sacramento County Water Agency (SCWA) 2010 Zone 41 Urban Water Management Plan (UWMP) which estimates that in 2035 there will be almost a 32k acre feat annual (AFA) excess in supply in Zone 40 (and so would be the most likely supplier to the SOI area). But the 2010 UWMP does not consider the analysis of the Sacramento County General Plan adopted in 2011, which approved almost 20k acres of new growth areas, and estimated a Zone 40 shortfall of almost 5k AFA at build out of the plan. There is simply not enough water for the Elk Grove SOI in Zone 40 with the County’s current plans.
- The SOI Request is inconsistent with the adopted Metropolitan Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS). It is also inconsistent with the Regional Ozone Attainment Plan, which is Sacramento’s portion of the State Improvement Plan. The SCS was created and adopted by the Sacramento Area Council Of Governments pursuant to Senate Bill 375, to link land use and transportation in an effort to meet mandated greenhouse gas reduction targets through reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT). The SOI poses a direct challenge to effective implementation of that plan and the possibility of meeting the region’s targets.
- The SOI area, particularly the land west of Hwy 99, is vital foraging area for many waterfowl and raptor species. The Stone Lakes NWR and Cosumnes River Preserve are significant public investments to protect wetland roosting areas for migratory waterfowl, including greater sandhill cranes, and Swainson’s hawks. Loss of their foraging habitat to vineyard conversion and solar energy projects add to the challenges of maintaining good foraging options.
- SOI approval threatens the ability to implement the draft South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan. Successful implementation of the plan requires a relatively low ratio of land to be protected compared to the total acres of land suitable for protection. SOI approval would establish a high 40% ratio, which will skew land prices upward, reduce willing sellers, and create serious challenges to adopting a viable implementation plan.
- The SOI Area almost entirely comprises lands of statewide agricultural significance. LAFCo’s mandate is to protect agricultural land where possible. Elk Grove’s request directly challenges that mandate. The Sacramento County Farm Bureau opposes SOI expansion because of the detrimental effect of losing 8000 acres of farmland on the County’s agricultural economy.
- Elk Grove does have another urban growth option inside the USB–the Florin Vineyard area to the northeast. It has much less agricultural and habitat value than Elk Grove’s request, and is surrounded by urban development on three sides. Lack of freeway access and multiple ownerships do present challenges. But given its mandate to protect agriculture, LAFCo must acknowledge that the City does have expansion options.
- Elk Grove ingenuously says that there is no plan for developing the area; it just wants the ability to reserve land to plan for the future growth. But there really isn’t another viable competitor for the area’s development. SOI approval will set in motion speculative land purchases and generate proposals to finance an annexation request well before actual development need. Elk Grove does not need the SOI to be approved in order to plan for post 2035 development.
Lack of need, questionable prospects for job growth and uncertainty of enough water for already planned growth stand in marked contrast to the high agricultural and habitat value of the SOI lands and the threat to successful implementation of an important HCP. Much better that LAFCo convey to Elk Grove the need to act consistent with adopted regional plans and to focus on job growth within its existing 3000 vacant acres. In the meantime, give the HCP a reasonable chance to succeed and provide an opportunity to establish certainty of an adequate water supply. That is the regionally responsible course of action for LAFCo.
A different version of this article appeared as an op-ed in the Sacramento Bee on Oct. 26, 2013.
Read the Final Environmental Impact Report.
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Contact: Matthew Baker, ECOS Habitat Director • habitat[at]ecosacramneto[dot]net • 916-444-0022