Torpedoed! Sacramento LAFCo Sinks Elk Grove's Expansion Plan

November 6, 2013 | After a marathon five-plus hour session in the Sacramento City Council chambers filled with presentations and public...

November 6, 2013 |

After a marathon five-plus hour session in the Sacramento City Council chambers filled with presentations and public testimony from a wide array of interest groups and individuals including a former mayor of Sacramento, the Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) abruptly sank Elk Grove's long-desired and controversial expansion plans last night.
Elk Grove Planning Director Taro Echiburu.

By a 5-2 vote, LAFCo commissioners denied Elk Grove's so-called sphere of influence (SOI) application. The SOI is the first procedural step a local government entity must take to annex land into its particular jurisdiction.

Since its introduction in 2008, the SOI has raised the ire of many Elk Grove residents and a disparate set of interest groups who were concerned with the various effects an eventual annexation of 8,000-acres would have on the city and nearby wildlife habitat. This was on display during public testimony when the commission heard from individuals such as former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo and groups as diverse as the Sierra Club and the Sacramento County Farm Bureau.

Of the approximately 50 individuals signed up to speak were several who spoke in favor of the SOI application. Although real estate developers have long sought the SOI, most of those speaking in support were land owners in the proposed area who said they favored the eventual annexation as a long term planning tool.

Speaking on behalf of the city was Planning Director Taro Echeburo who reiterated the city was simply seeking the SOI as a way to correct the city's worst-in-the region jobs to houses imbalance and as a long-term planning tool.

"We are not asking for expansion at this point," Echeburo said. "What we are asking is that you allow, give us the area for us to plan."

Echeburo noted the city was seeking the full 8,000-acres as specified in their application, not the LAFCo staff recommendation of 4,000-acres.

Criticism of the SOI application focused on quality of life issues such as traffic and the potential negative environmental effects on wildlife habitat in the nearby Stonelake National and Cosumnes River Wildlife Preserve's. Several speakers also pointed to incomplete projects in the city such as the Elk Grove Promenade and proposed civic center as basis to question the city's ability to actually develop a good plan and follow through on it.

"They do not complete anything that they start," said Elk Grove resident Nikki Carpenter.

Former Sacramento Mayor Heather Fargo noted the SOI application was not consistent with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments long-term blueprint planning project that seeks more "compact, mixed-use development and more transit choices as an alternative to low density development."

"The SOI serves to undermine the blueprint," Fargo said. "This is really an inappropriate move at this time given all the planning that has been done."

During their deliberations, commissioners Christopher Tooker and Gay Jones expressed skepticism that granting the SOI and allowing Elk Grove to annex would actually solve the city's job to housing imbalance. Tooker then made a motion to deny Elk Grove's application that was seconded by Jones.

After a substitute motion by Commissioner Chair Jimmy Yee to approve the SOI was defeated by a 4-2 vote with one abstention, the commission approved Tooker's motion to deny the SOI application. After the vote was taken affirming the denial, a round of applause erupted in the chamber from SOI opponents.

Following the vote, Elk Grove Vice Mayor Steve Detrick and Council Member Pat Hume, who were accompanied at the meeting by the city's executive staff and Pacific Municipal Consultants principle Phil Carter, expressed disappointment.

"I think there was a lot of misinformation," Hume said. "I disagree with them that we should look at shorter term planning."

When asked if he as council member would revisit the issue, Hume said it was unlikely.

"Not any time soon," he said. "I heard the message."

Andy Sawyer President of the Mother Lode chapter of the Sierra Club who spoke during the meeting said he was pleased with the vote but would continue to monitor the situation.

"We are very pleased," he said. "There was only one right decision and they made it."

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JeffO said...

Congratulations to Lynn Wheat and GRASP. Thank you for your dedication to this issue. This shows that citizens can make a difference. Thank you keeping your neighbors informed, hearing that the majority of us were not in favor, and doing the tireless work needed to get this voted down.

Sarah Johnson said...

Bravo Lynn Wheat, you made a difference and you can be very proud! I would ask what exactly is the misinformation Hume spoke of? Seriously, I would like to know!

Spruce Goose said...

Now that the expansion distraction is gone, the city can finally laser focus on real civic issues like major league soccer, outlet malls, the aquatic center, and a space aged civic center. Paying the highest public worker salaries in the region is really starting to pay off! Good job, Lynn.

