An expansive plan to redevelop Sacramento’s historic downtown railyard with a major- league soccer stadium, a hospital and a mix of housing and shops took a big step toward full approval by the city Monday night.
The Sacramento Planning and Design Commission reviewed the railyard’s final environmental analysis and recommended that the Sacramento City Council approve it, along with a development agreement between the city and Downtown Railyards Ventures LLC.
The 244-acre Southern Pacific site sat largely idle after Union Pacific closed operations there in the 1990s. The city’s efforts to open the area to development were stymied for 25 years by ownership changes, toxic cleanup fights and the recession.
More recently, new streets have opened in the railyard. Sacramento’s historic rail depot is being renovated. And would-be occupants, including health care giant Kaiser Permanente, have signed up.
The plan endorsed Monday focuses on approximately 198 acres proposed for development by Downtown Railyards Ventures – the local development partnership that owns the railyard – and includes a stadium for the Sacramento Republic FC soccer team, a Kaiser Permanente hospital, between 6,000 and 10,000 residences, 514,270 square feet of retail space, up to 3.85 million square feet of office uses and a hotel.
The City Council in November will consider granting the final legal approval to allow development to begin.
“This is an enormously exciting project,” said Commissioner Alan LoFaso, noting that he wore Sacramento Republic colors for Monday’s meeting.
“This project in my opinion is a game changer,” said Commissioner Cornelious Burke. “I wholeheartedly support the project.”
The project was endorsed by all eight of the commissioners present – five were absent – although they said several issues still need to be resolved, including noise and schools.
Sacramento City Unified School District officials said they are concerned the district does not have adequate capacity in its central city schools to serve the students who would live in the residences planned for the railyard.
Cathy Allen, the district’s chief operations officer, said the district projects the development could add 1,900 elementary students, 300 middle school students and 400 high school students. The district has space for only about one-sixth of the elementary students, and the number of middle and high school students also would exceed the district’s current capacity, she said.
The developer is assuming that most of the people living in the planned residences would not have children, but the district said it can’t rely on that assumption. Although the district might have space in its more suburban schools, Allen said it would not be a simple matter to transport children from the central city to other areas.
Developers said they are working with the school district to designate a school site within the railyard development.
Commissioner Jia Wang-Connelly said she was concerned about noise from the stadium, particularly concerts. The loud crowds and performances could affect residents in the railyard and in neighboring Alkali Flat, she said.
The proposal calls for allowing noise exceeding 55 decibels in surrounding areas until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The commission recommended that the council direct city staff members and the developer to devise a plan to measure noise levels once the stadium opens to make sure they do not exceed projections in the environmental analysis.