This year marks a tipping point for Elk Grove as it moves from a “city under construction” to a “city with momentum.”
“2019 is the year we step on the accelerator and move toward a brighter future,” said Mayor Steve Ly in his State of the City speech Thursday.
“We are moving closer towards the opening of more civic amenities than anywhere else in the region. We are a city making headway on major projects in favor of new business opportunities. And we’re a city that’s advancing changes in the way we address important issues like equity and inclusion.”
However, Ly acknowledged that with growth, the residents and businesses may feel uncomfortable with the changes.
“We are clearly not the Sacramento suburb we once were,” he said. “But changes shouldn’t make us feel uneasy. It should make us feel proud and hopeful that our city is thriving.”
Nearly 160 people attended the luncheon hosted by the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce at the Falls Event Center Thursday. The event was sponsored by the City of Elk Grove, Republic Services, Fairfield by Marriott and Cosumnes River College.
Elk Grove City Council Member Stephanie Nguyen sat at Ly’s table before the speech.
“I am glad I can be here to support the mayor, to support the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce,” she said afterwards.
This year she was the only Elk Grove City Council Member who attended besides Mayor Ly.
Nguyen praised Ly’s speech.
“I think the mayor did a great job,” she said. “He talked a lot about how our city is involved, in being active. We want to reach out to the community.”
Three New Civic Amenities Top Open This Year
Ly was quick to tout the completion of three major civic projects this year. They included the long-awaited aquatics center, the new animal shelter, and a new community center.
The new $31 million center will finally open in May. It is located south of Elk Grove Boulevard and east of Big Horn Boulevard. The Cosumnes Community Services District will manage the amenity.
“I know a lot of kids and adults have been waiting a very long time for this facility to open, but the wait is nearly over,” Ly said.
The new facility will feature three pools, including the largest competitive pool in Elk Grove. Visitors can enjoy floating on a lazy river and going down dual water slides. There is also a cafe, as well as space for spectators, parties and “just lounging around,” Ly said.
The highly anticipated aquatics center, which broke ground on May 4, 2017, was supposed to open on Memorial Day last year. However, due to problems with construction, the project ran nearly $1.5 million over budget. The opening was delayed twice – once to last September, and again to this year.
Ly said the completed facility is worth the wait.
“While it’s true there have been delays on this project, the council and staff felt it was more important that hte project get built right, rather than quickly,” he said.
“This new facility will deliver the city’s first new public pool in more than a decade.”
The city’s other swimming destination, the Wackford Aquatics Complex, opened in 2004.
This July, Elk Grove will also open its own animal shelter.
“Historically, these services have not been provided by the city or a local shelter, making residents drive considerable distances into Sacramento to look for a lost pet,” Ly said.
“Now, lost or stray animals will remain in t he city to be found or adopted.”
The $18 million animal shelter, located at the corner of Iron Rock and Union Park ways, features more than 21,000 square feet of adoption kennels, which can hold 66 dogs and 56 cats. A third adoption kennel will house other small animals.
The facility will also have outdoor animal yards. It will provide veterinary services, and a low-cost spay and neuter clinic for Elk Grove residents.
The city is currently in the process of hiring staff for the shelter, including a veterinarian, technicians, and supervisors, Ly told the audience Thursday.
Volunteers and partnerships with local community groups, such as The Friends of Elk Grove Animal Shelter, are also helping to provide creature comforts and care for the animals, he said.
Elk Grove residents will get to enjoy a new $18 million community center this year.
The 32,178-square foot facility will feature the city’s first dedicated Veterans Hall and Veterans Grove space, as well as providing a new home for the Senior Center of Elk Grove. The center will have the largest banquet hall in the city, with seating for 500 people.
Ly said that with the help of the Arts Commission, the community center will also feature public art pieces and a dancing fountain that will provide “additional color and movement to the city’s newest gathering place.”
“Look for details about this opening a little later this spring,” he teased.
Construction on the new structure began in April, 2018 and was expected to be completed this summer.
Ly said one of the top priorities of the City Council this year is improving traffic conditions in Elk Grove.
“To address these issues, we will need to consider new options and accept changes in how we travel as a community,” he said.
The mayor noted that one of the best examples of the kind of change needed can be seen in the development of roundabouts on Sheldon at Bradshaw and Waterman roads, which many residents had initially opposed.
“Before the new design, traffic at these intersections at commute times in the morning and afternoon were a nightmare. I know – I drive this (road) all the time for my day job,” he said.
“And since the roundabouts have opened, it’s been an easier, safer and less stressful experience most days.”
The roundabout at the intersection of Sheldon and Waterman roads cost $3.6 million and was completed in September of 2016.
