Opinion - The Elk Grove General Plan Update: Sealing the Deal

December 29, 2015 |

The recent decision by the City Council to update the 2003 General Plan appears to have taken on a sense of urgency, despite the fact that citizen activists had called for this process to occur several years ago. With little fanfare or prior public discussion, the General Plan update project has all of a sudden moved onto the front burner of city tasks--natural curiosity dictates that we must ask ourselves why?

When the city incorporated in 2000, the population was only about 73,000 and is currently estimated to be about 165,000. During this 15-year run, Elk Grove was one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. But after a failed attempt in 2014 to expand its ultimate city boundaries by 8,000 acres, the city was lectured by the County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) on why it had not done enough to maximize infill development and provide lands for job creation. Faced with this embarrassing defeat and the loss of confidence by the swarm of speculative home builders, the City Council has latched onto this General Plan update as a way to finally seal the deal once and for all!

Using a multi-pronged attack plan, the City Council has laid the groundwork for a major land-grab offensive and will have to never again answer to LAFCo or any citizen groups opposed to sprawl. After spending millions of dollars on the Habitat Conservation Plan (which could have ultimately declared some of the future growth area as unbuildable species habitat), the City quietly withdrew from the plan. Instead, a developer need only pay the city a paltry fee for removing wildlife habitat.

The City in coordination with the property owners and speculative builders put together the Southeast Planning Area plan (SEPA), which talks up a good story about job creation, but technically allows homes to be built in its place, or with three votes of the City Council, can change any rule that developers don’t like. And while no one was suggesting that the Rural area of Elk Grove be urbanized, that distorted mistruth by the City Council has allowed them to ‘divide and conquer’ the citizen opposition and squash LAFCo comments about maximizing infill development. Oh, and let’s not forget that there were new appointments to the LAFCo board after the stunning defeat and who wants to bet how that will work out?

The General Plan update will seal the deal once and for all. While city leaders spew out  soundbites about maximum public outreach in the update process, we can assume that the backroom word processors are busy at work laying out the future growth policies and maps that will pacify LAFCo; will be crafting overriding considerations to legally hurdle over the adverse environmental impacts of growth and squash the opposition from the regional environmental groups; and most importantly, develop fancy-smanchy zoning terms that will essentially give the homebuilders and retail industry free reign to move in once and for all. “It’s Grow Time” as they say.

Happy New Year!

This editorial was submitted by an Elk Grove resident who asked to be left unnamed.

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1 comment

Connie said...

I, too, question the timing of this joint meeting. The city of Elk Grove has a history of holding somewhat controversial meetings at holiday time hoping no one will notice let alone attend.

I read another Op Ed about a general plan and the author coined it perfectly and appropriately given the timing, “The General Plan Update is that itchy Christmas sweater you’ll wish you had kept the receipt for.”

Does this plan even address how we rebuild our city? We have infrastructure problems which can’t be solved by expanding our boundaries with more high-density housing. Does it address industrial parks to entice companies to relocate to Elk Grove?

One good thing, as a rural resident for over 30 years, at least the rural is going to be left alone.

With this plan, Elk Grove’s future is immutable, one of regional sprawl all the way to Galt and dare I say it to the Cosumnes River.

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