Sacramento planning commissioners got their first look Thursday at a controversial plan to tear down 206 low-rise garden apartments and replace them with high-rise and midrise residential towers on a leafy superblock in the central city.
Beverly Hills real estate investment firm Kennedy Wilson filed the plan for the project, called Sacramento Commons. It proposes building more than 1,000 new dwelling units on four traffic-free, tree-lined blocks bounded by Fifth, Seventh, N and P streets. Kennedy Wilson bought the 10-acre site in 2012 for $64 million, according to a news release at the time.
The firm plans to keep its existing 203-unit high-rise apartment building called Capitol Towers but demolish the Capitol Villa garden apartments and cut down numerous trees – both of which neighbors say are a big part of the area’s charm and livability.
In their place, Kennedy Wilson would erect two 24-story residential towers, a 22-story hotel-condo complex and several midrise buildings.
The project addresses the need for more housing units downtown, in the middle of the region’s major job core, said Dave Eadie, with Kennedy Wilson. It would be “nestled in among other residential towers and government towers,” he said.
Sacramento Commons would be a “significant contribution to balancing the disparity between jobs downtown and housing,” Eadie told the planning commissioners.
He also said the project would reduce commuter miles traveled and put residents next to light-rail and bus routes. “It’s very tuned in to the local transportation system,” he said.
Demolition and construction wouldn’t start until at least 2016, and the project would be phased in over six years or more, he said.
The plan is in the earliest stages of city review. No environmental documents have been filed yet, city planners said.
Some residents started fighting the plan as soon as it came to light earlier this year. They contend it would destroy the livability and peace of their quiet superblock and undermine its midcentury urban planning. More than a dozen spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
The area was a successful example of urban renewal in Sacramento, they told the commissioners. Planners purposely crafted a low-density park-like setting when they built Capitol Towers and surrounding residential structures in the late 1950s and early 1960s, they said.
“Capitol Towers and Villas is a great example of mid-century modern architecture in a garden setting,” midtown resident Kathleen Green wrote in a letter to planning commissioners. “It is an oasis, with hundreds of mature trees and green space that was the plan of this urban super-block.”
Jim Pachl, an opponent of the plan who lives next door to the proposed project in a high-rise building called Bridgeway Towers, wrote the city’s Planning and Design Commission that “the superblock – Capitol, Pioneer, and Bridgeway Towers and Capitol Villas – was designed by renowned architects more than 60 years ago as a single redevelopment project … and built accordingly. It is now a thriving model neighborhood for a livable downtown – green space, tree canopy, low and high rise, rental and condos, senior housing, all adult ages, and a vital centerpiece of downtown.”
He told the commissioners at Thursday’s meeting that building new high-rises close to existing towers – including one 40 feet from his own building – would result in “no sunlight, no breeze. Our condos will look into their units through plate glass.”
Some commissioners expressed initial support for the project. They said it would bring needed housing – and approximately 2,800 new residents – to a downtown area that is ready to grow.
“I am particularly affected by the potential here for new residents,” Commissioner Kiyomi Burchill said. The proposed development would be a big change for the superblock but “it’s absolutely essential” for the city, she said.