By Lynn Wheat, Elk Grove GRASP
This Wednesday evening residents of the region, in particular Elk Grove residents, have an opportunity to listen to an updated report on the City of Elk Grove’s Sphere of Influence Application. During the past two years much work has been done behind closed doors and not visible to the general population. Since this application process has begun, $719,000 in tax dollars have been spent with $500,000 of that paid to Pacific Municipal Consultants, the city’s consultant planning department. How much more will be spent on this unneeded expansion into the agricultural lands?
The Sacramento Local Agency Formation Commission meeting Wednesday night will include a discussion of municipal services which will be needed to serve the expanded area. It will take place at 5:30 p.m. in the County Board of Supervisors' Chambers, 700 H St., Sacramento.
Where will the water source for this new urban area come from, and at what cost?
Current residential sewer rates are expected to triple within the next eight years in order to pay for treatment plant upgrades (required by the EPA). But those upgrades do not factor in the new growth being requested by the city because no land use plan has been prepared to go along with this SOI expansion request.
Police and fire services will also be needed for the area. Who will be paying for this? The police budget alone currently accounts for roughly 60 percent of the city’s discretionary budget. If the expanded city boundary does not generate sufficient revenues to offset its added costs, then existing residents will have to subsidize these new expanded services.
The municipal services analysis only addresses the ability of the agencies to provide their services and not the cost impacts on existing and future residents.
In its short history, the City has a dismal track record of complying with its own General Plan land use element, which is defined by the state as the blueprint for the City’s future growth. Since it was adopted in 2003, the General Plan land use element has been amended 23 times in response to individual requests by developers. With this dubious track record, why should residents believe that the city will adhere to its master plans?
According to Loopnet.com, a leading source for commercial real estate listings, the City has 1.48 million sq. ft. of vacant retail space, 726,600 sq. ft. of vacant industrial space, and 679,648 sq. ft. of vacant office space within its current boundaries.
At this time, roughly 40 percent of all homeowners in Elk Grove are upside down in their mortgages and the housing market is depressed.
Factoring in the Sacramento Area Council Of Governments’ newly revised growth estimates for the region, one has to wonder why the City is so eager to expand and contribute to urban decay within its existing core. It has been mentioned by City Council members that it may take up to 50 years to develop the SOI; however, LAFCO policies typically should look at a 10- to 20-year timeframe.
Is Elk Grove truly acting in the region’s best interest in developing a cohesive, quality urban center within Sacramento County? Elk Grove snubbed Regional Transit to create its own bus service and lost light rail. Elk Grove states that it needs new jobs; however, city leaders recently paid $3.4 million in incentives to lure a state office away from the City of Sacramento and boasted of their new job creation in Elk Grove.
Will the region’s economy and quality of life be improved by Elk Grove becoming an even larger city? Elk Grove’s track record certainly raises doubts in our minds.