Kammerer Road Redux - Elk Grove explores changing SEPA employment center

Neal Payton discussing modifications to Elk Grove's SEPA. | 

At a meeting held last night at Elk Grove's District56 civic center complex, participants in a workshop learned about a study underway to reconfigure undeveloped land in the city's Southeast Planning Area (SEPA) designated at the city's employment center.

The meeting, which was conducted by Neal Payton of the Los Angeles-based architectural and urban design firm Torti Gallas + Partners covered how the employment center designated along Kammerer Road could change from its original plan. During the meeting, Payton, and Elk Grove Economic Development Director Darrel Doan characterized the current plan as being similar to numerous unremarkable suburban-style low rise office parks scattered throughout the region.

Instead, Payton said the city retained his firm to start formulating plans for more concentrated mixed-use facilities that are pedestrian-friendly. The key, Payton said, is these are the types of urban-like facilities that employers want to recruit employees. 

"This is appealing, particularly to a lot of younger people," Payton said. "It seems to be appealing in particular to folks that have the ability to choose where they want to work."

From the employer's perspective, Payton says they seek locations that are desirable to a younger workforce.  This is especially true for companies seeking high-skilled in-demand professions. 

"In many cases [employees] choose the city they want to live in before they even have a job," Payton said. "That is the kind of employers that the city is really talking about." 

Payton noted the process is in the early stages, and if adopted, it would have to be approved by the Elk Grove City Council. The city council has a self-imposed supermajority of four votes needed to make any changes to the existing SEPA plan.

"This has to be seen as a long-term strategy," Payton said. "We are talking about a generation or two."

The SEPA area, which consists of about 1,200 acres on the south side of Elk Grove, has been considered a key component in the city's desire to expand its boundaries. When the city tried and failed to expand its boundaries by 12-square miles in 2012, part of the failure was attributed to its lack of designated employment centers.

Since that time, the city and several private developers have successfully annexed smaller portions of the original 8,000-acre request. 

As part of this study, portions of approximately 800 of the 1200-acres in the SEPA area are being reviewed for rezoning to higher density development. Payton stressed that they are very early in the process, and more workshops would be held before it is considered by the city council.  

In his comments, Doan, without mentioning his name, addressed former Mayor Gary Davis' claim when the SEPA plan was adopted in 2014 that it would generate 25,000 jobs. 

"The SEPA plan is great, it has capacity for 25,000 jobs, but you never heard me say that," Doan said. "I think this entire region will be hard-pressed to attract 25,000 jobs."  

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