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

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ECOS Comments on the Folsom General Plan

On June 25, 2018, ECOS submitted our comments/testimony on the latest changes to the City of Folsom’s General Plan.

Here is an excerpt:


ECOS and Habitat 2020 are greatly relieved to see that the Study Area for new City growth south of White Rock road has been removed from the General plan.

Further growth in this area would pose potentially un-mitigatable impacts to invaluable agricultural and biological resources and severely inhibit successful implementation of the South Sacramento Habitat Conservation Plan (SSHCP), currently in its final phase of adoption after decades of development.

Further growth in this area would be critically inconsistent with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ (SACOG) Metropolitan Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (MTP/SCS) for meeting State mandated greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, Federal mandates for Air Quality Attainment under the State Improvement Plan (SIP), as well as myriad regional goals for social equity, public health and natural resource conservation.

Finally, ECOS is extremely concerned about the ability of the City to supply adequate water supplies to this potential growth area, or any new expansion area. With the decision to supply the City’s current expansion south of US 50 solely with conservation efforts of existing supplies, it is apparent that the City has fully allocated those supplies. We remain concerned that the City will not be able to supply the current expansion area without severe burdens on existing residents with the mandatory cut-backs in supply that the City is subject to in Dry and Extremely Dry years. We have not seen evidence that the City has yet acquired back up supplies to prevent these burdens, and given this, it is extremely difficult to see how the City could speculate on further expansion of their footprint.


Click here to read the full comment letter.

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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.”

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