Ly also mentioned other improvements on Waterman Road, such as widening existing lanes and shoulders, and adding new bike lanes between Bond and Sheldon roads.
The city also received new state funding to extend Kammerer Road which would address drainage issues in the area.
The road extension between Promenade Parkway and Big Horn Boulevard will also provide the backbone for the Capital Southeast Corridor, a regional project to reduce traffic congestion.
The corridor will create an alternate route from I-5 to El Dorado Hills, bypassing downtown Sacramento.
Ly said construction of the Elk Grove segment could begin late next year.
Old Town Improvements
This fall, the city’s Public Works department will begin making streetscape improvements on Railroad Street, next to the Old Town Plaza, according to Ly.
Last year, it was reported that the city would invest $5.8 million on public improvements, including constructing two new parking lots, and adding a sidewalk, curb and gutter to Railroad Street.
Ly said additional federal funding will allow the city to complete street improvements on Elk Grove Boulevard, between School Street to Waterman Road, next year.
In 2017, the reported cost of the project was $6.3 million.
“Investments in our historic district is an important part of our vision for new entertainment, dining and nightlife in the city,” he said.
“Restaurants and retail projects proposed for Railroad Street and the opening of Elk Grove’s fifth craft brewery are positive indicators for revitalization taking place in that area.”
Using Technology To improve public safety
“The Real Time Information Center is expecting to come online this summer,” Ly said.
In 2017, the city planned to expand its police camera surveillance system to a real time information center. The City Council approved $200,000 to convert a storage room to a police control room that can monitor 175 cameras at a time.
“….The Real-Time Information Center will make greater use of existing and expanded videos to create safer, more effective police responses to calls for service,” he said.
Mayor Ly made a point in his speech Thursday to clarify the city’s authority over the siting of Costco in Elk Grove.
“Many residents have expressed dissatisfaction with the location of the new Costco,” he said.
“However, the site was zoned for commercial use, and traffic plans mitigated the anticipated problems along Elk Grove Boulevard and Bruceville Road. Costco wanted to be at this location.”
Ly noted that Elk Grove had recently updated its General Plan, which allows the city to place conditions on where residents will live, how they travel, and where they shop, work and play.
“While the city initiates the development of civic projects like the ones I mentioned earlier, private enterprise submit plans to the city for review of those projects they want to develop,” he said.
“The city has land use, design and permitting authority over these projects, but cannot dictate the location of a project.”
Ly was so adamant in making this last point that he repeated the above two statements in his speech.
In most cases, he continued, an Environmental Impact Report is generated to review potential issues, like noise, traffic and lightning.
“I offer this important clarification to counter some confusion on the city’s authority on these kinds of project,” he said.
The Elk Grove Costco store opened on September 27, 2018.
“While tax reports are not yet available for their first quarter from the county, there is strong evidence to support a successful start with little to no traffic impact,” Ly said.
“Ghost Mall”/Wilton Rancheria
Casino Resort Developments
The mayor said that while he was disappointed that the Howard Hughes Corporation abandoned the Outlet Collection in Elk Grove project in January this year, he also saw a silver lining in having the unsightly partially constructed buildings in the ‘ghost mall” torn down last month after a decade of inactivity on the site along Highway 99.
“Howard Hughes Corporation’s decision gives us a chance to re-imagine what this valuable property could be and to make our preferences known to any new developer,” he said.
“And while that land remains privately owned and zoned for a regional mall, it could be re-zoned to allow for new development concepts that meets the needs of the community and could actually be built.”
Ly noted that the Wilton Rancheria tribe, which had purchased the property just north of the mall site, isn’t letting the news halt progress on their project.
The tribe plans to build a 12-story, 302-room hotel with a spa, pool and a 30,000 square foot event hall. The resort will feature six restaurants, and the casino will have 2,000 slot machines and 84 gaming tables. The $500 million complex will be built on 35.9 acres of land near Kammerer Road and Highway 99.
“A groundbreaking for the construction for the new gaming resort is expected to happen later this year,” Ly said.
New Hospital In Elk Grove
In his speech, Mayor Ly expressed strong support for the education and medical district proposed by California Northstate University, which plans to build a teaching hospital on commercially zoned property at I-5 and Elk Grove Boulevard.
He said he felt the same way about the Dignity Health development district and hospital project which the city approved in 2012.
“I want these kinds of jobs and these kinds of services in our community,” he said.
“Whatever the outcome of CNU’s project, i think it’s generating a healthy dialog about what we need for our community. With a population expected to exceed 200,000 in the next decade, we need good jobs and good health care. We are fortunate to have businesses interested in bringing us both.”
Last December, California Northstate University announced plans to build a 250-bed teaching hospital next to its campus on West Taron Drive. It will also serve as a Level II trauma center.
