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

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Environmentalists Sue To Block Possible Elk Grove Expansion

June 18, 2018

By Ezra Romero

Capital Public Radio

“This is classic leapfrog development where you are building on green fields instead of brown fields,” said Alexandra Reagan with ECOS.

Reagan says the city should develop existing land within its boundaries. She also says there are 14 impacts that are unavoidable with the project moving forward. They include altering where migratory birds forage and depletion of groundwater resources.

“We feel like those should be addressed before any next steps for planning growth,” Reagan adds.

Read the full article here.

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Disparate Interests Pan Elk Grove’s Expansion Plans at Sacramento LAFCo Meeting

December 18, 2017

Elk Grove News.net

Notwithstanding their 40-plus minute presentation, the City of Elk Grove was criticized at last week’s meeting of the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) for its plans to enlarge the city. The criticisms, which were made by a variety of interests, condemned Elk Grove’s planned expansion through the sphere of influence (SOI) process.
 
The presentation to the LAFCo commission was made by Elk Grove assistant to city manager and planning specialist Christopher Jordan [sic] at the Wednesday, December 6 meeting. Jordan’s presentation, which was as much part history lesson and part public relations pitch, focused on the city’s state-mandated general plan update and three current SOI applications, which are the initial steps to annex property.
During public comment, the presentation was criticized by three environmentalist, two agriculture interest, and one Elk Grove resident. There were no public comments in favor of Elk Grove’s expansion plans.
 
Speaking on behalf of the Mother Lode chapter of the Sierra Club, [and Co-Chair of the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s Habitat Conservation Committee] Sean Wirth noted there was nothing in Jordan’s presentations on the effects on the environment. He also opined what environmental documents included in the application were faulty. 
 
“If this new SOI is approved outside the urban services boundary, there is going to a general belief that other areas nearby will also be able to be part of this sphere,” Wi[r]th said … [“It is going to be impossible to do conservation in that area. The effect will be that it is going to be too expensive to buy any land there.”] … .*
 
Wirth also noted flooding that occurs every seven to ten years on the southern portions of the city along the Cosumnes River which affect sandhill cranes. When flooding occurs, the cranes flee to higher ground and if the land is developed, they will lose habitat. 
 
Speaking for agriculture interests was Bill Bird from the Sacramento Farm Bureau who in part echoed Wirth. Bird said agricultural uses were not taken into account and once the land is annexed, farms will be abandoned for a variety of reasons.
 
“When you consider all three sphere of influence amendments, you are talking about taking roughly 1,800-acres out of agricultural production,” he said. “Once these amendments are granted, the writing on the wall for farmers is crystal clear – the message is – GET OUT!”
 
Addressing Elk Grove’s performance regarding employment development was resident Lynn Wheat. In her comments Wheat noted there was no mention of the quality of the new jobs developed, the 2,000 promised new jobs should the Wilton Rancheria gain approval of their proposed casino will be low wage hospitality jobs, and that the Elk Grove Unified School District remains the largest employer in the city.
 
Wheat also noted former Mayor Gary Davis’ announcement two years ago that NRC Manufacturing, whom he called a large Silicon Valley concern, was locating to Elk Grove. Since that time NRC has not relocated any of their operations to Elk Grove.
 
“A firm from the Bay Area NRC was to come a couple of years ago,” Wheat said. “Since it was presented to our city council and spoken about we haven’t heard anything, so the joke in our community is N R C stands for not really coming.”

Click here to read the full article.

Click here to read the comments the Environmental Council of Sacramento have submitted on these attempts by Elk Grove to enlarge their city.


*This sentence was originally misquoted and the meaning was unclear. It was corrected for the purpose of this post.

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