Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton: Sacramento's tony neighborhoods don't get halfway houses

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 - 9:51 am

This isn't a "not in my backyard" story.

Those buzzwords don't apply when the backyard is west Lemon Hill – the south Sacramento neighborhood afflicted with high poverty and gunfire.

They don't apply when the primary source of jobs – the old Campbell's Soup plant – is gradually shutting down, and the area is rife with school closures and every urban social ill there is.

If you tried to put a halfway house for felons in a well-heeled Sacramento neighborhood and the neighbors pushed back, then it might be a NIMBY situation.

But a halfway house would never be proposed in one of Sacramento's nicer neighborhoods.

That's not how the state capital works.

Here, we dump social service programs near poor people.

And it's not just me saying it.

"Sacramento is shaped by a long-standing pattern of racial segregation," said Jesus Hernandez, a University of California, Davis, sociologist who has written eloquently on the pattern of disparities in Sacramento neighborhoods.

It's not that a halfway house designed to help felons re-enter society is a terrible idea, Hernandez said. "We need these programs."

The problem is that putting one on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 43rd Avenue is unfair – and the way it's always done in Sacramento.

For now, west Lemon Hill residents have done well to force the Sacramento County Planning Commission to delay a decision on whether to approve a re-entry facility for 50 federal parolees, whose crimes include drug trafficking and bank robbery, at the site. The commission will revisit the issue Feb. 21.

Hernandez's work, previously cited in The Bee by my colleague Ginger Rutland, showed how neighborhood disparities were often written into Sacramento housing covenants with the use of racial restrictions – actual limitations on where blacks and other minorities could live – decades ago.

"This halfway house is a symptom of the great dynamic happening in Sacramento," Hernandez said.

We all know what he means.

"That neighborhood is 83 percent nonwhite," Hernandez said. "They have the lowest test scores, prostitution." Where is subprime mortgage lending most egregious? In neighborhoods like west Lemon Hill.

Meanwhile, Sacramento leaders speak often of creating new economies and attracting business.

But how is a neighborhood to revitalize itself if it's always the place where social programs are dumped?

"Our neighborhood doesn't have the benefit of urban planning," said Janell Schindler, a west Lemon Hill leader in the struggle to oppose the halfway house. "If we did, this would have been taken into consideration."

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Read more articles by Marcos Breton

Marcos Breton, news columnist

Marcos Breton

Hello, my name is Marcos Breton and I'm the news columnist with The Sacramento Bee. What's a columnist supposed to do? I'm supposed to make you think, make you laugh, make you mad or make you see an issue in a different way. I'm supposed to connect the dots on issues, people and relationships that cause things to happen or prevent them from happening in our region. I also write a weekly baseball column during the baseball season. I am a voter in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, I have voted for Barry Bonds - twice. I am a native of Northern California. I am the son of Mexican immigrants. I've been at The Bee for more than 20 years, and I love Sacramento.

Phone: 916-321-1096
Twitter: @MarcosBreton

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