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West Sacramento

Led by a mayor passionate about progress, city faces challenges with civic pride, systematic approach to improvements

Published: Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 - 4:24 pm
Last Modified: Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 - 5:49 pm

Whether you come to cheer the River Cats at Raley Field or find furnishings at Ikea or you're a resident who works out at the city's fitness center or takes an early-morning stroll along the Sacramento River, you're bound to enjoy your time in West Sacramento.

"People come to West Sacramento because of its location, because it's so close to everything and because it is a real place," Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said. "It's the culture, quirks, personality, small-town feel and optimism. We can accomplish anything."

The city has accomplished a turnaround in recent years, bringing a wealth of improvements that have attracted visitors and new residents alike.

Since incorporation in 1987, West Sacramento has tackled key problem areas -- a deteriorated downtown, a lack of retailers and a Sacramento River waterfront crying out for development.

When State Route 275 was built in the early 1970s, it divided West Sacramento's downtown. After incorporation, the city's goal was to convert the highway into a city street, the Tower Bridge Gateway.

The downtown area's pedestrian-friendly street now has wider sidewalks, new landscaping and a 35-miles-per-hour speed limit.

In the past three years, the city also has added a library, the Sacramento City College West Sacramento Center satellite campus and a community center with a preschool, a theater, an art gallery, a senior center and a coffee shop.

"We're rebuilding and made it a more intimate place," Cabaldon said. "People are going to shows, the library and senior lunches."

A new recreation center is the result of what Cabaldon calls "an innovative partnership" between the city and Washington Unified School District. The city built the center and a pool at River City High School that's used by area residents as well as students.

"We built a really terrific amenity with rock-climbing wall, pool, water slides and fitness center," Cabaldon said. "It has turned out to be a tremendous asset to the community."

Another key improvement, he said, is the addition of retail stores.

"Now we're a distinct place, with a growing retail area with Ikea, Nugget Market, Target and many robust small businesses," he said.

The Southport area, an extension of the city with new facilities, has a large retail area with restaurants, a supermarket and large stores, said Ernesto Lucero, city economic development analyst. Southport is in the southern part of the city, south of the Port of West Sacramento.

Also improved is the Sacramento River waterfront.

The city has developed the area along the river into a prime recreational amenity, River Walk Park, with areas for boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, nature walks and picnicking.

"The river is one of our most important assets," Cabaldon said. "The new River Walk Park is stunning, beautiful and heavily used. The extended trail south of the Tower Bridge is open for recreation, and the riverfront is an active place to live, work and play."

Raley Field in the riverfront area is home to the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. The 14,500-seat multiuse stadium draws record crowds to games, as well as to concerts and special events throughout the year.

Cabaldon also saw a need in West Sacramento for a higher-education facility.

"It was a critical priority for me to bring a community college to West Sacramento," he said.

In 2001, the Sacramento City College West Sacramento Center, part of Los Rios Community College District, opened with a full range of classes. Enrollment there has been good.

"It's one of the fastest-growing schools in all of California," Cabaldon said.

Another developing area is the Bridge District, an area at the foot of Tower Bridge, formerly known as the Triangle.

"The Bridge District is on track to create 4,000 residential units, 5 million square feet of commercial space and 500,000 square feet of retail space," Lucero said.

An affordable-housing project also is planned.

Streets, water and sewer lines and a bicycle trail in the Bridge District are complete. Eventually, Lucero said, the development will support approximately 9,000 residents and 16,000 jobs.

"It's a pedestrian-friendly, green neighborhood with parks and bicycle trails," he said. "Basically, you can walk to city hall, to a ball game, to the Bridge District and to Old Sacramento. Next on track is the Washington neighborhood in the north part of the city, where we will start planning for future development."

Homes in West Sacramento include Queen Anne-style cottages in established neighborhoods and new homes in more recent developments. The latter includes Serenity Cove by Discovery Homes, where single-family homes are priced from the high $200,000s.

Regis Homes offers lofts and single-family homes at the Ironworks in West Sacramento. Prices start at $239,990.

According to Zillow.com, resale prices in West Sacramento range from $55,000 for an 800-square-foot home with three bedrooms and one bathroom to $775,000 for a 4,000-square-foot home with five bedrooms and three-and-a-half-bathrooms.

The first inhabitants of the West Sacramento area were the Patwin Indians, who established villages on the west bank of the Sacramento River. Their lives changed dramatically when European hunters and trappers arrived, bringing diseases that eventually decimated the Patwin population.

A Flemish traveler, Jan Lows de Swart, who was later called John Schwartz, was the first Euro-American to settle in the area, followed by James McDowell, who purchased 600 acres.

After 1900, the communities in the area -- Bryte, Broderick and West Sacramento -- became known as East Yolo. The area grew between 1900 and 1920, and the three communities became the foundation for the current city.

In 1963, the Port of Sacramento was opened to deep-sea traffic with the completion of the Deep Water Ship Channel. Its name was changed to the Port of West Sacramento in 2009.

Although West Sacramento continues to change, its roots are embedded in the spirit of the past.

"As a city council member, seven-term mayor and resident, I have been privileged to witness the transformation of West Sacramento from a forgotten corner of unincorporated Yolo County to a vibrant city that is recognized regionally and statewide for its innovative, business-friendly government, quality of life, and unsurpassed potential," Cabaldon said in his message on the city's website.

"Despite all of the city's accomplishments to date, the best chapters of West Sacramento's story are yet to be written," he said. "There are bridges to be built, levees to be strengthened, a streetcar system to be constructed and entire downtown districts to be designed and built. Whether you already have a place here, or your story here hasn't yet begun, I encourage you to join us as we craft the future of this amazing community together."

Read more articles by Tinka Davi



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