At The Behest of Kamilos Development, Elk Grove City Council Makes Change to SEPA-Swainson's Hawk Mitigation Policy

Brian Cooley promising the SEPA area will generate 23,000 jobs in Elk Grove. |   


June 29, 2018 |

In a lengthy presentation and public comment that was followed by a relatively short deliberation period, the Elk Grove City Council approved a change to the environmental impact report for the city's Southeast Policy Area (SEPA) at their Wednesday, June 27 meeting.

By a unanimous 4 - 0 vote (council member Stephanie Nguyen was absent) the city council changed the manner in which mitigation can be handled for the Swainson's Hawk. Specifically, at the Behest of Kamilos Development, the city amended the certified EIR so that mitigation land set-aside for the threatened species can be placed on the 4,768-acre Van Vleck Ranch near Rancho Murieta, California, which is further away from the SEPA than initially approved in the SEPA EIR.

Under previous requirements for SEPA projects, the mitigation land was geographically closer. In both cases, the standard replacement continues to be that each acre of lost habitat must be mitigated with one acre of conservancy.

During the staff report from Antonio Ablog, it was noted a review of the change by California Department of Fish and Wildlife highlighted that the new habitat is 18 miles from the SEPA project, which exceeds the recommended distance of 10 miles. Additionally, the CDFW said the new mitigation area on the Van Vleck ranch was lower quality foraging for the hawks.

During the presentation and public comment, representatives from labor unions, business groups, and developers expressed support for the change. Brian Cooley, representing SEPA developer Jerry Kamillos presentative, was typical of those speaking in favor of the change.

"We are really excited to be here in front of you this evening, in support of our proposal," Cooley said. "Not only is this a very exciting environmental and biological step forward but is it also a key tool for the Southeast Policy Area."

Cooley went on to claim that "At full build-out, the Southeast Policy area will provide a five-to-one jobs to housing ratio for the city of Elk Grove, and upwards of 23,000 new jobs."

Although supporters filled the council chamber, three people spoke during public comment and raised several questions. One was Elk Grove resident and former planning commissioner Paul Lindsay who expressed concern this change would have significant future implications.

"Your decision tonight will mark a sea change at how we look at Swainson's Hawk mitigation," Lindsay said. "And if I oppose it on procedural grounds, I feel there should be a wider discussion on the issue, and not have it limited or started with an addendum to an EIR."

Another person speaking was Jim Pachl representing Friends of the Swainson's Hawk. Like Lindsay, Pachl, who is an environmental attorney, told the council he believed the change extending the habitat out of the recommended 10-mile radius was significant enough to warrant a new EIR and the public should be allowed a 30-day review period. 

"This proposal is being presented as an addendum to an EIR. An addendum is for simple test changes that don't make any substantial changes," he said. "But what has actually been presented here is a major mitigation program that is much different from anything that was set forth in the original EIR."

During council deliberation Council Member Steve Detrick said the change would lead to a "world-class, master-planned Swainson's Hawk community" and promised "a huge population increase in the Swainson Hawk environment." 

Council Member Pat Hume offered supported on this specific proposal but added a qualifier. In a nod to concerns raised by his former planning commision colleague Paul Lindsay, Hume said any future changes merit a broader discussion.

"I think we need to have a larger conversation if this type of activity is the direction we want to go," Hume said. 

Noting his affinity for the outdoors and hunting, Mayor Steve Ly said he visited the Van Vleck Ranch and was impressed by his recent tour of the Van Vleck Ranch. He said he was comfortable with the changes being proposed and said the Swainson's Hawk would thrive in the long-term. 

"I am an avid outdoorsmen [sic], I spend years of my life, spending a fortune camping and hiking in the wilderness, so I am very sensitive to these types of efforts as we human encroach on natural habitat," Ly said. 

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife lists the Swainson's Hawk as a threatened species. According to the CDFW "the most recognized threat to Swainson's hawks in the loss of their native foraging and breeding grounds."







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6 comments

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

It is unfortunate the city's fledgling Innovation department is not up and running. If it was, they could have employed some of that "out of the box" thinking council members were gushing about at their last meeting.

Had Mr. Christoper Jordan, and Mr. Jason Behrmann put on their thinking caps, which might be quite a bureaucratic chore, they would have realized they missed out on an ecotourism opportunity. They should have looked for hawk mitigation land closer to town and even could have been tied in with the Stone Lakes refuge. Now that could be a real attraction, not the faux ones the city promotes in their delusional efforts.

That is probably too much to ask for, and it would have of course run contrary to the wishes of the deep-pocketed developers who pull the strings of their city council puppets. Yet again, another lost opportunity in The Grove.

An Elk Grove Voter said...

It didn't take long for Brian "The $10,000 Man" Cooley to come before the Elk Grove City Council with his payback request in hand.

Like Darren Suen, let's see how much Cooley gave Pat Hume and Stephanie Nguyen when the 460s are filed next month. Did Cooley match that $10K he contributed to Suen?

An Elk Grove Voter said...

This is too much! We have been down this yellow brick road before.

When Elk Grove City Council boasted that Laguna Ridge, aka Madeira, was going to be the “gem” of Elk Grove, voters bought it. The gem turned out to be fool’s gold; so the boys can’t use that word anymore.

Now according to Steve Detrick, the new buzzword is “world class.” I do believe I saw Detrick’s nose grow during his over-the-top verbosity. He was almost giddy. Was that display for Brian Cooley and his clients’ behalf because Detrick wants his $10K contribution as well?

And please, before long, those 23,000 jobs Cooley and the rest of Elk Grove City Council promise will be coming to the SEPA, and won’t, we will soon see commercial to residential rezones and even more rooftops.

D.J. Blutarsky said...

23,000 jobs in SEPA!

Is NRC Manufacturing finally coming! Yeah! Grab your solder guns y'all, we're gonna be the circuit board mecca of California! Food trucks galore, new swimming pool, Swainson Hawks flying in from Rancho Murrietta, I'm getting giddy just thinking about all this! We're gonna get rich off our home equity!

Maggie said...

Interesting comments by Council Member Steve Detrick and Mayor Steve Ly at the meeting. Their opinions do not overrule the facts presented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding this species. The council decision is unfortunate especially because they have options. Tell the developers to come back to the table with mitigation measures that fit the current policy. When the council decides to allow one developer to exceed current mitigation measures, it will be much easier to say yes to the next one that asks to do so too. And then the next. This is how species become endangered.
Many thanks to Paul Lindsay and others who expressed concern about this.

Maggie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

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