Updated Dec. 31, 10:31 p.m.–
January 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Citrus Heights becoming a city, following a decade-long battle with the county that began in the 80’s and concluded with an election victory in the 90’s when voters approved cityhood by 62 percent.
According to the city’s website, plans for a year-long celebration of the city’s 20th birthday include a “block party” at Van Maren Park in June and a different theme for each month of 2017 to highlight various aspects of the city, such as “top 20” city landmarks and “top 20 things you love about Citrus Heights.”
January’s theme is the top city awards and accomplishments, with fiscal responsibility and forming the city’s own police department named among the top 20 items. The year-long celebration is scheduled to officially kick off at the first council meeting on Jan. 12.
The fight for cityhood
Up until 1997, Citrus Heights was an unincorporated part of Sacramento County, like Orangevale and Antelope, but a group of business owners and residents formed the Citrus Heights Incorporation Project (CHIP) in the 80’s, seeking more local control through cityhood.
Specific issues listed as reasons for incorporation are detailed on the city’s website and include a desire by residents and community leaders for “increased land use controls and public services,” in light of “spiraling” population growth. Growing problems with auto theft, burglaries and vandalism, and a limited number of sheriff’s deputies patrolling the area were also a key issue.
However, the cityhood effort was met with opposition from Sacramento County leaders.
According to a timeline published in the Nov. 10, 1996 edition of the Sacramento Bee, a petition for cityhood was filed by CHIP in 1986 — but the County Board of Supervisors narrowly defeated a resolution calling for a cityhood election.
The county also filed a lawsuit against the incorporation effort, but lost at the state supreme court level in 1992. The case was then filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, but the court declined to hear the case.
Following discussion and an agreement with CHIP and the county, supervisors voted unanimously to not oppose cityhood in 1996 — as long as the city agreed to compensate the county for tax revenue it would lose. The compensation agreement has meant Citrus Heights has given up its portion of property tax to the county for the past 20 years, and it is required to continue to do so for a total of 25 years.
On Nov. 5, 1996, voters approved the “Yes on R” cityhood measure by 62 percent and also elected their first city council. The first five council members were William Hughes, Alma Kenyon, Roberta MacGlashan, Tim Raney, and James Shelby.
A decade after cityhood, Citrus Heights formed its own police department, which has been credited with consistently reducing crime in the city and has won statewide recognition with a pair of James Q. Wilson community policing awards.
Cityhood efforts have become more rare across California in recent years, with Citrus Heights being one of just 12 cities that have incorporated in the past two decades. By comparison, during the 80’s alone, a total of 34 cities incorporated in the Golden State, according to the California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions.
Citrus Heights is credited with paving the way for two other cityhood efforts in the region. Elk Grove soon followed Citrus Heights in becoming a city in the year 2000, and Rancho Cordova incorporated as a city in 2003.