Current Proposal to Develop Kassis Property Found Inconsistent with City StandardsNov 21, 2023 10:49AM ● By Shaunna Boyd
The lower basin provides important habitat for local wildlife along the American River. Photo by Mark Berry
RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) - Trumark Homes has spent several years planning the development of the former Kassis property – 41 acres of undeveloped open space along the American River in Rancho Cordova. Their initial application was submitted in April 2019, proposing the development of 245 single-family homes. There was some opposition to the project because the property is beloved by many locals in the area, as public access easements traverse the site, and it provides habitat for various species of wildlife.
In December 2022, Trumark withdrew its initial application, citing “inaction” by the Planning Department of the City of Rancho Cordova. Rancho Cordova’s Communications and Public Affairs Director Maria Kniestedt explained that City staff was “in the process of reviewing the technical studies and preparing the environmental document required by CEQA [California Environmental Quality Act]” when the application was withdrawn.
Trumark then submitted a new application – now proposing 441 homes on the site (of which 242 would be designated as low-income housing): “The Kassis property’s location near the river, regional recreation, and light rail direct to downtown Sacramento, makes the site ideal for new home construction, bringing new families to an area that needs retail and community support.”
The new formal application was submitted under the protections of Senate Bill (SB) 330 – State legislation that attempts to address the lack of affordable housing by mandating a streamlined review process for new housing. SB 330 restricts local governments from downzoning properties and from attempting to apply subjective design standards when considering new projects.
Trumark also asserted that because the site was zoned to meet the City’s low-income housing obligations under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) as determined by the State, their application must be allowed “by right.” Under that provision, Trumark proposed that while design review could still be required, the City could not require discretionary approval for the project under CEQA.
Trumark’s application package was deemed complete on August 25, 2023, which triggered an accelerated 60-day timeline for the City of Rancho Cordova to review the project and determine if it complies with the City’s adopted objective standards.
While the City was conducting their review, a group of concerned homeowners adjacent to the site, Tiffany Farms Homeowners’ Association, hired the law firm Soluri Meserve to assess the project proposal. Attorney Patrick M. Soluri submitted a letter on their behalf, outlining various instances of inconsistencies between the proposal and the City’s codes and standards.
Specifically, and most glaringly, Soluri wrote, “The Project is inconsistent with the City’s General Plan by constructing homes in a floodway and 100-year floodplain.” The Trumark proposal acknowledges that the lower terrace of the site, closest to the American River, is within the 100-year floodplain, and they propose to use infill to raise the ground level, removing that section of property from the floodway. But Soluri contends first that the General Plan specifies that the City shall “preclude development within the 100-year floodplain,” and further that the City will “discourage the use of fill to create buildable area within the 100-year floodplain, except in extreme circumstances consistent with all other applicable policies and regulations, and after review to determine potential impacts on wildlife, habitat, and flooding on other parcels.” Soluri states that any such “‘extreme circumstances’ are not met by the Project.”
In the City’s Review, released on October 24, Senior Planner Arlene Granadosin-Jones wrote that Trumark’s assertion that their proposal should be processed by right was “incorrect,” as Trumark was attempting to apply legal provisions for which the site was not eligible. “The City will process your application in accordance with the requirements of the Rancho Cordova Municipal Code, SB 330, and the Housing Accountability Act. As part of that process, the application is required to undergo complete and thorough environmental review as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA),” wrote Granadosin-Jones.
The Review concluded that Trumark’s proposal was inconsistent and not in compliance with many standards and policies of the City of Rancho Cordova. In particular, the Review found Trumark’s proposal to be inconsistent with adopted General Plan policies because part of the site is located within the 100-year floodplain, where development is precluded by the City and infill use is discouraged.
The Review also found that the project is not consistent with the City’s objective zoning, development, and design standards – citing 40 different issues with parking allowances, bicycle facilities, outdoor lighting, walls and fencing, pedestrian pathways, seating, various landscaping guidelines, etc. Further issues were identified in the proposal’s street standards, bicycle standards, drainage requirements, and traffic standards – all of which were not consistent with the City’s objective design standards.
The Kassis site is located within Erosion Zone 4 of the Parkway Overlay Zone, and the City’s Review found that the proposal did not meet various building requirements that would ensure erosion risks are mitigated. The proposal was also inconsistent with the City’s requirements for the preservation and protection of trees, because the proposal did not include an updated arborist report or meet the necessary tree replacement guidelines. The project would require a conditional use permit from the City, for which Trumark has not applied. And finally, the project did not comply with the City’s parkland dedication requirement for new developments.
Trumark still has the option of modifying their proposal to bring it into compliance with the City’s applicable standards, as specified in their Review. Then the City would again have 60 days to review a modified application. If the proposal were deemed consistent, the CEQA review is still required to determine the project’s environmental impacts; as Granadosin-Jones wrote in the Review, “Complete environmental review is necessary before the City will make a decision regarding the project.”