If you’ve driven by the corner of Broadway and Muir (9th) anytime in your life and wondered what exactly the grouping of building was you were looking at, you know the ones, the one and two story brick jobs laid out in a wide open pattern, like some kind of Massachusetts militia base from the heady days of the war of British aggression, then I’m here to tell you that they are, and always have been, public housing.
The handsome brick structures surrounded by leafy old trees, green lawns, soccer and baseball fields, and a head start pre-school were built after WWII by a team of architects known for their impressive, enduring structures like the Elks Building, YWCA, and (less enduring) the Alhambra theater. To have such eminent architects work on public housing was no big thing back then, as public projects of any kind were ways to show American superiority and excellence on the world stage.
These days, the public housing project known as Alder Grove (they were originally called New Helvetia, probably because of all the poor Swiss people that lived there), boasts hundreds of residents, many of whom have lived there for decades.
Surrounding Alder grove on the South is the neighborhood “Upper Land Park,” a collection of mostly post-war houses, built to a slightly smaller scale than the larger Land Park homes east of Riverside Boulevard. Recently, this neighborhood has become one of the hottest real estate markets in the city, given it’s medium price range and proximity to downtown, as well as the charming nature and fine condition of many of its 70-year old houses.
So, here’s the rub. The Sacramento Housing Authority (SHRA) wants to pull the Alder Grove residences down, run a bulldozer through them, rip them up, shred them to a pulp, and put up some multi-story cubes in their place. Put some commercial on the Broadway side and build some “mixed” housing including a mix of market-rate and subsidized housing behind the commercial frontage.
Yet, the main reason for the pull down given by the SHRA is “the housing communities suffer from severe physical distress, with outdated, 60-year-old building systems. Many of the 700 residential units are undersized and do not meet the needs of today’s families.”
It’s funny a bit that the surrounding neighborhood is also more than 60-years old, and was built with the outdated technologies of the time, yet it’s still one of the most desirable neighborhoods in town. Also, the families that live in the Alder Grove development haven’t complained at all about the living conditions and would have to be displaced for months if not years while their homes are destroyed and replaced. So, I’m trying hard to believe that this is “for the comfort of the residents.”
Instead, this seems like a project that, like almost any building project in the country, is designed to make developer, builder, owner, and politician a lot of money. It seems a shame, doesn’t it, to have this wide patch of land without something on it that you can gain a market income from. It seems a shame, doesn’t it, that there are wide open spaces wherein children can play rather than rent-earning apartments. It seems a shame, doesn’t it, that there is room to put up a Subway sandwich shop that doesn’t yet have a Subway sandwich shop occupying it.
Also, there’s always bound to be shenanigans. According to one frequent commenter and expertly knowledgeable individual that’s a personal friend of mine, “The weird part is that the city paid a consulting firm to determine if the buildings were eligible for the National Register, which is part of the environmental review process. The firm determined they were, so they buried the report and hired another consultant.”
Thanks, city council, for looking out for the needs of the citizens once again. Why don’t you work on the empty, I mean EMPTY, city blocks in Downtown and Midtown before you go ripping down perfectly good residences? Try finding a plan for the Ice Factory. Try building a public market. Work on that ridiculous rail yard boondoggle. Find some tenants for the empty buildings on K Street. Do something useful rather than what appears to be a naked grab for money designed to screw the lucky few comfortable, low-income folks in your town.
The most recent (Jan 21) city council meeting addressed the issue and the council voted to go ahead with a plan to acquire a plan to tear the thing down. They haven’t agreed to move ahead, just to develop a plan to move ahead. So there’s still time to stop the move if you, the citizen, so wants. Just sayin’.