The $750 million project is expected to add 24,000 jobs over 10 years and generate $4 billion in economic output. The university hoped to begin construction this year, and have the hospital completed by 2022.
In January, CNU purchased three buildings a the Stonelake Landing shopping center for $12.65 million for the project.
Many business owners in the shopping center feared they may be forced to close or relocate if the hospital is built on the site.
Thursday, Ly said he feel sympathy for the business owners at Stonelake Landing shopping center.
“As a strong advocate of the city’s small business support program, I want businesses of all sizes to succeed in our city,” he said.
Ly maintains that the project is in the earliest stage of city review, but said it would be up to the university and the business owners to sort things out.
“CNU’s tenants at Stonelake Landing and the university will need to come to some sort of settlement privately if this project has any chance of moving forward,” he said in his speech Thursday.
“However, the city is prepared to assist any business in need of relocation with economic development services to retain their business in the city of Elk Grove.”
Despite the debate over the impact on local businesses, the mayor said building the hospital would benefit the city.
“……there can be no denying that, if completed, the project will add extensive jobs, capital investment and tax revenue to our economy and could be an economic lead for Elk Grove for decades to come,” he said
Promoting Equality & Inclusion In Elk Grove
Ly said one of the defining characteristics of Elk Grove is the celebration of diversity, whether in race, religion, ideas or lifestyles.
“But diversity in and of itself does not lead to inclusion, and merely celebrating our diversity is not enough – we must ensure that every aspect of our city is inclusive, because only then will we find lasting unity,” he said.
Over the past year, Elk Grove leaders worked hard to identify and implement new ways to promote equity and inclusion in the city.
Elk Grove has updated its personnel rules and regulation to incorporate recommendations from a diversity audit which was conducted last year, according to Ly.
A change was made in the city’s hiring practices. It now removes applicants’ names throughout the recruitment process to counteract potential bias.
Ly referred obliquely to the Stephon Clark case in Sacramento when he spoke about racial tension in the region.
“Actions and reactions to recent decisions in Sacramento and elsewhere have a profound effect on cities and police department everywhere,” he said.
Stephon Clark, a 22 year old black man and a father of two, was shot and killed by two Sacramento police officers on March 18, 2018, as he ran into the backyard of his grandmother’s home.
The officers suspected Clark of breaking windows in the area, and pursued him on foot. When they confronted him, they mistook his cell phone for a gun, and shot him 20 times.
Clark’s relatives and supporters, including Black Lives Matter members, demanded that the two police officers be charged for killing Clark and protested at various locations in Sacramento last year.
Earlier this month, both the Sacramento County District Attorney and the state Attorney General offices determined that the officers were justified in shooting Clark, and no charges will be filed against them.
Clark supporters and community members took to the streets in protest. After one demonstration in East Sacramento, Sacramento police arrested more than 80 people, including journalists and religious leaders.
Most were released within hours, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office declined to press charges against the protesters.
Ly did not mention any racial incidents in Elk Grove this year in his speech. But in last year’s State of the City, he acknowledged there had been racist incidents involving local African-Americans in 2017.
Also in 2018, Ly spoke about city staff members working with the Elk Grove Unified School Distrrict, the Cosumnes Community Service District, and the city’s Multicultural Committee to address racism.
Thursday, he said the Elk Grove Police Department was hiring more officers, and recruiting new and lateral officers who reflect the diversity of Elk Grove. he later elaborated that meant hiring more women, Asians and African-Americans.
Ly also mentioned that the Elk Grove Police Chief Bryan Noblett formed a Community Advisory Board last year.
He noted that the board is helping the department developing policing strategies that are generating dialog, and greater awareness and understanding.
“These internal changes are influencing our work with, and for, the community,” Ly said.
This year, Elk Grove collaborated with CSD and community leaders to host the city’s first Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, and sending an Elk Grove delegation to the region’s March for the Dream event.
The city also worked with the Multicultural Committee to host the 7th annual Multicultural Festival, and launched the first Lunar New Year celebration in Elk Grove this year. It also marked the victory of light over darkness at the annual Festival of Lights for the second year.
“There is no quick fix, but rather, it’s a culture we have to create and nurture,” he said.
In his closing remarks, the mayor returned to his theme of the city momentum.
“I am proud to say that the state of our city is strong,” he said. “We’ve got momentum and we’re working together so we can keep moving forward toward a better Elk Grove for all of us.”
A short video, entitled “A City Gaining Momentum” was shown to the audience after Ly’s speech. The clip featured time-lapse photos of various stages of construction for many of the capital projects that the mayor has highlighted in his address, although it also showed the demolition of the “ghost mall.”
The last image was a slide that featured three words: “Keep Moving Forward!”