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Democratic-Chronicles: Whack-A-Mole

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From page A4 | January 15, 2014 | 18 Comments

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part column by contributor Gene Altshuler. Part two will run next Wednesday.

The Democratic-Chronicles will be primarily political in nature. Why politics? Politics is the art of governing and not a dirty word. And because politics affects every aspect of our lives from the jobs we hold (or seek), our health care (or lack thereof), the education of our children, and the environment and our quality of life.

I want to say right up front that I make no bones about my liberal worldview. However I do not hug trees and, in fact, do not hug anyone very often.

It has been proven time and again that a democratic society requires the free and unrestricted flow of information. Proof lies in the extraordinary efforts to which closed societies re-sort to limit the flow of information they consider dangerous to their interests and preservation.

A writer makes lots of choices, not only about what to write, but the selection of facts and the emphasis given to them. To pretend otherwise would be dishonest. If I were to attempt to please all, I would please none.

However, I firmly believe that if a person’s beliefs or worldview cannot stand scrutiny, they are not fully formed. Thus, while some will not agree with me it is important to step outside the warm and comfortable bubbles we tend to unconsciously surround ourselves with, and hear another side.

Don’t like what I say, that is your privilege — just skip the column or write me a note. But I assure you I am an equal opportunity disturber. I have ticked off almost as many liberals as conservatives in my life.

So pull up a chair and join me at the kitchen table and let’s talk over coffee. Oh and don’t feed the dog no matter how much she begs.

Whack-A-Mole

Have you ever watched a kid play Whack-A-Mole? You know the game, where they use a hammer to knock down a plastic mole, only to have another pop up somewhere else on the board. They then whack that one and another pops up — endlessly.

Well even kids get tired of the game after awhile. But not, it seems, the residents of El Dorado County. Defeat a proposal from a developer to build a thousand new homes in your backyard and, wait for it, another pops up. Whack that one and …

Yell and stamp your feet at a Board of Supervisors meeting, write angry letters to the Mountain Democrat, gather signatures from your neighbors, and the proposal goes quiet for a while, and then — another pops up, endlessly it seems. This continuous cycle is the very definition of insanity.

From the 19 proposals for the Diamond Springs/El Dorado area, to the more recent ones in Shingle Springs, Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills, we are looking at 35,000 new residential rooftops in our county. Almost 16,000 have already been approved. Another 11,000 have been formally proposed and still another 7,300 are in the works. With such nice sounding names like Marble Valley, San Stino, Lime Rock, Dixon Ranch, Stonehenge and Valley View. As if this little bit of sugar will hide the bitterness of the medicine. (Shades of Julie Andrews singing in “The Sound Of Music.”)

To insult our intelligence, and in a lame attempt to deflate our outrage, the representative of one of the developers said at a recent community meeting, “Well they will not all be built at once,” as if to say you shouldn’t get your panties in a bunch because construction will be spread out over a number of years — one year, five years, 10 years, the end result is the same.

The already approved rooftops will increase existing households in El Dorado Hills by 48 percent, Diamond Springs/El Dorado by 13 percent and Camino/Pollock Pines by 16 percent. If you add in the proposed, but not yet approved houses, El Dorado Hills will have an increase of 53 percent, Cameron Park 59 percent, Shingle Springs 124 percent and Diamond Springs/El Dorado 101 percent.

To make matters worse the city of Folsom is in the process of annexing some 3,500 acres to build 10,000 homes south of Highway 50.

By the way I can actually hear the primal screams from the developers as they are reading this article. “He is a ‘No-Growth’ guy, one who does not believe in free-market capitalism and letting a person exact a fair profit from their assets.” Call me names but I have handsomely profited from our capitalist system and I am a staunch, card-carrying “Smart Growth” kind of guy.

When you get right down to it what does all this mean to you and me?

Traffic congestion
Each new rooftop brings with it numerous new automobile trips per day. We are a bedroom community to Sacramento, thus the commutes to work, then there is taking the kids to school, going shopping for groceries and going out to dinner — all involving using the car. And aside from the traffic, think about what a burden this will be on our broader infrastructure and resources, such as water.

Back in 2008, the voters of this county passed an initiative called Measure Y. This measure states that when the traffic from Sunrise Boulevard to Latrobe Road reaches a level of service (LOS) F during peak traffic hours, a moratorium on new housing construction will be put in place. Well according to the 2013 Caltrans performance report, we have already reached this level of congestion. Further, the LOS from Latrobe Road to Cameron Park Drive is at LOS E, just a fraction below the maximum allowable. We are not looking at a freeway but a 25-mile long parking lot.

