Gas stations and pot businesses not welcome, Sacramento says. Here’s where and why

By Tony Bizjak

May 13, 2018

The Sacramento Bee

The city of Sacramento is laying plans to ban new gas stations, drive-through restaurants and marijuana cultivation businesses within a quarter-mile of light-rail stations, saying those areas should be reserved for transit-oriented and pedestrian-friendly uses.

The goal, officials say, is to boost rail ridership at 23 light-rail stations around the city and give more residents the chance of living a car-free lifestyle by paving the way for higher-density housing, job-rich offices and pedestrian-oriented retail in those areas.

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Letter from ECOS Requesting that LAFCo Reconsider Approval of “Kammerer 99 SOIA” Amendment

May 1, 2018

Patrick Hume, Chair
Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission
1112 I Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814
Via email to commissionclerk [at] saclafco [dot] org

RE: Request to Reconsider LAFCo approval of Kammerer/99 SOIA amendment

Dear Mr. Hume and fellow Commissioners:

I would like to focus on two concerns that ECOS and Habitat 2020 believe were not adequately addressed by LAFCo Commissioners in their deliberations on the Kammerer/99 SOIA Amendment: 1) Cumulative Traffic impacts and 2) County policy regarding changes to the urban service boundary established in the 1993 Sacramento County General Plan and included in the 2011 update of that plan.

1. Traffic Impacts on the SE Connector. On or about February 29, 2018 the Southeast Connector JPA released a Mitigated Negative Declaration for review and comment. The information contained in this document was not available prior to the LAFCo hearing on February 7, 2018. Among other things the document contained a comprehensive analysis of cumulative traffic impacts both with and without the proposed improvements to Kammerer Road.

Most instructive is Table 45, which shows cumulative and cumulative plus project (the road improvement project) Level of Service (LOS) on a segment by segment basis between Interstate 5 and Highway 99 (See Attachment 1). The cumulative conditions for the analysis are based on full buildout within Elk Grove City (although not taking into account casino development) and MTP/SCS traffic forecasts based on projected 2036 development outside of Elk Grove City. This table reveals a number of important points:

• The cumulative conditions for the various segments are based on a minimum of 4 lanes of traffic, rather than the 2 lanes in the LAFCo RDEIR. Our understanding is that the JPA’s intent is to build the 4 lanes with the proposed project, but if funding is short, the project may be phased with just two lanes at first. If so, the expansion to 4 lanes would occur with funding from impact fees on new development collected by the city of Elk Grove (communication from Matt Satow, project engineer)/

• The daily traffic volume for the segments between Bruceville and Promenade Parkway range between 13,740 and 38,300. This compares to an estimated 29,719 vt/d in the RDEIR for Kammerer/99 SOIA.

• The Cumulative Plus Project conditions in Table 45 yield considerably higher daily volumes along the same stretch of roadway. This is largely the induced traffic demand that connecting Kammerer Road to Interstate 5 will generate.

• The segments west of Bruceville are projected to accommodate 28,000 to 32,000 vt/d. Some of these vehicle trips will originate and end from the north on Bruceville; others will continue eastward toward Highway 99.

• Traffic volume in the Cumulative Plus Project scenario for the segments east of Bruceville are projected to increase between 6,300 and 18,240 vt/d, with the amount of increase decreasing from west to east.

• The level of service with the Cumulative Plus Project actually declines along all segments except one. For one segment, the decline is to LOS E.

This analysis does not include either the Bilby or Kammerer/99 requests. It is logical to assume that taken together, these projects would cause traffic levels on Kammerer/99 to increase LOS along much of the SE Connector between Highway 99 and Interstate 5 to unacceptable levels.

It is clear from the comments of LAFCo Commissioners that the presence of the proposed Southeast Connector was a significant justification for approving the project. This new information, not available at the time of decision, raises the important question that the Kammerer/99 SOIA, particularly when taken into consideration of the soon to be heard Bilby Ridge SOIA, will create significant congestion and challenge the ability of the Connector Project to meet its primary goal: to provide an alternative means for travelers to circumvent the congestion of the Sacramento Urban Area by travelling around the southeast periphery of the developed urban area.

We recognize that Mitigation Measure 3.24-1a requires traffic studies and plans for improvements to mitigate traffic to acceptable levels prior to approval of annexation. Yet there has been no discussion in the record as to what the scope of those improvements might be and how they relate to the purpose of the Southeast Connector as a regional road designed to move traffic between Interstate 5 and Highway 50. For a threshold decision regarding urban growth, this is a glaring omission.

