Elk Grove to continue serving as bedroom community - this time as part of Bay Area megaregion

Ask any family who has lived in Elk Grove for a period of time what brought them to the community, and there are usually two reasons. Elk Grove's main drawing card has been for time-in-memoriam decent schools and, more importantly, relatively affordable housing. 

Elk Grove, as many who live here know, is a sprawling suburban bedroom community filled with strip centers, cul-de-sac subdivisions, and a growing homeless population. The hamlet is no longer the sleepy ag area of 40 years ago. 

This status was cemented years before the city's 2000 incorporation by the Sacramento County Board of Supervisor and helped by the Elk Grove City Council, notwithstanding their efforts to correct the homes to jobs imbalance, which has failed. While Elk Grove has been Sacramento County's bedroom community, in recent years, Bay Area workers are locating to the city as well.

With the escalation of housing prices in the Bay Area, many Central Valley cities, including Elk Grove, have become part of the so-called San Francisco Bay Area megaregion. Loosely defined, a megaregion is as "a large network of metropolitan regions that share several or all of the following: environmental systems and topography, infrastructure systems, economic linkages, settlement and land use patterns."

During the Wednesday, February 26 meeting of the Elk Grove City Council meeting, Councilmember Darren Suen discussed how cooperation between several COGs - Councils of Governments, will facilitate this development. Suen is a member of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, and as he stated during his report to the public, the various COGs will start meeting to plan for the megaregion (see the video with Suen's comments below).

While the growth of the Bay Area megaregion has been going on for many years - even decades - with its effects felt throughout Central Valley communities, this is the first time we can recall any member of the city council talking about formalizing land planning on a regional basis.

So what could be some of the implications of land planning on a regional basis?

First, sound regional land planning, particularly in this time of climate change brought on in large part by single-occupant fossil fuel burning vehicles, is not necessarily a bad thing. Planning on how people will travel between their residences and work in particular over long distances is a critical component of that land planning.

For Elk Grove, Suen's comments are a tacit admission that Elk Grove will continue in its role as a bedroom community increasingly for Bay Area employers. This added role as a Bay Area bedroom community will have several implications ranging from extension of the ACE Rail transit system to the city's westside to how land in the city's planned expansion areas will be utilized.

The key for existing residents and their families is how will land planning in expansion areas on the west and south side of Elk Grove proceeds. Will single-family dwellings be developed to cater to the higher income Bay Area commuters at the expense of relative lower-wage earners in the Sacramento area?    

The implications of becoming a bedroom community for the Bay Area are far-reaching. While the Elk Grove City Council has no control over macro market conditions, especially with an influx of Bay Area money and investors, they can attempt to protect the interests of locally-based future home-owners, so the question over the next few decades is will they? 

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