Grow up, not out

The draft map depicting what the city of Sacramento could look like in 2030 portrays, for the most part, an encouraging vision of our future. Endorsed by the City Council in early summer, the new General Plan gives the heave-ho to the classic urban-growth model, with its strip malls and smog-spewing auto corridors. Instead, it officially heralds in an era of “smart growth” for Sacramento, adding “density” (infill growth in already developed areas) and taking advantage of existing community assets for future revitalization.

But here comes the bad news.

The new plan also comes with a direction from the City Council to have staff study whether to annex thousands of acres of unincorporated acreage and farmlands (near Fruitridge, Arden Arcade, Rosemont and the city of Freeport) for future suburban development. In doing so, the city sends a mixed signal to its residents: that 2030 could arrive accompanied by both “smart growth” and dumb sprawl.

OK, yes, we know the numbers. Sacramento is predicted, between now and 2030, to grow by about 200,000 residents. We also know that cities on Sacramento’s borders (think Elk Grove and Rancho Cordova) are already engaged in turf wars with the big city and attempting to annex farmland of their own for development. If new growth occurs in the realm of these cities, that leaves Sacramento at a disadvantage and without fees and the tax base to fund urban development.

Still, we urge the council to stay on point with its “smart growth” goals, accept the truth that the sprawling ways of the past are simply not going to work in 2030. Most of Sacramento’s needed growth these next decades can and should happen within the city’s current borders. If some small tracts of land ultimately must be annexed as part of the 2030 plan, it should be done with great care and in a manner that best strengthens our community, protects air quality, promotes the use of public transit and preserves open space in our region. The city’s 2030 plan sends a mixed signal to residents.