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  • Paul Kitagaki Jr / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Steve Hansen, a member of the Sacramento City Council, in front of his home in the city's Alkali Flat neighborhood.

    Read his story here.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    A bedroom of the 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom home that is believed to have been a Sears, Roebuck & Co. kit house that went up at another location.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Well-worn handles on one of the home's numerous and handy pocket doors.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    A faux fireplace with a gas-burning insert fills a wall in the house's dining room, which Hansen uses as the living room. The structure does not have a real fireplace or chimney.

  • Paul Kitagaki Jr. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    One of the early 20th- century flourishes of Hansen's home in Sacramento's Alkali Flat neighborhood is this window that projects out from the wall, above, affording space for a vase of flowers.

Council member Steve Hansen's Alkali Flat home about history, walking

Published: Saturday, May. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 4CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Friday, May. 31, 2013 - 11:19 pm

On most days, Sacramento Councilman Steve Hansen walks to work from his 1906-era Alkali Flat home.

And that's the way he likes it. Walking to his job at City Hall is the kind of commute that squares well with Hansen's philosophy about city living.

As city living goes, Hansen may very well be its poster boy.

He not only lives near the city's inner core, he's councilman for District 4, the district that comprises downtown as well as the leafy expanses of midtown, Land Park and South Natomas.

"Living in downtown in a neighborhood that's so vibrant and that has such a rich history gives my life a lot of meaning," said Hansen.

That meaning has everything to do with a harkening back to an earlier time – when neighbors spent time on front porches or interacted with each other on the street. In Hansen's case, that has much to do with growing up in St. Paul, Minn.

"Knowing your neighbors is such a great experience. Here in Alkali Flat people tend to walk to work, and people spend time out of doors," said Hansen. "You do get to know them here."

A conversation with Hansen about his Alkali Flat street and neighborhood is likely to bring forth a detailed history of this or that column on this or that home, or the provenance of another home. Luckily, Hansen has many fine Victorian homes to discuss just a stone's throw from his front door, and his home is next to one of the city's finest examples of a 19th century home – the J. Neely Johnson House.

Hansen is a recent adopter of the Alkali Flat neighborhood. It is bounded on the north by the Union Pacific railyard, on the east by 12th Street, on the south by G Street and on the west by Seventh Street.

The home that Hansen lives in on F Street was once a newcomer to the neighborhood too. Hansen bought the home in 2007 after looking at a lot of houses, many of them over a century old. Although the two-story home he bought looked like it had sat on the same lot forever, he soon learned this was not the case.

"The house had existed at 11th and G streets and was going to be torn down to build a law office structure," said Hansen.

The previous owner, Bruce Booher, a local contractor and onetime chairman of the former Design Review and Preservation Board, bought the house for a dollar, moved it to F Street and restored it, said Hansen.

The house has 1,800 square feet with three bedrooms and an unfinished but surprisingly large basement-garage.

Hansen believes the home was a "Foursquare" kit house – the kind that could have been bought from a Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog during the early 20th century. Typically, such home plans would be ordered, shipped via rail and assembled on site.

"The kit provided the roof, walls and floor plans, and then you came in and did the finish work, like coving and plastering," Hansen said.

The home reveals interesting features throughout. Unlike some homes from the early 1900s, this one was built without a chimney. The absence of a real fireplace meant a gas furnace was the mode of heating. However, heat was meant to warm only certain rooms, such as the upstairs master bedroom, but not the ones adjacent.

The bathroom is one of Hansen's prized rooms. It offers the charm of a classic clawfoot tub. A 1906-era toilet is an elegant throwback but has proved an expensive one. When the porcelain of the original bowl developed a crack recently, it cost more than $1,000 to replace.

"Every room of the house has a door, for easy living and entertaining," said Hansen.

Indeed, sliding doors allowed one part of the house – like the dining room – to be used for 1906-era entertaining, while the living room and another areas could be blocked off or used for other means. These days Hansen uses the dining room as his living room.

Before moving to Alkali Flat, Hansen owned a bungalow at 33rd and W streets in Oak Park. Although that house was close to downtown, it still demanded commuting to Genentech, where he still works as a senior regional manager, and another job as legislative director for Equality California.

"Even when you're living slightly outside the downtown-midtown area, it still means getting in the car every morning," Hansen said. "That changed my outlook. I found that I did not enjoy driving in morning traffic. Now, I appreciate being able to walk to my job with my coffee."

Hansen not only likes the luxury of walking to work, he likes living within a stone's throw of a bike trail. An avid bicyclist, Hansen accesses a branch of the American River bike trail branch at the Blue Diamond Growers plant at 19th and C streets.

Despite his inclination for walking, Hansen installed a brick driveway for his car next to the front yard – a nod to the necessity that a car is.

But it's a driveway that looks made for walking over, not parking. Here, the grass is threatening to overtake brick – as befits the home of someone who walks to work daily.

Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz..

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Edward Ortiz



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