It's worth remembering a lot can happen - or not - in 5 years as Elk Grove moves forward on its zoo

One of the most significant projects on Elk Grove's horizon is the proposed relocation of the Sacramento Zoo. Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen is the city's face on the massive project, which could cost up to $400 million through its multi-phase construction.

Compared to other city-led projects, like former Mayor Gary Davis' push to secure an expansion franchise of Major League Soccer and to build a $125-plus million professional stadium and accompanying facilities, this project has a chance of being completed. That previously city-owned property where Davis dreams lay on Grant Line is now the distribution site for Kubota Tractor. 

The other major project in the city's recent past was announced five years ago tomorrow, on December 20, 2018. We are, of course, referring to California Northstate University's $1 billion teaching hospital. As you can see from the video below, the optimism of the project, which was previously undisclosed to nearby residents, was sky-high.

Since that time, much has happened. Foremost, after CNU and its supporters, including Gary Davis, who was out of office for two years at that point, and the medical school's point person Alvin Cheung laid out ambitious, many say unrealistic plans, things fell apart.  

Aside from the delusionary claims the massive project could be planned, obtain all the necessary permits, get financing, built, and opened in three years, nearby residents strongly objected. District 1 City Councilmember Darren Suen, who praised the project at the December 20, 2018, dog and pony show, faced serious blowback from constituents. 

CNU realized they were not welcome in February 2021, and they set their sites on Rancho Cordova. After getting run out of Rancho Cordova, CNU and Cheung found a willing partner in Sacramento who gave them land that was the former Arco Arena, the Sacramento Kings former venue.  

The Sacramento City Council gleefully approved the plan in February 2022. 

So what has happened since then? Very little.

In July, the Sacramento Business Journal reported that CNU applied for permits with Sacramento and separately reported their approval in October. However, no construction date has been established, much less a disclosure of investors. 

Along with the planned hospital, CNU operates a medical school that is not ranked by the widely respected U.S. News and World Report. Also, according to CBS 13, the school continues to be on a provisional accreditation probation. CNU also operates a pharmacy school, ranked 128 out of 134 (there are 142 schools, and in the rankings, there are several tied ratings) in the U.S. News and World Report's rating.   

There are differences between the private CNU project that wowed the 2018 Elk Grove City Council. But there is one common thread, and that is money.

CNU still has not disclosed how it plans to finance the project. As a private sector project, with some exceptions, they may not have to reveal the financiers of their project, should it ever come to fruition. 

Conversely, Mayor Singh-Allen's project will have a public financing component requiring disclosure. Will Mayor Singh-Allen oblige Elk Grove taxpayers as the promissory collateral for construction bonds?

These questions must be answered and revealed as the project progresses. It is worth noting that of the five city council members who fawned over the 2018 CNU announcement, only Suen remains.

The zoo project will take a few years to flesh out, much less construct. It may be five years, and once financing is revealed, there could be taxpayer blowback, and there could be a turnover of four or more members in that time. 

Photo by Jordan Benton via Pexels

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D.J. Blutarsky said...

When the financing plan is released, it will be interesting to see if the City Council attempts to sell the zoo as a smart investment of tax dollars, that considering its spinoff economic benefits will result in a cost-neutral or even profitable investment for the City--

Or will the City Council be brutally honest with us and admit that the zoo will never turn a profit; its spinoff economic benefit will be impossible to accurately track or verify, and that the zoo will simply be another taxpayer-subsidized amenity such as District56, Household Recycling Center, Animal Shelter, Old Town Gaslamp District, and Project Elevate.

If past history is any indication, I have a feeling I know which way the conversation will go.

Juan Trippe said...

If the zoo plan collapses, here is an idea for the city. Maybe they can recruit a cookie factory.

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