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

 

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Hearing on Elk Grove’s Latest Attempt to Sprawl – February 7, 2018

January 16, 2017

Below, two updates from our partners at the Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter, a member organization of ECOS, from their recent newsletter.


Chapter Chair’s Column

By Andy Sawyer

Fighting urban sprawl has long been a priority for the Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter. Sprawl consumes important wildlife habitat and agricultural land. It increases costs of providing urban services. It undermines efforts to provide the compact, transit- and pedestrian-oriented development needed to serve a population that is becoming increasingly transit dependent. The Chapter has been particularly concerned about effects on air quality. Low density urban sprawl increases automobile dependency, requiring driving for commutes and errands that could otherwise rely on walking, bicycling or transit, and the driving distances are greater, resulting in increased vehicle miles traveled and automobile emissions.

Climate change heightens the urgency of stopping sprawl. The transportation sector accounts for 37% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Reducing automobile use is essential to reducing those emissions. In 2008, the Legislature enacted Senate Bill 375, providing for the preparation of sustainable communities with plans designed to reduce greenhouse gasses, and providing incentives for development consistent with those plans. A package of bills enacted in 2017 provides incentives for housing in existing urbanized areas. These incentives will not have much effect, however, so long as our local governments make cheap land available for urban sprawl by rezoning agricultural and open space lands, and state and local governments continue to build highway projects designed to open up new areas to development.

A key element of our efforts to combat urban sprawl is involvement in Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) decisions. Changes in the boundaries and spheres of influence of cities and special districts, which require approval by county LAFCOs, determine which areas are planned for urban development. By statute, the purposes of the LAFCOs include “discouraging urban sprawl” and “preserving open-space and prime agricultural lands.” Too often, however, county LAFCOs ignore this direction, rubber stamping local applications for sprawl and leapfrog development. Four years ago we won an important victory when the Sacramento County LAFCO turned down the City of Elk Grove’s application to sprawl into important agricultural land and habitat in the Delta. But now Elk Grove is back, hoping that changes in LAFCO membership will yield a different result. The Sierra Club has commented extensively on the proposal, and is gearing up for the February 7 hearing on the project, where we will need a large turnout. Mother Lode Chapter Conservation Chair Sean Wirth provides additional information on this below.

We are also working to shift transportation funding from highway expansion to transit. The Mother Lode Chapter is supporting litigation challenging Caltrans’ failure to consider and provide mitigation for the increase in vehicle miles travelled when it approved additional lanes on Highway 50, and is preparing comments on the proposed expansion of Highway 65. We are also working on proposed local transportation sales taxes, seeking to eliminate funds for sprawl supporting highway expansions and increase funding for transit.

Sprawl hurts us all. Fighting sprawl is critical to our success in protecting our environment, both regionally and globally.


Elk Grove and the ecological health of the north Delta

By Sean Wirth

As Elk Grove aggressively continues to try and realize its growth ambitions to the south of its existing city’s footprint, it is important to take stock of what is at stake for the ecology of the north Delta. Elk Grove has made it clear that it wants to grow right down to the edge of the 100 year floodplain, and then mitigate for the destruction of habitat of listed species, such as the Swainson’s Hawk, that resulted from that development by conserving habitat within the floodplain. The Sierra Club has long been concerned about the loss of upland habitat south of Elk Grove because the Consumnes River floodplain is an active floodplain that is inundated cyclically every seven to ten years, like it did dramatically last winter season.

The land conservation for the majority of north Delta species, especially the Greater Sandhill Crane, has been done within floodplains. When the cyclical flooding of the Consumnes River occurs, many of these species need to seek higher ground for their survival. For the Greater Sandhill Crane, it needs nearby upland areas for foraging and feeding when those floods occur. Though the Greater Sandhill Crane roosts in shallow wetlands at night, and though it will also forage in freshly flooded fields, the vast majority of the calories that this bird relies upon in our region comes from the grains that escaped agricultural harvest, such as corn, rice and wheat.

Sandhill Cranes are unusually loyal to their specific wintering geography and rarely travel more than two miles from their selected roost sites. When the cyclical flooding occurs, these birds look for the closest upland forage opportunities to their roost sites. All of the unincorporated lands south of Elk Grove serve this important purpose and the prospect of all of those lands being developed down to the floodplain would be catastrophic to the Crane and many other species that rely on un-flooded terrestrial habitat for their survival.

What complicates this problem even further is that the most conservative modeling for the impacts of global sea level rise in the north Delta indicate that basically all of the current lands set aside for the Greater Sandhill Cranes, and hundreds of other terrestrial species, are going to be threatened with permanent inundation as the symptoms of climate change accrue. This reality elevates the importance of the lands south of Elk Grove as a critical pathway to get our North Delta species over to the higher ground in the east. And clearly, this pathway is not going to be effective if it is paved over for low density sprawl neighborhoods and their associated malls.

Voicing these concerns is going to be an important part of convincing LAFCO that allowing Elk Grove to pave over this critically important geography is not in the interest of our region. Please join us on February 7th to demonstrate your concern at the hearing. The hearing starts at 5:30 p.m. and will be held at the Board of Supervisor’s chamber at 700 H Street in downtown Sacramento.

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On-Demand Public Transit Comes to Sacramento

By Sandy Smith

January 17, 2018

Next City

Sacramento Jumps on Microtransit Bandwagon

The notion of summoning a bus to your door to take you where you want to go appears mighty appealing. Despite the failure of several experiments with what’s been dubbed “microtransit,” cities around the world continue to launch projects to gauge the effectiveness of on-demand flexible-route bus service, a sort of cross between traditional transit and ridesharing services like Lyft or Uber.

Read more here.

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