The City of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoological Society are exploring relocating and expanding the zoo in Elk Grove. The organizations have committed to negotiating an agreement that could provide for construction of a new zoo on undeveloped land in south Elk Grove.
The process to study, design, finance, and construct a new zoo is a multi-year/multi-phase effort. Early work has included preparation of a Feasibility Study, which was presented in spring 2022 and provided below. The next steps include the development of a Concept Master Plan and, later, a Schematic Plan. These materials will be integrated with infrastructure planning and a formal Plan of Finance, and then analyzed in an Environmental Impact Report. Once completed, the City Council will consider the project and, potentially, complete the project approvals (called Entitlements). Once the project is approved it can move forward into final design and construction.
Zoo Master Plan Schedule
1.0 Conceptual Master PlanSummer 2022
2.0 Schematic PlanFall 2022-Fall 2023
3.0 Infrastructure Master PlanWinter 2023
4.0 Plan of FinanceWinter 2023 - Winter 2024
5.0 CEQA ReviewSpring 2023 - Spring 2024
6.0 Project ApprovalsSpring 2024
If discussions are successful and an agreement is reached, the new zoo could be located in the Kammerer Urban Design Study Area. The site is an approximately 65-acre northern portion of a 98-acre parcel located at the northwest intersection of Kammerer Road and Lotz Parkway. The site's current zoning allows for a zoological park with approval by the City of a use permit.
Zoo Design Update
The Sacramento Zoological Society has hired a design firm (SHR Studios) that specializes in zoological parks to prepare the Master Plan for the Zoo. While portions of the design will be informed by the design team’s expertise and the operations parameters for the facility as described in the Feasibility Study, there are a variety of components that will be informed by public feedback. In summer 2022 the City, the Society, and SHR held several public engagement events and activities, culminating in a Town Hall event in August 2022. Input from these events was incorporated into the Conceptual Plan, which was presented in November 2022.
Following the Conceptual Design work, the team has moved into Schematic Design, which is a higher level of design detail. On October 25, 2023, City staff presented an update on the design work to the City Council. A Community Open House Event was held on November 4, 2023, where the latest design plans were on display. These materials are available below.
Materials from the November 2023 Open House
Before approvals of the Zoo can be considered by the City, an Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, must be prepared. The EIR will analyze the potential environmental impacts of the construction and operation of the Zoo. On November 18, 2022, the City released a Notice of Preparation (below).
The Draft EIR is being prepared and is expected to be released in early 2024 for public review and comment, prior to any Planning Commission or City Council hearings on the project.
2022 Feasibility Study
On March 10, 2022, the City and the Zoological Society released a Feasibility Study and Economic Impact Analysis (provided below). A public town hall was held concurrently with the release, providing an overview of these materials and an opportunity to ask questions of the project team. The recording of this meeting is below. The results of the Feasibility Study and Economic Impact Analysis were shared with the City Council on March 23, 2022. The Council directed the continued planning and design for the facility. A Memorandum of Understanding, which outlines the next steps in the process and the roles of the parties, was entered into on May 25, 2022.
- November 2022 Conceptual Design materials
- Press Release: November 17, 2022, Conceptual Zoo Design
- Memorandum of Understanding (May 2022)
- Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (September 2021)
- September 23, 2021, Press Release
Frequently Asked Questions
What is happening with the City of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoo?
The City of Elk Grove and the Sacramento Zoological Society agreed to study the relocation the Sacramento Zoo to Elk Grove, where the zoo could significantly expand to benefit the care of the animals and improve the guest experience. The new zoo would be approximately 65 acres and would likely be built in multiple phases over several years. The shared goal is to build a world-class zoo and cultural attraction for the entire region.
What is a feasibility study?
A feasibility study is a written report that tells the reader whether a proposed project is feasible from a physical, operational, and financial perspective. In the broadest sense, it outlines the potential viability of a project.
Who prepared the Zoo Feasibility Study?
The feasibility study was prepared by RS&S (Relevant Strategies and Solutions), a leader in zoo facility planning, under contract to the Sacramento Zoological Society. The City, along with its own team of financial and zoological consultants, have reviewed the plan. View the feasibility study.
What was the City doing while the Feasibility Study was being prepared?
City staff met with the Sacramento Zoological Society and RS&S on a regular basis to provide input into the study’s preparation. City staff also researched zoos and zoo design, construction, and operations best practices as well as best practices for how cities partner with zoo operators like the Sacramento Zoological Society. Field visits to two zoos (Fresno and Houston) occurred in fall 2021. The City retained its own zoo expert to help review the feasibility study and advise the City throughout the life of the project on all aspects of project planning, design, construction, financing, and partnership.
The City continues to define the infrastructure needs for the zoo, including water, sewer, drainage, and roadway/transportation needs near the zoo property so that these improvements can be designed and constructed to best serve the future zoo and surrounding areas.
What are the primary reasons the Zoo is looking to relocate?