County planners say, not to worry, they will require the developers to mitigate the effect of their construction on the traffic. If it were not so serious this argument would be laughable. Building bigger onramps would do nothing more then funnel the increased traffic to an already overcrowded Highway 50. And even a consortium of builders will not be able to pony up enough money to widen Highway 50 by another lane or two in each direction.

Assuming $10 million per lane-mile (a reasonable estimate based on Federal Highway Administration guidelines), the added lanes in the 25 miles from Rancho Cordova to Cameron Park could run about a billion dollars. Can you see the developers ponying up that kind of cash?

Gene Altshuler is a resident of Cameron Park and a community activist interested in economic development and local government.

Gene Altshuler

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 18 comments

  • Robert D NollJanuary 14, 2014 - 8:47 am

    will we need more police?

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  • Bill WeltyJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:34 am

    Well said, Gene. And factual. Hence, the new Initiative from the Rural Communites United, to ensure that El Dorado County's rural qualities do not exist in only street names, or neighborhood designations (Oak drive, Deer Street, Country Estates). Time for everyone to sign petition, that reads: The people of El Dorado County do ordain that the following two policies be added to the General Plan: FIX HIGHWAY 50 TRAFFIC FIRST. Policy TC-Xc. If CalTrans determines that traffic on any Highway 50 road segment west of the City of Placerville has reached, or is forecast to reach, Level of Service F (LOS F = stop-and-go, gridlock) during weekday, peak-hour commute periods, then the County shall not approve single-family detached housing subdivisions of 5 or more parcels until cumulative Highway 50 traffic levels are improved and stay below LOS F. KEEP US RURAL. Policy 2.2.1.3.1. Lands designated in the General Plan on the effective date of this measure as: (1) open space, agricultural lands or natural resource shall remain in these land use categories, and (2) low density residential, medium density residential or rural residential housing shall not be rezoned to higher densities. Land use designation and zoning changes may be allowed in these categories (1, 2) for non-residential (economic development) projects or agricultural purposes if compatible with surrounding land uses.

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  • EllenJanuary 15, 2014 - 9:14 am

    Gene- I may disagree with you next time, but for now we are firmly in the same camp. Thank you. Well said.

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  • kggJanuary 15, 2014 - 9:57 am

    welcome gene!

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  • JohnJanuary 15, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    Nice article Gene, Looking forward to part 2. Rural Communities United has their site up promoting their initiative already (RuralCommunitiesUnited.com) as Bill states in the text above. I'll be signing.

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  • annoyedJanuary 15, 2014 - 7:13 pm

    80% of this County can not ever be developed so the NIMBY's that want to keep it "rural" might consider their next movement together insuring keeping August in the summer. This same group can't even agree to keep Eldorado County in California but they can keep it rural. I want just one descent steak house some where between Placerville and Eldorado Hills. And don't freaken say Henry's because I hate cigarette smoke and Indian Casinos. Give me one place to have dinner in our area that's not Chinese or Mexican. Que Vida and China City are fine. And I'm too young or old to appreciate the Sizzler. If we can't keep a steak house gainfully employed you all have no worries about keeping it rural.

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  • Noyed at Annoyed.January 15, 2014 - 7:49 pm

    The finest steak house this side of the Sierra is darn near right smack in between P'ville and EDH. Poor, poor, very poor Reds serves steak. It's probably right up your alley. The fine upstanding folks that pseudo own it welcome fine upstanding steak lovers. And as you know, they have kept many, many employees gainfully employed. We Nimby's despise minimum wage paying jobs. We want sustainable jobs for our citizens before mass housing. On the other hand have set the gold standard based on restaurant wages. Have you considered busing a table at a restaurant? If not for pay, for free.. just to keep it afloat.

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  • The real down with LibsJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:39 pm

    Dear annoyed. They have numerous, very exquisite steak houses in San Francisco. I just went to one called Izzy's last weekend and, it was wonderful!!. There's also a Morton's steak house along with a 4 star place called House of Prime Rib, Please move there.!!!

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  • EvelynJanuary 15, 2014 - 7:19 pm

    Gene Altshuler: Being a card-carrying "Smart Growth" kind of guy, please say just a bit about your understanding of the concept.

