Commentary: Where Does Elk Grove Go From Here?

By Steve Lee | September 23, 2014 | In reading Marcos Breton’s thoughts in Sunday’s Bee about what has changed in Sacramento to mak...

By Steve Lee | September 23, 2014 |

In reading Marcos Breton’s thoughts in Sunday’s Bee about what has changed in Sacramento to make it a vibrant major league sports town, I couldn’t help but think about Elk Grove, my city, and question what exactly is going on here and why?

First, a brief history: Elk Grove, while it was founded as a stage coach stop in 1850, didn’t become an incorporated city until July, 2000. Until then we were just a community in south Sacramento County.  We’re a very new city, perhaps still testing our boundaries and our limits. In 2005, we were labeled as the “fastest growing city in the United States.” The great recession put a stop to that.

Now that we’ve seen where we’ve been, back to the present. Elk Grove has been labeled by many as a “bedroom community,” meaning that people come here to reside, while their employment lies elsewhere in one of our neighboring communities. While being a “bedroom community” doesn’t draw tourists, vacationers and sightseers here, it does offer a variety of housing options and great schools, the reasons many of us live here.
Questions for the Elk Grove City Council. 
It’s OUR community. Each of us decided to make this community our home, the place to raise our families and be safe from the crimes and other negative issues bigger cities toil with daily. As such, it should be our goal and the goal of our elected and appointed leaders to strive to make Elk Grove the best bedroom community possible. After all, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being a “bedroom community.”

Our city council’s recent decision to build a world-class aquatics center, one that could draw Olympic trials and national diving tournaments is admirable, but misguided. No one in the public has asked for Olympic specifications on the proposed center. Our swim and dive coaches and dozens of our kids are begging for a simple competition swimming pool and small dive platforms. These kids compete in 25-meter pools, not Olympic size 50-meter pools. They don’t need an Olympic 10–meter (30’+) dive platform. The cost for construction and maintenance is astronomical for Olympic grade (14 to 16 feet deep) facilities. If we build this, we would tax our citizens, most who would never use the facility, with revenue bonds for the next 30 years and even then as currently penciled out, at a yearly cost deficit. This just does not make sense. We simply need to build what we need, not what will draw national attention.

The council just purchased 100 acres of land OUTSIDE our city limits with $4.4 million in funds borrowed from our city Drainage and Maintenance Fund. This was done with no public notice or public discussion. The land was purchased with intent to build an MLS soccer stadium on the site. Does anyone really believe that MLS would prefer a franchise in Elk Grove rather than downtown Sacramento? The recent articles in the Bee and elsewhere related to the MLS contingent visiting the region makes the answer pretty obvious. 

What our community needs are sports fields for our kids. We need multi-use lighted pitches than can be used for soccer as well as rugby and the ever-growing lacrosse memberships. We need tournament fields that can accommodate players from under-10 age groups to adult players. We need lighted baseball and softball fields for our youth as well as our adult populations. A well thought out facility with locker rooms, lavatories, concessions, gazebos, shade trees, in-ground barbeque pits, and even splash parks for those hot summer days to cool off between games would be wonderful additions to our community. These would also boost tax revenue greatly with potential for year-round tournaments. These assets would be great additions to our “bedroom community.”

Let’s quash the idea of making Elk Grove a “destination city,” and make Elk Grove a wonderful community for its residents and a wonderful place to raise kids and offer top-grade athletic fields (and pools) that will draw them to sports rather than ignoring their needs and allowing idle minds time to find drugs and boredom leading them to commit crime as we see in so many larger cities.

Our city council can be the “new generation of doers” as Mr. Breton referred to the new leaders of mid-town. If the leaders can bring vitality and innovation back to Sacramento, there is hope for bringing it here as well.

Are our leaders up to the task?
Are they listening?
Are they invested in the betterment of our city?
Are they invested in our kids?
Will they step up and take action and not just order a feasibility study?

Time will tell.

Steve Lee is an Elk Grove resident. Read his December, 2013 contribution to EGN, Memories of the Stick

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Doc Bricker said...

Thanks for the thoughts Steve. Those athletic facilities you mention that we need are best run by CSD. When did city residents tell the Council that we want the city to be in the parks and recreation business?

Then you mention transparency, or lack thereof. Why do we have to read in today's Sacramento Business Journal quoting the city's PIO, that the land outside of the city will be used for soccer tournament fields. Why couldn't the Council admit as much when they authorized the purchase a few weeks ago. You can bet some smart land speculators already knew what the city was up to and started scooping up nearby "rural" parcels dirt cheap! Why do the taxpaying residents who are supporting these hairbrain ideas have to be the last to know?

And what about regional partnerships. Why does the city move into areas that CSD has historically operated in? Why do certain councilmembers need to publicly chastise the school district for not building pools--why dwell on the past and why not start discussing partnering up with them and/or CSD to build a realistic aquatic center? Is this being a regional partner?

Lead or get out of the way.

Lee Iacocca said...

Actually Doc, it is "lead, follow or get out of the way". Apparently your city council fails on all fronts.

Anonymous said...

Are our leaders up to the task?

Are they listening?

Are they invested in the betterment of our city?

Are they invested in our kids?

Will they step up and take action and not just order a feasibility study?

I would say NONE OF THE ABOVE! Business as usual...that's all they know.

Sarah Johnson said...

Very well put, Steve. Your words reflect the feelings of SO MANY people here in Elk Grove. If only the City Council and City Manager would listen and stop trying to "reinvent the wheel".

Germelshausen said...

