East Sacramento neighbors embrace development planned for Sutter Memorial site

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2014 - 11:32 pm
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2014 - 11:28 pm

A proposal to replace Sutter Memorial Hospital in east Sacramento with more than 100 homes has met with an unusually peaceful reaction in a city where such “infill” developments often prompt neighborhood revolts.

A group of neighbors recently met for wine and cheese to discuss their support for the Sutter Park project. Just over a mile away, a proposal to build more than 300 homes along the Capital City Freeway has prompted contentious neighborhood meetings and lawn signs erected in protest.

The Sutter Park project is scheduled to be heard by the city’s Planning Commission today, followed by a City Council hearing next month.

Neighborhood residents and city officials said the warm reception for the plan to replace the hospital where many Sacramentans were born stems from the way the project was designed and how it was proposed. Neighbors said the development team – led by Stonebridge Properties, a subsidiary of construction giant Teichert – made several changes to the plan at the request of nearby residents.

Brian Kaiser hosted five meetings about the project at his home, which backs up to the current hospital property, which fronts F Street. He said neighbors were “suspicious and skeptical” at the first session, but by the last meeting, “it was more like a social event.”

“They really proved themselves,” Kaiser said of the developers. “They obviously cared about what the neighbors think. It’s probably been a surprise for people to witness.”

Kaiser said the developers impressed neighbors by removing a large apartment building designated for senior housing from the project. The developers also added green space near some entrances and pedestrian access to the site. Residents also like that the development will reconnect the street grid and replace a 20-acre hospital site that has stood prominently in the area for decades.

“It’s going to fit in with the scale of our neighborhood,” Kaiser said. “It’s not going to be a big sea of tract homes that all look the same.”

Stonebridge said it has designed 11 different styles of homes for the property.

The neighborhood will feature clusters of “cottages” that face into a common courtyard and rows of homes lining a long, narrow green space dubbed a “paseo.” A small commercial space is planned for one corner; possibilities for the site include a coffee shop, a dry cleaner and a bike repair shop.

Homes will be based on styles seen in other parts of east Sacramento, and similarly designed homes will not be built adjacent to one another. An outline of the plan even calls for “innovative and creative design” plans for chicken coops.

“We wanted to create a very eclectic mix so this didn’t become a homogeneous kind of project,” said Stonebridge president Randy Sater.

Sutter is expected to complete construction of its new hospital in midtown this year and move its Sutter Memorial operations to that site soon after. Sater said construction on the Sutter Park development could begin next year.

Councilman Steve Cohn, who represents east Sacramento, said part of the support for the plan stems from the expected decrease in traffic generated around the clock by the hospital.

“I’ve not heard any opposition, in contrast to McKinley Village where you’ve got a major civil war going on,” Cohn said. “Part of that is attributed to the outreach and part of that is that people, including myself, think it’s a good match for the neighborhood.

“It’s different when you’re replacing a major facility like a hospital vs. trying to build on virgin land (like McKinley Village),” Cohn added. “It’s not necessarily a fair comparison, but it’s inevitable.”

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at www.sacbee.com/citybeat.

Read more articles by Ryan Lillis

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