Community Benefits Agreements have been used successfully throughout the nation to address environmental and public health concerns. The Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity has been trying for more than a year to gain the Kings’ and city’s participation in such an agreement to improve how the project’s effects on the environment, public health and safety are mitigated.
Both the city and the Kings refused to take us seriously. They responded meaningfully only 72 hours prior to the deadline for filing suit under the California Environmental Quality Act. By then, it was too little, too late ( “Arena suit is simply extortion”, Marcos Breton, June 29). We are not trying to interfere in the construction of the downtown arena because we recognize that the arena could bring prosperity to Sacramento, but only if developed more equitably.
What is “environmental” in all of this? The coalition proposes reducing the arena’s carbon footprint; limiting greenhouse gas emissions; and supporting more transit use, bicycling and walking, which are much better for public health and safety, and are the ultimate goals of CEQA.
Housing demographics show that the coming wave of households wants options for a more urban lifestyle. Housing downtown is currently unaffordable and is resulting in a “drive ’til you qualify” pattern that threatens open space, habitat and agriculture in the region. Providing an affordable urban alternative to sprawl would effectively mitigate the impacts of the arena and protect habitat, open space and agriculture.
Sacramento needs more homes for all income levels. Compelling data show a critical need for homes affordable to the 50 percent of Sacramento residents who are lower-income. The city acknowledges 8,411 low-, very low- and extremely low-income homes must be constructed by 2021. Many downtown housing units are single-room-occupancy units, many of which are not regulated or in sound condition. Single-room-occupancy units, while an important housing resource, are designed to reach single people and seniors, not working families.
As low-wage jobs are created by the arena, even more affordable homes will be needed – not just downtown but in the surrounding neighborhoods along transit lines. While the Kings tout that they are contributing $864,000 to affordable homes, this is the minimum fee required by existing law, and would build just eight units. It does not reflect the arena’s true impacts or the additional need generated by ancillary developments.
No one in the Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity gets rich if affordable homes are built. Rather, the people who benefit are those who would live, work and spend downtown. They would drive less, use transit more, and thereby protect habitat, open space and agriculture, the intended beneficiaries of CEQA.
Alex Kelter is a member of the Environmental Council of Sacramento executive committee. Darryl Rutherford is executive director of Sacramento Housing Alliance executive director.