“Land, they ain’t makin’ it anymore.” Will Rogers
If you feel compelled to do something after reading the letter below, here is what you can do:
1) Write to the Placer County Board of Supervisors. Mailing Address: 3091 County Center Drive, Auburn, CA 95603 and request that the County allow the public 120 days (CEQA comment period is only 30 days) to comment on the large and complex Sunset Industrial Area/Placer Ranch Project Draft Environmental Impact Report.
2) Ask that Crystal Jacobsen, Project Manager: 530-745-30385, firstname.lastname@example.org to put you on the mailing list for all hearings and publications associated with Placer Ranch/Sunset Industrial Area activities.
3) Organize with fellow AADC citizens, Audubon, Sierra Club, California Native Plant Society and Save Auburn Ravine to express your concerns at upcoming hearings on the environmental impact report (EIR). What is your “hot button” – wildlife, farmland loss, water (American River water will service this project), urban sprawl, smart transportation, climate change? We’ll invite you to our meetings if you send an email to email@example.com.
In late Spring, 2018, the County will release for public comment, the Draft Environmental Impact report on the 8,900 acre, 13.9 square mile (proposed) Sunset Industrial Area/Placer Ranch (SIA/PR) development in western Placer County.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors has expended over $5,000,000.00 of our taxpayer dollars on consultant and staff time to promote the building of nearly 6,000 homes and 9,356,000 square feet of large mixed-use developments, commercial uses, universities, industrial manufacturing, corporate campuses, institutions, entertainment venues and businesses on farmland and wetland within the proposed SIA/PR.
The purpose of the SIA/PR project is to stimulate growth and accommodate economic expansion. There are big questions that the Placer County community who value the unique and precious character of Placer County must ask the Board of Supervisors: “what are we doing?” and “why are we doing it?”
Certainly there is a critical need for affordable housing in our community; however, this project will not address that need as it is specifically designed to attract “talented” primary wage earners. Only 10% of the housing proposed for development will be affordable to people of median, low and very low income, while 54% of Placer County residents are of median, low and very low income.
The proposed SIA/PR site is primarily farmland and wetland with soil classified as “important” by the California Farmland Mapping Project. Conversion of the farmland to urban uses will increase CO2 generation from the project site to an order of magnitude 70 times higher than existing levels. Farmland preservation, more than any other management activity has the single greatest impact in stabilizing and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by the proposed project during construction through build out would predominantly be in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Operations-related GHG emissions also include mobile sources, such as employee and resident- related vehicle trips, as well as emissions associated with increased energy demand the extent of which will be revealed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
The flooded agricultural fields in western Placer County are attractive to wading birds, water birds and gulls. Waterfowl, grassland passerines and shorebirds have shown steep population declines in recent years. The SIA/PR is home to the threatened, listed or protected burrowing owl, golden eagle, Swanson hawk, white tailed kite, short-eared owl and Ferruginous hawk and provides habitat for the tricolored blackbird which the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2015, advanced for listing as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.
The proposed development is in western Placer County, located strategically on the Pacific Flyway and hosts a range of suitable and critical habitats for migratory birds for waterfowl, raptors and shorebirds who reside, stopover and winter.
Given the proximity to riparian creek corridors, special-status plant, mammal and amphibian species occur in the SIA/PR project area. Implementation of the proposed project will result in disturbance or take of special- status species or disturbance or removal of suitable habitat for these species or interference with wildlife movements.
Aquatic features identified in the project area include vernal pools, riverine/riparian areas, marshes, and ponds. The SIA/PR project will remove, fill, or hydrologically interrupt wetlands identified in the project area and affect jurisdictional waters.
The SIA/PR is within the vernal pool recovery area established by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Disturbance and destruction of vernal pool ecosystems and the complex web of life that they support (including four species of threatened native bees, aquatic species including the fairy shrimp). In addition, there are tributaries in the SIA/PR that feed Auburn Ravine where the community is working to restore runs of salmon and steelhead. The State has declared that all perennial streams are critical habitat for Central Valley Steelhead survival.
Grasslands and pastures within the SIA/PR are important for raptors and terrestrial land birds in providing the large expanses of habitat rich with insects needed to support their wintering populations in which are represented in abnormally large numbers in Western Placer as compared to the Central Valley as a whole.
Riparian areas within the SIA/PR provide critical habitat for arboreal landbirds. Flocks of migratory songbirds, including Dusky Flycatchers, Townsends Warblers, Townsend Warblers and Black-headed Grosbeak have been observed along Auburn Raving tributaries within the SIA/PR.
Although the property proposed for development is private land, the Placer County Board of Supervisors is the project “applicant” for the SIA/PR. It is also the authority that will decide the EIR should be certified and whether the SIA/PR should proceed to build out. Existing taxpayers have borne the more than $5,000,000. cost to advance this project for Ca’s largest developers incl. Angelo Tsacopulous and Eli Broad, the Auburn Indian Community among other individuals and corporations with whom the County has executed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU).
The County proposes to recover public funds as development permits are issued. There is no mechanism in the MOU for fund recovery if there is no project approval. Will public tax dollars spent to advance the SIA/PR be reimbursed to taxpayers through allocations to libraries, human services and parks serving existing taxpayers or will the funds be recycled into the PR/SIA project to support the vast infrastructure system needed to support 15,000 new Placer County residents? Will traffic generation, population growth and transformation of agricultural lands to suburban sprawl and high density urban uses significantly and inalterably affect the quality of life that we know?
References: Jones and Stokes Important Migrant and Wintering Bird Concentration Areas of Western Placer County, May 2003.
Jackson, Louise, UC Davis 2012, American Farmland Trust