On Wednesday, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors is poised to vote on allowing the controversial Cordova Hills development to proceed.
The vote is premature. It is based on an irredeemably flawed environmental impact report.
The county planning staff is recommending that the board expand its urban growth boundary to include the 2,366-acre Cordova Hills site; rezone that land from agricultural to residential, commercial and office uses; and, finally, that it certify the project's environmental impact report as adequate and complete. Their recommendations are predicated on the long-discredited assumption that a university will be built on the site.
Early in the planning process, the Legion of Christ, a Catholic institution, announced plans to build the University of Sacramento, a 224- acre campus, at Cordova Hills. But the university has withdrawn from the project and developers have not identified another university willing to locate there.
All of the environmental analysis was done with the assumption that a university would be built. It was assumed that many of the people who moved to new houses in Cordova Hills would work at the university, thus reducing the amount of driving and greenhouse gas emissions. It was assumed many students and university employees would bicycle to and around the campus or use public transportation. Population densities would be boosted based on students living in dormitories.
The absence of a university changes all those assumptions. Sacramento Air Quality Management District officials stated the problem succinctly in a letter to county supervisors delivered last week.
"Since there is a strong likelihood that the university will not be built, and consequently that the air quality analysis underestimates likely emission levels, the EIR understates the severity of air quality impacts."
Sacramento Supervisor Phil Serna echoed the concerns raised by air quality regulators when he asked the Sacramento Area Council of Governments to reanalyze Cordova Hills' transportation, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions impacts assuming a "no university" scenario.
"We are able and willing to answer your questions," SACOG Chief Executive Officer Mike McKeever told Serna, "but not in time for your December 12 hearing. We should have the information available in early January."
Cordova Hills is leapfrog development at its most egregious. It seeks to create a new urban landscape on the extreme outer edge of the county's growth boundary, stretching already dangerously overburdened county municipal services. It should be voted down.
Crucial to this outcome could be Supervisor Roberta MacGlashan, who has a planning background and authored an op-ed in The Bee last year praising the county's general plan and commitment to smart growth. In that article, she noted the folly of saturating the region with new houses before the housing market has a chance to recover. Little has changed in that regard.
Asked last week where she stood, MacGlashan was noncommittal, saying she needed to sift through information before making a decision. Part of that sifting should involve standing up for principle instead of bowing to connected developers.
All eyes will be on MacGlashan, Don Nottoli and other supervisors when they meet Wednesday.
What you can do
Attend the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors hearing on Wednesday, at 2:30 pm in the county board chambers at 700 H St. in Sacramento.