Why We Should Save Farmland and Habitat in Natomas

It is not good that proposed large master plan projects are located outside of the County’s Urban Services Boundary. “The county zoned [this] area as agricultural and has numerous policies in place to protect agricultural land. These projects would eliminate the remaining farmland and habitat of the Natomas basin, in Sacramento County, and weaken the Natomas Basin Habitat Plan.”

By Heather Fargo and Susan Herre | The Natomas Buzz | May 9, 2022

In response to the Sacramento Bee article “Washington sending millions to fight Natomas Basin flooding” by David Lightman and Michael McGough:

Portions of the front page article on April 18 regarding Natomas Basin Flooding were inaccurate and misleading. It’s important to correct the record.

The need for strengthening the levees along the Sacramento River are well known, not just for Natomas, but all the way to South Sacramento. And we all appreciate the support of the federal government to help keep Sacramento safe from flooding.

It’s important to recognize that much work has been completed in Natomas and the previous moratorium on construction has been lifted. Natomas now has a similar level of flood protection to the rest of the city. Thousands of housing units have been built, and thousands are currently under construction. But they are all in areas previously planned for housing within the city limits of Sacramento.

Housing developments in the adjacent farmland, outside of the city, are prohibited currently by Sacramento County’s Urban Services Boundary, approved in 1993. And that’s a good thing. It allows agricultural uses to continue, endangered species to survive in protected habitat areas, and contributes to the region’s economy and quality of life, and the build out of Natomas.

The article erroneously states that “The levee improvements are expected to help trigger important economic benefits, allowing more construction to occur.” This is not true. It goes on to say that “The Sacramento River flood threat has choked off development on new homes on the acres west of Interstate 80 and El Centro Road, and south of San Juan Road.” This is also not true.

The project area referred to includes proposed, but not approved, projects. The county zoned the area as agricultural and has numerous policies in place to protect agricultural land. These projects would eliminate the remaining farmland and habitat of the Natomas basin, in Sacramento County, and weaken the Natomas Basin Habitat Plan. This plan which requires one half acre for acre that is developed with the city limits was a state and federal requirement to allow North Natomas to be developed in the first place. The future of North Natomas along with the protected species will be endangered if new projects of thousands of acres are ever approved.

The abandoned Joint Vision for Natomas, approved by both the city and county of Sacramento, called for development to occur only in the city limits, and agriculture and habitat to be done in the unincorporated areas of the county. It still makes sense.

While it’s a developer’s dream to buy prime farmland for cheap, and have it approved for development, the “highest and best use” in unincorporated North Natomas is farming and habitat.

Click here to view the article.


Photo by Edith Thacher

Innovation Park and CNU Medical Center Project DEIR

On January 3, 2022, ECOS submitted comments on the Innovation Park and CNU Medical Center Project DEIR.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this major project in North Natomas. We are pleased to see the reuse of the Arco Arena site. A hospital would address a long standing problem of having no hospital and few medical services north of the river in the City limits. All 24-hour emergency rooms are over 25 minutes away from residents of Natomas and North Sacramento. The land use designations are acceptable but more detail will be needed to fully understand the impacts given the wide range of densities that are allowed by the city. Impacts could vary significantly in terms of traffic, schools, parks and others. Further, it is still unclear what kind of “innovation” is anticipated in the area identified as Innovation Park.

Click here to read the letter in full.

Hospital Construction near Stone Lakes Refuge Stopped

By Nancy Hughett, ECOS Board Member | July 2021

A coalition of environmental and community groups applying pressure on Elk Grove decision-makers was instrumental in stopping the construction of a 13-story hospital with helipad next to a sensitive habitat area. While California Northstate University (CNU) previously proposed building the hospital at the edge of the Stone Lakes National Refuge, it recently announced its relocation to the Sleep Train Arena in North Natomas (June 16, 2021).

The coalition, including ECOS’ Habitat 2020, the Audubon Society, Sierra Club and the Friends of Stone Lakes, met with Elk Grove Planning Commissioners. Coalition members expressed concerns about noise, light pollution and construction activity that would harm refuge wildlife such as Swainson’s Hawks, Sandhill Cranes and Burrowing Owls, particularly during roosting periods. In addition, helicopter flights and the massive hospital building itself would pose a danger for bird strikes; helicopter-bird strikes could also lead to loss of human life. The Stone Lakes Refuge sits within the Pacific Flyway, a major North American migration route for birds.

The environmental coalition, along with neighbors, also argued that placing a level 2 trauma center hospital in a 200-year flood plain despite existing city prohibitions would be a very bad idea. (Additionally, flooding could increase due to climate-induced sea level rise and possible atmospheric river events.) This issue proved to be a major factor in Elk Grove Planning Commissioners’ 5-0 recommendation to deny the project. The project’s proponents subsequently elected to seek other sites for their hospital.

An incidental wetlands and habitat area has developed at the Sleep Train Arena site in the excavated area for a failed baseball stadium; the pond is surrounded by mature trees and has become a resource for wildlife, including many bird species. ECOS’ Habitat 2020 Committee is drafting a letter to support its protection.

South Airport Industrial annexation proposal in North Natomas: ECOS Comments

On July 15, 2021, ECOS, along with Habitat 2020, Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk and the Sierra Club Sacramento Group sent a letter regarding the South Airport Industrial annexation proposal in North Natomas.

Below is an excerpt from our letter.

We urge you to delay consideration of the proposed LAFCo MOU until you have an approved Memorandum of Understanding with the wildlife agencies for the process you will follow to comply with the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP) while considering annexation of 450 acres outside your permit area. The NBHCP is a contract between the City and state and federal wildlife agencies that sets the terms of its permits to develop in Natomas. The purpose of the Plan is to preserve the populations of threatened wildlife in the Basin while allowing some City and Sutter County development. This contract states that “Because the effectiveness of the NBHCP’s Operating Program is based upon CITY limiting total development to 8,050 acres within the City’s permit area . . . , approval by either CITY or SUTTER of future urban development outside of their respective Permit Areas would constitute a significant departure from the Plan’s Operating Conservation Program.”

Click here to read the letter in full.


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Site of Sleep Train Arena to become new home to California Northstate University teaching hospital

By Matthew Nuttle | June 16, 2021 | ABC10

The old home of the Sacramento Kings, formerly the Sleep Train Arena, will soon be the site of the California Northstate University (CNU) medical school and teaching hospital.

The announcement of the development was made during a press conference featuring Kings team owner Vivek Ranadivé and Sacramento city leaders. The Kings organization donated the arena and 35 acres of land on which it sits in North Natomas for development of phase one of the project that includes the medical school and a state-of-the-art teaching hospital.

https://www.abc10.com/article/news/local/sacramento/sleep-train-arena-california-northstate-hospital/103-ed198231-79dd-41e4-ae2d-09d94867c20e

Click here to read the article in full.


Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels