Opinion: In Elk Grove, Past Performance Does Guarantee Future Performance

By Lynn Wheat | July 13, 2015 | This Thursday  at 6:00 p.m., the Elk Grove Planning Commission will be reviewing the City’s first devel...

By Lynn Wheat | July 13, 2015 |
This Thursday  at 6:00 p.m., the Elk Grove Planning Commission will be reviewing the City’s first development proposal for the Southeast Planning Area (SEPA), the so-called Souza Dairy Project.

The first project seeking approval in Elk Grove's job-generating
Southeast Policy Area is a 375-acre development known as
the Souza Dairy Project that will produce about 1,094 new houses. 
SEPA is the last major undeveloped area within current city limits, totaling approximately 1,200-acres. The Elk Grove City Council has said the city’s jobs/housing imbalance needs to be corrected and the SEPA “hybrid” plan will bring the jobs the city so desperately needs through employment centers. The City Council agreed to spend roughly $5.5 million of their budget reserve to install the backbone infrastructure to SEPA to help stimulate economic development. This is on top of the City paying approximately half a million dollars for the SEPA environmental impact report and consultant fees on behalf of the developers.

Well, judging by the development plan before the Planning Commission, SEPA is well on its way to becoming nothing more than rooftops and broken promises. The Souza Dairy property is approximately 375-acres and will produce 1,094 rooftops, large lots for future high density residential, commercial, and mixed use development along with a school and park sites. 

The applicant for the Souza Dairy Project has requested a Development Agreement (DA) with all the conditions for their personal benefit without protections for current or future residents. The City must agree to lock in development impact fees at current rates and to honor the subdivision approval for 20 years; never change any SEPA land regulations for 10 years and never impose a building moratorium on them. The DA does not require the applicant to actually build anything by any specific date including both infrastructure and/or employment generating uses. 

What does this all mean? 

The entire residential areas could be build out with no commercial, retail or office.  How does this DA correct the job housing imbalance or support the policy of our Mayor and Council who have stated a number of times the job/housing imbalance needs to be corrected.

Once the rooftops are built where are the jobs?  Houses 1,094, Employment Center, 0.

One council member has said build the homes and jobs will follow. It was this belief which created our great job/housing imbalance. Many, many homes were built and many, many jobs did not follow. Is this really the pattern our leaders want to repeat?

It’s fair to say that the region builders recognize that Elk Grove is an easy mark. Since the Great Recession, the developers have come to Elk Grove and convinced our leaders to lower all fees to rock bottom prices; reduced our park/open space standards to the bare minimum allowed by State law; minimized their “up-front” cash exposure by having the City “front” the infrastructure and having individual home buyers pay the City back at time of purchase; avoided building parks in subdivisions by merely paying a per unit fee passed on to home buyers; and the grand-daddy of them all, using Development Agreements to tie the City’s future hands should we get tired of being taken for a ride.

Remember this SEPA is based on a hybrid flexible plan.  Since Elk Grove became a city our leaders have approved 43 general plan amendments and rezones. This SEPA plan, will it bring the long term sustainable quality jobs to our city, or will it be more of the same?  Based on our city leader’s track record you be the judge.

Elk Grove City Council approved a special meeting to hear this particular project. Plan to attend August 12, 2015 6 p.m. 

In Elk Grove, past performance does guarantee future performance.

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Fool me once...Fool me twice... said...

Jobs/Housing balance my a**. Pg 11 of the staff report:

"The proposed DA does not require the Applicant to actually build anything by any specific date
including both infrastructure and/or employment generating uses. As currently drafted, the
Applicant could potentially build all residential properties and never develop the Village Center".

Anonymous said...

Whomever drafted this agreement, and staff approved it, built in so many Catch 22s for the applicants here, the potential buyers along with the rest of Elk Grove is, in my opinion, going to be totally screwed on this project!

Bob L said...

I have yet to read the documentation, but unless I'm mistaken when the PC last looked at the SEPA on the record, they rejected approval on the basis that the housing to jobs increase ratio proposed by the council had largely been ignored. They saw that the SEPA as a whole was largely a residential expansion and ignored the jobs imbalance and creation of new jobs.

The Souza land simply looks like a microcosm of the larger SEPA shortcomings as they relate to job creation and commercial space.

Additionally, as I understand it, the DA as it is currently written, reads that the developers have no requirement that any commercial or mixed use facilities have to actually be built. - I find this extremely alarming.

While the PC has a recommendation to make to the city council on this matter, I worry that the developers wants will prevail here to all of our detriments in the future, creating more homes, no jobs, reduced ammenities and parks, more traffic on our overburdened highways. After all it is well established the Council cows to the developers wishes as long as they keep lining council's pockets with needed campaign money.

We'll see how this all pans out. My guess is we're all in for further degredation of our city.

Capt. Benjamin Willard said...

I have not had the opportunity to read the staff report for this item, but given Ms. Wheat's knowledge of such matters, which seems more thorough than all of our councilmen, we can be assured her analysis is on the mark.

Aside from that, it seems the whole SEPA drill is the same old SNAFU emanating from the city hall. I would have far more respect for the councilmen if they simply acknowledged the SEPA is nothing new and improved as advertised, but more of the same old tired product.

Situation Normal....all fouled up!

Anonymous said...

Why should I even conserve water if they are going to allow thousands of homes and low income housing units to be built?

Elk Grove is well on its way to become a steaming dumpster fire of a sprawling suburban blob.

This place is becoming a big joke.

Why don't they pitch this to the producers of a reality TV show?

You could call the show "Low Times in the High Times".

"It's High Time to visit Elk Grove.

Our city's motto is "It's Grow Time".

How about bringing light industrial and office jobs to Elk Grove instead of more houses, low income housing projects and strip centers?

Miles and miles of houses thrown up during the start of a historically severe drought.

Thousands of low income housing projects to serve residents who have low paying retail and food service jobs.

Garish billboard signs to further glamorize this steaming dumpster fire of a city.

Steve L said...

Let's just allow the developers to hold council seats. Skip the middle man. This plan has been a bait and switch from Day One. Davis sells it as bringing 5 jobs per housing unit.
That is just not believable to any half-way educated or reasonable person.

Call it what it is. Be honest with your citizens for a change.

It's more developer driven high-density rooftops, plain and simple.

Mark Doty said...

In addition to Lynn's concerns the trail network through this development is less than desirable. There are 21 road crossings and the trail corridors are often narrow (30-40 feet) and run along many roads.

I've voiced these concerns with the applicant, staff, the Planning Commission, and the Council. This is a huge piece of SEPA. It can and should be done better. Please take the time to contact the Council/Planning Commission and tell them 21 trail crossings is far too many and the future residents of this development deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Keep building houses and high density low income housing projects.

Elk Grove is going to end up being a tacky dump like Palmdale / Lancaster in LA County.

Very few jobs

Too far away from employment centers (Rancho Cordova, Roseville, Folsom).

No culture

Fast food joints and strip malls.

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