The Closing of the Bel Air Store, the SOI Application and the Florinification of Elk Grove

A vacant car dealership on Florin Road. Updated Wednesday's announcement that the old Bel Air Store on Elk Grove Blvd. and William...

A vacant car dealership on Florin Road.


Wednesday's announcement that the old Bel Air Store on Elk Grove Blvd. and Williamson Drive would soon close was met by expressions of sadness and surprise. While sad, the news should not really have come as a surprise though - any knowing person would have realized the store's days were numbered when Sacramento County (see corrected notes in comments below) approved the newer store on Elk Grove Blvd and Waterman way back in the late 90's before Elk Grove incorporated.

At that time, Sacramento County decided on land use matters for Elk Grove and they felt that yes, even though there was another grocery store operated by the same owner less than a mile away, it would be just fine to open another. Even though several members of the the Elk Grove Community Planning Advisory Committee urged county planners to impose some limits, the county's attitude was damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

So now Raley's has announced that this store would be one of the under-performing stores that will be closed. What is really surprising is that the store actually lasted as long as it did with another nearby Bel Air and the fierce grocery competition in Elk Grove. Perhaps the lease just ran out and Raley's decided to kill the store.

Whatever the case, this closure is demonstrative of how the continual growth of fringe city's, and even fringe developments within fringe city's, can damage a community.

Will the empty space left by Bel Air be filled anytime soon? Will the retailers at that strip center be able to stay afloat or will they relocate leaving even more empty space right in the heart of Elk Grove?

As a point of reference, does any remember when Florin Road housed numerous car dealerships? Well that all changed fairly rapidly once the Elk Grove Auto Mall opened and all the dealers fled those iffy confines for the more luxurious auto mall. As best as we can observe, that already iffy area along Florin Road has not substantially improved since the auto dealers left.

So goes Elk Grove Blvd. With the loss of the Bel Air, will that shopping center and the immediate neighborhood be able to weather the loss? Or will the area see a decline? Will the property owners be able to attract tenants without a good anchor?

Meanwhile, as Elk Grove starts to feel the effects of its own internal fringe cannibalism ala the Elk Grove Blvd. Bel Air saga, we as a city have decided that we need to expand. We are of course referring the the city's Sphere of Influence (SOI) application to someday annex a large swath of land bordering the city southern border.

So will we push on and expand the city and if approved, who will be left holding the pieces as we cannibalize our city's own small businesses and adjoining neighborhoods? Given the long-term structural changes that the Great Recession has forced upon us, do we really need to push more development at the expense of existing homeowners and small business owners?

Why not take those resources that would be spent on expansion of the city and invest in amenities that would really make Elk Grove an enviable place to live. Why not use these funds for a trail system, expanded public transit or youth services just to name a few worthy projects that would benefit the average Elk Grove resident.

After all, other than the campaign war chests of politicians and real estate developers, does the average Elk Grove resident really benefit from adding thousands of more rooftops?

So as we progress through this election year, we hope there will be a vigorous debate about the wisdom of Elk Grove's proposed expansion. If we don't, we could be witnessing the Florinification of Elk Grove.

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Sarah Johnson said...

You made some good points in the article, but I do want to correct one thing. The City of Elk Grove approved the Waterman store, not Sacramento County. There were actually competing plans on both the northeast and southeast corners, One Safeway and the other BelAir. Some of us that worked on this, made Raley's promise not to close #508 (Williamson & EG Blvd.) as part of the deal. They kept their promise for 10 years, but if the shopping center owner asked for a substancial rent increase as some are saying, there is no way to avoid this.

EGN said...

Thank your for the clarification and amplification Sarah.

Anonymous said...

You make a lot of sense, which is exactly why it won't happen! Work on and improve on what we have now before even considering expanding; but of course that is not where the money is to be had.

And to those Wal-Mart lovers (one-stop shopping, yuk!), go to Florin Road to shop. As cited in the Bee article, the presence of discount grocers (Winco....) contributed to the decreased revenue and therefore impending closure of the EG Blvd BelAir. Bring on more discount grocers and watch more BelAirs, Raley, Safeways, etc. disappear.

Mike Monasky said...

I'm shocked. I can't believe that a long-standing grocer like Bel Air would leave the very heart of what used to be a small town.
The advantages of having this grocer were many: there was more courtesy, a smaller, easier to navigate facility, and a location central to many residences. I often walk or bike to shop at this grocery store. It's not perfect, and it's now owned by a corporation. But the closure will never be reversed. And the jobs lost will continue the great labor depression of the decade.
Mike Monasky

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