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The Vision Thing in Elk Grove

A vision for the future of a community can be a powererful thing, particularly when the community is invited to create the vision. Unfortunately, as we have mentioned many times, planning towards a specific end more than a few months away is a foreign concept here in our corner of the vast Uncity of unincorporated Sacramento County. Sacramento County has no such vision - unless a developer waltzes into the building counter with a get-rich-quick scheme. When that happens, the County bends over backwards for the developer and tells the rest of us to be satisfied because "something is better than nothing". Look around Arden Arcade and you can see the results of the County's visionless, ad hoc approach have failed miserably.

May contain: plan, diagram, and plot
Elk Grove's Kammerer Road urban design strategy

Cities - incorporated communities with Mayors and City Councils that can focus on local priorities - tend to use a different model. Take Elk Grove for example. Lately, the City has had its eyes on some large chunks of land at its southern edge. Rather than just open the door and hope a developer would offer to build something there, the City is doing detailed planning studies and engaging the public along the way. These aren't like the fake studies the County does to justify something it hope will inspire quickie profit-driven proposals. Instead, they are thoughtful, long-range studies intended to build on current trends and provide flexibility for future trends. Elk Grove's key is to seek a "triple bottom line" of "people, planet and profit", meaning a plan for mixed urban uses driven by social equity and environmental factors as well as economics, with implementation that goes many years into the future. You can learn about it on the City's web site, which includes a video of a presentation to the community and a January 2021 draft for the City Council to consider. A careful look at Elk Grove's approach will take time. If you want the Cliff's Notes, Elk Grove's thoughtful, thorough, community-oriented model for success is essentially the opposite of what the County does.

A final comment: though Elk Grove's approach is being applied to open agricultural land, it could just as easily be brought to bear on a close-in, aging World War II suburb full of strip malls. If fact, it might be easier where things are already built, given the existence of extensive urban infrastructure. In other words, our community could have a "Vision Thing" plan, too. As long as the County is in charge, that's unlikely to happen, though. At best, we only ever have 1 Supervisor willing to improve our community. The other  Supervisors aren't motivated to deliver the necessary minimum of 2 other votes to go to bat for us - we cannot elect them or unelect them. And it is so much easier for the County to dream about large subdivisons that sprawl into far-flung rural land than it is for the County to face up to the harsh realities of our stale old suburb. Do you want our community to improve over the current situation? Do you want a visionary approach like Elk Grove's? If so, you should press for incorporation of our community.

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