Action Alert: Help hold the line on urban sprawl

Once again, the Sacramento LAFCo (the Local Area Formation Commission) is considering adding 1,158 acres of farmland to Elk Grove’s potential urbanization south of the present Elk Grove city limit and beyond the County’s Urban Services Boundary (USB). A public hearing will be held before voting on whether to allow the City of Elk Grove to grow onto farmland south of Sacramento County’s Urban Services Boundary. A vote of approval will contradict regional water, transportation, wildlife conservation and climate action strategies. Help hold the line on urban sprawl.

Step 1: Send an email

Please send your thoughts by February 7, 2018 to the LAFCo Commissioners that an expanded Sphere of Influence (SOI) for Elk Grove is wrong. You can do this by simply emailing commissionclerk[at]saclafco[dot]org. Be sure to include your name and address. Key issues to write about are below. (please copy swainsonshawk[at]sbcglobal[dot]net)

Step 2: Attend the Hearing

Come to the hearing in Sacramento on February 7th, 2018 at 5:30 pm at the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors building at 700 H Street, Sacramento, 95814. Speak, or simply attend, to show your concern about Elk Grove’s latest attempts to sprawl.

Background

In 1993, the Sacramento County adopted an Urban Services Boundary (USB) to protect farmland against sprawl development and to ensure orderly growth. The developer of Kammerer/Highway 99 SOIA wants LAFCo to authorize 1158 acres beyond the USB, despite thousands of undeveloped acres of vacant land inside the USB and City of Elk Grove. Orderly development requires developing available land inside the USB before paving over more farmland.

What is Your Hot Button?

Protection of Farmland?

The Sacramento County Farm Bureau has opposed approval of this project because of the loss of farmland and other impacts on agriculture that would result. The EIR finds the approval of Kammerer/99 SOIA would have significant and unavoidable (can’t mitigate for) impacts on farmland. See http://www.swainsonshawk.org/Images/Significantunavoidable.pdf for a list of the 14 different significant impacts that can’t be mitigated.

Endangered Wildlife?

The EIR for this proposal finds significant, unavoidable and unmitigatable impacts on wildlife if this project is approved. An approval will signal that decision-makers will sacrifice the success of the South Sacramento County Habitat Conservation Plan, intended to mitigate for the loss of wildlife habitat inside the USB.

Water Supply for the Future?

The Sacramento County Water Agency has stated that all available water has been allocated for existing and future development within the USB. The Sacramento County General Plan states that more development is presently planned in the County than can be served by water supply. Yet this proposal will either further drain the groundwater supply already depleted in the South area, or take water intended for other projects, long ago entitled. The EIR states that depletion of groundwater supplies is a significant and unavoidable impact of an approval of this proposal.

Climate Change?

Our Climate Action Plan depends on sticking with the adopted Metropolitan Transportation Plan (SACOG’s MTP) and its strategy for curbing vehicle trips. The MTP assumes Elk Grove stays within its current boundaries until at least 2036. SACOG has told LAFCo that the Kammerer/99 proposal is outside the MTP footprint.

Urban Sprawl?

The proposal is the very definition of urban sprawl –approving farmland for urban use while adequate land supply already exists within the urban area for expected growth. LAFCos are mandated to curb urban sprawl and protect farmland by saying no to premature expansion of cities. Tell LAFCo to do its job and say NO to the Kammerer Road/Highway 99 Sphere of Infuence.

Smart Transportation?

The proposed east-west Southeast Connector is planned to allow east-west traffic (particularly trucks) to bypass the Sacramento urban area by linking highways I-5, 99, and 50 south of the urban area. Allowing Elk Grove to strip-develop along this roadway will take away the intended transportation efficiency.

Thank you to the Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk for putting together this summary. 

More Information

Facebook Event Page for Feb 7 Hearing

Final Environmental Impact Report, November 2017

ECOS Comments to LAFCo, September 11, 2017

LAFCo Report, February 7, 2018

Disparate Interests Pan Elk Grove’s Expansion Plans at Sacramento LAFCo Meeting, December 18, 2017 – Elk Grove News.net

 

Homelessness is an Environmental Issue

The Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) has adopted the following policy to guide its response to the issues of environmental protection and homeless shelter.

ECOS is a broad coalition of members and community organizations committed to achieve regional and community sustainability and a healthy environment for existing and future residents. We include both environmental protection groups and affordable housing advocates. By working proactively with our members, member organizations, local government, and community groups, ECOS strives to develop thriving communities.

At present, the level and persistence of homelessness has emerged as the greatest unmitigated current challenge to the mission of our Habitat Conservation committee, Habitat 2020. Human suffering, public health and sanitation risks, and environmental degradation have become intolerable.

1. We will support the actions of our member groups to address the various elements of this challenge including actions to protect and restore creek and river environments, keep parks clean and safe from habitat destruction and available for public recreation, provide shelter, public sanitation and clean water to those in need, and long-term actions to increase affordable housing stock and ensure sustainability of adequate housing for all.

