Editorials

Sacramento County doesn’t need more sprawl. Is Elk Grove listening?

New housing is constructed last year at the Monterey Village development in Elk Grove. Developers are seeking to add nearly 1,200 acres to the city’s planning area.
New housing is constructed last year at the Monterey Village development in Elk Grove. Developers are seeking to add nearly 1,200 acres to the city’s planning area. Sacramento Bee file

Here we go again with another proposal that could pave the way for more urban sprawl near Elk Grove.

On Wednesday, Sacramento County’s Local Agency Formation Commission is to decide whether to add 1,165 acres south of Elk Grove to the city’s planning area. Once again, the commission should just say no.

In a major victory for sensible planning, the commission in 2013 rejected a bid by the city of Elk Grove to expand its planning area to the south by 8,000 acres, the first step toward annexation. It made no sense then to fuel land speculation after the housing crash left a glut of empty homes and an unfinished mall.

The current application isn’t coming directly from city officials, but from private developers and landowners. While it may not be as egregious as the 2013 proposal, it still isn’t necessary.

The issues are similar: There’s already plenty of land in Sacramento County where developers can build. To improve air quality and address climate change, officials should be encouraging more infill housing, not more suburban subdivisions. Sprawl is not the answer to California’s affordable housing crisis. And officials should be protecting farmland and open space, and preserving water supply.

The Sacramento County Farm Bureau is warning that this proposal is a threat to farming. Environmentalists and conservationists are raising alarms, too. The 1,156 acres includes 1,137 of farmland, including 105 acres of irreplaceable prime farmland, according to the staff report. If the land is eventually annexed by Elk Grove, the developers would have to protect farmland equal to what’s built out. The city would also have to offset losses of wildlife habitat.

The petitioners – led by developers Gerry Kamilos and Martin Feletto – assert that Elk Grove needs more than the existing 1,800 acres of developable land to make room for a projected 46,000 additional residents by 2036. Kamilos says this proposal is much smaller than the one in 2013 and points out that the land is next to a part of the city where infrastructure is already underway.

Adding this property could create an economic development corridor and help reduce the city’s long-standing imbalance between jobs and housing, Kamilos told a member of the editorial board Tuesday. That certainly would be great for Elk Grove, but he doesn’t have any firm commitments from any companies yet.

The executive officer of the Local Agency Formation Commission is recommending approval, though he is also offering a smaller alternative of 530 acres. In his report, Donald Lockhart says that while Elk Grove has enough land to handle residential, commercial and office growth in the next eight to 10 years, it does not have capacity for industrial, manufacturing and other large employment centers to improve the jobs-housing balance.

But Elk Grove just offered 267 acres that already has the proper zoning and environmental reviews in an unsuccessful bid for the Amazon headquarters, and it is working with Fremont-based NRC Manufacturing for a plant that would anchor the 1,250-acre Southeast Policy Area. So clearly there are already sites available for major employment projects.

And since LAFCO doesn’t control land use, there’s no guarantee the area would be developed as a jobs base, though the proposed resolution urges Elk Grove to do so in the final land use plan.

The seven members of the Sacramento LAFCO board include Elk Grove Councilman Patrick Hume, Sacramento County supervisors Sue Frost and Susan Peters, Sacramento City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby, Ron Greenwood of the Carmichael Water District, Gay Jones of Sac Metro Fire and Jack Harrison of the public.

Their duty is to look beyond the desires of developers, or the wishes of one city, and do what’s best for the entire county. And that means saying no.

Cosumnes River Preserve manager Harry McQuillen explains how he takes care of the thousands of birds that come from as far away as Alaska each winter. December is the best time to visit the preserve. It’s when the winter migratory population reach

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