First Step Reached in Pulling Down “World’s Nicest Projects”

See, there are bricks, and trees.
See, there are bricks, and trees and stuff

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.

But wouldn't it be great if it looked like this?
But wouldn’t it be great if it looked like this?

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main reason for the pull down given by the SHRA is “the housing communities suffer from severe physical distress, with outdated, 60-year-old building systems.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’.

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Release the Whales

Humphrey.

At his “State of the City” address tonight, Mayor Johnson is “expected” to grace us with the names of the investors with whom the City is already negotiating. However, as the Bee points out, this is only an assumption, albeit an assumption based on the fact that transparency in government is something that Americans expect.

So hopefully tonight’s event, with special appearance by Jackie Greene and Mark S. Allen, will give the Mayor the opportunity to come forward with some actual specifics. I wonder if there will be a surprise, though: If the “whales” do end up being Burkle and Mastrov as expected, and the Mayor was purposely secretive for no reason, that seems like a pretty bad situation.

As the City Manager has already begun negotiations on the terms of a new agreement, this secrecy should not go on one day more. Here We Name Names!

Election 2012 Open Thread

It’s Election day, Sacramento. Make sure you cast your ballot. Find your polling place at SmartVoter.org. If you are “Vote By Mail,” don’t put it in the mail today, drop your ballot at any polling place. Keep this page open in your browser to find out what’s happening as soon as it develops and one of us comes up with something snarky to say about it. So basically until Thursday. Continue reading “Election 2012 Open Thread”

KJ’s Arena “Plan C”: Major League Baseball?

With potential arena operator AEG backing out of any future arena plan that did not include a major tenant, local news is reporting that Mayor KJ and his “Think Big” group are planning to pursue Major League Baseball. Specifically, it appears the Mayor is planning to seek the Oakland Athletics franchise. (Apparently the group doesn’t “Think Big” about hypocrisy.)

As this is still a town that was too dysfunctional to acquire a Minor League team, losing the River Cats to West Sac, I don’t know how they can promote this with a straight face. I think forcing the River Cats out of Raley Field would be a colossal mistake even if Sacto could support an MLB franchise, a question to which everyone except apparently the Mayor and the people advising him knows the answer: No it can’t.

But even as the arena negotiations were falling apart the Mayor had no problem getting reelected. So don’t expect the pro sports silliness to cease anytime soon.

Isleton’s tenuous grip on civilization

Isleton, CA’s tenuous grip on civilization

The Sac Bee front page article on Isleton’s problems and the man who’s been hired to clean them up would be hilarious if it was not so sad. Scratch that, it’s just plain hilarious:

“The police force no longer exists, again, and one of its five patrol cars is covered in spider webs behind City Hall because someone put sugar in the gas tank.” Continue reading “Isleton’s tenuous grip on civilization”

“What would you say you do here?”

Ryan Lillis, one of the Bee’s big three reporters doing actual professional journalism on the topic of the arena, reports today that Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings co-owner George Maloof have decided on a sit down meeting this week to discuss possibly reviving the DOA arena deal.

Reading that this morning, the question you might have is does the Mayor actually do anything except work on this arena deal? When is the last time you remember hearing the Mayor’s name in connection to anything except this problem. I’m only being somewhat facetious as this is big news in these parts and maybe it is getting squeezed out. But somehow I doubt that KJ is out there working on anything else.

Continue reading ““What would you say you do here?””