2. We ask all local governments in the region make a concerted effort to achieve compliance with local regulations meant to protect habitat such as in the American River Parkway, our creeks and in similar locations, and to comply with state and federal laws and regulations protecting our environment. We need to protect our environment and commit significant resources to improve local housing and human services policies.

3. We ask that all local governments in the region provide enough safe and legal locations for our region’s people living without shelter to rest, places with public safety services, public restrooms, clean water and refuse disposal.

4. Bold measures and unprecedented regional cooperation are required to pull our communities out of a shelter crisis that threatens the health of our environment, public safety and local sustainability.

Resolved by the Board of the Environmental Council of Sacramento

Adopted by Habitat 2020, January 9, 2018
Adopted by ECOS executive committee, January 17, 2018
Adopted ECOS Board of Directors, January 23, 2018

2017 Habitat 2020 Accomplishments

Habitat 2020 is ECOS’ Habitat & Conservation committee. Habitat 2020 is a coalition that works to protect the lands, waters, wildlife and native plants in the Sacramento region. The great Central Valley of California has been identified by the World Wildlife Fund as one of North America’s most endangered eco-regions. Preserving its remaining open space and agricultural land is essential for sustaining native plants and wildlife, and ensuring a high quality of life for ourselves and future generations.

In 2017 Habitat 2020 had a continued engagement in a broad range of Sacramento regional environmental protection efforts that no singular organization could address alone.

These crucial activities include:

  • Continued promotion of the Heartland Project Vision for a regionally coordinated and connected system of parks, preserves and working lands:
    • Successfully negotiated a new contract in with the UCD Information Center for the Environment and the Capitol Southeast Connector JPA to continue development of the Sacramento regional natural resources data inventory and modeling project, in accordance with the ECOS-Connector JPA Settlement Agreement.
    • Aided in visioning and oversight of the SMUD carbon sequestration inventory for Sacramento County, the first application of the UCD-Heartland Natural Resource inventory.
    • Aided in the acquisition of a $600k Federal Environmental Protection Agency grant for UCD to continue a second phase of development for the natural resource inventory to cross analyze public health factors with environmental sustainability factors to better illustrate relationships between human and ecological health in the Sacramento Region.
  • Continued a decade-long resistance to irresponsible expansion of the City of Elk Grove in an effort to protect critical habitat for myriad species in the Cosumnes River corridor, including Sandhill Crane and Swainson’s hawk. Elk Grove is currently updating its General Plan and has three current Sphere of Influence Expansion Applications. A primary concern is the Kammerrer-99 SOI proposal, outside of the long-standing County Urban Services Boundary and the Regional Sustainable Communities Strategy. Habitat 2020 engagement and commentary has so far led to the decision to recirculate the Draft Environmental impact report to better address important concerns raised with the EIR’s initial analysis. The Final EIR has recently been released and great concerns for the project remain. The Local Agency Formation Commission hearing to consider approval of the project is scheduled for February.
  • Continued critical representation of the environmental community in development of the final South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Report and Statement released this year, after decades of evolution. Habitat 2020 engagement was essential to this process, being the only group to review the entire public draft of the Plan and the environmental documents, over 3300 pages. The extensive commentary Habitat 2020 has provided is aimed at correcting some long standing issues that remain before certification.
  • Partnered with Friend’s of the Swainson’s Hawk to negotiate an agreement with the City of Sacramento to preserve the integrity of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan in mitigation of their approval of the Greenbriar project.
  • Provided expert testimony to the ongoing CA WaterFix hearings concerning important terrestrial impacts posed by the proposed Delta tunnels project with H2020 partners, including Friends of Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and SOSCranes.
  • Tracked initial local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, offering in depth commentary on the pros and cons of the Sacramento Central Groundwater Authority’s proposed Groundwater Management Plan Alternative, with the aim to outline a constructive path forward to address current deficiencies with increased public participation and oversight. We continued our active presence at the Environmental Caucus of the Water Forum, and this last year Ted Rauh of our Water Group became an alternate South Central Groundwater Committee Board member representing environmental interests.
  • H2020 Partner, SOS Cranes, continued participation in the Statewide Sandhill Crane Conservation Strategy Technical Advisory Committee in development of a plan due for release in 2018.
  • Continued participation in the Sacramento Area Council of Governments “Sounding Board” advisory committee for development of the 2020 Metropolitan transportation Plan Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS), emphasizing the need for smart, more compact regional growth that simultaneously provides greater, more equitable access to non-auto modes of travel, and preserves natural and agricultural resources. Habitat 2020 has also offered important representation in the SB 375 target revision process currently underway at the CA Air Resources Board, with an aim to determine the most ambitious GHG reduction targets feasible for the Sacramento Region’s MTP/SCS.
  • Supported Audubon Society efforts to preserve essential Purple Martin nesting habitat in the City of Sacramento’s I St bridge replacement project.
  • Supported International Dark Sky Association recommendations to the Cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento for reducing light impacts to aquatic and terrestrial habitat on the Sacramento Riverfront.
  • Supported Folsom community residents in a campaign to develop an alternative plan for storm/waste water infrastructure improvements to minimize impacts to Hinkle Creek and its surrounding forest.
  • Coordinated broad regional stakeholder input into a robust set of recommendations for the City of Sacramento for the consideration of investment in a regional educational facility focused on the region’s unique natural resources.