A good point is made here. What is wrong with being a bedroom community as long as we have good services and provide a safe place to raise our families? The city ought to focus on improving and enhance what we have and not be chasing these pie in the sky dreams. Why not get all the trails connected before we chase down the MLS?

Anonymous said...

In our 7 years of living here and attending city council meetings I have found the City Council just bounces from one project to another and have yet to see any completed. This entailed spending thousand, if not millions of dollars for nothing. The latest newbies being Wayfinding signs, street lighting & an Animal Shelter. Our Planning Director has left us and we have no Econ. Dev. Director. We are a city, IMO, floating out in space with no direction in sight that could easily crash and burn. Now why is that? Could it just be because we have a majority of council members who have no business or financial expertise and look on the city as just their own little playground? I see no hope for this community if things are allowed to continue as in the past. Could bankruptcy be in our future? I believe if we operated our household in this fashion that would be a possibility.

Bluto Blutarsky said...

Egos need to be fed and they're not going to accept the Jenny Craig diet plan!

Mainstreet GOP Dude said...

At some point perhaps the city will do a feasibility study on feasibility studies and determine that feasibility studies are good for one thing: great for collecting dust on the shelves at city hall. I can't help but wonder if all these consultants aren't somehow in cahoots with either city staff, contractors to the city or city council members.

Anonymous said...

Germelshausen ~ I couldn't agree more. Make Elk Grove a great bedroom community and the jobs will follow. Simply zoing land in SEPA as "Office/Industrial" won't bring jobs. Eventually the land owners will get tired of their land sitting not being developed and they will apply for a rezone.

Completing the trails, building a theather for the arts (ie, Harris Center), and pools/sports fields for our kids to play on will go a long way to improving property values and keeping our dollars local.

Capt. Benjamin L. Willard said...

Mr. Lee thank you for your well thought piece. It has stirred an interesting conversation. Let's hope our city council will take note for a change.

To paraphrase Councilman Hume who said jobs follow housing, I would argue to build amenities and infrastructure, and jobs will follow.

Does the city council not see the growing trend of bike riders? Perhaps build a superior network of trails that are all connected not only in Elk Grove, but regionally. Take the regional lead on this and leave the pro sports chase to our friends in Sacramento.

Lets get the roads improved and make sure they are maintained. You cannot have commerce without properly maintained roads. Furthermore, lets patch things up regionally and work on getting light rail extended down to Elk Grove.

And yes, soccer fields and a scaled back swimming center are an important part of the mix.

What about the civic center? Lets build a performing arts center, maybe as public private partnership. If we are ever to attract high end employers, we will need to have cultural amenities. Even though Vice Mayor Cooper often makes the excuse that Roseville and Folsom have a 100+year jump on Elk Grove, Folsom established their Sympathy Orchestra in 2004. Sure, I am guessing Intel is a major sponsor. Why can't Mayor Davis or Councilman Detrick approach their benefactors. The Tsakopoulos Center for Performing Arts has a nice ring to it, does it not?

Our fate to be a bedroom community was determined years ago by the Sacramento County BOS. Sure, we can try to be attractive to prospective employers even though we are a bedroom community, but Mr. Lee is so correct - let's focus and be a great bedroom community.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a well thought out review of our bedroom community. I moved her because it was appealing the way it was...schools and parks are a big draw. But now I find out that the council has control over neither. Interesting coincidence?? I cannot really come up with anything that has "happened" in this town since I moved here except for that ped overcrossing...but nothing more in the way of amenities. I agree; let's keep it simple; and make EG the best little city around. Drop this "tourist" thing. That is simply ridiculous. I haven't found a darn thing (except EGPark) to take my relatives too; so let's start a campaign to get an ARTs CENTER...a little culture goes a long way.

Anonymous said...

I think Steve Lee brings up some very good points. From what I have read over the last few years, the reason the City has looked into creating sports complexes is because CSD has not provided these types of facilities for our children. From council meetings that I have watched online, the city has tried to partner to pick up the slack that has not been carried by CSD and the School District, but neither of those agencies are willing to partner. From what I recall, CSD wanted close to a million dollars a year from the city to run an aquatic center that the city was going to pay for. 9 high schools with no pools? EGUSD spent millions of capital dollars to replace the fields and tracks at several of the high school. Maybe the answer is for EGUSD and CSD to take care of their mission and the city to take care of theirs that mainly covers Police and Public Works. I received the city fact sheet and the city gets 1.5%, CCSD gets 20% and the EGUSD gets 44.2% of the property tax dollar.
Here is the city link to where 100% of the property tax goes.

Lynn said...

To the above; sales tax is the biggest revenue source for our city....the school district and CSD get what they get from property tax and that is their only source of monies....when the city was empire building they ignored CSD and the School indeed set the stage for not being a team player. The city cut developer fees that went to the building of our parks establishing a Ponzi scheme for parks...
Steve thank you for an excellent article!!

dco said...

Can we bring in a counselor from Gamblers Anonymous to council the council? The cookie jars are empty and so are the children's piggy banks. To support their habit the city has gutted funds meant to keep a well run city functioning properly.

The city council members are blinded by one grandiose scheme after another while residents maintain reason Asking only for improvements that make an American city desirable. Things like good schools, playing fields and swimming pools.

I would love to see our town promote its agricultural roots, a heritage that is already a multimillion dollar enterprise. Instead of spending money foolishly trying to attract MLS let's champion agribusiness, the wonderful resource that is already at hand.

We are a community of 160,000 strong. Give us ways to spend our shopping and entertainment dollars locally. A little culture would be very, very nice. So would our very own Costco.

Thank you Mr. Lee for providing us a well thought out article.

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