Thomas A. Anderson said...

Lynn Wheat and the handful of people who fought against the SOI proved a lot of people, including me, wrong. Every now and then you can fight and beat city hall!

David Webb said...

Congratulations, LYNN!
- We still have a voice when reasonable and open minds listen.

Let's hope that our CC was paying attention and makes some movement towards a better EG.

Congratulations to all of Elk Grove. All of us won last night, whether you realize it or not.

Astute Observer said...

If the City doesn't plan that land then the developers will find a way to do so. Seems like more of a loss to me than a win.

BAInc said...

I was in attendance at the 5+ hour meeting last night. Of the 50+ people to speak the only ones in favor of the SOI were the land owners and developers who stand to make millions when their farmland is developed into homes, office parks, and retail centers. If I were in their shoes I'd also be in favor of the SOI but this is why we have agencies like LAFCO that are responsible to the entire region not just a handful of those that will profit.

The only reason I was slightly in favor of the SOI was to keep the County from pulling a Cordova Hills and developing the land themselves. However, the county doesn't seem interested in developing beyond the USB anytime soon.

Humer Gone said...

Pat Hume is disappointed. Well, now he knows how it feels in that many have been disappointed in Hume for years.

Hume is only running for reelection for two reasons, the SOI and the Connector; and the reasons were made clear by citizens doing their homework.

It wasn’t until citizens uncovered that Hume’s family had land, and therefore financial interest, in the transition zone, that he came forward and admitted as much. Hume was silent on that little piece of information for years.

Hume was also insistent since day one that he be on the Connector JPA Board. He is the only Elk Grove City Councilmember to serve on that board. Time for a change there as well.

Now if there is a way to torpedo the Connector, there is no reason for Hume to run in 2014. He certainly isn’t there for anyone except special interests and developers like Gil Moore.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps...but it will have to be taken to LAFCO again and that is not likely to happen for years. Lets just finish what we have in the works, like the 1200 acres in the SEPA that could bring many jobs to EG if planned correctly. We have many unfinished projects in the works and have spent millions of taxpayer dollars on them, how about we finish something for a change and OPEN THE DOORS to city hall.

Ron said...

Lynn was just one of many who put a lot of effort into the defeat of the SOI. I think the environmentalists should be given a great deal of credit as well as all of the other individuals who have attended all of the meetings throughout the years. Judging from the comments of the LAFCO board, most of the credit for the defeat should go to the City of Elk Grove itself. They always used the argument that the city needs to improve the job/housing balance yet they never made any real effort to do so. They just kept building more houses with here today gone tomorrow construction jobs. And lastly I believe Mayor Heather Fargo was wonderful and added a great deal of credibility with her comments on the goals of SACOG. We have to think beyond our city limits and be regional players.

Anonymous said...

There is plenty of credit to go around; however I do not think that Lynn is "in it" for the glory or the credit. She is truly dedicated to Elk Grove and to making our quality of life more enjoyable. Her extreme dedication over the years (attending every LafCo hearing; attending almost every council meeting; speaking and presenting alternatives at commission meetings) is more commitment than anyone in this town. But, thankfully, her vision of a better not bigger EG will come to pass. Congratulations to everyone who spoke; to everyone who showed up; to everyone that wrote a letter or two. Together our voice was heard. Now, did the council hear us??

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

One would hope the city council would take note and act accordingly.

Having said that, there are two tacks council members can take. They can be defiant and indignant or acknowledge LAFCO's decision that the will of the people was served and be stand up sort of guys and graciously accept the defeat and move on.

My hope is they do the latter but my gut tells me they will do the former.

Anonymous said...

After giving this process some thought and I must say, I'm certainly no expert in these matters...just a taxpayer in the city, I think the city made a bad judgement call. In doing some research I have found that the city only held one Public Workshop and that was in Dec. 2007. Even though they were asked many times to bring this to the people, they refused. We all know many meetings were held with land owners and developers behind closed doors.

Would this have made any difference in the unknown perhaps. But this might just serve as something to think about now and for future city projects such as SEPA, Aquatics, MLS Soccer, etc. The citizens may not be the easy push-overs as some may think in the future.

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