In this light, reconsideration of the project is warranted. At a minimum, LAFCo commissioners should ask for an analysis and report back from the Southeast Connector JPA on the impacts of the projects before the Commission, with additional traffic analysis as necessary to be funded by the applicants. Moreover, we would recommend that reconsideration should be considered at the same time and with the available analysis of the Bilby Ridge project, so as to better evaluate the full scope of traffic impacts on the Southeast Connector.

2. Consistency with Sacramento County Land Use Policy LU-127. Our second point is not so much a matter of new information as it is a glaring oversight on the part of LAFCo commissioners not only in framing their decision, but in making the overriding considerations for approving the project in light of 22 significant and unavoidable adverse impacts.

The RDEIR for Kammerer/99 SOIA does identify policy LU127, which reads as follows:

Policy LU-127: The County shall not expand the Urban Service Boundary unless:
• There is inadequate vacant land within the USB to accommodate the projected 25 year demand for urban uses; and
• The proposal calling for such expansion can satisfy the requirements of a master water plan as contained in the Conservation Element; and
• The proposal calling for such expansion can satisfy the requirements of the Sacramento County Air Quality Attainment Plan; and
• The area of expansion does not incorporate open space areas for which previously secured open space easements would need to be relinquished; and
• The area of expansion does not include the development of important natural resource areas, aquifer recharge lands or prime agricultural lands;
• The area of expansion does not preclude implementation of a Sacramento County-adopted Habitat Conservation Plan;

OR

• The Board approves such expansion by a 4/5ths vote based upon on finding that the expansion would provide extraordinary environmental, social or economic benefits and opportunities to the County.

If this expansion request was before the County this is the policy that would guide decision-making regarding SOIA. We recognize that the policy does not bind the decisions of the City of Elk Grove, nor does it strictly bind Sacramento LAFCo decisions. Yet in many ways the policy gets to the heart of LAFCo’s mandates to consider the need for expanding jurisdictional spheres, to protect prime agricultural demand and to ensure adequate services.

Yet, surprisingly, the RDEIR finds that the proposed SOIA is consistent with the policy under the self-limiting logic that no land use changes are proposed that would require expanding the USB:

Consistent: The SOIA Area is currently within the jurisdiction of the County of Sacramento and is entirely outside of the County’s General Plan USB. However, no land uses changes are proposed that would require expanding the USB.

That is entirely beside the point. The simple fact is that approval of the SOIA would lead to the inevitable urban development that the USB is designed to limit. The question at hand is whether the proposed SOIA, if implemented, would be consistent with the county’s policy. We believe that we have provided ample evidence that it would not be. Both the RDEIR and the Commissioners’ approval of the project are deficient in not adequately taking this into account.

Note that Policy LU-127 does give guidance on when it would be appropriate, despite the required findings, to approve USB expansion. They can, by a supermajority vote, find that the expansion would provide extraordinary environmental, social or economic benefits and opportunities to the County.

So it would stand to reason, that LAFCo commissioners might want to consider the same context in their decision regarding the Kammerer/99 SOIA’s approval. Yet what we heard at the meeting were the same “business as usual” types of justifications for approving the project: Elk Grove needs to grow, the project will provide jobs, new development will help Elk Grove improve its job’s housing balance and the like. These are reflected in the Findings of Fact and Overriding Concern, which were not made available to the public until just prior to the hearing, without adequate opportunity for public review and consideration. Nowhere can we find, in either the written or the spoken comments at the hearing, that there were any extraordinary benefits for approving the project despite its inconsistency with County Policy, LAFCo mandates and common sense.

Moreover, your Commission’s decision, in starting the process to allow Elk Grove’s expansion beyond the USB, provides justification to not only Folsom in the area south of its current limits, but the County itself, in the huge North Precinct Development, to justify expansion of the Urban Service Boundary, entirely in the absence of any extraordinary justification, thus continuing the cycle of sprawl many citizens in this County are dedicated to ending.

In view of this, and if for no other reason, we ask that you reconsider your justification and your findings in approving the project.

Sincerely,

Robert Burness, Habitat 2020 Co Chair
Attachments


Click here for a PDF of this letter.

Click here for more background on this issue.

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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.

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