Hidden money, weaponized disinformation and a dark development

By Scott Thomas Anderson

July 19, 2018

Sacramento News and Review

Who’s behind the leading phone survey and sponsored Facebook campaign that are trying to assuage Folsom residents about a massive attack on open space?

Folsom Ranch, an embattled series of housing developments, is on track to be the largest of its kind in Sacramento County in decades—which means an enormous loss of open space, agricultural land and wildlife habitat.

I scanned the room for reactions and paused at former Mayor Bob Holderness. After leaving his elected post, Holderness became a consultant for prominent developers and then spearheaded the campaign for Measure W, the 2004 ballot initiative for the city to annex the land on its southern border, which would be taken over by Folsom Ranch. Today, Holderness represents Westland Capital Partners, a major developer of Folsom Ranch, as well as AKT Development, a major seller of its land.

His jump from elected leader to special-interest contractor was mirrored by former City Manager Martha Lofgren, who helped prepare the South of 50 project on the taxpayers’ dime until 2006, and is now serving as legal counsel for the New Home Company, one of the project’s main developers. But wait, there’s a three-peat! Former city planner Mike McDougall is now a top-ranking manager for Folsom Ranch.

Similar to The Folsom Way’s story-weaving in The Bee—and the meditative voice-over work on its sky-soaring Facebook video—Holderness discusses the South of 50 project as if it was approved by locals when they passed Measure W. But that vote for the city to take control of the rolling land’s future, instead of leaving that up to the county, nowhere mentioned 11,000 homes and suburban sprawl. In fact, the measure specifically forbade housing without a new, secured water supply, which remains in doubt.

Did Holderness know who was behind The Folsom Way? Before I could think more about it, he stood up and decided to jump into the kerfuffle unfolding in the chambers. Holderness strolled over to the podium. “I’m frankly disappointed to see that two of our planning commissioners don’t have a good understanding of what their role is in our city government,” he said. “Perhaps they didn’t understand their assignment, and that’s unfortunate.”

Commissioner Mallory, who’d just finished arguing that consultants have too much power in the city, glanced wearily up and replied, “You, sir, are one of the consultants.”


Photo by Devon McMindes

Click here to read the full article.

ECOS Comments on the Folsom General Plan

On June 25, 2018, ECOS submitted our comments/testimony on the latest changes to the City of Folsom’s General Plan.

Here is an excerpt:


ECOS and Habitat 2020 are greatly relieved to see that the Study Area for new City growth south of White Rock road has been removed from the General plan.

Further growth in this area would pose potentially un-mitigatable impacts to invaluable agricultural and biological resources and severely inhibit successful implementation of the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (SSHCP), currently in its final phase of adoption after decades of development.

Further growth in this area would be critically inconsistent with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ (SACOG) Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS) for meeting State mandated greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, Federal mandates for Air Quality Attainment under the State Improvement Plan (SIP), as well as myriad regional goals for social equity, public health and natural resource conservation.

Finally, ECOS is extremely concerned about the ability of the City to supply adequate water supplies to this potential growth area, or any new expansion area. With the decision to supply the City’s current expansion south of US 50 solely with conservation efforts of existing supplies, it is apparent that the City has fully allocated those supplies. We remain concerned that the City will not be able to supply the current expansion area without severe burdens on existing residents with the mandatory cut-backs in supply that the City is subject to in Dry and Extremely Dry years. We have not seen evidence that the City has yet acquired back up supplies to prevent these burdens, and given this, it is extremely difficult to see how the City could speculate on further expansion of their footprint.


Click here to read the full comment letter.

They are building 11,000 new homes in Folsom. But will there be enough water?

By Ryan Sabalow, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak

Updated June 18, 2018

The Sacramento Bee

It’s like a new city springing to life: 11,000 homes and apartments, seven public schools, a pair of fire stations, a police station, a slew of office and commercial buildings and 1,000 acres of parks, trails and other open space. Expected population: 25,000.

But will it have enough water?

As construction begins this month on the first model homes at Folsom Ranch, a 3,300-acre development in the city of Folsom south of Highway 50, state regulators continue to have questions about the project’s water supply. They still aren’t convinced the city has secured enough water to keep showers and spigots flowing as California contends with increasing uncertainty about rain and snowfall.

. . .

The drought, which officially ended last year, seems to have done little to impede development. No cities or counties appear to have curbed their development plans as a direct result of water-supply limitations,

. . . 

Alan Wade, former president of the Save the American River Association, said it’s baffling state water officials would tell Folsom they had doubts about its water supply yet would let the development proceed.

“The reply from Folsom essentially told them to go pound sand: ‘We’re going to go ahead anyway,'” Wade said. “I don’t know how you can get away with that.”

Folsom site contaminated by jet fuel to be cleaned up, paving way for park and nearby housing

By Kellen Browning and Claire Morgan 

June 25, 2018

The Sacramento Bee

At a public forum Wednesday evening at the Folsom Community Center, DTSC project manager Peter MacNicholl pitched about 20 skeptical residents on the specifics of the cleanup plan, which aims to remove dangerous toxic chemicals like trichloroethylene and perchlorate from the soil and groundwater.

. . . 

