How walkable is your neighborhood?
It’s a question that was rarely asked in the days when a Sacramento home buyer’s dream was to own a house with a big yard in a sprawling subdivision far from the maddening urban crowd.
But lifestyle interests evolve. Today, neighborhood walkability has become a key selling point for many buyers and renters. Researchers concluded in a 2011 study that good walkability could boost property values up to 9 percent.
Builders are responding by designing projects that have a small town or urban feel, where stores, restaurants, parks and other amenities are mixed in with homes or apartments.
The Sacramento region — much of it built post-World War II when cars were king — isn’t known for that kind of development. But some areas have been gaining walkable terrain lately.
Here are the top 12 most walkable neighborhoods in the four-county Sacramento region, as ranked by Redfin, a national real estate brokerage that publishes a Walk Score analysis. It’s based mainly on how many amenities are located roughly within a mile of neighborhood residents.
#1 (tie), Midtown Sacramento (Score: 92.5)
No surprise here. J Street through midtown is tightly packed with stores, restaurants and neighborhood businesses — and flanked by blocks of apartments and homes. It’s all organized on a neat grid system of short city blocks that makes walking easy. The Second Saturday Art Walk brings thousands of pedestrians to midtown galleries and eateries. So does the Midtown Farmers Market, which is in the middle of 20th Street.
Midtown was the first place in the region, two decades ago, to embrace traffic calming and road diets. Those moves angered commuters who felt that streets like G and H should remain higher-speed, three-lane, one-way thoroughfares. But the changes have made walking to work or restaurants more pleasant and safe, and brought a quiet civility back to residential areas.
But midtown isn’t just old school. The new Ice Blocks, a stylish mixed-use development centered at 17th and R streets, allows residents to live a car-free lifestyle near state offices with stores, supermarkets, restaurants, new offices, light rail, parks and cafes.
Midtown housing prices, though, are higher than in much of Sacramento, with one-bedroom rents going for $1,500 and the newest townhomes at 20th and Q streets costing as much as $700,000.
# 1 (tie), Downtown Davis (Score: 92.5)
Adjacent to the university campus, this homey downtown is arguably more walkable than midtown Sacramento, and is singularly the place in the region where cars do not rule at intersections. Instead, drivers must sit and wait and wait as multitudes of pedestrians and bicyclists amble and pedal to and from the college town’s many small shops and eateries. The Saturday farmers market in Central Park may have the highest density of pedestrians jammed elbow-to-elbow in the area.
Again, you’ll pay for the amenities. Prices of homes on the market last week were in the $600,000s.
# 3 Downtown Auburn (Score: 92)
It’s a fun walk in the hills, if you don’t mind hills. The historic part of downtown retains its Gold Rush ambiance, including some elegant stone-walled buildings, while up the hill in the newer sections of downtown, storefronts are tightly packed, subtle traffic calming measures are in place, and the one- and two-story scale of the buildings makes for a comfortable feel.
The median price for a home in the Auburn ZIP code last month was $500,000.
# 4 Downtown Sacramento (Score: 91.9)
Downtown is slowly becoming an actual neighborhood, adding housing, such as The Hardin apartments at Eighth and K streets, or the newly proposed dorm-like apartments at 10th and K. State workers have long strolled the streets during the day. Now the Golden 1 Center and revamped Downtown Commons around it have made downtown more of a people place many nights as well.
The area now boasts the highest-flying homes in the region, 45 condominiums on the top four floors of the Sawyer tower next to the arena. An 800-square-foot condo just went for $598,000, while the penthouse condo went for $4.1 million.
# 5 Central Rocklin (Score: 91.4)
This is a surprise on Redfin’s list. Much of Rocklin is a classic car-dependent suburb. Nevertheless, city officials are on a mission to create a city center that is walkable, attractive and fun. They added pedestrian-oriented streetscapes five years ago and recently opened Quarry Park downtown with a 1,500-seat amphitheater for concerts.
There’s the requisite tap house, Moksa Brewing Co., on Pacific Street, and the train station is right there. Next up: They plan to add ziplines and rock climbing in Quarry Park, which doesn’t exactly speak to walkability but will be a unique downtown draw. They’ll also put in some traffic circles to slow vehicles down and are in talks now with a developer to build a mixed-use housing and retail project next to the park.