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  • Shoshanna MoserJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:14 pm

    As a former long-time resident of EDC, who still owns a house there (which is why I subscribe online to the Mountain Democrat), I'd like to point out that in addition to the traffic nightmare, this proposed avalanche of new residential properties (an overall increase of 48%) is certain to have a profound adverse impact on the value of existing homes-- as if we aren't all still struggling to recover from the 2008 price collapse! Not only is it inevitable that the vast increase in supply will substantially lessen the demand, but the very fact of the houses themselves will detract from the rural charm that attracted people in the first place. Last May I visited Placerville for the first time in several years, and was horrified by the ugly sprawl of developments and businesses that had paved over pastures and hillsides. Apparently, it's about to become much, much worse. It can be argued that this will substantially broaden the tax base and allow EDC to thrive-- at least financially-- at a time when many areas in California are on the brink of ruin. But at what cost? Aren't there better alternatives to ending up looking like the less attractive areas of the San Fernando Valley, circa 1968? The very beautiful rural county in which I live on Oregon's south coast has a population of only 22,000, and is in serious financial trouble-- primarily due to the fact that the county is 60% national forest, and the environmentalists have succeeded in shutting down the industries that kept the area humming for well over a century-- logging, timber operations, and most commercial fishing. (This is where the Rogue River meets the sea, and salmon fishing was long a major industry. And there are still plenty of fish. Ditto trees.) The debates go round and round about how best to refill the empty coffers, and opinions continue to rage in the coffeehouses, the art galleries, the book stores, and in the local newspapers-- but no one has suggested the solution be found in an O'Henry-esque tradeoff in which the county is saved by sacrificing the very things that make it a remarkable place to live. It is not my intention to ever again live in EDC, but it seems to me that both homeowners with a financial stake in protecting their investment and those who simply love it for its rural atmosphere, are duty-bound to speak up in objection to the plans of those who would turn it into nothing more than a suburb of Sacramento-- and to hold accountable those elected officials who go merrily along with such plans.

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  • EvelynJanuary 15, 2014 - 8:28 pm

    Shoshanna Moser: Not meaning to detract from your spot-on-the-mark comment, but have to ask if THIS is your work. Beautiful!

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  • observerJanuary 15, 2014 - 10:12 pm

    Rodger that!

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  • Shoshanna MoserJanuary 15, 2014 - 11:55 pm

    Evelyn (and Observer!), yes, that's the floral gallery of my PBase site I'm glad you liked it, and I appreciate you taking the time to comment. My "Oregon's South Coast Gallery"-- http://www.pbase.com/shoshanna/coast -- offers a broader view of the incredible loveliness of our area. You could understand, I'm sure, why any effort to develop it would be met with the recall, impeachment, and possibly public hangings of any officials involved.

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  • EvelynJanuary 16, 2014 - 5:37 am

    Shoshanna, "recall, impeachment & public hangings" -- Happily, they're not mutually exclusive!!!

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  • ObservationJanuary 16, 2014 - 8:58 am

    Let's be honest, with no intentions of ever coming back, your primary interest in EDC is financial. You chose to move to Oregon and it fits your life. Congratulations, you are luckier than most. Next, you clearly identify the challenges of a local economy with no discernible industry and the impacts on government because of government. Your area has no opportunity as a bedroom community because of location. The underground economy is the only thing carrying the financial water until a balance is achieved, if it ever happens. The growth areas of EDH and CP exist BECAUSE being a bedroom community was THE reason for their initial development. These are manufactured communities that bare no resemblance to Cool, Georgetown, Placerville or the truly rural parts of the county. All parts are not equal and, as your neighbors in Oregon now know, if you are not growing, then you are dying. Economic development is the key, not ballot box mandates loaded with more unintended consequences. The same applies here, but in both cases, the middle ground is being ignored.

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  • EvelynJanuary 16, 2014 - 6:19 am

    SMART GROWTH calls for • higher density, compact urban areas • mixing commercial with residential uses, and • emphasizing pedestrian-friendly design and transit-oriented development over automobile-oriented development.

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  • Robert D NollJanuary 16, 2014 - 7:24 am

    y'all

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  • ObservationJanuary 16, 2014 - 7:55 am

    Strange bedfellows continue to emerge. Who knew that the Tea Party anti-agenda 21 crowd and their twin from another mother in the form of Progressive pro-agenda 21 elites would be holding hands while walking down the same path. A rational, principled person would reflect on their position considering they have no other ideology compatibility with their new found friends. Which group has lost their way? Or is it just easier to talk the talk rather than walk the walk?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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