Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: McKinley Village critics stand in the way of smart growth

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

What happens when projects are proposed in Sacramento to create jobs or bring suburban residents back to the city for the sake of better air quality and community vitality?

They get pummeled. Because that’s how we roll in Sacramento.

Sacramento is in the midst of a community transformation being fought tooth and nail by interests that don’t want to see the community transformed. We saw it in the fight to build a downtown arena, and we’re seeing it again in east Sacramento, where an innovative housing project is everything people say they want – but is being bitterly opposed anyway.

Phil Angelides, a former state treasurer and one of Sacramento’s most notable native sons, is trying to build the McKinley Village neighborhood on land the city wants and needs developed. But there is a very good chance Angelides is going to be sued. We’ll know by Friday, the deadline for litigation on a project the Sacramento City Council approved on April 29.

If a lawsuit comes, everyone in Sacramento who claims to be against suburban sprawl and for improved air quality should be against those trying to stop McKinley Village. Building 336 homes on 49 acres in east Sacramento – on land sandwiched between the train tracks and freeway near Cal Expo – is the definition of “smart growth.”

“We’re talking about a $150 million investment and 1,500 jobs. That’s putting people back to work that need those jobs,” Alice Perez, the Sacramento-based president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, said at last month’s City Council meeting.

“Let people like me buy a home in that community,” Perez said while relating how she has been priced out of east Sacramento by people who buy homes and resell them at exorbitant prices. Is that why some are fighting so hard against McKinley Village – because they don’t want new families moving in?

Meanwhile, what does it say for Sacramento as a place to do business when a native son with means and influence is slowed by years of neighborhood opposition to a project the city wants?

“I love my hometown,” Angelides said. “But I’m not sure if people who weren’t from here, watching this process, would make the decision to follow.”

Why is that important?

“We don’t have a driving economic engine in Sacramento,” Angelides said. “While the economy has stabilized, doing things here is still a reasoned leap of faith.”

As City Councilman Steve Hansen said: “The vitality of our community was sapped by people moving far away. We need to bring that vitality back.”

Sacramento’s regional housing need is estimated to be 24,101 new housing units between 2013 and 2021. Those who try to block McKinley Village deserve to be singled out for trying to block a better version of growth coming to Sacramento – no matter what.