Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: A week for all of Sacramento to remember

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

It was an important week in Sacramento.

A nuisance lawsuit seeking an unnecessary public vote on a downtown arena was thoroughly rejected by a Sacramento Superior Court judge. This was the biggest hurdle to clear ahead of arena construction, still on track to begin this fall at the Downtown Plaza.

A stone’s throw from where the arena will sit, the most notorious flophouse in the state capital is going to be shut down and remade into a boutique hotel.

A soccer stadium will also rise on the Cal Expo fairgrounds, enlivening a huge swath of land that sat empty year after year with the games of Sacramento Republic FC.

The idea of finally creating a riverfront walking and running trail from downtown to Sacramento’s southern border started taking shape at last.

While across the region, Sacramento Beer Week kicked off what will be roughly 700 events celebrating a now-exploding craft-beer scene in Sacramento.

Let’s raise a toast to the old town that’s moving forward – and to shaking off years of economic depression and defeatist attitudes.

Call it a corner Sacramento needs to turn as it takes notice that it’s not just a place close to other places.

Sacramento is a great place to be, a great place to live, a great place to go.

The events of last week may have seemed isolated or independent of each other, but they really weren’t.

They were the result of years of hard work both expertly planned and organically grown.

Sacramento Beer Week has seemingly exploded overnight, as have the roster of young entrepreneurs creating their own microbrews and a culture embracing locally grown food, beer and wine. New young leaders are also embracing a love of community and of people communing together.

Meanwhile, the battle to secure a downtown arena was a success this year because of 10 previous years of failures.

It was won when many weren’t paying attention because most assumed Sacramento had lost the Kings. But when the Downtown Plaza was acquired by owners open to dealing with the city, after years of standoffs with previous foreign-based owners, the stage was set.

Mayor Kevin Johnson executed what he was born to do as Sacramento mayor – use his relationship with then-NBA Commissioner David Stern to buy Sacramento time for software titan Vivek Ranadive to slip into the picture.

With a viable local ownership in place, the key was paying for it all. When Sacramento figured out a way to finance its piece without being bound by law to put the plan before the voters, it was a done deal.

Opponents thought they could force a public vote but were unaware until it was far too late that city’s charter establishes by law that the Sacramento City Council sets fiscal policy.

Last week’s dismissal of the suit calling for a public vote was a legal rout that protected a fiscal and development strategy years in the making.

It was about preserving the Kings in Sacramento, lifting a dead Downtown Plaza and maintaining control of the Sleep Train Arena and surrounding property for ultimate reuse and development.

The progress continues with the closing of the Marshall Hotel at Seventh and L streets and replacing it with a boutique hotel. With little notice, the city has created alternative properties where the Marshall tenants can move – while a gigantic eyesore in downtown Sacramento is eradicated.

If you’ve ever been inside the Marshall – I have – you would be convinced that it had to go. It is infested with cockroaches, bed bugs and in a state of squalor and disrepair that is beyond shocking.

It wasn’t good for the health of the city, the residents or anyone in its orbit. It was fitting that a new future for the Marshall was announced on the same day the arena subsidy foes gave up.

In fact, downtown leaders say an arena project cleared of distractions is creating a distinct sound: Phones are ringing off the hook. Suitors are interested in buying downtown properties. The hope is that by 2016, the core of downtown will look much different than it does now.

The hope is that the nearby 700 block of K Street will be soon be freed from a financing dispute with the state and will become a proper, lively gateway to the arena and Old Sacramento.

The hope is that before he leaves office in November, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg can use his massive influence to help untangle the 700 block of K so it can be more than a block of boarded-up buildings. That would help trigger more investment downtown and create synergy with momentum building in nearby West Sacramento. A once dismal little town is fast becoming a hub for agriculture innovation as the U.S. home for several foreign ag companies.

Why not build on that and make Sacramento the world nerve center of agriculture production, innovation, scholarship and policy?

The arena, the bike trails, the development of the riverfront and other arts projects are public amenities critical to creating a sense of place to complement the new development. They could also help give the young people populating Sacramento Beer Week more reasons to put down roots in Sacramento.

It’s really happening right now. Cheers, Sacramento.