2017 ECOS Accomplishments

We want to take a moment to highlight some the Environmental Council of Sacramento’s (ECOS) accomplishments this year and inform you about current activities and challenges moving into the New Year. We know these are challenging times but we hope you can find some encouragement in how our local advocacy makes a difference throughout the Sacramento Region.

For the countless number of Californians affected the horrendous wildfires or threatened by too little or too much water, this year has not been a happy one. ECOS usually focuses on guarding against environmental assaults unique to Sacramento County, but climate change is increasingly impacting everyone, whether local residents or not. Over the past year, ECOS has been increasingly proactive in building our relationships with, and holding accountable, our local elected officials, while educating them about environmental problems and effective solutions.

2017 began with ECOS’s participation and advocacy in support of a package of ethics reform ordinances that the City Council adopted on March 21. The reforms include the creation of an independent Ethics Commission, adoption of an Ethics Code and Sunshine Ordinance to increase the accountability of elected and appointed City officials.

In response to the national debate on the role of science in federal actions, ECOS joined a coalition to organize the April 22 Sacramento March for Science that had over 15,000 participants advocating for the value of the scientific method and the need to act upon the science of climate change to accelerate the pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

On the implementation side, ECOS advanced our climate protection commitment by:

  • Successfully advocating as part of a local government, business, and nonprofit coalition for the award of $44 million from the Volkswagen settlement agreement to the City of Sacramento for the construction of electric vehicle charging stations and acquisition of EV fleets to be stationed in disadvantaged neighborhoods and managed by local nonprofits in car sharing programs;
  • Participated in the planning and production, led by 350 Sacramento, of the “Leading the Way to Carbon Zero Community Forum” on May 13; and
  • Tracked and provided testimony on the development and updating of climate action plans by the County of Sacramento and local cities.

With the economy continuing to improve, land use projects of increasing size and adverse environmental impact were proposed within the county in 2017. Some are new – such as the Natomas North Precinct community proposal (5,700 acres, 55,000 proposed new residents) – and some are novel configurations of previously defeated proposals, such as the latest Elk Grove Sphere of Influence application. With the increasing need to accommodate new residents in ways that will limit increases in greenhouse gas emissions, these business-as-usual land use designs undercut the gains made by a growing number of residents who are investing in climate change solutions through the retrofitting of residences with solar panels and the replacement of fossil fueled vehicles with electric cars.

In addition to highlighting the adverse environmental impacts of these proposals, ECOS is working hard to protect high value lands before they become targets for development. We have played a major role in pushing adoption of the South Sacramento County Habitat Conservation Plan to the finish line after more than a decade in development. Furthermore, in conjunction with our member partners, we protected the Greenbriar settlement agreement through tough negotiations to ensure that the integrity of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan was preserved.

Via our settlement agreement that protects against leap-frog development along the proposed Elk Grove – Folsom Connector, we acquired funding for the mapping of important habitat and open space lands in Sacramento County. To further this effort, we have partnered with UC Davis through a U.S. EPA grant in the development of a habitat inventory and health benefit assessment project. When the regional natural resources data inventory and modeling project is complete, and as funds become available, it will facilitate the identification of critically important lands to protect through future acquisition or conservation easements.

In the transportation arena, ECOS is similarly working proactively to increase mobility while reducing environmental impacts. When Caltrans failed to correct deficiencies in its review of impacts from the construction and operation of additional lanes on Highway 50 between I-5 and Watt Avenue (despite our repeated comments), we challenged the project’s environmental impact report in court.

The above matters represent only a portion of our 2017 activities. We remain engaged on many fronts including issues such as future transportation funding options, Phase 2 hearings on the California WaterFix, and engagement on local implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act and many more.

Our annual events like Sacramento Earth Day, Environmentalist of the Year and the Wild and Scenic Film Festival represent the core of our annual funding but we need your help to bridge the final budget gap. Although dedicated volunteers complete much of our work, we are significantly enhanced by the logistical support provided by two part-time paid staff. Our work is made possible by your generous commitment to our region and a desire to make it a healthier and more sustainable.

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.

What a wonderful awards ceremony!

Thank you to everyone who attended or otherwise supported the 44th Annual Environmentalist of the Year Awards on November 8, 2017! We have photos of the evening in the album below, as well as on our facebook page — enjoy!

This year’s honorees were as follows:

Jennifer Wood of Citizens’ Climate Lobby Sacramento (Environmentalist of the Year)

Lower American River Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Projects (Environmentalist of the Year – Habitat)

March for Science Sacramento (Environmentalist of the Year – Innovation)

Robert Meagher (Environmentalist of the Year – Volunteer of the Year)

As always, the awards ceremony was hosted by the Environmental Council of Sacramento. 

Photos compliments of the talented photographer and ECOS volunteer, Anny Huang. Thank you Anny!