West Sacramento leaders at year’s end were faced with a simple question: Gates or no gates.
Rocklin-based Mandarich Developments wants to build 222 single-family homes with a clubhouse and pool on 18.3 acres in the city’s Southport neighborhood. But one feature stood as a potential deal-breaker: a protected entry.
Council members told the developer that a gated community would defy their long-held notion of what West Sacramento stands for and what it wants to be.
“This is not a city that gates its neighborhoods off. That’s not who we are as a town,” West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon said at the Dec. 17 City Council meeting. “It’s a pretty open-and-shut issue as far as what our values are.”
Gated neighborhoods are not prohibited in West Sacramento, and the city already has three of them. But the idea has been widely unpopular for years in this town with working-class roots. A gated single-family development has not been built in the city in 20 years, Cabaldon said at the meeting.
Critics say the gates unnecessarily divide neighborhoods. Police and other first-responders say the barriers slow response times. In recent years, a handful of high-density developments have been built without entry gates in West Sacramento.
Cabaldon lives in one of them, the Ironworks development in the city’s Bridge District near Raley Field. He soon plans to move to the Park Moderns a few blocks away.
“There’s no gate,” Cabaldon said of Ironworks. “Having people come through the neighborhood is what makes it safe, makes it part of West Sacramento.”
Gary Mandarich, president of Mandarich Development, cited his company’s track record of building gated communities in Fairfield, Tracy and Vallejo. He told council members at the meeting that the development would cater to single parents, particularly women, who Mandarich said would likely feel more safe in a gated setting. The development also hopes to attract retirees looking to scale down their homes while retaining a sense of security.
West Sacramento resident Ray Williams, 56, does not live in a gated community but said he understood the sales pitch and that demand for gated developments is bound to come with a growing city. He was shopping Tuesday at Southport Town Center near the planned development.
“People want what they want. They want security. They want their property to look good. It’s not exclusion,” Williams said. “I’d live in a gated community.”
Another West Sacramento resident, Morgan Jones, 23, said the notion of safety from a gated entry is “more of an illusion” than anything.
Mandarich said that for months his company had worked under the impression that the city had no problem with gated developments. In a Nov. 4 letter to city planners, Mandarich said it was not until Oct. 31 that his firm had received any comments from the city regarding entry gates.
The city’s planning commission in November approved the development plan – with gates – by a 4-2 vote, despite recommendations by city staff to reject the entry barriers. Commissioners had said a market exists for gated communities, adding that gates would be appropriate because of the amenities made available to new residents.
But staff and council members disagreed. Mayor Pro Tem Chris Ledesma spoke of the “sense of segregation that (gated communities) tend to breed.”
Councilwoman Beverly Sandeen talked about the “open world that we cherish here in West Sacramento,” saying she “has been and continues to be opposed to gates.”
“There’s going to be a lot of isolation as far as I can see,” said Councilman Mark Johannessen.
And Cabaldon, long an opponent of gated communities, immediately appealed the planning commission approval. At the December council meeting, he traced his thinking back to his first City Council campaign in 1996 and to the city’s own history. He recalled “widespread, universal opposition” to gated-entry communities during that election cycle.
“(T)he concept that a city that is full of communities that have been divided from one another repeatedly by the railroad tracks, by the freeway, by the ship channel, would voluntarily start to carve itself up was offensive to the residents of West Sacramento,” Cabaldon said. “The argument is for opening up a neighborhood, not closing it off.”
Council members ultimately approved the planned Promenade development on a 4-1 vote – on the condition that it remain gate-free.
Mandarich agreed to move forward under that arrangement.
“We can have a project that is viable without gates. It wouldn’t be as successful, but it will be viable,” he told the council.
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.