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

Click here to read the full article.

They are building 11,000 new homes in Folsom. But will there be enough water?

By Ryan Sabalow, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak

Updated June 18, 2018

The Sacramento Bee

It’s like a new city springing to life: 11,000 homes and apartments, seven public schools, a pair of fire stations, a police station, a slew of office and commercial buildings and 1,000 acres of parks, trails and other open space. Expected population: 25,000.

But will it have enough water?

As construction begins this month on the first model homes at Folsom Ranch, a 3,300-acre development in the city of Folsom south of Highway 50, state regulators continue to have questions about the project’s water supply. They still aren’t convinced the city has secured enough water to keep showers and spigots flowing as California contends with increasing uncertainty about rain and snowfall.

. . .

The drought, which officially ended last year, seems to have done little to impede development. No cities or counties appear to have curbed their development plans as a direct result of water-supply limitations,

. . . 

Alan Wade, former president of the Save the American River Association, said it’s baffling state water officials would tell Folsom they had doubts about its water supply yet would let the development proceed.

“The reply from Folsom essentially told them to go pound sand: ‘We’re going to go ahead anyway,'” Wade said. “I don’t know how you can get away with that.”

Caltrans ready to expand Yolo Causeway, seeks public’s input

By Max Resnick

June 06, 2018

The Sacramento Bee 

Caltrans will begin the process of seeking public input on a proposal to improve traffic congestion on Interstate 80 between Solano and Sacramento counties.

The state’s transportation department wants to extend an existing carpool lane at the edge of Solano County through Yolo County and into Sacramento County

. . . 

The Environmental Council of Sacramento, a nonprofit whose mission, according to its website, is “to achieve regional and community sustainability and a healthy environment for existing and future residents,” opposes the idea.

The council believes it will actually worsen the traffic situation along the stretch of highway.

. . . 

“I like the idea of the bike path,” said Diane Swann, member of Bike Davis. “I don’t care about another HOV lane. I think that you widen the road, you get more cars.”

. . . 

Among the topics that could be discussed is whether to turn the lane into a toll lane.

Click here to read the full article.


To learn more about some of the problems caused by widening freeways, please read about our recent lawsuit against Caltrans for their plans to widen Highway 50 with High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes by clicking here

Suit filed to block step toward annexation of land by Elk Grove

June 5, 2018

By Ben van der Meer

The Sacramento Business Journal

A coalition of environmental groups has filed suit to block a step that the city of Elk Grove must take before it can annex more than 1,100 acres to the south.

The plaintiffs, led by the Environmental Council of Sacramento, filed suit in Sacramento County Superior Court alleging that an environmental impact report for the move doesn’t adequately address impacts on water, loss of farmland and at-risk species such as the sandhill crane and Swainson’s hawk.

The suit also claims that the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission went against its stated policies to discourage sprawl when it approved a sphere-of-influence amendment for Elk Grove earlier this year.

. . .

Click here to read the full article.

Lawsuit filed on Elk Grove Sphere of Influence

June 1, 2018

Sierra Club, ECOS, et al. File Legal Action to Reverse Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) Approval of Expansion of Elk Grove Sphere of Influence

On June 1, 2018, the Environmental Council of Sacramento, Sierra Club, Friends of Swainson’s Hawk, Friends of Stone Lakes Wildlife Refuge and Habitat 2020 filed an action to block Sacramento LAFCo’s approval of an expanded Sphere of Influence for the City of Elk Grove.  “Numerous legal errors occurred in the Commission’s consideration and approval on a 4-3 vote of this landowner*-initiated amendment to Elk Grove’s potential boundary. The decision permits previously protected farmland to now be considered for annexation into the City,” said Don Mooney, attorney for the environmental groups.  “My clients represent the public interest in curbing sprawl and preserving farmland in this region.”

The Sierra Club, Environmental Council of Sacramento (ECOS) and associates have long maintained that the health and sustainability of the Sacramento region depends upon the preservation of farmland and avoidance of further urban sprawl.  “LAFCo has pivoted away from long established regional goals with this approval,” said Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter Conservation Chair Sean Wirth,” and we aim to hold them accountable.  All of our region’s planning for infrastructure, the Regional Transportation Plan, the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan, water supply, sanitation, and the Air Quality Plan are based on an Urban Services Boundary that LAFCo pushed aside in its February 7 decision.  This blatant disregard for decades of careful planning must be challenged.”

Ralph Propper, President of ECOS, noted that “Although the Sphere of Influence Amendment is just the first step in urbanization  ­—no dirt will be turned soon—, the Environmental Impact Report identified 22 significant and unavoidable impacts from this decision that cannot be mitigated.  This is a damaging land use decision that threatens the health of our community.”

