Sacramento County approves controversial low-income apartments in Arden Arcade

This rendering by Anton Development Co. shows its 148-unit apartment complex proposed for 2134 Butano Drive in Arden Arcade.
This rendering by Anton Development Co. shows its 148-unit apartment complex proposed for 2134 Butano Drive in Arden Arcade. Sacramento

Sacramento County supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a low-income apartment complex in the heart of Arden Arcade, despite hearing complaints from about a dozen area residents who said it will contribute to traffic congestion and overall decline of the neighborhood.

Supervisors, however, indicated their hands were tied in determining whether the parcel at 2134 Butano Drive was appropriate for apartments. The land is zoned for that use, so they could only discuss whether the project met county design standards, they said, echoing remarks made earlier by an assistant county counsel.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of the project by Anton Development Co., saying it found the urban look of the apartments attractive, and also endorsed Anton as a company that builds quality housing and manages projects well.

The board’s arguments bothered many residents who live near Watt and El Camino avenues.

“I hate the way this area looks, and I hate what you have done to it,” said Maria Farnsworth, her voice rising. “Fix what’s here. Don’t start new projects.”

Supervisors considered the project on appeal. The Arden Arcade Community Planning Advisory Council, which originally recommended denial of the project on a unanimous vote, challenged the Planning Commission’s approval of the apartments.

“This project is a good project. The location is a bad location,” said advisory council member Karen Champoux, nearly in tears as she explained how the neighborhood has been saturated with traffic and unattractive businesses.

Other Arden Arcade residents repeated her complaints, saying that affordable housing will only encourage more businesses aimed at the poor, such as payday lenders and thrift stores. They made similar complaints before the board’s recent approval of WinCo Foods grocery in the same area of Arden Arcade.

“We have very little say in what happens in our community,” said advisory council chairman Trent Smith. “There’s going to be a domino effect. You put this in, you’re not going to get Whole Foods next door.”

But the Butano Apartments proposal drew praise from affordable housing advocates and transportation planners. Advocates spoke of the strong need for less expensive housing in the region, and they said Anton Development Co. is known for high-quality projects. The company has built about 40 multifamily projects in the state.

Mike McKeever, CEO of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, lauded the project as a perfect example of what regional planners envisioned a decade ago when they came up with the “blueprint” for more compact development in the region. The project design is solid, and the location is ideally situated to take advantage of public transportation, he said.

Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents Arden Arcade, said she supported the project because it’s well designed and will help revitalize the area. She said she will work to get street improvements funded in the area to address some of the weaknesses raised by project opponents, including lack of sidewalks.

Peters voted for the project despite a request from residents that she recuse herself because of long-term ties with Steve Eggert, Anton’s president. An assistant county counsel said the relationship, including campaign support, did not constitute a conflict of interest under state law.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.

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