The current zoo is 95 years old and requires extensive renovations to both the habitats and its other facilities to even meet current - let alone future - animal care standards. At 14.7 acres, the zoo’s current footprint is landlocked and unable to provide the necessary space for many of its beloved residents, including giraffes, big cats, and apes. Over the past 30 years, the zoo has lost many of its iconic animal species due to space constraints, including tiger, hippopotamus, and bear. This decline will continue if the zoo stays where it is. The lack of a visitor parking lot at the zoo’s current location also presents an insurmountable obstacle to both expanding access to the zoo and increasing attendance.
The Sacramento Zoological Society’s Board of Trustees is responsible for the care and welfare of the zoo’s animals. Given the challenges that many species face in the wild, zoos have been called upon to take a significant leadership role in saving species from extinction. The current zoo site undermines the Zoo’s ability to meet this important mission. The Board of Trustees also has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the long-term viability of the zoo and ensure that future generations can enjoy this valued regional amenity.
A new zoo will allow their wildlife care professionals to create expansive natural habitats, bolster conservation programs, and allow the zoo to better serve its educational mission by accommodating more than twice the number of guests per year.
Why is Elk Grove the right place for the new zoo?
Elk Grove is well positioned to provide the physical space and financial support needed to build a new, modern zoological park. Building the zoo in Elk Grove will enable the zoo to remain in, and serve, the Sacramento Region while having the space needed to triple in size and double in visitation. The Society and the City have a shared vision for what the new zoo can be and the impact it can have on the region and the community. They also share values supporting science education, habitat and wildlife conservation, and providing the public parks and recreation spaces. The new zoo will be an important economic development driver and cultural destination and attraction for Elk Grove. The zoo could provide one million annual visitors and as many as 250 jobs and be an anchor in the continued development of the south part of the City.
How long has the City and Society been discussing this project?
Talks between the City and Society started in late June 2021. Those evolved to approval of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and public announcement on September 23, 2021. The feasibility study was prepared and reviewed by the City and Society in March 2022. Based upon the findings, the parties entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to continue exploring the design and financing for a new zoo.
How can I weigh in?
The City and Zoological Society are committed to public transparency and plan to provide the public regular updates throughout the process. There will be multiple opportunities for residents, donors, members, and visitors to comment about the project, and more details of those opportunities will be forthcoming as the project progresses. If you have questions or comments in the meantime, e-mail the City at email@example.com.
What does the Zoo Feasibility Study include?
The Zoo Feasibility Study includes four main components:
- Vision for the project – This includes the overall goals for the project (e.g., animal health, safety, and comfort, education and conservation, connection with the community) and the objectives for the visitor experience.
- Concept program and plan – This will start with a list of the species, habitats, facilities, and other site programing that will make up the project. Species selection will consider our local climate conditions and habitat size will align with the standards of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (the accreditation organization for zoos in North America). Using this information, a design team will then create a “bubble diagram” illustrating how the program and plan could be organized across the project site. The diagram will illustrate everything from visitor parking and entry, to habitat areas, dining facilities, and support facilities including administration offices, vet clinics, and animal holding areas. The program and plan will also illustrate the potential phasing of project construction.
- ROM Budget – A ROM Budget, or Rough Order of Magnitude Budget, provides a high-level analysis of the potential costs to construct the project. The budget is based upon the concept program and plan and is informed by the construction costs of recent projects at other zoo facilities in North America. This will not be a line-item budget with extensive detail. Rather, costs will likely be described as $/acre or $/square foot and will include substantial contingencies.
- Strategic Business Plan – Based upon the concept program and plan and budget, the study will develop a high-level financial plan to fund construction of the zoo, and a high-level business plan to fund startup and long-term operation of the zoo. The business plan will include an evaluation of both potential sources of revenue for construction (e.g., cash, private donors, and city financing) and operation (e.g., ticket sales, concession and store sales, and parking revenue).
Where would the Zoo be located?
The project could be located on approximately 65 acres of property in south Elk Grove at the northwest intersection of Kammerer Road and Lotz Parkway. As of 2014, the property is zoned a combination of light industrial and office, and a zoo is allowed in those zones with a conditional use permit. This site is being used for development of the conceptual design and, if the project is approved, would be the selected site.
What about the City of Sacramento relocation study?
In May of 2019, the City of Sacramento pursued a feasibility study to examine three potential sites - North Natomas Regional Park, Sleep Train Arena, and Bing Maloney Golf Course. It was communicated to the Sacramento Zoological Society that none of these sites are viable options for relocation.
How will relocation affect zoo attendance and operations?
The Sacramento Zoo is already a regional destination attracting half a million guests from Northern California and Western Nevada. Wherever the zoo is located, it will create memorable wildlife, educational, and family-friendly experiences for our community.
Will the city have to help pay for the new zoo?
Funding of a new zoo is expected to be a partnership. As part of that partnership, the City has secured a potential site. The City has committed in principle to provide the land at the City’s costs. It is likely that additional City funding for construction and operation of the zoo will be necessary. A formal Plan of Finance will be prepared and considered as part of the possible approval of the project in 2023/2024.
What happens next?
The concept plan will continue to be refined and an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be prepared. A formal Plan of Finance will also be prepared. These materials will be presented to the Planning Commission and, ultimately, the City Council for final decision on the project in 2023/2024.