Jim Pachl, Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter Legal Chair, pointed out that “there are over 4000 vacant acres zoned for new development within the City of Elk Grove, including 1800 acres with residential project approvals that remain unbuilt.  Some projects were approved over ten years ago and remain unbuilt.  Lent Ranch Mall remains a half-built shell.  LAFCo lacks a legitimate reason to allow a conversion of farmland for expansion of Elk Grove’s footprint.”

LAFCo denied a request to reconsider its decision on May 2, setting the stage for the filing of litigation. 

*The Sphere of Influence Amendment was sought by landowners of 1,156 acres south of Kammerer Road and west of Highway 99.  The applicants are Gerry Kamilos and Martin Feletto.

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Pitch In!

Lawsuits are pricey! If you would like to provide monetary support for this, you can donate online HERE OR send a check to the Environmental Council of Sacramento, P.O. Box 1526, Sacramento, CA 95812. Please include a notation “for Elk Grove lawsuit” in the memo field of Paypal or your check to ensure that your donation goes to the lawsuit.

In The News

Suit filed to block step toward annexation of land by Elk Grove
June 5, 2018
The Sacramento Business Journal
https://www.bizjournals.com/sacramento/news/2018/06/05/suit-filed-to-block-step-toward-annexation-of-land.html

Environmental Groups File Lawsuit Against Sacramento LAFCO, Seek to Halt Elk Grove Expansion
June 5, 2018
ElkGroveNews.net
http://www.elkgrovenews.net/2018/06/environmental-group-files-lawsuit-against-elk-grove-expansion.html

Environmentalists sue to block city’s southern expansion
Elk Grove Citizen
June 8, 2018
http://www.egcitizen.com/news/environmentalists-sue-to-block-city-s-southern-expansion/article_e06d57f0-6b55-11e8-a42c-274a961568ea.html

More Information

Click here for the project application.

Click here for more background information on this issue.

Click here for a PDF of the media advisory.

Elk Grove Expansion May 2 Hearing Outcome

May 11, 2018

Unfortunately, on May 2, 2018, Sacramento LAFCo voted against a reconsideration of their decision to allow Elk Grove to develop into 1,156 acres of farmland, despite the 4,000 acres they already have available for development. ECOS and fellow environmental groups are disappointed, but we are not giving up!

For the latest on opening up farmland on the outskirts of Elk Grove to development, please see the following summary from Judith Lamare, President of Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk and ECOS Board Member.

Dear Farmland and Wildlife Advocates,

Thank you for all your help on the May 2 Reconsideration hearing at LAFCo — no surprises there, the reconsideration was denied on recommendation of staff and legal counsel. You can review the hearing online at http://www.agendanet.saccounty.net/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=12340&doctype=AGENDA.  Click on item 5.  The video and supporting material are on the right, including the Executive Director’s report.  It’s amazing what you can learn from reviewing the hearing.  For example, at the May 2 hearing, Rob Burness of ECOS pointed out that County General Plan policy requires 4/5 Supervisors to approve a change in the Urban Services Boundary.  But at LAFCo, two Supervisors voted to change that policy on a 4-3 vote.
 
So what can we do now?  Here’s our recommendation.
 
1.  Stay knowledgeable and remember who voted to approve the expansion.  County Supervisors Susan Peters and Sue Frost, Carmichael Water District Board member Ron Greenwood and City of Elk Grove Councilman Pat Hume.   Do they represent you?   Voting against were Councilmember Angelique Ashby, Special District Member Gay Jones and Public Member Jack Harrison.  
 
Here are a couple of links to articles:  
 
2.  Stay active
Especially if you live in Elk Grove, there are things you can do now to become more active to help prevent urban sprawl.  You can go to the City of Elk Grove website (here:  http://www.elkgrovecity.org/cms/one.aspx?pageId=275657  ) and ask for notifications for all meetings regarding the update of the General Plan and participate in that process.  The next step for the City is to adopt a new General Plan planning for growth outside its present boundary.  Then it will need to do an annexation procedure, which will set off another battle at LAFCo sometime in the future.
 
Election time is here – a great time to talk to candidates about your desire to keep cities inside their current boundaries, protect farmland and habitat, and respect habitat protection plans.  Find out who is running and talk to them.  
 
3. Support litigation by Sierra Club and ECOS
 
Yes we will file a lawsuit in Sacramento Superior Court against LAFCo to address the errors in the legal process.  Sierra Club and ECOS have retained attorney Don Mooney who is preparing to file.  FOSH is helping to raise money to pay the costs of litigation.  You can help by sending your donation to:
 
Green Incubator
C/o Lamare
 
Mark the check in the memo spot with “FOSH”.  Green Incubator. –  http://sacgreenincubator.org/donations/   – is Sacramento’s 501-c-3 “community bank for the environment” – and maintains a Fund to support conservation activities for the Swainson’s Hawk.  It’s tax id is  68-0143852.
 
Friends of the Swainson’s Hawk
Judith Lamare
President