Not so fast, Folsom

The city of Folsom has had its expansion plans temporarily put on hold amid concerns that future annexation by the city would hurt air quality, promote sprawl and exacerbate its need for affordable housing.

The city had applied to the Sacramento County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to approve an expanded sphere of influence for the city that would encompass some 3,600 acres of oak woodlands south of Highway 50. The city has indicated that it wants to annex that area and develop commercial and office property.

That area is currently off limits to development because it lies outside the county’s Urban Services Boundary, the urban limit line set in the county’s General Plan.

Because the fast-growing city is hemmed in on three sides by the American River and the Placer and El Dorado county lines, the city says it must be allowed to grow south.

LAFCO, the agency responsible for approving local government boundary changes, was widely expected to approve the new sphere of influence at a Dec. 6 public hearing.

But concerns raised by local air officials, affordable housing advocates and residents forced the agency to reschedule the hearing to March 7.

A letter from the Sacramento Air Quality Management District said any new development in the area south of Highway 50 will undermine the region’s efforts to meet Federal Clean Air Standards.

Meanwhile, Legal Services of Northern California, a non-profit group that advocates for affordable housing and tenants’ rights, says the city has long neglected its obligation under state law to provide enough housing for low income residents. They claim the city should not go forward with any expansion until it meets state requirements for meeting its affordable housing need.

“Clearly Folsom has been shirking its duties to see that affordable housing is produced,” said Legal Services attorney Lisa Noling. She added that the city is a perfect example of sprawling development, and that any further expansion would likely follow the same patterns.