Zoo Talk: City Councilmember Pat Hume splashes a dose of reality on the relocation of the Sacramento Zoo

Elk Grove City Councilmember Pat Hume. | 

During last night's meeting, the Elk Grove City Council decided to continue exclusive negotiations with the Sacramento Zoo about its possible relocation to the city. Zoo trustees of the almost 100-year-old 15-acre facility in Sacramento's Land Park neighborhood are pushing to relocate to a 60-acre facility in the city's Southeast Policy Area.

While last night's presentation was almost identical to the one given on March 9, both reports were filled with optimistic economic projections and murky details about the financing of the project.

While potential revenue projections were forecasted in both presentations, until last night, there was no discussion of financing sources for the new zoo. The first mention of financing came in passing comment by the city's point person on the project, city innovations czar, Christopher Jordan. 

Well into his presentation, Jordan acknowledged there is no plan on how the project would be financed beyond using parking and admission revenues. Presumably, those revenue streams would be used to pay back construction loans.

"We don't have firm and full complete financial plan in place that would that would come as part of the next phase of work," the innovations czar said. 

Jordan also implied taxpayers could be on the hook for construction and financing costs by saying, "we don't know ultimately what the full commitment could be from the city or what would be needed."  

During his comment, City Councilmember Pat Hume said he supports further negotiations but splashed a dose of the reality on the zoo relocation hype. He suggested the donation drive that the feasibility study suggests could generate up to $40 million might be difficult.

"That is a significant philanthropic lift that is going to have to happen mostly within the Sacramento region," he said. 

He added, "that's just at the front end for construction." Hume also suggested the $3 million annual parking fees estimate could be subverted by things like ride-sharing.  

As the longest-serving city council member in the city's history, Hume suggested the excitement for the project might be misplaced. In 2013, appealing to the popularity of youth soccer, former Mayor Gary Davis heavily promoted a soccer facility that would have included a $120 million stadium in his pursuit of securing a Major League Soccer expansion franchise.

A portion of the 99-acres the city purchased for the failed soccer plans was recently sold to Kubota Inc. for the relocation of their Lodi, Calif. facility. Not long after that purchase, Hume was unsuccessful in his bid to stop Davis' plan (see the second video below).

"What I don't want to have happen is that we get excited about the shiny new project that results in missed projections, and now all of a sudden the residents of Elk Grove are shoulder with the burden of providing a regional amenity on a non-going basis," Hume said. "That's not something that I can get behind in good faith."  


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