Here, a few blocks from downtown, sellers last week were asking $369,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath, 1,700-square foot ranch-style home.
# 6 Central Davis (Score range: 88.3 to 90.9)
This is, in fact, our grouping of three central Davis neighborhoods that surround the core downtown, all of which individually got high Redfin walkability scores. The neighborhoods are called University Avenue, Old Davis North and Old East Davis. Homes here are often modest but stylish and well-kept on pleasant streets — and not many go up for sale.
# 7 Aggie Village (Score: 88.4)
Aggie Village is also among the neighborhoods that border downtown Davis, but it is newer than the others and carries a distinction. It’s a cozy neighborhood of bungalows, backed by in-law units, on an infill site between downtown and the university, built when most developers in the region were designing sprawling, large-lot subdivisions far from amenities and jobs.
Homes in this tiny enclave — popular among professors and other university employees — rarely come up for sale, though.
# 8 Kings Beach (Score: 86.6)
This tourist crossroads on the north shore of Lake Tahoe was the scene of some recent controversy. To make it safer for pedestrians to cross Highway 28, Placer County built two roundabouts and reduced the road to one lane in each direction. That caused traffic slowdowns, angering some drivers. But it added to Kings Beach’s charm as a relaxing place for people on foot to hit the beach, then head back across the road for ice cream, coffee or burgers.
It also represents a sign of things to come in the Tahoe Basin, where planning officials are on a campaign to reduce driving. Next up: South Tahoe officials want to reroute Highway 50 away from the Stateline casino row, then turn that row into a pedestrian-friendly village-style street.
Here, you might be able to find a $400,000 cabin in the woods, or a multimillion-dollar mansion by the lake.
# 9 Old North Sacramento (Score 80.7)
There was a time until the 1960s when North Sacramento was a city unto itself, happily separated from Sacramento by the American River. Its thriving main street, Del Paso Boulevard, was a gathering place, with movie theaters and an ice rink. The area faded, though, in the decades after North Sacramento was absorbed into Sacramento.
The area has been trying for decades to mount a comeback and has had some successes. For one, the boulevard retains its good bones as a walkable street and boasts a dry cleaner, eyeglasses store, barbers, pharmacies, a bank, a brewhouse and restaurants, including the classic Sammy’s and the new Woodlake Tavern.
Notably, a Grocery Outlet supermarket will open on the boulevard next month.
# 10 North Oak Park (Score: 78.4)
This is a neighborhood in transition. Residents on the east side of the neighborhood have only a short walk to a major employer, the UC Medical Center complex. But the new heart of the evolving neighborhood may be the locally owned Old Soul cafe on Broadway. Since its arrival more than decade ago, that stretch of Broadway has added new apartments and townhomes, tap houses and restaurants. The city has been talking now about streetscape improvements to make Broadway easier to walk across or use as a bike route.
# 11 Curtis Park (Score: 72.1)
Is this the best neighborhood for a super tasters’ beer and ice cream crawl? Hop Garden just joined Pangaea Bier Cafe and Gunther’s Ice Cream on Franklin Boulevard as prime pedestrian destinations on a warm evening. It takes a little bit of walking, but Track 7 is in the neighborhood as well and Broadway’s restaurants are only a short hike away. And perhaps no city park in Sacramento feels as ensconced and central to its neighborhood as Curtis Park.
# 12 Central Roseville (Score: 71.8)
The walkable neighborhood identified here by Redfin is the stately and quiet enclave called “Folsom Road” that sits just across Dry Creek and Royer Park from downtown. The city is building two new bridges over Dry Creek to make better connections from the neighborhood and park to downtown, including the public library and stores and restaurants on Vernon Street.
The city recently rebuilt downtown intersections to be safer for pedestrians. And they removed the parking lot in front of City Hall a few years ago and turned that site into a plaza that hosts concerts, yoga classes, farmers markets and summer film nights. (Downtown hasn’t given up on cars, though. The city just built a new parking structure behind City Hall.)
One other bonus for Folsom Road neighborhood residents: They get to walk to the nearby Trader Joe’s and avoid parking in one of the area’s busiest parking lots.