Elk Grove: Stop Wasting Time & Money…..”Right-Size” the SOI

The Following was submitted by the Wilton Action Group. The Elk Grove City Council should learn the lessons of the 10-year SOI expansion pro...

The Following was submitted by the Wilton Action Group.

The Elk Grove City Council should learn the lessons of the 10-year SOI expansion process recently completed by the City of Folsom (Folsom) and get the size of its own SOI expansion process right. What can be learned from Folsom’s experiences?

Lesson 1: Don’t Overreach – Eliminate the Floodplain from the SOI

Folsom initiated its SOI expansion project in 1997 with an attempt to push its SOI south across Highway 50 and west all the way to Rancho Cordova, encompassing an area of almost 30,000 acres. Like Elk Grove’s attempt to claim the Cosumnes River floodplain, this expansion greatly overreached anything remotely related to Folsom’s actual growth needs. After two years, Folsom was forced to reduce the size of its proposed expansion to 3,500 acres, a 90% reduction! Elk Grove is bound to experience a similar waste of time and money unless the City eliminates the Cosumnes River floodplain from its SOI amendment.

Lesson 2. Get the Land Use Projections Right

The heart of an SOI amendment is a set of well-supported land use projections that demonstrate how much land is needed to accommodate future population and employment growth. Once Folsom was forced to reduce the size of its SOI expansion, they adopted land use projections that were consistent with those recommended in the Sacramento Area Council of Government’s preferred regional Blueprint. Folsom concluded that it could accommodate up to 30,000 new residents on about 1,160 acres. By comparison, Elk Grove’s SOI amendment application claims that the City needs 12,587 acres to accommodate an increase in population of 41,000 people over the next 25 years.

Residential Land Use Condition Folsom SOI 10 units/acre & 25 people/acre
proposed Elk Grove SOI 1.5 units/acres & 4 people/acre

Elk Grove’s proposed future housing density is less than half that of the current population of the City, which includes a significant rural residential area with very low density (1 unit on 2 acres), and is only a fraction of the density proposed in the Folsom SOI.

With respect to employment, Folsom concluded that it could accommodate up to 10,300 new employees in new commercial/retail and office uses covering about 450 acres. Elk Grove’s application claims that the City needs 4,608 acres to accommodate 31,639 new employees. Elk Grove’s density is about 40 percent of the employment density anticipated by the Folsom SOI expansion.

Non-Residential Land

Elk Grove’s land use analysis is out of line with current regional planning benchmarks and with emerging State requirements (Senate Bill 375) for reducing greenhouse gases. The analysis contains numerous methodological errors that significantly inflate the amount of land the City actually needs to accommodate its projected population growth and improve its jobs housing balance.

These errors should be corrected and the analysis should be revised before the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is asked to proceed with the SOI amendment. Otherwise, like the initial version of Folsom’s SOI amendment, the Elk Grove SOI expansion will justifiably be perceived as a prescription for urban sprawl and the City will be compelled to restructure the amendment after unnecessarily wasting time and money on the current poorly prepared application.

Estimates of actual vs. asserted land use needs (2035)

NOTE: WAG’s estimates are based on a residential density of 9 housing units per acre, 23 people per acre, and a non-residential density of about 40 employees per acre associated primarily with office development . It was assumed that 23% of the land allocated to residential and non-residential uses would be occupied by roads, sidewalks, parks and other public infrastructure. Vacant acres estimated based on verbal communications with Elk Grove Planning Dept. staff.

Even if Elk Grove projects their needs out to 2060, as Mayor Hume has suggested, the City should not need more than roughly 6,600 acres, or about 1400 acres outside the current city limits.

Lesson 3: Settle with the County before Initiating the Environmental Review Process
One of Folsom’s biggest problems was commencing the SOI amendment process, including the environmental review, before reaching agreement with the County on key elements of the SOI expansion. Most notably, the environmental review process was initiated without an agreement with the County on how important environmental resources in the SOI area would be protected. This caused a two-year delay in the amendment process. Elk Grove should not make the same mistake. Before asking LAFCO to initiate the environmental review process, the City should complete its negotiations with the County and agree upon the following: (a) appropriate protections for the floodplain, and (b) clearly defined mechanisms for landowners east of Grantline Road to develop those areas of their property outside the floodplain, should they wish to do so.

In Summary

By ‘right-sizing’ the SOI’s projected land uses requirements, including dropping the floodplain from application and reaching agreement with County up front, the City can avoid the long drawn out and expensive process that Folsom experienced. This will avoid unnecessary expenditures of time and money on the SOI expansion at a time when other City projects and programs that affect the immediate needs of City residents are being cut.

Wilton IS a good place to be. Elk Grove thinks so, too.

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Muriel said...

As there are always two sides to a debate, this article is well written and leaves me with many questions regarding the size, the intention and the transparency of the SOI process. I attended the first SOI meeting and initially thought those "wilton folks" were a little bit crazy, but after keeping an open mind and absorbing materials, articles, internet searches, etc; I'm beginning to think the city of Elk Grove has a hidden agenda....I'd like to have a open, free and spirited debate about some of these issues mentioned in this article...why does the city want so much more land and why do they want the flood plain?

Anonymous said...

Why expand your sphere of influence, when u can't even take care of yourself?

Kane said...

Management by Elk Grove Council and staff appears to be right on the edge of incompetence!!!

Anonymous said...

Possible scenario: The EG City Council has been bought and paid for by developers, and have to deliver the land as agreed, despite all reasonable arguments to the contrary?

Anonymous said...

I agree with that possibility. EG City Council works for the developers. We already know how "developed" the mall is already.

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