At the public forum, vocal critics expressed doubt about the thoroughness of the cleanup, DTSC safety standards and the effectiveness of a fence in keeping people away from toxic fumes. Rob Burness, a member of the Environmental Council of Sacramento, also worried about the impact to wetland wildlife, which MacNicholl acknowledged was unavoidable.

“We need to have an aggressive plan that goes beyond the fencing and just removal of the land, the most contaminated soil,” Burness said during public comment. “It needs to deal with potential that there will still be trespass, that wildlife will still be impacted, and the vapors will impact the surrounding parkland.”

Click here to read the full article


Click here to read more about the concerns that the Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) has about these plans

Evening Hours on Light Rail Gold Line Extended!

June 14, 2018

A win for the Sacramento region! 

While light rail trains on the Gold Line previously stopped running before 7:00 pm, they will now run until 11:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday!

How did this come to be?

Ten years ago, ECOS brought a lawsuit against Caltrans when it proposed adding lanes to Highway 50 to create High Occupancy Vehicle (“HOV”) lanes. Since these lanes are only restricted to High Occupancy Vehicles during certain hours, adding new lanes for this purpose is essentially just a widening of the freeway.

Freeway-widening induces urban sprawl, increases Vehicle Miles Traveled, increase greenhouse gas emissions and does not reduce traffic congestion after all.

That lawsuit was settled in 2008 when Caltrans agreed to pay $7.5 million to SacRT for improved light rail service between Folsom and Sacramento, along the Highway 50 corridor.

In 2017, Caltrans again proposed to create HOV lanes by adding more lanes to Highway 50 without adequately dealing with induced demand for sprawl development and additional miles traveled. Again, ECOS sued.

ECOS met with SacRT to determine what funding from settlement of this lawsuit would help public transit the most along this section of Highway 50, and it was determined that expanding light rail service past 7:00pm would be best, so Caltrans settled by agreeing to provide funding for that purpose.

At ECOS, reducing vehicle trips is an essential part of our work, and new service like this goes a long way toward helping us reach our goals. This project will open up car-free options to many people, as trips that were only possible in a vehicle are now possible via public transit. We are proud to be a part of this effort.

Neighborhood Planned for Toxic Waste Site in Folsom

June 12, 2018

How do you think the Aerojet Area 40 Toxic waste site in Folsom should be cleaned up before it is developed into a park, open space and residential area?

A Public Meeting to Review and Comment on the Remedial Action Plan for the cleanup and development of the Aerojet Area 40 Toxic Waste site, which is South of Highway 50 will be held:

June 20 from 6-8 pm,
Folsom Community Center,
Western Conference Room,
52 Natoma Street, Folsom

South of highway 50 just east of Prairie City Road, lies Aerojet Rocketdyne’s “Area 40”, a hazardous waste site waiting be cleaned up. Folsom and local developers are planning a 48-acre park with housing nearby within the Folsom Planning Area at the location of Area 40. A 26-acre “open space” will be fenced off until extremely high soil vapor levels drop to lower levels.

The Department of Toxics Substances (DTSC) released the proposed cleanup plan in May, and a Public Meeting will be held June 20 in Folsom.

While Aerojet Rocketdyne leased this land their industrial activities included separating solvents from propellant-solvent mixtures and open burning of laboratory wastes, propellants, kerosene fuel, and flammable liquids.

Chemicals identified within Area 40 soils and soil vapor were: dioxins and furans, metals, perchlorate, semi- volatile organic compounds and volatile organic compounds. Chemicals identified in groundwater were perchlorate, trichloroethylene (TCE), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), and additional volatile organic compounds.

The proposed cleanup plans are to remove 31,100 tons of contaminated soil from two areas on the site. Note that soil vapors move from the soil into the air. Extremely high levels of volatile organic compounds are in the shallow groundwater. The cleanup plans include measures to require vapor mitigation systems to move chemical vapors from under potential new housing.

How thorough will the cleanup be for the proposed new Community West Park near Prairie City Road? For the open space area north of the park? For the single-family high-density homes just north of the site, and for the commercial and multi-family units to the south?

Levels of contamination: The Remedial Action Plan (RAP) for Area 40 says that the site poses unacceptable risk to human and ecological health, which is true. However, the RAP does not mention that the levels of TCE in shallow groundwater, soil gas and even outdoor air are among the highest observed in California. The site has up to 120,000 μg/L TCE in shallow groundwater, which is 24,000 times the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 5 μg/L TCE. The site has up to 268 million μg/m3 TCE in soil gas, which is 8 million times the EPA default screening level for protecting residents from TCE vapor intrusion into indoor air. The levels of TCE are so high on portions of the site, that levels of TCE in outdoor air 4 foot above the ground pose a risk for fetal heart defects. Levels of TCE are likely to be even higher for infants or small children breathing closer to the ground and individuals laying or picnicking on the ground.

The City of Folsom and the developers are focused on whether the park can go into the proposed area. The risk assessment for human health is based on limited park use.

During the cleanup additional contamination may be found, which could change the scope or nature of the cleanup.

June 20: Learn about this site – make your thoughts known at the meeting scheduled for 6pm at the Folsom Community Center, Western Conference Room, 52 Natoma Street, in Folsom.